While gaffes by the secular press covering religion are somewhat common and often humorous, they usually aren’t as bad as the Associated Press’ latest error. On Friday, AP reporter Nicole Winfield incorrectly wrote that Pope Benedict XVI supports therapeutic cloning.
The article accurately states that Pope Benedict XVI has asked the South Koreans not to resume embryonic stem cell research, now that the scandal caused by Hwang Woo-suk is receding from their collective memory. Hwang claimed to have cloned human embryos and was lauded as a national hero until his work was proved to be fraudulent.
At the end of Winfield's article, she states: "Benedict noted that the Vatican does not oppose -- and in fact encourages -- somatic stem cell research -- also known as 'therapeutic cloning', which uses human eggs specifically for research from which stem cells are harvested."
The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) reacted to Winfield’s mistake saying, “This is false. Ms. Winfield has confused the terms. The Catholic Church does support "somatic" stem cell research, if by this Winfield means adult stem cell research. The Church is resolutely opposed to "therapeutic cloning," which is the production of a cloned human being solely for the purpose of destroying him or her in research.”
The AP was also taken to task for failing to pick up on a key point of the Pope’s address in their headline: "Pope to South Korea: No Stem Cell Research."
The NCBC pointed out that, “[i]f the Church encourages adult stem cell research, as Winfield notes, how can it be true to say that the Pope told the South Koreans ‘no stem cell research’?”
According to the NCBC, this is more than an editorial error, “This is a clear example of bias.”
“The media casts the Church's position in absolute terms, ignoring her careful distinction between licit and illicit forms of research.” The Pope has not told the South Koreans "no stem cell research." Rather, he has encouraged the pursuit of ethical stem cell research,” said the bioethics group.