The National Bioethics Advisory Commission has said they find it acceptable to destroy human embryos in the process of scientific research. However, Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore has made public a letter he wrote May 27 to all members of the U.S. Congress stating that embryos are not disposable cells, but human beings made in the image and likeness of God.
Recently Register Radio correspondent Jay Dunlap spoke to the cardinal who said that the commission's rationale is frighteningly similar to the supreme court's Roe v. Wade decision.
Dunlap: What do you think has led to the decision that it is acceptable to go ahead with research on human embryos and go against the consciences of many Americans? What are the implications?
Cardinal Keeler: Fuzzy reasoning puts us in a position where our government is on a collision course with the consciences of many many people in the United States, who say it's wrong to take the life of an innocent human being. In this case, it's possible that these infants could be conceived simply to be destroyed. And that's what it looks like.
Is it not chilling that this could turn human beings into commodities simply for exploitation by the scientific community?
That's right. As I said in my letter to Congress, the little embryos are seen as disposable cells in the body politic. And again, this is turning things upside down, making human life and the destruction of human life almost a goal in itself without regard for the intrinsic value of every single human being made in the image and likeness of God.
It's just amazing to many of us that the commission admits that this amounts to killing human embryos and yet it still recommends it. How can one comprehend this rationale?
They're running against something that has been clearly manifested as the will of the legislators in the original legislation of Congress. So they're trying to get around that, trying to circumvent a law that reflected the convictions of so many Americans, that when there's division on a major moral issue, an issue as to what's right and what's wrong, one should go on the safer direction rather than in the direction that's less safe. And in this case, it's a direction that clearly involves the taking of human life.
And the other thing that I find really surprising is that there are other ways that do not directly endanger human life that can be used for similar research to achieve similar goals. While the commission admits that it would be preferable to go that way, they don't endorse that as the way to go. This I find also quite astounding.
Clearly the argument needs to be made here that there is no need to commit these injustices no matter what the goal because, as you're pointing out, there are other ways to achieve these same beneficial scientific ends. Is that the case?
That's exactly it. And that's where our priorities should be. That certainly was the intent of Congress when it passed the original legislation. And I'm hopeful that the letter that I've written will help remind the members of Congress of their original commitment and keep them on course.
Congress has been steadfast in opposing funding for fetal research, hasn't it?
To my knowledge, yes.
In your reading of the commission's report, you find an analogy to abortion. This seems like we're on the slippery slope that began when abortion became legal in this country. Could you explain that analogy?
[After the Supreme Court ruling on abortion] legislatures began to say there are some abortions that are necessary — they're necessary to save the life of the mother and other cases. Here they seem to be moving to say research for a good purpose makes the killing of human embryos necessary. I think that's a pretty relativistic way to proceed. Therefore, it's very clear we have to speak up and urge our Congress to hold it's ground.
You have written this letter in your position as chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the National Council of Catholic Bishops. Are you asking Catholics as well to voice their opinions to their representatives so that they don't have to have their tax dollars spent this way?
We released the letter on purpose, so that we would hope that others who would read it, whether Catholic or of other faith backgrounds, or no faith background, who believe that human life is something special, would also lend their support to this position.
Have you had any feedback from the Congressmen who have received your letter?
Not yet. It probably reached them just before the Memorial Day holiday and many, if not most, were back in their home districts so it will be a while before we see some responses.
Is this an opportunity for some of those Catholic members of Congress who have not been in line with the Church's teaching to show some good faith?
I think it's not just a question of Catholics, I think it's people of all backgrounds who have a concern for human life to maybe take another look and maybe to see where one goes if one follows this approach to logical conclusions, and to see the difficulties that this proposes for a society that's ordered on law.
Jay Dunlap is a Register Radio correspondent.