“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 decision, approved by Bishop Robert Morlino, affects about 7,400 children at 44 schools in 11 counties, Lancaster said. However, only a handful of Catholic schools had been taking students to the facility, he said.
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.
Embryonic stem cells are harvested from human embryos, requiring the destruction of early-stage embryos otherwise discarded at fertility clinics. The Catholic Church considers this the death of a human being and teaches that all human life is sacred and must be protected. The church does not oppose research using adult stem cells, which are derived from adult tissue samples.