Archbishop Charles J.Chaput
Rev Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. leads the Archdiocese
Stem Cell Research And Human Dignity
Complex science, simple ethics...
Charles J. Chaput] 11/2/04
friend of mine who worked with the U.S. delegation to the United
Nations told me a story recently. She said that during the
U.N. debate on human cloning, supporters repeatedly argued
that cloning is “a very complex moral issue.”
Holy See’s response cut straight to the point: The ethics of cloning, embryonic stem cell research
and related technologies is simple. It’s the science that’s complex.
the national elections draw closer, stem cell research has
joined the list of issues hijacked by political parties for
their word war. Only days after paralyzed actor Christopher
Reeve died earlier this month, a prominent candidate argued
that, “if we do the work that we can do in this country” — assuming
the right political party is elected — “people like Christopher
Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and
sounds wonderful. But it’s a lie. As Charles Krauthammer says — himself
trained as a doctor and himself a victim of paralysis — rhetoric
like this is nothing more than pandering to the hopes of suffering
and desperate people for political gain, without any real prospect
of delivering on those hopes. Claims of impending miracle cures
based on embryonic stem cell research are simply false. In
fact, no such hope exists anywhere in the foreseeable future.
The science involved doesn’t support the marketing campaign.
an example, Krauthammer cites Ronald McKay, a stem cell researcher
at the National Institutes for Health, who has publicly acknowledged
that stem cells as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease are a fiction,
but that “people need a fairy tale.”
fairy tales don’t make good national policy, and they can’t
take the place of moral reasoning.
than a decade ago, Americans were sold the idea that fetal
tissue implants could cure Parkinson’s disease. Nothing came
of it. Now we’re being teased with promises of Gospel-like
healings if only we allow embryonic stem cell research. But
nothing — literally no credible body of scientific evidence — suggests
the likelihood of any such result.
We do know that stem cells from adults and umbilical
cords do show
great promise and already have applications in therapy. The
Church has no objection to such stem cell research. In fact,
she supports and encourages it.
problem with embryonic stem
cell research comes down to this: We need to kill the embryos
to do the research. The fact that developing human beings don’t “look
human” is irrelevant. So are their size and their stage of
development. They’re still human, and left to their natural
growth, they become thinking, feeling adults with hopes and
moral purpose — exactly like the rest of us.
Pope John Paul II has warned, “The killing of innocent human
creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes
an absolutely unacceptable act.” The Holy Father, who carries
the burden every day of his own suffering from Parkinson’s
disease, would certainly welcome a miracle cure. But not at
price tags are simply too high. John Paul II understands that
we can’t deliberately attack human dignity to serve human dignity.
We can’t do evil to accomplish a greater good. The end never
justifies the means.
be fooled by the embryonic stem cell debate. There are other,
better ways to accomplish needed stem cell research besides
killing human embryos. And don’t be intimidated. Raising moral
objections to the destruction of human embryos is not “anti-science;” it’s
pro-human dignity; pro the sanctity of human life.
The science of stem cell research may be complex.
But the ethics is
simple: We don’t kill the innocent. CRO
Most Rev Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. leads the Archdiocese of Denver.
with permission from the Denver Catholic Register.