Anglicans, Baptists back Pell

Sydney's Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen has joined Cardinal George Pell in expressing regret over the passage of a NSW lower house conscience vote to lift a ban on "therapeutic" cloning while Baptist Union leader John Taylor also described the bill as "immoral".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Cardinal Pell remains hopeful the stem cell bill will be defeated in the NSW upper house, after lower house MPs yesterday voted 65 to 26 to support it.

In a conscience vote, the Premier, Morris Iemma, and his deputy, John Watkins, supported the bill while ministers Kristina Keneally, Graham West, Kevin Greene and Barbara Perry voted against it.

The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, a Catholic, supported the bill, while his deputy, Nationals leader Andrew Stoner, voted against the lifting of the ban on therapeutic cloning.

If it passes the upper house later this month, it will mirror federal legislation. It is expected to be a tighter vote because of the Christian Democrats, right-wing MPs Charlie Lynn and David Clarke and several Catholic Labor MPs, including the Education Minister, John Della Bosca.

Dr Pell said he regretted yesterday's result, but remained hopeful it would be defeated in the next session of Parliament.

The Cardinal has faced both criticism and support from within the Catholic Church after he warned MPs faced "consequences" in their religious life if they supported the bill.

The Minister for Science and Medical Research, Verity Firth, said Cardinal Pell was entitled to express his views, but said he declined two offers to be briefed on the bill.

Defending his position in a Herald opinion piece, Cardinal Pell said that "human life is the issue at hand".

"Serious anti-lifers and publicity seekers have been trying to shoot the messenger, while they work to bury the message," he continued.

"We should not be distracted from the elephant in the corner of the room. A huge diversionary tactic has been mounted to focus attention on hypothetical punishments for Catholic politicians by authoritarian bishops, and away from the destruction of human life," Cardinal Pell said.

"To be a disciple of Christ means accepting discipline because the Catholic church has never followed today's fashionable notion of the primacy of conscience, which is, of course secular relativism with a religious face", he said in comments disputed by Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan.

Fr Brennan described the current debate as an unedifying spectacle.

"I don't have a problem with church leaders expressing a view, as long as they don't pretend they are speaking for all of their church and country," said Fr Brennan, who recently wrote a book, Acting on Conscience, on the roles of politics and religion.

"I don't think it is correct for church leaders to say, 'These people don't respect human life,' " he added. "They might have a different view on what constitutes human life."

Backing for Pell

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, also expressed "profound regret", saying the destruction of human embryos and the cloning of human beings was a step too far.

Drawing on comments he made to a gathering of church leaders last week, Dr Jensen said he believed MPs were wrong to vote in favour of embryonic stem cell research.

But he adopted a less strident tone than Cardinal Pell, saying he could "honour" those MPs if their decision to support this research was made in good conscience.

Dr Jensen conceded his opposition to therapeutic cloning could ultimately be proved wrong and recognised that "in the end it is to God that we give account".

"For myself, I think that the politicians who vote in favour of embryonic stem cell research are wrong to do so," he told the church's NSW Provincial Synod.

"Naturally, I am heartily in favour of stem cell research as such, and also, like everyone, long for the day when disease will be able to be treated successfully as a result of research.

"But, if I understand the technology correctly, embryonic stem-cell research involves both the destruction of embryos and the cloning of human beings.

"This is a step too far for us to take, even if the results were shown to be marvellous. I believe that I have the right to indicate this."

The president of the Baptist Union of NSW, John Taylor, said there would be a degree of disappointment in his church at the outcome of the lower house vote.

The bill was well-meaning, but immoral: "The opportunity is there to create a human embryo with one genetic parent or mixing the genetic material of three or more genetic parents."

href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/science/pell-appeals-to-higher-authority/2007/06/07/1181089242172.html">Pell appeals to higher authority on stem cells (Sydney Morning Herald, 8/6/07)
Pell 'regrets' stem cell Bill's passing (News, 8/6/07)
Pell 'regrets' stem cell move (Herald-Sun, 8/6/07)
Stem cell debate steps up in Australia (International Herald Tribune, 7/6/07)
Conscience before church, priest urge (The Australian, 8/6/07)

Union halts SA senator's right to life (The Age, 8/6/07)

Pell entitled to voice stem cell view, says Howard (ABC News, 7/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Sydney
Cloning (Wikipedia)
George Pell (Wikipedia)

Coast to coast controversy over stem cell vote (CathNews, 7/6/07)
Catholic pols defy stem cell communion threat (CathNews, 6/6/07)
Pell slams "open slather" for stem cell research (CathNews, 5/6/07)
Life office slams human "sub-class" Vic cloning law (CathNews, 11/5/07)
Hart confronts Bracks over cloning legislation (CathNews, 12/4/07)
Bracks defies Pope on cloning (CathNews, 19/3/07)
Archbishop Hart condemns cloning laws (CathNews, 14/3/07)
Christianity not driver in cloning vote: Garrett (CathNews, 19/12/06)
Christian opposition fails to stop cloning bill passage (CathNews, 7/12/06)
Late amendment puts cloning bill passage in doubt (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Premiers face stem cell backlash as Hart criticises debate (CathNews, 24/7/06)
Catholics divided over stem cells (CathNews, 14/7/06)
Don't lift ban on cloning, says Brennan (CathNews, 23/6/06)

8 Jun 2007