Signs of the Times

Bishops’ Statements on Stem Cell Research

Here are excerpts from statements of various U.S. bishops in reaction to President Bush’s decision, announced on Aug. 9, to permit federal funding of embryonic stem cell research using existing stem cell lines.

Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: "The trade-off he has announced is morally unacceptable: The federal government, for the first time in history, will support research that relies on the destruction of some defenseless human beings for possible benefit to others. However such a decision is hedged about with qualifications, it allows our nation’s research enterprise to cultivate a disrespect for human life.... We hope and pray that President Bush will return to a principled stand against treating some human lives as nothing more than objects to be manipulated and destroyed for research purposes."


Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit: "Regardless of its status in the laboratory queue, a so-called 'spare' or discarded embryo is no less the beginning of personhood than any other human embryo.... We remember here in Michigan when scores of weak, vulnerable people were victimized at the end of their lives with claims of false mercy and compassion. We saw the slippery slope in action. These tiny specks, these stem cells, are no less vulnerable. They deserve our protection, not experimentation."

Archbishop Francis B. Schulte of New Orleans: "In many quarters, this is being termed a 'compromise.' However, there can be no compromise when it comes to defending innocent human life. The decision by the president allows public money to fund research which directly destroys innocent human life. This decision is morally wrong and furthers the culture of death."

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington: "There is much to support in the president’s decision. His clear stand against human cloning is firmly in the American tradition of respect for the human person as a gift from God the Creator. His restriction on funding further unlimited research is important.... On the other hand, the president’s decision unfortunately allows the allotment of federal funding—the money we pay in our taxes—for something many of us feel to be morally wrong. It opens the door to experimentation on human beings."

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago: "Stem cell research does not require cells derived from the destruction of any human embryos. President Bush’s decision, while seemingly restrictive, unfortunately runs the risk of setting us on a course where even more innocent human lives will be sacrificed for research purposes."

Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis: "Any form of 'compromise' in the arena of human life is completely unacceptable. Respect for the human person, whether born or in the tiniest embryonic state, requires unequivocal vigilance. Allowing any form of embryonic stem cell research flies in the face of responsible and ethical science which disallows research on a subject without that individual’s consent.... We as a nation must not allow human lives to be sacrificed on the altar of science."

Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia: "From a Catholic perspective, I would have preferred a total exclusion of funding for embryonic stem cell research. At the same time, I am grateful that the president has remained faithful to his pro-life stance by banning the use of taxpayer money for research on stem cells that would require any future destruction of living human embryos.... It is my hope that the presidential council will address some lingering moral concerns."

Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston: "The president has elevated the public debate on this issue, and he has served the nation well in so doing. While I applaud him for setting limits, the line which he has drawn is going to be very difficult to maintain, judging from the comments of politicians calling for no limits and of scientists who question whether 60 stem cell lines are sufficient. It is because maintaining his position will be so difficult in today’s cultural climate that I regret the president’s decision to allow federal funding for experimentation on existing embryonic stem cell lines."

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis: "The so-called promise of this research, which the president alluded to, is an empty promise. It is a promise built on a premise that the end justifies the means. This is unacceptable in Catholic moral teaching. We believe that the means he proposes—use of embryonic cells (even those that have already been destroyed)—is absolutely unacceptable."

Archbishop Justin F. Rigali of St. Louis: "The president has deliberately excluded federal funds for the future destruction of embryos for purposes of research, and this is a splendid decision. He has, however, granted federal funds for research on existing stem cell lines.... The president’s position is not without moral difficulties.... We are convinced that the creation and destruction of human embryos for scientific research cannot be facilitated or favored in any way without threatening the whole cause of other human life and dignity."

Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore: "To the president’s credit, he offered a more comprehensive moral perspective on this vital human life issue than usually presents itself in the context of the scientific debate. So much of what we have seen in the press and heard through the other media has come to us in emotional terms.... Our task, as people of faith, is to remind all that reason and objective facts should not be set aside because of emotional argumentation built on isolated personal situations, however painful. We must love one another, protecting the most vulnerable, both young and old, to build a renewed culture of life."

Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York: "The address of the president of the United States on Aug. 9 concerning stem cell research was both encouraging and disappointing.... My voice is added to those who earnestly invite the president to reconsider his decision. His original opposition to all embryonic stem cell research was wise, courageous and worthy of the leader of a nation founded on the premise that every human being at every stage of his or her life enjoys inalienable right to live."

Congolese Bishop Calls for Withdrawal of Foreign Armies

A Congolese bishop has called on the United Nations to widen the mandate of U.N. troops in his war-torn country to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign occupying armies. "The foreigners—Rwandans, Ugandans and Burundians—must leave our country, and we are asking MONUC to help us resolve this problem," said Bishop Dominique Kimpinde of Kalemie-Kirungu, using the acronym for the U.N. mission to Congo. The United Nations has deployed more than 2,000 armed troops—mainly from Tunisia, Morocco, Uruguay and other non-Western countries—to protect officials monitoring a cease-fire between the Kinshasa government and the rebels.

Priest Accuses Military of Taking Bribe to Allow Rebels to Flee

Bishops and clergy of the southern Philippines have defended a priest who accused five senior military men of receiving bribe money to allow cornered Abu Sayyaf rebels to escape. Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, head of the bishops’ social justice commission, said Father Cirilo Nacorda has the support of the bishops and priests of Mindanao, according to UCA News.

Catholics Wired

U.S. Catholics are more likely than other Americans to have Internet access, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. While 56 percent of all Americans have Internet access according to one recent national study, CARA found that 64 percent of the Catholics have Internet access. It found that younger Catholics who go online are more likely than older ones to connect to sites about religion. Use of the Internet for religious sites is especially high among teenagers, including those who do not attend church very often. CARA is an independent Catholic research agency based at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Average Ordination Age Increases by Eight Years

The average age of U.S. Catholic priests at ordination has increased since the 1930’s and 40’s by eight years, said the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The summer issue of The CARA Report, released in August, said 26 was the average ordination age before the 1950’s. It rose to 27 in the 50’s, 28 in the 60’s, 29 in the 70’s, 32 in the 80’s, and 34 in the 1990’s and 2000. The report was based on a nationwide telephone survey in March of 1,234 diocesan and religious priests. It said the vast majority of priests expressed strong happiness in their ministry and satisfaction with their life as a priest.

Archbishop Milingo Renounces Ties to Wife, Rev. Moon

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who married in a ceremony performed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon three months ago, has written to Pope John Paul II renouncing his ties to his Korean wife and the Rev. Moon’s movement. "At this moment I recommit with all my heart to my life in the Catholic Church," the Zambian archbishop said in a handwritten letter dated Aug. 11, released by the Vatican on Aug. 14. Maria Sung, the archbishop’s 43-year-old Korean wife, denounced the letter as either fake or coerced through drugs. She renewed a vow to fast to death unless the archbishop, a former Vatican official, resumed married life with her. Speaking at a press conference in Rome hours after the letter’s release, she said she would ask Italian police to liberate the archbishop from the Vatican’s "unlawful imprisonment." Earlier, she said she might be pregnant with the archbishop’s child. It is unclear whether the marriage was ever legally registered with the State of New York.

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