Archive of June 13, 2008

Discount for student contraceptives added to Iraq war funding bill

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - An amendment that would indirectly fund Planned Parenthood and university health clinics that distribute contraceptives has been added by the Senate Appropriations Committee to a U.S. Senate bill meant to fund continued operations in the Iraq war.

The measure would again allow Planned Parenthood clinics and university health centers to receive drugs at discounted prices. In 2005, as part of the Deficit Reduction Act, Congress made university health clinics and clinics that dispense birth control and abortion drugs ineligible to receive discounts on drugs provided under the Public Health Service Act, Cybercast News Service reports.

Senators Patty Murray (Wash.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), and Ben Nelson (Neb.), all Democrats, requested that the amendment be added to the bill. Both Murray and Harkin have received 100 percent approval ratings from Planned Parenthood, while in 2007 Kohl received a 100 percent favorability rating from the pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America.

"Planned Parenthood already has a massive markup on its drugs," Wendy Wright, president of the pro-life group Concerned Women for America, told Cybercast News Service. "They get them at a severely reduced price as it is, and then they turn around and sell them for a rather high price to their clients."

Lisa Miller, communications director for the minority Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that some Republicans think the bill is deceptively written.

"It is widely known that specialty hospitals, many of them operated by doctors with special skills, provide excellent care and satisfy their patients," Miller said to Cybercast News Service. "The new bill language is a classic earmark, written to look as if it helps specialty hospitals, (while) actually harming nearly all of them."

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Australian docs perform successful ‘in utero’ operation

Melbourne, Australia, Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - Australian doctors have successfully performed the country’s earliest in-utero surgery by saving an unborn girl’s left foot from a blood constriction.

Kylie Bowlen and her husband Terry were told that their unborn child, then 18 weeks into the pregnancy, might lose her feet after an ultrasound revealed the child, who was later named Leah, suffered from Amniotic Band Syndrome, The Age reports.

In such cases, the lining of the amniotic sac tears away and constricts the fetus’ limbs. The condition occurs in one in 15,000 live births and if left untreated can result in limb amputation or even death.

Two bands of tissue had wrapped around Leah’s legs, restricting circulation to her feet.

Doctors said they could operate on Leah at 22 weeks into the pregnancy, the earliest such surgery on an unborn child in Australia and possibly in the world.

"It came down to knowing that the rest of Leah was pretty healthy and quite strong," Terry Bowlen said. "Everything was fine, it was just these legs. We basically came to the conclusion that if she was born with bung legs we could cope with that."

In the operation, Doctors pierced Kylie Bowlen’s uterus and then the amniotic sac with a telescopic needle. A laser and electric current cut the band around Leah’s left leg. Doctors did not operate on Leah’s right foot, which had become swollen and infected and a right leg bone had been exposed.

At the time of the operation, Leah was between six and eight inches long. Her mother carried her 30 weeks into pregnancy, and she was born at a weight of about 3.6 pounds.

At birth, Leah’s right leg was almost gangrenous but was saved by microsurgeon Chris Coombs and Associate Professor Donnan of the Royal Children's Hospital. The doctors removed muscle, tissue, and some bone to promote the flow of blood.

Three weeks after she was born, Leah contracted meningitis. Now four and a half months after birth, her parents are confident they made the right decision.

"I think the wait's over," Kylie Bowlen said, according to The Age. "Just hearing the doctor say she'll have full function in that foot and basically be able to walk. Hearing that, I know I made the right decision, no matter what anyone else says."

Doctors say Leah has a good chance to walk on two feet, though she will need follow-up surgery later this year and monitoring as she grows up.

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Georgia case emblematic of coercive abortion practices, pro-lifers say

Staten Island, N.Y., Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - A pro-life group has cited the recent case of a Georgia woman who pressured her teenage son’s girlfriend to have an abortion as further evidence of the coercion it says is often involved in legal abortions.

A Georgia woman has confessed that she insisted her 16-year-old son’s pregnant girlfriend not give birth. Taking the girl to an abortion clinic, the woman pretended to be the girl’s mother, illegally signed the girl’s parental notification form, and paid for the abortion without the girl’s parents’ knowledge. The girl’s parents were not told about the abortion until after it was performed.

The woman has been sentenced to one year in jail for her deception and coercion.

Janet Morana, co-founder o f the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC), said the case was not unusual.

"The claim of the pro-abortion lobby that terminating a child’s life is 'a choice between a woman and her doctor or her God' is empty rhetoric to the countless women I know who were intimidated or threatened by boyfriends, husbands, or relatives," said Morana in a press statement. "This Georgia case shows just how far-reaching the pressure to abort can be."

"Abortion clinics will not voluntarily ask girls or women if they're being coerced into ending their children's lives," added Georgette Forney, another co-founder of SNMAC. "Abortion clinics are in business to make money and the more abortions they perform, the richer everyone involved becomes; everyone, that is, except the woman who’s just had her life shattered and the baby who's just had his life ended."

Dr. Alveda King, a Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life, also addressed the Georgia case.

"Abortion is founded upon, maintained by, and promoted with lies," said Dr. King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "There are so many lies surrounding the case of this young girl, it's hard to know where to begin.  Obviously, there's the falsehood of the boyfriend's mother pretending to be the pregnant girl's mother, the fraud of the boyfriend's mother illegally signing a parental notification form, and the deception of the girl's unknowing parents, who never knew their grandchild existed until it was too late.  Most of all, there's the lie that the child who was killed by abortion was not really a child."

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Retreat promotes encountering Christ while caring for environment

Allenspark, Colo., Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - A new Catholic environmental organization that seeks to repair the relationship between people and nature is hosting a retreat to assist individuals in encountering God through creation.


Creatio explains that the purpose of its outreach comes from the realization that “it is not enough to positively work and transform the environment if this change is not accompanied by a personal inner transformation.”


In order to promote this transformation, Creatio is offering a retreat called “Opening the Book of Creation” from July 18-26. The retreat includes awareness training, shelter and fire building, teachings on stewardship, prayer and meditation and a 24 hour solo experience in nature.


The spiritual leader of the retreat will be Mark Kutulowski, an accomplished outdoorsman and an Oblate of St. Benedict. Mark specializes in mystical spirituality and wilderness awareness.


The Creatio retreat will be held at St. Malo Retreat Center, 10758 Hwy 7, Allenspark, Colorado 80510.


Reserve your spot by contacting Jorge Luna, [email protected].


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President Bush ‘honored’ to meet Holy Father at the Vatican

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican, U.S. President, George W. Bush met with the Holy Father in the Tower of St. John, located in the Vatican Gardens.  The tower, which is not typically where the Pontiff receives heads of state, was restored by Pope John XXIII as a place he could work in peace, and is sometimes used as a residence for important guests.

President Bush, his wife, Laura, and the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon met the Pontiff at the entrance to the Tower of St. John, before the President and Pope held their discussions.  The Vatican reports that the Pope wanted to meet President Bush at the unique venue to express gratitude for the warm reception at the White House the Pontiff received when he visited the United States last April.

As the two heads of state ascended the stairs of the tower, it was reported by the UK Telegraph that President Bush whispered, “what an honor, what an honor!” Laura Bush and the ambassador remained with the prefect of the Pontifical Household, Michael Harvey.

During their discussions, Pope Benedict again thanked the president for the welcome he received during his April visit to the United States and also expressed gratitude for his commitment to the defense of moral values.

The two went on to discuss international politics: relations in between the U.S. and Europe, issues in the Middle East, peace in the Holy Land, globalization, the food crisis and international trade, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Benedict XVI and President Bush ended their meeting by taking a brief stroll in the Vatican Gardens to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.  It was there where they were joined by Mrs. Bush and were treated to two hymns sung by the Choir of the Sistine Chapel.

The President will depart from Rome today and will continue his tour of Europe.

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Relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to be present at WYD

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Vatican announced that the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a student and member of the Dominican Third Order, will be taken to Sydney, Australia, for World Youth Day next month.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was beatified by John Paul II in 1990, will be one of the 10 official patrons of World Youth Day (WYD). A release from the Pontifical Council from the Laity noted that the blessed is widely venerated in Australia and that the presence of his relic will be one of the central features of WYD.

Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in Turin, Italy, on April 6, 1901 and was raised in a very rich Catholic family.  During his adolescence he cultivated a profound spiritual life and became an active member of Catholic Action, the apostolate of prayer, the Eucharistic League and the Association of University Student Adorers.

He lived an austere live and gave a large portion of his money to the poor.  He was an intrepid athlete, skier and mountain climber. 

When he turned 24, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness which claimed his life in only one week.  He died on July 4, 1925 and was buried at the cathedral of Turin.

His relic will be transported to Sydney on June 19 and will be placed in the church of St. Benedict.

From July 11-22, the casket of the blessed will be on display in Sydney cathedral where participants in WYD will be able to come and pay homage. Hanging near his casket will be ten panels illustrating Pier Giorgio Frassati's life and thought.

In addition, an exhibition dedicated to Pier Giorgio Frassati's life will be held in Sydney Exhibition Hall July 15-18.

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Vatican approves statutes of the Neo-Catechumenal Way

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - This morning, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, delivered the decree of approval and a final draft of the statues to initiators of the Neo-Catechumenal Way.

Upon receiving the decree, founders Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, as well as Italian priest, Fr. Mario Pezzi, expressed their gratitude to Pope Benedict “who with great love has followed and approved the conclusion of this work."

They continued in a statement: "Following the approval of the statutes, and faced with the great challenges the Church must confront, we are happy to be able to offer ourselves to the Holy Father and the bishops for the new evangelization and the transmission of the faith to the new generations."

Since its founding, the Neo-Catechumenal Way has been supported by all Popes from Paul VI to Benedict XVI. In 1990, John Paul II recognized the Way as "valid for modern society and times," and expressed the hope that bishops and priests "appreciate and assist this work for the new evangelization, so that it may achieve its ends, following the guidelines suggested by the founders, in a spirit of service towards the local ordinary and in communion with him, and in a context of unity with the particular Church and with the Universal Church."

The Neo-Catechumenal Way, which began in Spain in 1964 has now spread to more than 100 countries world-wide, including some mission territories. In the wake of the renewal brought about by Vatican Council II, the Way places itself at the service of diocesan bishops and parish priests as a means of rediscovering the sacrament of Baptism and of a permanent education in the faith, offered to those faithful who wish to revive in their lives the richness of Christian initiation, by following this itinerary of catechesis and conversion.

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Beatification may be soon for 250 Spanish martyrs

Valencia, Fla., Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - The AVAN news agency reported this week that the Holy See has given the green light to move ahead with the beatification of 250 martyrs from the Spanish Civil War of 1934-1939. The list of candidates includes a nine-month pregnant mother and a 15 year-old altar server.

Ramon Rita of the commission for the Causes of the Saints of the Archdiocese of Valencia told AVAN it was the second group of Valencian martyrs to be beatified.  The first being the beatification by Pope John Paul II of 226 Valencian martyrs on March 11, 2001.

The new cause was opened in June of 2004 by the Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco, and included 183 priests, 10 religious, and 57 lay Catholics.  The decree of approval for their beatification was signed by the Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, and the secretary, Archbishop Michael Di Ruberto.

Among the candidates for beatification is Antonio Ferrer Rodrigo, a 15 year-old altar boy who was tortured and executed for questioning a group of soldiers who were ransacking his parish.  He had been able to save a few sacred objects of the parish from profanation, including a chalice, a processional cross and few other items, which he hid at his home.  But when he saw the soldiers light a bonfire and toss a painting of the Sacred Heart into it, “he could no longer contain himself and he began to reproach the soldiers,” Fita said. Hours later, he was detained together with his father, who did not want to abandon him, and both were shot on December 2, 1936.

Another dramatic story is that of Hortensia Serra Poveda, a 29 year-old woman who was nine months pregnant at the time. She begged her captors to allow the baby to be born first so he could be baptized, however they refused and the mother and baby were killed.

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Forty-thousand Mexicans to march against legalization of abortion

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - Nearly 40,000 Mexicans will march on June 22 to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray for the defense of the unborn and to express their opposition to the legalization of abortion in the Mexican capital.

Guillermo Bustamante, an organizer of the march, told reporters the purpose of the pilgrimage is to pray “for the marvelous gift of life.”  He said that he hoped pro-life protests would be held in other Mexican cities.

The march in Mexico City is being organized by 50 different organizations and will coincide with arguments being held at the country’s Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the law on abortion passed in Mexico City in April of 2007.

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Brazilian Supreme Court to consider cases on abortion and gay unions

Brasilia, Brazil, Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - Brazil’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases in August on the legalization of abortion for babies with anencephaly and also, gay unions.

Current Brazilian law does not permit abortion in cases of anencephaly.  According to reports in the media, doctors, religious leaders and lawyers are expected to present arguments before the high court.  After the initial hearings, Justice Marco Aurelio Mello will rule on whether to bring the case before the entire court.

The court is expected to hear a case on gay unions during the second half of 2008.  The legalization of homosexual unions is being touted by the governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral.

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Survey finds some Catholics looking for a political home

Grand Rapids, Mich., Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - A new survey examining party affiliation and religious observance finds that Catholic support is about evenly split between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in the upcoming election. Due to this almost even division, non-Hispanic Catholics are considered to be “up for grabs” in the 2008 election.


The survey was commissioned by the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College and conducted by Opinion Access Corp. of Long Island, New York, a prominent polling firm. It conducted a phone survey of 3,002 respondents about their political affiliation, their religious affiliation, and the level of their religious observance.


The survey broke down Mainline Protestants, Evangelical Protestants, and non-Hispanic Catholics into the three subgroups of traditionalists, centrists, and modernists.  Traditionalists were categorized as those who adhere to their historic beliefs of their faith and have high levels of religious observance and identification with sectarian religious movements. Modernists, in the survey’s reckoning, subscribe to “more heterodox religious beliefs,” are less religiously observant, are more likely to identify with ecumenical religious movements, and are more eager to include modern beliefs and practices. Centrists fall between traditionalists and modernists.


“Traditionalists, regardless of their particular religious tradition, are the most supportive of McCain, while modernists, regardless of religious tradition, are the most supportive of the Democratic candidate,” the survey found.


Beliefs uniting more than religious affiliation


Significant political divisions within churches were also uncovered by the survey. Summing up the results, Calvin College researchers found that, “partisan differences between traditionalist and modernist components within the same religious tradition tend to be greater than the political differences across the three major religious traditions overall.”


The researchers found that a new trend was appearing amongst religious voters. According to their report, “Religious beliefs and practices are beginning to replace religious affiliation as the primary religious basis of political cleavages. One’s religious tradition affiliation continues to shape political tendencies, but such tendencies are even more shaped by the specific kind of person one is religiously within that particular tradition.”


The survey categorized 5.3 percent of the respondents as traditionalist Catholic, a group that favors the Republicans over the Democrats with a 56 percent to 23 percent difference in 2008, compared to a 57-30 difference in 2004.


About 5.4 percent of survey respondents were centrist Catholics, who favored Democrats to Republicans by a 47-34 percent margin 2004. In 2008, centrist support for Democrats had eroded slightly with 41 percent favoring Democrats and 37 percent supporting the Republican Party.


About 4.9 percent of respondents are modernist Catholics, 51 percent of whom favored Democrats and 38 percent Republicans. Their party affiliation in 2008 changed to 59 percent Democrat and 20 percent Republican.


Hispanic vs. Non-Hispanic Catholics


Non-Hispanic Catholics, the survey says, “continue to remain the largest religious tradition most evenly divided in their partisan inclinations and most likely to be ‘up for grabs’ in the 2008 presidential election.”


Overall, 38 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics are Republicans and 41 percent are Democrats.


 Latino Protestants, Latino Catholics, and Black Protestants were each placed in a separate category, according to the survey, because each ethnic group is politically distinct and because most congregations in the U.S. are ethnically or racially homogeneous.


Catholic Latinos, 6.8 percent of survey respondents, overwhelmingly identify as Democratic, 57 percent to 15 percent. Latino Catholics are far more likely to support Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama and are somewhat less favorable to Obama in a matchup with McCain.


“Traditionalist Catholics are more supportive of McCain in 2008 than they were of Bush in 2004, but the reverse is true with regard to centrist and modernist Catholics,” the survey report states. “Latinos, regardless of whether they are Protestant or Catholic, are much more supportive of the Democratic candidate in 2008 than they were of Kerry in 2004.”


Where Catholics fall on the issues


The survey also polled Catholics about their stands on several prominent issues in American politics. Perhaps surprisingly, the survey discovered that a majority of self-described Catholic respondents clearly support pro-abortion stands, and on the issue of homosexual marriage they are evenly split.


When asked to consider the statement “abortion should be legal and solely up to the woman to decide,” 51 percent of non-Hispanic self-described Catholics agreed. Traditionalist Catholics disagreed with the statement 71 to 21 percent, centrist Catholics agreed 54 to 40 percent, and modernist Catholics agreed 80-16 percent. About 47 percent of Latino Catholics agreed with the statement, while only 35 percent disagreed.


Concerning homosexual marriage, Latino Catholics are split 42 percent in favor to 41 percent against, judging by their response to the survey statement that “gays and lesbians should be permitted to marry legally.”  Non-Hispanic Catholics are also closely split, 45 percent disagreeing while 43 percent agree. About 68 percent of traditionalist Catholics disagree with the statement, while centrist Catholics are evenly split and 65 percent of modernist Catholics agree.


Catholics tended to disagree with the statement that “free trade is good for the economy even if it means the loss of some U.S. jobs.” A majority of non-Hispanic Catholics agreed with that strict environmental regulation is necessary even if job cuts or higher prices result. Sixty seven percent of non-Hispanic Catholics and 55 percent of Latino Catholics agreed that local communities should be allowed to post the Ten Commandments and other religious symbols if the majority agrees.


Sixty six percent of non-Hispanic Catholics disagreed with the statement that clergy should be allowed to endorse candidates during worship services, while 55 percent of Hispanic Catholics disagreed.


By a margin of 52-42 percent, non-Hispanic Catholics did not agree that the U.S. rightly took action against Iraq. Traditionalist Catholics support the action by 56-36 percent, centrist Catholics oppose it by 54-34 percent, and modernist Catholics oppose it 68-29 percent. Latino Catholics oppose the Iraq action by a margin of 69-25.

Presidential predictions


In a presidential race between presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain and presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama, non-Hispanic Catholics favor McCain by a 43-35 margin. Hispanic Catholics favor Obama, but less fervently than they backed Hillary Clinton (73% in favor). The survey projects Obama to win 49 percent of Catholic Latinos and McCain to win 21 percent, with the rest being undecided.


Dr. Corwin Smidt, Director of The Henry Institute at Calvin College, told CNA that the very existence of a “Catholic vote” is a debated topic because Catholics are so divided. However, he himself thinks there is a Catholic vote to the extent that the Catholic faith seems to undergird particular positions. He said one could argue that there is a Catholic vote, but it moves Catholics in different directions. Traditionalists, he said, are moved by abortion, while centrists and modernists are more concerned with “social justice.” Both reflect facets of Catholic teaching.


Professor Smidt said he was surprised that non-Hispanic Catholics were so evenly divided between traditionalists, centrists, and modernists. “No one group dominates,” he said. Because Catholics do not fit neatly into one camp or another, he believes the Catholic vote will be “heavily contested” in the 2008 election.


Regarding the Latino vote, Dr. Smidt said Hispanic Catholics were likely to be strongly in favor of Obama and would play an important role in Sunbelt states. However, Catholic Hispanics’ levels of voter eligibility and levels of turnout would be a factor in the magnitude of their influence.

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English paper announces President Bush may be considering Catholicism

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - Today as President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI met at the Vatican, the English newspaper, The Telegraph reported that Bush may be considering converting to Catholicism at the end of his presidential term.

The Telegraph indicated that various Italian newspapers have been commenting on the news, especially Il Foglio.

Il Foglio explains that the circulating rumors could be correct: "anything is possible, especially for someone reborn like Bush.”  Yet, similar to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, "if anything happens, it will happen after he finishes his period as president, not before. It is similar to Blair's case, but with different circumstances."

A friend of President Bush, Fr. George William Rutler, who converted to Catholicism in 1979, stated that Bush respects how Catholicism was founded by Christ who appointed Peter as the first Pope.  "I think what fascinates him about Catholicism is its historical plausibility," said the priest. "He does appreciate the systematic theology of the church, its intellectual cogency and stability." Fr. Rutler also mentioned that the president "is not unaware of how evangelicalism -- by comparison with Catholicism -- may seem more limited both theologically and historically."

According to the Washington Post, President Bush currently belongs to a Methodist church in Texas and attends an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C.

However, in recent years, the head of state has developed a strong relationship with the Pope and has made known his deep respect for Catholicism.  The Telegraph noted that prior to his presidency, Bush's political advisor invited Catholic intellectuals to Texas to explain the teachings of the Church to the president.  Bush has also appointed Catholic judges to the Supreme Court, has selected Catholic speech-writers and consultants, and has read the Pope’s theological books.

In April, prior to the Pope’s visit to the U.S., the Washington Post quoted William McGurn, one of Bush’s former writers who stated, "I used to say that there are more Catholics on President Bush's speechwriting team than on any Notre Dame starting lineup in the past half-century."

The Post’s story detailed the likelihood of Bush's possible conversion to Catholicism by quoting those close to the head of state.  Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator, labeled Bush as a Catholic president.  “I don't think there's any question about it.  He's certainly much more Catholic than Kennedy."

While President John F. Kennedy struggled to balance his Catholic upbringing and politics, many of Bush’s positions on ethical matters such as gay marriage, abortion, and stem cell research are in line with the Church.

Also, the Post mentions that prior to the war, the president met with Catholics to discuss just-war theory.  “White House adviser Leonard Leo, who heads Catholic outreach for the Republican National Committee, says that Bush ‘has engaged in dialogue with Catholics and shared perspectives with Catholics in a way I think is fairly unique in American politics.’”

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Embryonic stem cell research 'absolutely unacceptable,' U.S. bishops say

Orlando, Fla., Jun 13, 2008 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), gathered for its spring meeting in Orlando, on Friday issued its first formal statement addressing in detail embryonic stem cell research and the ethical controversies surrounding it. The nine-page statement said that harvesting embryonic stem cells is a “gravely immoral” and “absolutely unacceptable” act that involves the deliberate killing of innocent human beings.


In their statement, titled “On Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” the bishops said we must pursue scientific progress in “ethically responsible ways” that “respect the dignity of each human being.”


The bishops’ statement addressed several arguments cited to support embryonic stem cell research. It also warned that some researchers and lawmakers are advocating for further research involving human cloning, the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, and the use of “fetal farming” techniques. In the last, an embryo is implanted in a woman’s uterus and develops for some weeks, after which it is killed and its useful tissues and organs are harvested by researchers.


Embryonic stem cell research is conducted in hopes of using the cells in therapeutic treatments. Some scientists believe embryonic stem cells have great potential for healing spinal cord injuries and afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.


Such research, the bishops’ statement said, “does not force us to choose between science and ethics, much less between science and religion. It presents a choice as to how our society will pursue scientific and medical progress. Will we ignore ethical norms and use some of the most vulnerable human beings as objects, undermining the respect for human life that is at the foundation of the healing arts?”


Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, the statement said “The Catholic Church ‘appreciates and encourages the progress of the biomedical sciences which open up unprecedented therapeutic prospects.’ At the same time, it affirms that true service to humanity begins with respect for each and every human life.


“Because life is our first and most basic gift from an infinitely loving God, it deserves our utmost respect and protection,” the statement continued.


The bishops rejected research proponents’ argument that any harm done in embryonic stem cell research is outweighed by the potential benefits, saying the idea that a good end can justify direct killing “has been the source of much evil in our world.” The statement argued that the same ethic that justifies taking some lives to help a sick patient today can be used to sacrifice the same patient tomorrow.


The bishops’ statement defended the humanity of the embryonic human being, saying “the human embryo, from conception onward, is as much a living member of the human species as any of us.”  The statement said that those who do acknowledge the humanity of the embryo but insist it is too undeveloped to have full human rights actually deny that “we have inherent value simply by being members of the human family” and by implication deny that there are any inherent human rights.


“As believers who recognize each human life as the gift of an infinitely loving God, we insist that every human being, however small or seemingly insignificant, matters to God—hence everyone, no matter how weak or small, is of concern to us,” the statement said, noting that this is not only a Catholic teaching, but a position taken for granted in the Declaration of Independence.


“In our nation’s proudest moments Americans have realized that we cannot dismiss or exclude any class of humanity—that basic human rights must belong to all members of the human race without distinction,” the statement continued.


The bishops also argued against the position that killing embryos to produce stem cells is not depriving someone of life because they are “spare” embryos “who will die anyway.” Their statement said, “This argument is simply invalid. Ultimately each of us will die, but that gives no one a right to kill us. Our society does not permit lethal experiments on terminally ill patients or condemned prisoners on the pretext that they will soon die anyway.”


The bishops endorsed adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells, saying they are “now known to be much more versatile than first thought.”


“There is no moral objection to research and therapy of this kind, when it involves no harm to human beings at any stage of development and is conducted with appropriate informed consent. Catholic foundations and medical centers have been, and will continue to be, among the leading supporters of ethically responsible advances in the medical use of adult stem cells.”


The bishops’ statement closed by urging the rejection of all action that objectifies human beings.


“It now seems undeniable that once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point. The only moral stance that affirms the human dignity of all of us is to reject the first step down this path. We therefore urge Catholics and all people of good will to join us in reaffirming, precisely in this context of embryonic stem cell research, that ‘the killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act’,” the statement said.


The statement was approved by a vote of 191 to 1.


According to Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who spoke to conference attendees on behalf of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, the statement is planned as the first of two documents. The second document, planned to be presented “at a later date,” will discuss Church teaching on reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization.

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