Archive of November 3, 2012

Second Vatican stem cell conference set for 2013

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Next year the Pontifical Council for Culture and an adult stem cell research foundation will host the second international Vatican conference to discuss regenerative medicine and its implications for culture, ethics and faith.

Monsignor Tomasz Trafny, head of the Science and Faith department at the Pontifical Council for Culture, said it is the council’s mission to explore the cultural impact of new research. It aims to “offer the best tools for pastoral care” and “encourage understanding of changing culture.”

Dr. Robin Smith, President of the U.S.-based Stem for Life Foundation, said Nov. 1 that the conference will educate people of all backgrounds on the potential of adult stem cells to treat chronic disease. It will generate “truly international dialogue” on regenerative medicine and explore the connections between scientific breakthroughs, faith, culture and ethics.

The Second International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference’s theme is “Regenerative Medicine — A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture.” It will take place at the Vatican from April 11-13, 2013.

The conference aims to foster dialogue among researchers, physicians, philanthropists, faith leaders and policy makers to identify unmet medical needs that can benefit from the development of stem cell therapies. It also strives to raise awareness about present opportunities in existing therapies and reduce misunderstandings about the field.

Conference speakers include leading adult stem cell scientists and clinicians and thought leaders in faith, ethics, culture and business. Various countries’ health ministers, Holy See ambassadors and regulatory officials will also speak.

Moderators for the event include prominent journalists and commentators like NBC News’ Meredith Vieira, Fox News’ Bill Hemmer, Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal and Dr. Max Gomez of WCBS-TV.

Researchers and clinicians will present the state of adult stem cell research, including the results of investigations into growing replacements for damaged and diseased organs, restoring heart function after heart attacks and growing new skin for burn victims. Adult stem cell advances in cancer therapy, treating traumatic brain injuries and chronic diseases will also be discussed.

Some patients who have undergone adult stem cell therapies will speak about how the research has reduced their suffering.

The conference also aims to lay the foundation for a network of scientists, educators and patrons interested in the potential of adult stem cells.

Unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells are not derived from the destruction of human embryos.

Msgr. Trafny said the developments in regenerative medicine are “of great interest.” They also cause “deep cultural transformations” in health care, the economy, new technologies and legal issues.

“Thus, topics that apparently seem to be circumscribed only to strictly scientific discussions or theoretical ones, in fact modify our understanding of social dynamics, relationships and, in the ultimate analysis, our understanding of the human being,” he said.

The Stem for Life Foundation, a conference co-sponsor, is the foundation of the international bio-pharmaceutical company NeoStem Inc. The Pontifical Council for Culture is sponsoring the event through its foundation STOQ International, whose name is an acronym for Science Theology and the Ontological Quest.

The conference website is

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Activists draw fire for labeling Scottish cardinal 'bigot'

Edinburgh, Scotland, Nov 3, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Catholic spokesman slammed the U.K. gay advocacy group Stonewall's bestowal of its “bigot of the year” award on Cardinal Keith O'Brien, calling the move an effort to attack marriage supporters.

Peter Kearney, Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, said the award “reveals the depths of their intolerance and their willingness to attack and demean those who don’t share their views.”

“Stonewall and others have promoted terms like 'bigot' and 'homophobe' relentlessly, in order to intimidate and vilify anyone who dares oppose their agenda,” Kearney said Nov. 1.

“It is an agenda which the wider public does not endorse and which their excessive language has undermined.”

Cardinal O'Brien, the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, has been a leading defender of traditional marriage in the face of local efforts to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions.

Stonewall, which receives some government funding, said its 10,000 members voted “decisively” to give the award to the cardinal after he described same-sex “marriage” as a “grotesque subversion” of the universal right to marry.

In a March 3 editorial in the British newspaper The Telegraph, the cardinal warned that redefining marriage would have “huge implications” for schools and for wider society. It would “eliminate entirely” from law the idea that a child needs a mother and a father. He questioned whether teachers who wants to tell students that marriage can only mean the union of a man and a woman will lose that right.

“Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?” he asked, citing precedents in Massachusetts to normalize homosexual advocacy.

He warned that the redefinition of marriage might set a precedent for polygamous marriage and cause “further degeneration of society into immorality.”

In response, the director of Stonewall ScotlandColin Macfarlane told The Guardian that the cardinal has “gone well beyond what any normal person would call a decent level of public discourse.”

But Ruth Davidson, an openly lesbian leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, gave a speech at the Stonewall awards ceremony in which she criticized the attack on Cardinal O'Brien.

She said she disagreed with Stonewall’s “need to call people names like ‘bigot’.”

“It is simply wrong,” she said, The Christian Institute reports.

In response, event attendees booed her.

Two leading banks who sponsor the Stonewall event, Barclays and Coutts, have threatened to end their sponsorship unless it drops the prize for “bigot of the year.”

Stonewall U.K. receives funding from many public bodies, including the Scottish government.

Kearney said Stonewall's “intolerant and intimidatory tactics” should call into question the group's funding from many public bodies.

The Scottish parliament could legalize “gay marriages” next year despite strong opposition from religious groups and others.

The push for marriage redefinition is also evident in other parts of the U.K. The United Kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was also the focus of controversy after his office released a draft speech which called opponents of redefining marriage “bigots.”

Corrected on Nov. 9, 2012 at 10:25 a.m., MST: Cardinal O'Brien was incorrectly described as archbishop of St. Andrews and Glasgow. He is archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.

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Support for preserving marriage grows in key states

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2012 (CNA) - Recent polls show increasing support for marriage being the union of one man and one woman in states that will soon cast ballots on whether to legalize “gay marriage.”

“Our opponents are hugely outspending us and had a jump start on us when it comes to getting the message across, though they failed to move the needle much their direction,” explained Thomas Peters, cultural director for the National Organization for Marriage.

“Now that we are on the airwaves as well, we are having success in changing hearts and minds,” Peters told CNA on Nov. 2.

In the final days before the election, the National Organization for Marriage is working with other marriage supporters to reach and mobilize 10 million voters through a robocall campaign in key states.

The calls – which will be placed in both English and in Spanish – will reach out to voters of various political beliefs who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Marriage is an important issue this year for voters in four states.

In Minnesota, voters will have the chance to approve a state constitutional amendment that protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Citizens in Maryland and Washington state will be faced with referendums to approve or reject recent laws legalizing same-sex “marriage.” In Maine, advocates of redefining marriage have placed a measure on the ballot to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

A number of recent polls in these states have suggested that the measures are in a dead heat, with defense of marriage on the rise.

A poll conducted Oct. 26-28 by SurveyUSA found the Minnesota amendment as being too-close-to-call, with marriage defenders leading those who wished to redefine the institution by one point, within the survey’s margin of error.

A Washington survey found the percentage of voters committed to defending marriage has risen in recent weeks, as the gap of undecided voters narrows.

The Elway Poll, an independent, nonpartisan analysis of public opinion trends, found in its Oct. 24 analysis that support for redefining marriage in the state dropped by two points from September to October, falling below 50 percent.

Meanwhile, opposition to redefining the institution has risen by eight points within that same time, bringing the ballot measure to within four points.

In Maryland, an Oct. 20-23 poll conducted for The Baltimore Sun indicated a dead heat, while a poll that it commissioned a month ago showed proponents of redefining marriage with a 10 point lead – 49 percent to 39 percent.

The newspaper reported that in late September, a majority of the African American community supported redefining marriage, while the most recent poll found that 50 percent opposed it and 42 percent supported it. It attributed this shift in black opinion to the efforts of religious leaders.

Peters agreed that “in Maryland special credit goes to the African-American pastors and leaders who are informing their community” about the importance of defending marriage.

Contributing to these efforts is the Coalition of African-American Pastors, a national group that has been working to raise awareness and support for marriage at the grassroots level.

Rev. Williams Owens, president of the coalition, recently spoke out against an ad aimed at African American Christians that encouraged them to follow President Barack Obama’s lead by voting to redefine marriage in Maryland.

"This ad is the worst attempt at pandering and manipulating the Black community to ignore their own pastors who rightfully uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage,” he said in an Oct. 31 statement.

Owens warned that the African American community is being courted “for political gain,” and said that the “Black church has been the conscience of not only the Black community but of the nation.”

Marriage advocates argue that redefining marriage will remove its focus on the biological relationship that provides the foundation for new human life.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that more than 40 percent of babies in the U.S. are born to unmarried women. Studies have found correlations between out-of-wedlock childbearing and poverty.
According to Peters, the report reinforces the need to recognize and promote marriage as the child-centered union of a man and a woman.

He explained that “men and women coming together in marriage to raise the children they have is a huge benefit to society, to the next generation and to the spouses, and is one of the strongest safeguards against poverty.”

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Catholics buy full-page religious freedom ad in Denver Post

Denver, Colo., Nov 3, 2012 (CNA) - A group of lay Catholics in Colorado is placing a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Denver Post to drive home the importance of religious freedom in the upcoming election.

“I think the folks who organized getting the ad together want to ensure everybody understands what’s at stake not only for the Church, but for the country, when religious liberty is compromised,” said J.D. Flynn, chancellor of the Denver archdiocese.

The full-page ad, which will run in the Sunday, Nov. 4 edition of The Denver Post, will feature the full text of the Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila’s Nov. 1 letter on religious freedom and the election.

Flynn said that purchasing the ad in the Sunday edition, which reaches 964,000 readers, “isn’t cheap,” but the fact that over 20 Denver-area Catholics committed to fund it shows that they “support the archbishop in his public ministry.”

“I just think it speaks to the quality and commitment of the lay people in the Archdiocese of Denver that they want to support the archbishop in this way,” he commented.

Flynn said he hopes this advertisement will highlight the importance of protecting religious liberty in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

“Our country is the product of religious liberty,” Flynn stated. “When we undermine that for something as short-sighted as free contraception, everybody is in serious trouble.

“I just hope people are hearing that.”

The idea for the advertisement was the result of a group of lay Catholics asking how they could support the archbishop in his efforts to uphold religious liberty.

 “I think there are a lot of people who don’t appreciate the significance of the election for the Church’s activity in this country, and also the significance of this election for Catholics in this country,” Flynn said.

 In his letter, Archbishop Aquila emphasized religious freedom as a foundational American value.

“Our founding fathers understood that without these freedoms, especially religious liberty, our democratic experiment would fail,” he wrote.

However, religious liberty faces “an unprecedented threat” from the Health and Human Services mandate, which “undermines the promise of the First Amendment,” Archbishop Aquila said.

The Obama administration’s contraception mandate requires employers to provide health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their beliefs.

It has drawn nearly 40 lawsuits by more than 110 plaintiffs since its announcement earlier this year.

“No one should ever be forced to choose between integrity and charity, or to violate their conscience in business,” the archbishop said.

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