Pope Francis said to bless human-animal chimeras

Salk Institute scientist says he has papal blessing for his research
(photo from MIT Technology Review article)

(photo from MIT Technology Review article)

The following comes from a January 27 MIT Technology Review article by Antonio Regalado:

A Spanish scientist working at the Salk Institute in California told Scientific American that Pope Francis personally blessed his cutting edge research to mix human cells into animal bodies.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a prominent stem cell biologist, is engaged in efforts to grow human tissue inside of farm animals such as pigs, sheep, and cows. This type of research is sensitive because scientists have to inject human stem cells into early-stage animal embryos, then try to grow the mixtures inside surrogate animals.

Much of Belmonte’s work occurs in collaboration with a team in the province of Murcia in his native Spain, country which is about 77% Catholic.

“Spain is a very Catholic country, so we had to go through the Pope. He very nicely said yes.” Belmonte told Scientific American. “Yes. The current Pope. So the Vatican is behind this research and has no problem based on the idea is to help humankind [sic]. And in theory all that we will be doing is killing pigs.”

While the Catholic Church has opposed research on human embryos it endorses evolution and generally takes a liberal view on scientific matters. In fact, the Vatican’s position on “human-animal chimeras,” as the mixtures are known, may be more liberal than that of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which in September instituted a ban on funding chimera research until it can weigh ethical questions associated with it.



  1. Anonymous says:

    Once again, the headline does not match the information in the story. The Pope did not bless anything. Using the word “bless” in a secular way was not a very good choice.

  2. once again,the headline perfectly matches the story,anonymous. readers are clever enough to know the multiple meanings of words and to not jump to the conclusion that the pope actually performed an actual blessing . it was a good choice and a good exercise in the fine art of summation in a headline. i like it better than ‘pope greenlights human-animal experiments’ .

  3. Catherine says:
  4. Elizabeth M. says:

    I HOPE that Father Tad Pacholczyk would speak to us on this subject .

    • He already has and favorably, too. Fr. Tad was interviewed by Patrick Coffin Jan. 20 on the Catholic Answers Live radio show last week. http://www.catholic.com/radio/shows/bioethics-for-the-rest-of-us-34210 He says as long as the embryonic tissue is not from an abortion, then the chimeras “are not morally troubling.” He proposes that the tissue from a miscarriage are fine. However, we all know where the tissue are coming from: abortion.

      I’m a pro-life blogger and researcher and this topic interests me greatly. I transcribed the interview. Partial transcript:

      “But if you’re proposing making a kidney, and that kidney is being made in an animal and could SAFELY be transplanting into a human…the concept in GENERAL doesn’t…

      • Continued. “the concept in GENERAL doesn’t raise problems beyond the usual questions of what is the APPROPRIATE USE OF ANIMALS? – you know we use animals in various ways and if we’re doing that responsible it doesn’t raise fundamental problems.”

        “The humanized mice are USEFUL for example in understanding HIV/AIDS research. You can create chimeras that contain human cells in the animals that can help us understand disease processes. If that process doesn’t rely on ABORTION and embryo destruction, or other IMMORAL STEPS, these can be helpful to advancing authentic scientific research.”

        Fr. Tad

  5. Catherine says:

    A Prayer for Priests – O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep Thy priests within the shelter of Thy Sacred Heart, where none may touch them. Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Thy Sacred Body. Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with Thy Precious Blood. Keep pure and unworldly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood. Let Thy Holy Love surround them from the world’s contagion. Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and their everlasting crown hereafter.

    Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us: obtain for us numerous and holy priests. Amen.

  6. tee bohnar says:

    What actually did take place?
    In 2007, a threesome of SD CAtholics infiltrated an ESC meeting of invited scientists at the cutting edge ESC research Salk Insitutue.
    Toward the end of this controversial meeting, mostly concerned as to what research facility might make the most $$$$$, a MD researcher from UC Irvine stated that he had inserted human brain cells into a pig, and that this creature had survived. He received outstanding accolades and applause.
    So, this is the type of chimera blest by Pope Francis, and not as an pet as on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi?

  7. TheVeiledThreat says:

    Well the Muslims won’t like this, even if it involves killing pigs. No Sus stem cells for them!

  8. This reminds me of beastiology. Is that then the next liberal item the phony pope will approve? I can’t imagine St. Peter or any of those pontiffs that validly walked in his shoes would approve or have anything to do with this.

  9. Good for Francis. Maybe in the future a Cardinal will have wings.

  10. i’m with gabriele on this….i really can’t believe that the pope francis gave the go-ahead directly or indirectly to this Spanish researcher. there should at least be a paper trail to back-track. it’s just too deep too fast. perhaps he was in touch with a grerorian university ethicist whom the vatican is known to consult and felt he had ‘vatican approval’ about spain being a very catholic country, not so much any more, especially among the scientific elite. the small core who are still catholic are indeed very catholic, but they are a remnant.

  11. catholic news agency stats, 2007: 36% of spanish catholics surveyed say they are practicing catholics. 2012 cna update survey found down to 13% admit to be practicing catholics.scientific american did not refer to an updated fact-checking database.

  12. Linda Maria says:

    If the Pope cares about our environment, with his encyclical, “Laudato Si,” and if he cares about our responsibility to Mother Nature, created by God– then, he should CONDEMN this bizarre, UNNATURAL and ridiculous, cruel “RESEARCH!!” It should be ILLEGAL! God never created Mother Nature to be tampered with, in this way! We will someday pay a BIG PRICE, for this! I also think that tampering with our food supply, with the GMO’s– is a big sin! Some very good foods that used to nourish us and our children, now have little nourishment at all, due to the GMO problem– and some original seeds, also, have been destroyed! This is a sin! We must NOT tamper with God’s creation!

    • While not a Chimera (exactly), the recent innovation of using CRISPR to edit germ line cells could cure cancer. If homosexuality is, indeed, caused by genetic or epigenetic (changes in the chemicals or molecules attached to DNA or RNA) effects, then introducing cellular machinery from single cell organisms (CRISPR) into humans could end homosexuality.

      Would that be wrong, Linda Marie. Or is it wrong because you don’t understand it?

      • Linda Maria says:

        JonJ Yes, I believe it is always wrong, to “cheat” on Mother Nature, to get what a human being decides is “right!” God does not do that, in His Divine Wisdom! Instead, He has a Higher Pan, which is always right! Likewise, why “cheat” on God, and commit sin, with many excuses (“we can’t afford a baby,” or “we don’t want children,” or “we are too busy right now, for a baby,” or “the world has too many children,” etc.) and use contraception, to avoid God’s Plan for the true Christian Marriage and Family?? And why hand out condoms to kids, stating that they can have “free sex,” with no worry of AIDS?? WHY COMMIT SIN?? God always has the right answers!

        • Linda Maria says:

          To JonJ– The primary purpose of God, is the salvation of our souls! Not curing diseases like cancer, according to some crazy or irresponsible ideas! Our life here on earth, is a preparation for Heaven! And if we tamper with Mother Nature– it will always have horrible results! Instead, we should go to God, in prayer, and patiently await His right answers, and right guidance!

          • Linda Maria says:

            I cannot understand why people of today, in our tragic, “post-Christian” civilization– are not sensitive to killing unborn babies, and then chopping up their poor, little dead bodies, to harvest “parts” for “scientific” use! And why are people no longer sensitive, to Nature? Don’t they get repulsed, at the idea of just “doing as they please, with Nature, playing with and destroying God’s Creation– even creating a “Frankenstein,” in a laboratory, (such as the “human-animal” chimeras!) stating that this is all for “good,” for the world?? Doesn’t God have a better Plan??

          • Anonymous says:

            Sounds to me, Linda Maria, that you’ve taken the purpose of “man” (to know, love and serve God) and twisted it into a narcissistic view of God when you say “The primary purpose of God, is the salvation of our souls!” Making up our own doctrines, are we?

          • Many people have thought like you throughout history, Linda Marie. In the 16th and 17th centuries numerous preachers fought against perverting nature, and thus condemned the corrupt practice of inoculation because it was God’s will that people die in plagues. Otherwise, man was interfering with God’s punishment.

            Indifference to pain and suffering of your fellow man will make you unworthy of heaven. Curing the sick is a Godly activity, following the example of Jesus Christ.

          • Again, CRISPR has NOTHING to do with “chopping up babies”. CRISPR involves machinery from single cell bacteria. That’s like condemning saying the rosary because either the Hindus or Chinese likely invented prayer beads.

          • I believe God allowed mankind to gain this knowledge, and part of the “test” is using our knowledge in a moral, rather than abusive, fashion.

        • None of these things you mention in the above post have anything to do with DNA modification due to CRISPR.

          • Linda Maria says:

            Well JonJ you are entitled, to your beliefs. But I do not believe in tampering with Nature, and do not believe it is right to mix human and animal cells– and cause unnecessary pain and suffering, to poor, helpless creatures! And yes, to JonJ and to “Anonymous,” I believe our true purpose on earth, is not to glorify ourselves (like the Rich Young Man, in Christ’s parable) with a “no problems” earthly life– but to seek God, and his Kingdom of Heaven! Even to sacrifice our heath! (Health is quite an obsession, today!)

          • Linda Maria says:

            There are science researchers, working to eliminate the origins of diseases and impairments like mental retardation, and life-threatening illnesses, as well as other serious problems– by tampering with the unborn child. Does God have a good reason, sometimes, for us to bear physical and mental impairments, illnesses, diseases, and short lives?

          • Linda Maria says:

            It is much better, if scientists and Churchmen cultivate deep prayer lives, asking God’s Will, for all difficult situations– and promising God, to do as He says!

          • Linda Maria says:

            Anonymous– do you want the full quote, from the excellent Baltimore Catechism? I remember it– do you? “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever, in the next.” And yes– the goal of mankind is Christ’s salvation, in Heaven! Our earthly lives are a preparation for Heaven!

          • Linda Maria says:

            Anonymous– Christ came to teach, to preach, to heal, and to help mankind. But His primary purpose, is to lead all souls to Heaven! The rest is nice, if possible– but our true goal, is just one thing– Salvation! Eternal Life with God, someday, in Heaven!

  13. Drewelow,
    At that down trending rate, there won’t be any practicing Spanish catholics in Europe in a generation or two. But that timeline may be even shorter as the Muslims take over Europe and force the caliphate to govern Europe. Christians and agnostics will be forced to accept Islam and Sharia Law or die. Islam will send billions of souls to hell. It’s either that or its WW3. Actually I believe WW3 has already started, it is just that there are too many politically correct world leaders that are to stupid to recognize that fact.

  14. The Pope does not think these issues about the Culture of Death though.

  15. Linda Maria says:

    I have a few Catholic acquaintances, who had serious illnesses, related to child-bearing. One lady conceived twins, and her doctor told her that she would have great risks, if she carried the twins. So, she decided for the embryos to be implanted in her sister’s womb! The babies were given at birth to the lady and her husband. Then, in another case, a Catholic lady who could not conceive, went with her husband, for IVF treatments– and they have a healthy boy, now! (But what of the rest of the embryos???) If it were me– I would simply accept God’s will, if I must be childless- and adopt! As a devout Catholic– I would simply trust God, and avoid the temptations of modern science, to satisfy my dreams!

  16. Linda Maria says:

    It is very scary, and unethical, but on Monday, Feb. 1st, Britain approved of scientists editing genes in human embryos (designer babies?)!! And in the scientific experiments to follow, the human embryos will be destroyed, after seven days, by the scientists!! I think this is wrong!

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