Catholic by Choice

Catholic by Choice

Why Does the Catholic Church Oppose Stem Cell Research? Answer: It Doesn’t!

How many times have you heard the charge that the Catholic Church opposes “Stem Cell Research”? You know  – the insinuation is that this antiquated remnant of the middle ages, run by old men, is somehow impeding human and scientific progress. Well, not only is the claim absolutely untrue from a factual perspective, it is sometimes an example one of the last acceptable prejudices, Anti-Catholic bias. 

Among the worst examples of using language to deceive and hide the truth is the failure to differentiate between human EMBRYONIC stem cell research and ADULT stem cell research.  I have concluded that blurring these two very different areas of medical research may be an intentional act on the part of some who are hell bent on killing human embryonic persons for experimentation.


Oh, I know, some people will gasp when they read such a statement. However, given the amazing breakthroughs occurring with adult stem cell research and the lack of coverage they are receiving, I am left with no alternative. Let’s consider a few examples from just the past month.

Scientists from the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, Massachusetts announced the results of a study this month wherein they used stem cells which they derived from ADULT skin to actually re-grow areas of the retina and improve vision. Chinese researchers announced they have taken stem cells derived from ADULT skin and prompted them to become liver cells, thereby restoring a liver in a laboratory animal.


Finally, this month’s prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reports that scientists have discovered that ADULTS have stem cells within their lungs which are capable of being used to regenerate damaged lungs. That’s right, they found “undifferentiated human lung stem cells nested in niches in the distal airways. These cells are self-renewing, clonogenic, and multipotent in vitro.” 

Now I ask, have you heard or read about these scientific breakthroughs involving ADULT stem cell research? If not, I suggest it is because the entire “stem cell” discussion is intentionally laden with misinformation and mired in emotional appeals which cloud the scientific facts. Human embryonic stem cell research has produced no substantial results. It is always deadly for the human embryonic person. To the contrary, adult stem cell research harms no-one and has borne great results. Yet, those who support ADULT Stem Cell research and oppose EMBRYONIC stem cell research are accused of trying to impede scientific progress.


Ask yourself, how many articles have you read about EMBRYONIC stem cell research? How many news reports have insinuated that the Catholic Church is AGAINST all “stem cell research”? The Catholic Church is NOT against all stem cell research. The Catholic Church supports ADULT stem cell research. The Catholic Church properly opposes EMBRYONIC stem cell research. Human EMBRYONIC stem cell research is always deadly. A human embryo is not distinct in kind from a human being, but a human being at an early stage of development. “Extracting” their stem cells is embryonic execution. 


In 1987 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See issued an outstanding instruction entitled “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation”. Among the many questions answered  was, “What Respect is due to the human embryo, taking into account his nature and identity?” The answer: “The human being must be respected – as a person – from the very first instant of his (her) existence.”  The entire outstanding document can be read here.

In an even more recent instruction entitled the “Dignity of the Person” issued in 2008 the Congregation reminded us that science must be placed at the service of the human person, the family and the common good. Any use of new technologies must respect that the human body is never an “it” – but an “I” – some-one who must never be treated as an object, “The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby.”


This excellent defense of the dignity of life begins with these words, “The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great “yes” to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today’s world.” Let’s be honest, the efforts to promote the tired old “Catholic Church is against science” argument is often  perpetuated by those who simply do not like the Catholic Church’s uncompomising defense of the dignity of all human life, at every age and stage.

Every one of us is in development at every moment of our lives. In fact we more more humanbecomings than human beings. The “me” who is 56 years old is the same me who was once 26 years old, or six years old, or six days old. At the very moment of conception this unique “me” came into human existence as a human person, a human being. We all know this to be true. No stage of our human life and development is less worthy of respect than another. 


ADULT stem cell research has produced extraordinary results and someone doesn’t have to die in the process. The Obama administration’s favoring of the deadly use of embryonic stem cells in spite of the medical science which shows that adult stem cells actually produces results (and their extraction never kills) is morally repugnant and an egregious misuse of federal money. Insisting that the Catholic Church opposes authentic scientific progress which respects the dignity of human life is often misinformed. Sometimes it is an example of anti-Catholic prejudice.

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posted May 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm

God is good! Check out my blog:

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Chris H.

posted May 21, 2011 at 6:04 am

I think many of the misunderstandings regarding Catholic positions on science are a result of media attention focused on unscientific fundamentalist views.

For example, Christianity looks a little silly right now because a small sect of Christians think the world ends at 6 pm. Another fundamentalist group is trying to make schools teach a form of creationism in which dinosaurs and humans lived together at the same time. Then you have Stephen Hawkin — who is a brilliant scientist — telling people that he thinks heaven is a fairy tail, and so the media paints this picture of a cosmic struggle between religion and science.

Through men like you, the Catholic church needs to better communicate its rational views on science. We need to break through the uneducated myths that contribute to anti-Catholic rhetoric.

Thanks again for your relevant posts Deacon Fournier. I’ll be moving down to your area at the end of this year. [My blog is new:

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posted May 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

I have to agree with you on some of the points you made: Stephen Hawking and the cosmic struggle going on. I do disagree about creationism. I do believe humans ans the dinosaurs walked together on this earth. Why? Very simple….because God created them. They used to be called dragons back then…and the word dinosaur didn’t come around until the 1800’s I believe. Anyway here is a link worth checking out:

Should they teach creationism in the schools….I don’t know for sure. It would only serve as another option against the lie of evolution. But I think it is ultimately our job as Christians to defend the truth.
Lastly, since the media is “of this world” we need to remember that Satan will control it. The form of persecution against us will increase! We just need to stand our ground and proclaim God’s truth to a world that is lost without him.

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Chris H.

posted May 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm


In order for me to hold a debate with you on the co-existence of dinosaurs and humans, we would have to start first by deciding if we believe science can be used as one of the parameters. The problem is that by holding a literalist view of the first two chapters of Genesis, you may have already rejected science so much so that our debate would become frivolous.

But what the heck! Here’s what I would say in such a debate:

The existence of dinosaurs (or dragons as your link suggests) – alligators and other big-toothed animals notwithstanding – during the days of Adam and Eve, is neither theologically nor scientifically correct.

This is not to say that the Bible is erroneous (quite the contrary) or that people like Stephen Hawkin and Richard Dawkins have told us anything about the nature of Christ (they are smart guys, but know nothing of God’s nature). Indeed, one of the positions of the Church over the past two thousand years was to support science, but with a cautious eye! (See this link:

The dispute with men such as Galileo (who seriously considered becoming a priest) was predicated on the fact that some scientists believed that their theories revealed fundamental, theological truths. This is what I call “stepping out of one’s lane.”

Tom Cruise is a great actor, but too often “steps out of his lane” when he speaks on matters of God. Hawkins and Dawkins do the same thing and they’re geniuses. (I have criticized both of these men in this post:

In the end, the Church agreed that there was strong evidence the Earth revolved around the sun, but they did not see any contradiction with the Bible. A fundamentalist view would not agree with this long-held Church position.

As for the Bible’s authenticity, I follow St. Augustine’s method of viewing the bible (and in particular Genesis 1 and 2) in multiple ways. Each examination, be it literal, metaphorical, historical, mystical, etc, can reveal new truths. Certainly, God never intended to communicate the word in a perfectly scientific or historical manner. If he did (and he could have if he wanted), few would have read it due to its dryness.

However, by writing the bible with beautiful stories, songs, poetry, sage advice, dire warning, and eternal wisdom, He was much more likely to have an impact on our souls. This is why our book will always be on the bestseller list.

But I doubt you have rejected science entirely. If you disliked fractal geometry, for example, then you wouldn’t believe in cell phones or their antennas (which can only exist due to fractal geometry). And you probably don’t think the sun revolves around the Earth, although several references in the Bible state that the Earth “cannot be moved.” (e.g. Psalms, Chronicles). To be sure, you probably wouldn’t want archeologists to stop digging when they tend to find things that support the historical bible (Solomon’s Temple, the Tomb of St. Peter, evidence of a great flood). Their discovery of numerous dinosaurs pre-date the discovery of modern humans by hundreds of thousands of years. This has been consistent in literally thousands of finds, and most rational Christian scientists even support it.

If we’re to look at science with a critical vice dismissive eye, we would learn quite a bit – probably not much about our souls or our savior – but we can appreciate that it tries to reveal some of the other truths involving the natural world. There is nothing wrong with that. All fields of learning try to achieve truth.

So, if we are to properly debate this issue on level ground, we would need to start with two things:

1) A deeper understanding of the spiritual meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 (per St. Augustine),

and 2) A respect for the scientific method (per St. Thomas Aquinas).

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Katie Angel

posted June 1, 2011 at 9:09 am

Chris H – thank you for an eriudite and informative post. It is so refreshing to see someone looking at the Bible from a point of view that includes science and the ancient mythic traditions.

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on the journey

posted June 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Stem cells of either type should be used to benefit the process of finding cures and helping those already born into this world.

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