Register Radio: Boston’s Recovery and the Church and Stem Cells

In the first half of Register Radio on Friday April 26, the Register’s correspondent in Boston, Justin Bell talked about the city’s recovery after a week of tragedy and terror, which also gave witness to great acts of courage, self-sacrifice and faith.

Friday April 26 marked one week after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the living suspect of the Boston Marathon bombing, was captured in Watertown, MA.  Bell described what it was like Friday April 19 to experience a lock down of much of the Boston area with a an alleged bomber on the loose:

“People compared it to watching a show like 24. The whole day was tense … most people heard helicopters outside. A lot of people, the night before, had heard of the tragic death of [MIT police] officer Sean Collier,” explained Bell.

Watertown and other Boston areas were in a shelter and carry order, where they had to stay in their homes until late afternoon.

“There was a press conference were they announced they were going to lift the shelter and stay order in Watertown where the gun fight had ensued and about 20 minutes later there was the news they’d found someone hiding out in that boat, which turned out to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,” said Bell.

Bell continued, “There was relief and there were celebrations but there was the sober fact that people had died.”

Many people in Boston responded with prayer and faith. The interfaith gathering of April 19 in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in downtown Boston brought civic and faith leaders together.

“It was an interesting blend of religious imagery and civic pride,” said Bell, who recounted what was for him the most moving moment.

Longtime Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who was in a wheel chair, stood up at the podium and said: “We love the fathers and the brothers who took shirts off their backs to stop the bleeding; the mothers and the sisters who cared for the injured … the homeowners all across the city who opened their doors and hearts to the weary and the scared.”

Bell also spoke of the spiritual leadership of Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. In his address at the interfaith gathering, the cardinal talked of the Culture of life overcoming the culture of death.

Approximately 260 people were injured in the bombing April 15; 14 had to have limbs amputated immediately and others chose amputation later, seeing greater chances of recovery with prosthetics.

Bell recounted a story of marines who sustained injuries in Afghanistan that resulted in amputation visiting the Boston marathon amputees to offer them encouragement and hope.

Hope was exemplified in one amputee, Adrianne Haslet, a ballroom dancer who lost her left foot in the bombing:

“They show the picture of her dancing, She’s determined to dance again and she wants to be in the marathon next year,” said Bell, recounting a BBC video about the young woman.

For Bell, her story, and those of others injured that week,  “is inspiring but [also a reminder that] we certainly have to keep them in our prayers.”


The Church and Adult Stem Cells

In the second half of the show, Teresa Tomeo, radio show host of the Catholic Connection and co-host of the TV show The Catholic View for Women, recounted her experience in Rome for the Second International Conference on Adult Stem Cells, held at the Vatican April 11-13.

The title of the conference was “Regenerative Medicine: A Fundamental Shift in Science and Culture.”

According to Tomeo, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, set the tone for the weekend, by explaining why the Church was sponsoring the event together with the organization Stem for Life

“The Church wants to address the rift between faith and science … the two — faith and science — must coexist, or else science runs the risk of becoming violent,” said the Cardinal.

In the radio interview, Tomeo said, “It was brilliant on the part of the Church to organize this conference…This is a huge effort in medicine that can change the course of medicine,” she said.  “But [science] always deals with the dignity of the human person. The Church wants to be in the middle of this conversation. I think holding it at the Vatican makes a big statement.”

Tomeo also addressed the confusion over the Church’s stance on stem cell research.

In a column for the Register, entitled The Church and Science: The Right Place at the Right Time, she wrote: “There are those, including many Catholics, who, thanks to a very biased and ill-informed mainstream press, believe the Church is against stem-cell research of any kind.”

“Even my own mother, who is a faithful Catholic, had a puzzled look on her face when I told her I was covering the event in Rome. ‘But I thought we were against that?,’” she said.

But Tomeo clarified that the Church supports adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of a human embryo and which can be conducting in an ethical manner. 

She also emphasized that adult stem cell research has also been most successful in finding cures.  

Part of the purpose of the conference was to correct perceptions about the Church and science—specifically to bring awareness to the Church’s support of ethically conducted adult stem cell research and give witness to its success in finding cures. 

Yet the Church leaders attending the conference did not ignore that scientists are often confronted with methods that don’t respect the dignity of the human person.

Father Niancor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, a microbiologist, a moral theologian and a professor at Providence College, was one of the presenters.

He described the event as an example of the New Evangelization. He explained that many of the attendees are not Catholic and are hearing Catholic teaching in a Catholic setting for the first time. 

“This is our chance to welcome them into our home and to show them the synthesis of faith and reason,” the priest said. “It is something they most likely have never heard about. We are mistaken if we think many scientists have actually been thinking about the moral implications of their work. In the long run, they have a problem to solve, and what is striking about this event is it gives them a chance to be surrounded by so much grace. The grace of this city can’t help but touch the most hardened of hearts.”

For Tomeo, the experience of Church leaders and scientist gathered in Rome, confirmed: “The Church is indeed in the right place at the right time.”

Listen to the entire show to hear for yourself. 

President Donald Trump during his speech at a "Thank You" Tour rally held at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

President Trump: ‘Faith in God’ Helps Unite Nation

In an apparent reference to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and months of demonstrations and civil unrest across several U.S. cities over racial justice issues, Trump said that faith was an important support for civil and national unity.