Galileo and embryonic stem cells
By Rev. Richard Benson, C.M.
LOS ANGELES, CA, May 26, 2006 ( /www.the-tidings.com) - Echoes of the "Galileo incident" resurface from time to time. This debate between the scientist, Galileo, and the theologian, Cardinal Bellarmine, is often poorly framed as an example of what happens when religious faith is blind to scientific truth.
Time and again the incident is used in attempts to demonize some Catholic moral teachings and depict them as particular obstacles to scientific progress and social advancement. As a result the Catholic Church has found itself at times the target of unwarranted criticism because of its unwavering pro-life stance and its clear commitment to protecting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.
Some have blamed the Catholic Church and its pro-life commitment for over-population, collusion in the AIDS epidemic, and the cause of needless suffering in dying patients. Another example of this is the assertion that the Church is an obstacle to the development of cures for a variety of illnesses because of its refusal to endorse embryonic stem cell research.
They suggest that any Christian who truly loved their suffering sisters and brothers would want to do everything possible to ameliorate their conditions. They suggest that the Catholic position that forbids embryonic stem cell research is somehow inconsistent with Gospel values.
However, a review of our Catholic position will reveal the fallacy of this assertion.
What are stem cells? They are cells that apparently have the ability to be coaxed into becoming almost any kind of human cell. This property makes them extremely valuable in searching for cures to a variety of diseases where they might be useful in replacing diseased or defective cells, maybe even repairing nerve injuries that have resulted in paralysis.