Ohio Bishop Bars Support for Komen

Diocese of Toledo says bishop's statement does not ban individuals from contributing

By Ellen Goldberg
|  Wednesday, Jul 13, 2011  |  Updated 12:16 AM CDT
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A Roman Catholic bishop has barred his parishes and schools from fundraising for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Ellen Goldberg, NBCDFW.com

A Roman Catholic bishop has barred his parishes and schools from fundraising for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

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A Roman Catholic bishop in Ohio has instructed his parishes to stop fundraising for Susan G. Komen for the Cure over concerns that the Dallas-based organization might one day fund embryonic stem cell research.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is best known for its pink-themed races and walks across the country that raise millions for breast cancer research.

In a letter last week, Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair barred parishes and schools in his diocese from fundraising for Komen.

"In order to avoid even the possibility of cooperation in morally unacceptable activities, the other bishops and I believe that it would be wise to find alternatives to Komen for Catholic fundraising events," Blair wrote in the letter.

The Cincinnati Archdiocese made a similar decision earlier this year.

While scientists believe embryonic stem cell research could one day lead to cures for a number of diseases, the Catholic church maintains that the destruction of the embryo amounts to the killing of human life.

Andrea Rader, a Komen spokeswoman, said the organization has never funded stem cell research, although its policies do not prohibit it.

"As you may know, we're the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research outside of the federal government, with $610 million invested in our 30 years and touching every major advance in breast cancer research," Rader said in a statement. "We do not fund embryonic stem cell research and have not funded it in the past, although our policies do not preclude doing so. If we received a request to fund such research, we would weigh it very carefully (as we do all of our research proposals) for its likelihood to have a positive impact on breast cancer research and treatment."

A statement from the Diocese of Toledo on Tuesday stressed that Blair did not ban individual Catholics from contributing locally to Komen with the charity's "assurance that no local funds go to Planned Parenthood or to embryonic stem cell research."

"We don't fund embryonic stem cell research, we do not fund abortion, and we do not fund grants to Planned Parenthood, so we're optimistic that they will continue to be good partners and friends with us," said Mary Westphal, Northwest Ohio Komen director.

Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrall said in a statement that there should be more research into how Komen's funds are used.

"Catholic teaching calls for the protection of life from conception to natural death," he said. "The Catholic Church also recognizes the importance of access to health care for all people which includes preventative health care. Bishops cannot encourage Catholics to fundraise for any organization until there are assurances that the organization is not engaged in anything that violates Catholic teaching. Certainly the efforts of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the battle against breast cancer are admirable, and I welcome a discussion of this issue with Komen leadership in Dallas."

Komen officials said they are happy to open a dialogue with Farrall.

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