Recently I heard from my devout religious acquaintance that, according to Christian (Catholic) faith, a cloned individual wouldn't actually be a person. She explained that a human being consists of a body and a soul (it's the philosophy of St Thomas, the conception is derived form Aristotle, I suppose). As the flesh can be created by scientists, only God can grant something (somebody) with a soul. As cloning is — according to her — an artificial way of creating a man, you can't divide the spirit like you can split the cells.

So I’m asking you a question: Is this really part of Catholic ethics? I understand that the Church is against cloning, but this is the first time I’ve heard that the “effect” of it is, so to say, punished. The same could apply to in vitro conception, but I suppose cloning could be taken as a more radical version of this.

  • If it's possible to clone humans without souls, that sure opens up a lot of possibilities for "ethical" human trafficking, slave labor, etc...
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 16:16
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    There are a number of published documents on cloning, but I don't believe any of them touch on the possession of a soul. I've detailed the position on IVF already, and the default position there is that the life created does have a soul worth saving. But the method of creating that life is not justified. Commented May 24, 2014 at 16:17
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    This also presupposes that a 'soul' is some kind of tangible (but invisible) thing God gives each person. When we read the old testament, the word for 'soul' really just refers to the whole of the person (e.g. when God made the man in Genesis 2, the man became 'a living soul', he wasn't given a soul). Commented May 24, 2014 at 16:49
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    Identical twins are effectively clones of each other - whatever arguments can be advanced against artificial cloning, that a clone doesn't have a soul is highly unlikely to be advanced by the Catholic church. Commented May 24, 2014 at 16:53
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    Regardless of doctrine, I don't think any man knows the true answer to this question. It's better to say that we don't know than to spin wild, speculative tales. "Even the pagans [atheists] do that" (research abiogenesis). If we don't know, let's just say we don't know. It makes us look like fools when we turn out to be wrong.
    – jaredad7
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 3:57

4 Answers 4


The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that every human body is human because it has a soul imparted by God.

364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:232

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honour since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.233

365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body:234 i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God — it is not "produced" by the parents — and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.235

Do read the answer on the status of in-vitro fertilisation, which is the creation of life by artificial (though naturally-based) means. Even though the Church cannot condone the method, it is life. The Holy See has recognised that reproductive cloning produces life, too:

In "reproductive" cloning, one at least gives the newly produced human being, innocent of his/her origin, a chance to develop and be born.

Where God allows human life to be created, it's human life because it has a soul (CCC364). The same would surely apply to a human clone: where God allows such an artificially-created organism to live, it has a soul by the very virtue of that life.

232 Cf. I Cor 6:19-20; 15:44-45.
233 Gaudium et Spes 14 § 1; cf. Dan 3:57-80.
234 Cf. Council of Vienne (1312): DS 902.
235 Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, Credo of the People of God § 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.


Human beings are rational animals. Thus, if a cloned human were truly human, it would have a rational soul.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes in Summa Contra Gentiles, lib. 2 cap. 87 tit. that "the human soul is brought into being through the creative action of God," not through a biological processes, which is only the soul's instrumental cause, but as its efficient cause.

He explains in Summa Contra Gentiles, lib. 2 cap. 86 n. 4-5 and idem, lib. 2 cap. 89 n. 3 why the intellectual or rational human soul is not part of the semen (viz., why the human soul is not bodily but spiritual):

…the intellective soul is the most perfect of souls and its power the highest [and] its proper perfectible subject is a body having many different organs through which its multifarious operations can be carried out; and that is why the soul cannot possibly be actually present in the semen separated from the body … The intellect, which is the proper and principal power of the intellective soul, is not the act of any part of the body, and therefore it cannot be divided accidentally as a result of the body's being divided [as through cell division]. Nor, then, can the intellective soul be so divided.

Hence, from the hypothesis that the human soul is brought into being through the active power in the semen it follows that its being depends upon matter, as with other material forms. But the contrary of this has already been proved. The intellective soul, therefore, is in no way produced through the transmission of the semen.

And the hypothesis of the soul's presence in the semen from the beginning would entail the further consequence that animal generation takes place solely by way of partition, as with annulose animals, where two are produced from one. For, if the semen were possessed of a soul at the moment of its separation, it would then already be endowed with a substantial form. But in every case substantial generation precedes the substantial form; it never comes after it; and if any changes follow in the wake of the substantial form, they concern not the being but the well-being of the thing generated. Thus, the engendering of the animal would be completed with the mere alienation of the semen; and all subsequent changes would have no bearing upon the process of generation.

But this theory would be even more ridiculous if applied to the rational soul. For, first, the soul cannot possibly be divided as the body is, so as to be present in the separated semen; and second, it would follow that in all extra-copulative emissions of semen, without conception taking place, rational souls would nevertheless be multiplied.

Whenever matter is properly disposed to receive a rational human soul, God creates the human soul out of nothing and unites it with that matter, resulting in a living human being; a human is not just a body or a soul but a body-soul composite.

In the case of human cloning or "test tube babies," the matter (a fertilized human egg) would be properly disposed, and thus God would create a soul out of nothing and infuse it with it at the moment of conception. Just because the means may not have been moral, that doesn't imply God refuses to create a soul; if that were the case, you would have to doubt the humanness of illegitimate children, too.


No it's not a person ,God made man from the earth,and from man he made woman ,and so a clone would be a replica of the original.and god has to breath into you to have a soul.so a clone tho it breathes God did not do it.man did

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I disagree with the answer that God wouldn't refuse to make a soul.because the clone would not have a mother or a father and it would not be conceived,it would be placed or planted,and God does not change his word no matter what y'all think,if the bible says it takes this and that to make a human then it means exactly that.to deviate from it in anyway is crazy1


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