The Catholic Church in Italy voiced outrage on Tuesday after a Sardinian court allowed the screening of embryos produced with assisted fertility techniques.
The national bishops' conference, supported by numerous Catholic politicians, said the ruling was in "clear contrast" with Italian law on assisted fertility and with a recent Constitutional Court ruling, reported ANSA.
The ruling by a judge in Cagliari upheld a mother's request that doctors should screen her in-vitro embryos for a hereditary blood disorder.
The woman, who was herself a carrier of the disease, only wanted embryos implanted if she knew there was no chance they would develop the disorder.
Most observers assumed this was illegal under a controversial law passed in 2004, which imposes tight restrictions on assisted fertility techniques. The law forbids the screening of embryos before they are implanted in a mother’s womb.
The Catholic Church's position is that embryos are fully-fledged human beings and cannot be discarded on the basis of alleged 'defects'.
The judges who approved the request for screening have not yet explained their decision.
Meanwhile, Catholics in the center-right opposition called on Justice Minister Clemente Mastella to send in inspectors to verify the ruling's validity.
"It is extremely serious that a court should bypass a law of the state," said Forza Italia Senator Maria Burani Procaccini. "The Cagliari judges have trampled on the prerogatives of parliament".