The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh plans to take the ice bucket challenge to support a priest who has Lou Gehrig's disease, but says he will donate his money to a charity that doesn't use embryonic stem cells for its research.
Bishop David Zubik's announcement comes after the Archdiocese of Cincinnati this week discouraged its schools from raising money for organizations that conduct research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, using cells taken from human embryos.
The Pittsburgh diocese agrees with Cincinnati officials that such research violates the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a diocesan spokesman.
Zubik plans to take the challenge Saturday with the Rev. Dennis Colamarino, pastor of two parishes in Duquesne, who was diagnosed with the disease last year. Zubik will donate an undisclosed sum to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which uses only adult stem cells.
The ALS Association has raised $42 million in the past month due largely to ice bucket challenges, compared with about $2 million over the same period last year. The charity notes that people who wish to donate can designate that their money not be used for research that uses embryonic stem cells.
A group at Colamarino's church has raised $26,000 -- more than 2 1/2 times its goal -- for an upcoming walk to support ALS research in his name.
Zubik will celebrate a special Mass for the sick that will also honor Colamarino on Saturday before he and the priest are doused with ice water.
"I've been in carnivals where they threw balls at you to get dunked -- but never with the bishop," Colamarino said.
Zubik said he wanted his ice bucket challenge to be about more than raising money for charity.
"I wanted to put it in the context of a prayer of support, to celebrate Mass for him, praying for his health with the sacramental anointing of the sick," the bishop said, and to support Colamarino's parishes "because they're having a tough time, too."