Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Excommunication or re-election - is this the moral dilemma?

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Maria Wiering is a columnist/blogger for The Catholic Spirit who is covering the Minnesota Legislature with interesting snippets about life in that world. Recently Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates testified before a legislative committee considering a bill to fund embryonic stem cell research, that dead end Unholy Grail of progressives:

"Do you want to be excommunicated or re-elected?"

That's what Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls-Forever) - the author of the bill allowing public funding for embryonic stem-cell research - said she asked her fellow legislators after hearing Bishop Richard Pates testify against her bill. Her comment drew a large laugh from the audience.

She was speaking to an auditorium dotted with scientists, students and curious spectators (me) in a presentation before scientific colleagues Feb. 26 at a University of Minnesota conference titled "Creating Stem Cells by Research Cloning."

She also described the bishop's comments as "saying threatening things."


I know I'm biased, but I really found nothing threatening about Bishop Pates' comments on Feb. 22. Nor did he wave around the threat of excommunication.

Bishop Pates was one of five who testified in a Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division committee hearing Feb. 22 against H.F. 34, which would allow state funding for all stem-cell research at the University of Minnesota, including research on embryos.

He told the committee's members that decisions regarding biotechnology and human experimentation must be based upon respect for human life's dignity from its beginning.

"If we allow and even encourage through state funding the direct destruction of some humans for the potential benefit of others, then we are jeopardizing the values that make up the fabric of our society and running the risk of progressively relativizing human life," Bishop Pates said. He spoke on behalf of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops.

This was the second committee hearing for the bill. The hearing was much more lively than the first - the issues were actually debated this time, with legislators asking questions of the bill's opponents and defenders. When one side made a claim about the other's side, the other side was given a chance to defend and clarify. However, the conversation was respectful on the part of the testifiers, although Rep. Kahn, the bill's primary author, confessed at the Feb. 26 presentation that the hearings stir her blood.

But healthy debate is part of the process - especially when the issue is life or death. The Catholic Spirit

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