Priest talks on Church view of stem-cell debate

Residents gathered at the Church of St. Mary on Sunday afternoon for a lecture by Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, who lent a conservative view to the ongoing debate regarding human embryonic stem cell research.

In his talk, Pacholczyk GRD ’92 explained the Catholic Church’s ethical concerns with stem cell research, concerns that he said vary with the source of the stem cells. He emphasized that the church supports adult and umbilical-cord stem cell research but has “grave moral objections” to the use of embryonic stem cells to further research.

He said the church is against embryonic stem cell research, as it requires the destruction of a human embryo to harvest the surrounding stem cells.

Pacholczyk, who holds a degree in neuroscience from Yale, said that the public commonly overestimates the value of embryonic stem cell research in curing deadly diseases.

“Nobody has ever been cured of a single disease by embryonic-type stem cells,” he said.

The misconception is “mistakenly perpetuated” by high-profile celebrities like Nancy Reagan in the wake of her husband’s recent death, Pacholczyk said.

“You hear all these patient-advocacy groups that say ‘Don’t take away our hope,’ but it would be a misguided hope if we pushed them in this direction,” he said. “Meanwhile, hundreds if not thousands have been cured by adult-type and umbilical-cord stem cells.”

He offered numerous cases of diseases and disabilities that had been cured by the use of adult and umbilical-cord stem cells.

Father Bernard Confer, who called Pacholczyk both “scientifically and theologically qualified,” said he was pleased by the reception that he got, saying that stem cell research is a hotly debated topic right now.

“You cannot open a paper today without hearing something or the other about it,” Confer said.

In light of the importance of the issue, Father William Holt, who organized the lecture, said that there needed to be an understanding of “the whole issue.” Several attendees said the lecture provided an opportunity for many members of the New Haven community to learn about the issue of embryonic stem cell research.

“People get on the bandwagon without really understanding,” Ellen Carey, a home-care nurse, said.

Carey, who was pleased by the scientific aspect of the speech, called the lecture “a great learning experience.”

“When most people hear of opposition, they automatically assume that these people are religious and outdated, which is not the case,” Carey said.

Pacholczyk also briefly discussed the Church’s position against human cloning for therapeutic purposes, since, like embryonic stem cell research, an embryo is destroyed in the process.

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