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Commentary by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted on Obama Embryonic Stem Cell Research Executive Order

President Obama signed an executive order that provides federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. This means that American taxpayers will now be paying for the killing of human beings at a very early stage in their lives (as embryos), so that scientific research can make use of them for experiments that may or may not yield positive results.

We U.S. taxpayers will now be forced to pay, whether we wish to or not, for the killing of our youngest brothers and sisters on the dubious hypothesis that their murders might, in the future, benefit others. Why did President Obama make this decision?

Should science trump ideology?

Our president's rationale is that science should trump ideology. In other words, that ideology should not have the upper hand in making decisions about who pays for research; science should. We Americans, he says, should trust scientists more than we trust ideologues. But who is our president calling ideologues? Those whom he is calling "ideologues" include the following:

- Pope Benedict XVI and all faithful Catholics around the world;
- People of faith from all major religions who believe that human life, especially at its most innocent and vulnerable stage, needs to be protected, not killed for the sake of older human beings; and
- All people of good will who oppose the killing of one group of human beings in order to benefit another group.

"Science should trump ideology" is a code phrase that means science should trump the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." It is contending that science should trump the right to life of a certain class of human beings, those who are at the embryonic stage of life. Science, according to our president, does not need to be at the service of the human person or subject to morality. How is this position not influenced by an ideology, which is the very thing our president claims he is seeking to avoid? Is this good for America? Is this what we Americans want our taxes to be used for?

Politics over science and ethics

Let's be clear about what this presidential decree is about. It is not about overcoming a prohibition against embryonic stem cell research. Tragically, such research is already legal in many places in our country. Already billions of dollars of California taxpayers are funding such heinous research. So our president is not overturning laws that prohibit such research. It is already legal.

What President Obama is doing is forcing all American taxpayers to pay for this homicidal research. He is forcing us who pay taxes to be complicit, in an involuntary yet real way, in this unethical enterprise. All of this is done so that "science can trump ideology."

Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said this: "President Obama's new executive order on embryonic stem cell research is a sad victory of politics over science and ethics. This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested. It also disregards the values of millions of American taxpayers who oppose research that requires taking human life. Finally, it ignores the fact that ethically sound means for advancing stem cell science and medical treatments are readily available and in need of increased support."

What should be the response of Catholics to this action?

First, we must beg forgiveness for this horrendous sin of our nation. Like the Prophet Daniel, we need to say in all humility and shame (9:4fc), "Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws… Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day."

Second, we Catholics must join with others of good will and make our voices heard across our land, at the White House, on Capitol Hill, in our state Legislatures and in the media. We must not stand by idly while our neighbor's life is at stake. The dignity of a human person does not depend upon his or her age, developmental stage, or ability to function. Every human being has inherent dignity because God has created us with an eternal soul. No one has the right to extinguish this gift of life but God alone.

Third, we need to point out why such destructive research is especially pointless at this time when ethical means are available, such as the following:

Great advances are being made in reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells (the journal Science hailed this as the scientific breakthrough of the year);
Adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells are increasingly being used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged organs.

Fourth, we must pray and fast for an end to this horrendous decision and an end to all attacks on innocent human life. Jesus told us that some evils can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. In this season of Lent, this gives us added reason to do penance in union with our prayers for the protection of all human life.

Fifth, we must not lose hope. False rhetoric such as "science must triumph over ideology" will not stand the test of time. Such counterfeit reasoning and slick cover-up of the truth will not have the last word. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (Cf. Jn 10:10). In Him, who died to take away sin and rose to restore our life, we place our hope. This hope will never disappoint.


 

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