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Ice bucket Challenge: Catholic Church in US blocks donations over 'immoral' embryonic stem cell research

Church asks for Catholic donors to find 'morally licit' charities to donate to

American leaders of the Catholic Church have spoken out against its members taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge because the money donated to ALS could fund research using embryonic stem cells, a practice that the church deems to be immoral.

The Cincinnati Archdiocese in Ohio has already warned principles at 113 Catholic schools in the area to “immediately cease” donations to the ALS Association for this reason, requesting that any money raised should instead be given to a “morally licit” organisation.

Both ALS, and in the UK, MND, which are sister organisations aiming to raise awareness of the neurodegenerative disease, known as Motor Neurone Disease in the UK, support the legal use of research that uses embryonic stem cells, while recognising the “significant moral, ethical and religious concerns” that the research methods raise.


ALS said that it does fund one research project using embryonic stem cells, stating that donors can request that their money does not go towards this study. Though MND does not currently fund any research using this method, it does support it.

The Catholic Church’s stance on the matter is that it is tantamount to abortion, and claims that embryonic stem cell research violates the sanctity of human life, though it does not show the same condemnation towards the use of adults stem cells in research.

“We appreciate the compassion that has caused so many people to engage in this,” Dan Andriacco, the Cincinnati Archdiocese spokesperson said, “but it’s a well-established moral principle that a good end is not enough.

“The means to that end must be morally elicit.”

David Kurt McClain, who has suffered with ALS for over a decade, takes the Ice Bucket Challenge

The advice follows a widely shared blog post from an American Catholic priest, Father Michael Duffy, who was nominated to do the challenge himself but explained that the research meant that he could not donate to ALS.

“I will certainly pray for those that suffer from the disease,” he wrote.

Pope Francis himself was nominated last week by singer Shakira, but the Vatican has not made any response to the challenge.

Despite ALS’s Ice Bucket Challenge turning into a viral success, raising more than $70 million in America, the Archdiocese has instead requested that any schools wanting to take part in the challenge may do so, but that they should donate their money to “pro-life driven” research groups such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa, which Father Duffy also pointed to in his blog.


In the UK, Macmillan Cancer Support has faced its own backlash over joining in with the Ice Bucket Challenge, after it was accused of “stealing the spotlight” from the ALS association.

Macmillan has raised over £250,000 so far from ice bucket funds, after encouraging people to take the challenge and to donate to the charity using the #icebucketchallenge hashtag, and creating its own microsite dedicated to the activity, but the charity was condemned by some supporters for diverting awareness from ALS.

 Video: Celebrities take on the ice bucket challenge

MND said on Monday it had raised £635,000 in text donations alone over the past two weeks, which appeared to have rocketed in the last few days, as awareness of its cause has risen. The charity said that people have also set up their own Just Giving pages for MND too, but the amount these raise will not be known for a number of weeks.