CATHOLIC FREE PRESS
June 22, 2001
Religious leaders make plea to HHS against embryonic stem-cell research
WASHINGTON (CNS) Leaders of religious organizations wrote a
letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson June 14 asking him
to oppose stem-cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos.
"The greater weight of the decision to use embryonic stem
cells rests squarely on your shoulders," the letter said, urging Thompson to
recognize that his "leadership on this most important ethical question will
provide guidance on scientific experimentation at one of the most critical
turning points in human history."
The letter was from the Family/Research Council and was
signed by 13 leaders from other organizations, including several Catholics:
Father Richard Neuhaus, director of the Institute on Religion and Public
Life; Father Frank Pavone national director of Priests for Life, Austin Ruse,
director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute; Raymond Flynn,
national president of Catholic Alliance; and Bill Bennett, director of Empower
The letter quoted Pope John Paul II's encyclical "Evangelium
Vitae," in which he said the "use of human embryos or fetuses as an object for
experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who
have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born. "
It also quoted a May 18 letter that President Bush wrote to the president of
the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington.
In the letter, Bush said he opposed federal funding for stem-cell research
that involves destroying living human embryos and supports "innovative medical
research on life-threatening and debilitating diseases, including promising
research on stem cells from adult tissue."
In the letter to Thompson, the religious leaders said the
debate was not solely about stem-cell research, because they supported such
research as long as it does not require the destruction of human embryos.
"Some have maintained that frozen embryos are not alive. This
is misleading,"' the letter said. "It is precisely because such embryos are
living that their stem cells are attractive for research.
"Please understand that recent advances in adult stem-cell
research have made the killing of human embryos unnecessary," it added.