Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
March 29, 2009

   President Obama has shown himself to be a man of his word with respect to at least one particular set of his campaign pledges, those that promised to provide presidential initiatives for the destruction of human life, specifically in its most vulnerable phase, from the moment of conception to the infant's complete emergence from the birth canal.

   Christopher Ruff, a Catholic journalist who writes for The Catholic Times, the newspaper published by the Diocese of LaCrosse,  offered his readers in the paper's issue of March 19th an appalling list of such initiatives, up-dated to March 9th.
*          *         *         *          *
A Diocesan Plan to Counter the Culture of Death
   The Catholic Times
   March 19, 2009  [That President Obama is committed to what Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have called The Culture of Death is suggested by what seems to be an emerging pattern connecting some of his recent decisions, as cited by Mr. Ruff].
[The President]
"... -Nov. 5-- Selected aggressive abortion advocate Rep. Rahm Emanuel (100 percent NARAL voting record) as his White House chief of staff.
   -Nov. 20-- Chose former NARAL legal director Dawn Johnsen to serve as a member of his Department of Justice Review Team, and to be his administration's assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.
   -Nov. 24-- Appointed Ellen Mora, the former director of the pro-abortion group Emily's List, as his White House communications director.
   -Nov. 24-- Put former Emily's List board member Melody Bames in place as his director of the Domestic Policy Council.
   -Dec. 10-- Obama transition team published a pro-abortion "wish list" assembled by dozens of pro- abortion groups, outlining a radical abortion agenda that includes forcing taxpayers to fund abortions and pro-life doctors to assist in them.
   -Jan. 6-- Chose Thomas Perelli as the third highest attorney in the Justice Department. Perelli is the lawyer who represented Terri Schiavo's husband Michael in his [successful] efforts to end his wife's life.  
   -Jan.23-- Overturned the Mexico City Policy, forcing taxpayers to fund pro-abortion groups that either promote or perform abortions in other nations.
   -Nominated David Ogden as deputy attorney general. Ogden has fought to negate parental consent laws for minors seeking abortion and has repeatedly defended the pornography industry.
   -Feb. 27-- Started the process of overturning pro-life conscience protections President George W. Bush had enacted to safeguard medical staff and [medical] centers from being forced to be complicit in abortions.
   -Feb. 28-- Nominated Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. As governor of Kansas, Sebelius repeatedly vetoed pro-life legislation and has been the recipient of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood and from notorious late term abortionist George Tiller.
    -March 9-- Signed an executive order permitting federal tax dollars to fund stem-cell research that destroys human embryos, overturning the policy of President Bush....
*          *         *         *          *
   May I share with you a brief sampling of reaction in the press to the latest of these initiatives, to President Obama's lifting of the restrictions that had been imposed by his predecessor on the federal funding of research calling for the killing of human embryos.

   First, rhapsodic praise on the editorial page of The New York Times (issue of March the tenth); then a much more qualified and sober appraisal in the very same issue of the Times (in the regular weekly Science section) from Nicholas Wade, one of the paper's science reporters; and finally a lucid philosophic and moral critique from Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Eric Cohen, editor-at-large of The New Atlantis and author of In the Shadow of Progress:     Being Human in the Age of Technology.    The essay by Robert George and Eric Cohen appeared-where else?-in The Wall Street Journal for March the tenth.

   Nicholas Wade, a respected reporter on matters scientific, points out that whatever progress we have made in securing medical benefits from stem cell research thus far has come from the study of ADULT stem cells, research that does NOT destroy human embryos; Mr. Wade EVEN goes so far as to spell out potential dangers to the recipient in the intussusception of embryonic stem cell material. Professor George and Mr. Cohen expose the false proposition that lies at the very heart of all of this cheerleading for cannibalizing human embryos, a variation, really, on Lenin's defense of murders undertaken in the interests of "a better world". "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs!" (the eggs in question being human beings!).

   First the Times editorial; then Nicholas Wade's evaluation; and finally the Cohen--George critique.

*          *         *         *          *
Science and Stem Cells
New York Times Editorial
March 10, 2009

   We welcome President Obama's decision to lift the Bush Administration's restrictions on federal financing for embryonic stem cell research. His move ends a long, bleak period in which the moral objections of religious conservatives were allowed to constrain the progress of a medically important science.

   Even with this enlightened stance, some promising stem cell research will still be denied federal dollars. For that to change, Congress must lift a separate ban that it has imposed every year since the mid- 1990's.

   Mr. Obama also pledged on Monday, March 9th to base his administrations policy on SOUND science, UNADISTORTED by politics or ideology. He ordered his science office to develop a plan for all governmental agencies to achieve that goal.

   Such a pledge should be unnecessary. Unfortunately, for eight years, former President George W. Bush did just the opposite. He chose scientific advisory committees based on ideology rather than expertise. His political appointees aggressively ignored, distorted or suppressed scientific findings to promote a political agenda or curry favor with big business.

   This cynical approach seriously hampered government efforts to address global warming and encourage sound family planning practices, among other issues....

   Other important embryonic research is still being hobbled by the so-called Dicke -Wicker amendment. The amendment, which is regularly attached to appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services, prohibits the use of federal funds to support scientific work that involves the destruction of human embryos (as happens when stem cells are extracted) or the creation of embryos for research purposes.

   Until that changes, scientists who want to create embryos-and extract stem cells-matched to patients with specific diseases will have to rely on private or state support. Such research is one promising way to learn how the diseases develop and devise the best treatments. Congress should follow Mr. Obama's lead and liftt this prohibition so that much important work can benefit from an infusion of federal dollars....
*          *         *         *          *
Rethink Stem Cells? Science Already Has
   By Nicholas Wade
   New York Times, March 10, 2009

   With soaring oratory, President Obama on Monday removed a substantial practical nuisance that has long made life difficult for stem cell researchers. He freed biomedical researchers using federal money (a vast majority) to work on more than the small number of human embryonic stem cell lines that were established before August 9, 2001.

   In practical terrns, federally financed researchers will now find it easier to do a particular category of stem cell experiments that, though still important, has been somewhat ECLIPSED by NEW advances....

   The president's support of EMBRYONIC stem cell research comes at a time when MANY ADVANCES have been made with OTHER sorts of stem cells. The Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka found in 2007 that ADULT cells could be REPROGRAMMED to an EMBRYONIC state WITH SURPRISING EASE. This technology "may eventually ECLIPSE the EMBRYONIC stem cell lines for therapeutic as well as diagnostic applications," Dr. Kriegstein said. For researchers, REPROGRAMMING AN ADULT CELL CAN BE MUCH MORE CONVENIENT, and there have never been any restrictions on working with ADULT stem cells.

   For therapy, far off as that is, treating patients with their OWN cells [reprogrammed, that is to say, from their own ADULT stem cells] would avoid the problem of immune rejection.

   Members of Congress and advocates for fighting diseases have long spoken of human EMBRYONIC stem cell research AS IF IT WERE A SURE AVENUE TO QUICK cures for intractable afflictions. Scientists have NOT PUBLICLY OBJECTED to such high-flown hopes, which have helped fuel new sources of grant money like the $10 billion initiative in California for stem cell research.

   IN PRIVATE, however, many researchers have projected much more MODEST goals for EMBRYONIC stem cells. Their chief interest is to derive embryonic stem cell lines from patients with specific diseases, and by tracking the cells in the test tube to develop basic knowledge about how the disease develops.

   Despite an F.D.A. approved safety test of embryonic stem cells in spinal cord injury that the Geron Corporation began in January, many scientists believe that putting stem-cell derived tissues into patients lies a long way off. EMBRYONIC stem cells have their DRAWBACKS. They cause TUMORS, and the adult cells derived from them may be REJECTED by the patient's IMMUNE system. Furthermore, whatever disease process caused the patients' tissue cells to die is likely to kill introduced cells as well. All these problems MAY be solvable, but so far NONE have been solved.

   Restrictions on embryonic stem cell research originated with Congress, which, each year since 1996, has forbidden the use of federal financing for any experiment in which a human embryo is destroyed. This includes the derivation of human stem cell lines from surplus fertility clinic embryos, first achieved by Dr. James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin in 1998 ....

   Congressional restrictions remain. Researchers are still forbidden to use federal financing to DERIVE new human embryonic stem cell lines. They will, however, be allowed to do [federally funded] research on new stem cell lines grown in a PRIVATEL Y financed tab.

   Stem cell research is the best known of several avenues of investigation into what is known as regenerative medicine. To regenerate the aging body with its own subtle repair systems, of which stem cells are one component, would be far more effective than the brute methods of drugs and surgery used today.

   But scientists are still merely at the threshold of understanding how the body's 200 different types of cell interact with one another. It seems likely to be years before biologists know all the settings that must be adjusted in a human cell's chromosomes to make it become a well-behaved cone cell in the retina or a dopamine-making neuron of the type destroyed in Parkinson's ....
*          *         *         *          *
The President Politicizes Stem-Cell Research
   By Robert P. George and Eric Cohen
   Wall Street Journal- March 10, 2009

   Yesterday President Barack Obama issued an executive order that authorizes expanded federal funding for research using stem cells produced by destroying human embryos. The announcement was classic Obama: advancing radical policies while seeming calm and moderate, and preaching the gospel of civility while accusing those who disagree with the policies of being "divisive" and even "politicizing science."

   Mr. Obarna's executive order overturned an attempt by President George W. Bush in 2001 to do justice to both the promise of stem-cell science and the demands of ethics. The Bush Policy was to allow the government to fund research on existing embryos in stem-cell lines, where the embryos in question had already been destroyed. But it would not fund, or in any way incentivize the ongoing destruction of human embryos.

   For years, this policy was attacked by advocates of embryo-destructive research. Mr. Bush and the "religious right" were depicted as anti-science villains and embryonic stem-cell scientists and their allies were seen as the beleaguered saviors of the sick. In reality, Mr. Bush's policy was one of moderation. It did not ban new embryo-destructive research (the president had no power to do that), and it did not fund new embryo-destructive research.

   "Moderate" Mr. Obama's policy is not.  It will promote a whole new industry of embryo creation and destruction, including the creation of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are destroyed. It forces American taxpayers, including those who see the deliberate taking of human life in the embryonic stage as profoundly unjust, to be complicit in this practice.

   Mr. Obama made a big point in his speech of claiming to bring integrity back to science policy, and his desire to remove the previous administration's ideological agenda from scientific decision-making. This claim of taking science out of politics is false and misguided on two counts.

   First, the Obama policy is itself blatantly political. It is red meat to his Bush-hating base, yet pays no more than lip service to recent scientific breakthroughs that make possible the production of cells that are BIOLOGICALLY EQUIVALENT to embryonic stem cells WITHOUT the need to create or kill human embryos. Inexplicably-apart from political motivations-Mr. Obama REVOKED not only the Bush restrictions on embryo- destructive research funding, but also the 2007 executive order that ENCOURAGES the National Institutes of Health to explore NON-embryo-destructive sources of stem cells.

   Second and more fundamentally, the claim about taking POLITICS out of science is in the deepest sense antidemocratic. The question of whether to destroy human embryos for research purposes is NOT fundamentally a SCIENTIFIC quention; it is a MORAL and civic question about the PROPER uses, ambitions and LIMITS of science. It is a question about how we will treat members of the human family at the very dawn of life; about our willingness to seek alternative paths to medical progress that respect human dignity.

   For those who believe in the highest ideals of deliberative democracy, and those who believe we mistreat the most vulnerable human lives at our own moral peril, Mr. Obama's claim of "taking politics out of science" should be lamented, not celebrated.

    In the years ahead, the stem-cell debate will surely continue--raising as it does big questions about the meaning of human equality at the edges of human life, about the relationship between science and politics, and about how we govern ourselves when it comes to morally charged issues of public policy on which reasonable people happen to disagree. We can only hope, in the years ahead, that scientific creativity will make embryo destruction unnecensary and that as a society we will not pave the way to the "brave new world" with the best medical intentions. [Emphasis added].