By Simon Caldwell ONE of Britain's most senior Anglican clerics has declared his support for the cloning of humans for spare parts.
The comments of Bishop Richard Harries of Oxford, the chairman of the Church of England's Board for Social Responsibility, came during a debate in the House of Lords on human embryos and cloning.
The bishop's speech caused dismay among many peers, including some members of the Church of England, which has traditionally embraced a wide range of opinions.
The bishop said his board opposed reproductive cloning (a scientifically hazardous process where a twin of the donor is created for birth), but was divided on the issue of therapeutic cloning-in which human embryos would be created simply to harvest human tissue.
Bishop Harries said: "Some are opposed to all research on embryos on the grounds that [quoting from the Catechism] 'human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of existence, the human being must be recognised as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life'.
"That is a quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and it is a view shared by a fair number of other Christian people. It is a view I respect deeply but it is not one I share.
"I take a developmental view of the human person and believe that the recommendation of the Wamock Report, now enshrined in law, that the formation of the primitive streak 14 days after conception is that clear point beyond which all research should be banned."
Among those peers who expressed concern at the speech was Baroness Knight of Collingtree, an Anglican, who attacked human cloning as a "mockery of Christian ethics".
She said: "To produce a living human being simply to supply the necessary hearts, livers, kidneys, corneas or whatever is morally wrong and utterly repugnant.
"Some things are surely sacrosanct, and respect for human life, in spite of what the Bishop of Oxford said, is one of those things."
The bishop's words echoed the sentiments of the former Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, who in 1990 supported the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that sanctioned destructive experiments on human embryos.
Bishop Harries spoke last week as the Government prepared to issue its response to proposals from a working party of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC) to permit therapeutic cloning.
His words also came just minutes after two statements were read to the Lords — one from Cardinal Basil Hume. who described therapeutic cloning as "morally abhorrent" and one from Dr John Wyatt, professor of neonatal paediatrics at the Royal Free Hospital, London, and an Anglican, who said the process was "incompatible with respect for vulnerable human life".
Dr Wyatt wrote: "The redefinition of human embryos as mere biological material or `totipotent stem cells' in order to allay public concerns smacks of semantic trickery rather than responsible debate."
It is widely suspected that Bishop Harries' position could cause further disunity in the established Church. On hearing of his view, Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham, the chair continued on p2