There is a great deal of confusion in our society about stem-cell research. An important distinction must be made about embryonic stem-cell research that kills innocent human life and adult stem-cell research that doesn\’t.
The Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem-cell research but strongly supports adult stem-cell research. Opponents of the Church have branded us as being opposed to science and indifferent to those who suffer from illnesses. But we support ethically responsible scientific research and are very committed to searching for cures, as long as it doesn\’t kill human life.
This is indeed a pro-life issue. We believe that there are strong ethical issues involved here. Even a small embryo is a human being. We all started out as embryonic stem cells. To harvest embryonic stem cells — even to help human life — is wrong because it kills the embryo. It means in effect using tiny human body parts for scientific purposes.
The end does not justify the means.
We know that the genetic package is really complete when conception takes place and sonar pictures of the living infant in the womb clearly show human life as it grows and develops.
Human-life issues are the bedrock of our faith. Respect for life is central to Catholicism, and thus we defend every life where it is threatened — from conception to natural death. We are committed to a consistent ethic of life. Hence, we oppose abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia and capital punishment. As a religious leader I have a serious obligation to share this teaching with others. I am aware that some will not agree.
Some will say that human embryos are in frozen storage and ultimately will be discarded anyway so why is it wrong to try and get some good out of them? Well, in the end we will all die anyway, but that gives no one the right to kill us.
These embryos will not die because they are inherently unable to survive, but rather because others are choosing to hand them over for destructive research instead of letting them implant in their mother\’s womb. The idea of experimenting on human beings because they may die anyway also imposes a grave threat to convicted prisoners, terminally ill patients and others.
We can all support many kinds of exciting and forward-looking avenues of stem-cell research, like umbilical cord and adult stem-cell research, with a clear conscience. These treatments have been a great help to people with Parkinson\’s disease, spinal cord injury, sickle cell anemia, heart damage, corneal damage and dozens of other conditions. There are scholars and experts who would say there is much more hope to develop cures from adult stem-cell research than from embryonic stem cells.
Embryonic stem-cell research will certainly lead to the creation of cloned human embryos — which also raises serious ethical problems.