Catholic Church throws cold water on ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Never has cold water been so hot.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media sensation that’s sweeping the nation.

ABC 27 on-air personalities Ryan Coyle and Brett Thackara have accepted the challenge.

So did ABC 27 photojournalist Joe Camut, who shot this story.

The challenge is simple: get wet or make a contribution to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The campaign has been a home run with nearly a million participants who have raised more than $50 million as of Friday.

“I don’t know if there was a hand that wasn’t raised when I said, ‘How many of you know about the ALS bucket dump?’ Every hand was up,” said Matt Shore, principal of St. Theresa’s School in New Cumberland.

St Theresa’s caught the ice bucket fever Friday afternoon just before the end of school.

“My gift to the eighth grade is they get to be the ones that dump the ice water on the teachers,” laughed Shore, who also took the challenge.

But the Harrisburg Catholic Diocese is pouring cold water on the challenge, telling donors not to give to the ALS Association because it encourages embryonic stem cell research.

“To obtain an embryonic stem cell, you have to basically kill an embryo,” diocese spokesman Joe Aponick said. “For the Catholic faithful, we view that as taking a life.”

In a statement, the ALS Association said it’s only funding one study with embryonic stem cells and added: “The ALS Association is committed to honoring donor intent. If a donor is not comfortable with a type of research, he or she can stipulate that their dollars not be invested in that particular area.”

But on its website, the ALS Association also cheerleads for an increase in embryonic research and an easing of federal restrictions on it.

Because of that, money raised at St. Theresa’s is going to the John Paul the Second Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa which is working on a cure for ALS without using embryos.

“It’s not like we want to go around looking like we’re uptight or something, but we have a strong belief in our Catholic faith and we want to hold true to our values,” Shore said.

“We had a priest several years ago that was afflicted with it,” Aponick said. “He fought valiantly and then passed to the disease, so we’re sensitive to it. We’re aware of how bad it is.”

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