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Late Night: The Hill They Want to Die On

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Apparently, for the Roman Catholic Church, it’s this: 

Children who attend Catholic schools in the Madison Catholic Diocese will no longer be taking field trips to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery because the facility on the UW-Madison campus conducts research using embryonic stem cells.

The diocese announced its decision in a letter Thursday to principals and priests, saying the research runs counter to Catholic teaching on the sacredness of human life.

“Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison may no longer participate in any activities, workshops or field trips at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery,” wrote Michael Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools. “Any plans to do so should be halted immediately, and alternative, morally acceptable means of meeting the educational objectives should be utilized.”


The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery opened in 2010 as a public-private research center. It conducts research across disciplines, focusing on “the interfaces of computation, laboratory science, the humanities and entrepreneurship,” according to its website.

It houses the Morgridge Institute for Research, where renowned researcher James Thomson is director of regenerative biology. Thomson was the first scientist, in 1998, to grow human embryonic stem cells in a lab.

The diocesan investigation was triggered last spring by concerns from parents and priests, Lancaster said. While the research center offers many valuable educational programs that pose no moral or theological issues for Catholics, it also offers a workshop for middle and high school students in which they work with live human stem cells, he said.

“There is the possibility participants in this workshop may handle embryonic stem cells, which would clearly violate Catholic doctrine and teaching,” Lancaster said.

And clearly the possibility, the near occasion of sin, is enough to say fuck no to all science learning, and tell high school kids that their morals dictate that they live in the goddamn dark ages. That’s a GREAT way, btw, to make sure they stay interested in the church. That’s just a great way to not look like backwards-ass irrelevant fossils, guys. Way to fucking be.

You know, when I was growing up, this anti-science bent in Christianity was something my Catholic teachers mocked, like look, we’re not barefoot hicks in the woods handling snakes. But the abortion issue has so subsumed everything else the church could reasonably have an interest in or a position on, has so taken over as THE defining issue of the entire hierarchy, that it’s like every time it comes up people just glaze over.

The results aren’t pretty. 


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.