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Cardinal: Excommunication due for embryonic stem-cell research

June 29th, 2006
Catholic Online (

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – Embryonic stem cell research, like abortion, involves the destruction of human life and those involved face excommunication from the Catholic Church, said the Vatican’s chief family official.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said in an interview in Italy's leading Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, published June 28, 2006, that the church is becoming a target of persecution in some countries for its vigorous defense of life.

The cardinal’s remarks were released on the same day as the Irish foreign affairs minister told Pope Benedict XVI that the his government will ban any European Union funding for stem-cell research in Ireland.

Speaking to the magazine in comments released just before the July 1-9 Fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said "destroying human embryos is equivalent to an abortion.”

“It's the same thing," he said.

Embryonic stem-cell research, which some scientists believe could be used to treat a variety of illnesses, involves destroying human embryos to extract their stem cells. The Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem-cell research, while supporting the use of adult stem cells or those from umbilical-cord blood in research and to treat medical conditions.

“Excommunication applies to all women, doctors and researchers who eliminate embryos,” the cardinal said.

He stressed that “certain crimes,” such as abortion, and the “absolute emptiness” of gay marriage are being treated by society as if they had “become rights.”

"Even talking about the defense of life and family rights is being treated as a sort of crime against the state in some countries – a form of social disobedience or discrimination against women,” he said.

Dermot Ahern, Irish foreign affairs minister, said in a private audience with the pope that the Irish government’s banning of EU funding for stem-cell research is a part of a social policy focusing on the family.

Yet, Ahern said that the Irish government did not object to EU funding of embryonic stem-cell research in other member nations where it is legal and deemed ethical.

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) condemned the June 15, 2006, vote on the proposal of the European Parliament and the European Commission to provide EU funding for research activities with human embryos and human embryonic stem cells.

“Research instrumentalizing human life and using it as a raw material” is “not just a Catholic position,” said Msgr. Noel Treanor, Irish-born secretary-general of the bishops commission, but raises “fundamental anthropological and ethical problems” that leave many uneasy.

In their first vote on the future funding for the 2007-13 research budget, the proposal of the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy was adopted by 284 votes to 249 with 32 abstentions.

The reported about 51 billion-euro ($64 billion USD) proposal would mean that European Union funds could be used for research into human stem cells – both adult and embryonic – depending on the content of each scientific proposal.

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