Chances are you’ve viewed at least one video this week of someone dumping a bucket of ice water over their head and challenging others to do the same.
The now-viral “ice bucket challenge” was started by the ALS association, a leader in funding research for prevention, treatment and an eventual cure of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a fatal neuro-degenerative condition for which there are no proven treatments or cure.
But when Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, accepted the ice bucket challenge Aug. 20, the archdiocese announced its donations would be going toward the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa rather than the originator of the challenge.
In a statement released Aug. 20, the archdiocese voiced concerns over the ALS association’s support of embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of embryonic life.
“The archdiocese is not dissuading individual Catholics from making donations, but they are encouraged to be fully informed and make their own prudential judgments,” the statement read.
“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has determined that its Catholic schools will not, as organizations, donate to that particular charity,” it read.
“Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction,” the statement quote St. John Paul II.
The John Paul II Medical Research Institute is a secular non-profit research institute “grounded in a pro-life bioethic that respects the dignity of every human life,” according to their website. They conduct research to advance technology to treat diseases such as ALS, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other more rare diseases.
The institute wrote on Twitter (@JP2MRI ) Aug. 20, “Over the past 5 days — The Institute has received 350 donations for $15,000. Thank you.”
Msgr. Sal Sabato, superintendent of Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, encouraged schools to donate funds to organizations like the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, The Cell Therapy Foundation and Compassionate Care ALS in an Aug. 22 email.
Msgr. Sabato, referring to a recent statement by the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said it was “very clear why monetary contributions should not be made to the ALS Association but to other organizations that do not engage in embryonic stem cell research.”
Obtaining stem cells from a living embryo causes the death of the embryo and is always morally unacceptable, according to Dignitas Personae, a 2008 instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Embryonic stem cell research cannot be morally justified, whatever good may come of it.
The National Catholic Bioethics Center said contributing to fundraising efforts for organizations that do embryonic stem cell research may contribute in “the perpetuation of grave evils.”