By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
The U.S. bishops adopted a statement on embryonic stem cell research this morning, the first time the conference has spoken specifically on the issue. It asserts that harvesting embryos for research amounts to “the deliberate killing of innocent human beings,” and is therefore “a gravely immoral act.”
The statement was prepared by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, led by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. Because Rigali wasn’t in attendance, it was presented by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas.
The bishops warn that embryonic stem cell research is potentially part of a slippery slope toward other dangerous outcomes, including:
•tPutting women’s health at risk in order to obtain eggs for the production of embryos
•tCreating human/animal hybrids that blur the boundaries between species, once again in order to get egg cells
“Once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point,” the bishops say. “The only moral stance that affirms the human dignity of us all is to reject the first step down this path.”
The bishops add, however, that they are not opposed to scientific progress, endorsing research that relies upon adult tissues and umbilical cord blood.
Naumann told the bishops this morning that plans call for the statement to be distributed in brochure form through diocesan pro-life offices across the country, and talking points will also be posted on the web site of the U.S. bishops’ conference. The statement itself, Naumann said, will be translated into Spanish.
The Committee on Pro-Life Activities is also distributing a 16-minute video presenting church teaching on embryonic stem cell research, titled “Stem Cell Research: Finding Cures We Can All Live With.”