Sacramento, Calif., Aug 24, 2012 (CNA) - Stem cell researchers are launching the first FDA-approved clinical trial to examine whether cord blood stem cells can improve the condition of children with autism.
“This is the start of a new age of research in stem cell therapies for chronic diseases such as autism, and a natural step to determine whether patients receive some benefit from an infusion of their own cord blood stem cells,” Dr. Michael Chez, the study’s principal investigator, said Aug. 21.
Dr. Chez is the director of Pediatric Neurology with the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, Calif. The institute has joined with the major stem cell bank CBR (Cord Blood Registry) to examine the effect of the stem cell therapy on autistic children.
The clinical study will enroll 30 children ages two through seven who are diagnosed with autism and meet other criteria, CBR says. Participants will receive two infusions, one of the child’s own cord blood stem cells and one of a placebo, over 13 months. The trial intends to determine whether the cells help improve patients’ language and behavior.
One in 88 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder that affects social, language and behavioral skills.
Chez said there is evidence that some autistic children have dysfunctional immune systems that damage or delay their nervous system development.
“Cord blood stem cells may offer ways to modulate or repair the immune systems of these patients which would also improve language and some behavior in children who have no obvious reason to have become autistic,” he said.
Umbilical cord blood contains unique stem cells that have been used for more than 20 years to treat some cancers, blood diseases and immune disorders.
Dr. Maureen L. Condic, associate professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, told CNA she is “intrigued” by the study but “cautious.”
“Autism is a very complex and poorly understood condition,” she said Aug. 22.
Umbilical cord stem cells are obtained from a patient at birth and are therefore genetically identical to the patient. This means that they will not be rejected by the patient’s immune system.
Embryonic stem cells, by contrast, are obtained from human embryos destroyed to produce stem cells.
“They are likely to be rejected by the patient's immune system, unless the patient is treated with immune-suppressing drugs,” she added. “Undifferentiated embryonic stem cells produce tumors when injected into patients, and cannot be used for therapies without first manipulating these cells to produce a mature cell type.”
Catholic ethics rejects the use of embryonic stem cells because they are derived from destroying a human embryo.
Rimini, Italy, Aug 24, 2012 (CNA) - Evolutionary biology and faith in God are not incompatible, two professors asserted at the international Rimini Meeting, an event that brings hundreds of thousands of people to Italy.
“A proper understanding of creation, especially an understanding set forth by a thinker such as Thomas Aquinas, helps us to see that there is no conflict between evolutionary biology or any of the natural sciences and a fundamental understanding that all that ‘is’, is caused by God,” Professor William E. Carroll of Oxford University’s theology faculty told CNA Aug. 22.
“Evolutionary biology is that area of science which helps us to understand better the origin and development of human beings, but whatever those arguments are in evolutionary biology they, in principle, do not conflict with the fundamental understanding that all that ‘is’ is created by God,” Carroll said.
Professor Carroll was a keynote speaker at the Rimini Meeting, an international gathering organized by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation. From August 19 to 25 the event in the Italian seaside town of Rimini is exploring a range of contemporary cultural issues, including the relationship between faith, reason and science.
“God causes the world to be the kind of world which it is and the natural sciences help to disclose what kind of a world we have,” Carroll explained.
Sharing a platform with him was Professor Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Both men expressed a particular appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI’s ongoing efforts to encourage greater dialogue between faith and science.
“There is a spectrum of intransigence in the religious community and in the scientific community,” Tattersall remarked, explaining, “that is why the dialogue is useful because maybe it will broaden flexibility on both sides.”
In January 2012, Pope Benedict established a new Science and Faith Foundation, which will be headquartered at the Vatican. He said that his aim in doing so is to build a “philosophical bridge” between science and theology.
“One of the great insights of the Pope, which he continually emphasizes, is an enlargement of reason, a recognition that rationality is not limited to what the natural sciences do but that there’s a larger sense of rationality that includes both philosophy and theology,” Carroll said.
He suggested that the recent debate has occasionally become confused by the interventions of high-profile scientists like Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Krauss.
Both, he claimed, “are really ignorant of philosophy and theology, and so they make all sorts of goofy philosophical and theological claims.”
“Science is a different way of knowing than spiritual faith, both answer to a need that humans have ‘to know,’ but they are answering different parts of the question,” added Tattersall.
In fact, Tattersall pointed out, “many scientists are believers, so there’s certainly no incompatibility in principle between the two.”
Chicago, Ill., Aug 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A businesswoman who has filed the most recent lawsuit against the federal contraception mandate believes that the government must respect her identity as a Catholic woman as well as a business owner.
“I’m a total integrated person,” said Mary Anne Yep, co-founder and vice president of Triune Health Group.
Yep told CNA on Aug. 23 that she cannot separate her identity as a woman, a business owner and a Catholic. The government cannot expect her to “carve out a portion” of herself during working hours, she said.
Yep helped found Triune Health Group in 1990, along with her husband, Christopher, who serves as the company’s president and CEO.
The company was recently named the Best Place to Work for Women in the Chicago metro area by Crain’s Chicago Business.
Yep said that the award, based on an anonymous employee survey, is a testimony that her employees are happy.
“They feel cared about,” she said. “They know their dignity is respected.”
The Yeps and their business are suing both the federal government and the state of Illinois for infringing upon their religious freedom in their business decisions.
An Aug. 23 statement announcing the lawsuit explained that the Yeps “view business as a form of religious stewardship and an integral part of their lives as faithful Roman Catholics.”
However, they feel that their ability to live out their faith in their business is compromised by a controversial mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has been challenged by nearly 60 plaintiffs, including dioceses, religious charities and for-profit businesses.
While certain religious organizations have been granted a one-year “safe harbor” from the regulation, for-profit businesses do not qualify for the temporary exemption and are required to comply with the mandate as soon as they begin or renew their health insurance policy.
The Yeps and Triune are being represented in their case by the Chicago-based Thomas More Society and Jubilee Campaign’s Law of Life Project.
Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, explained that the Yeps are challenging not only the federal mandate but also a similar state mandate in Illinois that has been in place for years.
Heated debate over the federal mandate brought the issue to their attention, and they checked their policy, discovering “to their chagrin” that their health coverage had included the objectionable elements without their knowledge, he said.
Now, the Yeps are seeking to correct this oversight and ensure that their company is run in accordance with their religious values.
Yep disagreed with the characterization of those who oppose the mandate as waging a war on women.
“My stance on this issue is that we’re fighting for religious liberty for men and women,” she said.
She explained that it is “unfortunate” that the debate has been framed as a women’s rights issue when “it is definitely an issue of religious freedom.”
Yep asserted that she should be free to live out her faith, not only through her worship, but by answering “the calling to engage in serving our fellow men and women.”
“And that’s what was guaranteed to me as a woman in the Constitution,” she added.
Yep said that she cannot separate the business and personal aspects of her life. Rather, she seeks to live according to the same principles whether she is at home with the family, working at the company or praying in church.
“I’ve worked all my life to become this one, integrated person,” she said.
Aberdeen, Scotland, Aug 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A traditionalist religious order that used to be part of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X has received formal recognition as a diocesan institute within the Catholic Church.
“On this festive solemnity of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God body and soul into Heaven our spiritual joy and fraternal rejoicing is great indeed,” read the statement issued Aug. 15 by the Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer. The religious community is based on the tiny island of Papa Stronsay in the Orkney Isles off the north coast of Scotland.
“Our community,” it announced, “has been granted canonical recognition as a Clerical Institute of Diocesan Right by His Lordship the Right Reverend Dom Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., Bishop of Aberdeen.”
The move brings to a completion a process of reconciliation that began in 2008 when the community joined the Catholic Church following Pope Benedict XVI’s issuing of “Summorum Pontificum.” The papal decree allowed traditional Latin rites to be more widely used within the Church.
“I am pleased that the process of canonical recognition has been completed and I hope that The Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer will be able to contribute fully to the life of the Church,” Bishop Gilbert said Aug. 15.
Since becoming bishop in August 2011, Bishop Gilbert has undertaken two official visits to Papa Stronsay to help formalize the order’s position within the Church. On Aug. 22 he returned to conclude matters by celebrating the community’s public profession of vows.
The Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer purchased Papa Stronsay -- which means “Priests Island of Stronsay” – back in 1999. In 2007, the order also created a new foundation in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Although the Scottish community owns the island, life can be austere since the remote location does not have services for gas, electricity, phones or water. Instead, the order produces electricity with a diesel generator, pumps water from wells, and heats its buildings and water with kerosene burners.
The journey to the island from the mainland usually requires two ferry trips, followed by another five-minute crossing on the monastery’s boat.
Miami, Fla., Aug 24, 2012 (CNA) - Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, will address a national Catholic Latino group at a Miami church this evening on how Hispanic Catholics can transform American politics for the better.
Anderson will say that Catholics “should work to ensure that future generations of immigrants find a country that supports their values and not one that asks them to surrender their religious values at the border as the price of their admission.”
Is not multiculturalism but its opposite to force immigrants to “surrender values at the border,” he will state.
His speech to the annual conference of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders will take place the evening of Friday Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Family Center of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church. The event will gather together more than 100 Hispanic business and civic leaders.
Anderson will speak about the importance of immigration reform and provide advice for judging how to vote in the upcoming election. Politicians’ support for immigration reform, in his view, is not enough to justify a vote for them if they also advocate policies at odds with core Catholic beliefs.
He will advise Hispanic Catholics to consider many issues in voting and to draw a line against voting for a politician who supports policies opposed to core Catholic beliefs. These policies include support for abortion or limits on religious freedom.
The Knights of Columbus is a 1.8 million member Catholic fraternal charity. Since its founding 130 years ago in New Haven, Conn., it has established councils across the world, including in Mexico and Cuba.
The organization co-sponsored with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles the Aug. 5 Guadalupe Celebration in Los Angeles, which gathered together tens of thousands of Catholics to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Anderson has coauthored a bestselling book on the patron saint of the Americas, “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Bishops' Conference of Argentina has called on congress to modify a proposed revision of the country's civil code to prevent harm to the family and protect the life of the unborn.
Argentina needs a society “in which stable bonds are fostered and priority is given to the protection of children and the most defenseless,” the bishops said in an Aug. 23 statement.
“We need to recognize and grant legal protection to all human life from the moment of conception, and we need to remember that not everything that is scientifically possible is ethically acceptable.”
The new civil code being debated in the Argentinean Congress would allow abortion, euthanasia and fast-track divorce. Under the new code, unborn babies before a certain stage would not be considered persons, the freezing of embryos for commercial purposes or scientific research would be allowed, and surrogate motherhood would be legitimized, the bishops said.
The emotional bonds of marriage would also be weakened and devalued, they argued.
Every legislative reform has an impact on the culture and daily life of a nation, the bishops noted, warning that the proposed new code embraces a model of the family that is individualistic.
The code is also opposed to gospel and fundamental social values, they added, “such as stability, commitment to others, the sincere gift of self, fidelity, respect for one’s life and those of others, the duties of parents and the rights of children.”
Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo, president of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina, is slated to participate in an upcoming joint congressional committee debate on the civil code.
Vatican City, Aug 24, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI told a group of lay people this week that the world needs their courageous and credible testimony to bring the hope of the Gospel to all areas of society.
In a message sent to the International Forum of Catholic Action in Iasi, Romania, the Pope reflected on the laity's responsibility to the Church and society, reported Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano.
“Co-responsibility demands a change in mentality, in particularly, about the role of the laity in the Church, who are considered not as ‘collaborators’ with the clergy, but as persons truly ‘co-responsible’ for being and acting of the Church,” he said.
The world needs a “a mature and committed laity,” which “can make its own specific contribution to the ecclesial mission with respect for the ministries and tasks that each one has in the life of the Church and always in cordial communion with the bishops.”
The laity's role is of fundamental importance, especially “in this phase of history,” the Pope stressed, to be interpreted “in the light of the Church’s social Magisterium.”
Lay men and women should also aim to “grow, with the whole Church,” he noted, “in the co-responsibility of offering humanity a future of hope and with the courage to formulate demanding proposals.”
Recalling the “long and fruitful history” of Catholic laity as “courageous witnesses of Christ,” the Pope invited the participants in the Forum to renew their commitment “to walking on the way of holiness, keeping up an intense life of prayer, encouraging and respecting personal ways of faith.”
Ann Arbor, Mich., Aug 24, 2012 (CNA) - Defying the odds against success, the world's largest producer of original English-language Catholic radio programming, Ave Maria Radio, is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
“Our Lady is surely pleased to lend her name to such a great mission!” EWTN Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Doug Keck said in light of the anniversary.
Keck said he and everyone at EWTN want to congratulate the “faith-filled professionals” of Ave Maria Radio for their “'Fiat' to the work of Catholic media evangelization.
In 1997, Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers, took up an offer of free radio programming from EWTN founder Mother Angelica for any Catholic radio station.
“At that time, the landscape of Catholic radio was like a barren desert,” Ave Maria said in an Aug. 22 statement.
Since then, Ave Maria Radio has grown to the 20 different titles, including three live programs that air weekly on EWTN's global Catholic radio network's nearly 200 stations.
Additionally, the radio programmer now offers streaming internet audio as well as Android and iPhone apps.
Hard times struck the broadcasting company in the winter of 2002 when manager Al Kresta was attacked by a flesh-eating virus.
Though the virus was life-threatening and required the amputation of his left leg, Kresta offered up his illness for Ave Maria Radio and said the experience brought him closer to God.
After a six-month recovery period, he returned as President and CEO of Ave Maria Radio, where he now hosts the nationally syndicated “Kresta in the Afternoon” show.
To celebrate the anniversary, Ave Maria Radio will host an Aug. 25 concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan Campus. It will feature popular country musician Collin Raye and Nashville recording artist Andrea Thomas.
Denver, Colo., Aug 24, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has criticized a Denver city councilwoman for withdrawing a proclamation that praised a Catholic-run company, after she learned that the owners filed a religious freedom lawsuit against the federal government.
“Choosing to marginalize the owners of Hercules for their religiosity is an insult to the founding values of our nation,” the Denver archbishop said in an Aug. 23 opinion piece in the Denver Post.
“When religious people are marginalized from the public square all of us lose,” he said. “Religious values (like those of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example) have served as forces for great public good in America. Public shame of the religiously convicted undermines the American ideal.”
His comments come in response to the actions of Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who had initially intended to recognized the Denver-based HVAC manufacturer Hercules Industries’ 50th anniversary.
The business’ Catholic owners are suing the Obama administration over a Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs. They say the mandate violates their religious freedom.
A federal court has granted the company an injunction against the mandate until the case is resolved.
Kniech withdrew the proposed proclamation before its passage, saying she hoped to avoid a “partisan food fight” in an election year.
Archbishop Aquila said the resolution’s withdrawal is “unsurprising” but “disappointing.”
“By all appearances, Kniech discovered that Hercules had religious convictions, and she sought distance,” he said.
He said that the company’s religious values compel it to offer “generous health care coverage and benefits” and to support its unionized workforce.
“The same religious values compel them to protect their right to a clear conscience -- to observe the norms of religious morality in their public life,” he wrote.
While the Archbishop Aquila said that governments can legitimately protect the public when religious conscience threatens “essential human freedom or dignity,” he rejected any contention that the mandate is in this category.
He also noted that there are “increasing threats” to religious institutions and practices, citing a recent report that showed an increase in hostility to religion.
“The HHS mandate is designed to fund private sexual expression -- and even abortion -- from the coffers of American businesses,” he charged. “Trading free access to contraception for our foundational reverence for religious liberty is a betrayal of our history -- and a short-sighted plan for America.”
In response to Kniech’s decision to withdraw the commendation for Hercules Industries, Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty issued a commendation for the company on behalf of the Colorado House of Representatives. The Denver Post also editorialized against the councilwoman’s action.
Archbishop Aquila said Speaker McNulty “rightly commended” the company.
“I pray the Denver City Council will do the same,” he said.