Catholic Bishop in Toledo Bans Fundraising for Breast Cancer Research July 20, 2011

Catholic Bishop in Toledo Bans Fundraising for Breast Cancer Research

In case you needed another reason to leave/despise the Catholic Church…

A bishop from Toledo, Ohio will not allow parishes and parochial schools to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation (which helps fund the fight against breast cancer) because there’s a chance they may one day fund embryonic stem-cell research.

Bishop Blair, in his letter sent over the weekend to all priests and parishes in the 19-county Toledo diocese, stated that “at present the Komen Foundation does not fund” embryonic stem-cell research.

However, he said, “their policy does not exclude that possibility” and the foundation “may very well fund such research in the future.”

“If we received a request to fund such research, we would weigh it very carefully, as we do all of our research proposals, for its likelihood to have a positive impact on breast cancer research and treatment,” [senior communications writer Andrea] Rader said by e-mail.

… Bishop Blair said Catholics need to find alternatives to the Komen Foundation for fund-raising efforts “in order to avoid even the possibility of cooperation in morally unacceptable activities.”

Because the Church knows all about avoiding “morally unacceptable activities”…

We often hear about how the Catholic Church supports good science — they don’t deny evolution and they (eventually) apologized about the whole Galileo thing. But then you see its representatives trying to prevent raising money for breast cancer research because they don’t like the potential methodology and you have to rethink all that.

Even beyond the science, this is just another item to add to the list of reasons women shouldn’t join or remain in the Church. They already ban birth control, their policy on handling ectopic pregnancies is jaw-droppingly scary (especially when you consider how Catholics are taking over secular hospitals), and now they don’t want to support breast cancer research?

I’d love to see some intelligent students from a local Catholic school find a way to raise money for the Komen Foundation regardless of what the bishop says. Circumvent authority. Make some metaphorical rainbow cupcakes. Tell the bishop that you refuse to be part of any organization that stands in the way of life-saving research that could help women everywhere.

That takes real courage.

(Thanks to Ian for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Are these people for real?????

  • Heidi

    Well, it’s not like people are in danger. Only those wimmin’ folk.

  • It says alot that the church empathises more with people who don’t exist yet than it does with people who exist now and are suffering.  But then to the church, suffering is a good thing. It brings you closer to Christ. Yikes!

  • deityfree

    Penalty before action. Nice

  • Trace

    Breast cancer is scary like hell. The bishop’s attitude is morally reprehensible. The shot at the RCC for the Galileo thing…

  • Anonymous

    I’m really hoping that the new site affiliation leads to some folks willing to come in and defend this sort of thing.  I mean, I realize it’s hard, but surely, some Catholic, somewhere, thinks this is the right decision, and so they should be able to at least attempt to justify it.

  • KL

    I just want to point out that SSPX (whose site you linked to regarding ectopic pregnancies) is not a good source for Catholic doctrine, given that they’re a schismatic group not recognized by the Vatican.  That said, though, the treatment of ectopic pregnancies they lay out is in line with the official Catholic position.  Basically, it’s completely morally licit to remove the diseased tissue and thereby save the life of the mother (though the fetus will die).  The ONLY thing you wouldn’t be allowed to do in that situation is induce an abortion with medication. 

  • Anonymous

    99% percent of the people who have breast cancer are women. So of course they don’t care.

    Speaking of the RCC: they spent more money lobbying against the extension of the statute of limitation on child rape than against same-sex marriage in NYS:

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t really anything new. For many Christians embryos (not even fetuses in this case!)  count more than actual human beings. But when the baby is born, they stop caring.

  • Chocokitty27

    I believe the actual reason is that Komen has ties to Planned Parenthood.

  • Zack

    My old catholic school decided not to allow the collection of the pink lids, which would lead to other people donating to breast cancer research, because the foundation had at one point paid planned parenthood to do a survey.

  • Zack

    My old catholic school decided not to allow the collection of the pink lids, which would lead to other people donating to breast cancer research, because the foundation had at one point paid planned parenthood to do a survey.

  • Anonymous

    The thing that shocks me the most is most practicing Catholics don’t seem to care about gay marriage, want the church to take more responsibility for the child molestation by clergy and use just as many contraceptives as anyone else. Yet they remain Catholic.

    Of course abortion is a whole other issue, my dad is pretty liberal on every issue except that one. The furthest I could get him to budge is to make concessions for rape/incest.

    I really don’t know why all of these “bad Catholics,” which from my vantage point is most of them except for some of the elderly ones, put up with the shit awful that their church does. I’m not even sure why I put up with it, not dropping the Catholic label until I was around twenty years old or so even though I stopped really believing in god before that.

    I always felt it’s because Catholics are a lot like Jews in the sense there are people who really seriously practice the religion and people who don’t but abide by the traditions anyway. I think the latter either need to get louder and start demanding the Vatican change its ways or, more desirably, leave the church like I did.

  • LJ

    I am surprised that any religion would allow fundraising for any disease. Isn’t sickness/illness ‘God’s Will?” If it is God’s Will, then who are we to try to cure it? <—-being sarcastic

  • Frighteningly, yes.

  • Terry

    Remember, this is the same church (among others) which was against IVF for similar reasons…. until the public popularity and pressure  changed their mind.  
    (Was their God mumbling during the chat with the pope about this originally or how does this infallibility work?)

  • Anonymous

    What little shred of credibility on moral issues they may have had they lost for me when they took two months to excommunicate a nun for approving a treatment for a pregnant woman to save her life that resulted in an abortion while letting a priest rape death boys for decades and letting him die a member of good standing in the church.

  • KL

    Sure, I’ll bite. 

    First, the reasoning cited by the bishop in the actual letter is twofold: 1) The possibility of stem cell research, which is considered a grave evil by the Church, and 2) the Komen foundation’s support of Planned Parenthood, which is well-established.  Even if the local Komen affiliate doesn’t donate to PP, many do, and the organization supports the choice of its affiliates to do so.  (See .)  Although Komen and PP claim that none of the funds in question would go toward abortion, providing any funds to PP for non-abortion services necessarily frees more resources for providing abortion services.  The bishop, quite understandably given his position, wants to avoid funds raised by his diocese being used to support an organization that, in turn, supports abortion services — even indirectly.

    Second, according to Komen, only 25% of fundraised revenue goes to breast cancer research; the remainder goes to “local cancer screening, treatment projects, and health education.”  The bishop’s letter directs funds raised in the diocese for breast cancer to go to another cancer center, which “help[s] local women who are without financial means to receive specialized care which includes treatment, detection and support in their fight against breast cancer.”  The money will therefore be achieving essentially the same purpose.  Blair isn’t saying, “We shouldn’t raise money for breast cancer.”  Instead, the letter instructs his diocese, “If you do want to raise money for breast cancer, direct it to *this* organization, rather than one which currently violates and has the potential to more dramatically violate our religious principles.”  While I understand disagreement with the bishop’s beliefs, I’m confused as to why this directive is quite so controversial.

  • cipher

    No one should give any money to the Catholic Church. A priest might molest an altar boy.

  • You don’t understand. When a priest does something good it’s a reflection of the church, but when a priest does something vile, it’s his own personal sin and nothing to do with the church. Or so the church claims.

  • Anonymous

    KL: Thanks for the polite and reasoned response.  Your second paragraph is the stronger of the two.  While I admit to finding the Church’s position on several of the issues raised in the first part to be repugnant and hostile to women, I can agree that if the Church is actively steering the donations to a service that does good in the community on the same overall issue, that does take some of the bite out of the complaint.

    (I will say that the Church’s continuing attitude towards stem-cell research is fully as anti-science as Hemant’s original article describes it to be.)

  • you cant justify something like this.

  • “Although Komen and PP claim that none of the funds in question would go toward abortion, providing any funds to PP for non-abortion services necessarily frees more resources for providing abortion services.  The bishop, quite understandably given his position, wants to avoid funds raised by his diocese being used to support an organization that, in turn, supports abortion services — even indirectly.”

    This is the same reason why atheists object to tax-payer money being given to faith-based organisations. They may spend the money on whatever secular service they’re being given the money for, but that frees up the money they would have spent providing that service for the promotion of their religion. So the tax-payers are indirectly supporting religious institutions. A clear violation of the Constitution.

  • KL

    Actually, the Catholic Church’s position has not changed on IVF.  It’s still morally inadmissible according to official teaching.

  • KL

    This may surprise you, but I completely agree. 

  • KL

    Thanks, in turn, for your reply!

    For the record (although this goes somewhat beyond the scope of the discussion), the Church is not in principle opposed to stem cell research, broadly construed.  It *is* opposed to the destruction of embryos in order to make such research possible.  It’s not opposed to, say, the use of cord blood to derive stem cells for research, or similar techniques.  (And again, this position follows from the Church’s stance that an embryo is endowed with human dignity from the moment of conception.  As above, I understand disagreement with that premise, but the ban on embyronic stem cell research is fairly straightforwardly derived from said premise.)

  • As a Bio major, I personally don’t fully understand why stem cells are equated to human beings. I don’t think I ever will, so I admittedly have that bias. They are simply human cells that have not differentiated into muscle/blood etcetera. Women flush out viable eggs every month or so, we don’t consider those as ‘future children’. They are not even fetuses at that point, and for natural causes several will not develop further and the woman will never even know fertilization occurred. 

    I think it is controversial because this is one more example of the church valuing undifferentiated human cells over live human beings. In theory, if future advances show that stem cells are a viable cancer treatment, what will the church do then? Stop donating at all? The precedents seem to say so.

    The possibility of freeing up funds for abortion also seems like grasping at threads, by that logic, helping low income women access cancer treatments may free up [i]their[/i] personal funds for abortions and birth control.

    Also, what if a pregnant women in her first trimester seeks treatments that have risks to the pregnancy? Keeping in mind that survival rates improve with earlier detection and treatments. Would the church pull funding from that center?

  • KL

    To clarify, the Church has no objection to stem cell research broadly construed.  It’s the current methods of embryonic stem cell research, which involve destruction of said embryo, which are condemned.  (See my response to freemage below.)  

    A full treatment of the question in your last graf would include an explanation of the principle of double effect, which is too involved to go into here.  Suffice it to say, treatments in and of themselves would be entirely permissible, even if there are risks to the pregnancy, so long as the treatment itself is not the deliberate induction of an abortion.  So tests and treatments, even if they are risky, are morally licit.

  • Anonymous

    They are against using embryonic stem cells, which are the best ones. Adult stem cells aren’t as useful.

    Though I agree that it’s a silly position, given the large amount of fertilized eggs that end up as miscarriages. And no matter their position on IVF or egg donation, it’s not like the embryos used for research would be implanted. They’d be destroyed otherwise

  • Anonymous

    It’s a stupid position though. Most of those embryos probably come from egg donors who donate to fertility clinics. If the embryos weren’t used for research, they’d be destroyed anyways – only the most promising ones are implanted. So it’s no greater harm to do something good with them.

    Their whole stance flies in the face of biology. Women have a finite supply of ova. It’s not like the can just produce eggs forever. So a woman who donates eggs just reduces her supply. If she didn’t do that, the ova either wouldn’t develop or be lost naturally when they aren’t fertilized.
    Artificially fertilizing them and letting them divide their cells a couple of times doesn’t change a damn thing.

    What is the CC’s position on the millions of fertilized eggs that fail to implant in the uterus and basically miscarry?

  • KL

    “Most of those embryos probably come from egg donors who donate to
    fertility clinics. If the embryos weren’t used for research, they’d be
    destroyed anyways.”

    Which is why the Church is against IVF and fertility clinics, as well — because (among other reasons) they produce fertilized embryos that end up being destroyed and/or discarded.

    The position on non-implanting embryos is the same as that on miscarriages: unfortunate and even potentially tragic, but not anyone’s fault and thus not morally blameworthy.  And if the woman doesn’t even know about the non-implanted embryo, that’s not a failing on her part.  The different between that and IVF/stem cell research is the *deliberate* destruction of fertilized embryos, rather than an unintended or even unknown-about miscarriage or failure to implant.  Intention is key.  You aren’t morally culpable for something you don’t know about.

  • Anonymous

    Even beyond the science, this is just another item to add to the list of reasons women shouldn’t join or remain in the Church. They already ban birth control, their policy on handling ectopic pregnancies is jaw-droppingly scary (especially when you consider how Catholics are taking over secular hospitals), and now they don’t want to support breast cancer research?

    You say “women,” but I think you mean “people.”

  • So, is intent the only difference? Oh dear, I took this abortion medication by mistake…  
    Is there a change in policy depending on a treatment’s increasing risk to the pregnancy? What if the mother isn’t taking direct actions to protect the pregnancy, opting to treat her self without and mitigations. If they take the position that destroying a pregnancy is murder, then why is it permissible without intent?From what I know of law (and fairly it isn’t much), an accidental killing is still a crime, abit a lesser one, and if you could argue that the defendant knew an action may kill the other but continued anyway.

    I am curious about the church position on this sort of thing, to me even if you take the human virtue at conception as a given, the area seems rather grey.

    Of course the original article seems rather grey to me as well,  why wouldn’t the alternative center theoretically make use of embryonic stem cells in the future?

  • Anonymous

    As said, completely idiotic dogma over reason.

    I understand where they are coming from. No need to explain it. Doesn’t change that it’s stupid. Those embryos exist, no matter how much those bishops scream and whine or like to pretend that they can do anything about it. So they rather have them destroyed than do something useful with them. One could consider that immoral.

    It’s the definition of dogma. They think they can somehow achieve that no embryos will be created with these fundamentalist positions and are too stubborn to see the futility of it.

  • This comment wins the Internet.

  • cipher

    High praise, Adam. Thank you.

    – Jeff (which I use when I comment on your blog)

  • Anonymous

    It’s times like this I’m proud to be an ex-Catholic and an anti-Catholic.

  • Fine. Let the bishops keep pulling out of relevant interaction with society. They’ve gotten an exclusion so they can pull out of marriage in New York, for the same bigotry they’ve pulled out of finding adoptive parents in Illinois, and now they want to pull out of funding breast cancer research because of a possible future conflict with their dogma. Fine. Let them keep pulling out of the community in every way.

    Now if we could just get them to pull out of politics and little boys’ rectums.

  • KL

    You bring up excellent points!  The truth is, there’s a general framework of premises in which the Church operates, but there’s a surprising amount of leeway in that most situations are going to come down to, well, the specifics of that situation.

    So if you *genuinely* didn’t mean to take the abortion medication, or you took it thinking it was something else?  No, you’re not morally responsible for the resulting abortion.  Now, depending on the situation, it may be that you SHOULD have been aware of what you were taking, and thus could be at fault for not finding out or something along those lines.  But you wouldn’t be guilty of deliberate abortion.  Conscious intention really does matter, in Catholic ethics.

    As for the treatment during pregnancy question, I’d direct you to a discussion of the principle of double effect (wikipedia is a good starting point: ).  Basically, so long as the action you are taking isn’t intrinsically immoral, it’s generally allowable even if you know that negative consequences will follow.  For example: a woman is diagnosed with advanced uterine cancer, but she’s three months pregnant.  It’s morally licit, on the Church’s view, to have a hysterectomy — even though the fetus will, necessarily, not survive.  There’s nothing intrinsically wrong about removing a diseased organ, and the purpose of the hysterectomy isn’t to procure an abortion, it’s to save the life of the mother.  (One presumes that if there were a way to cure the cancer without harming the fetus, the doctor/woman would choose that route.)

    Incidentally, I think the legal distinction you draw above supports the point.  If you accidentally hit a pedestrian and kill her, and you’re clearly at fault, you may  be charged with vehicular manslaughter.  But we recognize that this is not the same as premeditated first-degree murder.  In essence, our legal system punishes you for driving very irresponsibly (which led to accidentally killing someone), not for murder.  You’ve committed the crime (or, to crudely graft this analogy onto the discussion at hand, the sin) of irresponsibly putting others’ lives in danger, but we recognize that there’s less culpability in that than in murder.

  • Jake

    Imo: the Church should approve embryonic stem cell research and continue protesting the fertility clinics. A bit oxymoronic, maybe. But at least it would no longer be so hypocritical when it comes to protecting human life.

  • So, if action you are taking isn’t intrinsically immoral, and the intent isn’t there, it isn’t or at least is a lesser sin (if there is such a thing..)

    With that in mind, could you say that donating to the breast cancer foundation is moral, and then the vague chance that a immoral (according to them) action that might be allowed by that action is allowable?

    Even if the chances aren’t vague, the intent to support abortion isn’t there, and they are not directly funding it, could one argue that the concept of potentially freeing up resources for abortion is allowable? 

    You may argue that the other center serves the same purpose without the negative potential, but I would hazard to guess that the foundation may have a wider impact then the cancer center, otherwise why wouldn’t they have simply donated to the center in the first place?

  • The problem with the Church’s position is that the non-embryonic research is based on the embryonic research.

    I doubt that scientists could figure out how to turn a skin cell into a pluripotent stem-cell without having thoroughly studied pluripotent embryonic cells first.

    Any treatment derived from non-embryonic cells is going to be tainted.

  • D. Malloy

    Semi, please tell me you’re single….

  • No thanks…

  • Annie

    I won’t give money to the Susan G. Komen Foundation either, but my reasons are because they are bullies in the fund-raising business, and seem to care more about protecting their brand (and paying hefty salaries) than actually curing cancer.

  • KL

    I laughed out loud when I read your response, honestly, out of sheer appreciation.  That’s an excellent point, and here I will admit that I am leaving the point at which I feel comfortable expressing the “official” Catholic position.  However, I’ll venture a guess at what the response would be, given the caveat that it’s only a guess.

    The rules get more complicated when you are dealing with public figures and organizations and their actions.  While individuals are by definition private citizens and the morality/immorality of their actions is, at least theoretically, between themselves and God, public figures and entities have a responsibility not to cause scandal.  Scandal, when it comes to Church matters, is a technical term meaning to lead others into sin.  So church leaders, like most other public figures, are under responsibility to avoid even the *appearance* of immoral behavior, lest they give the impression that such behaviors are acceptable (whether or not they live up to that responsibility, of course, is another matter entirely).  This is why, by the way, some bishops have made a big deal about pro-choice Catholic politicians receiving communion — they argue that said politicians are causing scandal by 1) supporting abortion and 2) receiving communion, which implicitly indicates that they are still in good standing with the Church.

    What all this means is, the bishop is probably trying to avoid even the appearance of supporting embryonic stem cell research and/or PP, whether or not the act in question would otherwise be considered immoral.  But an individual, on the other hand, would most likely be at the liberty of his or her conscience whether or not to donate to Komen, for just the reasons you give.

  • Sinfanti

    I think the next time I go to church (which I only do to keep my mother company) and they pass around the basket I will drop in a paper saying “A $5 donation has been made on your behalf to the Komen Foundation.”   The following week will be Planned Parenthood.

  • KL

     As a quick aside — in Catholicism there definitely is such thing as a “lesser” sin.  Hence the distinction between venial and mortal sins.  Mortal sins, on this view, are those that cause serious damage to one’s relationship with God, while venial sins are less serious (though still, for obvious reasons, undesirable).  And, appropriately enough given the conversation, among the criteria that must be met for an action to qualify as mortal sin is 1) full knowledge that the action is a serious sin and 2) full consent and intention to carry it out.  So, interestingly enough, if you’re honestly not aware that something is a mortal sin, then it’s not.

  • Haha, thank you. You make great points yourself and I have had fun with this discussion.

    I can see that as a figure, though it brings to mind one of my earlier examples, of a pregnant woman purposefully puting her pregnancy at risk to receive immediet treatment.Could it then be a scandal if word somehow got out that she lost the pregnancy due to the indifference of the church approved cancer center towards her pregnancy?Ha, a bit of a hypothetical straw, I’ll definitely grant you that. 

    Perhaps I will save myself from mortal sin and learn nothing about the nature of it. Not that I have the time anyway, ha. Except those darn religious pamphlets people keep giving me, I knew they were trying to get me cooked…

  • “…this is just another item to add to the list of reasons women shouldn’t join or remain in the Church.” 

    Correction: This is just another item to add to the list of reasons why *anyone* shouldn’t join or remain in the Church.”

    Does anyone know if their stance is similar for other cancer organizations? 

  • Sharon Carruthers

    Comment deleted

  • Don

    Because my mother died from breast cancer.

  • Anonymous

    I have some hard core Catholics in my family. It confuses and saddens me greatly. 

  • Charles Black

    It’s always nice to know that the priorities of the Catholic Church are still about preventing life-saving research, rather than cleaning up their own house concerning the child sexual abuse scandal.

  • Charles Black

    It’s always nice to know that the priorities of the Catholic Church are still about preventing life-saving research, rather than cleaning up their own house concerning the child sexual abuse scandal.

  • Donalbain

    No. In the Catholic worldview, they are two seperate categories.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a man of few words….. This Bishop, out of the Asshole of Geebus, is a low-life mother-fucking piece of shist.  I wish him Prostate and colon cancer at the same time, and I hope it takes him 10 years to die, in excruciating pain!  That is what he deserves.

  • Fester60613

    Again, dogma trumps decent human kindness. Douche bag Bishop. Douche bag Vatican. Douche bag blood guilt cult.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I don’t think that Hemant writes from that particular worldview.  

    When we hear about clergy abuse of children in Catholicism, we don’t think, “Kids should get out because they might be targeted.” We think, “People should get out because the behavior of the organization is reprehensible and it should be rejected.”My point is that it’s not that, “Catholicism engages in x/y/z poor treatment of women, therefore, women should leave. Men, you’re cool to stay. I mean, they’re not poorly treating you. (Unless you’re gay. Then, get out.)” It’s that, “Catholicism engages in x/y/z poor treatment of women, therefore ALL PEOPLE who care about such matters should get out.” 

  • I wonder how far reaching that judgement might be. I mean does the Red Cross explicitly say they won’t fund stem cell research? What about Doctors without Borders? Heck, even you local animal welfare charity probably doesn’t specifically state that it won’t fund stem cell research.

  • Walter Rochester

    Rage brought on by the less faithful, full of ignorance and laziness will be quick to engulf one’s mind to conclude that the Church is against breast cancer research. Be compassionate, fellow Christians (non Catholics), take a moment to understand the Church’s good values.

  • Anonymous

    No. They like the traditions (rosaries, the Mass, the old prayers, maybe even Latin). They just don’t like the higher-ups in the clergy who have their priorities completely backwards. Two different things.

    Anti-Birth-control and anti-stem-cell perspectives are NOT traditional. They weren’t in any way part of the RCC’s official stance until modern times.

  • Anonymous

    1. If it’s fertilized, then the thing being flushed out is not an egg any longer, but an embryo. Regardless of your perspectives on when personhood begins, it is generally in one’s best interests to get the terminology right.

    2. The RCC is totally cool with ADULT stem cell research (i.e., using the patient’s own stem cells). They just don’t like embryos being involved because of their views on when personhood begins. Please be careful to specify embryonic stem cell research, as not all stem cell research is embryonic.

  • Jaeson Drummond

    “Why are those who are notoriously undisciplined and unmoral also most
    contemptuous of religion and morality? They are trying to solace their
    own unhappy lives by pulling the happy down to their own abysmal

    — Fulton J Sheen

  • “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one”

    — George Bernard Shaw

  • cipher

    Jaeson Drummond is obviously another drive-by, hit-and-run poster who refuses to take responsibility for his remarks.

    Nothing pisses me off more than a moron who feels entitled to leave his droppings around the internet without having to field any sort of rebuttal.

    If you feel like harassing him (which I heartily recommend), here’s his contact info:

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