Archbishop's column

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

Be Not Afraid!

Thanksgiving for life and faith

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, our thoughts turn to the many blessings we have received from God.Even if, for some reason, we cannot be with family members, our thoughts turn especially to our family, both the living and the dead.In the context of recalling the many gifts which God has given to us in our family, two gifts stand out as most to be treasured: the gifts of life and faith.

Our very life is a gift which God has given us through the cooperation of our parents.How wonderful to consider that God has called us into being!How grateful we must be to our parents who cooperated with God in our conception, birth and early education.
How even more wonderful to consider that God has chosen us to be His own dear sons and daughters through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our souls. What would life mean to us without faith?For many of us, the gift of Catholic faith, like the gift of life, was given to us in the home, through the cooperation of our parents with God’s grace.

Thanksgiving for the land, plants and animals

Closely connected to our gratitude for the gifts of life and faith is our gratitude for the land in which we live and upon which we depend for the necessities of life.Growing up in a rural area, it was natural for me, on Thanksgiving Day, to thank God for His great gifts of the land and of the harvest gathered from it.

Gratitude for the land is also gratitude for our fellow creatures, the plants and animals who live and flourish on the land, providing us with food and clothing. Today, sadly, we easily forget the origin of our food and clothing in the cultivation of the land and the care of the animals.As a result, we lose respect for our essential relationship with all of nature, in its God-given order and harmony. Thanksgiving Day, on which we bring forth our most delicious food, should remind us to consider the source of the food and drink which nourishes us and which we enjoy sharing with each other.

Thanksgiving, respect and care

Considering all of God’s generous gifts to us, we are inspired to respect and care for these gifts, in their integrity, that is, as they come to us from the hand of God. We pray to know God’s plan for us and all His other creatures, a plan in which we relate harmoniously with nature and in peace with each other.A thankful heart does not manipulate and misuse God’s gifts but rather respects them in the manner of a good steward.

Today, our care for God’s gifts to us faces a new and difficult challenge. Last year, in my column for Thanksgiving Day, I wrote about the challenge of an initiative to legalize the cloning of human life for the purpose of its destruction to obtain embryonic stem cells. Most sadly, just days ago, the citizens of Missouri made that initiative constitutional law for our beloved state.

I must say that it is frightening to live in a state which constitutionally guarantees the right to human cloning and the destruction of human embryos. When the integrity of the procreation of human life and the inviolability of human life at its very beginning are attacked by constitutional law, who can feel completely at home?

I cannot, however, dwell on the security and peace stolen from us by the passage of Amendment 2, but, rather, in thanksgiving for all that God has given us in our beloved state. I must commit myself to work ever more diligently to free our society from the grave evils of human cloning and the destruction of embryonic human life. Thanksgiving Day reminds me that care for all of the gifts which God gives me in our State of Missouri means working to restore security and peace for all.

Thank you!

It is my hope to spend Thanksgiving Day with my family in Wisconsin, but my thoughts, especially as I celebrate the Holy Mass, will be very much with all of you whom I am blessed to serve in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and who help me, in innumerable ways, to fulfill the Good Shepherd’s care of the Church in the archdiocese. Your most generous response to the Annual Catholic Appeal is an outstanding example of your selfless stewardship of God’s gifts, so that the Church may serve the good of all.

In closing, I express a particularly heartfelt thanks to so many who, in a variety of ways, helped our fellow citizens to understand the truth about Amendment 2 and urged them to vote for the family and human life.Even though our efforts did not achieve the ultimate goal of defeating Amendment 2, they helped nearly half of the voters, at least, to vote for the truth.I am convinced that, when more of our fellow citizens understand the truth, they will actively oppose the law which Amendment 2 has enshrined in our state constitution.

We must work ever more diligently to restore the respect for the integrity of procreation and for the inviolable dignity of all human life. We must work to contain, as much as possible, the grave evils which Amendment 2 permits. This year, Thanksgiving Day for us must mean a new commitment to safeguard the integrity of the origin of human life through procreation and the dignity of all human life, without boundary, from its embryonic beginning to natural death. As we thank God for His many and wonderful gifts, I ask you to continue the Rosary Crusade Safeguarding Embryonic Human Life, invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

Our life in the Church unites heaven and earth.We see the union of heaven and earth before our eyes, in the most striking way, when we participate in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, our Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father in eternal glory, descends to earth, renewing the outpouring of His life for us on the Cross.From His glorious pierced Heart, He offers us His Body and Blood, the heavenly food and drink which sustain us along the way of our life pilgrimage to our lasting home with Him in heaven.

Another wonderful way in which our life in the Church unites heaven and earth is our relationship with the saints in heaven and the poor souls in purgatory, who are undergoing the final purification of their lives in preparation for entrance into the company of the saints in heaven.When someone dies, we lose the gift of his earthly company, but we certainly do not lose our relationship of love and communion with him in the Church.In the Church, we are brothers and sisters of the saints, and of the souls in purgatory.

During the month of November, we cultivate, with particular attention, our relationship with our brothers and sisters in purgatory. To be more closely united with them in love, it is important for us to understand their condition.

Purgatory and temporal punishment due to sin

Each day of our lives, we are preparing to meet our Lord and to be with Him for eternity.Preparation to meet our Lord consists in overcoming sin and doing God’s will with a selfless and generous heart.Overcoming sin means the purification and elevation of our thoughts, words and deeds so that they express love of God and neighbor. It is also the remission of the temporal punishment which, in justice, is due to the sins which we have committed and for which we have received forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.

The temporal punishment due to our sins is not imposed by God in anger at us. Rather, it is the consequence of our sins, namely, a wrong attraction or attachment which must be purified with the spiritual tools of prayer and penance so that we can enjoy full communion with our Lord and all the saints.God, in His all-merciful love, remits the eternal punishment due to mortal sin through the Sacrament of Penance, but the temporal punishment remains to be remitted.

Only when we have undergone the purification of our sinful attractions and attachments, connected with both mortal and venial sin in our lives, will we be ready to meet our Lord and enjoy His company forever.When we reflect on the conversion of mind and heart to our Lord, which we all desire and seek through prayer and penance, then we realize how immensely good God is in providing purgatory, a state in which, after death, we undergo the purification which was lacking during our days on earth (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 1472-1473).

Loving the dead

Conscious of our own need to be purified of sinful attractions and attachments, we want to assist our deceased brothers and sisters to satisfy the temporal punishment due to their sins, so that they may enter the eternal joy of heaven.We know that death has deprived us of their earthly presence butcannot deprive us of spiritual communion with them.We continue to show our love for them by offering prayers and sacrifices for the remission of the temporal punishment due to their sins.And they continue to love us and to assist us by their prayers.

Sometimes, members of the faithful express the hope that they can avoid purgatory and go straight to heaven.Of course, we all want to be with our Lord immediately.At the same time, purgatory is a good state in which to be, when we are not quite ready for heaven.It is filled with the sure hope of being with our Lord and with the comfort of being prepared to enter His company.What we count upon at our death is the prayers and sacrifices of those who love us so that we can pass through purgatory and arrive at our final destiny of heaven.

If we love those who have died, we will have Masses offered, and will pray and do penance for their eternal rest. One of the greatest disservices which we do to the dead is to presume that they are already in heaven and, therefore, fail to pray and offer sacrifices for them.None of us knows the temptations and trials which another, even a person of great holiness, has undergone in life.We know that the great saints often expressed sorrow at their imperfect love of God and neighbor.It is part of our sinful condition, inherited from our first parents, to need constant conversion of mind and heart, constant purification of sin in our lives.The souls in purgatory depend upon us, upon our loving prayers and acts of penance, so that the purification of sin may be complete in them.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

Within a few days, the citizens of the State of Missouri, by their vote on Amendment 2, will make a decision which profoundly affects both the integrity of the procreation of human life in the family of husband and wife, and the inviolable dignity of every human life from the moment of its inception. The decision regarding the establishment of a constitutional right to clone human life and, then, to destroy the cloned human embryo to harvest its stem cells will rest with you and me, not with the legislature and not with the judiciary.Our responsibility is most weighty.It is the responsibility, first of all, to vote, and, secondly, to vote for both the integrity of procreation within the family and the inviolability of embryonic human life.

Duty to vote

Citizens in a democratic form of government exercise direct responsibility for the common good by voting.For the Christian, voting is not only a civic duty but also the exercise of virtue.Every citizen recognizes his responsibility to give direction to the government by voting. The Christian citizen is further urged by the love of Christ to vote for what promotes the common good.When the Christian enters the voting booth, it must be the unconditional love of Christ which governs his choices.

The duty to vote is most serious, especially in an election which could introduce into the constitution of the state provisions which are a direct attack on the integrity of human procreation and the dignity of embryonic human life.Failing to vote is failing to exercise the virtue of love on behalf of the whole of society.Failure to vote is failure to vote for the truth which will serve the greatest good of all in society.
We may know family members or friends who, for whatever reason, have decided not to vote. It is important to urge them regarding the importance of their vote. Also, if there are family members or friends for whom it is a hardship to get to the polling place, we should help them, so that they may fulfill their civic duty and exercise Christian love.

Obedience in voting

Often enough, when the Church’s teaching on an issue before the electorate is enunciated, I hear it said: "No one is going to tell me how to vote!" While it is true that voting is an exercise of free will, if the act is to be truly free, it must be informed by the truth. The truth tells us how to vote, and we must be obedient to the truth.

Living in a society which thrives on relativism and exaggerated individualism, we like to think that we can decide whatever we want.For instance, our Supreme Court has told us that we have the right to decide upon our own definition of the meaning of human life and human sexuality. If that be the case, we soon find ourselves in a tyrannical society in which whatever group of citizens achieves political power decides who will enjoy the protection of the fundamental right to life and redefines the very foundation of society, the family, according to its likes and purposes.

There is objective truth.The family and human life have integrity, as they have both issued from the hand of God. Only by obedience to the truth can we do what is right, what serves the good of our neighbor, what makes us all free.If we do not have the humility to submit ourselves to the truth, then we are like Adam and Eve who, notwithstanding all of the many blessings with which God had created them, insisted on eating the fruit which God had forbidden them to eat.

Adam and Eve took the posture that no one was going to tell them what to do. In their pride, they destroyed the order and peace of creation for the sake of doing what they pleased. Pope Benedict XVI put it so well in his recent address to a conference on stem-cell research: "In the face of the actual suppression of the human being there can be no compromises or prevarications. One cannot think that a society can effectively combat crime when society itself legalizes crime in the area of conceived life" ("‘No one can dispose of human life’, Pope states," L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, Sept. 27, 2006, p. 3).

Conclusion

It is truly frightening to think that the citizens of our state may grant constitutional guarantees to the agents of human cloning and of the destruction of embryonic human life.We must pray with particular fervor in the next days, asking God to deliver our state and our nation from the deadly evils of human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research. I ask you especially to join in the Rosary CrusadeSafeguarding of Embryonic Human Life.

Please vote for the truth.Please encourage others to do the same.

I close with the prayer which I offered at the Rally for the Defeat of Amendment 2, held at St. Alphonsus (Rock) Church on this past Oct. 28:

"Almighty God, we come to You in our great need. You have made us the stewards of your manifold gifts. Above all, you have made us stewards of your greatest gift, human life created in Your own image and likeness, and redeemed by Christ, Your Son, on the Cross. Our stewardship of Your gift of human life, at its very beginning, today stands under a great challenge.Without Your help, we know that we will fail to safeguard our tiniest brothers and sisters.With Your help, we are confident that we can safeguard and foster all human life, especially the lives of our brothers and sisters who are under deadly threat. Enlighten our minds with Your truth and inflame our hearts with Your love, that we may be wise stewards of human life, and courageous defenders of our innocent and defenseless brothers and sisters. We beg You to grant the grace of conversion of mind and heart to those who would offend You most gravely by attempting to generate human life artificially and by destroying the embryonic human life which they have generated. Grant to us all the conversion of mind and heart which will enable us to speak the truth and to do the truth with Your divine love which knows no boundary or limit.We ask this, all-loving Father, through Christ, Your Son and our Lord, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.Amen."

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

The heart of the discussion regarding Amendment 2 and the common good centers around the question: When does human life begin?Proponents of Amendment 2 argue that it does not involve human cloning and, therefore, human life for one of two reasons.First of all, some say that the being created through somatic cell nuclear transfer or cloning is not human because male sperm is not involved in the process of its generation.Secondly, some say that the artificially generated human embryo is not a human being until the embryo is implanted in the womb, the endometrium, of a woman.Clearly, if you hold that human life can be generated only by the fertilization of the egg of a woman by the sperm of a man, the question of the implantation of the artificially generated being becomes irrelevant to answering the question of the human identity of the embryo produced through somatic cell nuclear transfer or cloning.The question, however, remains: If the cloned embryo is not human, what is it?

At the same time, the proponents claim that those who hold that the artificially generated being is a human embryo and, therefore, a human life are following a religious definition of the beginning of human life and trying to impose upon the general population a particular religious belief.Former Sen. John Danforth, one of the most prominent proponents of Amendment 2, in his recently published book, "Faith and Politics," declares: "Calling these blastocysts (5-to-7-day-old human embryos generated through cloning) human life can only be understood as a statement of religious doctrine, and advancing legislation to protect them can only be understood as attempting to enforce religion by resorting to the criminal law" (p. 93).

Beginning of human life and respect for human life

Mr. Danforth and others who accuse the Church of attempting to legislate religious doctrine by her stand in opposition to Amendment 2 have confused the natural law regarding the respect owed to all human life from its inception with the scientific definition of the beginning of human life.The natural law which is written by God on the human heart and is, therefore, taught by the Church, tells us that we are to safeguard and foster all human life, but it cannot tell us when human life begins. We depend upon science to tell us when human life begins.The natural law teaches us to respect every human life from that moment.

In teaching the natural law, the Church relies upon science, specifically the science of human embryology, to define when the identity of a new human life has been established, namely, when the 23 matched chromosones which constitute the identity of a new and distinct human being are present either through the fertilization of the female egg with the male sperm, or through cloning.The natural law teaches us our first moral duty, namely, to safeguard and promote all human life. In order to fulfill our sacred responsibility, we depend upon science to identify the beginning of human life for us.

Has the Church’s teaching changed?

During the current debate regarding Amendment 2, some proponents have declared that the Church has changed her position on the beginning of human life.They cite the teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas, who taught that a new human life becomes present in the womb some 40 days after sexual intercourse.What Amendment 2 proponents fail to note is that St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas were following what the science of the time told them about the beginning of human life.In Aristotelian biology, which St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas were following, human conception was thought to take place through the mixing of the semen from the male with blood secreted within the female.It is important to note that ovulation had not yet been discovered.The mixing involved a process of gradual transformations from the vegetative state to the animal state to the rational state, at the conclusion of which the body was sufficiently organized to receive the human soul.

If St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas were alive today, they would accept the findings of contemporary embryology.Having the evidence from science that the 23 matched chromosomes — the complete genetic identity of a human being — are present from the moment of fertilization or at the moment of the artificial stimulation of the denucleated ovum, into which the body cell of a person to be cloned has been inserted, they would hold that from that moment, true to the natural law, human life must be safeguarded and fostered.In other words, they would hold to the consistent teaching of the Church that, once human life has begun, then it has inviolable dignity.To be clear, the Church’s teaching has not changed, but science has developed to teach us more precisely when human life begins.

For an excellent and helpful discussion of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas in the matter of the procreation of human life, I refer you to pages 13 to 21 of the book of the eminent theologian John Saward, titled "Redeemer in the Womb," published in 1993 by Ignatius Press in San Francisco.

Conclusion

Mr. Danforth and other proponents of Amendment 2 believe that human life begins with the implantation of the embryo in the womb of a woman, denying the identity of human life to the embryo before implantation.But what is the human embryo before implantation, if not a human being?Implantation adds nothing to the identity of the being, it only provides the natural place for the next stages of its development.The standard textbooks of embryology define the beginning of human life at fertilization or artificial generation by cloning.

Following the logic of Mr. Danforth, I suppose, Amendment 2, which claims to prohibit human cloning, actually prohibits the implantation of the embryo produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer or cloning in the womb of woman.Why?The obvious answer is: Because it is a human life which, once implanted in the womb, will simply continue its growth, in accord with the full identity which it already has.

The scientific truth is that somatic cell nuclear transfer or cloning generates human life.The moral truth is that human life is to be safeguarded and fostered from the moment of its generation.In his address to the participants in a congress sponsored by Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Doctors’ Associations, on this past Sept. 16, Pope Benedict XVI declared that "somatic stem-cell research also deserves approval and encouragement when it felicitously combines scientific knowledge, the most advanced technology in the biological field and ethics that postulate respect for the human being at every stage of his or her existence."Going on to speak about embryonic stem-cell research, he explained the reason in natural law for the Church’s opposition: "If there has been resistance — and if there still is — it was and is to those forms of research that provide for the planned suppression of human beings who already exist, even if they have not been born.Research, in such cases, irrespective of efficacious therapeutic results, is not truly at the service of humanity" (Pope Benedict XVI, "‘No one can dispose of human life,’ Pope states," L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, Sept. 27, 2006, p. 3).

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

All of us are deeply conscious of the responsibility which is ours to promote the common good, the good of all in society, first and foremost, by safeguarding human life, at all stages of development.The proposed Amendment 2 to the Constitution of the State of Missouri places the responsibility for the safeguarding of human life, at the embryonic stage of development, directly in our hands as citizens of Missouri.We recognize that the vote of each of us on Amendment 2 will be either a vote for the protection of the right to life of our tiniest brothers and sisters or a vote to subject them to destruction through scientific experimentation.

Closely connected with the responsibility to safeguard and foster embryonic human life is the responsibility to safeguard the integrity of human procreation from the intrinsic evil of human cloning.Somatic cell nuclear transfer, that is, human cloning, is the prideful attempt of man to generate human life by himself, without God and in defiance of God’s plan for us.We recognize that the vote of each of us on Amendment 2 will also be either a vote for the protection of the integrity of human procreation or a vote to permit the artificial generation of human life.

The challenge before us

All of us are also deeply conscious of the influence of those who are the proponents of Amendment 2.The proponents have, in abundance, the financial means to advance their project.What is more, the officials of our government have permitted them to write the proposed amendment in language geared to deceive the voter.I will write more about the language of Amendment 2 in a future column.Also, through the media, the proponents have appealed to our natural empathy before those who are suffering from dread diseases and serious illnesses, depicting moral opposition to Amendment 2 as a form of heartless religious dogmatism and extremism. As I wrote in last week’s column, Christian compassion embraces all human life, both when it is most helpless, at its very beginning, and when it has become seriously burdened through disease or injury.Our empathy for those suffering serious disease or injury can never justify our lack of empathy for another class of human beings, our brothers and sisters.

How can we meet the challenge of speaking the truth about Amendment 2, the challenge of doing all that we can to safeguard embryonic human life and the integrity of human procreation?There can be no question of the need of each and all of us to be thoroughly informed about the proposed constitutional amendment and to be courageously willing to speak the truth to others.But what is even more important is our fervent prayer that God will deliver us from the evil proposed in Amendment 2.

Rosary Crusade

On May 9 of this year, recognizing the gravity of the moral crisis which the proposed Amendment 2 poses for the citizens of our state, I celebrated public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with benediction at the Old Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Louis King of France, begging God’s mercy and help in our weakness.During the public exposition, I led the praying of the rosary for the safeguarding of embryonic human life, inaugurating an archdiocesan-wide crusade of praying the rosary for the intention of our tiniest brothers and sisters.In praying the rosary, I invoked the intercession of the Mother of God under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization.

Since May 9, through the Respect Life Apostolate of the Archdiocese, I have been asking parishioners as individuals and in groups to pray the rosary daily for the safeguarding of embryonic human life.Daily, I hear from individuals about their participation in the Rosary Crusade, whether in their homes, in their parish churches or in our Catholic schools.

Why the Rosary Crusade?

Why the Rosary Crusade?The praying of the rosary has been a most powerful spiritual instrument of the Church in seeking God’s help in times of great crisis.On Oct. 7, 1571, for example, Christians were able to repel the destructive advance of the Moors upon Europe at the Battle of Lepanto.The victory seemed impossible but, with God’s help, obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was achieved. Pope St. Pius V had asked the Christians of Europe to pray the rosary for the defeat of the Moors who wished to eradicate the Catholic faith and practice in Europe.The praying of the rosary was instrumental in the saving of Christian Europe.

Closer to home, we recall the Rosary Crusade at St. Joseph Shrine during the cholera epidemic of 1849, which took the lives of so many of the faithful.Christians, down the centuries since our Lord first gave us the rosary, in times of great crisis, have called upon God’s help through this most powerful prayer.Imitating them, we pray with confidence that God will deliver us from the present moral crisis.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

There is a little known fact about the Battle of Lepanto, which highlights the intercession of the Mother of God on behalf of her children in times of great crisis and need.Admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria of the Christian fleet at the Battle of Lepanto had enthroned in his cabin an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been touched to the miraculous tilma of St. Juan Diego in Mexico City.In the Battle of Lepanto, Admiral Doria invoked the intercession of the Mother of God under her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For Admiral Doria, the praying of the rosary for victory was united to his devotion to Our Lady as she had appeared on the continent of America, just 40 years earlier, in 1531.In urging the Rosary Crusade, I ask the faithful of the archdiocese to invoke frequently the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe who, some 475 years ago, led her children of America to Christ through a new respect for all human life, when it was gravely threatened by racism and widespread human sacrifice. Our Lady, Mother of America, will not fail to hear our prayers for the end of the attacks upon human life in our nation.

Corporate praying of the rosary in our schools

On this coming Nov. 2, All Souls Day, the students in the Catholic schools within the archdiocese will pray the rosary for the safeguarding of embryonic human life, in their respective schools, at 10 a.m.I will be leading the praying of the rosary at DuBourg High School on that morning.The rosary at DuBourg High School will be broadcast on WRYT (AM-1080) and (KHOJ (AM-1460) Catholic radio, so that you, too, can join directly in the prayer.

I invite you, if it is possible, wherever you are, to unite your praying of the rosary or, at least, some part of the rosary, to the prayer of our children in the Catholic schools at 10 a.m. on this coming Nov. 2.Yes, the challenge of defeating the proposed Amendment 2, the challenge of safeguarding embryonic human life and the integrity of human procreation, is great.But the victory belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ Who gave His life for all of us, from the moment of our conception.Our Lord Jesus, God the Son, Who became a human embryo at the moment of His Mother’s fiat will hear our prayers, offered through His Mother and ours, on behalf of our tiniest brothers and sisters.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

Opponents of the proposed Amendment 2, which guarantees constitutionally the right to clone human life in order to destroy it at the embryonic stage of development for the harvest of embryonic stem cells, are frequently accused of a lack of compassion.Faithful Catholics, in particular, are accused of adhering rigidly to a religious belief about the beginning of human life, while coldly permitting children and adults with dread diseases or with serious injuries to remain without the cure which supposedly embryonic stem cells would provide for them.

Former Sen. John Danforth, one of the most prominent and active supporters of Amendment 2, referring to the death of his brother Don from Lou Gehrig’s disease, declares:

"No religious doctrine, however earnestly formulated, will ever convince me that cells in a laboratory are so significant that my brother should be denied the benefits of medical research.The very notion goes against both my reason and my deepest feelings" (Faith and Politics, New York: Viking, 2006, p. 94).

All of us who have seen or are seeing a parent, sibling, child or good friend suffer from disease or serious injury can well understand Mr. Danforth’s profound grief at the suffering and eventual death of his dear brother.We can also understand his desire for a cure which would have saved his brother from death.A devout Christian cannot fail to feel compassion for Mr.
Danforth and his family.

Compassion without borders

A most serious question, however, is raised by Mr. Danforth’s declaration: Does compassion for the suffering of one human life justify the lack of compassion for another human life?To be clear, is it truly compassionate to destroy the tiniest of human lives in order to treat an illness in one of us who has developed to a bigger size?And, if the answer to the question is "Yes," then who judges which human life can be sacrificed for the sake of saving another?Mr. Danforth, while arguing that the blastocyst is "pre-embryonic" human life, states that maintaining the legal protection of the right to life of the blastocyst is denying hope to "identifiable people" (Faith and Politics, p. 93).But what makes a human life identifiable?Is not the blastocyst, which is a 5- to 7-day-old human embryo, identifiable as human life?

Human compassion, that is, the compassion taught us by the natural moral law and confirmed by the teaching and life of our Lord, does not permit us to make distinctions of persons in what pertains to their fundamental right to life.Compassion as a human and Christian virtue extends to all human life, without borders.Because the blastocyst, which is truly human life, with its full identity, is, in the words of Mr. Danforth, "a pre-embryonic cluster of cells smaller than the period at the end of this sentence," does not take away its dignity and right to life.

The so-called compassion which excludes certain human lives, according to the criteria of size or age or intelligence or any other criterion, is not compassion at all.In fact, it opens the door to the denial of compassion to any class of persons who, according to those in power, are somehow "not human," even though they have a full human identity and are growing and developing, as we all have done and are doing.
Compassion for the victims of disease and injury

Our Christian concern for embryonic human life does not mean that we are not concerned to work for cures of the diseases and injuries which burden severely our lives or deprive us of life.For that reason, the Church, from the time of our Lord, identifies her mission with the care of the sick.Throughout the Christian centuries, the Church has dedicated her resources, the gifts of the faithful, in a particular way, to the care of the sick and to ethical medical research which leads to cures for those who are severely injured or are afflicted with a severe disease.

In concrete, while the Catholic Church opposes absolutely the cloning of human life and the destruction of human embryos, it strongly supports adult stem-cell research, which is ethical and which has already been effectively used in treating some 72 forms of disease and injury, for example, cancers, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, immunodeficiencies, neural degenerative diseases and injury, anemia and other blood disorders, wounds and injuries, metabolic disorders, liver disease and bladder disease. For more information regarding the diseases and injuries treated with adult stem cells, you may consult the website
http://www.stemcellresearch.org.

Some time ago, I was privileged to visit the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, the second-largest independent cord-blood bank in the world.It stores blood collected, in a completely ethical manner, from the umbilical cords of newborn infants, to be used for treating illnesses and injuries.The Church fully supports adult stem-cell research and therapy.As archbishop of St. Louis, I fully support the work of the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and am deeply grateful for it.It is a wonderful expression of Christian compassion.

Human identity and compassion

All human life, from its inception to the moment of natural death, is the object of our compassion.What constitutes human life is not a matter of religious doctrine.It is a scientific fact that human life begins at conception or fertilization or, in the case of cloning, with the stimulation of the human egg, from which the nucleus has been removed and into which a body cell of an adult has been placed. From the moment of conception or inception, the complete identity of the new human life is given.

Religious faith does not teach us when human life begins.Science does.Religious faith teaches us that once human life has begun it must be safeguarded and fostered.

At a recent gathering of young adults opposed to Amendment 2, a newspaper reporter from another city asked me: Why do you want to protect the human embryo which is "just a clump of cells"?The answer is: Each of us is a clump of cells which, upon scientific examination, is identified as a human being.True compassion demands that we safeguard and foster every "clump of cells" with the identity of human life.

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