Embryonic Stem Cell Research

We are happy President Bush did not authorize or call for the authorization of federal funds to destroy human embryos. At the same time, we are very concerned in his call for funding of stem cell research, looking at the 60 to 69 stem cell lines that exist today, because these embryos were destroyed. You do not get stem cells from human embryos unless you destroy them.

We have to face the fact that this is human life. What else is it? We simply don't have the power to take human life. We make ourselves God when we attempt to do that. While people may say, an embryo at this point is only the size of a dot, yet that dot is genetically complete and unique. It is human. If it is not human, what is it?

This is the concern we have, the fact that the stem cells the President is talking about became available through the destruction of human embryos. We are pleased that the President is not authorizing funds for the destruction of human embryos, but there is an incentive here to proceed along those lines and there is a very strong danger of the slippery slope.

Of course, we are for research and we are for development of cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Leukemia, and Diabetes. We understand too that stem cells can be drawn from the placenta, can be drawn from umbilical cords, adult stem cells, and animal stem cells. There is so much in the way of research that can go forward that is totally consistent with traditional, strong Catholic teaching. But to destroy human life at any stage crosses the moral line, crosses the moral threshold. You are into ethical minefields.

While we work for the cures of these terrible diseases and more, we must always be clear that our methods are moral and ethical. The most noble ends do not justify unethical and immoral means.

The 20th century has taught us much about the consequences of failure to respect human life. We have seen the results of moral relativism; we have seen the results of utilitarianism so strongly in that century. So many experiments that began in the early 20th century in the elite medical schools, elite universities, and elite hospitals became reality in the concentration camps. We have witnessed the tremendous abuse of human life abroad and at home here in the United States.

It is this concern that we carry forward in the 21st century. We cannot dehumanize the human embryo. We must respect and show respect for human life at every stage of its existence, particularly at its weakest and most vulnerable.

So we pray that our nation, people at every level and in every position, will have an increasing sensitivity and respect for human life as we go forward to protect, defend, and support human life at every stage of its existence.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
August 10, 2001