Sept. 18--Christopher Reeve said yesterday that the Catholic Church and President Bush had obstructed research that might help free him from his wheelchair. The actor told Britain's Guardian newspaper the Bush administration had caved in on the issue of embryonic stem-cell research after the Catholic Church expressed opposition to cloning.

Reeve, paralyzed seven years ago when he was thrown from his horse, said he was "angry and disappointed" that Bush had hampered developments in stem-cell research that might have led to human trials aimed at rebuilding the nervous systems of quadriplegics. Reeve is backing a bill in Congress that would support therapeutic cloning while punishing those who carried out reproductive cloning.

In response, Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "Bush has placed no restrictions on stem-cell research but has limited funding. Mr. Reeve's Paralysis Foundation has millions of dollars to spend on research and is spending most of it on other avenues because they are more promising. His research has shown adult bone marrow stem cells can produce an ample supply of nerve cells for therapies."

Tonight at 10 on ABC, Christopher Reeve: Courageous Steps shows the Superman star moving his right wrist, left fingers and both legs - developments that few in the scientific community predicted. The documentary, directed by Reeve's 22-year-old son, Matthew, and narrated by Reeve, shows his intensive exercise regimen and life in New York with his family over a yearlong period.

But his regained motion and sensation (he can feel a pinprick on the majority of his body) falls short of his widely quoted pledge to walk by his 50th birthday on Sept. 25. "I feel that we've lost almost four years of significant progress," he said.

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