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Church leaders voice misgivings about ice-bucket challenge

August 22, 2014

Catholic school officials in Cincinnati and Chicago have advised principals not to cooperate with the “ice-bucket challenge,” an internet campaign that has raised over $40 million for research to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

While applauding efforts to fight the disease, Church spokesmen expressed misgivings about donations to the ALS Association. Sister Mary Paul McCaughey pointed out that the ALS Association “uses embryonic stem cells for its research.”

Some Catholic officials suggested that if parochial-school students participate in the ice-bucket challenge, they should send their contributions to the John Paul II Medical Research Center, which also does research on ALS but uses only adult stem cells.

In Boston, John Frates, a Catholic who spearheaded the ice-bucket campaign after his son Peter was stricken with ALS, said that he recognized the reasons for Church leaders’ qualms about the effort. “I understand the Catholic dogma,” he told the Boston Herald. “I’m also conflicted with the teachings. I struggle with it, too. I just want my son cured.”


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  • Posted by: ColmCille - Aug. 24, 2014 8:41 PM ET USA

    There's no reason Mr. Frates should be conflicted. Instead, as a Catholic he should recognize 1) the moral evil of embryonic stem cell research which cannot be justified even for the great good of curing his son, 2) that it is adult stem cells that provide the hope for a cure anyway. Therrfore, he should have attached the IBC to an ALS charity that doesn't use embryonic stem cell research or support it. Conflict resolved.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Aug. 22, 2014 3:36 PM ET USA

    It is difficult for sure, but this is perhaps the hallmark of the difficulties facing Catholics in the world today. If the end is allowed to justify the means, the logical consequences are apalling despite the most laudatory of intentions. ALS is a terrible disease, I can vouch from personal experience in the medical field, but life must be defended particularly at its must vulnerable. The cross is a sign of contradiction; there are always going to be conflicted feelings in human suffering.