If you’re not aware of Catholic moral theory – and even many Catholics aren’t fully aware of it – you might not have become acquainted with the “five non-negotiables” of the Catholic Church: i.e., the five subjects on which no alteration in doctrine will ever be contemplated:
- Same-sex marriage;
- Embryonic stem-cell research;
- Human cloning.
The piece just below this one concerned euthanasia, and the “unthinkable horror” of conjoining it with organ harvesting for later transplantation. Increasing the availability of transplantable organs is the nominal motivator behind many ugly ideas in the medical arts and biological sciences. Human cloning – the production of a human being by the manipulation of cells from an already living “edition” of that human being – has been attempted but, as far as I know, has never succeeded.
Pray that that record of failure remains unbroken. Here’s how characters in one of my novels approached the moral aspects of the matter:
“It would be the technological miracle of the century, you know,” Amanda said.
The flat look swerved to settle on Amanda Hallstrom.
“To be used for what?” Sokoloff said.
The dean of Athene Academy opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Sokoloff’s gaze weighed upon her.
That’s his don’t-mess-with-me face.
“I’ve been turning it over in my head,” he murmured after a moment, “and I can’t think of one morally acceptable reason to clone someone. Living or dead doesn’t matter.” He swept his gaze around the group. “Can anyone else?”
No one spoke.
“The people who did this,” he said, “did it to turn out a sex slave. Probably by request and to specification, and I’d bet my house that if they haven’t done it before, they’re trying to do it again right now. For that I’m going to send them all to hell. But think about it. Let’s say they were to clone me—produce a baby version of me. That baby would have no parents or other relatives. The people who produced him would have no reason to care for him, or about him, and only they would know he existed. He would be a product for sale. Why would anyone make that product? Why would anyone want that product? Apart from pure altruism?”
“Altruism?” Trish said.
“Yeah,” he said. “The kind that makes people take in stray dogs and cats. Think that’s likely?”
Well, you did it.
“The only reason to clone someone, other than the motives Fountain’s creators had, would be to replace him,” he said. “Or parts of him. And that means either murder, or enslavement, or cannibalism by surgeon. It’s evil no matter how you slice it.”
“That’s if clones were granted the status and rights of people born the…regular way,” Juliette said. “What if they weren’t?”
Sokoloff gestured at Fountain. Six pairs of eyes swung toward her. She remained still and silent.
“That’s worse, isn’t it?” he said.
Trish slid over next to Fountain and took her hand.
“A lot worse,” she said.
“Yeah,” Juliette said.
But human cloning is viewed by many as the potential Fountain of Youth and Immortality. Researchers on all the continents of the world are attempting it even now. Do you think they’ve thought through the matter as starkly as Larry Sokoloff? Or is their hunger for fortune and glory in the way? Or perhaps their fear of death?
Either human life is sacred and not to be sacrificed for any lesser value, or we are all merely awaiting the butcher’s knife. “Take your choice – there is no other – and your time is running out.”