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Archive of November 11, 2009

Zaragoza declaration urges governments to help pregnant women

Zaragoza, Spain, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Fourth International Pro-Life Congress, which ended on Monday in Zaragoza, Spain, issued a document directed at public officials and society in general, urging governments to “work effectively to help pregnant women.”

During a press conference, Jose Perez Adan, professor of Sociology at the University of Valencia and a member of the executive committee of the International Pro-Life Congresses, told reporters, “There is still no international platform involving governments that is devoted to providing economic and health care to pregnant women.”

Adan called attention to the “need to internationalize maternity assistance.”  In his opinion, “Aid for pregnant women should go beyond the borders of our country and reach the rest of the world.”

“Abortion has been the greatest cause of death in the history of humanity,” he continued, noting that each year it takes some “50 million” lives. 

A Million Candles

Some 3,000 volunteers for the Fourth International Pro-Life Congress in Zaragoza participated in a project called “A Million Candles,” which consisted of lighting one candle for each child not born since Spain legalized abortion.

Vazquez called the project an attempt to “sensitize and support the culture of life.” 

The event began with the reading of the pro-life manifesto that was proclaimed at the October 17 March for Life in Madrid.

The line of candles stretched over two miles through the city of Valencia.

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New research shows babies begin learning language patterns in womb

Leipzig, Germany, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Researchers in brain science and language development have found that infants in the first days of their life cry in different ways depending on their parents’ language.

Scientists compared recordings of 30 French and 30 German infants aged between two and five days old, the Max Planck Society reports. They found that French newborns more frequently cried with a rising tone, while the German infants cried with a falling intonation.

This phenomenon, researchers said, is presumably rooted in the different patterns in the two languages which are perceived in the womb and later reproduced.

“In French, a lot of words have stress at the end, so that the intonation rises, while in German, it is mostly the opposite,” explained Angela Friederici, one of the Directors at the Max Planck Institute.

She reported that unborn humans become active listeners in the last trimester of pregnancy.

“The sense of hearing is the first sensory system that develops,” she commented. “The mother’s voice, in particular, is sensed early on.”

The amniotic fluid of the womb restricts hearing, however, and primarily the melodies and intonation of language are perceived in utero.

Previously, researchers had discounted the influence of language on newborns’ cries. It was assumed that infants’ “crying melody” was influenced by the build up and falling of breath pressure, as in baby chimpanzees, and not by mental representations in the brain.

"When they begin to form their first sounds, they can build on melodic patterns that are already familiar and, in this way, don’t have to start from scratch,” explained neuropsychologist Kathleen Wermke of the Centre for Pre-language Development and Developmental Disorders (ZVES) at the University Clinic Würzburg.

Friederici said that the imitation of melodic patterns is a behavior that the researchers believe developed over millions of years and contributes to the bond between mother and child.

The researchers involved in the study included staff from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, as well as the University of Würzburg and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.

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Bishop Tobin says Rep. Kennedy is in ‘flawed communion’ with the Church

Providence, R.I., Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin has responded to Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s contention that his dissent from Catholic teaching on abortion does not make him “less of a Catholic.” Saying that such dissent renders the lawmaker's communion “flawed,” he urged Kennedy to become a “profile in courage” and to defend the unborn.

Rep. Kennedy (D-R.I.), the son of the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, had accused the Catholic Church of fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” because of the Catholic bishops’ opposition to proposed health care reform that does not explicitly prohibit funding of abortion.

Bishop Tobin responded critically to the congressman and asked for an apology.

A meeting had been scheduled between the prelate and the politician, but a Tuesday statement from the Diocese of Providence said it had been postponed.

“Bishop Tobin remains hopeful the he can meet with Congressman Kennedy in a personal and pastoral setting in the very near future,” the diocese reported.

Responding to Rep. Kennedy in his Nov. 12 diocesan newspaper column, Bishop Tobin said he usually does not speak about someone’s faith in a public setting but it has become an issue in his exchange with Rep. Kennedy.

The bishop focused on Rep. Kennedy’s comment in an Oct. 29 letter in which the Congressman said:

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.”

Bishop Tobin said the statement could not go unchallenged because it raises an important question about what it means to be a Catholic.

In a way, Bishop Tobin commented, disagreement with the Catholic hierarchy does make someone less of a Catholic.

“Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church.

“This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents,” the bishop explained.

He cited sections from canon law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the layman’s obligation to learn Christian doctrine and to live in accord with it.

One’s refusal to accept the teaching of the Church, Bishop Tobin added, makes one’s communion with the Church “flawed.”

He explained that a Catholic believes and accepts the teaching of the Church “especially on essential matters of faith and morals.” A Catholic must also belong to a local parish, attend Mass on Sunday, and receive the sacraments regularly.

Further, a Catholic must give personal, public, spiritual and financial support to the Church.

Bishop Tobin asked whether Rep. Kennedy accepted these “basic requirements of being a Catholic,” including the Catholic stance on abortion.

The bishop said it was “terrific” that Rep. Kennedy has said he embraces his faith. But he wondered what makes Kennedy a Catholic.

Rep. Kennedy’s rejection of Catholic teaching on abortion is a different category than ordinary human imperfection, Bishop Tobin added. Rather, he wrote, it is “a deliberate and obstinate act of the will” that has been re-affirmed “on many occasions.”

“Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an ‘imperfect humanity.’ Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church,” the bishop continued.

The prelate told Rep. Kennedy that he wrote his words not to embarrass or judge him but to correct the public record and to invite him into “a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance.”

He said Rep. Kennedy could still repair his relationship with the Church and redeem his public image. Alluding to the book by the congressman’s uncle, President John F. Kennedy, he said Rep. Kennedy could become an authentic “profile in courage” by defending the sanctity of unborn human life.

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Thousands homeless after Hurricane Ida hits El Salvador

San Salvador, El Salvador, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Caritas International is sending staff to support relief work in flood-affected regions in El Salvador. Days of heavy rains have left 120 people dead and thousands homeless.

The country has been on a state of alert since Thursday. The heavy rains coincided with the passing of Hurricane Ida, which made landfall again as a tropical storm on the coast of Alabama on Tuesday morning.

“We’re gearing up to respond to the aftermath of the hurricane by sending staff out to the worst-affected sites to look at the damage and limit further risks,” said Wilfredo Ramírez Escobar from Caritas El Salvador. “The Government has declared a national emergency and schools and sports buildings have been made available as temporary shelters.”

The capital San Salvador and central San Vicente province were hardest hit by the rains. Large areas are without electricity or clean water and are cut off from assistance. Collapsed bridges and damaged roads have worsened the isolation of some regions.

Neighboring Nicaragua has also been hit by heavy rains, leaving 13,000 people homeless, Caritas International reports. Hurricane Ida may threaten oil and gas fields as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to weaken as it heads towards the U.S. coast between Louisiana and Florida.

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Catholic hospital in Bethlehem provides care for impoverished mothers

Bethlehem, West Bank, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Less than half a mile from where Mary and Joseph found shelter to deliver the baby Jesus 2,000 years ago, Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem is providing care to impoverished women and their newborns today.

Holy Family Hospital, an obstetrical/gynecological facility, is the designated health care provider for four refugee camps in Bethlehem operated by the United Nations. Given its state of the art natal and neonatal intensive care, the hospital is the only one in its region that can assess and treat the complicated medical conditions of women living in extreme poverty.

Every month, more than 200 women deliver at the Holy Family despite obstacles such as curfews, roadblocks and road closures. Women are received and given treatment regardless of creed, ethnicity or ability to pay. The hospital serves more that 22,000 women and children each year.

With Advent and Christmas approaching, schools around the U.S. are initiating service-oriented projects to support Holy Family Hospital.

Colleen Marotta, Executive Director of the U.S. based  foundation which supports the hospital, has stated that the generosity of Americans, despite current economic difficulties, is what helps make Holy Family's care possible. “Through the generosity of these school groups, mothers in Bethlehem will have an opportunity to experience the joy of birth, while being cared for at Holy Family Hospital,” said Marotta, who remarked, “It is amazing to see how Christians are opening their hearts to mothers who are half-way around the world.”

Holy Family Hospital also relies on donations to offer impoverished women baby showers. Parishes are also able to help support the hospital through a “parish missionary program.”  

Servant of God Pope John Paul II declared Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem as one of the top 100 projects of the Third Millennium for Christians around the world. 

To learn more about Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, visit: www.BirthplaceofHope.org.

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Holy Father calls on international community to aid Sri Lanka

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) -

At the end of his general audience today, Pope Benedict XVI noted that, six months after the end of a civil war, Sri Lanka is on the road to recovery. However, he continued, there is still much work to be done.

Sri Lanka has been torn by an armed conflict between the government and a rebel group, the Tamil Tigers, for the last 27 years. The conflict finally ended in May and authorities are taking steps to ensure that the displaced refugees, many of whom are Tamils from the north, are returned to their homes.

The Pope strongly encouraged “an acceleration in this process” and requested “all citizens to work towards rapid pacification in full respect for human rights, and towards a just political solution to the challenges still facing the country.”

Earlier in the year, the Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Oswald Gomis commented on the situation in his country, saying “We have to realize the fact that we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural community. As such we are now left with the great task of nation-building, forgetting our ethnic, political and religious differences.”

Pope Benedict concluded, saying, “I trust, moreover, that the international community will strive to meet the humanitarian and economic needs of Sri Lanka, and I raise my prayers to Our Lady of Madhu, that she may continue to watch over that beloved land.” 

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Protect Europe's future by defending its rich cultural and religious heritage, Pope urges

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict XVI focused his remarks at today's General Audience on the monastic reform linked to the monastery of Cluny. The rich cultural and religious heritage of those centuries, he said, should be rediscovered, appreciated and defended by all those who are concerned about the future of Europe.
 
The Order of Cluny was born in 910, thanks to a donation from William the Pious, the Pope explained to the 9,000 pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall. This monastic revival began in Cluny, "which at the beginning of the twelfth century came to include almost 1,200 monasteries.”

In particular, the revival consisted of the Benedictine rule being restored, “with some adaptations and above all the central role of the liturgy in Christian life with great care to chants, psalms, liturgy of the hours, the celebration of Holy Mass, enriching the worship of God with displays of art and music and introducing new festivals in early November as a celebration for the dead," said the Holy Father.

Another key component of the reform identified by Pope Benedict was that the monastery of Cluny and its dependent communities were placed directly under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. “This begot a special bond with the See of Peter and, thanks precisely to the protection and encouragement of the Popes, the ideals of purity and faithfulness, which the Cluniac reform set itself to pursue, were able to spread rapidly.”
 
Benedict XVI highlighted how "the Cluniac reform had positive effects not only on the purification and revitalization of monastic life, but also on the life of the universal Church."

The Church at the time was afflicted with two serious problems, simony, that is, the selling of clerical positions, and the immorality of the secular clergy. Thanks to the service of Cluniac monks who became bishops and popes, renewal began to spread through the Church.

The Pope explained, “The celibacy of priests again became respected and practiced, and more transparent procedures were introduced into the process of assigning ecclesiastical office." In an era when only ecclesiastical institutions provided for the needy, charitable actions were promoted.
 
He also explained how the monks of Cluny promoted the so-called “truces of God” and the “peace of God.” “In a period deeply marked by violence and the spirit of vendetta, the 'truces of God' ensured long periods of non-belligerence on specific religious feasts and on certain days of the week. The 'peace of God' called, under pain of canonical censure, for innocent people at holy sites to be respected," the Pope recalled.
 
The reform of Cluny, the Holy Father said,  “kept alive attention to the primacy of God, it encouraged institutions to promote human values, it educated people to a spirit of peace."
 
“Let us pray,” the Pontiff concluded, “that all those people who have true humanism and the future of Europe at heart may know how to rediscover, appreciate and defend the rich cultural and religious heritage of those centuries."

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Cardinal Sodano notes contributions of John Paul II in fall of Berlin Wall

Rome, Italy, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, remarked that the historical event was possible “thanks to Pope John Paul II and the contributions of many Christians” on the continent.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Sodano recalled that during the time surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall, he was Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.  Two years later, he was named Secretary of State, a post he held until 2002.

“It is just to recall November 9, 1989. A symbol of a divided Europe fell then, and most importantly, the Communist system that was imposed by force on the nations of central-eastern Europe began to fall,” the cardinal said.

As John Paul II said during a 1996 visit to Berlin, the fall of the wall was “the triumph of the freedom of peoples.”

“I was with the Pope then, and I remember the excitement of Chancellor Kohl and all those present who gave him a standing ovation, almost to thank him for his contribution to the returning of freedom to the heart of Europe,” Cardinal Sodano said.

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German diocese creates ‘Santa-free zone’

Speyer, Germany, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) -

In an effort to encourage people to replace the commercialization of the Christmas season with a true devotion to Advent, Christmas and the “true Santa Claus,” several groups within the German Diocese of Speyer have initiated a “Santa-free campaign.”

The Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ) of Speyer has partnered with other organizations to champion the cause of St. Nicholas of Myra, a friend and helper of children and those in trouble. St. Nicholas, whose feast is celebrated on December 6, represents the good side of man: selflessness, charity and selfless service, the campaign says.

St. Nicholas who was a bishop in Myra, (now Demre) in Turkey, is known for his generosity and for his love for children. One of the most famous stories of the generosity of St. Nicholas says that he threw bags of gold through an open window in the house of a poor man to serve as dowry for the man’s daughters, who otherwise would have been sold into slavery. The gold is said to have landed in the family’s shoes, which were drying near the fire. This is why children leave their shoes out by the door, or hang their stockings by the fireplace in the hopes of receiving a gift on the eve of his feast.

Katrin Naab, chairman of the Diocesan BDKJ says, “St. Nicholas has nothing to do with the fictional advertising character with the red and white bobble hat.”

The “Santa-free zone” campaign includes a variety of posters, pins, an e-card, fair trade chocolate and an open air Christmas market, as well as Masses for children, youth, and families on the feast of St. Nicholas itself.

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Colombian official tells TV audience 'abortion is not a right'

Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Colombia’s Deputy Attorney General for Infancy, Adolescence and the Family, Myriam Ilva Hoyos, announced this week that a petition has been filed to nullify a ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court that ordered students to be taught that abortion is a right.  The procedure is currently illegal in the country except for in special circumstances.

Hoyos took part in a debate on Colombian television with feminist Florence Thomas and denied claims that the Attorney General is requesting the nullification for religious reasons.

“We have carried out a legal study of the ruling, without any religious considerations.  The fact we are Catholics does not make us ignorant of our duties,” she said.

“We are not opposed to the rights of women, Hoyos said explaining that “abortion is not a right and in Colombia it continues to be a crime except in three cases.”

Based on a 2006 ruling, abortion is only permitted in Colombia when the life of the mother is in danger, when there are congenital deformities incompatible with life, and in cases of rape.

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Chavez should launch 'war' against crisis, not against Colombia, say Venezuelan prelates

Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas is calling on President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to increase efforts to end “the war of crime” that exists in the country rather than threatening to attack Colombia.

Venezuelans, the cardinal said, do not want war but “peace, especially so we can live with serenity amidst the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves.”

He went on to say that Venezuelans are already experiencing an internal war with ever-increasing crime. “That is the war which we must resolve because it is taking place on our streets,” he added, underscoring the need to seek out international mediation in order to overcome the tensions between Colombia and Venezuela.

Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro called on both nations to embrace peace and stressed that “everything is lost with war, with peace everything is won.”

After noting that the two countries share enough in common for there to be wide-ranging socio-political stability, the archbishop criticized the “aggressive attitude” of Chavez, which he attributed to falling approval ratings and  influence from the Cuban government.

If war were to break out the archbishop said, “Where would Chavez put the four million Colombians who have lived here among us for the past five generations ?”

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Lantos Commission hears about forced abortions in China before Obama visit

Washington D.C., Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - After three decades of forced population control in China, Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.) is calling on President Obama to take a stand for human rights in China, ahead of his Thursday trip to the country.

On November 10, 2009, a panel of human rights activists spoke before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission about the Chinese government’s abusive stance towards women and the family. Contributors hoped to pass their concerns along to the president as he prepares for a trip to China this week.

China has a policy limiting each family to one child. To enforce this policy, the Chinese government requires prospective parents to obtain a permit to have a child before they become pregnant, levies enormous fines on families who have more than one child, monitors women’s reproductive cycles, mandates birth control, and in some cases, forces abortions and sterilizations upon women.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a policy expert from the American Enterprise Institute, told the commission, “We have seen the emergence of the one child family and the end of 2,500 years of the traditional Chinese family.” He testified that the current system has destroyed the centuries-old tradition of the Chinese family, as millions of children now have neither brothers and sisters nor aunts and uncles.

Reggie Littlejohn, of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, called the one-child policy violence of individuals on an historic scale. She called on President Obama to take to heart his Nobel Peace Prize and act in defense of human rights.

The organization ChinaAid presented electronic evidence to the Lantos Commission from a website for Chinese obstetricians and gynecologists, where doctors traded advice on how to perform late-term abortions and what to do if the baby survives the attempt on its life. One doctor suggested that the child's skull must be punctured and another that they be “left in trash cans.” Some contributors did express concern for the child's rights.

Rep. Chris Smith, who is a senior Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Ranking Member on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, stated,  “Human rights are trivialized by China, and the United States has been sending a message that profits and money-making trumps human rights.”

“On Thursday,” Smith noted, “President Obama travels to Asia, and will be in Beijing for four days of meetings.”

“I hope he will not conduct these meetings in the same airy spirit that Secretary Clinton expressed on her first visit to China, when she dismissed the human rights of the Chinese people as irrelevant to her relationship with the Chinese government,” Smith stated.

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British study finds marriage and children increase happiness

Denver, Colo., Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - A recent study has found that getting married and having children increase happiness and overall life satisfaction. Commenting on the results, author and TV personality Rachel Campos-Duffy told CNA that this runs counter to the prevailing culture and “reminds couples to appreciate each other and the beautiful messiness of child-rearing right here and now.”

Published on Oct. 14 in the online edition of the Journal of Happiness Studies, the study, titled “Children and Life Satisfaction” emphasizes the importance of couples being married with children, versus unmarried with children. The study concluded that single, separated or cohabiting people with children reported negative experiences as opposed to married couples with children, who reported positive experiences.

Dr. Luis Angeles, professor at Glasgow University in Scotland and author of the study stated that  “one is tempted to advance that children make people better off under the 'right conditions' – a time in life when people feel they are ready or at least willing, to enter parenthood.” Angeles continued to say that “this time can come at very different moments for different individuals, but a likely signal of its approach may well be the act of marriage.”

The study also concluded that the more children a married couple has, the greater the life satisfaction, especially for women.

Commenting on the findings of the study, author and mother of six Rachel Campos-Duffy told CNA, “I think most people would be surprised by the finding, perhaps married people with kids included! After all, we are affected by our culture and our culture does not honor the notion of sacrifice. It has difficulty processing the idea that nurturing and giving of oneself can bring pleasure and satisfaction.”

Campos-Duffy, who is the author of “Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood,” explained to CNA that one of the reasons she wrote her book “was precisely to debunk this cultural tenant. Motherhood isn't just something we do for the kids; it's something we do for ourselves. As the study proves, being married and raising children well under the right circumstances (i.e. marriage) can make us very happy people indeed. It's totally counter cultural.”

Campos-Duffy went on to say that “this study is important because moms and dads of growing families need to hear the message of 'happiness' so we can appreciate the life we are creating and living as it's happening – not 20 years from now when the kids are long gone.”

“This study reminds couples to appreciate each other and the beautiful messiness of child-rearing right here and now,” she said.

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Christendom College reports its largest pro-life protest ever at D.C. clinic

Washington D.C., Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Shield of Roses, the pro-life student group at Christendom College, reports that it held its largest protest ever when more than 200 people protested at the Planned Parenthood clinic just north of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Students, faculty, staff and others traveled to the U.S. capital on Oct. 31. While the group protests at the same clinic each Saturday morning during the academic year, normally only 20 to 30 students participate.

Once a semester the group organizes what it calls a “Mega Shield” event to encourage as many as possible to participate. Last year’s event drew as many as 125 students, according to Christendom College.

“All of the members of our college community are, of course, pro-life,” explained Shield of Roses President Paul Wilson, who will be graduating this May, “but getting college students to give up their Saturday mornings to drive 75 miles to Washington to pray four rosaries and a Divine Mercy Chaplet and to drive another 75 miles back to campus all before lunch is a lot to expect – even for Christendom students.”

Christendom College reports that a writer on the feministing.com blog named “Professor Foxy” has commented on the student protesters.

Saying she works as a clinic escort at the D.C. clinic, she explained her impression of the “antis,” meaning anti-abortion protesters.

“Over the years, the antis have stayed the same and they have changed,” she wrote. “When I started, almost all the antis were 45 plus, white, male and slightly disheveled. These antis still exist, but they are now joined by the younger antis. Some of these younger antis are hip, especially the Bound for Life crowd. We also have many, many students who come from local colleges, the most prominent being Christendom College.”

She explained that these students generally pray and end each Saturday with “a rousing Viva!” but a few approach the patients.

“Nervously approaching the women entering the clinic, the Christendom kids tentatively say 'we can help you save your baby. Each baby is a blessing from God',” reported the blogger.

Christendom Admissions Director Tom McFadden, an attendee at the Oct. 31 protest, said it is hard to tell the effect of the annual March for Life held on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

In contrast, McFadden said the Saturday protest made a difference.

“Through the grace of God and our physical presence, we ended up saving the lives of two babies because their mothers chose not to enter the clinic that day. It doesn't really get much better than that!”

The Shield of Roses group has been protesting at the Planned Parenthood clinic for the past ten years.

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Academy of Medical Sciences to examine ethics of animal research with ‘human material’

London, England, Nov 11, 2009 (CNA) - Britain’s Academy of Medical Sciences has launched a new study to examine the ethical and regulatory framework needed for scientific research which uses animals and animal embryos containing “human material.”

The study brings together experts in developmental genetics, clinical neuroscience, veterinary medicine, bioethics and law. They will examine the scientific, social, ethical, safety and regulatory aspects of the creation and use of animals and embryos which incorporate human material, a press release from the Academy says.

Prof. Martin Bobrow, who chairs the working group, said the call for the study originated within the scientific community itself and has the support of parliamentarians.

“It is important to ensure that this exciting research can progress within limits that scientists, the government and the public support. We will not only be focusing on the ethical dimensions of this research but also on how it is perceived by the public,” explained Bobrow, an emeritus professor of medical genetics at the University of Cambridge.

“Do these constructs challenge our idea of what it is to be human? It is important that we consider these questions now so that appropriate boundaries are recognized and research is able to fulfill its potential.”

The Academy claims the creation and use of animals who incorporate human material has “a long-standing and successful research history” with significant scientific contributions.

“There are already thousands of animals containing human cells or DNA, mostly mice with a single gene sequence of human origin, in widespread use throughout laboratories world-wide,” the Academy says, adding that new stem cell technologies could present both new opportunities and ethical challenges.

“The hope for the future is that animals containing human material, particularly human stem cells, will provide unprecedented opportunities to develop treatments for conditions such as retinal blindness, diabetes and stroke.”

CNA spoke with Fr. Thomas Berg, director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person who explained that “the mixing of the animal and the human...entails an enormous array of possibilities.”

He noted that while some of these “are ethically unproblematic,” such as “the use of porcine heart valves in humans,” others possibilities are “gravely immoral” such as “attempts at human cloning with non-human eggs.”

“The Church has well defined positions on some of these questions,” Fr. Berg explained remarking that in “the implantation of human genes into animals, the Church recommends prudence and caution although in principle there is no immediate moral problem with such experiments in most cases.”

The priest went on to state that the Church outrightly rejects, “among other things, human animal hybrid formation, grafting of non-human animal stem cells into a human embryo or fetus, and tetraploid complementation in a non-human animal host, which could eventuate in an intact human fetus developing within a non-human animal womb.”

Fr. Berg then touched on the source of the “human material,” saying that their origin could be of moral concern.

“The procurement of such material from electively aborted fetuses (which a perusal of the literature suggests is often the source of choice for researchers) is to be absolutely condemned,” he stated.

The Academy project seeks agreement on definitions for animals and animal embryos containing human genetic or cellular materials and also seeks to discuss their current and future uses.

The use of “human admixed embryos” in research will also be considered.

The Academy’s study of such issues is related to the parliamentary surrounding the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act of 2008. The study is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.

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