U.S. Catholic bishops' reaction to President Bush's August 9, 2001, decision to allow limited federal funding for embryo stem-cell research was swift. Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, issued a statement August 10 calling the decision morally unacceptable. "The federal government, for the first time in history, will support research that relies on the destruction of some defenseless human beings for possible benefit to others. However such a decision is hedged about with qualifications, it allows our nation's research enterprise to cultivate a disrespect for human life.
"We hope and pray that President Bush will return to a principled stand against treating some human lives as nothing more than objects to be manipulated and destroyed for research purposes. As we face a new century of powerful and sometimes even frightening advances in biotechnology, we must help ensure that our technical advances will serve rather than demean our very humanity."
In the days leading up to Bush's decision, individual bishops had spoken
out, too. Chicago's Archbishop Francis E. George wrote that our nation
is at a crossroads: "History has shown that it is always the dispossessed,
those whose lives are easily overlooked, who are subjected to the worst
abuses of scientific research,'' he said. "So-called 'spare' human
embryos are particularly vulnerable to this kind of moral blindness because
so many people seem to have difficulty identifying with their humanity.''
Pittsburgh's Bishop Donald Wuerl had written in his diocesan newspaper that "While (a stem cell) is a tiny speck, it nonetheless contains the elements out of which comes the fully developed human person.''