Why Catholics Should Oppose ESCR

Frank Pavone, Rev.
National Director/ Priests for Life
August 21, 2001

The teaching of the Catholic Church about the human person respects the rightful autonomy of science and the fact that all truth, whether scientific or religious, comes from the same God. While pro–abortion people, and others who seek to manipulate and use the human person for their own gain, often obscure the clear evidence of science, the Church and the pro–life movement defend the fact that the existence of a unique human being, from the moment of fertilization, is a verifiable fact.

The human embryo, therefore, must be treated with the dignity due to the human person. The Charter of the Rights of the Family published by the Holy See affirms: “Respect for the dignity of the human being excludes all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo.”

Priests for Life believes that a strongly practical response is necessary in the midst of the ongoing debate about embryonic stem cell research. The elements of such a response include but are not limited to the following:

1. We should build upon the positive aspects of the President's decision to exclude funding for the destruction of embryos. He quoted a key moral principle, rooted in Scripture (Romans 3:8), that “even the most noble ends do not justify any means.” The moral teaching that takes place in our parishes and schools must return with ever greater emphasis to an extensive analysis of that principle.

2. The moral and practical dangers of funding research on existing stem cell lines should be countered by increasing scientific research, and public education, on legitimate ways to obtain such cells.

3. In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a key document, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation (Donum Vitae). Any parish or school that has not had study groups, bulletin inserts, homilies, or other educational efforts to explain this document to their people should begin such efforts at once.

4. The scientific basis for asserting that there is a unique human individual from fertilization needs renewed attention and emphasis. The President's remarks reveal the contradictory assertions of “experts” in this area, whereas in reality there is room for only one conclusion. The work and writings of people like the late Dr. Jerome Lejeune should be given wide exposure.

5. The Church and the pro–life movement need to emphasize the fact that the destruction of the embryo is of one and the same cloth with partial–birth abortion and live-birth abortion. All the attention on the stem cell decision should not distract us from bills such as the Born–Alive Infants Protection Act. This bill counteracts the idea that a tiny human being — despite his or her location — has no value simply because he or she has been targeted for destruction. We should lead people from what is easier to grasp (that born babies should not be killed) to what is harder to grasp (that microscopic embryos should not be killed), showing that the same moral principle is at stake.

The Second Vatican Council taught eloquently that the human person is the only creature God has created for its own sake (See Gaudium et spes, no. 24). A person is not a thing, may not be used, and may not be destroyed. There has never been a time at which rediscovering and applying this truth has been more essential to the very survival of our civilization.