Catholic Church Upset With European Union Vote on Stem Cell Research Funds

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 26, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Church Upset With European Union Vote on Stem Cell Research Funds Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 26, 2006

The Vatican ( — The Catholic Church is upset with a compromise vote the European Union took on the issue of funding embryonic stem cell research. The Monday vote would make sure that the EU does not directly pay for embryonic stem cell research but member nations would be free to use EU science funds they receive to pay for it in their own countries.

However, the Vatican’s official newspaper says the vote to continue to allow some embryonic stem cell research funding represents "the macabre result of a twisted sense of logic."

In its Wednesday issue, the L’Osservatore Romano condemned the effort to find a compromise between funding the research, which involves the destruction of days-old unborn children, and pro-life concerns about taking human life.

The paper said the EU is condoning "a macabre illicit trade."

Expanding on the Vatican’s response to the vote, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio that the vote violated a "primordial right" to life and authorized "the use of a human being on the basis of ‘I kill you in order to gain benefits for others.’"

"To not be opposed to research that is destructive and inherently violent" is "an act of serious inconsistency," he said.

Meanwhile, the Catholic News Service reports that the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community also disagreed with the decision.

"The Catholic Church recognizes the importance of developing an economy based on knowledge, research and innovation" they said in a statement, adding that respect for human life has to enter into any discussion of science.

The compromise means that some money from the EU’s $65 billion science budget will fund some embryonic stem cell research over the 2007-2013 period that it covers.

But it also includes concessions to nations oppose to embryonic stem cell research that the funding would not go to pay for destroying human embryos but rather for research on existing embryonic stem cells or on research conducted after the destruction of human life has taken place.
A coalition of nations, led by Germany, had been working to block any funding for embryonic stem cell research and appeared to be on the verge of winning the debate.

However, Finland, which holds the EU presidency this year, proposed the compromise and Slovenia, one of the members of the coalition, reversed its position and supported it.

With the Slovenia position change, Germany and its supporters announced they would back the compromise, provided that EU money not directly fund the destruction of human life.

Poland, Austria, Malta, Slovakia and Lithuania voted against the compromise, but Germany, Slovenia and Italy joined with pro-embryonic stem cell research nations in supporting it.

Leaders from Britain, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Sweden spoke in favor of funding embryonic stem cell research with EU tax dollars.

In June, taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research from the European Union looked certain to happen after the EU parliament voted 284 to 249 for a budget containing it.

However, a change made to the budget required extra votes and started with a meeting of national science ministers.

The European Union budget for all science and technology projects is about $64.3 billion and funding for stem cell research is a small part of it. The budget does not fund human cloning for either research or reproductive purposes or the genetic modification of humans.

The EU has no policy on how it provides grants to scientists but a committee decides the research grants the science budget will fund on a case by case basis.

The guidelines from the last budget gave preferential treatment to adult stem cell research but still funded embryonic stem cell studies as long as they were not conducted in nations with bans on such funding. Under the last budget, eight embryonic stem cell research and over 100 adult stem cell research projects received financial support.