October 2001, Volume 7, Issue 3   
Stem Cell Research and the Sacredness of Life
Rev. Mark Connolly
Thought for the Month
Our Mother Who Art in Heaven
Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci
Saint of the Month
A Healing Prayer
Reverend Wintley Phipps
Stem Cell Research and the Sacredness of Life

Rev. Mark Connolly

In the light of all that has been said about stem cells, I would like to share a few thoughts with you on a topic that is rarely spoken about and which should be upper most in the mind of every Catholic and that topic basically is the sacredness of life.

Fr. Mark

For 2,000 years it has been the teaching of the Catholic Church that from the moment of conception until the last breath is taken, life is sacred. Cardinal Bernardine used to refer to life as the seamless garment of Christ. From the womb to the tomb, it is to be totally protected. So when you talk about this theme, the sacredness of life as an individual Catholic, there is no doubt as to what the present Pope has said about the sacredness of life. There is no doubt that all the popes who have preceded him have through their writings highlight, no matter what the age, that life is sacred from the first moment of conception.

We are now living in what this present Holy Father calls not a culture of life, but a culture of death. We have grown up since January 22, 1973, living with the fact that since that time 40 million abortions have taken place. We rationalize it. We exonerate it. We defend it by saying that this is the law of the Supreme Court of our country. That law said that abortions can be legalized. We seem to have conveniently forgotten that a Supreme Court, around the year 1857 in the famous Dred Scott decision, said that black people can be considered as property, nothing more. From that one decision of the Supreme Court that disregarded the sacredness of a whole race, we have had problems of a serious nature with racism and the ongoing problems between blacks and whites in this country. That Supreme Court decision raised hell in our country.

That same Supreme Court decision in our country back in 1973 has done a tremendous amount of damage since then to disregard the sacredness of life. We, in all our Catholic background, have to keep in mind that when Jesus Christ died on the cross he never died so that we could have the luxury of committing abortions. He never died on the cross so that throughout the world, whether in Cambodia or Bosnia, we could have these terrible atrocities committed just because it was the trend or what the culture dictated. We have to follow the standards of Christ and they might be in total conflict with the standards of our culture.

There is no doubt in any theologians mind that Dr. Kevorkian and his so called mercy killing approach is contrary to all the ethics handed down by Jesus Christ. But there is no doubt in the minds of all theologians that the Dr. Kevorkians of the world are to be forgiven in the expression, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

quoteWhen you study this stem cell conflict that has been on our television and in our newspapers, it is a reminder that we, as Catholics, have to stand back from all of the medical opinions, the legal opinions and the psychological opinions and still honor the teachings of Christ that every embryo is a life that is just starting, every embryo reminds us that we all started in the same way. No embryo, in the teachings of Christ, is ever to be discarded especially if there are thousands of people waiting for an adopted child. In all of this controversy concerning the embryonic stem cell, there is no question that any compassionate person wants to use a tissue that would help find a cure for Alzheimer or heart problems. I am a diabetic myself. I would love to have, through stem cell research, a cure found for the tragic disease of diabetes. Everything we have heard about all of this stem cell research is never filled with a guarantee that those cures will ever be realized. Whether it is an embryonic stem cell or a mature stem cell, there is no doubt about it that from the mature stem cells we seem to have better results in getting closer to the cure for certain diseases. But so far none of them has ever given a justifiable reason how we can take an embryo that is full of life as far as God is concerned and destroy it for the sake of medical research. It is interesting how we have failed to learn through the course of history in the past. Every body wants all of these cures. Everyone is compassionate to those in wheel chairs and paralyzed. Everyone is sensitive to the pains of those who want to adopt a child, but there comes a time in the life of every Catholic when he has to stand up for Catholic traditions based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. There has never been any doubt in all of Catholic teaching that life is sacred from the moment of conception. Our culture might have all the legal nuances to justify capital punishment, the acts of violence that are done in the Mideast, the acts of hostility that are done in northern Ireland. Our culture might look at Holland that has justified abortion and the killing of the aged in the form of euthanasia, but that does not change the fact that when God created man and woman he created someone precious. When Jesus Christ died on a cross on good Friday, he died for someone who was precious, namely all of us.

We have to stand for something. If one believes that life is sacred and the other does not believe that life is sacred, where will we be in one hundred years. Think of this, we believe the embryo is life, whether it is the size of dot or a period, the embryo is life. That is our sacred Catholic teaching. If the government can decide when life begins, then logically it can decide when life will end. Holland approves of abortion and euthanasia. Is our country far behind? In the gospels we are taught surrender to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and surrender to God the things that are God's. Oftentimes, there will become a clash between the supreme law of God and the laws of the Supreme Court. When it comes to the abortion bill of January 22, 1973, passed by our Supreme Court, with all due respect, we still have to go back to the supreme law of God that all life is sacred.

Jesus Christ died for the unborn. He died for the vulnerable, he died for the sick. He did for everyone in need of compassion. It is amazing when think of what has happened in our culture over the years. Recently I was reading a transcript from the famous Nuremberg trials and the official US Government position then was that all of those German officials who took part in these tragic medical experiments, what they call the high altitude experiments, the freezing experiment, the mustard gas experiments, the embryonic experiments, all of those officials were charged with murder because of the atrocities they committed in the name of medical science. There is no question we have dedicated doctors who are trying to uphold their Hippocratic oath. There is no question that we have Catholic doctors who are trying to show Christ-like compassion and tenderness to their patients. There is no question that every Catholic doctor that I know who would love to alleviate the pain and suffering of all his patients. So we thank God that we have such wonderful doctors, but we say to the Catholic doctor today and the Catholic lay man today, please hold onto your sacred traditions about the sacredness of life.

On the subject of cloning, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have 1,000 Mother Teresa's brought into this world by cloning. That one thousand could take care of the vulnerable, the sick and he aged. But think of this, suppose some leader from a rogue nation through cloning wanted to bring 1,000 Adolph Hitler's into this world, what sort of world would we have.

We do not want 50 years from now people looking at this culture saying that we committed, for the sake of medical science, atrocities that history and the Catholic Church will be ashamed of. Fifty years ago the Nazi experiments that we are now aware of, atrocities were committed in the name of medical science. We ask all of you today, because these are life or death problems, to hold onto your convictions that life is sacred from the moment of conception. To those who think otherwise, we simply have to repeat the words of Christ, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

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