Minnesota’s Catholic bishops have identified several public policy issues they want state lawmakers to address at the Capitol this year: affordable housing, health care, education and immigration, to name just a few.
The first topic broached in many of those meetings was embryonic stem-cell research and “how very much we would be opposed to taxpayers’ money — Catholic taxpayers’ money — going to the University of Minnesota for that kind of research,” said Archbishop Harry Flynn. “We were alarmed, and we’ve expressed our alarm, at some of the wording in House File 34 and Senate File 100 from a moral viewpoint but also from a practical standpoint,” added Bishop John Nienstedt of the Diocese of New Ulm.
The House proposal, authored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis), has passed through two committees and is pending in a third. The bill would allow the University of Minnesota to use state money for stem-cell research, including research that requires the destruction of human embryos. Kahn’s bill also requires health care providers, treating patients for infertility, to provide information regarding the disposal of human embryos after fertility treatment, including the possibility of donating embryos for research.
While an amendment to the bill explicitly prohibits human cloning, opponents argue that a procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transplantation, allowed by the bill, can result in human cloning.
Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Christopher Leifeld, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the social policy arm of the state’s bishops, have testified in hearings against the bill. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), is similar in scope.
While the bishops oppose embryonic stem-cell research on moral grounds because it requires the destruction of nascent human life, they also oppose the bills on practical grounds, Bishop Nienstedt said.
He recalled his attendance last year at a seminar featuring scientists from Johns Hopkins University who noted dozens of medical therapies that use adult stem cells but only one that was even tried with embryonic stem cells.
Added Bishop Nienstedt: “Science has this tremendous appetite to experiment, and we have to say, at times, no to science. We have to draw the line when it comes to the dignity of the human person.” Catholic Spirit