President Barack Obama’s explanations of his decision to end restrictions on the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research have been criticized by Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmsted, who has argued that the president’s pro-science rhetoric conceals “homicidal research” that violates the right to life.
Bishop Olmsted’s March 10 column in the Catholic Sun followed the president’s March 9 executive order expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
According to the bishop, the decision means that American taxpayers will be funding “the killing of human beings at a very early stage in their lives” so that scientific research can use them for experiments that may or may not have 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?” Bishop Olmsted asked.
He criticized President Obama’s comments that science should trump ideology, suggesting that the president is implicitly dismissing as ideologues people such as Pope Benedict XVI and all faithful Catholics around the world; people of faith from all major religions who believe that human life needs to be protected; and all people of good will who “oppose the killing of one group of human beings in order to benefit another group.”
The idea that science should “trump ideology,” the bishop said, is a “code phrase” concealing the argument that 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,” he asserted. “Science, according to our president, does not need to be at the service of the human person or subject to morality.”
Bishop Olmsted questioned whether this position itself was influenced by an ideology.
“Is this what we Americans want our taxes to be used for?” he asked rhetorically.
He wrote that the president’s decision is not about overcoming a prohibition against stem cell research, because such research is “tragically” already legal. He reported that California taxpayers are now paying billions to fund “such heinous research.”
“What President Obama is doing is forcing all American taxpayers to pay for this homicidal research,” Bishop Olmsted charged. “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 ideology’.”
The bishop then quoted Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who called the president’s decision “a sad victory of politics over science and ethics” and a “morally wrong action” that encourages the destruction of innocent human life by “treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested.”
Bishop Olmsted said that Catholics must beg forgiveness for “this horrendous sin of our nation,” referencing a prayer of the Prophet Daniel:
“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.”
The bishop advised that Catholics join with “others of good will” and make their voices heard at the White House, on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures and in the media.
“We must not stand by idly while our neighbor’s life is at stake,” he urged. “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.”
Bishop Olmsted said that such “destructive research” is “especially pointless” in light of available ethical methods such as reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells and the use of adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells.
Further, he urged, Catholics must pray and fast for an end to President Obama’s decision and an end to all attacks on human life. “Jesus told us that some evils can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” he explained.
He closed by saying that Catholics must not lose hope, arguing that “false rhetoric” arguing that the notion that “science must triumph over ideology” is one that “will not stand the test of time.”
“Such counterfeit reasoning and slick cover-up of the truth will not have the last word,” he said.
Reminding his readers that Christians place their hope in Jesus, he said “this hope will never disappoint.”