Friday, February 29, 2008

Stem-cell Update

The last issue of "Catholic San Francisco" our Archdiocesan newspaper had an atrociously ill-informed article (PDF: 8MB) about embryonic stem-cell research, and the Catholic arguments against it.

This week, in the "Letters" section, two extremely well informed Catholics set the record straight. We reproduce their letters here in full.

"I am writing to express profound disappointment with the Feb. 15 front-page article regarding the stem cell conference at Dominican College.

First, the article itself is ideologically biased from the perspective of embryonic stem cell advocates. Frankly, it read like a promotion of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine; the Institute was put in place by Proposition 71, against which the California Catholic Conference of Bishops (including the San Francisco Archdiocese) campaigned tirelessly in the 2004 election.

Second, it was devoid of the Church’s well reasoned moral argument against destroying nascent human life for the purpose of furthering scientific technology.

In short, we oppose feeding off of (i.e. killing) our young to prolong our own existence. The existence ordained by God to new life is not ours for the foraging. The unborn, regardless of their point in the gestational path, are not fodder for the petri dishes of scientists who want to be their own gods. (Interestingly, the article was revealing about the real objective of scientists who are obsessed with embryonic stem cell research; they want to be able to create life, to be their own gods; cures are ancillary to the process.)

Third, the article was also devoid of scientific facts about embryonic stem cell research, namely that this research holds no promise for anyone who is alive today. The research is so problematic and unpromising that no venture capitalists will fund it, thus the push for taxpayer funding. Also, over 73 diseases are being treated with adult stem cell therapies. Adult stem cell research is wildly successful yet does not require the destruction of human life. In fact, every time we hear about a success in stem cell research, it is an adult stem cell therapy. Where was this fact in the article?

Finally, where was the Church’s counter-point in this article? Why was Vicki Evans, Respect Life coordinator for the Archdiocese, who is very well versed on the topic, not interviewed? As a person who has worked hard (as a volunteer on behalf of the Church) to dispel the propaganda put forth by scientism and the mainstream media about the scientifically inaccurate “virtues” of embryonic stem cell research, this article was a slap in the face. I look forward to a correction in the upcoming Catholic San Francisco.

Dolores Meehan
San Francisco


I don’t know if I am more disappointed with Dominican University of California (self-described as a “university of Catholic heritage” in San Rafael) that held a conference showcasing people involved with destruction of human life and cloning for scientific research, or with the ethically neutral reporting of it in Catholic San Francisco (Feb. 15).

The article unwittingly makes a case for continued destruction of human life in its most vulnerable stage – a stage of life that every human person goes through without exception.

At one point, seven paragraphs in a row supported the need for experimentation and destruction of human embryonic life followed by a weak mention of Catholic teaching about human life qualified by “Catholic natural lawthinking argues . . .” and “Catholic thinkers urge scientists to use adult sources . . ..” There is nothing to think about. It is a matter of understanding the magisterium.

It is a scientific fact that from the moment of conception, there is a unique unrepeatable human life, genetically different from his or her parents – yes, “his” or “her”, not “its”. Every human life has equal value and dignity whether strong or weak, able or disabled, conscious or unconscious, embryo or elderly. Why? Because God creates each in his image and likeness.

In addition, there was the unanswered quote from a secular “bioethicist” who said, “You have big people who are here with their diseases, and then you have . . . embryos”. “. . . [The embryo] is not self-conscious.” It might have been nice to mention it is a matter of social justice that “big people” take care of little people. They don’t kill them for private interests because they are weak and are not conscious. Domination of the poor, weak and vulnerable by the wealthy, strong and powerful is always wrong.

The article wrongly leaves the impression that stem cells generated from human eggs are ethical as long as embryos are not involved. Harvesting human eggs is a dangerous and painful process. It is an assault on the dignity of women, particularly poor women, too easily coerced into selling their eggs and jeopardizing their health. Women in the third world would be the most vulnerable, but then we have these “big people” – rich and powerful.

It is sad that some of the best-informed people in the country on this subject sit right down the hall from Catholic San Francisco in the chancery office, and were apparently not consulted. In addition, there are many competent and well-informed laity, religious and clergy in our Archdiocese who could have contributed a rebuttal from a Catholic perspective. The misunderstandings in the article demonstrate how complex the issues are regarding ethical and unethical stem cell research. Ethical alternatives have provided cures and treatments for almost 80 diseases compared to none from the unethical research. Catholic citizens who want to do the right thing are desperate for help in understanding the truth and what is at stake. This article did not help fill that need.

Bill May
Chairman, Catholics for the Common Good
San Francisco


Anonymous said...

Great letters.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely appalling article in the Catholic SF. Hard to believe that it was even published without some sort of fig-leaf counterpoint article or clarification.