Interpreting the Stem Cell Parable

In an attempt to justify President Bush's stem cell research decision, professor James Chu of Yale University (“Stem Cell Parable,” Oct. 7-13) proposed a parable of two sons, one of whom has his father murdered in order to inherit the father's wealth so that both sons can use the money for countless good deeds. He asks us to draw our own conclusions as to whether the “good” son should be allowed to inherit the wealth made possible by the “bad” son's evil deed.

If we agree to stop thinking at this point, then it certainly seems unreasonable to disinherit the good son. But instead let us continue to draw conclusions, as Professor Chu suggested. In the story, presumably both the bad son and the hired assassin will be punished for their crime.

Certainly, neither will be allowed to receive any part of the inheritance — that would be monstrous. And, of course, killing any person is a crime, and killing one's own father (for whatever reason) is a particularly heinous crime. Finally, we can be sure that society will do everything possible to prevent such a crime from ever happening again.

So how does the parable really square with the reality of embryonic stem cell research in this country? First, it is not a crime (according to the law) to kill children in the womb and then harvest their body parts. It is also not a crime to conceive “surplus” children in the laboratory, “discard” them, and extract their stem cells. Our laws do nothing to prevent these activities, because they refuse to recognize them as evil. The controversy is not over whether these deeds should be allowed, but whether they should be funded by our taxes. And it is not monstrous (by the president's logic) that the same people who committed them will be allowed to receive a share of the funding.

Why not profit from an evil that “has already been done”? We seem to be more and more comfortable with this idea. But remember that the evil is still being done with private funds, and we can't (or won't) stop it.

When researchers claim that the cell lines allowed by the president are tainted or have come to the end of their usefulness, and ask us why we can't pay for them to use other cell lines obtained through private research, what will we say? Will we tell them that what they propose to do is evil, or will we just say: “Why not let them, since the evil ‘has already been done’?”


New Orleans

Re: James Chu's “Stem Cell Parable,” Letters, Oct. 7-13: a difference from the parable is that the research involved parts of the human body. Dead bodies should be shown respect and only used with proper permission.


Austell, Georgia

Bush and Catholics

I fear my comments quoted in your Oct. 14-21 issue (“Catholic Skipped for U.N. Job”) regarding the now scuttled nominiation of John Klink to the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration may be misunderstood.

I do believe Klink came under fire from anti-Catholic types precisely because he is a faithful Catholic. I do believe that many in pro-abortion circles would establish an unconstitutional religious test for political office. What I want to make clear is that this kind of opposition came from pro-abortion and population control groups and not from the Bush administration. The Bush administration has been very good in reaching out to faithful Catholics and for this should be applauded.

Faithful Catholics hope the Bush administration will still find good use for such a fine public servant as John Klink.


New York

The writer is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

Three Cheers For Tim Drake

Tim Drake's story, “To Pray, to Act, to Fight: A Hero's Life” (Oct. 21-27) was exceptional writing and very uplifting as an excellent example of our faith truly in practice at the highest level.

Drake's writing is simply extraordinary in every way. Please commend him for me. And, on top of it all, he is a convert to our faith. What a gift he has been in strengthening our faith in so many ways.

I've told several friends that the Register is the best Catholic news resource they can find.


Doylestown, Ohio

Praising Popular Piety

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera's expressions regarding piety being in harmony with liturgical life are long in coming.

Your article (“Cardinal: Popular Piety Important to Catholics' Faith,” Sept. 20-Oct. 6) regarding Cardinal Rivera's remarks points out the many problems we as lay people have in just praying quietly in Church. We constantly run into the positions of those theologians and pastors who have cast doubt on the popular piety practices mentioned by Cardinal Rivera. We who follow simple Catholic devotions are too often opposed as “politically incorrect.” We need to be holy; even this simple point has too many times been a point of contention.

I wish that all parishes could read the cardinal's remarks. Many many people will have renewed strength to express their love piously for the sacraments and the Eucharist. Thank you for your wonderful article.


Florissant, Missouri

To Whom Should We Pledge Allegiance?

One could agree with much of Eric Scheske's analysis of the symbolic meaning of the American flag in “Why It Is Necessary to Pledge Allegiance to the Flag” (Oct. 7-13) and yet lean toward just the opposite conclusion.

Our nation does indeed hold common beliefs as a society, but many of these beliefs flatly contradict the Catholic faith. Most Americans believe, for example, that there is a fundamental right to abortion in at least the early stages of human life, that purveyors of pornography have a fundamental right to produce and disseminate their product, that American foreign policy should have as one of its goals to goad Third World countries into making contraception and sterilization a routine part of their cultures, and that American corporations are within their rights to pay low wages to workers in poor countries.

This reality raises some disturbing questions: Should we as Catholics pledge allegiance to a flag that stands for common beliefs such as these? Should we as Catholics be willing to kill other human beings in defense of such rights as the right to abortion? Is Scheske underestimating the degree to which faithful American Catholics should feel estranged by what our country and its flag have in fact come to stand for over the last few decades?

In short, just what sort of allegiance to our country in its present state is compatible with fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church?

I do not claim to have indisputable answers to these questions, but I am fairly certain that the questions themselves need to be discussed and prayed about more than they have been.


Notre Dame, Indiana