Head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopes Trujillo, said that scientists who carry out embryonic stem cell research should be excommunicated, according to Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic magazine. In an interview with the magazine, the Cardinal says he believes embryonic research is no different from abortion.

He specified that all women, doctors and scientists who eliminate embryos should be excommunicated. Trujillo said "Even talking about the defence of life and family rights is being treated as a sort of crime against the state in some countries - a form of social disobedience or discrimination against women. God will judge."

Outraged scientists, especially catholic ones, accuse him of religious persecution. Dr. Stephen Minger, a stem cell scientist at Kings College, London, said "Having been raised a Catholic. I found this stance really outrageous. Are they going to excommunicate IVF doctors, nurses and embryologists who routinely put millions of embryos down the sink every year throughout the world? It is more ethical to use embryos that are going to be destroyed anyway for the general benefit of mankind than simply putting them down the sink."

Criticism of the Cardinal's comments came from various quarters. Prof. Allan Templeton, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that the comments were unhelpful and insensitive - he wondered whether they truly reflected the thinking of the Roman Catholic Church. Prof Julian Savulescu, Oxford University, suggested that God, rather than church leaders, should be the judge."

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today