WASHINGTON, DC, January 30, 2004 ( – When first broke the story “Washington Cardinal Ends Catholic Universitys Use of Aborted Fetal Cell Lines” last month ( ), it was based on factual evidence. Children of God for Life, a pro-life group specializing in fighting the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines, contacted the Cardinal McCarrick about Georgetown University – a Catholic University – using aborted fetal cell lines in research. The Cardinal responded with a letter to Children of God for Life Director Debra Vinnedge saying the “problem” had “been resolved”.

However, it turns out that Georgetown has decided to allow its researchers to continue to use aborted fetal cell lines and that the Cardinal, at least according to his spokesman, is just fine with that. Of the eighteen researchers at Georgetown involved in the unethical research, fourteen will continue with it while four have switched over to stem cell lines which did not originate from aborted babies. Vinnedge told in an interview today, “Im appalled that they would continue to do this research.”

It seems that the Cardinal is relying on the opinions of certain Catholic ethicists who believe that the use of cell lines from aborted babies for research is acceptable at a Catholic institution, which is supposed to regard abortion as murder. Rev. Kevin T. FitzGerald, a university bioethicist told the Washington Post that the scientists at the university did not know they were using cells from aborted babies at first and that were they to stop now they would endanger their grants, and perhaps their potentially beneficial research. He also excused the research saying the abortions committed were not performed for the purpose of providing the cells.

FitzGerald, a Jesuit priest who holds a doctorate in molecular genetics, also said future research using aborted fetal cells at the Catholic university would be possible but such research would be screened. “We have to pull in the administrators at the university to say what sorts of things we can put in place as far as a screening process,” he said. “We have to figure out who does it, where does the screening take place, how is it structured, who decides. I dont know what we are going to be able to do or not do. This is new ground.”

Another Catholic ethicist, John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Boston, agreed with Georgetowns stand. “I dont see the moral difficulty in using these cell lines, because you are not contributing in any way to the abortions, which took place decades ago,” Haas said.

Vinnedge wondered whether the Catholic university would similarly agree to using a cache of body parts of Nazi holocaust victims for research. “Just as with the aborted fetal stem cell lines, the body parts would have come from victims of murders that happened decades ago,” she said. “I don't think Fr. Fitzgerald or Dr. Haas would so easily allow for research on body parts of Nazi holocaust victims despite the possible loss of grant money, and they'd likely insist on switching to other sources even if researchers didn't realize at first where the body parts came from.” spoke with Susan Gibbs, Director of Communications at the Archdiocese of Washington, who confirmed that “the Cardinal is comfortable with the university's response to the situation.” Gibbs noted the arguments of the ethicists about the cell lines coming from abortions that were committed in Europe and in some cases up to 40 years ago. When asked Gibbs about the apt comparison to the use of body parts from Nazi holocaust victims she responded, ” I'm not going to be pulled into a hypothetical.” She referred to the ethicists who reviewed the research as having “very fine reputations” and repeatedly said “I'm not an ethicist.”

Vinnedge told she intends to continue to ask Cardinal McCarrick to demand that the Catholic university stop the unethical research.

Cardinal McCarrick may be contacted at:

Office of the Archbishop  
Archdiocesan Pastoral Center  
5001 Eastern Avenue  
Hyattsville, Maryland  
20782-3447 301-853-4500  
[email protected]


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