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Catholic response to stem cells

8/27/2007 - 12:01 PM PST

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By Paul Nagourney
Catholic Online

“It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed ?” these words of Caiphas, aimed at convincing Pilate to Crucify Jesus, reflect the same issues wrongly posed by the popular media to the people of today. “Is it acceptable to kill human life of a fetus, so that others may benefit?”

Much discussion is occurring regarding the use of stem cells. As with any scientific discussion that enters the public domain, mass misinformation and exaggeration of facts is occurring, so that the faithful are cornered into the position to ask themselves whether stem cell research reflects the will of God, or whether this is a deception of the evil one, aimed at desanctification of human life. The Holy Fathers of the Church teach us that the “devil may appear as an angel of light ”, could stem cells be one of these situations in which something is given to us that appears life promoting but really is a dangerous trap?

What are stem cells?

In order for us to understand the issues involved, and what exactly stem cells are, we are forced to take a quick lesson into the science of stem cells. A stem cell is a cell whose purpose is to generate new cells while having the ability to make copies of itself. Everyone has stem cells inside of them. For example, blood is made from stem cells in the bone marrow, after your skin is injured healing occurs because of stem cells in the skin, even after a stroke, although to a small extend, new brain cells are made from stem cells that are found in the brain. The younger an organism is, the more potent the stem cells are. For example, stem cells in a young person are found in higher numbers and have a higher ability to repair damaged tissue as compared to stem cells in an older person. So far there is nothing controversial, right? Right. The stem cells in the developed human can not make another human from scratch. They can make human tissues that are useful for repairing the human body, but they can not make a whole new human. They are not a new human life, but an extension of an existing life. These are adult stem cells.

The problems started when scientists wanted to analyze the earliest stem cell. Since stem cells from children are theoretically more potent than from adults, stem cells from embryos should be even more potent. According to this reasoning, the first cell in the development of a human life, the fertilized egg, is the most potent stem cell. Embryonic stem cells are made from the fertilized egg. They are essentially copies of the fertilized egg that can reproduce in the laboratory. These cells, because of their potential to create a completely new human, are considered by the Catholic Church a human life, and accordingly their manipulation is a sin . What is more disturbing is the horrendous desecration of human life that routinely occurs with these cells for the purposes of “research”…research that has little to do with advancement of human health. We will discuss two abominable acts that are routinely performed in the name of “science” which call to God for punishment. Two acts that are so horrendous that any God-fearing person who respects human life should be disgusted upon hearing about.

Desecration of human life: Worse than ‘just’ killing

We learn from the Bible and the traditions of the Holy Fathers that God hates unnatural acts. Acts such as homosexuality have led to destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Furthermore, we learn from the Bible that acts that defile the dignity of the human such as bestiality are also vile and punishable. So we know that embryonic stem cell research is condemned by the Church because it involves destruction of human life. But how many of us know the other side of embryonic stem cell research? The side that cries to the Heavens begging punishment? The dark side of embryonic stem cell research that conceptually is a “sin against the Holy Spirit ” and accordingly is unforgivable?

The first is the generation of mangled human life in the test-tube called “embryoid bodies”. In the same way that the fertilized egg after implanting into the mother’s womb starts to develop into different tissues, the embryonic stem cell, when placed under “non-adherent” conditions starts to form layers of disorganized tissues. These include brain tissue, pancreatic tissue, and virtually any tissue that is found in the adult . This disorganized monstrosity, literally, a mangled human in a bottle, is subsequently broken down into specific cells, and the cells are then used for experimentation. If we as Christians really believe that life starts with the fertilized egg, and that we are “made in God’s image”, then is it not revolting to purposely transform the beauty of God into the disorder of the devil? Is not the devil described as “the king of chaos?.” ...

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