OTTAWA, March 8, 2002 ( – The President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Most Rev. Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., has sent a letter to Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan regarding the Final Report of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research on Stem Cell Research. Bishop Berthelet expresses, on behalf of the CCCB his “profound disappointment” with the report which “allows public funding of research on embryos who remain after fertility treatments.”

The letter explains the position of the Catholic Church “based on both reason and faith and supported by a broad range of scientific and ethical opinion” is that “Human embryos are human beings with dignity who must be respected as human subjects and not treated as research objects.” He letter states further that, “The potential of embryonic stem therapy for healing degenerative diseases cannot outweigh the reality that a human embryo dies in the process.”

The CCCB charges that the CIHR report discounts the views of ordinary Canadians. The CIHR report itself admits that while “Many respondents expressed the viewpoint that the embryo has full moral status and an inviolable right to life from the moment of conception” nevertheless “no attempt was made to articulate an argument regarding the moral status of the embryo.” Rather, the CIHR relied on principles articulated in a government report four years ago. The CCCB argues that “this overlooks the fact that Canadians have become much more aware about what is at stake since the recent explosion of news about embryonic stem cell therapy.”

The letter suggests the decision on the funding of such research must be made by a body such as Parliament rather than the CIHR which is not directly accountable to the Canadian people. The Bishops urge the Health Minister “to impose a moratorium on all embryonic stem cell research pending legislation by the Government of Canada.”

See the CCCB website: