In the Heart of the Church
What Should Science Trump?
Bishop Thomas Olmsted
March 10, 2009
On Monday, March 9, President Obama signed an executive order that
provides federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. This means
that American taxpayers will now be paying for the killing of human
beings at a very early stage in their lives (as embryos), so that
scientific research can make use of them for experiments that may or
may not yield positive results.
We U.S. taxpayers will now be forced to pay, whether we wish to or
not, for the killing of our youngest brothers and sisters on the
dubious hypothesis that their murders might, in the future, benefit
others. Why did President Obama make this decision?
Should science trump ideology?
Our president’s rationale is that science should trump ideology. In
other words, that ideology should not have the upper hand in making
decisions about who pays for research; science should. We Americans,
he says, should trust scientists more than we trust ideologues. But
who is our president calling ideologues? Those whom he is calling
“ideologues” include the following:
Pope Benedict XVI and all faithful Catholics around the world;
People of faith from all major religions who believe that human
life, especially at its most innocent and vulnerable stage, needs to
be protected, not killed for the sake of older human beings; and
All people of good will who oppose the killing of one group of human
beings in order to benefit another group.
“Science should trump ideology” is a code phrase that means science
should trump the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” It is
contending that science should trump the right to life of a certain
class of human beings, those who are at the embryonic stage of life.
Science, according to our president, does not need to be at the
service of the human person or subject to morality. How is this
position not influenced by an ideology, which is the very thing our
president claims he is seeking to avoid? Is this good for America?
Is this what we Americans want our taxes to be used for?
Politics over science and ethics
Let’s be clear about what this presidential decree is about. It is
not about overcoming a prohibition against embryonic stem cell
research. Tragically, such research is already legal in many places
in our country. Already billions of dollars of California taxpayers
are funding such heinous research. So our president is not
overturning laws that prohibit such research. It is already legal.
What President Obama is doing is forcing all American taxpayers to
pay for this homicidal research. He is forcing us who pay taxes to
be complicit, in an involuntary yet real way, in this unethical
enterprise. All of this is done so that “science can trump
Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life
Activities, said this: “President Obama’s new executive order on
embryonic stem cell research is a sad victory of politics over
science and ethics. This action is morally wrong because it
encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating
vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested. It also
disregards the values of millions of American taxpayers who oppose
research that requires taking human life. Finally, it ignores the
fact that ethically sound means for advancing stem cell science and
medical treatments are readily available and in need of increased
What should be the response of Catholics to this action?
First, we must beg forgiveness for this horrendous sin of our
nation. Like the Prophet Daniel, we need to say in all humility and
shame (9:4fc), “Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your
merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your
commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have
rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws… Justice,
O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day.”
Second, we Catholics must join with others of good will and make our
voices heard across our land, at the White House, on Capitol Hill,
in our state Legislatures and in the media. We must not stand by
idly while our neighbor’s life is at stake. The dignity of a human
person does not depend upon his or her age, developmental stage, or
ability to function. Every human being has inherent dignity because
God has created us with an eternal soul. No one has the right to
extinguish this gift of life but God alone.
Third, we need to point out why such destructive research is
especially pointless at this time when ethical means are available,
such as the following:
Great advances are being made in reprogramming adult cells into
embryonic-like stem cells (the journal Science hailed this as the
scientific breakthrough of the year);
Adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells are increasingly being
used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged
Fourth, we must pray and fast for an end to this horrendous decision
and an end to all attacks on innocent human life. Jesus told us that
some evils can only be driven out by prayer and fasting. In this
season of Lent, this gives us added reason to do penance in union
with our prayers for the protection of all human life.
Fifth, we must not lose hope. False rhetoric such as “science must
triumph over ideology” will not stand the test of time. Such
counterfeit reasoning and slick cover-up of the truth will not have
the last word. Jesus came that we might have life and have it
abundantly (Cf. Jn 10:10). In Him, who died to take away sin and
rose to restore our life, we place our hope. This hope will never
[Article taken from the Catholic Sun March 10, 2009 Issue]
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