Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, has prohibited parishes and parochial schools from raising funds for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, one of the nation’s largest fundraising entities for breast cancer research. Since 1982 its Race for the Cure and other efforts have netted more than $1.9 billion for breast cancer screening and research efforts.
The bishop’s move represents a pre-emptive strike against embryonic research, since there is no evidence that the Komen Foundation is using any money raised now for this controversial research. Embryonic stem cell research, unlike adult stem cell research, requires the destruction of human embryos.
“In our 29 years, Komen for the Cure has never funded embryonic stem cell research,” the local chapter responded in a statement posted at its Web site. “We remain focused on our mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever through our research program and through our affiliate partnerships.”
In a letter on July 5 explaining his decision to Toledo Catholics, Bishop Blair said, “While we want to do everything possible to support the search for a cure [for cancer], sadly the landscape of medical research today is sometimes marred by the erroneous belief that research is not bound by moral norms rooted in faith and reason, as reflected in the teaching of the church.”
Bishop Blair’s action is certain to raise hackles among some Toledo Catholics. The bishop’s order effectively cuts them off from one of the nation’s most popular fundraising activities for cancer research. Some have joined a Facebook page to protest the decision.
Commenting on the controversy, the diocesan director of communications, Sally Oberski, said, “Bishop Blair’s letter is neither a condemnation, censure, nor—as the [Toledo] Blade claimed—a ‘ban’ on the Komen Foundation. Individual Catholics who want to contribute to Komen locally can continue to do so on the basis of Komen’s assurance that no local funds go to Planned Parenthood or to embryonic stem cell research.”
Bishop Blair’s decision follows a similar decision on fundraising for Komen issued by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. “In order to avoid even the possibility of cooperation in morally unacceptable activities,”Bishop Blair wrote, “the other Bishops and I believe that it would be wise to find alternatives to Komen for Catholic fundraising efforts.” Bishop Blair suggested that fundraising efforts could support Ohio’s Mercy Cancer Centers instead of Komen.
But one Ohio bishop took a different tack. Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland met with Komen officials in his city and released a joint statement on Sept. 4, 2010, in which the bishop said he was satisfied that money raised in Cleveland would be used in efforts that would not be contrary to Catholic teaching.
Although the foundation has never previously funded embryonic stem cell research and has no plans to do so now, Komen officials acknowledge that the foundation does not specifically preclude the possibility of such funding in the future.
In his letter to parishioners, Bishop Blair also cited concerns that the Komen Foundation makes contributions to Planned Parenthood, a charge local Komen officials denied. The foundation reports that 25 percent of the money raised by its local Race for the Cure events, which have drawn more than one million fundraiser/runners since 2005, is spent on breast cancer research, and the remaining monies are directed to funding local cancer screening campaigns.