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EMBRYOS-EXCOMMUNICATION Jun-30-2006 (550 words) xxxi

Cardinal: Those involved in stem-cell research face excommunication

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Female egg donors, doctors and researchers involved in the destruction of embryos for stem-cell studies can face excommunication, said the head of the Vatican's family council.

Because embryonic stem-cell research involves the destruction of a human embryo and therefore human life, "it is the same thing" as abortion and similarly entails excommunication, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said in a recent magazine interview.

Italy's leading Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, published the interview with the Colombian cardinal in its July 2 issue, released June 28.

"To destroy the embryo is equivalent to an abortion," he said, "and the excommunication applies to the woman, the doctors, the researchers who eliminate embryos."

In his 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," Pope John Paul II wrote that the church's evaluation of the immorality of abortion "is to be applied also to the recent forms of intervention on human embryos," even if the aim of the experimentation is legitimate, such as in research to treat fatal or debilitating diseases.

Any act that uses embryos or fetuses "as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings" and this "killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act," the encyclical said.

The church supports the use of stem cells derived from adults or umbilical-cord blood for scientific research.

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said those who face excommunication in the case of an abortion include "the mother, the doctor, the nurses, the father if he is in agreement" with aborting the child.

Abortion "is a crime, and instead it is becoming a right" in some countries, the cardinal said.

Human life is no longer considered something "sacred, untouchable, but has become something flexible in the hands of people who can decide even when (life) begins and when it ends," he said.

Instances where Catholic politicians pass laws that go against the teachings of the church call for "a reflection, because these (legislators) would not be able to approach the Eucharist," he said.

"No one in the world is authorized to contradict church doctrine concerning the protection of life at all stages," he added.

The cardinal's comments came a little more than a week before he and Pope Benedict XVI were set to attend the Fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, where life issues and threats against the family were expected to be major topics of discussion among participants.

In the magazine interview, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo also denounced the growing trend among governments to legally recognize same-sex unions and said giving legal rights to gay couples was "even more serious" than giving similar rights to heterosexual couples.

Couples can only be a man and a woman, he said, and homosexual relationships represent "absolute emptiness."

Because of the church's vocal stand against laws that oppose church teaching, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said he feared "the church risks being brought before some international court, if the debate gets more tense."

Speaking out in defense of human life and the family, "in some places, is becoming a sort of crime against the state, a form of disobedience against the government, discrimination against women," he said.

END


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