The United States Bishop's Conference has unanimously approved a declaration condemning embryonic stem cell research, during their Spring Meeting held on June 12-14. The declaration, that draws from two speeches given by Benedict XVI and from the encyclical "Evangelium vitae," refers to this kind of investigation as deliberate killing of innocent human beings and condemns the arguments used to justify it. The Bishops recognize the fact that the Church appreciates and supports scientific progress, however they also affirm that, "true service to humanity begins with respect for each and every human life." And yet, "some researchers, ethicists, and policy makers claim that we may directly kill innocent embryonic human beings as if they were mere objects of research," and even turn taxpayers into accomplices in such killing through the use of public funds. The Bishops address both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, declaring embryonic stem cell research to be immoral, as it violates natural law, which is valid for all people regardless of their religion. The document also responds to the arguments used in justifying this research. The Bishops mention three fundamental points on this aspect. Firstly, they recall the principle that the ends do not justify the means: "the false assumption that a good end can justify direct killing has been the source of much evil in our world...the same ethic that justifies taking some lives to help the patient with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease today can be used to sacrifice that very patient tomorrow, if his or her survival is viewed as disadvantaging other human beings considered more deserving or productive." They also confront the claims that it does not involve killing what is a "complete" human life. The document clearly states that "from conception onward, is as much a living member of the human species as any of us." They also mention the fact that "if fundamental rights such as the right to life are based on abilities or qualities that can appear or disappear, grow or diminish, and be greater or lesser in different human beings, then there are no inherent human rights, no true human equality, only privileges for the strong." The Bishops also recall the fact that the country's Declaration of Independence itself was based upon the principle that all human beings have been created equal before God, even though some of its signers did not follow this conviction. Likewise, the document rejects the argument that it is licit to use "spare" or "unwanted" embryos for research, with the excuse that they are going to die anyway. "This argument is simply invalid. Ultimately each of us will die, but that gives no one a right to kill us." The declaration defends the need to remain firm against the embryonic stem cell research as well, in order to avoid practices such as cloning and the intents to create hybrids through the combination of human and animal genetic material. The Bishops conclude by making an appeal to establish a truly human society in which scientific research respects the norms of natural law, respecting the dignity of every human being. They also encourage research using adult stem cells: "Nature in fact provides ample resources for pursuing medical progress without raising these grave moral concerns. Stem cells from adult tissues and umbilical cord blood are now known to be much more versatile than once thought." In presenting the document, Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph F Naumann announced that another statement would be issued soon, "addressed especially to Catholic engaged and married couples (including those struggling with infertility), to explain the Church's teaching on reproductive technologies such as 'in vitro' fertilization." To see the complete text see: www.usccb.org/
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