Hume warns of cloning danger

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The Independent Online
Modern society has become "morally de-sensitised" and is ill-equipped to handle the ethical issues thrown up by the cloning of Dolly the sheep, Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of the Catholic Church in England, said yesterday.

The Archbishop of Westminster was speaking a day after the scientist who cloned a sheep told a House of Commons select committee it would be possible to clone a human being in "one or two years".

"We must act with extreme caution, for bringing new life into the world is the nearest human beings come to creation," the Cardinal said, in an address to governors of independent schools in London yesterday: "We tread on holy ground."

The great tragedy of modern civilisation is that material progress has failed to satisfy elemental human needs. "Our society has become, in some respects, morally de-sensitised, and is therefore ill-prepared to grapple with a looming issue which I have no doubt is fast becoming one of the major problems of our age, namely the implications of the breathtaking developments in genetics and bio-technology," he said.

He spoke with alarm of an eminent scientist who had imagined "apparently with complete equanimity" a future in which children were the product of three different sets of parents: biological parents, gestational parents and a third set who were bringing them up.

"If we separate these three relationships, then we in some way undermine something which is specifically human."

There were undoubted potential benefits in gene therapy, he said, but added: "I do fear for the future if the language of bodily human love is gradually replaced by an artificial process, if procreation becomes production, or even reproduction, and if the individual human being becomes valued as a product to be ordered rather than a gift to be received."

Contemporary society badly needs to recover a deeper knowledge of what it means to be human, he said.