Bishop John Sherrington, Lead Bishop for Life Issues for the Bishops’ Conference, has made a statement on the use of mitochondrial donation treatment and the announcement of the first UK birth of a ‘three parent baby’.
The procedure, aimed at stopping a mother from passing on defective genes in the mitochondria – tiny power plants in cells that supply energy – to her child, involves giving a woman an IVF baby with DNA from three individuals.
Nuclear DNA was given to the child from the mother and father, which define key characteristics such as personality and eye colour.
They were also given a tiny amount of mitochondrial DNA provided by the “third parent”.
The Newcastle Fertility Centre was granted the first licence for the controversial therapy in 2017, after MPs and peers voted to allow it in 2015 under the Human Fertilisation and Embryonic Act.
“The recent news that a ‘three parent baby’ had been born through the use of the ‘mitochondrial donation treatment’ (MDT) is deeply concerning,” said Bishop Sherrington.
“It shows a further step in the technical manipulation of new life with the loss of human life as part of the technique.
“The technique depends on the destruction of two human lives who had inherent dignity and rights and must be protected from their creation as persons in order to create a third embryo and life. It also fractures the child from biological parenthood. It steps into the unknown world of genetic engineering with manipulation of the human germline.
“In one of his recent speeches in Budapest, Pope Francis made extensive reference to the 20th-century intellectual, Fr Romano Guardini. He said, ‘Guardini did not demonise technology, which improves life and communication and brings many advantages, but he warned of the risk that it might end up controlling, if not dominating, our lives… he foresaw a great threat… We arbitrarily fix our goals and force the mastered powers of nature to bring them to fulfilment.’
“The gift of life, to be respected and treated with dignity from conception to natural death, is a mystery which cannot be reduced to technical manipulation.”
A fuller explanation is provided by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre statement.
You can read a doctrinal note by the USCCB on the moral limits of the technological manipulation of the human body.