Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Catholic Reaction to Bush Stem-Cell Decision Mixed

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Catholic Reaction to Bush Stem-Cell Decision Mixed

Article excerpt

Following President Bush's decision to authorize federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research only on existing cell lines, Catholic reaction ranged from moral outrage to guarded approval. Some praised Bush for refusing to allow the killing of human embryos for future research, while others said it was morally unacceptable for scientists to experiment with existing stem-cell lines that had been obtained from embryos.

Meanwhile, work was beginning at the National Institutes of Health, where a registry of the approximately 60 existing stem-cell lines worldwide was being prepared for publication early next year.

Bush announced Aug. 9 that he would authorize federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research involving only the 60 or so existing stem-cell lines already developed by scientists, because in those cases "the life-and-death decision has already been made.

"This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem-cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos," the president added.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Bush's decision "morally unacceptable." Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston said that with this decision, "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."

Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York called the president's address "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 an inalienable right to live."

Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston said, "While I applaud [Bush] 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."

Some Catholic commentators found reason to praise Bush for his new policy.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference, public policy arm of the state's four dioceses, said in a statement that Bush had "demonstrated the utmost in courage by refusing to compel millions of taxpayers against their conscience to promote the killing of human life for utilitarian purposes."

Laura Echevarria, director of media relations for the National Right to Life Committee, said her organization was "delighted with President Bush's decision that prevents the federal government from becoming a party to any further killing of human embryos for medical experimentation. …

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