“The Holy Spirit has certainly shown to be present through those faithful members who drew attention to the ambiguity of the choice of speakers. I hope and pray that a review will be affected of the basis on which these congresses are planned,” said the unnamed academy member.
Other contributors for the four-day event included Alan Trounson of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and John Wagner of the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute. Both men are vocal supporters of embryonic stem cell research.
“The news of the cancellation of the Congress is an enormous relief to many members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who felt that the presence on its program of so many speakers, including the keynote speaker, committed to embryonic stem cell research, was a betrayal of the mission of the Academy and a public scandal,” said another member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who also did not want to be named.
Stem cells are the body’s master cells which can generate all 200-plus types of tissue present in humans. Their incredible versatility means they have the potential to provide replacement tissue to treat numerous disorders.
The Catholic Church approves of stem cell research but disapproves of those cells being culled from the destruction of an embryo or fetus. Instead, the Church advocates the use of “adult” stem cells which are taken from a donor’s existing stem cells or from the placenta or umbilical cord at birth.
Officials within the Pontifical Academy for Life had previously defended the inclusion of embryonic stem cell researchers in the April congress. They stressed that the scientists in question were also experts in adult stem cells and would not use the conference to promote views contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“Since the Superiors of the Academy had for months resisted requests that these speakers should be removed from the program, one assumes that they were obliged to take the decision to cancel in virtue of directives coming from a higher level in the Curia,” added the second academy member.
The conference was organized in conjunction with three other Catholic organizations – the Foundation Jerome Lejeune, the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Comite Consultatif Bioethique Monaco.