August 2, 2005
Prot. No. 651/1/05
Circular No. 05.30
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Everyday the headlines suggest that a cure for Parkinson’s disease or diabetes is right around the corner, if only the government would loosen up its restrictions on embryo stem cell research. And everyday political pundits suggest that the Catholic Church is to blame for those restrictions, that theology is standing in the way of medical advancements to cure the suffering.
Does the Catholic Church oppose cell research? To the contrary, the Church is on the cutting edge of such scientific progress. For example doctors at New York Medical College in Valhalla, affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York, have pioneered the transplantation of bone marrow stem cells into the heart to rebuild cardiac muscle and restore healthy functioning following a heart attack. Researchers at Caritas St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Boston have discovered an adult stem cell which they believe has the capacity to repair and regenerate all tissue types in the human body.
The Catholic Church is among the largest non-profit providers of health care in the United States and throughout the world. Every day, Church employees heal the sick and comfort the dying in faithful imitation of Jesus Christ.
Does this sound like a faith group that seeks to destroy the chances of the lame to walk or the blind to see? Catholic social teaching begins with a foundational belief in the sacredness of human life, even the tiny embryo whom scientists hope to destroy for its stem cells, is sacred and worthy of the protection of the law. That is why the Church supports adult stem cell therapies but rejects embryo stem cell research.
Adult stem cell research, unlike embryo research, is already curing disease and saving lives. Patients with heart disease, leukemia, and Parkinson’s disease have been able to have their own adult stem cells used to repair and heal their broken bodies. These cells are found in places like bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, even human fat, and can be obtained without harm to anyone and without the ethical controversy surrounding embryonic cells. And because the adult stem cells come from the patients’ own bodies, there is little chance of tissue rejection.
These days in the media the Church is simply a convenient scapegoat for those who stand to gain from embryonic stem cell research: universities, biotech organizations, pharmaceutical companies and other firms conducting the research. It is good for us to know that on this issue the Church is a good scientist. As a society we should lobby government to fund adult stem cell research not embryonic. Human life should never be used for research or commerce. In this way we can combine science with a respect for the sanctity of life.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)