Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vatican Launches Three-Pronged Attack on Culture of Death

The Vatican has signed an agreement with NeoStem for its first ever commercial agreement with an outside company. NeoStem is a U.S.-based biopharmaceutical firm that advances ethical research into stem cells. The Catholic Church approves of adult stem cell research, but not embryonic stem cell research which results in the loss of life (the embryo). Dr. Robin Smith (CEO of NeoStem) pointed out that "there are no current therapies using embryonic stem cells today but there are over 70 treatments available using adult stem cells including anemia, leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma."

Father Tomaz Trafny, Vatican's Council for Culture, stated that this venture was an attempt to "create a hotspot for scientists, benefactors, academics (and) Church leaders that will now join this group and would work together for the benefit of humanity."

It's not only interesting that this is the first ever commercial agreement with an outside company (and that it's a U.S. company to boot!), but I also find the three-pronged approach that the Vatican/NeoStem will take with this venture to be interesting and strong.

  1. The first attack will be one of practicality and practice. It will entail work on research, including funding ($1 million from the Vatican). The Vatican often is only able to host conferences and talks when it comes to issues of Science. With this agreement, however, the Vatican is able to directly fund ethical stem cell research and provide an example to the Catholic laity.
  2. The second attack is one of understanding, and will involve the study of the cultural consequences of regenerative medicine and will begin with a major conference in Rome later in the year. The Vatican has hosted many conferences throughout the years (scientific and theological), and so this is nothing new. What is interesting, however, is that this is a conference looking into the cultural consequences as opposed to ethical or scientific research.
  3. The third and final area of attack will be one of education. It will involve educating those within and outside of the Church about the practicalities and ethics of this new field of medical research. It's difficult for the Vatican to hold up a set of ethics when the laity don't know or understand those ethics. This education will strengthen those Catholics who already hold this ethic of life, inform those that don't know about this ethic of life, and confront those that disagree with this ethic of life.

This three-pronged attack is an attempt to raise awareness among political, scientific and religious leaders to create a cultural paradigm shift in favor of using adult stem cells for regenerative medicine. Overall it seems like a good partnership, and one that deals with all facets of stem cells (practice, understanding, and educating). And who says that the Catholic Church is anti-science?!

What do you guys think?

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