Ohio Catholics and State Department throw cold water on ice bucket challenge

The charity stunt has lured U.S. presidents, athletes, celebrities, politicians and rock stars and gone viral on the Internet, but don't look for many Catholics in Cincinnati or U.S. diplomats to get in on the fun.

A Roman Catholic diocese in Ohio is discouraging its 113 schools from participating in the ice bucket challenge to benefit the ALS Association, saying the group's funding of embryonic stem cell research is "in direct conflict with Catholic teaching."

Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, told the schools in a letter Tuesday to "immediately cease" any plans to raise funds for the association or to instead direct donations to another organization that combats ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease that causes paralysis and almost certain death.

The Catholic Church relates the use of embryonic stem cells in research to abortion and says it violates the sanctity of human life. The use of adult stem cells in research is not forbidden by Catholic teaching.

"We certainly appreciate the compassion that has caused people all over the country, certainly including many Catholics, to be interacting and engaging in a fun way to support ALS research," diocese spokesman Dan Adriacco said Thursday. "But it's a well-established moral principle that not only the ends be good, but the means must be good, too."

The diocese said schools could participate in the ice bucket challenge, but any money raised should be directed to groups like the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa, which conducts "pro-life driven" research, according to its website.

Carrie Munk, a spokeswoman for the ALS Association, said her group largely funds adult stem-cell research but does fund one study involving embryonic stem cells using money from one specific donor.

She said all donors to the ALS Association can stipulate where their money goes and can ask that it not pay for embryonic stem cell research.

Meanwhile, lawyers at the State Department have banned American ambassadors and other high-profile foreign service officers from participating in the ice-bucket challenge. In a cable sent this week to all U.S. diplomatic missions, the lawyers say it runs afoul of federal ethics rules barring officials from using public office for private gain "no matter how worthy the cause." The unclassified cable, sent on Tuesday, was obtained by The Associated Press Thursday.

The cable said public health and disease prevention are some of the State Department's highest priorities, noting U.S. funding for global programs to fight HIV and AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox and polio and recent efforts to combat the Ebola virus. And, it complimented the ALS Association on the success of its ice bucket challenge, which has raised more than $40 million and attracted a plethora of notable participants, including former President George W. Bush, television hosts Martha Stewart and Matt Lauer and pro golfer Greg Norman.

But it also pointed out that choosing among worthy charities can be a difficult personal decision that is made "even more difficult when high-ranking State Department personnel with high-profile positions are asked to participate in charitable fund-raising, and concerns about preference and favoritism always arise."

"There are firmly established rules preventing the use of public office, such as our ambassadors, for private gain, no matter how worthy a cause," the cable said. "Thus, high-ranking State Department officials are unfortunately unable to participate in the ice bucket challenge. We since wish the ALS Association continued success in its ice bucket campaign, and in its fight against Lou Gehrig's disease."

By the time the cable was sent at least one high-ranking diplomat, Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, had already participated and had challenged U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to douse herself with ice water for the cause. But by then, Power and the other ambassadors got the memo.

Since the ice bucket challenge took over the Internet, the ALS Association received $41.8 million in donations from July 29 to Thursday. That's compared to $2.1 million in the same time period last year.

"This is a watershed and celebratory moment for the nonprofit sector," Ritu Sharma the co-founder of Social Media for Nonprofits, told CBS News. "What it does is showcase the power of social media of being an equalizer of sorts," allowing even small nonprofits and social causes to gain widespread attention.

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