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June 7, 2012

Orthodoxy and Bioethics

From an interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos:

Question: When speaking about questions of bioethics, the usual attitude of the secular establishment is that these are morally “neutral” issues of science, and therefore, there is no place for religion or ethics in them. What should the Orthodox Church do in response and how it can make a difference in respect to these problems?

Answer: Bioethics is indeed the reaction of science itself to the potential negative applications of genetic engineering and molecular biology. That is, genetic engineering and molecular biology have advanced to discoveries which may exert a type of imperialism on mankind, the so-called genetic imperialism, on the one hand destroying man himself and on the other hand creating a genetic pollution to the environment. Because of this, several scientists have attempted to set some limits to this potential catastrophe and thus developed the science of bioethics which links genetic engineering with the humanities.

There are certain bioethics scientists who argue that bioethical problems are scientific and religions should keep out of them. However, the truth is that genetists, bioethicists and theologians all deal with man, thus they have a common objective, and man is a whole consisting of soul and body. If we restrict our attention only to the body, it is possible that we perceive man as a living machine and leave his existential problems unsolved. It is known that in the past, because medical science was to a large extent mechanistic, psychoanalysis developed in order to balance things.

For this reason, the message of the Orthodox Churches after the Constantinople Congress of September 2000, under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, mentioned that bioethical problems should be dealt with through biotheology, as well.

This is why in recent years many clerics and Synods of Local Churches deal with theological problems revolving around the beginning, the extension and the end of biological life, as well as with the protection of the environment.

Of course, Orthodox theology is not opposed to science, when the latter remains within its limits. It is the science of bioethics which sets the limits of science and Orthodox theology deals with man’s pastoral care and leads him from where science ends towards deification.

Sobornost, September 2006.