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Archive of August 24, 2004

Leading ethicist says embryos are human life, should not be cloned

Montreal, Canada, Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - A well-respected medical ethicist from one of Canada’s leading universities says Canada must not legalize embryonic cloning for any purpose, including therapeutic purposes.

Margaret Somerville, founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University in Montreal, makes her case from a purely academic and secular perspective in a comment published in the National Post last week, called “The ethics of stem cells.”

In her article, Somerville says Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act “reflects the view that to create embryos other than by sexual reproduction and other than to help people have children is inherently wrong.”

While Somerville does not seem to disagree with the creation of embryos for in vitro fertilization, she states that embryos are indeed human life that should be respected.

Somerville comments on how the debate is developing in Canada, the United States and Britain. The reader benefits from the scholar’s clear explanation about embryonic stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning. She also differentiates from principle-based ethical analysis and utilitarian-based ethical analysis.

Scientists, many of whom are sold on utilitarian-based ethical analysis, try to downplay the issue of human life in stem-cell research. They instead refer to the embryo as a “clump of cells” or as “potential human life,” Somerville says, “despite the fact that they are, given the right conditions, human life with the potential to go on living for years and years, just like all of us.

“The strongest argument for using ‘spare’ IVF embryos is that nothing is lost by their use,” she continues. “But the same logic applies (broadly) to dying people. And yet, all of us would be appalled at the idea of terminating their lives so we could harvest their tissues or organs in order to save others,” she says, in reference to the common utilitarian argument that embryonic stem-cell research is valid in an effort to find cures that could save people’s lives.

“We maintain respect for their lives and do not use them simply as products,” she said.

“This last point hints at a broader reason to be very careful about how we treat embryos – the precedents we could set that would be open to the application to the rest of us,” she warns.

“While some observers disagree with any use of embryos for scientific research, the overall position taken by the Assisted Human Reproduction Act seeks to maintain respect for human life and its transmission,” she says in her conclusion. “We must ensure that such respect endures.”

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Canadian Jesuits battle Wal-Mart

Guelph, Ont., Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - In a classic David and Goliath struggle, the Canadian Jesuits are up against one of the world’s largest corporations in a fight to keep a sprawling mega-store from being built next to the priests’ retreat centre.

Fr. James Profit, SJ, the director of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ont., is leading his community in the battle against Wal-Mart.

The corporation has wanted to enter the Guelph market of 100,000 people for quite some time, and it has decided that the best span of land for its department store is just south of the 600-acre retreat centre. The Jesuits have been able to keep the company at bay for the last nine years but it’s becoming more difficult as Wal-Mart won’t back down.

Fr. Profit says the department store would bring with it a lot of traffic, noise and pollution, which would alter the life of the Jesuits and the experience of the people, who come to the 90-year-old complex for silent retreats. According to Fr. Profit, the green expanse of land, which Wal-Mart is eyeing, is “an expression of God” and should be protected as such, reported the National Post.

The 47-year-old priest also told the National Post that the proposed 135,000-square-foot store would be located in “the sacred belt” of three cemeteries. He also fears that other stores will go up once Wal-Mart sets up shop.

“Wal-Mart always attracts other stores,” he was quoted as saying. “We’re going to have several stores eventually, and it’s going to be very active. It’s so contrary to that sense of solitude one needs, even for graveyards.”

However, the priest recognizes the company’s good will in negotiating with the Jesuits. For example, Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Groh told the National Post that the company has significantly reduced the size of the proposed store, from 300,000 to 135,000 square feet. The company has also agreed to a larger buffer zone between the store and the retreat centre.

While more than 50 citizens spoke our against Wal-Mart in their community at public meetings two weeks ago, according to the Post, most citizen are in favor of having the discount department store in their community.

There is no indication about when a decision will be made.

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Two priests attacked inside church in Jharkhand, India

Jharkhand, India, Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - Last Sunday night in the city of Kubbu, in Jharkand state, eastern India, an armed gang entered a Catholic Church and attacked both the pastor and the vicar of the parish, inflicting serious knife wounds on the latter, and both were admitted to hospital.

The gang, number around a dozen men, made off with the money from the Church’s collection boxes after ransacking the house. The police, who arrived at the crime scene a while later, have no clues as to the identity of the attackers. They have posted two guards to keep watch over the church, meanwhile they have dismissed the case as an ordinary robbery.

Mgr. Michael Minj, Bishop of Gumla (another district in Jharkhand State) told AsiaNews that “the attack has shaken locals. The fact that the attackers were armed means that their act was premeditated…Attacks against Christian institutions like the one that occurred on Sunday are worrying,” Bishop Minj said.

However he will await  “the return of Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi (Jharkhand’s State capital), who is now in South Korea attending the Assembly of Asian Bishops, before the case is taken up with State authorities.”

The Church has been fostering development and education programs among the tribal people, the Adivasi, who are populous in Jharkhand State, actions which have angered many Hindu fundamentalists, who regard them as forms of proselytism.

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Catholics For a Free Choice open office in Chile

Santiago, Chile, Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - The pro-abortion, feminist organization “Catholics For a Free Choice” has opened its first office in Chile and begun issuing statements and presenting itself as an organization of believers seeking changes in the Church.

Although the history of the group, led by Frances Kissling, is well known, as well as its efforts to have the Vatican expelled from the UN, the group’s arrival in Chile has caused some commotion due to the lack of knowledge about its true aims.

CFF has opened an office in downtown Valparaiso, where it presents itself as a group of believers challenging the Church and promoting the use of contraceptives, the morning after pill, and the legalization of abortion, under the slogan, “Motherhood should be voluntary.”

The bishop of Valparaiso has issued a statement saying, “The institution called Catholics for a Free Choice is not part of the Catholic Church, and its position on moral issues clearly contradicts the teaching of the Church.”

Nevertheless, members of CFF insist that they consider themselves part of the Church, although they never reveal that they are financed by international abortion groups.  Part of their activities thus far in Chile has been to encourage homosexual groups and mothers in difficult situations to take part in a pro-abortion rally in September.

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Cardinal Lopez Trujillo expresses support of Latin America for canonization of Queen Isabel of Spain

Avila, Spain, Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, said in Avila this week the bishops of the Church in Latin America intend to join the request by the bishops and cardinals of Spain for the canonization of Queen Isabel the Catholic.

Cardinal Trujillo said he was “a convinced defender of the importance that Queen Isabel the Catholic represents for the Church and for the history of the Church in Spain and in Latin America,” and that therefore he will be pushing in Rome for her beatification and canonization.

The Colombian cardinal, who is also a member of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, expressed his commitment “to promote, together with the Spanish cardinals and bishops, the providential cause of Isabel the Catholic, which is also well-supported by history.  It is a canonization that should be in hearts of all in Spain.”

Expressing the support of the bishops and cardinals of Latin America her cause, Cardinal Trujillo said, “This process should not encounter any obstacles; on the contrary, it should be supported by the entire community of believers.”

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Mexican bishops recommend increasing security at churches to ward off theft

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - The President of the Bishops Conference of Mexico, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, recommended this week that priests increase security at their churches in order to halt the theft of sacred art that has spread throughout the country.

Bishop Rabago, who also leads the Diocese of Leon, lamented the increase in church burglaries that have left Catholics in some areas “orphans,” such as a town in central Mexico where the statue of the patron saint was stolen.

“We hear frequently that the theft of sacred objects has spread.  Unfortunately, not only is the artistic patrimony that belongs to the Catholic community of the people of Mexico being stolen, but also the religious symbols in which our people place all of their confidence are being attacked,” he said.

Bishop Rabago recommended parishes implement all possible means of security because “the people need these symbols in order to strengthen their own faith.  To steal them in this way is to take away a maternal presence, which is a symbol of blessing, and leave the people in orphanhood.”

The bishop also underscored that priests should take special care that tabernacles be well secured and protected.

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Interfaith marriage can be sign of ‘love and life’: Asian bishops

Seoul, South Korea, Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - Interfaith marriage is an opportunity for a “dialogue of words, love and life,” say the Asian bishops in the final draft of a working document they prepared during their eighth plenary assembly last week, reported AsiaNews.

Over the past few days, Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences studied this year’s theme, “The Asian family: towards a culture of life.” The bishops completed reviewing the final draft of the document yesterday and were to vote on it.

In preparing the document, the bishops took into account the recent “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the world,” signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

Mixed marriages are increasingly a pastoral challenge to the Church in Asia but the document considers interfaith couples as “a chance sent by the Holy Ghost for a humble, respectful, silent, and yet eloquent statement of the Christian faith.”

A group at the conference was devoted to “interfaith dialogue and the family.” An Indian couple, Kalpesh and Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, were asked to speak about their interfaith marriage. Astrid Lobo is Catholic and her husband, Kalpesh, is Hindu.

“We were asked to bear witness as a ‘mixed’ couple,” she said. “We appreciated how attentive the bishops were to what we said.”

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New poll: Americans prefer funding stem-cell research that does not destroy embryos

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - Despite claims about the benefits of embryonic stem-cell research, Americans strongly prefer funding research that does not require destroying human embryos. They also strongly oppose human cloning for either reproductive or research purposes.

These are the chief findings of recent survey, commissioned by the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and conducted by International Communications Research. The telephone survey, which included only four questions, polled more than 1,000 American adults in mid-August.

The poll suggests that Americans are closely divided on federal funding of stem-cell research that requires destroying human embryos, with 43 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed.

However, when given a choice between funding all stem-cell research (both adult and embryonic) and funding only non-embryonic stem-cell research, as in adult stem-cell research, Americans clearly prefer funding only adult stem-cell research by a margin of 61 percent to 23 percent. Opposition to funding embryonic stem-cell research is stronger among women, low-income Americans, seniors, and regular churchgoers.

The survey also shows that Americans overwhelmingly oppose the use of human cloning to create embryos for medical research, 80 percent to 13 percent.

Americans also oppose cloning to provide children to infertile couples, 82 percent to 11 percent.

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British MPs call for review of abortion law

London, England, Aug 24, 2004 (CNA) - Forty-seven British MPs have signed Early Day Motions, welcoming new scientific images showing young foetuses "walking in the womb" at 12 weeks. About 50 more have placed their views on record and are demanding a review of Britain’s abortion law before the next election.

The majority of Conservative MPs and Liberal Democrats are believed to favor a review, while the Labour Party is split.

About 180,000 abortions take place in Britain each year, making it one of the most common operations performed on the National Heath Service.

Under current law, women can have abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy. In 2002, there were 1,353 babies of 22 weeks or more gestation aborted. But medical technology has advanced to the point where it is possible for an emergency caesarean section to save a baby at 24 weeks' gestation with a good chance of surviving normally.

Advocates for change say that while a foetus is saved in one operating room, another foetus at the same stage of development, can be aborted in the next room.

A backbencher is expected to bring forward a Bill to reduce the 24-week limit in the new session of Parliament in November.

Last month, Tony Blair signalled his support for a Commons vote when he told MPs that "if scientific evidence has shifted, it is obviously sensible for us to take that into account." He also said MPs would be able to vote according to their consciences.

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