Our mission at St. Andrew Catholic Church is to become saints.
Following the example of our patron, St. Andrew, with humility we seek to:
Hear God’s call through the truth of the Catholic Church
Respond in love with acts of charity and mercy
Grow continuously through the sacraments and daily prayer and
Proclaim the Good News through our vocation.
As you read this there is probably someone somewhere responding to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. For those of you who do not know what this is here is what is posted on Wikipedia:
“The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head or donating to the ALS Association in the United States. It went viral throughout social media in summer, 2014. The challenge dares nominated participants to have a bucket of ice water poured on their head. One common stipulation gives 24 hours from the time they are nominated to complete the dare; otherwise, the participant is asked to donate money to charity.”
I found a blog by Ryan Scheel that responds well to the dilemma which this challenge causes us as Catholics and have quoted it extensively here. http://www.ucatholic.com/blog/catholics-and-the-ice-bucket-challenge
The crux of the dilemma is that the money being raised goes to the ALSA, which funds Embryonic Stem Cells research. Stem Cells are “undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells and can divide” which offer promising genetic therapy treatments for many diseases, including ALS.
The ALSA who receives the donations from this campaign, states on their website:
“Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem cell research as both will provide valuable insights. Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases.”
The Catholic Church is an advocate of Stem Cell Research. (CCC stands for Catechism of the Catholic Church)
CCC#2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”
But the Church raises a legitimate objection when the source of stem cells are embryos, either created and unused for in-vitro pregnancy (which the Church opposes as well), or created for the specific purpose of research.
CCC#2275 “It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”
In his 2003 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Saint John Paul II stated:
“Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.”
As a response to the morally objectionable practices of the ALSA, many Catholics are responding to the challenge and sending their money to the John Paul II Medical Institute which uses adult stem cells for their research. The website is jp2mri.org. Adult stem cells are not obtained by a process that is morally objectionable, but due to regulations in the U.S. they are considerably more expensive to obtain due to government regulations.
Before we respond to any challenge, we need to be careful about what we are getting ourselves into. Surely, the challenge is a good thing in that it is making more people aware of ALS, but we need to be informed about what the money we give is being used for.
Fr. Jack D. Shrum
For more of Father Jack's reflections click here