Catholic Bishops Throw Cold Water on Ice Bucket Challenge

Bishops in two Catholic dioceses are discouraging parishioners from participating in the popular “ice bucket challenge” that has raised $30 million for ALS research because of concerns that some of the money raised for the charity would go toward fetal stem cell research.

Bishop Charles Thompson of Evansville, IL, warned parishioners:

In the past week, it has come to light that the primary beneficiary of the Ice Bucket Challenge is an organization that is, by its own admission, funding at least one study that involves embryonic stem-cell research. Such research is against the teaching of the Church, which respects and honors the dignity and life of every person—from conception to natural death. … As a result, the Diocese of Evansville will not approve participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge as it currently occurs.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which has been forcing all Catholic school teachers to sign a “morality clause” pledging to abide by all the teachings of the church in their public and private lives, told principals to give money from the challenge—which requires an individual to dump a bucket of ice water on their head or give $100 to the ALS Association—to another charity instead. He recommended the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which does research only on adult stem cell lines.

The Washington Post is reporting that concerns about fetal stem cell research were first raised by the anti-abortion group American Life League (ALL), which gave the ALS Association a negative rating because it funds one study using embryonic stem cells, and spread by Fr. Michael Duffy on his Patheos blog. ALL is also behind the effort to defund various community-based nonprofits participating in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development that have any association with organizations that support same-sex marriage.

The ALS Association isn’t the first nonprofit to find itself under suspicion from the bishops and conservatives over remote links to supposedly anti-life causes. Conservative Catholics have been conducting a campaign against the Girl Scouts that has resulted in a number of troops being kicked out of their church homes because the national organization is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, an international organization that supports access to contraception.

Conservatives have also ginned up charges of links to Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion leanings that the national Girl Scouts USA organization, which takes no position on abortion or contraception, denies.

In April, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops completed a one-year “official inquiry” into the Girl Scouts that found many of the charges baseless. The bishops praised the Girl Scouts organization for its transparency and willingness to revise materials and concluded that it should be up to local bishops whether or not Girl Scout troops are allowed to use church facilities and recommended a “memorandum of understanding” between troops and churches on allowable programming. However, the national organization noted that it did not prevent local troops from “taking a position or sponsoring programming on human sexuality” if parents approved.

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