By Celine Klosterman
CORALVILLE — Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport joined fellow pro-life advocates July 11 to support the kickoff of a nationwide campaign to fund adult stem-cell research.
Priests, deacons, leaders of Right to Life chapters and Knights of Columbus were among dozens of people who attended the launch of Give Cures at the BioVentures Center. The campaign aims to raise funds for the Iowa City-based John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute to advance ethical medical research and build a bank for donated umbilical cord blood, which contains adult stem cells.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, spokesperson for the campaign and a Catholic, said he’s excited by the potential to discover lifesaving cures for diseases.
He said embryonic stem-cell research, which destroys embryos, hasn’t shown that potential. Nor did research on the tissue of aborted fetuses, which scientists thought held promise when Santorum began serving in Congress in 1995, he said.
“Shortcuts by promoting abortion and promoting unethical behavior are certainly not the best solution to whatever medical condition you might have…. How many people have ever heard of a single cure as the result of fetal tissue (research)? The answer is none, zero, has ever been created. The field has been abandoned.”
Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of The Family Leader, said he and his wife would love to have a cure for a rare brain disorder that prevents their son Lucas from walking or talking. “But we are not about creating life only to destroy life to benefit another life. That is not research. That’s unethical and it’s highly immoral,” Vander Plaats said, to applause.
Thirty-two Catholic parishes in the Davenport Diocese have donated or pledged to donate to Give Cures, which launched in the diocese in January before going nationwide.
St. Mary Parish in Solon is among those parishes. Its pastor, Father Jim Vrba, noted the campaign reflects Catholic teaching that life begins at conception.
“The most important thing is being sensitive to cutting edge technology from a moral and ethical standpoint,” he told The Catholic Messenger. “Science can do many things, but we must go back to the basic moral question: Just because something’s possible, does that make it right?”
One of the first Catholic entities to contribute to Give Cures was the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City, said Kim Lehman, development director for the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute.
Father Ed Fitzpatrick, director of the Newman Center, told the Messenger he was excited by the potential for a local organization to advance ethical, potentially lifesaving research. Also, two daughters of Alan Moy — who founded the institute and belongs to St. Mary’s in Iowa City — attend the Newman Center.
Judee Albert, a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City, shares Fr. Fitzpatrick’s enthusiasm. She is director of Johnson County Right to Life, which helped with the Give Cures kickoff.
The diocese covers an area that includes the University of Iowa, where the state has invested money toward research that exploits embryonic stem cells, she told the Messenger. “What’s worse is that this ‘science’ has demonstrated more problems than promise. Not one effective treatment has been created using embryonic stem cells.
“It is fitting, therefore, that there is an alternative in the same community proving that life-saving research can be both effective and completely ethical. Adult stem cells are already proven to have positive results in treating dozens of diseases and disorders. I hope the parishes in our diocese will actively support the growth of the Give Cures campaign.”
Karen Crossland also finds the location of the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute significant. President of Jefferson County Right to Life, she said Give Cures must be inspired by God for it to have kicked off in the Iowa City area, which she sees as liberal. She traveled to Coralville July 11 with three fellow Catholics from St. Mary Parish in Fairfield.
Lehman said Give Cures organizers hope 1,000 churches will put a campaign flyer in their bulletin this month. The campaign suggests each church consider donating $1,000. Flyers and more information are available at www.givecures.org.
What are stem cells?
From the National Institutes of Health:
Stem cells can develop into many different cell types in the body. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells.
Given their unique regenerative abilities, stem cells offer new potential for treating diseases.
Most embryonic stem cells come from embryos developed from eggs fertilized in vitro. Embryonic stem cells can become all cell types of the body because they are pluripotent. Adult stem cells are thought to be limited to differentiating into different cell types of their tissue of origin.
According to the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute:
Some scientists criticize adult stem cells because they exhibit less plasticity under culture conditions. But this restriction may serve as an advantage because the stem cells have passed through a period of committed growth and stability, which makes them less likely to form tumors.