- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

From combined dispatches

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI yesterday defended the Vatican’s right to speak out on bioethics, including its opposition to artificial procreation methods and embryonic-stem-cell research.

He also dismissed criticism that the Roman Catholic Church blocks scientific progress.

“Church teaching certainly cannot and must not weigh in on every novelty of science, but it has the task to reiterate the great values which are on the line and to propose to faithful and all men of good will ethical-moral principles and direction for new, important questions,” Benedict said.

He brushed off those who criticize the church “as if it were an obstacle to science and to humanity’s true progress.”

The pope singled out as “new problems” the freezing of embryos, selecting which embryos should be implanted after testing them for defects, research on embryonic stem cells and attempts at human cloning.

He decried them as proof that “the barrier protecting human dignity has been broken.”

Benedict was addressing a meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a powerful Vatican office that safeguards doctrinal orthodoxy. He headed the office before being elected pope in 2005.

“When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless state of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure ‘biological material,’ how can one deny that they are being treated not as ‘someone’ but as ‘something,’ ” he said.

It was the pope’s latest foray into scientific issues. On Monday, he warned against the “seductive” powers of science, saying it was important that science did not become the sole criteria for goodness.

U.S. Cardinal William Levada, Benedict’s successor as head of the doctrinal department, said it was mulling the possibility of preparing a new Vatican document on bioethical issues.

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