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Stem cell research draws Catholic reservations on Ice Bucket Challenge

The Newark Archdiocese has issued a statement of concern about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, citing Catholic Church opposition to research using stem cells from aborted fetuses.

Eric Singer, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer of the band KISS participates take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Indiana
Eric Singer, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer of the band KISS participates take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Indiana (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

“The Catholic Church strongly supports adult or non-embryonic stem cell research and treatment only,” a statement issued by the Archdiocese said in the statement.

In response, ALS Associatiion spokesperson Carrie Monk tells Time that donors can ask that their donation not be used towards funding a study on embryonic stem cells.

The viral fundraiser has prompted thousands of individuals, from politicians and celebrities to athletes and members of local organizations, to either pour a bucket of ice water on their heads or make a $10 donation to the ALS Foundation. Each participant challenges three more people to take the challenge and each of them can instead choose to make a $100 contribution to ALS. The campaign has exploded on Facebook and other social media sites. New Jersey 101.5 on-air personalities have also participated.

The ALS Association says it has received $53.3 million in donations between July 29 and August 21 compared to just $2.2 million raised during the same period in 2013.

In anticipation of the new school year, letters were sent to the Archdiocese’s 94 Catholic schools, explaining Catholic concerns about the Ice Bucket Challenge, The Record reported.

Gov. Chris Christie (L) and Patriots owner Robert Kraft pour water over Jon Bon Jovi for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Gov. Chris Christie (L) and Patriots owner Robert Kraft pour water over Jon Bon Jovi for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (YouTube)

The Newark Archdiocese statement acknowledges the “natural tendency as compassionate people” to help those afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. But the church also urges those who are considering taking the Ice Bucket Challenge or helping any charity, “is to check it out to ensure that any research in which an organization engages conforms to Catholic beliefs and teaching.”

Father Michael Duffy, a 27-year-old priest from Long Island who first raised questions about the Ice Bucket Challenge on his blog “Father, Where Art Thou” offers what he calls a “morally acceptable alternative” to still participate in the phenomenon and contribute to ALS research: the John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JP2MRI).

“We want to ensure people that any donation specifically directed towards finding a cure for ALS will be used to support medical research for that cause, writes the JP2MRI on its website after an increase in donations.

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