Archive of August 18, 2008

Reconsideration of ‘brain death’ criteria could affect ethics of organ donation

Boston, Mass., Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - An article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), questioning the criteria of “brain death” and “cardiac death” especially in relation to organ donation, could affect the validity of ethical arguments approving the practice of organ donation at a person’s apparent death.

The NEJM article’s authors, Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Robert D. Truog and National Institutes of Health bioethics department faculty member Dr. Franklin G. Miller, argue that “as an ethical requirement for organ donation, the dead donor rule has required unnecessary and unsupportable revisions of the definition of death,” reports.

Saying that the scientific literature does not support the criteria which consider “brain death” and “cardiac death” to be actual death, the authors argue that the donation of vital organs taken from living human beings should not be considered unethical.

“The uncomfortable conclusion to be drawn from this literature is that although it may be perfectly ethical to remove vital organs for transplantation from patients who satisfy the diagnostic criteria of brain death, the reason it is ethical cannot be that we are convinced they are really dead,” they write.

Drs. Troug and Miller suggest that ethical requirements of organ donation should not insist on dead donors but should consider organ donation “in terms of valid informed consent under the limited conditions of devastating neurologic injury.”

Unlike Troug and Miller, most moral ethicists consider the death of the donor as the event making it ethical to remove vital organs for transplant. They argue that removing vital organs from a living donor would constitute actively killing a person.

This is the generally accepted Catholic view.

In an August 29, 2000 address to the 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society, Pope John Paul II emphasized that unpaired vital organs can be removed only after death, “from the body of someone who is certainly dead.”

Troug and Miller’s doubts about the ethical criteria used to justify organ donation have prompted some critics of organ donation to call for the cessation of the practice in Catholic hospitals.

“The setting out of these facts should by all rights lead to a cessation of complete removal of any vital organ at Catholic hospitals," said Dr. John Shea, a medical consultant to

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Pro-abortion and pro-life Democrats to present “common ground” during DNC

Denver, Colo., Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - On August 27, during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, “Democrats for Life,” whose mission is to elect pro-life Democrats and promote a pro-life plank in the Democratic Party platform, will hold a Town Hall meeting with pro-abortion party members to present a “shared belief in reducing abortion rate.”

The public meeting will feature pro-life Congressman Lincoln Davis and U.S Senate Nominee Bob Tuke “representing pro-life and pro-choice view- points.”

Congressman Lincoln Davis has represented Tennessee's Fourth Congressional District since January 7, 2003; Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, Robert D. Tuke is the former Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, former Co-Chair of the Kerry/Edwards Campaign in Tennessee and the Tennessee Political Director for Obama for America.

“Both support the Pregnant Women's Support Act that will reduce the abortion rate in America by 95% over the next 10 years. This discussion will prove that hope and change are possible in Washington if we focus on creating solutions based on shared values,” said Democrats for Life Executive Director Kristen Day.

During an appearance on ABC News' Good Morning America, Day said that "as a party we have to remember we are the big tent and have to make room for people with diverse views on this issue.  We're hopeful that some language will be included that will say pro-life Democrats welcome, but at the end of the day we're still Democrats and we're going to work hard to work on things that we strongly believe in."

"Political analysts around the country have been espousing for months that Senator Obama must be able to appeal to pro-life voters.  We believe that amending the platform language would be a critical step in further including pro-life Democrats into our Party," she added.

The Town Hall Meeting will be held at  Hotel Monaco, in downtown Denver. 

The Democratic Party's revised platform remains vehemently pro-abortion. It includes a new sentence that reads: "The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child, by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."

But the platform also states that "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."

The phrase "regardless of ability to pay," refers to the party’s support for taxpayer-funded abortions.

According to Steven Waldman, editor-in-chief of Beliefnet, “the key linguistic debate has been whether to ‘reduce the number of abortions’ or ‘reduce the need for abortions.’ Pro-life folks favored the former. Pro-choice folks favored the latter. The pro-choice folks won. In fact, the 2004 platform said abortion ‘should be safe, legal and rare’ - language that casts abortion reduction as morally preferable, something this platform does not.”

Waldman also observes that “there is no ‘conscience clause’ acknowledging and respecting the diversity of opinion within the party on abortion. Pro-life Democrats had hoped for that.”

Nevertheless, Beliefnet’s editor-in-chief  believes that Democrats for Life and other “pro-life progressives” will continue to press “for improved language before and during the convention,” because “they are hoping that Obama himself will go further in his own language. Specifically, they're looking to see if Obama uses moral language that it's better to have fewer abortions than not.”

“All in all, I'd say that this platform does NOT do what was necessary to win substantial numbers of Catholics or moderate evangelicals. However, in combination with a strong personal statement from Obama about the moral necessity of reducing abortion, the party could make real headway,” Waldman says.

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Spanish cardinal says Church remains capable of looking toward the future

Toledo, Spain, Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - The archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, said last week that despite being “of old age,” the Church is still capable of working toward the future and of continuously carrying out renewal in herself and in the world.  “This Church that is seemingly or truly old, can still build her tomorrow and the tomorrow of humanity if she has sufficient faith.”


“The Church may appear to be old, she may appear to be aged and made up of older people, but the Church knows she can count on the newness and love of God even before she desires it,” the cardinal said.


She knows she can love and hope against all hope, beyond all the triumphs and human prestige,” the cardinal said.


He noted that the Church exists in order to make God known and to help humanity live in Him.  “This is the task of our time.  Faith is proposed, not imposed. Our task as Christians is no other than to renew and nourish the experience of God: faith, fostering the encounter with God, and anticipating the kingdom of God among us,” the cardinal said.

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Canadian groups call for impeachment of country’s Chief Justice

Ottawa, Canada, Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - Some 42 Canadian organizations representing a million citizens have formally called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin for violating several laws by granting the Order of Canada, the country’s highest award, to the “father of abortion,” Henry Morgentaler.

According to information gathered by, Chief Justice McLachlin, made the decision to award Morgentaler amidst dissension in the advisory council. Under normal circumstances a unanimous vote is needed by the council to award the Order of Canada to a nominee.

According to Brian Rushfeldt, executive Director of Canada Family Action Coalition, said, “It is essential for Canadians to trust in the conduct of judges, especially in the Supreme Court chief justice.”

The letter from the 42 organizations calls for an investigation into the improper conduct of Justice McLachlin and if necessary, that “Parliament punish her or remover her from office.”

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Spanish bishop calls for total end of terrorism

, Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Ricardo Blazquez of Bilbao, Spain has called for the “total and immediate” end of terrorist violence, which he said leaves no room for social support, silence or political maneuvering.  Terrorism has become more and more unbearable and should be completely discredited at every level, he stressed.

Bishop Blazquez demanded that terrorism “disappear,” because “it has been immoral and has become more and more unbearable.

“The joint, decisive and persevering action of all those who are friends of liberty, of respect for the person and of peace sustain the hope that these efforts will soon achieve their goal.

The disappearance of violent terrorism would signify “an immense relief for people whose lives, liberty and goods are under threat,” the bishop said, as well as “a greater vitality” at every level of society.  For this reason, he demanded “the total and immediate disappearance of violence” and he said efforts for peace should be carried out each day with renewed vigor.

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Founder of Operation Rescue to distribute new flyer: “Is it Immoral to Vote for Obama for President?”

Denver, Colo., Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - The founder of Operation Rescue, Randall Terry is in Denver today to distribute his organization’s new flyer, “Is it Immoral to Vote for Obama for President?”

His mission for the visit is simple: “hand out 100,000 copies of the brochure, ‘Is it Immoral to Vote for Obama for President?’ to Catholics and Evangelicals. It has a profoundly jolting effect on readers, explained Mr. Terry.

Mr. Terry and his staff are recruiting volunteers to help with the distribution from Tuesday 8/19 – to Sunday 8/24. They will go to malls, shopping centers, streets, and churches to hand out the brochure.

“It is mind boggling that millions of Catholics are considering voting for Obama – in spite of the fact that he is the most pro-death candidate in history,” remarked Mr. Terry.

“Worse yet is that they attempt to justify this abandonment of the unborn by citing ‘the common good.’ John Paul II specifically said such reasoning was against the teaching of the Church.”

“This new flyer will clear up any doubt for the open-hearted who will be consistent with their faith. I hope we can get a lot of volunteers; this could really make a difference.”

The brochure can be read in full at The times and meeting locations can also be found at this site.

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New York family honored by Knights as Family of the Year

Quebec City, Canada, Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - A family from Goshen, New York has received the honor of being named the International Family of the Year by the Knights of Columbus. Dr. Mario Loomis, his wife Donna and their four children were chosen for their exemplary witness to their Catholic faith, ranging from mission work to producing a DVD on priestly vocations.
Dr. Mario Loomis’ initial impression of the Knights was that it was mostly an organization of older men whose children were already out of the house. As he told CNA, “my own exposure to the Knights was that my uncle was a Knight in Pennsylvania, but he was older so I never really considered it.” Instead, what he found was “a group of great young guys who are really Catholic and pro-life.”
A plastic surgeon, Dr. Loomis lends his skills to Light of the World Charities, a Catholic program that provides medical care to the poor and sick in third world countries. On their most recent trip, Mario and his wife Donna, a registered nurse, participated in a medical mission to Honduras to help repair people with cleft lip and palate and a few people with burns.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal made sure that the mission brought spiritual care to patients and medical personnel alike, Donna explained. After their full day of work, anyone who was interested could participate in a retreat led by the friars. Their work to alleviate the physical needs of the poor was “strengthened with the daily Eucharist,” she observed.
The poor people who received medical care were “tremendous” and “totally appreciative” for the care they received, Dr. Loomis related. The chance to receive medical attention required some of the poor to walk an entire day to come to the clinic, with the friars and local priests spreading out around the surrounding region to find those people who need care.
The setting for the mission also proved to be quite intimate. While most doctors would only be around their patients for the time required to perform their surgery, Dr. Loomis and his fellow surgeons stayed in the same house as the patients and the friars, served the patients their meals and prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament with and for them.
Perhaps the mission work of the Loomis’ would qualify the family for the Knights’ award in the minds of many, but Mario and Donna, are also the co-founders of a Catholic teen support program called "A Drop of Clear Water."
The initiative, which stresses commitment to prayer, chastity and charity, was inspired by a story from Mother Teresa. Donna recalls it as an encounter between a reporter and Mother Teresa. The reporter asked Mother, “What makes you think you can change the world?” to which Mother Teresa responded, "I never thought I could change the world, I only wanted to be a drop of clear water, through which God's love could shine." The foundress of the Missionaries of Charity then asked the reporter, “Are you Catholic?” “Yeah,” the writer responded, “well, join me and we’ll be two drops,” Mother said.  “Are you married?” she asked.  The reporter replied he was married, to which Bl. Teresa said, “invite her and we’ll be three drops.” 
The Drop of Clear Water initiative originally started out within Donna’s homeschooling circles but has now expanded to include 60-65 teens, plus their parents.
The couple has four children: Joseph (18), Rebecca (15), Gabriel (7) and Teresa (5). Joseph is active in the Columbian Squire program and created a video for teens considering a religious vocation. The DVD, which took over a year to film, will be distributed to all of the parishes in the Archdiocese of New York.

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Orlando bishop reaffirms that the ‘destruction of innocent human life’ is always wrong.

Orlando, Fla., Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop of Orlando, Most Rev. Thomas Wenski has responded to an “inaccurate” article in the Orlando Sentinel which claims that Catholic and evangelical leaders “hailed new language for the Democratic Party's platform that calls for reducing abortion” to create “common ground” with Republican voters.

In the disputed article, “Evangelical: We Can Back Dems, Obama,” the Orlando Sentinel quoted one evangelical pastor, Rev. Joel Hunter, who praised the new wording.  “From my perspective as a conservative evangelical, Barack Obama's campaign and the Democratic Party have taken a historic and courageous step toward empowering women for an expanded range of choices and saving babies' lives.”

Bishop Wenski wrote to the editor in a letter published on August 16 clarifying that Catholic leaders are not in agreement with Rev. Hunter’s position.

In his letter, Bishop Wenski wrote that the Sentinel article, “inaccurately implied that Catholic leaders shared the positive assessment the Rev. Joel Hunter gave the ‘abortion plank’ of the Democratic Party's platform.”

The bishop continued explaining that “The bishops have gone on record stating just the opposite. And they are the ones who speak as the leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States -- and not political operatives for one party or another who happen to be Catholic.”

“In ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,’ the bishops wrote that ‘opposing intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions’ and warned against a ‘moral equivalence’ that would make no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity.”

Bishop Wenski concluded his letter by quoting Faithful Citizenship. “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed."

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Christian group refuses to leave China airport until Bibles are returned

Beijing, China, Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - Four members of a Christian group from the United States are refusing to leave a Chinese airport until authorities return the 300 Bibles confiscated from them.

The four members of the Wyoming-based group Vision Beyond Borders, which supplies Bibles and other Christian material to people in China and other countries, arrived in the southwestern city of Kunming on Sunday. The Bibles they were carrying were confiscated after customs officials discovered them during an X-ray scan of their luggage, CNN reports.

Pat Klein, director of Vision Beyond Borders, said the group distributes the Bibles through a local shop owner in Kunming. Klein said he has been bringing Bibles into China for 21 years but did not know he was breaking Chinese law.

According to CNN, Chinese law prohibits bringing printed religious material into the country exceeding the amount needed for personal use.
Chinese officials told the group members they had broken the law and repeatedly asked them to leave the airport, but the group spent the night there, Klein said, adding that the customs agents have not been antagonistic.

Klein said the Vision Beyond Borders members would not leave until their Bibles are returned.

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Baby girl ‘without a pulse’ comes ‘back to life’

Jerusalem, Israel, Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - Doctors in Israel are trying to save the life of a baby girl who was mistakenly pronounced dead in the womb of her mother, who was five months pregnant.

The girl’s 26-year-old mother, from a Western Galilee village, had undergone tests which discovered the mother was suffering from internal bleeding. The test results also showed no signs of life from her unborn child, the Jerusalem Post reports. At Nahariya Hospital the baby was removed from the womb without a pulse and was pronounced dead.

The baby girl, who weighed only 1.34 lbs, was then moved to a cooler.

Five hours later the baby’s father came to the hospital to retrieve what he thought was the dead body of his daughter.

The baby began to breathe when she was taken out of the cooler, which doctors believe brought the girl “back to life.”

She was taken to the intensive care ward where doctors were trying to save her life as of Sunday evening.

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Single mothers conceiving by sperm donation ‘unbelievably cruel’ to children, rabbis argue

Jerusalem, Israel, Aug 18, 2008 (CNA) - Several rabbis at a Jerusalem religious conference on Wednesday criticized the practice of single mothers conceiving children by sperm donation. One rabbi blamed the practice for encouraging late marriage, while another characterized the conception of children by donated sperm as “unbelievably cruel.”

Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz, a prominent figure in the Religious Zionism movement, made his remarks while speaking at the Tzohar Rabbinical Association. The organization is dedicated to advancing solidarity among Jews and promoting the rabbi’s role in the Israeli community, reports.

Conference speakers were asked to discuss the topic “family, generation gaps and the modern world.”

Rabbi Rabinowitz said it was “unimaginable” to intentionally bring an “orphaned child” into the world and charged women who did so as unfit to be a mother “for any human creature.”

“Whoever plans on having a baby like this by choice, just in order to fulfill her needs as a mother, has exceeded all evil and cruelty,” he argued.

At the same conference, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel blamed sperm donation for encouraging women to marry too late and also for disrupting family structure.

“There is no such thing as a single-parent family, just like there is no square that is a circle. A family consists of a father, mother, and children,” he asserted.

Catholics have also argued against sperm donation on the grounds that a child ought to have both a father and a mother. Pope Benedict XVI, addressing bioethical issues earlier this year, said “The two fundamental criteria for moral discernment in this field are: unconditional respect for the human being as a person, from conception to natural death; and respect for the origin of the transmission of human life through the acts of the spouses.”

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