Embryonic stem cells and cloning

Proponents of government funding of immoral embryonic stem cell research continually repeat the question that has become a mantra in the debate: If embryos frozen in fertility clinics are to be destroyed anyway, why not use them for the benefit of the rest of us? This appealing argument is flawed. Its first flaw is that it does not respect the fact that those who produced these embryos did so precisely because they constitute human life. Calling the question about life "merely religious," proponents of the destruction of embryonic humans refuse to allow discussion of the embryonic human's right to life and the right to be respected as human persons.

The mantra also aims to divert attention from the relationship between embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Human cloning is necessary if embryonic stem cell research is to be profitable and useful for those who would ignore the moral evil. Human cloning was rejected recently in a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives. Not surprisingly, reactions to the House action from some scientists and other proponents were vicious.

The debate over cloning demonstrated that the deadly research would not be limited to those unfortunate embryonic humans in fertility clinics. If the research on embryonic stem cells is to become useful for other humans, scientists will have to clone humans to create cells that will not be rejected by the intended patient's body.

The alleged advantage of embryonic stem cell therapies over non-embryonic stem cells disappears without the expectation of cloning unlimited numbers of embryonic humans. In other words, the most promising means by which Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox or Mary Tyler Moore will benefit from embryonic stem cell research is by cannibalizing embryonic human clones of themselves for a sufficient supply of stem cells.

The greatest promise, however, for stem cell therapies has been found in the almost-daily breakthroughs in adult stem cell research which does not require the destruction of human life or human cloning. A report in the Harvard University Gazette on July 19, 2001, for example, indicated that scientists used adult stem cells to obtain a permanent reversal of Type I diabetes. Adult stem cell research continues to yield useful, actual results, a much more practical application of funding than embryonic stem cell research whose benefits are far less certain, without the moral problems.

Those who allege that the potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research could outstrip all benefits of adult stem cell research should know by now that the application of the embryonic research depends ultimately upon human cloning. Those who deny this must have missed the debate in the House.

No respect

So rocker Rod Stewart thinks that marriage licenses should be renewed each year just like, his words here, a "dog license." Wed twice and a notorious womanizer, the 56-year-old father of five thinks the marriage vows that have been in existence "for 600 years" are hopelessly out of date because they were designed for people with a 35-year life span.

These days, he pontificates, marriage-for-life is too big a commitment because "you're going to be with someone for 50 years - it's impossible."

Impossible? Not for Eileen and Paul Infante of Eastchester, who were among the 450 couples celebrating their 50th anniversary recently in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. They said the most important part of the day was its affirmation that "no matter what's going on in the world today, (marriage) can work."

Were the couples celebrating an outmoded institution? It didn't look that way to anyone observing Eileen and Bernard McGeever of Riverdale, who held hands like newlyweds as they renewed their vows.

Dorothy Buttermark remembers the sun shining brightly when she exchanged vows with her husband, Hugh, on April 28, 1951, at St. Mary of the Assumption Church on Staten Island. It was such a happy day that they tried to recreate it by arriving at the cathedral in a bridal limousine - a gift from their family. Another couple, Vivian Lucy and Charles Wyker of Yorktown Heights, offered their prescription for marital success: "Respect for each other."

Cardinal Edward M. Egan celebrated the Mass for the golden jubilarians, telling them their commitment "to the permanence and sanctity of marriage is ... something of which America, New York and the Church can be very proud."

Sure, the notion of a lifetime commitment in marriage took a beating in the 20th century, and there were periods when it seemed as though more people were getting divorced than getting married. This took a heavy toll on the couples involved - just ask anyone who's been through a so-called no-fault divorce about the emotional, financial and psychological suffering they endured. Multiply that pain by 10 if there were children.

Even Rod Stewart, whose incessant flirtations caused his second wife to leave him after eight years and two children, has felt the pain. "I was not ready for that," he told a Scottish newspaper. "I was ill-equipped for it."

Yet even as he describes that experience as his most painful ever, he clearly hasn't learned from it, judging by his comment. "The vows should be written like a dog's license that has to be renewed every year."

Maybe it's too much to expect someone like Stewart, the major talent that he is, to be anything other than self-involved (think of his hit song, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?") given the adulation that has been heaped on him in his long career.

But he's an important part of the pop culture that has created the anti-marriage mindset, so his silly self-indulgences can have sad consequences indeed. Married couples and those contemplating it would be far wiser to absorb the message of the 450 couples in the cathedral who, the Cardinal said, "walked through their married life hand-in-hand with Jesus Christ."

This editorial appeared in a recent issue of Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.

Be a missionary!

St. Therese Lisieux is patroness of the missions though she hardly traveled in the course of her brief life. She desired to be a missionary and spent her life making little sacrifices of love to further the work of Christ.

Most of us will never visit Bolivia or any other part of South America, but we can be co-missionaries with our St. Louis priests and the other priests and religious who go there on our behalf. It is as simple - and as profound - as making little sacrifices of love to further and support the work of Christ. A little goes a long way - a little prayer each day for the growth of the faith - or a dollar for each year we have had the benefit of our Catholic faith. As our financial means allow we can send our donation through any of our parishes this week. This weekend is the annual collection for the St. Louis Archdioce-san Latin America Apostolate, and our prayers and offerings are lifted to the Lord on its behalf.

The true Church is apostolic, and each member is called to be a missionary every day, becoming more aware of our solidarity with God's children - our brothers and sisters in Christ - and making for them, often, some little sacrifice of love.

Responsibility for the Great Eight

Last week in Genoa, Italy, leaders from eight powerful nations met for the G-8 summit meeting. G-8 is the abbreviation for the "Group of 8" and describes meetings focused on the international monetary situation. Attendees are the heads of state of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Italy, Germany and Canada. The "G" meetings began in 1973 as G-5 meetings with finance ministers from five nations and have grown in membership over the years with heads of state in attendance.

The conversations at the Genoa G-8 meeting touched on a broad range of subjects, from monetary policy to tariffs to the more general topic of globalization. These issues are clearly important for the citizens of the G-8 nations. However, all the world is impacted by these issues, and the eight nations of the G-8 have a special responsibility to the citizens of the world, not just their own. As Catholics, we are called to witness to this responsibility and encourage policies and decisions that promote dignity and respect for all members of the human family.

More and more commentators talk about how "small" the world is becoming. Technology and information systems make us citizens of the world. We are able to monitor the world - and make a difference. Our globe-trotting Pontiff has shown us this and has been eloquent in his call for solidarity for all people. In a letter sent to the G-8 leaders, Pope John Paul II reminded that "no person or nation be excluded from your concerns" and that you do all you can to "promote a culture of solidarity which will make possible concrete solutions to the problems which weigh most heavily in the lives of our brothers and sisters and in their relations with others."

There are many reactions to this call to solidarity, especially in the face of the rapid pace of change. News accounts from Genoa included descriptions of violent protests and the tragic death of one young man. Violence of all kinds must be deplored. Reports indicate that protesters were throwing handmade Molotov cocktails at police. If true, this is not solidarity, not even protest, but anarchy - it has no place for informed, concerned, faithful citizens. Rather, we must educate ourselves and advocate for change. We must come to understand how the world can be positively impacted by the promotion of liberty and the sanctity of life. As Americans, we must avoid exporting our worst values (disrespect for the unborn, capital punishment) in favor of our best values (equality of all, freedom, education). It is not easy, but we must reach out.

Yes, we Catholic faithful must hear and respond to the call to solidarity. We have as our model our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and as our earthly shepherd, his vicar Pope John Paul II. Solidarity means prayer and action: We see the way and must respond. In these days of global questions, each of us has a role to play.

Father Paul C. Reinert, SJ

With the death on July 22 of Jesuit Father Paul C. Reinert, a genuine St. Louis icon passed into eternity and completed a golden page in the history of our region.

For 75 of his nearly 91 years, Father Reinert gave devoted service to God, the Church, the Society of Jesus, St. Louis University and the people of our community.

Father Reinert's long association with St. Louis University was a happy marriage for him and for the institution. He became president of the university at the age of 39 and served in this capacity for 25 years. In 1974 he became the first chancellor of St. Louis University, and even in 1990 when he was named chancellor emeritus he continued working full time, giving much of his time to support fund-raising and further expansion efforts.

Father Reinert presided over the university at a time of great societal change. As dean of the school of arts and sciences, he would support the integration initiatives of 1944. As president he would direct the admission of the university's first female students in 1949. Scholarship programs helped foster these new enrollments in particular and the overall school population grew considerably. St. Louis University made clear its commitment to Midtown St. Louis with the expansion of the campus.

Because Father Reinert succeeded as a leader in ecumenical cooperation and was an eager participant in providing opportunities for the poor and underprivileged, he was sought out as counsel and sponsor to a myriad of Catholic and community projects. He often helped and he was a grand ally.

Father Reinert was, above all else, a talented, dedicated and hard-working priest who collaborated with "Cardinals" of both the Church and baseball variety. He gave religious instructions to the late August A. "Gussie" Busch and received him into the Church. He was chosen by Cardinal Joseph Ritter to preach at the Mass commemorating his golden anniversary.

Father Reinert was called upon to play many roles - educator, community organizer, builder, fund-raiser, friend and advocate of the needy, but first and always - a priest of God. May he rest in the peace of the just!

No moral free pass

When the Holy Father stressed in his meeting with President George W. Bush the particularly horrific nature of creating human embryos for the express purpose of research, he did not give the president a moral free pass to foster life-destroying research on human embryos that were created for the "higher" purpose of implantation and are now abandoned.

On the anniversary of "Humanae Vitae" (Pope Paul VI, July 25, 1968), it is good to remind ourselves that in vitro fertilization suffers from the same moral flaw as artificial contraception by separating the unitive and procreative ends of marriage. But once these embryos have come to life we may not take that life away. The living testimony in Congress by the Borden twins - adopted "embryos" -reminds us of the only kinds of solutions that can work.

The "compromise" the president should consider is to double or triple government funding for adult and postnatal stem cell research and promote the adoption of abandoned frozen embryos.

This week in St. Louis the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life will declare a mobilization in the black community against embryonic stem-cell research. The groups are asking parishes and institutions in the black community throughout the country to send letters and make phone calls to President Bush and to their representatives in Congress asking them not to fund any research that would involve the destruction of human embryos. Let every Catholic - every person of good will - follow their lead.

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