US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Pontifical academy cancels stem-cell conference: Is that a good thing?

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The Catholic News Agency reported earlier this week that the Pontifical Academy for Life has cancelled its third annual conference on ethical stem cell research because, according to two anonymous sources who are academy members, the roster of speakers would "have confused the faithful for decades to come." Oh dear.

The speakers in question included George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, which engages in embryonic stem cell research. (More complete reporting at other supporters of embryonic stem cell research were also scheduled to speak. "The Holy Spirit has certainly shown to be present through those faithful members who drew attention to the ambiguity of the choice of speakers," said one of those anonymous members.

I have to wonder, though, whether these Spirit-inspired members have any confidence at all in the quality of the church's arguments against embryonic stem cells. If they did, why would they be afraid of an opposing viewpoint? Indeed, if we ever hope to bring others around to a more respectful view of human life in all its stages, including them in conferences of this nature seems helpful, even necessary.

To me this looks like the cross-Atlantic transportation of the ideological purity tests that currently shorten the lists of speakers at Catholic universities unnecessarily. We Catholics have nothing to be afraid of; indeed, we may have much to gain by engaging those who differ from us.

It's either that or seal ourselves up in some ghetto of "Catholic ideas" and wait for Jesus to come down and rescue us.