Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 8, 2004
Reproduction Bill C-6 in the Senate
Canadian bishops take neutral stand
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The Canadian bishops have offered their prayers but not their opinion on whether the controversial bill on assisted human reproduction should be passed by the Senate.
In a presentation Feb. 26 to the Senate committee studying Bill C-6, representatives of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops re-stated the bishops' position of October last year that the proposed legislation is "deeply flawed" but contains much that is positive.
The bill would ban less controversial measures including human cloning, sex selection clinics and the sale of human eggs but allow for research on embryonic stem cells, which always results in the killing of the embryo.
"The problem with embryonic stem cell research is that while the research has the potential to benefit those living with disease, it actually harms the embryo who dies in the process," said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. "Ultimately, the embryo is exploited for the benefit of others."
The statement said the CCCB did not want to tell Catholic senators how to vote "because it is their responsibility to discern the best way to protect human life and dignity after reflecting on all the resources available to them."
The bishops' neutral position on the bill stood in marked contrast to that of representatives of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, who said the promise of medical breakthroughs resulting from embryonic stem cell research was worth the destruction of surplus human embryos.
Suzanne Scorsone, an official of the Archdiocese of Toronto and a member of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies more than a decade ago, also favoured the bill's passage although she is opposed to embryonic stem cell research.
"If we desire the perfect to the point we can't bring about the good, what have we accomplished?" she asked.
But others in the Catholic community want the bill defeated, arguing that the ends do not justify the means - the death of embryo. Among them are several Canadian bishops who signed a letter to MPs last April saying the defeat of the bill, then called C-13, "would signal that the killing of embryos for research is still not acceptable in this country and that the voluntary moratorium should continue."
Campaign Life Coalition, the political arm of the pro-life movement in Canada, which includes many Catholics, believes the bill should be split into two parts and the part that allows embryonic stem cell research defeated.
However, Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew, the first witness to appear before the Senate committee when its hearings began Feb. 18, has ruled out dividing the bill. He argued that the proposed legislation as it stands "reflects the values of Canadians quite sincerely."