Knights of Columbus Bishop Busch Council 4863


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Is Sally Field Human?

There's been good news for those who want to find cures for disease, but don't feel good about killing people to get the job done. On December 20, 2005, President Bush signed H.R. 2520, the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005."

This bill created a new Federal program that will collect and store umbilical cord blood. It also expands the current bone marrow registry program to include cord blood.

"This is wonderful news for the many thousands of suffering patients who can benefit from umbilical cord blood stem cell treatments," said Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCB) Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "We are grateful to Congress and the President for enacting this legislation without further delay.

"The House of Representatives passed Rep. Chris Smith's legislation, to support and coordinate a nationwide public bank of cord blood stem cells, almost unanimously on May 24. Yet this urgently needed life-saving legislation was blocked for months in the Senate, held hostage to debates over far more controversial and speculative stem cell research requiring the destruction of human embryos. In the last days of this session the deadlock was finally ended, and Congress agreed on the kind of stem cell treatments that can begin saving patients. lives here and now."

Umbilical stem cells have been successfully used to treat thousands of people. They do things that stem cells from ‘harvested embryos. do: grow rapidly in growth cultures to make enough cells for treatments; they don't have to be an exact genetic match with the patient; and they will grow into many different types of cells.

Stem cells are valuable because they can grow into other kinds of cells. This means that they can be used to repair injured tissues or organs.

It is still legal to kill babies, provided they are under a certain age, and chop them up for parts, but at least now there's a nation-wide alternative to using used baby parts.

Every human being starts out as a tiny cluster of cells that grows into the skin, eyes, bone, and other parts that make an adult human.

When we're very young, just after conception, we're called embryos. As we grow, we're called fetuses, babies, and eventually adults. Provided that someone doesn't get us first.

At this point, we can be killed for any reason, or no reason at all, provided that we're still an ‘embryo. or ‘fetus..

The Catholic Church objects to killing innocent human beings, no matter how big they are. The Catechism says that "human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life." (2270)

This belief is a sharp contrast to what many believe today. An editorial, "Stem Cell Deception," in the "Boston Globe," December 30, 2005, discussed the imaginative way that South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk faked his stem cell research results. The editor said that although the scandal illustrates many human failings, the "objects of Hwang's experiments – aggregations of several hundred cells – are far too primitive to be called human, with all the flaws and virtues that implies."

"Far too primitive"?! That sounds uncomfortably like beliefs that made the Dred Scott decision possible back in 1857.

Besides, if being complex, and having the abilities that go with it, are what it takes to be human, then are people who have mental disabilities or are unconscious, human? And if size matters, we have some very real problems. If we accept that the massive Senator Ted Kennedy is human, can we say that the 5'2" actress Sally Field was human when she weighed only a hundred pounds?

Back to Catholic beliefs, here's what the Bishop of Pittsburgh had to say:

"Embryos are at the very beginning of the whole process of human life. We, as human beings, in solidarity with that life, even though it is tiny and undifferentiated at this point, are not free to view it simply as a commodity for our convenience or benefit. When we enter the sacred precincts of human life – when we approach the chamber of life – we are not the masters of the room. We are not the lords of the house of life. God alone has the right to determine who lives, who dies, and the life span of each person. We are stewards, not masters of human life. Even when we put on sterilized gloves and work with technologically advanced equipment we do not take on the mantle of arbiter of human life."

In short, we're not God, and so we shouldn't act as if we had His authority over life.

(Facts and quotations from Catechism of the Catholic Church, Evangelium Vitae, USCCB, Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Boston Globe.)

Brian H. Gill, Editor, Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin

January 2006

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This page last updated December 19, 2010