British Scientists Blast Vatican on Stem Cell Research Excommunication

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Scientists Blast Vatican on Stem Cell Research Excommunication Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 7, 2006

London, England ( — British researchers are upset that the Catholic Church has decided it will excommunicate scientists who are involved in embryonic stem cell research. The Vatican says the research, which relies on the destruction of human life to obtain stem cells, is just as bad as abortion.

Last week, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told an official Vatican magazine that embryonic stem cell research was "the same as abortion."

"Destroying human embryos is equivalent to an abortion. It is the same thing," he said.

"Excommunication will be applied to the women, doctors and researchers who eliminate embryos [and to the] politicians that approve the law," the cardinal said in an interview.

However, British scientists are calling this "religious persecution."

Dr. Stephen Minger, leading stem cell expert at Kings College, told the BBC, "Having been raised a Catholic I found this stance really outrageous."

"Are they going to excommunicate IVF doctors, nurses and embryologists who routinely put millions of embryos down the sink every year throughout the world?" he asked.

Professor Allan Templeton, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told the BBC that the cardinal’s comments were "insensitive and unhelpful."

Meanwhile, Professor Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Chair in practical ethics at the University of Oxford, blasted the Catholic church saying the excommunication views amount "to religious persecution of scientists which has no place in modern liberal societies."

An Italian cloning scientist wants to be the first excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

Professor Cesare Galli of the Laboratory of Reproductive Technologies in Cremona, the first scientist to clone a horse, said last week that the position makes the Catholic church like the Talbian in Afghanistan.

"I can bear excommunication. I was raised as a Catholic, I share Catholic values, but I am able to make my own judgment on some issues and I do not need to be told by the church what to do or to think," Galli told the London Telegraph newspaper.