Archive of February 1, 2009

Justice Department nominees signal ‘Culture of Death’ policies, critic says

Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2009 (CNA) - Confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice nominees are reportedly proceeding so quickly that Republicans and outside groups are unable to make meaningful criticisms of their intense support for abortion rights and other moral issues. One critic said the nominations portend the most “Culture of Death” justice department in American history.

“We are on the brink of having the most Culture of Death, anti-family Justice Department ever,” Leonard Leo, former Co-Chairman of the Republican National Committee Catholic Outreach and Chairman of Students for Life of America, told CNA in an e-mail.

The first controversial Obama nominee is David Ogden, whose confirmation hearing for Deputy Attorney General is scheduled for next week, less than one month after his nomination. In an amicus brief for the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision which reaffirmed Roe v. Wade’s mandating of permissive abortion laws, Ogden argued that abortion “rarely causes or exacerbates psychological or emotional problems.”

“The few women who do experience negative psychological responses after abortion appear to be those with preexisting emotional problems,” he continued.

He argued that evidence shows abortion is more likely to make women “experience feelings of relief and happiness” and claimed childbirth and childrearing or adoption may pose “concomitant (if not greater) risks or adverse psychological effects” compared to the effects of abortion.

Thomas Perelli, the nominee for Associate Attorney General, is the second person pro-life and pro-family advocates are concerned about. Perelli is best known for representing the husband of Terri Schiavo in his effort to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from the severely injured woman.

President Obama has also chosen Dawn Johnson to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Johnson raises red flags for pro-lifers because she is a former counsel to the pro-abortion rights group NARAL. The Office of Legal Counsel provides the government with opinions about the constitutionality of proposed governmental acts.

Leonard Leo told CNA that Johnson’s nomination is “absolutely stunning.”

He said that Democrats and left-wing activists had complained the office had been politicized “in an unprecedented way” under the George W. Bush Administration.

“And, now, without any debate or discussion, the Obama Administration is putting forward an absolute political zealot from one of the most Leftist groups in the country,” Leo argued.

The nominee for Solictor General, Elena Kagan, is reportedly a lesbian who strongly opposed the Solomon Amendment, which denies federal grants to institutions of higher education which forbid military recruitment or the Reserve Officer Training Corps from campus.

“A Deputy Attorney General who signed a brief in Casey dismissing the psychological harm caused by abortion. An Associate Attorney General who supported withdrawing Terry Schiavo's life-sustaining treatment. An Assistant Attorney General who was counsel to NARAL. And a Solicitor General who has actively supported homosexual rights, particularly in regard to banning military recruiters on campus,” Leo summarized.

“Could it be worse? Can you imagine the legal advice they'll be giving?”

Leo predicted that President Obama’s Justice Department may greenlight culturally radical positions on abortion funding, conscience protection issues, same-sex “marriage,” other abortion-related issues, and end-of-life issues.

“At a minimum, Republican Senators need to slow down this train,” Leo advised. “They need to ask the tough questions in hearings and afterwards. There needs to be ample time to debate, to get the nominees' opinions and commitments on key issues.”

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Bone marrow stem cell therapy may halt multiple sclerosis

Chicago, Ill., Feb 1, 2009 (CNA) - An experimental therapy using bone marrow stem cells stabilized and in some cases reversed early-phase multiple sclerosis, a new study reports.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that hinders movement and coordination and causes muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, slurred speech and vision problems.

In the decade or more after its onset, MS is characterized by gradual, irreversible neurological impairment. It has no known cure.

Richard Burt of Northwestern University in Chicago led a team of scientists in clinical trials for 11 women and 10 men who did not respond to standard drug treatments, according to a newly published report in the British medical journal The Lancet.

They “rebuilt” the patients’ immune systems, removing defective white blood cells that attack the fatty sheath or myelin that protects the nervous system.

The patients’ immune systems were then replenished with haemopoeitic stem cells extracted from the patients’ bone marrow. These specific stem cells are capable of giving rise to any form of mature blood cell.

After an average follow-up period of three years, 17 of the 21 patients improved by at least one point on a standard disability scale. None had a final score lower than they had before undergoing the stem cell therapy.

Five of the patients relapsed but achieved remission after receiving other immunosuppressive therapy, the Lancet study says.

Participants had MS for about five years. The clinical trials mark the first time the stem cell technique has been applied to young and relatively healthy individuals in the early “relapsing-remitting” stage of the disease.

The study also finds that the procedure “not only seems to prevent neurological progression, but also appears to reverse neurological disability.”

Gianluigi Mancardi of the University of Genoa in Italy wrote in a commentary in The Lancet that further trials are needed using control groups.

However, the results “imply that this is a valuable alternative to the transplant conditioning therapies used so far.”

MS affects millions worldwide, including almost 400,000 in the United States.

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Euthanasia a ‘false solution’ to suffering, Pope says

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2009 (CNA) - Speaking before thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer today, Pope Benedict XVI rejected euthanasia as a “false solution” to suffering.

Reflecting on the Gospel reading for this Sunday, the Holy Father recalled a singular characteristic of the of the Gospel of Mark, the so-called “Messianic Secret,” that is, Jesus’ command to his followers not to reveal to others that he is the Messiah.

Pope Benedict explained: “Jesus insists on this ‘secret’ because the success of his mission, our salvation, depends on it. He knows that to free man from the power of sin, he must be sacrificed on the cross as the true Paschal Lamb.”

“Jesus,” he said, “suffered and died on the cross out of love. In this way, viewed properly, he gave meaning to our suffering, a meaning that men and women of every age have understood and made their own, experiencing profound serenity even in the bitterness of harsh physical and moral trials.

“’This power of life in suffering’ is the theme that the Italian bishops have chosen for their annual message on the occasion of today’s Day for Life,” he continued, “Euthanasia is a false solution to the drama of suffering, a solution that is not worthy of man. The real answer cannot be, in fact, to give death, as 'gentle' as this may be, but to testify to the love that helps us to face pain and agony in a humane way.”

“We can be certain of this: no tear, neither of those who suffer, nor of those close to them, will be lost before God," he added.

After the Marian prayer, Pope Benedict recalled the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, which the Church celebrates tomorrow.

“My beloved predecessor John Paul II wished that this anniversary, on which many consecrated persons make or renew their vows, be celebrated as the Day of Consecrated Life,” he said. “Tomorrow afternoon, in St. Peter’s Basilica, after the Holy Mass presided over by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life, I will meet with consecrated men and women present in Rome. I invite all to thank the Lord for the precious gift of these brothers and sisters, and to ask him, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, for many new vocations, in the variety of charisms in which the Church is rich.”

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