Australia Catholic Bishop Mentions Excommunication on Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 5, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 5
, 2007

Canberra, Australia ( — The topic of whether Catholic politicians who support abortion should be excommunicated from the Church has been debated for years, but a Catholic leader in Australia has said he may excommunicate Catholic elected officials who support a bill forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research.

The legislature of the province of New South Wales is considering such a bill and several Catholic MPs have said they will support it.

Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, is threatening to deny communion to them because the bill would fund the destruction of human life as scientists obtain the cells from days-old unborn children.

New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma, has allowed a conscience vote on the bill, meaning lawmakers won’t be held to the party position, but Pell wants MPs to following the teachings of their church or risk losing their membership in it.

"It is a serious moral matter and Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realize that their voting has consequences for the place in the life of the Church," Pell told the ABC media outlet.

"I don’t think that any Catholic politician, any Christian politician, any pro-life politician who has properly informed his or her conscience should vote for these changes," the bishop added.

Pell told ABC he’s not suggesting politicians will be excommunicated, but is leaving open the option of denying communion.

"I don’t believe in crossing bridges before you get to them and I am hoping all the Catholic politicians here in New South Wales will do the right thing," he said.

The Catholic Church isn’t alone in opposing the bill and wanting politicians who adhere to the Catholic faith to oppose it. The head of the NSW Council of Churches, David Crawford reaffirmed the Council’s decision to oppose the NSW bill.

The group opposes the creation of human embryos and human embryo clones for the purpose of destruction for research.

It represents the Anglican Church, the Baptist Union of NSW, Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (NSW), the Churches of Christ in NSW, the Fellowship of Congregational Churches, NSW, the Presbyterian Church of Australia (NSW), and the Salvation Army (Eastern Territory).