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Vatican Invite to Nobel Winner ‘Ludicrous; Cause for Scandal’

Washington, DC–Judie Brown, president and co-founder of American Life League, and a three-time appointee to the Pontifical Academy for Life, released this letter to the Vatican on news that Dr. John Gurdon has been invited to speak at the Second International Stem Conference in the Vatican on Friday, April 12.

The full text follows:

April 11, 2013

Monsignor Tomasz Trafny
Science and Faith Foundation
Pontificium Consilium de Cultura
Via della Conciliazone 5
V-00120 Vatican City

Dear Monsignor Trafny:

News that Dr. John Gurdon, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, was invited to present the keynote speech at The Second International Stem Conference in the Vatican on Friday, April 12, 2013, has come as a surprise and, quite honestly, a true disappointment.

The Pontifical Council for Culture’s press release stated that this event was designed, in part, to “expand global awareness of the here-and-now opportunities of adult stem cell therapies, reducing misperceptions surrounding the field of cellular research,” particularly to “lay the groundwork for a collaborative network of scientists, educators and patrons who embrace the promise of adult stem cells.” (italics added)

While Dr. Gurdon’s Nobel Prize is routinely referred to in the media–and even in the Council’s release–as an award for transforming adult cells into “embryonic-like” stem cells, the truth of the matter is that Dr. Gurdon was the first to successfully clone an animal using the process referred to as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).  His work paved the way for Ian Wilmut to clone Dolly, the sheep, and then for Shinya Yamanaka, co-recipient of last year’s Nobel, to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).

Cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, the use of illicit biological materials in research, IVF, designer babies-all are immoral and unethical. Rather than praise and prizes, the research of Dr. Gurdon and his colleagues ought to rightly be given condemnation

As such, this invitation to Dr. Gurdon is a cause for scandal; the mere announcement of his being keynote speaker at a Vatican Council’s conference is ludicrous given his history. Thousands of pro-life Catholics would deeply appreciate having an explanation for this horrendous occurrence; we would hope that you will tell us why Dr. Gurdon was invited.

Thank you for taking our concerns into consideration. Please be assured that we will pray for your intentions, and we humbly ask for your prayers for our efforts.

Sincerely yours in the Lord Who IS Life,

Judie Brown
President, American Life League, Inc.


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American Life League, cofounded by Judie Brown in 1979, is the oldest national Catholic pro-life education and advocacy organization in the United States. For more information, please visit