22 August 2014, The Tablet

US Bishops pour cold water on Ice Bucket Challenge

Church leaders have urged Catholics not to join in the Ice Bucket Challenge fundraising stunt because the charity profiting from it funds embryonic stem cell research.

Since the challenge went viral in June ice-cold water has been poured over the heads of celebrities, world leaders and former presidents to raise money for the ALS Association, which funds research into motor neurone disease. 

Victims and their supporters donate to the charity before challenging another person. So far the campaign has raised over $40 million (£24 million).

But a number of Archdioceses including Ohio and Cincinnati have banned schools from donating to the Association, citing the Church’s ban on research that uses stem cells harvested from embryos.

The Archbishop of New Orleans, Gregory Aymond, emailed priests asking them to ensure their parishioners only donated to “morally acceptable” research and the Archdiocese of Newark, in New Jersey, has also asked parishioners to donate to charities that only use adult stem cells.

The Bishop of Evansville, Indiana, Charles Thompson praised participants’ “humbling generosity” but said that the Association’s research went against church teaching.

“As a result, the Diocese of Evansville will not approve participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge as it currently occurs,” he said, but urged Catholics to donate instead to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa and for people suffering in Gaza, Iraq and Syria.

Bishop Thompson also expressed concern at the waste of water in a world where more than 780 million people had no access to safe water, adding that some neighbouring states were suffering from “exceptional drought”.

"Why not create a ‘Dry Ice Bucket Challenge?' Fill a bucket with recyclable material – and recycle it after the challenge. Think of the safe water and other natural resources an approach like that would conserve,” he said.

A spokesperson for the ALS Association, Carrie Munk, told Time that the organisation currently funds one study using embryonic stem cells, but added that donors can ask that their money not be used for this purpose.

This week the pop star Shakira nominated Pope Francis for the challenge.

Above: Former US President George W. Bush is doused with ice water by his wife Laura. Photo: YouTube

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