Several Catholic and other pro-life groups are encouraging people to cool it on the latest Facebook trend that’s leaving participants across the land– from politicians to grandmothers— with wet heads and cold feet.
So what could possibly be wrong with raising awareness and money for ALS, usually known as Lou Gehrig’s disease? After all, this is a terrible disease that strikes without warning. Though not as common as other diseases, it debilitates those it strikes and devastates their lives and the lives of those that love them. For anyone who has it or who knows someone suffering with it, anything that can draw attention and raise funds to help find a cure—no matter how offbeat it may seem—is a welcome thing.
It’s not the Ice Bucket Challenge itself that leaves Catholic leaders and others cold, it’s where the money is going and how it’s being used. You see, the ALS Association is using embryonic stem cells in its research. This may not be an issue for you, and that’s fine. But many pro-lifers struggle with the usage of embryonic stem cells to advance science for moral purposes.
The Superintendent of Catholic schools in Cincinnati has discouraged it’s students from participating in the challenge, and suggests all money raised should go to research facilities that aren’t involved in using embryonic stem cells in their studies. The Archdiocese there issued a statement stating, “The beneficiary of the ice-bucket challenge funds a study using embryonic stem cells, which can only be obtained by destroying embryonic life. For that reason, we have determined that our schools should not raise money for the ALS Association, and should instead – if they wish – donate to another organization doing ALS research.”
The ALS website clearly states that the possibility of using these stem cells “presents a great deal of ethical questions”, but for Kevin McCullough of the American Family Association, that’s not good enough. In his article warning against giving to the ALS, he states, “There should be no forced taking of any innocent person’s life just so that another may live longer. That is in essence philosophical cannibalism and moral persons should have no part in it.”
The American Life League, another pro-life organization, received an email from Carrie Munk of the ALS Association that states the organization is currently funding only one study that uses embryonic stem cells. Munk wrote in her email, “This research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research. In fact, donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project. Under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future.”
So it looks like the ALS, while having only the one study at the moment that uses embryonic stem cells, will most likely continue down that road. That is definitely something to think about before you write that check if this issue concerns you. Or you can just get wet and get it over with, since from what I understand, only those that “wimp out” if challenged and decide not to do it are the ones that have to pay up. Apparently, there’s a lot more wimps around. Last I checked, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than 109 million dollars***. That’s some pretty serious fundraising, and it has apparently set a record for them.
There are other options for pro-lifers who don’t want to unwittingly fund embryonic stem cell research. As stated above in the ALS representative’s email, you can specifically designate your donation not to go to that study. Another organization conducting research to find a cure for ALS is The John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa that does not use embryonic stem cells.
As so many social media fads that have disappeared as quickly as they came (i.e. Kony 2012), let’s hope that the momentum for awareness for this crippling disease doesn’t fade when the leaves start to fall.