Cause Opens for Heroic Army Chaplain

 by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

(June 17, 2008) The young priest from Kansas was only 35 years old when he lay dying in a Communist prison camp in North Korea. Malnourished, his lungs clouded with pneumonia, as the enemy prepared to carry him away to the “death house,” he was heard whispering, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

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U.S. Bishops Call Embryonic Stem Cell Research “Gravely Immoral”

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

(June 16, 2008) By a vote of 191-1, the U.S. bishops adopted a statement on embryonic stem cell research in which they call experimentation on human embryos “the deliberate killing of human beings, a gravely immoral act.” It also condemned attempts to force citizens to pay for such research, saying it would “make taxpayers complicit in such killings . . .”

The statement was drawn up by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and adopted during the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Bishops which took place last week in Orlando. In the absence of the Committee’s chairman, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Joseph Nauman of Kansas City introduced the statement.

“The statement firmly rejects attacks on the lives of embryonic human beings for any reason, including medical research,” Archbishop Nauman summarized. “It also responds to several arguments used to justify such killing, and explains how an initial decision to destroy so-called ‘spare’ embryos for this research leads to far broader abuses, including human cloning and new risks to women.”

The statement goes on to explicitly reject the practice of embryonic stem cell research because it destroys human life. “Harvesting these ‘embryonic stem cells’ involves the deliberate killing of innocent human beings, a gravely immoral act . . . true service to humanity begins with respect for each and every human life.”

The statement goes on to refute the three most common arguments in favor of embryonic stem cell research: 1) that any harm down is outweighed by the potential benefits; 2) that what is destroyed is not yet a human being with fundamental human rights; and, 3) that dissecting human embryos for their cells should not be seen as a loss of embryonic life.

In the first case, the Bishops argue that “the false assumption that a good end can justify direct killing has been the source of much evil in our world. This utilitarian ethic has especially disastrous consequences when used to justify lethal experiments on human beings in the name of progress. No commitment to a hoped-for ‘greater good’ can erase or diminish the wrong of directly taking innocent human lives here and now.”

Even though embryonic stem cell research is touted as being the route to potential cures for a wide variety of diseases, it has yet to cure a single malady and has proven problematic in the laboratory because of the tendency of embryonic cells to produce tumor and cause immune rejection issues in humans. On the other hand, adult stem cells are already being used to treat more than 70 diseases including some cancers, heart disease and auto-immune diseases, to name a few.

Responding to the second argument, that an embryo in the first week of life is too small to be considered human, the Bishops say that “the human embryo, from conception onward, is as much a living member of the human species as any of us.”

To those who say the embryo can’t be considered human at this early stage because it lacks mental and physical abilities, the Bishops respond, “ . . . (T)o claim that our rights depend on such factors is to deny that human beings have human dignity. . . . If fundamental human rights such as the right to life are based on abilities or qualities that can appear or disappear, grow or diminish, and be greater or lesser in different human beings, then there are no inherent human rights, no true human equality, only privileges for the strong.”

Third, to those who argue that the only embryos that will be used for experimentation are “spare” embryos in fertility clinics who will die anyway, the Bishops argue: “This argument is simply invalid. Ultimately, each of us will die, but that gives no one the right to kill us. Our society does not permit lethal experiments on terminally ill patients or condemned prisoners on the pretext that they will die anyway.”

This argument is also inaccurate. According to a 2003 study by the Rand Corporation, of the 400,000 embryos that remain frozen in fertility clinics across the country, only 2.8 percent (about 11,000 embryos) are available for research. The vast majority of these embryos are reserved for future attempts at pregnancy. Of the number available for research, less than 275 stem cell lines would be created, which means the demand for available embryos will not be satisfied by what is currently available.

“It is also increasingly clear that such stem cell ‘harvesting’ will not stop with the destruction of ‘spare’ embryos frozen in fertility clinics,” the Bishops write. “The search for a large supply of viable embryos with diverse genetic profiles has already led some researchers to claim a right to create vast numbers of human embryos solely to destroy them for research. Thus human cloning, performed by the same method used to create Dolly the cloned sheep, is now said to be essential for progress in embryonic stem cell research.”

Human cloning is intrinsically evil, the Bishops say, because it reduces human procreation to a mere manufacturing process.

They cite other atrocities being committed upon embryos in the name of science, such as fetal farming, which is the process of developing cloned embryos in a woman’s womb for several weeks in order to harvest them for more useful tissue and organs. This practice was outlawed by Congress in 2006.

The Bishops also cite the widespread practice of offering women huge sums of money to harvest their eggs for cloning research through processes that pose serious health risks to women. Research is already taking place around the world that combines human and animal cells to create “hybrid” embryos that are part-human and part-animal.

As John Paul II so accurately described the situation in the Gospel of Life, “It now seems undeniable that once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point.”

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.

In “Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Why Not?” experts Dr. Gerry Sotomayor, Bill Schneeberger and Fr. Edward Krause explain the medical, moral and social implications of this research.

RU-486 Claims Another Life

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

(June 13, 2008) An 18 year-old British student has become the fourteenth woman to die after taking the controversial abortion drug, RU-486.

Manon Jones is described as having been “bubbly” and a bright “A-level” student before her life was cut short in June, 2005. Jones, a Christian, had become infatuated with a Muslim boy she met while taking courses at City of Bristol College. When she became pregnant, she feared a conflict with his parents and decided to have an abortion.

In a June 13, 2008 court hearing, her grieving mother explained what happened next.

“Manon found it very hard to make a decision to terminate the pregnancy,” Llewelyn Jones told the press. “She wanted to keep the child but there were difficult circumstances which she had to consider with her boyfriend’s family and their Muslim religion.”

She decided to travel to Bristol to be with her daughter when she took the mifepristone (RU 486) abortion drug that has already killed 13 other women worldwide, including two in England.

Manon took the first dose of medication on June 10, 2005, and the second dose two days later.

“She was scared and I tried to reassure her. It was a very emotional experience for us both to witness her pass her baby and my grandchild into the bedpan,” she said of the abortion experience.

After the termination, Manon complained of light-headedness and heavy bleeding. On June 15 her boyfriend took her to a nearby hospital where a scan told her everything was normal. She decided to go on a four-day holiday with friends, but began feeling so sick she returned early and went back to the hospital.

By the time her mother arrived, Manon was already in intensive care after suffering seizures and cardiac arrest.

“I stayed with her at the bedside all day and all night and gradually realized that Manon had already left us and was not likely to recover,” she concluded.

On June 27, 2005, doctors made the decision to turn off Manon’s life support and she died shortly thereafter.

Eight years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responding to pressure by President Clinton and pro-abortion lobbying groups, put RU-486 on a “fast track” to approval in order to get it into the marketplace before the election of pro-life President George Bush. This action was unprecedented, as the FDA only uses the “fast track” for drugs used to treat life-threatening illnesses. However, the possible election of pro-life President George W. Bush loomed on the horizon and abortion supporters feared the drug would not be approved if he was elected. On September 28, 2000, only months before Bush took office, the FDA approved the drug.

Since that time, there have been more than 600 cases of serious complications following the use of the drug as well as 14 deaths.

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.

Most women don’t want an abortion but, like Manon, feel pressured into it. In “Healing the Pain of Abortion,” experts Theresa Burke, Ph.D., David Reardon, Ph.D. and Maria Steele discuss this problem and how to heal the emotional scars it causes.

Presidential Candidates Court Catholic Vote

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

(June 13, 2008) Both Presidential candidates are reaching out to Catholic voters, but with mixed results. While Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently met with Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests forLife and other Catholic leaders in Philadelphia, Senator Barack Obama’s (D-IL) campaign is embroiled in controversy over its Catholic National Advisory Council which consists of mostly dissidents and abortion supporters.

According to a report by Deal Hudson of Inside Catholic, Senator McCain conducted a meeting with Catholic leaders in Philadelphia on June 12. After meeting with Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life, the first issue he raised with voters was abortion. He told voters that the “inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” applies to the unborn. He reminded voters of his pro-life voting record and promised to “maintain that commitment” if elected president.

McCain has a solid pro-life voting record, which includes a vote to uphold the Mexico City Policy which prevents International Planned Parenthood from receiving tax dollars. He also voted against endorsing Roe v. Wade and believes it should be overturned.

Obama, on the other hand, is a staunch supporter of abortion rights. He voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion and opposed legal protection for babies born during an abortion procedure. Obama and former Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, co-sponsored the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that would invalidate virtually all state and federal limitations on abortion, and will make partial-birth abortion legal again. Obama has frequently made the promise that passage of the Freedom of Choice Act will be one of his first priorities if elected president.

During his Philadelphia meeting, McCain also brought up another subject sensitive to Catholics – that of defending marriage against the legal assault by same-sex couples. While he believes the matter should reside with the states, he added, “But if some federal judge rules that all the states must recognize the [gay] marriages in Massachusetts, I would be in favor of pursuing a Constitutional amendment.”

Obama says he personally believes marriage is between a man and a woman but supports legal recognition of same-sex couples and advocates for the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because it discriminates against homosexuals. He has also said that he believes the Sermon on the Mount justifies recognition of same-sex unions. Both McCain and Obama support embryonic stem cell research.

Each candidate has also been embroiled in controversy concerning the Catholic vote. McCain recently came under fire after being endorsed by Texas evangelical preacher, John Hagee, who referred to the Catholic Church as the “Great Whore” and an “apostate church.” Hagee publicly apologized for these comments last month.

The Obama campaign has also been excoriated for establishing the controversial Catholic National Advisory Council comprised of mostly dissident Catholics who support abortion. Included on the list is Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius who was recently asked to refrain from receiving Communion by Kansas City’s Archbishop John Naumann because of her staunch abortion support. Also included on the Council are abortion supporting senators such as Edward Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry, (D-MA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT). The flamboyant Fr. Michael Pfleger who was recently subjected to a two-week suspension for racial statements he made about Hillary Clinton was also on the Council but recently withdrew his name.

There is some indication that Obama may have suspended this Council but has not publicly announced its dissolution.

Of the two candidates, McCain scored much better with Catholic voters during the Republican primary season, winning a large portion of the vote from active Catholics in key states such as California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
Obama has been having a more difficult time, with Catholic voters in the Democratic primaries preferring Clinton over Obama by substantial margins.

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.

Voting with a Catholic conscience can be tricky in today’s nuanced political arena. In “Casting a Catholic Ballot,” Fr. Frank Pavone, Mary Jo Anderson and Fr. Edward Krause answer your questions about how to cast a faithful ballot.