For two decades, the country’s Muscular Dystrophy Association has run a wildly popular annual telethon to raise money for medical research.
Indeed, the 34-hour fund-raiser, which begins Friday night at the Trocadéro esplanade in Paris and will be shown on national television, is expected to surpass last year’s record of more than $138 million in donations.
But this year, the Roman Catholic Church here has sullied the reputation of the telethon, with some church officials calling its financing of research on embryonic stem cells immoral.
“For us, these embryos are not things, but human beings,” Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, told journalists on Tuesday. “And from the depths of our faith, we cannot accept that they are selected, destroyed, the objects of experiments.”
The cardinal, one of France’s most senior Roman Catholic clerics, praised the telethon as a worthy project over all, but other church figures have suggested that it be boycotted.
Pierre-Olivier Arduin, a member of the commission for bioethics and human life for the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, set off the dispute in October when he posted a statement on the diocese Web site. “It is no longer possible to participate in the telethon,” his statement said, adding, “Christians cannot cooperate with evil.” The statement has been removed.
Then Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Paris said that just because the telethon provided money for worthwhile projects to fight muscular dystrophy, it should not be given “a blank check.”
Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon then said in a statement on the diocese Web site, “We can promote donations to campaigns only if they offer all necessary ethical guarantees on the experiment that they support.”