US Catholic bishops reject embryonic stem cell research


American Catholic bishops have entered the public square in an election year with an unequivocal rejection of human embryonic stem cell technology and therapeutic cloning. They argue that it is not a theological dispute but a human rights issue. It “does not force us to choose between science and ethics, much less between science and religion,” they said in a statement from a national conference in Orlando, Florida. “It presents a choice as to how our society will pursue scientific and medical progress.”

Like other critics of stem cell research, the bishops insist that they are not opposed to medical advances, but only to the destruction of embryos, which is human life in its most vulnerable stage. “The same ethic that justifies taking some lives to help the patient with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease today can be used to sacrifice that very patient tomorrow,” they warn.

There is no doubt about what side the Catholic bishops are on in the increasingly visible debate over whether human dignity is a meaningful concept. They contend that if there are no inherent human rights for every human being, regardless of their physical or mental abilities, there is “no true human equality, only privileges for the strong.” And as precedents they cite the Declaration of Independence and allude to the tragic history of American slavery.

 

The statement was attacked by the dissident pro-abortion Catholic group, Catholics for Choice. Its president, Jon O’Brien, said that polls showed that most American Catholics support stem-cell research and that the bishops’ obstinacy undermined a long Catholic tradition of supporting scientific endeavour. ~ AP, June 13; Orlando Sentinel, June 17


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