Stem-cell Research and the Catholic Church

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) Declaring that stem-cell research does not present a conflict between science and religion, the U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a statement June 13 calling the use of human embryos in such research "gravely immoral" and unnecessary.

In the last vote of the public session of their June 12-14 spring general assembly in Orlando, the bishops voted 191-1 in favor of the document titled "On Embryonic Stem-Cell Research: A Statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops."

"It now seems undeniable that once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point," the document said. "The only moral stance that affirms the human dignity of all of us is to reject the first step down this path."

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., introduced the document on behalf of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who was not at the Orlando meeting.

Consideration of the stem-cell document came after an intense and complicated debate at the meeting over a 700-page liturgical translation. Archbishop Naumann thanked those involved in the liturgical debate for "making stem-cell research seem simple," which drew laughs from the other bishops.

The seven-page policy statement was approved with little debate and few amendments.

Archbishop Naumann said it would be issued in an "attractive educational brochure" intended for the "broadest possible distribution."

Also coming out this summer, he said, are three educational resources on the medical advances being made with adult stem cells: a 16-minute DVD called "Stem-Cell Research: Finding Cures We Can All Live With"; an updated parish bulletin insert on the topic; and a brochure on "Stem Cells and Hope for Patients," which will be part of the bishops' annual Respect Life observance.

Although the U.S. bishops have been active in the national debate on stem cells, individually and collectively, this marks the first time they have addressed the issue in a document "devoted exclusively" to that topic, Archbishop Naumann said.

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Stem-cell Research and the Catholic Church

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