Pittsburgh bishop throws cold water on ALS group, which uses embryonic stem cells
Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is taking the ice bucket challenge to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease, but he is giving a cold shoulder to the ALS Association, the usual beneficiary.
“We are aware of the ALS Association and how it uses — at least in one of its areas of research — embryonic stem cells,” said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese.
Lengwin said the bishop intends to make a donation to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which “uses a variety of adult stem cells to find cures and therapies for various diseases,” he said. “They do not engage in embryonic stem cell research of any kind.”
He declined to say how much the bishop was contributing.
The superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati discouraged schools from taking part in the popular fundraiser unless they gave the money raised to groups that fight ALS without using embryonic stem cells.
Lengwin said the church opposes research using embryonic stem cells because they’re “used with part of the destruction of life, often with a child that has been aborted.”
The ALS Association said it supports a study using embryonic stem cells but said donors can require that their gifts go elsewhere.
The bishop is taking part on behalf of the Rev. Dennis Colamarino, pastor of Christ the Light of the World Parish and St. Joseph’s parishes in Duquesne. Colamarino was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, a neurodegenerative disease, a year ago. About 30,000 Americans have the disease.
After an 11 a.m. Mass on Saturday at Holy Name Church of Christ the Light of the World Parish, police will close South First Street in Duquesne, and Zubik and Colamarino will be doused with ice and water.
“I see this as an opportunity to give back some of the love and support that I have received over the last 15 months,” Colamarino said in a prepared statement.
The ice bucket challenge has been a popular fundraiser for the ALS Association — attracting former President George W. Bush, celebrities and athletes, among others, to take the plunge. Between July 29 and Aug. 21, the association received $41.8 million in donations compared with $2.1 million during the same period last year, according to its website.
Thus far, “Team Father Dennis” has collected more than $20,000.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or [email protected].