I suppose this is a kind of threat—an archaic and quaint threat, but I’m sure some people take it seriously—but the Catholic church has made a strong statement against embryonic stem cell research.

The Vatican stepped up its fight against embryonic stem cell research on Wednesday, saying that scientists involved in such work would be excommunicated.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Vatican department dealing with family affairs, said in a magazine interview that “destroying human embryos is equivalent to an abortion… it’s the same thing”.

“Excommunication applies to all women, doctors and researchers who eliminate embryos,” the cardinal told Catholic publication Famiglia Cristiana.

To which I can only weakly reply, “no, no, don’t drive scientists away from your religion, Catholics!” Bwahahahaha!

Anyway, do read the article. I thought that, while short, it was very informative about the political debate on stem cells in Italy, and actually summarized the situation fairly accurately and pithily.

Embryonic stem-cell research techniques involve destroying human embryos to extract their stem cells. Stem cells are ‘blank’ cells which have the ability to grow into any tissue of the body. Scientists think they could eventually be used to treat a host of ailments including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and diabetes.

The stem cells of very early embryos are preferred because they can become any kind of cell whereas adult stem cells are less flexible. Despite popular support, embryonic stem cell research is opposed by pro-life groups and many conservative lawmakers because the human embryo must be destroyed before its stem cells can be removed.

I’ve gotten so used to the way American journalists so readily fall for the false claim of the anti-choicers that adult stem cells are better than embryonic stem cells in all ways that I was surprised to see that more accurate short description in there.