The reasons the Catholic Diocese of Evansville will not approve participation in the Ice Bucket
"In about a month, those who have accepted the popular Ice Bucket Challenge have
raised more than $30 million, and there appears to be no end in sight to this humbling
"These efforts call to mind the Corporal Works of Mercy, which encourage every person
to love his or her brothers and sisters as themselves by performing merciful works of
assistance. However, Catholics must have concerns about this popular fundraising effort
in its current form.
"In the past week, it has come to light that the primary beneficiary of the Ice Bucket
Challenge is an organization that is, by its own admission, funding at least one study that
involves embryonic stem-cell research. Such research is against the teaching of the
Church, which respects and honors the dignity and life of every person - from conception
to natural death.
"In addition, those countless video clips posted online across an array of social media
platforms show people who are using fresh, clean water in a way that must be questioned.
"Today, more than 780 million people around the world have no access to safe water -
including a startling 10 million in the developed countries on the continents of North
America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
"As of this week, more than a quarter of the continental U.S. is suffering from conditions
that vary from abnormally dry to exceptional drought - including southern Indiana and
western Kentucky counties that are very close to us.
"As a result, the Diocese of Evansville will not approve participation in the Ice Bucket
Challenge as it currently occurs.
"There are, however, alternatives that Catholics and all people can use to continue this
outpouring of generosity.
"Those who wish to donate to medical research should consider the John Paul II Medical
Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa. It conducts research on ALS and other
neurological diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease), as well as rare
diseases and cancer. Its stem-cell research, however, involves only adult stem cells.
"There also are other important ways to donate. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
has called for a special collection in early September to provide additional funds to
Catholic Relief Services for distribution to those suffering immeasurably in Gaza, Iraq
and Syria - and our parishes will participate. Gathering donations that will go toward that
special collection is another alternative.
"Here at home, Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul Society in our own diocese
practice the corporal works of mercy daily as they help individuals of all races and
religions in a variety of ways. Raising funds to benefit either or both is a great idea.
In fact, doing so will respond directly to Pope Francis' consistent call for all of us to
serve the poor and needy.
"In his Apostolic Exhortation 'Evangelii Gaudium' (The Joy of the Gospel), he says,
'How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of
exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of
exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are
starving? This is a case of inequality.' (E.G. 53)
"Finally, there clearly are alternatives to pouring fresh, clean, safe water over someone
when practically one in 11 people on our planet do not have access to safe water.
"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.
"The goal is not to diminish the impact of innovative fundraising efforts. Instead, the
hope is that people will continue to donate to a variety of great causes that are consistent
with Church teaching, and that they will do so creatively - generating positive impacts.
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