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By Deacon Keith Fournier

5/3/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Hannah's hope shows that miracles still happen and reveals Catholic compassion.

Hannah once lived in the first home of the human race, the womb of her mother. She will soon go home with her Mom, Young-Mi, and her Dad, Darryl and live in a new home. Her story needs to be told in its fullness. Contrary to what some within the main stream media falsely claim the Catholic Church is leading the way on Ethical Stem Cell Research.

Hannah Warren and her Dad

Hannah Warren and her Dad


By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (

5/3/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Hannah Warren, stem cells, embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, regenerative medicine, Children's Hospital of Illinois, St. Francis Medical Center, Sisters of St Francis, Deacon Keith Fournier

PEORIA, ILL. (Catholic Online) - Hannah Warren is 2 ˝ years old. She has a smile which is stealing hearts all over the world. She was born without a windpipe. The medical term is tracheal agenesis. It is a rare but usually fatal abnormality.

Hannah has lived in a neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in South Korea unable to breather on her own. She received medical/mechanical help. She had to receive all of her nourishment and water through a tube because she was unable to swallow or eat on her own. However, she sure could smile. In fact, she communicated love to all who encountered her.

Her mother Young-Mi, and father Darryl, obviously love her dearly. In their efforts to help their little girl they read of a procedure which used stem cells from an adult to grow a new windpipe. They wondered whether it would work with Hannah. They worried that, even if it would, they did not have the funds such a procedure would require. 

This compelling story is set forth in its most accurate and beautiful rendition here. Fortunately, it is making the rounds in many media sources. Sadly, the whole story is not being told in many media reports. What is left out is the role of Catholic compassion.

Some accounts in the main stream media exclude the fact that the miraculous medical procedure which regenerated a windpipe from Hannah's own stem cells - and then successfully attached it surgically - was done at the Children's Hospital of Illinois and involved the Sisters of St Francis, prayer, gospel compassion, the St. Francis Medical Center and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

I encourage my readers to also read  Hannah's full Story - From Seoul to Peoria This beautiful little girl will soon speak her first words. She will share a meal with her parents in the years ahead and eat her first birthday cake. Two extraordinary Doctors, Dr. Mark Holterman and Dr. Paolo Macchiarini made history in the growing field of regenerative medicine, and a Catholic religious community of sisters was involved in promoting the compassion.

Dr. Macchiarini, the lead surgeon in the nine hour operation told the Press,  "The most amazing thing, which for a little girl is a miracle, is that this transplant has not only saved her life, but it will eventually enable her to eat, drink and swallow, even talk, just like any other normal child. She will go from being a virtual prisoner in a hospital bed to running around and playing with her sister and enjoying a normal life, which is a beautiful thing."

The Children's Hospital of Illinois is associated with the OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, As a Catholic Institution, the medical center is committed to the ethical, life affirming, use of stem cells. It rejects the use of embryonic stem cells because their extraction is deadly and always destroys embryonic persons. The stem cells used to help construct a windpipe for Hannah came from her own bone marrow.

Here is what needs to be reported widely. Hannah's story is an example of the leadership which the Catholic Church is taking in ethical stem cell research and regenerative medicine. It is an example of Catholic compassion for many reasons. Not only was it promoted by an institution of the Catholic Church, the institution also covered the costs.

Last month, a conference took place which was cosponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, STOQ International, NeoStem and the Stem for Life Foundation. The conference was entitled Regenerative medicine: A Fundamental Shift in Science and Culture and you can read about it here.

It brought together medical researchers, politicians, Church leaders, scholars, scientists and students to educate the world and promote ongoing work in the use of "adult" stem cells and regenerative medicine. Here is an excellent description of adult stem cells

Though Hannah is a child, the use of her own stem cells is an example of adult stem cell use and shows the promise of regenerative medicine. The Pontifical Council has been involved in a multi-year and multi-million dollar partnership with NeoStem, Inc. to promote research involving this kind of Stem Cell research.

However, the Catholic Church unequivocally opposes human embryonic stem cell research.

Why? The answer is simple, such research is always deadly. Extracting stem cells from a human embryo takes a human life. The human embryo is a living member of the human species who, like every one of us, is always in development.

Every human being possesses an equal moral dignity and has a fundamental Right to Life. This is true no matter what age or stage of our development, degree of dependence upon others (we are all dependent upon others) or the opinion of others as to our "worth". We are not products, we are persons.

The Vatican expressed it this way in 2008, "the use of human embryos or fetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person." (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions).

Human embryonic stem cell research has produced no substantial, lasting medically verifiable results. More importantly, it is always deadly for the human embryonic person. To the contrary, adult stem cell research harms no-one and has borne very promising results. Hannah is only the most recent example. 

How many news reports have you read over the yearswhich claim that the Catholic Church is against "stem cell research"? It is time to hear the truth. The Catholic Church is NOT against all stem cell research. The Catholic Church supports and promotes ethical and stem cell research.

The Catholic Church opposes EMBRYONIC stem cell research. Human embryonic stem cell research is always deadly. A human embryo is not distinct in kind from a human being, but a human being at an early stage of development. Extracting their stem cells is a form of embryonic execution.

In 1987 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See issued an outstanding instruction entitled "Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation". Among the many questions answered was, "What Respect is due to the human embryo, taking into account his nature and identity?"

The answer: "The human being must be respected - as a person - from the very first instant of his (her) existence."  In 2008 the same Vatican Congregation issued an instruction entitled the "Dignity of the Human Person: On Certain Bioethical Questions" 

The Congregation reminds us that science must be placed at the service of the human person, the family and the common good. Any use of new technologies must respect that the human body is never an "it" - but an "I" - some-one who must never be treated as an object:

"The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby."

This defense of the dignity of all human life begins with these words, "The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great "yes" to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today's world."

The old "Catholic Church is against science" lie is  perpetuated by those who do not like the Catholic Church's uncompromising defense of the dignity of all human life, at every age and stage. The Catholic Church not only supports but promotes ethical stem cell research. Little Hannah is a living example of the beautiful fruit of Catholic compassion.

Every one of us is in development at every moment of our human existence. In fact we might more accurately be described as what I would call "human becomings" rather than human beings. The "me" who is now 58 years old is the same me who was once 26 years old, or six years old, or six days old, or in the womb, or an embryo.

At the very moment of conception this unique "me" came into human existence as a human person, a human being. We all know this to be true. No stage of our human life and development is less worthy of respect than another, including our time as a human embryonic person. 

Human embryology and developmental biology affirm that a human embryo is not distinct in kind from a human being, but a human being at an early stage of development. Even prior to implantation, a human embryo is a unique living human being with the genetic constitution and epigenetic primordial that continues to develop throughout his or her life.

The Catholic Church will never change her teaching on the dignity of every human person, including what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called "embryonic persons", and for good reason. There can be no debate about this fact; we were all once human embryos. We all lived in the first home of the whole human race, our mother's womb.

Hannah Warren once lived in the first home of the human race, the womb of her mother. She will soon go home with her Mom, Young-Mi, and her Dad, Darryl and live in a new home. Her story needs to be told in its fullness.

Contrary to what some within the main stream media falsely claim the Catholic Church is leading the way on Ethical Stem Cell Research. Hannah's hope shows that miracles still happen and reveals Catholic compassion.


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