Archive of June 10, 2008

Blueprint for medical crises must be re-examined, says bioethicist

Denver, Colo., Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - A physician task force recently proposed guidelines for hospitals to follow in the face of a medical crisis.  The recommendations made by the doctors describe the characteristics of patients who should be denied treatment in order to save those who are more likely to survive.

These physicians are concerned with the possibility of a flu pandemic, an atrocity like 9-11 or other states of emergency.  As one task force member told the AP, “The idea is to try to make sure that scarce resources — including ventilators, medicine and doctors and nurses — are used in a uniform, objective way.”

In an effort to avoid this type of disaster, the group of physicians recommended in the May issue of Chest, the medical journal of the American College of Chest Physicians that treatment be denied to:

• People older than 85
• Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings
• Severely burned patients older than 60
• Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer's disease
• Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes

CNA spoke to the founder and executive director of Bioethics International, Jennifer Miller, for comment on the task force’s recommendations.  While she praised the physicians for their efforts, she pointed out the deficiencies of allowing a national task force to select which patients will live or die.

“The task force is to be commended for its courageous and necessary efforts to work through the difficult questions of who is to receive what resources when and under what conditions in the event of a disaster such as a hurricane Katrina, a 9-11 and/or a pandemic flu – with the dual aim of protecting patients and practitioners.”

However, Miller pointed out that, “in some instances the framework has an imbalanced focus on benefiting the stronger majority while discriminating against the weaker minority populations and/or individuals such as the elderly and patients with mental impairments. To a certain extent it uses a social-utility based metric rather than valuing every patient.”

Lawrence Gostin, a public-health law expert  at Georgetown University told the AP that while the report is important, it is also "a political minefield and a legal minefield.”  Gostin continued by saying that the proposed rules would likely violate discrimination laws, causing an exclusion of care for the poor and disadvantaged.

Instead of deciding who will or will not be treated at a task force meeting, Miller argued that the decisions “need to be made at the most appropriate level,” says Miller.  “Generally deciding whether an individual patient will/won’t receive a needed resource is best made patient-side not desk-side at a task force meeting.”

She continued, “while it may be true that in many cases patients over 85 will be less likely to benefit from receiving a ventilator, it will not always be the case and the attending healthcare provider will be better able than a national task force to determine the medical benefit upon examination.  In times of scarcity, resources and care should be first allocated to those most in need and most likely to benefit.  This framework generally does a good job identifying the correct level for these triage decisions, except for when it provides blanket exclusions of groups of patients such as the elderly.”

“It is not ethical to allow for the automatic and routine disconnection from ventilators of otherwise stable 85 yr olds to reallocate to younger patients,” Miller concludes.  “However, in some cases it may be justifiable to allocate to a younger patient who is more likely to benefit over an older less likely to benefit patient.” One instance in which Miller could see this being done is “if the elderly patient has chosen to forgo the life-saving treatment – an example of heroic charity.”

The Director of the Office for Social Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, Al Hooper told CNA that the task force’s “blueprint” is not surprising because of the current eugenic policies already in place:  “We do not need a designed comprehensive framework to optimize and manage critical services to the ill or injured when a major disaster or pandemic occurs we already have such priorities and preferences.”

He further explained that “our current accommodating health public policies on abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide have already framed the ‘appropriate’ response even with ample infrastructures, supplies and medical personnel at hand.  The rot of social Darwinism proceeds unabated, disaster or no disaster and I surely doubt that we would apply this policy to people of importance, influence and notoriety.” 

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Pope Benedict to meet President Bush in medieval tower

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will meet with President George W. Bush in a restored medieval tower on Friday. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the unusual venue was chosen to repay Bush for “the cordiality of the meeting at the White House” during the Pope’s U.S. visit in April.

Although the Pope usually receives heads of state in his private study in the Apostolic Palace, overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the upcoming meeting will take place on the upper deck of St. John’s tower, a round structure on a hilltop inside the Vatican gardens.

The tower, which Pope John XXIII restored the tower as a place he could work in peace, is sometimes used as a residence for important guests.

After their private talks, President Bush and Pope Benedict will walk in the gardens to see a statue of the Madonna.

President Bush will be in Rome from Wednesday until Friday. He will also tour Slovenia, Germany, Italy, France and Britain.

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Chinese locals respond with gratitude to Catholic quake aid

Rome, Italy, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic charities are coming to the assistance of earthquake victims in China and have so far distributed camping tents, 20 tons of rice, and 307 bottles of cooking oil.

Caritas Germany, in cooperation with the China-based Jinde Charities, have both sent supplies from the Catholic community to the new humanitarian aid distribution center in the area, according to Agenzia Fides.

“We do not have words to express our gratitude towards the Catholics,” a local government official said. “The first aid shipment you sent, which we were so in need of, has already arrived. With it, we have been able to save 307 families, over 1,100 people, from starvation.”

Volunteers include bishops, priests, vowed religious, and Catholic lay faithful from China and Germany. The Emergency Office of Jinde Charities has sent a group of religious sisters to the area to provide psychological support to quake victims.

Aid workers have risked being caught in mudslides to reach the disaster center in the An Xian district.

Bishop Dang Ming Yan of Xi An helped unload the emergency tents. After finishing, he lay down on the ground exhausted causing the volunteers to joke that he didn’t worry about his “bishop’s dignity.”

On Monday a shipment of 210 tons of rice and 17.5 tons of cooking oil is scheduled to arrive in the disaster area.

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California county clerk to cut marriage ceremonies in wake of same-sex marriage decision

Bakersfield, Calif., Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - The county clerk of Kern County, California has announced that her office will perform no civil marriages at all because of the state Supreme Court’s decision not to stay its mandate legalizing same-sex marriages.

Ann Barnett, who in addition to being county clerk is also county auditor and comptroller, had asked the county’s legal counsel to join the motion filed by 10 states petitioning the court to delay its decision mandating same-sex marriages to be performed beginning June 17.

When the court announced on June 4 that it would not delay its decision, Barnett considered resigning as clerk to avoid performing homosexual marriages.

According to the Bakersfield Californian, Barnett decided to instead stop solemnizing all marriages after being advised such a decision would be non-discriminatory. As a county clerk, she is not required by law to provide civil marriages.

 “Because of long-term administrative plans, budgetary reasons, and the need to increase security for elections, the Clerk’s office will cease solemnizing weddings, which is discretionary on the part of the County Clerk,” said a statement from Barnett’s office. The statement said the clerk’s office will issue licenses for same-sex marriages starting on June 17 as it is required by state law. The office will also provide information necessary to solemnize a marriage.

Because of her decision, 25 marriage ceremonies scheduled after June 13 have been canceled.

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Science and technology will not redeem mankind, Pope insists

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI opened the congress for the Diocese of Rome on the theme, “Jesus has risen. Educating for hope in prayer, in action and in suffering.” He told the Romans that they should not look to science and technology for hope and redemption, but to instead open their lives to God.

The Roman basilica of St. John Lateran hosted the Pope as he inaugurated the ecclesial congress which will last from June 9-12. He spoke to those gathered on the theme of hope in today’s society.

"In today's society and culture, and hence also in this our beloved city of Rome, it is not easy to live in an atmosphere of Christian hope," he said. "There is a widespread feeling that, for both Italy and Europe, the best years have passed and that a future of instability and uncertainty awaits the new generations.”

"Moreover," the Holy Father added, "hopes for great novelties and improvements are concentrated on science and technology." Yet, "it is not science and technology that can give meaning to our lives and teach us to distinguish good from evil,” he said.

Recalling his encyclical 'Spe salvi,' Benedict XVI emphasized that, “it is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love, and this applies even in terms of the present world." However, modern civilization and culture “too often tend to place God in parenthesis, to organize personal and social life without Him, to maintain that nothing can be known of God, even to deny His existence. But when God is laid aside, ... all our hopes, great and small, rest on nothing.”

"In order, then, to 'educate for hope' - as we propose in this congress and during the coming pastoral year - it is necessary, in the first place, to open our hearts, our intellects and all our lives to God, in order to be His credible witnesses among our fellow man," the Pope said.

The societal problems of Rome, which the Holy Father has addressed on other occasions, were also brought up in his speech.  "An acute and widespread awareness of the evils and problems afflicting the heart of Rome is reawakening the desire for ... joint commitment. It is our task to make our own specific contribution, beginning with the decisive question of the education and formation of the person, but also facing with a constructive spirit the many other real problems that often make the lives of those who live in this city wearisome.”

The solution to these ills, Pope Benedict said, is “to promote a form of culture and social organization more favorable to the family and to welcoming life, as well to valuing the elderly who are so numerous among the population of Rome.”

In addition, the Pope expressed the Church’s willingness to help respond to the crucial needs of work and housing, especially for the young, so that Rome becomes “safer and more 'liveable'… for everyone, especially the poorest.”

Benedict XVI concluded his address by calling on young people to make "the gift of Christian hope" their own, using it "in freedom and responsibility ... to enliven the future of our beloved city."

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Vatican to premier musical about Mary

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - A unique musical will be making an appearance at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on the life of the Virgin Mary on Tuesday, June 17.


The musical, which is called, "Mary of Nazareth, an ongoing story", was presented at the Vatican’s press office today by its writer and director Maria Pia Liotta and several members of the clergy.  


According to a press release about the event, the goal of the musical is "to narrate the most extraordinary story that ever occurred, giving pride of place to the figure of Mary," recounting her life "using the format of the musical which possesses a universal and direct language."


The premier of the musical will be held at 7:30 p.m. on June 17 in the Paul VI Hall.

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Church in Colombia praises Chavez for requesting release of FARC hostage

Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Fabian Marulanda, expressed his hope this week that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s request for the FARC to release all of its hostages “reflects a sincere desire on his behalf and a change of mentality not only” in Chavez “but also in many other people who in one way or another have been involved in acts of subversion.”


Bishop Marulanda made his comments on Radio Caracol.  He said Chavez’s remarks that guerrilla movements are not justified right now in Latin America were “sensible and rational.”


Bishop Marulanda went on to stress that the bishops’ conference would continue to work for the release of the hostages held by the FARC, but he did not give further details.  “In this the Church has exercised great discretion and reserve.  Just as there are other policies in the sense of publicizing whatever is said or done, the Church considers it preferable to maintain discretion in this,” he said.


Representative Mauricio Lizcano, a member of the ruling party in Venezuela, said Chavez understands that there is a new policy in the world related to groups such as the FARC, paramilitary groups and terrorism. Let’s hope the FARC understands and listens to this request from President Chavez.”

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Holy Father encourages Brazilians to renew evangelization on anniversary

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - In a message to the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Brazilians to continue proclaiming the word of God “with evangelical faith and charity.”


Pope Benedict sent his message to the Brazilians to mark the 100th anniversary of the archdiocese. On this great occasion, the Holy Father wrote that he joins with them “in a joyous song of thanksgiving to the Lord for the fruits of Christian life that He has blessed this local Church with” and that “constitute a significant phase in the history of a church.”


After noting the special “evangelical and prophetic” call that Sao Paulo has, the Pontiff offered “fervent prayers to the Almighty God” that the celebration would inspire the local church to renewed evangelization, the “diligent proclamation of the Word of God” and “an intelligent and generous effort to defend the family and the life of every human being.”


The Holy Father also offered his prayers for the well being and happiness of the people of the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo. State and local officials were also included in the Pontiff’s prayers so that they may continue “looking out for the common good,” especially for “the infirm, the poor and abandoned,” and that they may contribute fostering peace and progress in Brazil.


The Pope concluded his message imparting his Apostolic Blessing to the Archdiocese.


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Archbishop praises Chavez for backing away from law that would endanger Confession

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Reinaldo del Prette of Valencia has praised the decision by President Hugo Chavez to review a controversial law on national intelligence that some say would violate fundamental rights such as the seal of confession.

“To err is human and President Chavez was clear about it, and therefore we have to wait for the commission which he said he would establish to review the law and adapt it in conformity with Human Rights, as the national Constitution stipulates,” the archbishop told reporters.

He denied that the Church wants a seat on the commission saying, “We are not experts in intelligence and counterintelligence. Our mission is to prop up and maintain the doctrine of love, forgiveness and understanding of our neighbor.”

“I have studied that law in detail and it is not suitable for a deeply democratic country,” Archbishop del Prette said.  “But because of the statements of Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas, I came to the conclusion that in reality, the seal of confession could be violated. 

Nevertheless, we priests are willing to be martyrs of the Law on Intelligence and Counterintelligence, similarly to what we read in a novel that was mandatory reading at the Minor Seminary of Valencia,” he said.

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Has Obama dissolved his Catholic advisory council?

, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has apparently dissolved his Catholic National Advisory Council. According to the latest information obtained by CNA, evidence of the committee’s continued existence remains elusive.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said in a June 9 press release that there is no mention of the advisory council on the Obama website and Obama’s National Catholic Outreach Coordinator has not responded to Catholic League inquiries about the council.

In recent months two Catholic advisors to Obama have been the subject of controversy. One of Obama’s Catholic advisers, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, was recently rebuked by Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph Naumann because of her pro-abortion views and asked by the archbishop not to present herself for Holy Communion.

The other Obama advisor who has drawn fire is Chicago priest Fr. Michael Pfleger who reportedly withdrew his name from the Advisory Council after video of him mocking Obama’s Democratic opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton was publicized. Amid critical media coverage, Fr. Pfleger was asked by Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, to take a two-week leave of absence from his parish.

Bill Donohue had called on Sen. Obama to dissolve the campaign’s Catholic National Advisory Council because of what he said was the senator’s selection of “dissident Catholics.” Donohue said most of the public officials on the council had a 100 percent rating from NARAL, a pro-abortion group.

Noting the lack of publicity for the Catholic National Advisory Council, Donohue said “It would appear, then, that the group no longer exists.”

The Catholic League informed CNA on Tuesday that no further information on the fate of the advisory council has surfaced. The League also pointed to a report from BeliefNet in which one of the advisory council’s members said that she chats on the phone with other members, but does nothing more.

The full list of Obama’s advisory council members can be found on CNA here or by going to

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Small Catholic community endures in western Russia

Konigstein, Germany, Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - A French missionary has told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the Catholic minority in a Caucusian republic, though it shows great potential, could not survive without help from the West.

Brother Carl Emmanuel, of the Community of St. Jean, said the Catholic community in the Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, located in the European part of the Russian federation, numbers only a few hundred members among the republic’s 900,000 predominantly Muslim people. Despite its small size, Brother Carl said the community has “great potential” because the Catholic faith is being transmitted “with great purity.”

Around 50 Catholics meet every Sunday in the capital of Nalchik for Holy Mass. Brother Carl said it is not usual for Catholics to receive communion without first going to confession, and he noted that there was one adult baptism performed at both Christmas and Easter.

A local theater group has rehearsed a short play written by St. Therese of Lisieux and has even performed it in Moscow at a French-language theater competition. They have organized to take the play on a tour through France.

Catholics in Kabardino-Balkaria at present urgently need to complete a new chapel in Prochladnyj, a town near the capital, because the present congregation cannot fit into the old chapel, a former shop. The half-built new structure could be seriously damaged by winter frosts.

When the new chapel is finished, the present chapel will again become a shop so that the woman who looks after the parish can support herself. The parishioners are too poor to provide her with a salary.

The Church is helping many families of the parish, especially in cases of domestic violence or alcoholism. Brother Carl said many formerly broken families are now living together in peace and come together to Sunday Mass.

Though the region is generally peaceful, Brother Carl explained, ethnic Russians are discriminated against. For instance, children who do not speak the national language well are teased and mocked in the schools. Due to discrimination, many Russians have emigrated. In one village 500 of 2000 people have left.

However, Brother Carl said, the Catholic Church still strives to maintain good relations with others in the community, both Christian and non-Christian.

Brother Carl, who will soon be ordained to the priesthood, said there are two priests in Kabardino-Balkaria in addition to two religious brothers, four contemplative nuns, and four Missionaries of Charity from Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s religious order.

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Episcopal Bishop Robinson enters homosexual civil union

Concord, N.H., Jun 10, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual Episcopal bishop whose appointment drove a deep rift within the worldwide Anglican Communion, on Saturday entered into a civil union at a private ceremony at St. Paul’s Church in New Hampshire.

Before about 120 guests at the church, Robinson, a 61-year-old divorced father of two, entered a union with Mark Andrew, his partner of more than 19 years, Reuters reports.

Robinson’s spokesman, Mike Barwell, said the event was kept private out of respect for next month’s worldwide Anglican conference.

The 77 million-member Anglican Communion, which is a worldwide federation of national churches, has suffered internal conflict since Robinson was consecrated bishop in 2003 by the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.

Disputes over homosexual issues, scriptural authority and other matters have become a global issue for the communion, whose leaders will gather this summer for their once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Britain.

Robinson has been excluded from the Lambeth Conference but plans to attend as an outside observer.

He said he wanted to enter into a civil union before leaving for England to ensure legal protections for Andrew and his two daughters, given the death threats he has reportedly received.

Robinson and Andrew held a non-religious ceremony in which they became legal partners, followed by a formal church service.

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