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Embryo research and the Catholic Church

For understandable reasons, most of the argument that has been occasioned by the current furore about hybrid embryos has focused on the question of freedom of conscience for MPs. But I think the Catholic Church is really worried about something deeper, which is the implication of this research for the Church's teaching about conception and the soul.

The Church holds that a soul is infused into the embryo at the moment of conception. This idea has its roots in premodern theories of embryology that make little sense today. The existence of germ cells containing a mixture of human and animal DNA is difficult to reconcile with the Church's view. Would these embryos have a new kind of soul, part human, part animal?

The point is that the potential existence of such cells has profound implications for Church dogma, even if they were never actually produced. This may in part be why the bishops are so opposed to the research.


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