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Pell push for ban on use of leftover embryos

Sydney's Cardinal George Pell has said the the Church will renew its lobbying efforts to secure a ban on the use of leftover embryos created during fertility treatment, as part of an effort to convince the community of the sanctity of embryonic life.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian laws permitting the use of excess embryos created through IVF before April 2002 are up for review this year, with a sunset clause expiring in April.

However, the Sydney Archdiocese is expected to at least double its overall contribution to adult stem cell research in the hope it will offer an ethical and more promising alternative to research on human embryos.

A first grant of $50,000 was awarded in 2003 to Griffith University to research the potential of stem cells extracted from the inner lining of a patient's own nose to treat Parkinson's disease. Applications for a second medical research grant of at least $50,000 were expected to be called for shortly.

Cardinal Pell said he would be prepared to involve himself in lobbying efforts, if necessary, to bring about a national ban on embryonic stem cell research.

While scientists hope stem cells - the building blocks of all types of tissue - will provide future breakthrough treatments for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's, pro-lifers oppose the use of embryos because they are destroyed in the process.

"I think Christian leaders have a duty to speak out on some moral issues and this is one," Cardinal Pell said. "If I thought it would help I would be prepared to speak. We are not in favour of producing human beings to destroy them for scientific purposes.

"Human life is not a commodity. Life is a right in itself and it has to be respected and we've got no right to destroy innocent life."

Cardinal Pell said he did not accept the argument that embryonic stem cell research should proceed if it could potentially save lives and eased suffering.

"We don't believe generally the end justifies the means," he said. "I'm not saying there is a direct comparison, but that was the justification that the Nazis used for their sort of experimentation. We are much more than animals. I don't believe it is appropriate to be breeding humans, however briefly, to take bits of them and destroy human life for that purpose."

Meanwhile he said abortion is an "important Christian issue" but he has no "immediate political ambitions" to end Medicare-funded terminations.

"My immediate ambition is to spread information about what abortion really is and to see practical help is given to women contemplating abortion," he said.

Embryo research targeted by Pell (Sydney Morning Herald 11/2/05)

Archdiocese of Sydney
Life Office

Human embryo cloning back under the microscope (ABC Radio The World Today 10/2/05)
'Dolly' scientist's license to clone human embryos draws criticism (Catholic News Service 8/2/05)
Prophecy: move to clone human embryos will lead to severe regional events (Spirit Daily)
Human cloning: "dangerous and unnecessary" (Independent Catholic News 9/2/05)

11 Feb 2005