The top-ranking Catholic official in Iowa will be in Des Moines this evening to testify at a public hearing on stem cell research. A bill pending in the Iowa House would ease the state law which forbids human cloning to allow research on stem cells derived from a human embryo. Tom Chapman, a spokesman for the Iowa Catholic Conference, says the church considers that human cloning.
"Archbishop Jerome Hanus from the Archdiocese of Dubuque is coming down to testify," Chapman says. "I think that should indicate to folks that this is really an important issue, at least certainly for us and for a lot of people because we’re dealing with human life." According to Chapman, the archbishop is considered the leader of the "province" of Iowa Catholics.
"He thought it was important to speak out and as a practical matter it looks like the vote will be very close and so he’s hoping to make sure we can have an impact on that if we can," Chapman says. The bill passed the Iowa Senate last week 26-to-24, the bare minimum number of "yes" votes needed to pass. This is "Ash Wednesday" and there are services held today in Catholic and other Christian churches to mark the start of the 40-day period in the church calendar known as Lent.
Chapman says having the public hearing tonight does pose a bit of a problem. "I think it could have been an accident in scheduling, but it will present a conflict for some people because they’ll have planned to go to mass on the evening of Ash Wednesday," Chapman says. It will not pose a conflict for Chapman, however, as he attended the mass conducted at eight o’clock this morning at the statehouse.