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Saturday, August 30, 2014

What's so bad about embryonic stem cell research?

Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

Question:  What's so bad about embryonic stem cell research? 

Please note:  We are talking about embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), not all stem cell research. ESCR = bad. Stem cell research = good.  (Just like the difference between acid rain and just plain rain.  Acid rain = bad.  Just plain rain = good. *:) happy)  One little adjective can change the meaning immensely!

Short answer:  Embryonic stem cell research uses a human person, in its earliest stage of development, for the (potential)* benefit of society.  It is always, everywhere, in all situations, gravely immoral and offensive to our inherent dignity to use another person as an object.

It is an intrinsically evil act to kill an innocent person so that another may benefit.

Longer answer:  The Catholic Church is nothing, if not consistent.  So if the Church teaches that it's gravely immoral to abort a fetus at 20 weeks gestation, it would make sense that the Church, consistently, declares, "It is also wrong to abort a human person at 10 days gestation."  Thus, from the moment of conception, in which an entirely new organism is created, with its own DNA, to our natural death, human life is worthy of the right to live.  

I have heard some arguments presented in favor of ESCR as:  "I am against abortion, when there is a fetus. But the blastocyst (formed after conception) consists of only about 150 cells.  A housefly is more complex than this blastocyst, and the Catholic Church doesn't have a problem with our swatting a housefly, so why should the Church have a problem with using 150 cells for research, especially if it could potentially provide a cure for millions of people who suffer horribly from diseases?"

The Catholic response is:  because these 150 cells are a human life.  Personhood is not dependent upon the number of cells we have in our body.

It might be helpful to ask this ESCR supporter:  how many cells would it take for you to be against research on this organism?  Is 150 cells ok to use for research, but a 1500 cell organism is wrong to experiment on? Do you believe that at 10 days gestation it's ok to use for research, but not on a fetus that is 20 weeks old? What has changed in this organism that makes one not worthy of life but the other worthy?"

I don't think that a logical answer can be offered by a ESCR supporter.  At least, not if she is against abortion but pro-ESCR.

The Church's teaching against ESCR is clear and concise.  The dignity of the human person begins at the very moment of its existence, because we are made in the image and likeness of God.  

From Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae:

Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: How could a human individual not be a human person? 

*Regarding the potential benefit that may be achieved from ESCR--my understanding is that NO RESEARCH has demonstrated any true benefit from embryonic stem cells.  It is actually adult stem cells which seem to hold some promise for future cures/therapies for ALS, Diabetes, Parkinsons, etc etc etc.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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