A recent article in the NW Progress discussed the partnership between the Pontifical Council for Culture and a biopharmaceutical company for the purpose of educating Catholics and others around the world about the benefits of adult stem-cell research:
Father Tomasz Trafny, an official with the Vatican agency, and Dr. Robin L. Smith, chairman and chief executive of NeoStem, announced the collaboration at a May 25 news conference in New York.
“Through educational initiatives with NeoStem and sponsorship of scientific research programs involving cutting-edge adult stem-cell science which does not hurt human life, we come one step closer to a breakthrough that can relieve needless human suffering,” Father Trafny said.
“We want to be able to deliver to our pastors, to our bishops” information that will help them respond to the bioethical questions raised by Catholics at the local level, Father Trafny said. “We need to understand the technologies, the science, many things, in order to know what kinds of answers we need to provide for them.”
The priest noted that the Catholic Church has long been a supporter of adult stem-cell research but opposes embryonic stem-cell research, which requires the destruction of human embryos.
“We consider ending suffering, sickness and disability an urgent task,” he said. “A lot of people think the church is against science, but the official teachings of the church strongly underline the fact that science and faith are complementary to each other.”
NeoStem holds exclusive worldwide rights to VSEL (very small embryonic-like) stem-cell technology, which Smith said has the potential of achieving “the positive benefits associated with embryonic stem cells without the ethical or moral dilemmas as well as other negative effects associated with embryonic stem cells.”
“For over 40 years, physicians have been using adult stem cells to treat various blood cancers, but only recently has the promise of using adult stem cells to treat a significant number of other diseases begun to be realized,” she added.
Smith said her company’s alliance with the Vatican would help to “increase public perception of stem cells” and “train a new generation of future academicians and ethicists” by developing bioethics courses for the university and high school level.
“We will be at the forefront of efforts to discover exactly what [adult] stem cells can do,” she said. “We intend to make a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.”
During his homily on Holy Trinity Sunday, Father Lappe corrected the widely held belief that the Catholic Church is opposed to stem-cell research. She is opposed to embryonic stem-cell research (ESR), by which human beings at the earliest stages of life are harvested and destroyed for their stem-cells. As the article above demonstrates, however, the Catholic Church is a staunch supporter of ethical stem-cell research which does not require one human being be killed for the benefit of another.
Those in our culture who criticize the Church for holding this position, accuse Her of having greater concern for a 'clump of cells' than for the paralytic or man with Parkinsons disease. Once again, the Church is painted as being anti-science. But would the same criticism fall on the Church if it were toddlers being harvested and killed for their stem-cells? "Of course not!", they would say. "It's not okay to kill a human being for medical research!" Well, that is exactly what the Church teaches with regard to ESR. The scientific and medical community overwhelmingly agree that human life begins at fertilization. Those who support ESR, do so on the anti-scientific basis that the embryo is not a human being.
Father Lappe points out the anti-Trinitarian nature of ESR in his homily: "Rather than self-giving, we have research that destroys tiny babies at the beginning of their life and says, 'you have to die so that I can live, so that I can be healed of whatever ailment that I might have.'" Contrast this to the words of our Savior who not long before he died said, "This is My Body, which is given up for you" (Luke 22:19).