Priests for Life Welcomes Bishops' Statement on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
June 16, 2008
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, who was present
for the meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in
Orlando from June 11-14, welcomed the statement that the bishops approved
during that meeting, reiterating the Church’s teaching on embryonic stem
cell research and the moral principles related to it.
The statement is very clear. It does not dwell upon the scientific
nuances of the issue, but rather assists the reader to focus on the core of
the moral issues involved. The statement is not marked by condemnation, but
rather by explanation. It is not a rejection of research or of those who
stand to benefit from research, but rather a call to pursue the well being
of those very individuals by preserving the moral standards that protect
their dignity and that of the rest of us.
The statement reminds us that there is great medical promise in therapy
with “adult stem cells,” which “can be obtained without harm to the donor
and without any ethical problem.”
On the other hand, if human lives are destroyed for what some argue is
the greater good of curing disease, this argument undermines the dignity of
the very people for whom it tries to advocate. “The same ethic that
justifies taking some lives to help the patient with Parkinson’s or
Alzheimer’s disease today can be used to sacrifice that very patient
tomorrow, if his or her survival is viewed as disadvantaging other human
Addressing the doubt some have as to whether embryos really are human,
the statement reminds us, “Just as each of us was once an adolescent, a
child, a newborn infant, and a child in the womb, each of us was once an
And for those who acknowledge the humanity of the embryo but not its
claim to protection, the bishops warn, “If fundamental rights such as the
right to life are based on abilities or qualities that can appear or
disappear, grow or diminish, and be greater or lesser in different human
beings, then there are no inherent human rights, no true human equality,
only privileges for the strong.”
The bottom line is that human beings can never be considered a means to
an end or a mere object of research. The moral boundary of human activity in
every sphere can be summarized by saying that people are not things.
Every human being is a human person, and a person is never a product. From
pornography to abortion, from economic oppression to unjustified warfare,
from the Holocaust to the destruction of embryos, the violation of the same
principle can be seen. The only appropriate response to the human person is
The Church in no way opposes research or the progress of medical science.
Indeed, this statement is an affirmation of that fact, because by
reaffirming where the bright moral lines are that research must never cross,
the Church encourages researchers to work harder to discover alternatives
that provide the benefits we all seek while preserving the moral foundation
that provides the rationale for seeking those benefits in the first place.
And those alternatives are coming to light – a fact which can help even
those who justify the destruction of embryos to realize that there is no
reason to take that path.
Click here to read the full text of the bishops’ document: