With Good Reason

December 08, 2009

NIH Approves Lines of Human Embryonic Stem Cells

By Father Thomas Berg

Last Wednesday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the approval of the first 13 human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines for use in NIH-funded research under the new NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research published on July 7, 2009.  The NIH is, of course, the great financial umbilical cord supplying U.S. tax-payer dollars to fund the vast majority of biomedical research in our country. I explored the details of those guidelines in a previous column. Let me extrapolate the...

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December 01, 2009

Death Panels?

By Father Thomas Berg

Earl Blumenauer is a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Oregon. He took credit recently in the New York Times for authoring the now infamous end-of-life provisions which, in varying forms, are still alive in both House and Senate healthcare reform bills.  Most notorious among these was the 'death panels' provision as coined by Governor Sarah Palin.  While over the top, the term 'death panel' has stuck, and the burden has been on legislators to convince America that their...

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November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009 and the End of the Decade

By Father Thomas Berg

Next Thanksgiving will find us, please God, at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. Our present celebration this Thursday finds us at the close of the peculiarly enumerated decade of the '00s.  Not surprisingly, the New York Times' David Segal recently invited readers to get a head start on one of America's favorite intellectual fetishes: "name that decade." "You know the rules," wrote Segal: "coin a pithy, reductive phrase that somehow encapsulates the multitude of...

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November 17, 2009

Of Bishops, Healthcare and the Stupak Amendment

By Father Thomas Berg

  I must have missed it.Apparently, late on the evening of Saturday November 7, as the U.S. House of Representatives was about to vote on the healthcare reform bill (H.R.3962), several Catholic bishops and a cardinal or two strong armed their way into the House chamber and forced a majority of the members (including 64 Democrats) to vote for an amendment (the Stupak-Pitts amendment) which would prevent the healthcare bill from opening new avenues for the federal funding of abortions. Yes,...

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November 10, 2009

Fruits of the Same Tree

By Father Thomas Berg

Scientists can now make human eggs and sperm, no men or women needed.  Let me repeat that:  as reported recently in the journal Nature, researchers at Stanford University have successfully produced human sperm and eggs from embryonic stem cells. This should come as no surprise since sperm and eggs are specific kinds cells, and human embryonic stem cells have the capacity to give rise to all cell types in the human body.  In fact, researchers have been working hard to make this happen for the...

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November 03, 2009

The Faith that Makes Us Human

By Father Thomas Berg

This is part seven of my reflections on Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger's book, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures. If you missed the earlier columns, here are the links: part one; part two; part three; part four; part five; part six. In Part III of Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Pope Benedict turns to the question of Christian faith: "the fundamental act of Christian existence." Why, we might ask, does he choose to draw his reflections to a close by turning to the...

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October 27, 2009

The Stakes in Afghanistan

By Father Thomas Berg

The war in Afghanistan and our continued commitment to that battle raises any number of moral issues. These were recently addressed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a letter sent to the United States government's National Security Advisor General James L. Jones USMC (Ret.).  Of course, America's military engagement of the Taliban has roots in the 9/11 attacks.  Most observers find the U.S. at a critical juncture, and are anxiously waiting for President Obama to make a decision...

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October 20, 2009

An Abortion Mandate in the Making

By Father Thomas Berg

Last week saw significant progress toward a final version of a healthcare reform bill which could be voted on by Congress as early as the end of October.  The path toward that final bill is so tortuous, however, that even experts disagree on just how it will be accomplished.  As explained to me by my colleague  Dorinda Bordlee, Executive Director and Senior Counsel for Bioethics Defense Fund, and editorialized in the San Francisco Examiner, the bill was taken behind closed doors in the...

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October 13, 2009

Some thoughts about public discourse

By Father Thomas Berg

Readers will forgive me for waxing philosophical for just one column. But let's take a step back from healthcare reform, unemployment, the economy, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, al Qaeda, Gitmo, water-boarding, gay marriage and stem cell research to think for a minute about just how the exchange of ideas is faring in the public square these days. It is Christopher Tollefson, professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, who has me thinking about this. His recently published and...

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October 06, 2009

The 'Common Ground' Non-Argument

By Father Thomas Berg

Many within and without the Catholic Church have suggested of late that a "common ground" approach is the way to resolve our sharp cultural divide on the issue of  federal funding for abortions.  Within current debates over healthcare reform, "common ground" has taken on a more specific meaning, namely, to maintain the status quo on federal funding.  Supposedly this would be a reasonable way ahead, especially to open a path for healthcare reform we could all live with.  Among advocates of...

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