THE ARCHBISHOP of Cashel, Dr Dermot Clifford, a member of UCC's governing body, has distanced himself from its decision on stem-cell research.I've tried in vain to locate a copy of Archbishop Clifford's statement. I'm a little puzzled by his reference to the 'common good' rather than the dignity of human life, but without the full statement it's difficult to assess his statement.
In a brief statement last night, Dr Clifford said he had informed the governing body of Catholic Church teaching on stem-cell research "and reiterated that human life is sacred from the moment of conception until death".
He said he believed that "it is wrong to conduct research on embryonic stem cells and such research should be prohibited by law. It is contrary to the ethical and moral teaching of the Catholic Church because it is contrary to the common good."
The Pro-Life Campaign has accused the UCC governing body of gross misrepresentation and hypocrisy, while Senator Ronán Mullen said the decision was "irresponsible" and "to be deplored".
Dr Audrey Dillon of the Pro-Life Campaign said it was "a gross misrepresentation for UCC to claim it has found an 'ethical solution' to embryo research that does not involve destroying human life".
She added: "Under the UCC proposal, human embryos are destroyed somewhere else. The university imports the stem cells to use in their research, hypocritically denying their complicity in the killing that produced them."
Dr Dillon said: "The onset of induced pluripotent stem cells [iPS] offers the prospect of a win-win solution, where science and ethics can successfully coexist. Shamefully, UCC has chosen to ignore these possibilities and opted for a socially divisive stance.
"It has absolutely no authority to speak for the Irish people on such sensitive matters. Clearly, it is the preserve of the legislature and electorate to decide these issues," Dr Dillon said.
On this issue, I think it's important to stress that Catholic opposition to embryonic stem cell research is based on the natural law rather than simply referring to Catholic doctrine. Our Catholicism should make us passionate in our defence of the unborn, but the basis for that defence is rationally defensible.
UCC's decision is doubly-flawed. It obviously fails to respect the dignity of the embryonic human person. Additionally, the idea that one can avoid the moral problems of embryonic stem cell research by having the 'dirty work' of destroying embryos performed outside the State is a fudge... and an inherently contradictory one at that. If there were no moral reservations about using embryonic stem cells, UCC would not be stipulating that the cells come from outside the State. However, once one admits that there are moral difficulties, then the fact the destruction of the embryo happens abroad changes nothing. It seems to be a case of keeping the embryos out of sight and out of mind.