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St. Louis priest with disability opposes stem-cell initiative

.- A proposed ballot measure that would constitutionally protect human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research in Missouri is facing opposition from pro-life groups and individuals including a young priest who opposes the practices even in the face of claims that his paralyzing injury could be healed through the research.

Fr. Michael Esswein of the Diocese of St. Louis who has lived with a spinal cord injury for the last 14 years is one of those people whom embryonic stem-cell researchers say will be eventually helped by the controversial technique. To date, very little progress has been made with this method toward any cures.

But, even if progress was made, Fr. Esswein says the destruction of human life wouldn’t be worth it to him.  "I wouldn’t want to benefit from that kind of [embryonic stem-cell] research," the priest told the newspaper. Fr. Esswein said he is open to receiving therapies or a cure from alternative sources that don’t involve the destruction of human life, reported the diocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Review.

The Catholic Church has rejected embryonic stem-cell research because it involves the intentional creation and destruction of human life to obtain the needed cells. The Church supports an alternative and harmless method of research using adult stem cells.

Fr. Esswein, associate pastor at St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood, has delivered homilies to his parishioners against embryonic stem-cell research and pointing out the successes of adult stem-cell research. He delivered a similar homily at St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville, the Review said.

The priest was in a car accident with his family 14 years ago when he suffered the spinal cord injury and a broken neck. He was diagnosed with quadriplegia. He has some use of his arms and hands, and he can use a manual wheelchair. His fingers and the back of his arms are paralyzed.

Father Esswein also said he has mentioned the false promises for cures made by proponents of the Missouri ballot initiative.

"There really isn’t a cure right around the corner," he told the newspaper. "We just seem to ignore the advances in adult stem-cell research — and in particular, the possibilities with (umbilical) cord blood cells. There’s an ample supply of that every day when children are born."

The priest, ordained in 1998, said he believes all citizens should vote on the Nov. 7 ballot initiative.

"We’re talking about an amendment to the Constitution," he stated. "It’s pretty final."

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