Vatican City, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) -
Scientists have potentially found a rich source of stem cells valuable for therapy that could very well end the debate over the use of embryonic stem cells. Vatican officials, as well as pro-life groups, are saying initial reviews of the procedure seem to be ethically sound and scientifically as beneficial as embryonic stem cells.
Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported in the scientific journal “Nature Biotechnology” that the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid, donated by pregnant women, hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells.
They reported they were able to extract the stem cells without harm to the mother or fetus and grow the cells into different tissue cell types, such as brain, liver and bone, but they still do not know exactly how many different cell types can be made.
One of the more promising aspects of the research is that some of the DNA of the amnio-stem cells contained Y chromosomes, which means the cells came from the babies rather than the pregnant moms.
Dr. Anthony Atala heads Wake Forest's regenerative medicine institute in Winston-Salem, N.C., and serves as the senior researcher on the project. It took his team seven years to determine that the cells could be used for therapy, reported The Associated Press. Preliminary tests in patients are expected to be years away.
However, the finding raises the possibility that someday expectant parents can freeze amniotic stem cells for future tissue replacement in a sick child without fear of the child’s immune system rejecting them.
In April, Atala’s team rebuilt bladders for seven young patients using live tissue grown in the lab.
On Tuesday, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, said that in his opinion the research holds a great deal of promise. Barragan told Vatican Radio that the amniotic stem cells “may not have problems from the ethical point of view,” because their removal does not damage the life of the donor. The Cardinal also pointed out the cells potential compatibility with their donors. Based on initial reports, Barragan concluded, “I am very glad to see this progress in the field of science for the good of humankind.”
The Vatican has continuously supported the use of adult stem cell research while condemning embryonic research which results in the destruction of human life at its earliest stages.
Msgr. Jacques Suaudeau, M.D. and official of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life also told Vatican Radio on Monday that the new process is promising because, like embryonic stem cells, the amniotic stem cells appear to thrive in lab dishes for years. Suaudeau said the flexibility of amniotic stem cells remains to be fully tested, but agreed that there seem to be no ethical barriers crossed in their removal.
In the United States Pro-life organizations say the recent news about the potential for amniotic stem cells should give members of Congress pause as they consider whether to approve legislation that will fund embryonic stem cell research, reported LifeNews.com.
“This new science has been able to isolate every type of stem cell needed for therapy and healing medicine without the moral concern for loss of innocent life," Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said.
“Based upon this stunning new revelation, we strongly recommend that Speaker Nancy Pelosi refrain from moving forward in her plans to fund the highly controversial embryonic stem cell research," added Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition.
Mahoney and Newman are drafting a letter to Pelosi along with the pro-life National Clergy Council, and Generation Life, an organization for pro-life youth, urging her to hold a vote on the bill (H.R. 3).
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, is urging pro-lifers to call their members of Congress and encourage them to oppose H.R. 3.
Boston, Mass., Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - Five years after the clergy abuse scandal broke, there is still quite a way to go to restore trust and confidence in the Catholic Church of Boston, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley in a Boston Globe op-ed piece.
The scandal broke in the Boston Globe around the feast of the Epiphany in 2002. While the revelations were “devastating”, the “truth of the abuse had to be confronted,” the cardinal wrote.
“Only with the truth of clergy sexual abuse exposed could we again seek to walk fully in His (God’s) light,” he wrote in his column titled “Rebuilding faith, five years on”.
“The Catholic community has worked diligently in recent years to put in place programs and policies to ensure the safety of children. We must, and will, continue our vigilance and improve on these efforts. Nothing less is acceptable. Our responsibility to children and families is paramount. It is our hope and prayer that such protections will be in place in all settings in society where children depend upon the care of adults,” he continued.
The cardinal once again apologized to the victims of abuse and their families and asked for their forgiveness.
“The impact of the clergy sexual abuse scandal has reached deep into the lives of parishioners and the faith-filled priests who minister to them. They have borne the shame, grief, and confusion of these devastating revelations with heroic faith,” he recognized. He also acknowledged the anger and mistrust that arose within the wider community as a result of the scandal.
However, he pointed to the hope that comes from Christ’s love and mercy. “In this love the process of healing can both begin and be sustained,” he wrote.
, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - The New York Times issued an editors’ note stating that a story it had published in its magazine, which claimed that a woman in El Salvador received a 30-year jail sentence for having a clandestine abortion, was not thoroughly researched.
The story was first published in the April 9, 2006 issue of the magazine. The editors’ note, issued Jan. 7, stated that the reporter did not consult the court ruling prior to submitting his story.
“The Times should have obtained the text of the ruling of the three-judge panel before the article was published, but did not vigorously pursue the document until details of the ruling were brought to the attention of editors in late November,” the editors wrote.
The court ruling stated that the woman, Carmen Climaco, was found guilty of infanticide after forensic evidence showed that the baby was full term and breathing when it was strangled.
Furthermore, the editors admitted that the caption under the picture that accompanied the article “also misstated the facts of the ruling.”
“Ms. Climaco was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a case that was initially thought to be an abortion but was later ruled to be a homicide; she was not given 30 years in prison for an abortion that was ruled a homicide,” the note reads.
The inaccuracies in the Times’ article were exposed in November by LifeSiteNews.com, which led to a flurry of letters to Times’ editors. The editors’ note comes one week after the newspaper’s public editor wrote a column corroborating the findings of LifeSiteNews.com.
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy See was unaware of the true reach of the espionage activity of Archbishop Wielgus until the end of last week, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, stated on Monday in the Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera."
"When Monsignor Wielgus was named, we were unaware of his collaboration with the communist secret service," declared Cardinal Re.
The Prelate explained that Archbishop Wielgus, in view of his relations with the old communist secret service, committed two large errors: on the one hand he publicly denied - up to this past Friday - his collaboration, and he also hid important information from the Vatican during his appointment process.
The Archbishop resigned as Archbishop of Warsaw just two days after being installed as the Archdiocese’s ordinary.
Prague, Czech Republic, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - The highest ranking official of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, has welcomed the decision of Archbishop Stanislav Wielgus to offer his resignation as Archbishop of Warsaw following his admission of past connections with the former Communist regime of Poland.
“I think that it is a correct attitude, in light of the possible consequences for the Church’s credibility,” Cardinal Vlk said, pointing to similar cases which have arisen in the Czech Republic.
According to the Prelate, who suffered persecution during the days of communist rule, in the files of the former Czech Secret Police, known as one of the most brutal and repressive organizations of the Soviet Bloc, are names of priests who collaborated with the regime. Though, he pointed out, the Church has emphasized that it is difficult to blame all collaborators considering the violent methods, including torture, which the Secret Police used to “recruit” members of the clergy.
Martin Horalek, spokesman of the Bishops Conference of the Czech Republic, told Radio Prague that the Czech Roman Catholic Church judged each case on an individual basis.
"The most important thing is to differentiate between individual cases. So in one case you might have a priest who succumbed to enormous systematic pressure and signed a formal agreement on collaboration with the secret police, but never actually informed on anyone. In another…a person entered the Church as an agent of the secret police, with the explicit aim of informing on his colleagues," Horalek said.
Aukland, New Zealand, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - The manufacturer of the morning-after pill in New Zealand has acknowledged that the drug can cause an abortion during the first weeks of pregnancy.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, Schering Ltd, the company that makes the morning-after pill in New Zealand has included a pamphlet with the drug that informs women that one of the effects of the pill is to prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting itself in the womb of the uterus, thus causing an abortion.
Although Schering Ltd admits that the morning-after pill can cause an abortion—a fact that has been repeatedly denied by some doctors, researchers, drug makers and government officials—the indications included in the drug’s packaging do not alert women to this possibility.
In addition, females of any age can obtain the drug without a prescription despite the efforts by organizations such as Right to Life New Zealand (RLNZ), which has opposed the sale of the drug without a prescription and has demanded that the indications that come with the drug include information about its abortifacient nature.
Ken Orr, a spokesman for RLNZ, said his organization is seeking to re-open the issue. “It is now our intention to again take this issue up with our Minister of Health seeking to have this drug named correctly as an abortifacient and not incorrectly as a contraceptive,” he said.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - A prominent pro-abortion senator in Uruguay announced this week she intends to resend a proposal to the country’s parliament to legalize abortion.
In an interview with the Uruguayan daily, “La Republica,” Senator Margarita Percovich said, “This past year we did not want to include it in the agenda of the Senate Committee on Health Care because we had so many reform measures to deal with, but we plan to do so in 2007.”
The feminist senator said that this time the bill would be dressed up as “a matter of human rights” rather than one of heath care in order to avoid another defeat in the Senate similar to the one it suffered in 2005.
Uruguay’s left-wing President Tavare Vasquez has expressed his total commitment to the defense of the unborn and reiterated the promise he made upon assuming power to veto any legislation that would make abortion legal in the country.
Asked about those comments, Senator Percovich responded, “I don’t believe that. I know Dr. Vazquez and I think that if the members of his party vote to pass this bill, he will not issue a veto.”
Madrid, Spain, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - An independent Spanish organization “Professionals for Ethics (PFE)” has issued a report on the content of the controversial course “Education for Citizenship” arguing that the proposed education program be rejected by parents and by citizens in general.
In a recent press release, the organization slammed the government-sponsored course for attempting to interfere in the “moral formation of young people - a right that belongs to parents and not to the Ministry of Education.”
PFE also reaffirmed its commitment to continue working to educate parents and encourage them to reject the Socialist material.
Jaime Urcelay, a spokesman for PFE, said, “We support formation in virtues necessary for social life and for living together in peace but we strongly oppose this course in its current implementation because it constitutes an ideological instrument at the service of the current government.”
The organization listed a series of reasons for rejecting the “Education for Citizenship” course, including its interference in the moral formation of students, its lack of reference to universal truths and to the common good, its disregard for religions traditions and the transcendent dimension of the person and its insistence on an inappropriate understanding of democracy in schools, thus undermining the authority of teachers.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - During the opening of the 87th General Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, conference president, said the Church in that country is deeply concerned about restrictions on democracy, corruption, and the lack of security.
In his remarks, Archbishop Santana said, “We are very concerned about certain aspects taking place at the national level,” and he cited specifically “the announcement made by the president that a constitutional reform along the lines of 21st century Socialism will be carried out; we are very concerned about the current problem of corruption and lack of security that prevails in the country.”
The prelate said the bishops in Venezuela intend to be “vigilant” and “alert” regarding proposed reforms of the country’s constitution. “21st Century Socialism” is “a very complex issue that we will study in the Assembly in order to determine how we can clarify it and provide input. We know that there is space for the implementation of certain kinds of socialisms that are fully compatible with democracy,” he said.
Nevertheless, he noted that “in the past century we saw socialist regimes that were incompatible with democracy and that were markedly Communistic in their ideologies.”
Archbishop Santana also called on Venezuelans to take note of the thousands of deaths that are occurring in the country because of the abuse of power by the military and police forces, as well as “the deaths occurring on our borders because of kidnappings, murders and paid assassins.”
He said the bishops were also troubled by the “new wave of violence” that has swept across the land, as well as “the new wave of secularism that seeks to put aside religion and the Church and replace them with a secular culture, a civic morality and ideological indoctrination.”
Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2007 (CNA) - Evangelical and Catholic scholars in the United States have gathered for a fifth time to discuss the nature of authority, especially in Scripture, and the interplay between Sacred Scripture and Tradition.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement just last week regarding the Oct. 6-8 meeting, held at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.
According to the USCCB press release, the 16 participants discussed the papers presented by Fr. Michael Keating of the University of St. Thomas and Dennis Jowers of the Faith Seminary, Tacoma, WA, at length.
Fr. Keating highlighted the development of a historically based religion and discussed development in Scripture as well as in the early Church. He focused on John Henry Newman's theory of development and related it to the rise of liberal Christianity, the eclipse of reason in the contemporary world, and its consequence for Christianity.
Jowers focused on the doctrine of formal and material sufficiency of Scripture, that is, the idea that all things necessary for life and salvation are taught in Scripture. He reviewed differences of Scriptural canons and the evangelical reasons for rejecting the Old Testament books not in the Hebrew canon, the Apocrypha. He also reviewed the doctrine of perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture.
Members of the two faith communities asked each other questions, seeking clarification and elaboration. For example, Evangelicals asked: "Why was Sacred Tradition put before Sacred Scripture in Dei Verbum?" Catholics asked: "In Scripture, apostolic authority is given by Christ to the apostles. Why is this not continuing in the life of the church specifically in the pastoral office?"
Participants explored the foundational areas of agreement as well as the differences in canon and sufficiency of Scripture.