More on stem cells and Catholicism

Nice article in Catholic Online about a Catholic stem cell biologist, Dr. Markus Grompe at Oregon Health and Science University. This may very well be the best quote I’ve read yet on why we should oppose embryonic stem cell research:

As Catholics, we need to stick to the facts and the truth. The reason we object to embryonic stem-cell research is not because the cells are not good or the adult cells are better. The real reason is that we have moral and ethical objections. We have to stick to our guns. Just because a medical procedure is immoral doesn’t mean it will not work.

(emphases mine)

There’s a real temptation to argue about stem cell research by promoting the very real prospects of adult stem cell research, or by pointing out the flaws in embryonic research from a technical angle. But, just as with Intelligent Design theorists arguing against evolution, these arguments are on very shaky scientific ground. It is quite possible that the tumorigenic tendencies of embryonic stem cells will be overcome; it is undeniable that, as Dr. Grompe points out, adult stem cells are not endlessly renewable like embryonic ones. But, even if scientists iron out every technical difficulty to working with embryonic stem cells, and then proceed to craft “miraculous” cures based on them, we would still oppose them. The debate, in the end, is about religion.

(HT: Fr. Tim Finigan)

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14 Responses to “More on stem cells and Catholicism”


  1. 1 mssuicidebomber January 10, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Your ending statement is exactly what is wrong with your argument about stem cell research, It is not about religion. It’s about power and control.

    For two thousand years the Church has attempted to control the minds of people. Meanwhile, the Church hierarchy has been corrupted by the power it so aggressively sought.

    I would wish that the Church would clean up its own house and bring itself beyond reproach. The pedophile Priests scandals and cover-ups were just the icing on the cake for me regarding the relevance of Catholicism as a religion.

    The Church has always been more concerned with perpetuating its power and less about compassion for the needs of the people.

    In my opinion.

  2. 2 Edmund C. January 10, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    In my opinion.

    That is exactly what is wrong with your argument. It isn’t one.

    I am not going to dispute that the Church has often attempted to gain too much temporal power. Because it’s made up of sinful people, it will continue to have scandals until the end of time. But if it weren’t for the Church, we wouldn’t have science, hospitals, charities, and the list goes on and on. While some of its leadership has been concerned primarily with power, the faith of the people, and that of most of the clergy, has done great things.

    Show me proof that this is all about power and control.

    I realize, however, that since your “argument”, such as it is, is based not on facts but on innuendo and emotion, there is little I can do to change your mind. Reading how horrific your life has been based on posts on your blog, I doubt there is anything I can do but pray for you, which I will.

  3. 3 mssuicidebomber January 10, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I’ll lay out a scenario regarding Church policy which historically has enslaved women and lacks compassion.

    The Church has for centuries forbidden women using effective birth control. Instead forced, couples to rely on the rhythm method which is not reliable as the female body does not act according to expected doctrine.

    Woman were forced to have one child after another. Wearing them out physical, and leading to premature death. A woman according to biblical interpretation must submit to the husband and to not submit, was not an option.

    How is this compassionate? And what is this but a doctrine of power and control?

    As for innuendo, just Google pedophile priests, and there is plenty written on the subject. The world would still have had hospitals, science (as I recall Galileo was in danger of being a heretic for discovering the telescope),and charities.

    I could easily overwhelme you with volumes of historical data supporting my viewpoint of the Church and its quest for power and control over the lives of the faithful.

    Personally, I a bit tired of Christian viewpoint being used to make secular policy. I think the debate over stem cell research would not be a concern if the fetal tissue were not being used.

    I would thank you not to dismiss me by accusing me of being emotional. I am hardly ranting. I was expressing a viewpoint.

  4. 4 Edmund C. January 10, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    I’ll lay out a scenario regarding Church policy which historically has enslaved women and lacks compassion.

    The Church has for centuries forbidden women using effective birth control. Instead forced, couples to rely on the rhythm method which is not reliable as the female body does not act according to expected doctrine.

    Woman were forced to have one child after another. Wearing them out physical, and leading to premature death. A woman according to biblical interpretation must submit to the husband and to not submit, was not an option.

    How is this compassionate? And what is this but a doctrine of power and control?

    First, modern “natural family planning” methods approach 99% efficacy, as good or better than any artificial means. I don’t have time to dig out the stats–maybe someone else around here can.

    Second, chemical contraceptive methods have the possibility of acting as abortifacients. That is tantamount to murder. Even if forbidding “birth control” is the same as enslavement, which of course it isn’t, murder/abortion is far, far worse.

    Third, you are taking modern assumptions and using them to reason about past ages. You do realize that lots of children were essential to keep the population stable in a time when people died left and right of infectious diseases? Today, in an time when almost all people survive to adulthood, there is just cause for allowing some “family planning.” (But, as an aside, European population decline speaks the lie to the danger of a population explosion, as do the rapidly decreasing birth rates in the developing world.) However, the Catholic Church teaches that we must follow natural means, which do not disrupt the unitive and procreative aspects of sex.

    As for innuendo, just Google pedophile priests, and there is plenty written on the subject. The world would still have had hospitals, science (as I recall Galileo was in danger of being a heretic for discovering the telescope),and charities.

    I’m not going to excuse the travesty that is pedophile priests, but it is my contention, supported by abundant evidence which you may Google at your leisure, that most of those “pedophiles” were actually “ephebophiles”–that is, homosexuals abusing teenagers. The real problem in the priesthood is homosexuality, which our depraved culture worships. Culture cannot help but influence the Church, thus the present situation.

    Hospitals were started by the Church. That’s a fact of history. Without it, would we have them? We have no way of knowing. Probably not, because the idea of charity is also a Christian one.

    And on Galileo: Read this. Suffice it to say that you are misinformed.

    I am tired to the point of despair of people in our culture who repeat easily debunkable myths, then use them to defame an institution for which they owe that same culture and essentially everything good in it.

  5. 5 Bekah January 10, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    There is much evidence that the use of contraception has enslaved women to a far greater extent than disallowing it ever could have. For instance, women who suffer birth control failure have been forced to have abortions by the father or other family members. Birth control is used as a tool in covering up rape (statutory or otherwise) and incest. Prevalent use of birth control leads to the devaluing of women precisely because the sexual act is now construed as a recreational act rather than something which unites two people, and leads to procreation.

    The Church’s doctrine against contraception is protective of women in a variety of ways. Besides the above illustration about how contraceptive is injurious to the inherent dignity of women, hormonal birth control has side effects ranging from minor to serious and deadly. There are some correlations with certain actions, such as smoking, that relate to a greater degree of risk, but there are also many healthy young women who have died as a result of using hormonal contraception that had no associated risk factors at all. Other methods of contraception may not carry such inherent risk, but they are far less effective than the methods the Church has ruled are not contrary to the faith, i.e. NFP in its various forms.

    No one at any time in the Church heirarchy has forced women to have child after child. It’s surprisingly easy to avoid children. I only know of one act which produces them.

    As far as submission, I fear you have greatly misunderstood. Among all Christian Churches, I find the Catholic Church to be the most reasonable, respectful and protective of people individually, of families as a whole. The Church does not require obedience of women to their husbands. Submission is more nuanced than that. Church teaching requires men to be loving and protective of their wives. In fact, biblically, men are to love their wives as Jesus does the Church. Meditating on this idea, even for a moment, leaves me feeling that I have it easy. Jesus sacrificed his life, gave himself up to be whipped and taunted, tortured and mocked, for the Church. I’m only asked to submit. I’ll take that.

    The Church’s view of marriage is more egalitarian than most other religions. Man and wife have equal responsibility to each other, to the bringing up of children, etc. I know fundamentalists who believe women should have no say in family decisions. That is not a proper view of submission. Submission is a love and respect for your husband, wanting what is good for him, doing things to accentuate his faith, avoiding detracting him with others…basically what any loving wife would do for her husband. Even when you don’t feel like you love him.

    I don’t feel controlled by the Church. Since my conversion, I have felt the freest that I have ever felt. While I struggle with actual practice in a number of different ways, there’s a security in knowing the boundaries, and being able to articulate whether or not my current actions measure up. I’ve been able to let go of things that I find carry less weight than I feared, while putting more focus on things that have been identified by Church teaching that need to be refined.

    I have also found, within the Church’s Marian doctrines, a far higher respect, honor and love for women than any other protestant church. Through the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception, we see how God poured out his love and filled this person, a woman, with His Grace. This woman is the only person without divinity to live her whole life without falling to sin. She is an example for the whole Church, a representation in the flesh of how God wants to love each of us. Recognizing that Mary’s life was a critical piece of the redemption upholds the value and dignity of women. She undid the act of Eve that led to the fall, just as Christ undid the act of Adam. Just as both man and woman participated in cursing the earth, man and woman participated in redeeming it.

    I am sorry that you have been the victim of sin, and believe that religion played a part in that. I will pray that you will find healing for your pains, physical and emotional.

  6. 6 mssuicidebomber January 10, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I have obviously made a huge mistake commenting on the Catholic position on stem cell research. How dare I have an opinion. I should have known better than to argue with people and and an institution that believes in its own infallibility.

    I will move on now, please delete my posts. Thank you.

  7. 7 CMinor January 10, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    Darn–I must have missed the “female submission” memo. Ditto the one compelling me to make babies all the time whether I could handle them or not. I hope this doesn’t get me in too much Dutch with St. Peter….

    On a serious note–Until the early 20th century, opposition to artificial contraception was the norm in most Protestant churches as well, for pretty much the same reasons as in the Catholic Church. You could look it up. I think Kimberly or Scott Hahn has written on the topic. Moreover, until the 20th century and in particular the second half (i. e. post-development of the Pill) there really wasn’t a whole lot of contraception available anyway and most of it wasn’t terribly effective. There were also propriety norms that limited its use among many Protestant women. It’s a bit presumptious to blame the church for “forcing” Catholic women to have babies when surprise pregnancies were the order of the day outside the Church as well. The older I get, the more I observe that many peoples’ historical frame of reference doesn’t go far beyond their own time.

    How did we get from stem cells to contraception and pedophilia, anyway?

  8. 8 Edmund C. January 10, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    I have obviously made a huge mistake commenting on the Catholic position on stem cell research. How dare I have an opinion. I should have known better than to argue with people and and an institution that believes in its own infallibility.

    You are perfectly welcome to have an opinion, but you have only asserted it, not backed it up with any data. Neither have you attempted to argue against anything any of us have said. I don’t plan on deleting your posts, because, sadly, they are an object lesson for how not to discuss something.

  9. 9 Bekah January 10, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    How did we get from stem cells to contraception and pedophilia, anyway?

    Good question. If contraception worked as billed, where’d all those embryonic stem cells come from anyway?

  10. 10 mssuicidebomber January 11, 2007 at 10:33 am

    You make my point for me sir, that the Church is more concerned about power and control, than about compassion.

    You hold me up as an example of how not to present an argument, when the compassionate response would have been to honor my request. Allowing me to acknowledge my mistake and withdraw with some grace.

    You have all soundly thrashed me with your facts. Interesting quality about facts, facts are interpreted differently by the observer.

    I ask once again, please remove my posts.

    Hitchens – Slate …

    A church that has allowed no latitude in its teachings on masturbation, premarital sex, birth control, and divorce suddenly asks for understanding and …
    http://www.slate.com/id/2116085/ – 35k – Cached – Similar pages

    History of the Roman Catholic Church – Wikipedia, the free …

    As the oldest branch of Christianity, the history of the Catholic Church plays an … The Catholic Church sees its history as beginning at this point, …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Roman_Catholic_Church – 109k – Cached

    The Galileo Project | Biography | Inquisition

    Galileo’s belief in the Copernican System eventually got him into trouble with … In 1638, the Inquisition allowed Galileo to move to his home in Florence, …
    galileo.rice.edu/bio/narrative_7.html

    Birth control – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Various abortifacients have been used throughout human history, although many do not associate induced abortion with the term ‘birth control’. …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_control – 87k – Cached

    Godchecker.com – Your Guide To The Gods. Mythology with a twist!

    Mythology Encyclopedia. Browse the pantheons of mythology and meet weird and wonderful Gods from around the world. Always entertaining (and sometimes …
    http://www.godchecker.com/ – 27k

  11. 11 Edmund C. January 11, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Ms. Bomber,

    There is a time to be compassionate–I cannot imagine the horrors you’ve been through in your life, and my heart goes out to you. I can see how someone with such deep pain could turn against Christianity, as those professing to follow Christ have hurt you. But, you’ve got to be able to separate fallen creatures from Christ. It’s hard, I know, but if you’re going to get out of the depths of your depression I can think of no better way than to place your faith and trust back in something other than yourself.

    But, I cannot stand by and let you argue against what I hold most dear by making assertions without any backup. So, I am still not going to remove your posts. I don’t see what good it would do. It certainly wouldn’t do you any good, since it leaves you comfortable in your ignorance. It wouldn’t do me or my other readers any good, either, since showing the weaknesses in your arguments bolsters ours. I’m about truth, not power and control.

    You claim:

    You have all soundly thrashed me with your facts. Interesting quality about facts, facts are interpreted differently by the observer.

    Yes, facts are interpreted differently, but not all interpretations are equal. You have yet to put together any kind of argument to support your claims, but we have. Your links are singularly uninformative. Hitchens is unhinged when it comes to Catholicism–he’s enraged by hypocrisy, as well he should be. But, what he fails to understand is the truth in the old adage: “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” I don’t know what you’re trying to prove by linking to Wikipedia on the Catholic Church, nor what a tiny little bio on Galileo shows. The Church was wrong to have such a problem with Copernican theory, but Copernicus was wrong about circular orbits among other things, and Galileo’s biggest problem was his arrogance and lack of tact, not his science. Pope Urban was one of his biggest supporters till he mocked him in a publication.

    On your other links, on “birth control” and “Godchecker”, again, what’s the point?

    I think, in the end, that you can go one of two ways: either continue to Google the Internet for interpretations that fit your feeble framework, or actually seek the truth, which can be found.

  12. 12 mssuicidebomber January 11, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Oh you are very good. Thank you for the chuckle. Yes, from your perspective I must indeed seem like an ignorant, feeble, fool.

    I concede you are possessed of more education than I. Certainly more passion in defending your stance. Your condescension of me shines through clearly. I wonder, how does it feel to be convinced without a doubt that you are superior and hold the truth of all human experience?

    Your truth is the only truth that matters. While my truth carries no weight, never will and no amount of argument will change that. (I may be ignorant, but I’m not stupid)

    I expressed an opinion. I had no illusion of convincing anyone that I was right. Especially in this forum.

    That’s the beauty of an opinion, it is what it is.

    I ask once again, please remove my posts. Your insistence on teaching me a lesson, and using me as an example, is still in my opinion an example of the need for power and control over another human.

    That is my truth, but of course I’m ignorant and therefore not capable of discerning your actions correctly.

  13. 13 Edmund C. January 11, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    There is no such thing as “your” or “my” truth. That is what I’ve been trying, and failing, to get across. If there’s one thing that I cannot stand, it is the expression of an opinion divorced from reason. There is no beauty in an “opinion” like that. It only serves to insulate you from actually having to think, and, heaven forbid, accept that someone else might actually be right.

  14. 14 Edmund C. January 11, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    And, on further reflection, this is getting nowhere fast. It’s impossible to discuss reasonably something when reason doesn’t enter into the picture. I’m locking comments.


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