Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues arising from scientific advances, especially in biology and medicine. The term “bioethics” originated in the academic world in the early 1970’s, and Catholic bioethics was quick to develop because the Church already had a large body of bioethical thought on a range of issues.

The Catholic Church’s concern for healing, and its longstanding involvement in caring for the sick and dying, means it has a rich tradition of reflection and wisdom to bring to the study of bioethics. Catholic bioethics is distinctive for the way in which it has its foundations both in faith and human reason. A Catholic approach is underpinned by a strong belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.

Catholic bioethics seeks to bring the light of the Gospel and the moral tradition of the Catholic Church to issues in bioethics. These issues include cloning, genetic engineering, abortion, euthanasia, stem cells, surrogacy, the allocation of healthcare resources, xenotransplantation and many others.

In 1999 the New Zealand Catholic Bishops established The Nathaniel Centre – the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre – as an agency of the Conference. The key functions of The Nathaniel Centre are:

* Offering educational opportunities in bioethics for different groups
* Acting as an advisory and resource centre in bioethics for individuals, and for educational and community groups
* Promoting the study and practical resolution of ethical, social and legal issues arising out of medical and scientific research and practice
* Publishing articles and information on topics in bioethics
* Carrying out research and taking action to support the Church’s pastoral response to bioethical issues in the community, taking into account the needs of different cultures and groups in society.

The Nathaniel Centre is located in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. It provides assistance to the bishops and to individuals and groups within New Zealand, and on request, to the Catholic dioceses of Oceania.

The Nathaniel Centre
Tel: 04 499 2251
Fax: 04 499 2262