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By Hilary White

ST. LOUIS, November 28, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis has again stepped up to the pro-life plate missed by many elsewhere in the Catholic hierarchy. Burke ordered the priests of his St. Louis Archdiocese to preach on Sunday about why embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) cannot be allowed and to instruct the Catholic faithful not to support it. The direction is in response to a petition about to circulate that would amend the state constitution to protect ESCR.

In a move that is bound to stir up the usual secularist suspects with screeches of “separation of Church and state,” Burke has issued a letter to his priests saying, “The church has a moral duty to inform its members of the moral dimensions of their actions.”

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Burke distinguished himself as one of the few US bishops willing to weather the wrath of the ACLU and media by saying that Democrat candidate John Kerry would be refused holy Communion in his diocese for supporting abortion on demand.

The movement to enshrine the “right” to kill embryos for research has lately been promoted by the group The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. The Coalition has been airing television ads giving the usual propaganda depicting ESCR as the cure-all for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Diabetes. The order from Burke came after the Coalition received approval for a petition initiative for the 2006 ballot that aims to place embryo research into the same kind of constitutionally protected status as abortion.

Molly Kertz, director of the St. Louis archdiocese’s Respect Life apostolate said, “The whole purpose is to educate the public that this coalition wants to amend our constitution to give free rein to do whatever scientists want to do with our embryos.”

What some pro-life advocates have called the ‘early life issues,’ such as in vitro fertilization, cloning, embryo research, often fall through the cracks of the Catholic establishment. In Canada, the national pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition worked for two years to defeat the assisted human reproduction bill that enshrines embryo research and, through a series of legal loopholes, allows human cloning.

In the course of the efforts, however, few in the Canadian Catholic hierarchy took a serious interest beyond the usual bland and ambiguous official statements. At the crucial moment of the bill’s progression through the Senate, moreover, the representative of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops undermined the pro-life position by taking a neutral position giving Senators tacit permission to support the bill.

Burke’s letter to priests, dated Nov. 10, said, “In order to avoid Catholic voters succumbing to the false promises and statements made by this initiative’s proponents, it is important that voters in our parishes receive appropriate scientific, moral and ethical information.”

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