As the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure approaches, some Catholics are asking the question: “Should I participate?”
The following common questions were originally addressed by Msgr. Kevin T. McMahon, former archdiocesan episcopal vicar for moral and religious matters related to health care and biotechnology, and Mrs. Christina Heddell, M.T.S., former director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate. The responses were recently updated by the current director, Mrs. Beth Lauver, based on the updated archdiocesan position statement.
Q. What is the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ official position on the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure?
A. The archdiocese’s official position is available on the Respect Life Apostolate’s website, STLRespectLife.org. You can also request a copy of the statement by calling 314.792.7555
The statement notes that the archdiocese does not encourage participation in the race. The archdiocese has directed its parishes and institutions not to organize any group participation in the race, because such participation, although aimed at fighting breast cancer, would lend Church support to all that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure promotes or funds. The most serious problem is that, according to the last data available, some Komen affiliates provide financial support to Planned Parenthood. Susan G. Komen for the Cure-St. Louis is not one of those affiliates.
Although this money is earmarked for diagnostic testing for breast cancer, it frees up other monies which Planned Parenthood can then use for the immoral practices which are the mainstay of its operations—contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Participation by Church groups in the race would send the wrong message; namely, that support for these evil practices can be justified by the pursuit of a good cause. People would rightly ask, how evil can such things be if the Church is willing to give any support to them? To act in a way that may lead others to accept or promote evil is to give scandal, which Jesus condemns and demands that we avoid. A Church group’s participation in the race would likely be a source of grave scandal.
Q. Does the archdiocese have any other objections to Komen?
A. Yes, there are two other very serious objections: First, Komen has encouraged embryonic stem cell research by identifying it as a promising avenue in the fight against breast cancer. Obtaining embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of human embryos, which is gravely immoral and cannot be justified for any reason. Even if pluripotent stem cells (the type that are extracted from embryos) were effective in preventing, treating, or curing breast cancer, and this is a big “if,” new techniques for obtaining such cells which do not require the destruction of human embryos are now being perfected. And, adult stem cells have been used successfully in treating a number of other diseases. We encourage Komen to support stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of human life.
Second, recent studies have found a link between abortion and breast cancer, while others have found no link. More research needs to be done to settle this question, so we find Komen’s premature denial of the connection between abortion and breast cancer to be irresponsible. Although Komen may not wish to fund such research, it is wrong for it to discourage an avenue of research that may identify factors related to abortion that can be linked to this disease. Such knowledge could aid in the prevention or cure of the disease.
Q. Why is it important that the archdiocese take this position, and why is it important for Catholics to know that the Church does have a position on Komen and the race?
A. The Church has an obligation to instruct the faithful in the moral truth, so that they can form their consciences correctly. Many people in good faith support Komen not knowing about its regional support of Planned Parenthood, of its denial of abortion as a cause of breast cancer, or of its endorsement of embryonic stem cell research. These are important facts which people must consider in reaching a judgment of conscience about their own participation in the race.
Q. How should Catholics who would like to participate in the race view the position of the archdiocese?
A. It is unfortunate that Komen has become morally tainted for the previously stated reasons. The Church has encouraged Catholics to find moral ways to prevent or cure every form of human illness and disease, including breast cancer. For this reason the archdiocese has asked those who might be inclined to participate in the run to write to Komen and to urge them to change its stance on embryonic stem cell research, and to stop funding Planned Parenthood. The archdiocese also encourages the faithful to fight against breast cancer praying for its victims and continuing to seek morally licit research organizations.
Q. Do you think that the Church may appear unconcerned about those who have been affected either directly or indirectly by breast cancer?
A. Given the Church’s own involvement in research aimed at finding a cure for breast cancer and the dedication of her health care institutions to preventing and treating this disease, it would be both inaccurate and unjust to make such a claim. Almost all of us have loved ones who have suffered or died from this disease. We share Komen’s goal of preventing, treating, and curing breast cancer, and we encourage the faithful of the archdiocese to support all morally licit programs directed to this cause.
The archdiocese appreciates the tremendous contribution the Komen Foundation has made to the fight against breast cancer. We encourage Komen to cease providing funds to Planned Parenthood, to support further research on the possible connections between abortion and breast cancer, and to stop promoting embryonic stem cell research. Should Komen stop supporting such immoral practices, the Church would no longer be in the regrettable position of having to discourage participation in the race.