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Question 51

Hi, Father Christopher, We believe as Orthodox Christians that God created the universe which obviously includes Earth and Heaven and as the Nicene creed states all things, visible and invisible. Man is the crown of God's creation being endowed with a body and soul. Our soul is so precious that Christ Himself said what shall it profit us if we gain the whole world but lose our soul. The question I want to ask is what is the position of the Orthodox church regarding human cloning? Apparently its possible and outlawed in many countries. Furthermore, if such cloning is eventually carried out will the said clones have actual souls? Will these clones be actual individual human beings created in the image and likeness of God or will they be a human creation by mankind who plays God? The Orthodox church also believes that a human person is formed in the normal scheme of things at the moment of conception and before an actual person is born so this also begs the question, are clones which resemble humans actually human? Surely the divine command to go forth and multiply did not also mean cloning!     



Answer to Question 51


As with other areas of Bio-ethics the Church has not officially made her voice heard by issuing a statement on what she considers acceptable. Certainly such modern problems have been discussed within the closed boundaries of local synods, but for something to be accepted as the teaching of the Orthodox faith it needs to be discussed at an Ecumenical council. We had a long awaited Pan Orthodox Council in June 2016, but sadly the things that we hoped would be discussed and which our modern world needs answers to were ignored in favour of topics like fasting and the relation and role of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world. 


I had my own thoughts on the subject of cloning, but to verify if my thoughts were in line with others I asked a priest who is more knowledgeable on such subjects and his answer was in agreement with mine. 


First we must ask what is cloning? No one has yet admitted that human cloning has actually happened, but in theory an egg is used as in the process of IVF which is fertilized in a “test tube”. The DNA is then removed from the nucleus and replaced with the DNA of the person to be cloned. If conception has taken place whether in the womb or in a test tube then a human person has been created consisting of a body and soul. It is certainly not something that resembles a human being; it is a complete human being created in the image and likeness of God, but was created by violating God’s natural laws on creation. 


But how far is this cloning a 100% identical person to the original? On paper, science can clone the body and the bodily functions, but that is all it can do. It cannot clone the soul which is unique for every person. The soul is the character of the person which develops from the society it lives in and with life experiences and is what differentiates one person from another. 


Thus the body might be an exact copy of another living person, but because the clone has his own personal soul and character they are not the same person. We already have something in nature which we can call “natural clones” which are known as identical twins and occur in humans and other mammals. These twins are produced when a fertilized egg splits, creating two or more embryos that carry almost identical DNA. Identical twins have nearly the same genetic makeup as each other, but as persons they are completely different from each other.