Thursday, 10 April 2008

Cardinal O'Brien goes on YouTube

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh speaks out once more against human-animal hybrids and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Dana to sing for the Pope

Dana, the Irish musician and politician, is to sing for Pope Benedict at Yankee Stadium, New York City, during a concert before Mass on Sunday-week (20 April). As well as the Pope, there will be 60,000 people representing the 195 dioceses in America. Dana, in real life Mrs Rosemary Scallon, performed for Pope John Paul II in 1987 when she led 86,000 young people in singing her own song Totus Tuus in the New Orleans Super Dome. She sang for him on other occasions, including the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado.

Dana and Damien Scallon, her husband, have always been alongside us in SPUC in the fight to protect the most vulnerable of the human race. As an independent member of the European parliament for Galway, she ably served the cause on the international stage.

Sunday-week will not be her first meeting with Pope Benedict. She met him in 2004 when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. He congratulated her as she became the first woman to receive the San Benedetto (St Benedict) Award in Subiaco, Italy, for her pro-life and pro-family work as an MEP. Cardinal Ratzinger received the award the year after.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Do charities know what's being said on their behalf?

The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) is lobbying MPs to support the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, as I blogged last month. One of our supporters expressed his concern to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, which belongs to the AMRC. Mr Mike Unger, chief executive, replied: "While we are very happy to be a member of the AMRC, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill does not affect the research we fund and as such I have had no comment to make to the AMRC or indeed any other body." I wonder how many of the member charities of the AMRC were asked if they agreed with the content of the letter reportedly signed by Mr Simon Denegri, the AMRC director.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Anti-life strategy emerging against HFE bill opposition

A strategy is emerging in the debate on the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill: attacks on the credibility of Church leaders by prominent scientists. Sir Martin Evans, a leading embryonic stem cell researcher, has today described Cardinal O'Brien's opposition to the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos as ignorance, misinformation, exaggeration, fuss and hype.

We have already seen how Lord Winston, the IVF pioneer, has accused the Catholic Church of lying about the HFE bill.

This strategy is known, not just as 'ad hominem', but also as 'obscurantism' - obscuring the facts of the matter to distract people away from the real issue. The real issue is the status of the embryo at the point of conception and the implications of embryo creation techniques for human dignity. Sir Martin claims that human-animal cell hybrids have been produced for many years, and accuses Cardinal O'Brien of ignorance for questioning the ethics of such work. Yet what the HFE bill proposes is not simply mixing human and animal cells to create more cells but creating whole living beings - embryos - which are genetically part-human and part-animal, in different proportions. Sir Martin seems to be using the classic anti-life line that early embryos are just clumps of random, disorganised cells, not whole individuals. Even Sir Martin, however, cannot successfully obscure the truth - he is forced to refer himself to 'embryos', 'embryo form' etc.

We should not be patronised by Sir Martin or cowered by his prominence. There are other experts in the field of stem cell biology with well-founded ethical and scientific objections to the HFE bill. This is not a debate of science vs religion, of academics vs churchmen. This is a debate within ethics, within science and about humanity.

Sunday, 6 April 2008