BY STAFF REPORTER
IF THE Church fails to speak out forcefully about the ethical limits of biomedical research, history — and maybe even scientists — could one day accuse it of culpable silence, Pope John Paul II has said.
The Pope was speaking on Monday to an audience of 160 medical researchers and church ethicists participating in a three-day plenary meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
He said: "Today, perhaps more than in other times, given the enormous development of biotechnologies — even human experimentation — it is necessary that scientists are aware of the impassable limits that the defence of life and of the integrity and dignity of every human being imposes on their research activities.
"I have returned to this theme many times because I am convinced that being silent in the face of certain results or claims of human experimentation is not permitted to anyone and much less the church, who would be accused of silence tomorrow by history and maybe by lovers of science themselves."
The Pope also appealed to scientists to devote more resources to human procreation studies and finding
natural solutions to the problems of conjugal infertility, which he said was an issue of growing urgency. He said the request echoed a similar one made by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae condemning artificial contraception.
Though he warned of the ethical dangers of biomedical manipulation of humans, the Pope said the church respects and supports scientific research.
He noted that biomedical research had helped overcome lethal and serious diseases and improved the length and quality of human life, especially in the developing world.
But he criticised a growing extremely serious and unacceptable trench between wealthy and poor nations in regard to biomedical research and health care.
"I am thinking in a special way of the drama of AIDS, particularly serious in many African countries," he said, "It is necessary to realise that leaving these populations without the resources of science and culture means not only condemning them to poverty, economic exploitation and lack of health infrastructure, but also committing an injustice and nourishing a long-term threat for the globalised world," he said.