Pro-life issues

She Was Diagnosed With Cancer and Told She Had 6 Months to Live. That Was 18 Years Ago

MONICA BURKE   SEP 10, 2018

On World Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, we recognize suicide as the tragedy it is. Yet at this very moment, activists are agitating to expand—not to prevent—physician-assisted suicide.

This practice promotes the idea that some lives are more valuable than others, an idea that rips apart the social fabric of our nation.

No one should receive suicide assistance over suicide prevention.

Stories like Jeanette Hall’s remind us that the appropriate response to human suffering must always be loving care and solidarity, not destruction.

After losing her brother to suicide and receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2000, Hall approached her doctor, Dr. Kenneth Stevens, about a prescription for lethal barbiturates.

Instead of counseling her to die, Stevens reminded Hall of everything she had to live for, including her son’s upcoming graduation and—someday—his wedding.

“That’s what kept me back,” she said. “That one sentence.”

So, she decided to pursue chemotherapy instead. She was ultimately cured of cancer, and celebrated her 70th birthday in 2015.

“I was just going to say, ‘Give me the barbiturates; call it good,’ not even thinking that I would do [to] my own son the same thing that my brother did to me,” Hall said. “Suicide is awful. And here, knowing that, I was still going to do it.

“That would have been just heartbreaking for me,” said Hall’s son, Scott Walden.

Hall’s story reminds us that we all play a role in counseling and protecting the sick, the weak, and the elderly, whatever their background or circumstances.

Physician-assisted suicide is antithetical to a culture of life for a whole host of reasons.

For one, physician-assisted suicide sets up arbitrary guidelines about who receives suicide prevention and who receives suicide assistance.

Patients of a certain age or with a certain qualifying condition are told to end their lives with professional help, whereas others receive support in order to keep living. These circumstances are completely arbitrary and subject to change on a whim.

Ultimately, physician-assisted suicide guidelines communicate that some lives are simply more valuable than others. A mentality that privileges some lives over others infects culture on multiple levels.

Contrary to the prevalent myth that physician-assisted suicide is mainly an option for those in excruciating pain, studies suggest that the leading cause of physician-assisted suicide is not pain, but existential distress.

Ending one’s life does not solve loneliness, depression, or anxiety. It neglects the problem at the ultimate cost—that of the person.

Physician-assisted suicide also attacks the relationships that form the fabric of society.

When physician-assisted suicide is on the table, so too are less-than-pure motives to choose—or pressure someone to choose—death over life.

Family members may be increasingly tempted to think that suicide is what sick or elderly relatives “would have wanted” when facing down the emotional and financial toll of caring for others.

Patients might think themselves “better off dead” when accounting for the toll that additional medical care might take on their families.

Doctors might violate the Hippocratic Oath and their promise to never harm their patients when suicide is treated as a mercy.

Patients might withhold information from their doctors for fear they will be counseled to take their own lives.

Then there’s the uncomfortable fact that it is cheaper for health care systems and insurers to “do away with” patients who require additional, more expensive care.

So-called legal “safeguards” are gravely insufficient to protect against these negative social trends. Waiting periods, written requests, sign-offs from physicians—none of these requirements remove the pressure on patients to kill themselves or protect against other forms of abuse.

Physician-assisted suicide creates a culture where the weakest among us are the least able to protect themselves from pressure to end their lives.

That is why disabilities groups such as Not Dead Yet are at the forefront of the push against physician-assisted suicide, reminding us that no human life is ever worthless.

Physician-assisted suicide devalues human life in circumstances that require the most protection and empathy. Life is treated as disposable, which helps explain why many European countries that have legalized physician-assisted suicide now have expanded into non-voluntary euthanasia.

The U.S. is hardly safe from these dangerous trends. Thus far, six states have legalized physician-assisted suicide.

But there is still time to change course. America can still choose life over death.

This World Suicide Prevention Day, we must recommit ourselves to a unilateral defense of human life.

LifeNews Note: Monica Burke is a research assistant in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. This first appeared at the Daily Signal and is reprinted with permission.

The culture of death began as an academic exercise

Felipe E. Vizcarrondo | Aug 7 2018

In 1803 Thomas Robert Malthus, an English clergyman who was concerned about the origins of poverty, published an Essay on the Principle of Population. This was a moment when the world’s population was increasing at a faster rate than it had in the past and some people were concerned about overpopulation.

Malthus had a novel idea: that the growth of the population would eventually outstrip the growth of resources needed to support the increasing number of people, especially food resources. He was convinced that population was growing exponentially and doubling every 25 years, while food resources could only increase arithmetically in the same time.

Malthus deplored the large families of the poor and held that the tendency of the working classes to reproduce was largely responsible for their poverty. The large numbers of dependent poor would eventually put a strain on the state and result in bankruptcy. He advised a decrease in population growth through abstinence and delayed marriage. He also advocated the use of artificial methods of contraception as he believed abstinence would not always be observed.

About 50 years later, in 1859, Charles Darwin published his masterpiece, The Origin of Species.Darwin is said to have been influenced by Malthus’ writing. Darwin’s theory of evolution reversed the Judeo-Christian doctrine of the fall of man from perfection as a consequence of man’s transgression, to a quest for perfection through natural selection. Natural selection would result in the survival of the strong and fit and the elimination of the weak and vulnerable, who would die out naturally. Their passing was essential for progress. Death became an essential element for making humanity better by improving the lineage.

The eugenics movement, an offspring of Darwinism, developed in Europe by the late 1800s. In Great Britain, Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, introduced the concept of eugenics as a science. Eugenicists argued that many of the maladies of man were due to inferior inherited traits. They encouraged the fit middle and upper classes to have large families; the unfit, poor, especially minorities and immigrants, were to breed less.

By the late 19th century, supported by a utilitarian ideology and the doctrine of natural selection, the concept of a “right to death” surfaced in Europe. In Germany, in 1920, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche published Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life (Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens). Binding was a prominent jurist and Hoche a professor of psychiatry – members of the German intellectual elite. True to their utilitarian ethics, purportedly to benefit society, the authors advised killing those whose lives were devoid of value. This was justified as “compassion” and “release from suffering.” The slow, natural elimination of the unfit by natural selection had evolved into the notion of actively killing the unfit.

This ideology was adopted by German doctors. The victims would be those near death, those in a comatose state and the mentally impaired. Advocates of euthanasia, few at first, gradually increased. Many were professors at medical schools.

Systematic killing began in the 1930s. It started with infants and children with congenital defects and mental retardation and was followed by disabled and mentally ill adults and the terminally ill. The killing criteria expanded to include adults and children with “antisocial behavior” and those with minor handicaps. Children and adults in psychiatric hospitals were killed by lethal injection. When this method proved costly and awkward, gas chambers were built in some hospitals and patients were transferred for extermination. The impetus for the program was medical economics. (J.C. Willke, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia). The Nazi government supported the program and decriminalized the killing. With the assistance of the state, the killing became impersonal and automatic.

It is important to note that this program was not established by the Nazi government; it was the initiative of members of the German medical community. Nazi ideology accepted eugenics and later on many German physicians accepted Nazi racial doctrines. Medical researchers conducted lethal experiments on inmates in concentration camps.

Binding and Hoche were respected scholars. They were convinced that their arguments for killing the sick and disabled were based on sound economics and were supported by the law. In the preface to the English translation of their book, Anthony Horvath observes that statements made by intellectuals in a scholarly dialogue were adopted by men of action who went on to slaughter the sick and disabled and eventually “inferior races”. The killing by physicians of those whose lives were considered unworthy occurred barely a decade after the publication of Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life.

The eugenics movement in the United States

In the United States, the eugenics movement was also embraced by academics. Funding for eugenics research was provided by the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford Foundations. Faculty from Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton Universities were active promoters.

Compulsory sterilization of “defectives” was carried out. Forced sterilization laws were enacted in 27 states by 1909. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes endorsed the practice of sterilization of “defectives” in a 1927 United States Supreme Court decision, Buck v. Bell. This decision encouraged supporters of coercive sterilization. In fact, American eugenic sterilization programs and genetic laws inspired the Nazi extermination plan (see Edwin Black, The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics). Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a leader in the US eugenics movement.

The death, or at least the sterilization, of an unfit, inferior person was considered a benefit to society. This was purportedly based on science and economics and ultimately the common good and justified ethically as a compassionate release from suffering.

The new eugenics

Over the past 20 years, scientists and philosophers have been proposing a more liberal kind of eugenics. Julian Savulescu, a prominent Australian ethicist, director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, and John Harris, a British bioethicist, director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester, are leading figures in the new eugenics.

The supporters of the new eugenics affirm that technology rules and human beings must obediently follow. A basic tenet is human enhancement. Humanity must adapt to the new technologies. Those who do not will not survive or at least will not thrive. The new eugenics envisages that enhancement will be done genetically.

Harris and Savulescu argue that human enhancement is not only the result of a human being’s desire to improve himself but also that it is a moral obligation. If one is truly concerned about the well-being of future generations, parents must be obliged to produce the very best children possible. This is based on what Savulescu calls “procreative beneficence”.

The new eugenics claims that it will create better opportunities for children and that itis based on good science and individual consent. The old eugenics was unscientific, concerned with the improvement of the race, and coercive.

But is the new eugenics really free of coercion? Those who choose not to enhance might be considered unsatisfactory parents, who are not acting in the best interests of their children. Unenhanced children could place a larger financial burden on society. The social pressure on these parents could eventually lead them to consent to their child’s enhancement.

The old eugenics tried to improve the species by encouraging the reproduction of persons with desirable genetic traits and discouraging the reproduction of undesirables. The new eugenics views genetic selection as an improvement on Darwin’s natural selection. But don’t they have fundamentally the same aims: the development of a superior individual and the consequent elimination of those considered inferior?

The slippery slope

The concept of eliminating the unfit persists. In the Netherlands, voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide have been legal since 2002. However, since 1984 the courts had failed to regulate these practices. This unofficial approval led to widespread use by the medical community and eventual acceptance by the public. Frequently it is a Dutch physician who decides who lives and who dies.

Surveys have showed that euthanasia of newborns and infants was a common practice in the Netherlands. In 2002, the Groningen Protocol for newborn euthanasia was developed to regulate the practice of actively ending the life of some newborns and to prevent uncontrolled and unjustifiable killing. It specified that the newborns to be killed were those with congenital defects who were facing “hopeless and unbearable suffering.” Belgium has followed the Netherland’s lead.

In 2012, two bioethicists, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, “After birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” The authors admit that the fetus and the newborn child are human beings, albeit non-persons or what they consider “potential” persons. They are non- persons because they are “unable to make aims [set goals] and appreciate their own life.” “Neither can be considered a person in a morally relevant sense, as a subject with a moral right to life.”

The authors conclude with this chilling logic: “If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant [fetus] and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.” Note their words, “even when the fetus is healthy”. It is no longer just the unfit who are eligible for euthanasia.

A heated debate ensued in the media. The authors responded with an open letter in the Journal of Medical Ethics. They expressed their surprise at the uproar their article had sparked outside of their philosophical circle. They explained that they had been writing for like-minded ethicists and that the article was meant to be an academic exercise and an exercise in logic. “We are not policy makers, we are philosophers and we deal with concepts, not with legal policy,” they wrote.

Their rationale was reminiscent of the situation in the 1920s. After the publication of Binding and Hoche’s Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life, academics and other intellectuals debated their proposals. Shortly thereafter, they were implemented by the Nazis.

The free exchange of ideas ought to be encouraged in a democratic society. But responsible citizens must be aware of the consequences their words will have on culture and society.

Felipe E Vizcarrondo MD, MA is the president of the Miami Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. 

References

Binding, K., Hoche, A., Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life, Suzeteo Enterprises, 1920, translated by Modak, C., 2012-2015, commissioned by the Policy Intersections Research Center, www.lifeunworthy of life.com

Black, E., The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics, History News Network, The George Washington University, Washington D.C., 2003.

Buck v. Bell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_v._Bell)

Darwin, C., The Origin of Species, 1859, Barnes and Noble Classics, New York, 2004.

Giubilini, A., Minerva, F., After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? Journal of Medical Ethics, (2012). doi:10.1136/medethics-2011-100411

Malthus, R. T., “An Essay on the Principle of Population As It Affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Goodwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers”,(1st. ed.) London, Johnson, J., in St Paul’s Churchyard, 1798.

Savulescu, J., (2001). “Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children”. Bioethics15 (5–6): 413–26. doi:10.1111/1467-8519.00251PMID 12058767.

Savulescu, J., Genetically enhance humanity or face extinction – PART 1 on Vimeo. Vimeo.com (9 November 2009). Retrieved on 2016-05-16.

Willke, J. C., Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Hayes Publishing Co., Cincinnati, OH, 1998.

Astonishing: 20% of people thought to be in vegetative state are not

 

A neuroscientist has found that at least 20 percent of people thought to be in a vegetative state are completely aware of what’s happening around them and to them, but they are unable to respond or move. This means that people thought to be in comas or a ‘vegetative state’ are suffering horrible abuses – being starved and murdered like Terri Schiavo – all while being completely aware of what’s being done to them.

Dr. Adrian Owen, the author of Into the Gray Zone, is a neuroscientist who has been studying how people who are thought to be unaware — often because they cannot answer commands such as “squeeze my hand” — are actually very aware. He asked the question, “could somebody command follow with their brain?”

READ: Man awakens from 12-year-long coma

By scanning the brains of conscious individuals and asking them yes or no questions, he took note of the areas of their brains that were activated with blood flow. Rather than answer yes or no, these healthy individuals were asked to think of playing a game of tennis if the answer to the question was yes and to think of moving through their own home if the answer was no. Each of those thoughts uses a different part of the brain and doctors could watch which part became activated when asking the questions.

Then Owen tried this with hundreds of people thought to be unresponsive and vegetative. What he found was astonishing. An astounding one in five people who were unable to physically respond to command prompts in the past were able to respond to them with their brains, proving that they were not unresponsive or unaware as previously believed.

“What we’re doing is returning the ability to communicate to some patients who seem to have lost that forever,” said Owen. “[…] I can still remember exactly what it felt like the first time we saw a patient that we thought was in a vegetative state activate their brain in the scanner. The patient’s name was Kate. Nobody would have predicted that we would have seen brain activity in response to asking a patient to do something and when we first saw it it was absolutely astonishing. Before we made that discovery, nobody bothered to look at any of these patients.”

What he discovered will change the way doctors and family members treat people who are living like Terri Schiavo did. Rather than pass them off as people who are unable to live or unworthy of living and assuming these people would rather die and then starving them to death, doctors will actually be able to ask people how they feel, if they are in pain, and what they want for their lives. They will no longer be locked inside their minds, forced to watch as well-meaning doctors and family members make life or death decisions for them. They will no longer have to sit in pain unable to express it. And the lives of people around the world who are currently written off as “vegetative” will be opened to a whole new way of living. Because that’s what they have always been – living human beings worthy of the best that medical care and love can give them.

A 40th birthday for IVF

Philippa Taylor

On July 25 Louise Brown, the world’s first baby born via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), celebrates her 40th birthday.

40 years after her birth it is estimated that more than seven million babies have been born as a result of IVF and other assisted reproduction treatments. Around 2.4 million assisted reproductive technologies (ART) cycles are estimated to take place each year world-wide, with about 500,000 babies born as a result. If rates stay at current levels, then a million people alive at the end of the century will owe their lives to assisted reproductive technologies (1.4 percent of the global population).

40 years ago it was generally assumed that IVF would remain rare. However there has since been an explosion of assisted fertility services: intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), gamete and embryo freezing, gamete and embryo donation, embryo genetic diagnosis and surrogacy, to name some. The most common fertility treatment now is ICSI, accounting for around two-thirds of all treatments worldwide, with conventional IVF around one-third (proportions that vary across countries).

Infertility is deeply distressing and can affect every area of life for those struggling to conceive – as many as one in six couples. The Bible views childlessness as a painful, personal tragedy (Samuel’s mother Hannah’s anguished prayer illustrates the stress of infertility, as does Rachel in Genesis 30) while the Psalmist praises the God who ‘gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children’ (Psalm 113:9).

IVF can provide couples with a child they desperately want. And it has brought many precious new lives into being, and real happiness to millions of parents.

Therefore, many now think IVF is the answer to infertility.

But it is not. While the IVF industry and media focus on and market the success stories, the average delivery rate from ART treatments are around just 19 percent per cycle – a global IVF cycle failure rate of around 80 percent. In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority reports a ‘success’ rate of 26.5 percent . This ‘success’ rate actually means that 73.5 percent of cycles do not lead to a birth.

Success rates for IVF diminish rapidly after 35 years of age for women, largely because of loss of ovarian follicle reserve and oocyte quality with age. Even a woman under 35 years has less than a one in three chance of having a baby per embryo transferred, using her own eggs and partner’s sperm. A woman in her early 40s only has about a one in ten chance of having a baby per embryo transferred. And the success rate drops to a mere two percent for women over 44. This is highly relevant in a time when more and more women are delaying childbirth to concentrate on jobs and careers. When celebrities in their 50s become pregnant, what the media do not tell you is that it is almost always with a donor egg (indeed, 59 percent of women over 44 years used donor eggs in their treatment).

IVF heartbreak is real. IVF is no guarantee of success, despite all too often being touted as such. Added to this is the significant financial, emotional and physical toll that IVF can have on women.

Yet still, with one in six couples experiencing problems conceiving, the fertility industry is thriving. It is estimated to be worth over £600 million in the UK alone, with one cycle of IVF costing up to £5,000 or more.

There are some very troubling aspects of the fertility industry.

For instance, the number of babies born with health challenges (see here and here too), the use of medically unproven techniques and ‘add-ons’poor regulation, the shocking commercialisation and exploitation of women’s wombs and eggs (see here too) and the change to ‘traditional’ notions of family structure and biological parenthood, through gamete donation (which can bring much heartache to the offspring) and surrogacy. A dead or dying person can have their reproductive tissue removed to enable someone else to have a child – even a grandmother.

IVF has also opened what many regard as a Pandora ’s Box of genetic engineering, cloning, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (screening out of embryos), embryonic stem cell harvesting, research on three parent babies and animal-human hybrids. Many IVF programmes involve the production of spare embryos, which are then used for research, disposed of, or frozen for future use. Between 1990 and 2013 over two million were allowed to perish, according to a Parliamentary answer. Now, over 170,000 IVF embryos perish every year. Embryos are experimented on, donated to other couples, frozen indefinitely … or even turned into jewellery.

The last 40 years of IVF and ART have given many couples happiness but even more couples, dashed hopes. The next 40 years will undoubtedly bring even more possibilities for the fertility industry, but what is possible is not always right.

A moral vision, especially one shaped by a Christian understanding of the person and family, has to be prepared to say ‘no’ to some exercises of human freedom and to turn away from technology that is possible but unwise. With fertility treatments, while we can and should use our God-given skills to help alleviate infertility we should also be prepared to acknowledge that there may be suffering we are free to end, but ought not to, that there are children who might be produced through artificial means, but maybe ought not to be.

Philippa Taylor is Head of Public Policy at the Christian Medical Fellowship in the UK. She has an MA in Bioethics from St Mary’s University College and a background in policy work on bioethics and family issues. This article has been abridged from the original post on the CMF blog. To read the original article, click here. 

Supreme War: A Reflection on the Battle for the Supreme Court

Msgr. Charles Pope

We are already seeing a great battle unfold over the Supreme Court in our land. At one level the battle is “all about abortion” which the left sees as almost a “sacrament” or sacred honor, and the right sees as the most immoral and legally flawed decision ever handed down by the court (Dred Scott notwithstanding).

Count me among the right in this matter. No one can reasonably refute the fact that Roe v. Wade has resulted in the death of over 50 million children. That anyone supports this right to kill cannot avoid withering contempt as a position. The medical evidence is clear: abortion is the killing of unique human persons. These infants have done nothing morally wrong, so they are innocent. There is simply no other reasonable conclusion. Abortion must be opposed for the lie and the evil it is.

But while abortion will head the list of concerns on both sides, it is also the symbol of a far wider agenda involving other issues such as euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality and religious liberty.

But why has the Supreme Court become the locus of political battles? Of all three branches of our government, the judicial branch is supposed to be the least political. But, not only has it become politicized, I would argue it has become the actual center of political power in this land. Something is deeply wrong here, and all the storm and noise illustrates that almost nothing succeeds politically if the Supreme Court is opposed.

I am a Catholic priest. You do not read my offerings to learn of constitutional law or political science. But while I write of a concern over government, I also write of a Catholic principle: subsidiarity.

Subsidiarity as a Catholic principle is rendered:

The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. (Catechism # 1883)

It seems clear that the balance of power set forth in our system has shifted steeply toward the judicial branch, and ultimately, to the Supreme Court. Hence the principle of subsidiarity, which should not be needed, now applies here. Yes, the executive and legislative branches have strangely ceded much of their power to the “High” Court and to the judicial branch in general. When a Supreme Court decision comes down, presidents and legislators and citizens either celebrate or bow their heads and say, “I guess this is now the ‘Law of the Land.’”

The legislative branch was supposed to be the branch tasked with making the “law of the Land.” Indeed, I am rather surprised that the legislative branch has not been more combative in resisting their increasingly subservient role to the nine unelected justices just across the street from the U.S. Capitol.

Something tells me that sloth is likely a big part of it. Crafting true legislation requires a lot of work, and the amassing of support and voter buy-in. There are compromises and trade-offs in the process. It is hard work, not only for members of congress, but also for the groups who seek to establish their views in law. Amending the Constitution is even more work, requiring whole states to agree to the amendment. It is a lot of work to be sure, and the outcome may be very uncertain, or the results very compromised. So even legislators and lobbyists seem willing to shed some of their power for the simpler route of convincing local judges or federal courts or even nine “supremes” of their views, and having them legislate by judicial fiat.

Legal and political experts tell me the rise of the nine Supremes can be traced to the Marbury v. Madison case of 1803 which established the principle of judicial review in the United States, so that American courts have the power to strike down laws, statutes and executive actions that contravene the U.S. Constitution. At some level judicial review seems like a good thing to an ordinary citizen like me. Congress or the president can overreach and suspend or violate our obvious constitutional rights. But I suppose, like many things, judicial review has become unbalanced and set its sights on less-than-obvious violations of constitutional rights. There is also the problem of the court simply establishing or inventing constitutional rights.

For example, the Roe v. Wade decision, finding no obviously constitutional right to kill a child in the womb, established one, claiming it was in the “penumbras and emanations” as set forth by the Griswold v. Connecticut case of 1965. Never mind that all this is very vague. This is where we are today at the federal level. Federal judges get to strike down laws and order actions. They do not merely remand the case to legislators for a fix — they often make the fix and order compliance.

If this were merely the case for arcane federal statutes, perhaps it might be tolerable. But instead it is also about some of the most wrenching and definitional issues of our culture: abortion, euthanasia, “gender,” health care and marriage. At lower federal levels one judge can compel recognition of groups and actions that offend the sincerely-held and once-ubiquitous beliefs of countless Americans.

And, if the Supreme Court deigns to hear appeals, nine unelected officials get to decide what marriage is, who can kill a child in the womb or engage in physician-assisted suicide, or compel women to admit biological males into their locker room merely because he says he identifies as female.

And in a way, it is even worse than that. It hasn’t really been nine justices who get to decide. In our currently divided court, it is really just one man, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who just announced his retirement. He has been arguably the most powerful man on the planet — more powerful than the president, more powerful than any member of congress or the whole congress itself. The four liberals and the four conservatives usually canceled each other out. It all came down to Anthony Kennedy. Yes, one man has called the shots for years.

All of this violates subsidiarity and accountability. We are in an era where the courts have largely eclipsed the legislative process.

The “high” court should not be the final legislator in this land. Judicial review would seem to be an assisting function, as the principle of subsidiarity above articulates. Determining that a proposed or existing law has constitutional concerns should be the opportunity to return the matter to legislators for adjustments, fixes, or elaboration and further review. Crafting law should be the work of elected officials who are accountable and must work in the existing public discourse, however divided or contentious it may be. This allows necessary debate, compromises and consensus to be reached. It also requires groups that demand sweeping social changes to effect it the old-fashioned way — by garnering public support for their views, rather than seeking to have it imposed by judicial fiat.

Currently there is panic on the left over the mere retirement of one justice. They see their entire world as dependent on one man. Just one. This is unhealthy for all of us. Nothing so serious in this land should depend on nine unelected people — and certainly not on a single person! But too often it does. The left knows this, as does the right. The Supreme Court increasingly looks like the pantheon, and the judges act like gods — getting to say who can live or die, what marriage is, and so forth.

I admit, I am glad that it is the left that is in agony this time. But it could just as easily have been the right. Either way, there are going to be some very ugly moments in the days and weeks ahead — perhaps even violence. It is all evidence of a system that is broken, tilted excessively toward the courts, and swaying in the winds of political discontent. We have increasingly surrendered our power to unelected judges and don’t know the way back out. We all play the game, and the game and the stakes have gotten higher.

To state the problem once more in terms of subsidiarity: “a community of a higher order routinely interferes in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions.” The executive, legislative and judicial branches should be of equal power. But that is not realistically the case today. The judicial branch is of enormous and overriding power compared to the other two, and their functions are increasingly hindered. Further, federal law and policy too easily eclipses state and local law.

So subsidiarity matters. It is not merely an arcane Catholic or sociological principle. How to re-establish it in our broken land is well above my paygrade or ability. Meanwhile, this latest round of war commences. There is no option — we must fight hard for a pro-life justice to be appointed, and fight we will. But somewhere we should all remember that the intensity of this battle already begun comes from the unhealthy reality that too much depends on too little, and too few. Nine unelected officials have attained too much power.

Subsidiarity and balance of power! Please!

Good News/Bad News about Alzheimer’s

Good News/Bad News about Alzheimer’s

First the good news:

Alzheimer’s disease is a currently irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

However, a new study “Estimation of lifetime risks of Alzheimer’s disease dementia using biomarkers for preclinical disease” shows that “most people with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease will not develop Alzheimer’s dementia during their lifetimes”, according to a mathematical analysis based on several large, long-term studies.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association , the term “preclinical” refers to “a newly defined stage of the disease reflecting current evidence that changes in the brain may occur years before symptoms affecting memory, thinking or behavior can be detected by affected individuals or their physicians”.

Although biomarkers are still being investigated and validated, this new study can be reassuring to many people worrying that, for example, forgetting where they left their car keys means the beginning of Alzheimer’s.

While the cause of Alzheimer’s is still a mystery, research on the disease is massive and ongoing. Currently, there are drug and non-drug treatments that may help with both thinking and behavior symptoms. There is hope.

THE BAD NEWS

With the many negative stories in major media about Alzheimer’s, it is no wonder that people are so afraid of it.

As Deakin University Professor Megan-Jane Johnstone says in her book “Alzheimer’s disease, media representations and the Politics of Euthanasia-Constructing Risk and Selling Death in An Ageing Society”  :

“Alzheimer’s has been portrayed as the ‘disease of the century’ that is poised to have a near catastrophic impact on the world’s healthcare system as the population ages…

This representation of the disease—along with other often used terms such as ‘living dead’, a ‘funeral that never ends’ and a ‘fate worse than death’—places Alzheimer’s as a soft target in the euthanasia debate because it plays to people’s fears of developing the disease and what it symbolizes. It positions Alzheimer’s as something that requires a remedy; that remedy increasingly being pre-emptive and beneficent euthanasia.” (Emphasis added)

While countries like Belgium and Holland have long allowed lethal injections for people with Alzheimer’s , this is forbidden in the US-for now. However, assisted suicide groups are now trying new “living wills” stating that if or when the person is diagnosed “with Alzheimer’s or another incurable dementing disease”, he or she refuses not only a feeding tube but also even assistance with oral eating and drinking to end their lives.

Compassion and Choices, the well-funded former Hemlock society, has long promoted VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking) as a legal alternative to assisted suicide in states without assisted suicide laws. But at the present time, people who cannot make medical decisions because of  conditions like Alzheimer’s cannot sign an advance directive.

So influential major media outlets like the New York Times often publish articles such as the May 30, 2018 article titled “Alzheimer’s? Your Paperwork May Not Be in Order”that quote Dr. Judith Schwarz:

“People should at least understand what the normal process of advanced dementia is about,” Dr. Schwarz said. “Feeding tubes are not the issue….Opening your mouth when a spoon approaches is a primitive reflex that persists long after you’ve lost the ability to swallow and know what to do with what’s put in your mouth.” (Emphasis added)

Dr. Schwarz’s advice?

“Complete her organization’s Advance Directive for Receiving Oral Food and Fluids in the Event of Dementia.”

But what Dr. Schwarz and others do not want to talk about is the often tragic reality of deliberate death by starvation and dehydration.

Although media articles portray VSED as a gentle, peaceful death, a 2018 Palliative Practice Pointers article in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society  titled Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking” states:

“VSED is an intense process fraught with new sources of somatic and emotional suffering for individuals and their caregivers…The most common symptoms encountered after starting VSED are extreme thirst, hunger, dysuria (painful urination due to concentrated urine NV),  progressive disability, delirium, and somnolence.” (Emphasis added)

Most chillingly, the authors state:

 “Because an individual with delirium may forget his or her intention and ask for drinks of water, caregivers will struggle with the need to remind the incapacitated individual of his or her own wishes. This possibility should be anticipated and discussed with the individual in advance. While reminding the individual of his or her prior intentions may feel like coercion, acquiescing to requests for water will prolong the dying process for someone who has clearly articulated the desire to hasten death.” (Emphasis added)

The authors also state that if the patient’s suffering becomes severe, “proportionate palliative sedation and admission to inpatient hospice should be considered”. This is not the so-called peaceful death at home within two weeks that people envision with VSED.

Lastly, on the legal requirement of  a cause on the death certificate, the authors state:

“the clinician may consider including dehydration secondary to the principle illness that caused the individual’s intractable suffering. Although VSED is a self–willed death (as stopping life support might also be)use of the word “suicide” on death certificates in this context is discouraged because in incorrectly suggests that the decision for VSED stemmed from mental illness rather than intolerable suffering.” (Emphasis added)

So, like assisted suicide, the real cause of death is basically falsified with the rationale that the deliberate stopping of eating and drinking to hasten death is just another legalwithdrawal of treatment decision like a feeding tube.

CONCLUSION

Years ago, my mother told me that she never wanted to be a burden on her family.

I never told my children that-especially when they were teenagers and already thought I was a burden to their lifestyles! Instead, I told them that the “circle of life” includes caring for each other at all ages and stages. Such caring also eliminates future guilt and leaves a sense of pride that we did the best we could for each other during our lives.

When my mother developed Alzheimer’s in the late 1980s (and later terminal thyroid cancer), a friend asked if I was going to feed her. At the time, my mother was fully mobile and able to get ice cream out of the freezer and eat it. I was shocked and offended.

“Do you want me to tackle her?!” I asked my friend.

“Oh, no!”, he answered, “I was talking about a feeding tube later on.”

I told him that my mother would die of her disease, not from deliberate starvation and dehydration.

Near the end of her life, we did spoon feed my mother and she enjoyed it very much before dying peacefully in her sleep.

For decades now, I have enjoyed caring for many people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias both personally and professionally.  I can attest that such people can be sweet and funny and as well as difficult at times.

Just like the rest of us!

The ‘Miracle Boy’ and Problems With the Brain-Death Diagnosis

E. Christian Brugger

Like Jacob Marley, 13-year-old Trenton McKinley was dead. There is no doubt whatever about that. Or so the doctors said.

He had suffered seven skull fractures and traumatic brain injury in a freak vehicle accident last March. His mother reported on Facebook that during emergency surgery he “died four times,” which, I presume, means he flat-lined; “one time,” she said, “for 15 minutes.”

After his heart’s final injection with epinephrine, “he had no brain waves,” including apparently from his brain stem. His eyes were dry and solid black. The doctors concluded — and every media outlet reported — that the boy was “brain-dead.”

When doctors say a patient is “brain-dead,” they mean the patient has suffered the complete and irreversible loss of all brain function, including of the brain stem. The condition is called “whole brain death.”

Ever since the publication of the so-called Harvard brain-death definition in 1968, clinicians the world over have taken brain death to mean human death; so that even if certain bodily functions continue, such as circulation and breathing aided by machines, the person, the living human being, John or Mary, is gone, and what remains is an elaborately functioning corpse the true state of which is being hidden by the effects of medical technology. These individuals are often even issued death certificates (see the case of Jahi McMath).

The doctors were so certain of their diagnosis that his mother signed the paperwork to have his vital organs harvested for donation. Now to qualify for such donation, an individual must have died; this is the meaning of the “dead-donor rule” that prevails in the United States: Only corpses supply vital organs, although some bioethicists in recent decades have called for the lifting of the dead-donor rule.

If, therefore, Trenton’s body was a corpse, removing his heart, lungs, liver, etc. would have been no violation of human dignity. If, however, he were still alive, taking his vital organs would constitute homicide.

Happily, before his organs were harvested, Trenton began to exhibit signs of life: Brain activity resumed; his eye color returned; he regained consciousness, speech and mobility; they took him off the ventilator; and, finally, he went home.

It’s being called a miracle. Perhaps. They certainly occur. But because this same report — “brain-dead” patient recovers consciousness — is increasingly common (see herehere and here), let’s doubt the miracle claim for the sake of argument and look at the situation empirically.

 

Was Trenton Dead?

One may reasonably ask whether the boy ever was dead. For if he was, then he rose from the dead. But without a miraculous intervention, people do not, indeed cannot, rise from the dead. This is because death by definition is irreversible.

Death is the definitive separation of the spiritual soul from the material body, not just a temporary separation, as seems to be the case in so-called “near-death” experiences. This causes the body to lose irretrievably the integrative functioning proper to a living organism. So the fact that a brain-dead individual wakes up means he was never dead to begin with.

 

Was Trenton Brain-Dead?

Now, this implies one of two things: Either Trenton was brain-dead but brain death isn’t human death, and brain tissue can regenerate itself even when its entire living substrate is destroyed, and Trenton’s regenerated itself, so dramatically that he is now not only conscious but carrying out fine motor skills like playing basketball; or Trenton was not brain-dead.

The second, it seems, has to be the case. Not because I am confident that all brain-dead individuals are humanly dead, or because I am a better diagnostician than his doctors, but because there is no evidence that brains can recover from total infarction (death).

Neurologists traditionally believed that damaged brain cells never regenerate; but recent studies indicate that some cell regeneration does take place in the human brain, especially in younger persons (under 40 years of age). Moreover, it has long been known that neural tissue has a high degree of “plasticity,” which means when certain regions are destroyed, the functions associated with those regions are not necessarily lost; the brain can reroute the neural connections in such a way that those functions begin to be carried out by other regions.

But there is no evidence whatsoever, at least none to my knowledge, that any brain has ever recovered from total death. So Trenton must not have been brain-dead.

 

Lessons Learned from Trenton’s Case

This raises an important educational point for all of us: Protocols (confirmatory tests) for diagnosing brain death can be unreliable. Since there are clinical states that mimic brain death, such as certain neurological diseases and metabolic disorders, even a conscientious application of corroborating tests can render a false positive, as obviously happened with Trenton McKinley.

There are two lessons to take away from this:

First, when dealing with a loved one who may be brain-dead, make sure you get multiple corroborating opinions from doctors who are practiced in diagnosing brain death.

Second, make certain the doctors are asking the question of whole brain death. Some clinicians conclude that patients are brain-dead even when there is evidence, however minimal, of brain activity. These patients do not meet the criteria for brain death, and so do not fulfill the commonly accepted conditions for human death. And yet, as soon as they are defined as brain-dead, they become possible candidates for vital organ transplantation, which certainly will result in their deaths.

 

Is Brain Death Human Death?

But there is one question left standing: Is brain death coextensive with human death? There is a lively debate among Catholic philosophers, scientists and clinicians about this. Someethicists are convinced that brain death is human death and that this has been officially taught by the Catholic Church.

But the doubters are many indeed and include faithful Catholic thinkers and clinicians, some quite eminent, such as Josef Seifert, Alan Shewmon, Robert Spaemann, Dominican Father Nicanor Austriaco, Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, David Albert Jones, Charles Camosy, Paul Byrne, Nancy Valko, etc. Each, after examining recent startling evidence suggesting that ventilated brain-dead individuals are living human beings — extremely disabled, to be sure, but not dead bodies — believe there are reasons for doubting the now 50-year-old Harvard definition.

Doubts about the traditional rationale also exist among non-Catholics, some of whom don’t share a Christian view of the dignity of the human body: e.g., Truog, Miller and HalpernHalevy and BrodyYoungner and Arnold, Robert Veatch, Karen Gervais, John Lizza. They, too, doubt that functioning brain-dead bodies should be classified as corpses or dead organisms.

Err on the Side of Life

Listen to the words of the renowned Catholic physician, bioethicist, Georgetown professor and chairman of the G.W. Bush President’s Council on Bioethics, Edmund Pellegrino, who also expressed reasonable doubts, as he quotes the philosopher Hans Jonas, a man whose ideas have exercised a salutary but too-little influence on the development of bioethics in the West:

“Ultimately, the central ethical challenge for any transplantation protocol is to give the gift of life to one human being without taking life away from another. Until the uncertainties and imprecision of the life-death spectrum so clearly recognized by Hans Jonas are dispelled, his moral advice must be our guide for all transplant protocols”:

“We do not know with certainty the borderline between life and death, and a definition cannot substitute for knowledge. Moreover, we have sufficient grounds for suspecting that the artificially supported condition of the comatose [i.e., brain-dead] patient may still be one of life, however reduced — i.e., for doubting that, even with the brain function gone, he is completely dead. In this state of marginal ignorance and doubt the only course to take is to lean over backward toward the side of possible life” (Hans Jonas, “Against the Stream,” in in Philosophical Essays, emphasis added).

The conversation about whether brain death rightly diagnosed constitutes human death needs to make its way from the heady journals of medicine and bioethics to the pews. Catholics who face difficult questions about whether to submit themselves or their loved ones to transplant protocols based upon a judgment of death that’s grounded in a definition that many reasonable Catholic thinkers find doubtful have a right to inform themselves more fully on the question.

E. Christian Brugger is a senior fellow of ethics and the director of the fellows program at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, D.C. 

Surprising Twist to a Good News Story You May Have Seen

TV and social media are reporting a wonderful story about Dr. Eric Voigt and Nicole McGuinness. Dr. Voigt, an ENT physician, was watching the “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” TV show (one of my own semi-guilty pleasures) when he noticed that a woman on the show named Nicole McGuiness seemed to have a suspicious lump in her neck. Alarmed, Dr. Voigt turned to Facebook find her and urge her to get the lump checked. Nicole had her lump checked and it was thyroid cancer. She will be starting treatment soon and is very grateful to Dr. Voigt for his sharp eye.

However, this story has a surprising twist.

Nicole was diagnosed in December 2015 with a glioblastoma cancer in her brain at age 29 and was successfully treated and doing well after almost 3 years.

Ironically, Brittany Maynard was also 29 and had a glioblastoma brain cancer when she decided to move from California to Oregon, a state that legalized assisted suicide in 1997. She and her family moved to Oregon so that Brittany could commit physician-assisted suicide before her symptoms became more severe. The date she chose was November 1, 2014. Brittany also agreed to help Compassion and Choices (the former Hemlock Society) use her story to raise funds with the goal of legalizing physician-assisted suicide throughout the US.

After weeks of widespread and sympathetic media coverage, Brittany did take a doctor-prescribed lethal overdose on her planned date.

Ironically and 5 months later, CBS’s TV show “60 Minutes” reported on an innovative treatment for glioblastoma brain cancer . And, as I wrote in my blog “Could Brittany Maynard Have Been Saved?, this innovative treatment was granted breakthrough status by the FDA in 2016.

No one will never know if Brittany could have been one of the people this treatment could help.

CALIFORNIA AND PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE

The first target state for Compassion and Choices’ campaign for legalizing assisted suicide after Brittany’s assisted suicide was her home state of California. Both Brittany’s mother and husband went to California to support a physician-assisted suicide bill. Although the bill apparently died in committee, Governor Jerry Brown called a special legislative session to deal with healthcare spending where the assisted suicide bill was resurrected and passed. Governor Brown then signed it into law in October, 2015. Over 100 people died by assisted suicide in the first six months after the law took effect.

However just last month, a California judge overturned the law stating that the California Legislature violated the law by passing it outside of the scope of health care spending which was given as the reason for a special session and thus was unconstitutional.

This decision was quickly appealed by the California attorney general to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld the judge’s decision.

Now Compassion and Choices has filed an appeal on behalf of a palliative care doctor and two terminally ill patients in California to get California’s law back into law.

Stay tuned for further developments.

CONCLUSION

As a former oncology and hospice nurse, I pray that Nicole has a speedy recovery from her thyroid cancer and I am still saddened by Brittany’s assisted suicide but assisted suicide is not a remedy for cancer.

I remember when just a few decades ago, AIDS was the poster disease for legalizing assisted suicide. Then it became terminal cancer after AIDS became treatable. Now the scary poster disease is Alzheimer’s.

And that’s how the slippery slope works.

Instead, we need realistic hope and real support for people and their families dealing with difficult situations rather than just offering the “solution” of death.

 

 

Free for what? Women’s choices in the era of the pill

https://www.mercatornet.com/family_edge/view/free-for-what-womens-choices-in-the-era-of-the-pill/21381

Carolyn Moynihan | Jun 1 2018

“The little pill that gave women freedom.” That’s the way The Conversation bills a clutch of articles marking nearly six decades of what the birth control boffins call “effective” contraception. With the release of the pill from 1957 onwards, women “celebrated the new control they had over their fertility,” writes Bryony McNeill, a lecturer in reproductive physiology at Deakin University, in “A short history of the pill”.

Actually, women already had a basic control over their fertility – probably as much as the pill has given them considering that abortion has underwritten this technology almost from day one – only, the control they had was moral, not technical. By and large, they set the terms for sex: marriage, and co-responsibility for the children.

Chemical contraception plus abortion has certainly controlled the number of children the average woman has, but what kind of freedom has it given her? Given current trends, here’s a list of 10 things Ms Millennial is free to do with her sterilised body:

1. Enter the cheap sex market. That is, hook up, date or cohabit with a series of men who are only interested in sex, while she spends ten to twenty years looking for someone who is really interested in her.

2. Suffer sexual harassment at college and work from men who think that, since women now have bodies like men (can’t get pregnant), they also have the same mechanical attitude to sex. She may even be free for a relationship with an abuser like Eric Schneiderman.

3. Put up with the side-effects of ingesting completely unnecessary synthetic hormones: weight gain, headaches, depression, loss of libido – to say nothing of more serious effects.

4. Get pregnant anyway because she was careless about her contraception, or it just did not work this time (which happens) – and “have to” have an abortion.

5. Not get an abortion and become a solo mother, reducing further her chances of marrying, though not of being exploited by boyfriends.

6. Get a sexually transmitted infection that will not go away. If she missed out on the HPV vaccine it may mean she is “free” to develop cervical cancer.

7. Increase her risk of breast cancer — by an average of 20 percent, according to a recent study reported in the New York Times.

8. Listen to her biological clock ticking relentlessly while Mr Right fails to show up. Or find out, too late, that her fertility has a different time frame than his.

9 Cohabit with a man who does not love her enough to marry her. If lucky, eventually marry him; if not (more likely) then break up. Perhaps several times. The consequences of this freedom extend, of course, to any children they have.

10. Decide it’s time for a baby, married or not, only to find she is infertile. She is then free to pay a fortune for IVF or, in some countries, to wait on a public list. Or remain childless.

Pill advocates can no doubt come up with a list of wonderful things that women have achieved with the help of the pill – higher education, independent incomes, amazing careers, a lasting marriage, one or two carefully reared children… But this is much truer of the college educatedthan those down the social scale, and even among the most educated there are women  struggling with some of these issues.

If this is freedom, it seems a very dubious exchange for the life of the average woman of the pre-pill era – the one stereotyped as chained to the kitchen sink and wondering, according to Betty Friedan, “Is this all?” There are many 30-year-olds today who, considering  their health and happiness, could ask the same question.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

It’s Euthanasia by Stealth, Whatever Cdl. Nichols Calls It

ChurchMilitant.com • May 5, 2018

Neo-Marxist Rudi Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions of power” has reached the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin welcomes openly gay Catholics to Holy Mass in his cathedral. Cardinal Walter Kasper supports giving Holy Communion to couples living in adultery. Cardinal Reinhard Marx protests against the crucifix being displayed in government buildings and endorses blessings for same-sex couples. Cardinal Jozef de Kesel declares that gay sexual experience should be a possibility in the Church. Cardinal Blase Cupich promotes a “New Paradigm” for Catholic morality and argues that active gays can receive Holy Communion if their conscience permits.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols is the latest recruit to the ranks of the men in red. The Archbishop of Westminster believes that the nanny state can usurp the rights of parents. He insists that suffocating a terminally ill child by yanking it off the ventilator is “an act of mercy.” He reveals that his interpretative framework for Catholic doctrine is “society’s common good.” He defends a children’s hospital notorious for harvesting organs from dead babies and failing to meet four out of five safety standards.

Most lamentably, Cdl. Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, distorts Catholic teaching on palliative care in relation to the case of Alfie Evans. Nichols is right when he claims that “palliative care, which isn’t a denial of help, can be an act of mercy.” However, he is in serious danger of confusing palliative care with euthanasia by stealth.

The World Health Organization defines palliative care as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”

The definition is unambiguously pro-life and in no way confuses palliative care with stealth euthanasia. Palliative care offers care when medicine cannot cure. Withdrawing life support and ventilation from Alfie Evans following a court order is emphatically not palliative care. It is, rather, a flagrant violation of magisterial teaching as laid down in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Even “an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder,” states the Catechism. It warns that the “error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.”

An act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder’Tweet

Cardinal Nichols is right when he cites Church teaching stating that “we do not have a moral obligation to continue a severe therapy when it’s having no effect.” The Catechism permits the discontinuation of “over-zealous” treatment that is “burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome.” But it clarifies that the “ordinary care,” such as food and water, owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted “even if death is imminent.”

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital refused oxygen and water to Alfie for the first nine hours after his ventilator was removed, and starved him of food for 36 hours, greatly worsening his condition. Refusing nutrition, hydration and ventilation to a small child is not an act of mercy: It is a cruel and barbaric form of execution. Is Cdl. Nichols arguing that such an act, in effect euthanasia by stealth, is a form of palliative care?

The Catechism also specifies who is to make the decisions to discontinue treatment. If the patient is unable to make the decision, such decisions should be made by those who are “legally entitled to act for the patient” — in this case, Alfie’s parents — and their “reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.” By what sleight of hand can Cdl. Nichols interpret this to mean that “a court must decide what’s best not for the parents, but for the child”?

The Catechism recognizes the significance of intention in bringing about a person’s death. Even if done “indirectly,” this violates the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shall not kill.” By withdrawing food and water, the medical staff intended for him to die, even though they knew he wasn’t going to live.

United States Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in his book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia raises the question of “why omissions of care cannot sometimes, at least where an intention to kill is present, also qualify as acts of murder.” Hence, an omission of care undertaken with the intention of ending life crosses the fine line and may become a deliberate act intended to end life.

Three judges of the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, striking down parts of New York’s law against assisted suicide, ruled:

The withdrawal of nutrition brings on death by starvation, the withdrawal of hydration brings on death by dehydration, and the withdrawal of ventilation brings on respiratory failure. By ordering the discontinuance of these artificial life-sustaining processes or refusing to accept them in the first place, a patient hastens his death by means that are not natural in any sense. It certainly cannot be said that the death that immediately ensues is the natural result of the progression of the disease.

The conclusion is clear. When doctors and courts decide to withdraw basic care such as food and water, it is hard to claim “human choice doesn’t play any causal role in their deaths,” Gorsuch contends.

The U.S. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides guidelines for when treatment may be withheld, for example, when “the infant is chronically and irreversibly comatose” or when “the provision of such treatment would merely prolong dying” or would “be virtually futile in terms of the survival of the infant.” Even in these circumstances, the physician is always required to provide nutrition and hydration, observes Gorsuch.

The cardinals wear red as a sign that they are willing to give themselves totally to the Church, even to the point of shedding their own blood for Her. With the neo-Marxist takeover of the Church, it seems that the cardinals’ vestments are a sign of their loyalty to the new “Red Army.”

The Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes, B.A., B.D., M.Th., Ph.D. (Cambridge) is columnist for The Conservative Woman. He writes regularly on his website at julesgomes.com

 

Alfie’s Final Hours: Disturbing New Details

by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.

ChurchMilitant.com • May 1, 2018

LIVERPOOL, England (ChurchMilitant.com) – Troubling revelations are emerging about the last hours of Alfie Evans, the U.K. toddler who died after a protracted legal battle with Alder Hey Hospital.

According to Benedetta Frigerio, writing in Italian journal La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Alfie — suffering from an undiagnosed brain condition — was showing promising vital signs only two hours before death, but took a downturn after a cocktail of unknown drugs was administered by a hospital nurse.

Two hours before dying, the oxygen saturation was about 98 and Alfie’s [heart]beats were about 160, so much so that Thomas was convinced that they would let him go home soon (as the hospital administration told him on Friday afternoon). Before dying, while Thomas had gone out for a moment, leaving Kate half-awake and another family member in the room, a nurse entered and explained that he would give the baby four drugs (no one knows what) to treat him. After about 30 minutes the saturation dropped to 15. Two hours later Alfie was dead.

Although some have contradicted the account, Frigerio insists the account is accurate. She also claims the ventilator, on which Alfie had been relying for many months, was abruptly removed, causing major stress to his body.

“Being that his lungs were used to being dilated mechanically, the doctors would have to ‘wean him’ so as not to provoke his immediate death,” Frigerio wrote, “which, however, did not happen … .”

She reports that he immediately contracted “a lung infection” after the breathing tubes were removed, prompting his father Thomas to plead for antibiotics — denied by Alder Hey.

The account details the father’s frantic attempts to get oxygen and water to his child, repeatedly denied by the hospital until Thomas pointed out that the end-of-life plan approved by the courts nowhere included an order to deprive Alfie of oxygen or nutrition.

Alfie went without oxygen or water for nine hours before the hospital relented, and for a full 36 hours before being given milk — an exceptionally long time for a 23-month-old, whose bodily needs require food every 3–4 hours.

“Yes, Alfie was left without food for 36 hours, a very long time for such a small child, whose heart had already sustained a huge effort after the violent removal of ventilation without weaning,” Frigerio wrote.

Bruno Dalla Dallapiccola, scientific director of the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù Hospital, which was working to get Alfie transferred to their care, commented at the time that “little Alfie will not be able to last long without the supply of nutritional substances through a drip. Without the nutritional intake, in fact, survival can vary from a few hours to a few days.”

And Italian geneticist Angelo Selicorni remarked two days after Alfie’s breathing tubes were removed, “Detached from the machines the child has [resisted] for hours with no intention of dying,” which “raises some doubts about the ‘terminality’ of his state.”

Other reports reveal Alfie’s undiagnosed brain condition did not appear until after he was admitted to Alder Hey Hospital. David Catron writes in The American Spectator that the toddler’s “initial diagnosis involved a fairly common condition: ‘viral bronchiolitis and a possible prolonged febrile convulsion.’ The still-undiagnosed brain disease that allegedly killed Alfie didn’t appear until after he entered this dangerous hospital.”

Viral bronchiolitis is a common ailment among babies and toddlers, and involves cold-like symptoms, including stuffy nose and congestion, coughing and a fever. With basic care most children recover quickly.

Frigerio also notes Alder Hey failed to change Alfie’s breathing tubes frequently, leading to development of mold inside the tubes bringing oxygen to the child’s lungs.

She ends with a final lament:

This is what Alfie’s martyrdom did, as well as converting many hearts: It forced us to unite against a monster, to look at the brutality of a eugenics system disguised as democracy. A system with unlimited power over the person and considered a civil religion by English politics and justice. A power that crushes so many other fragile lives and spreads a utilitarian mentality that one must begin to fight if one does not want to do the same end.

 

Alfie Evans’ Plight is Not Unique, Other Children Have Faced the Same Ordeal. Your Child Might be Next

BRAD MATTES APR 26, 2018 | 9:46AM WASHINGTON, DC

It’s been a titanic battle – UK’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital versus a helpless 23-month-old boy.

Alfie Evans suffers from an undiagnosed neurological disorder. He is not terminal, but that hasn’t stopped the hospital’s aggressive attempts – which some have called perverse, heinous and obscene – to end Alfie’s life.

Lest you think we’re safe in America, our nation’s landscape is already littered with innocent victims.

Throughout a lengthy string of court actions, Alder Hey has opposed Alfie’s parents at every turn. The hospital refused to allow them to transfer Alfie to one of four other hospitals – two each in Germany and Italy – that have offered to take the young patient. Police were posted outside his room, and his parents have been threatened with arrest if they attempt to remove their son from his medical jail cell.

With the world watching, the last couple of days have become a dramatic human tug-of-war. Here are a few highlights:

Friday, April 20
The hospital set what they intended to be Alfie’s execution date: Monday at noon UK time.

Monday
The ventilator was removed, but Alfie continued to breath.

Italy granted Alfie citizenship to allow him to travel there for treatment. An air ambulance was at the ready outside the hospital to whisk him and his parents to a military transport, equipped with specialized medical personnel.

The hospital allowed Alfie to have supplemental oxygen and water while another appeal took place.

Tuesday
After another failed appeal, the hospital removed Alfie’s oxygen and refused the parents’ attempt to provide it themselves. Alfie’s father had to resort to giving his son mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the boy’s lips would turn blue.

Pope Francis, Members of Parliament and a physician organization pleaded for the life of the defenseless patient.

Wednesday
Oxygen, food and water were restored during yet another appeal.

It’s a Global Battle

Americans are not immune to tragic situations like Alfie’s – in large part due to “futile care laws.” Medical institutions and associations have quietly lobbied state legislatures to strip parents and family members of their right to make critical healthcare decisions. According to Wesley Smith, consultant to the Patients Rights Council, the states have given these critical rights to “self-appointed, anonymous hospital ethics committees.”

A few examples demonstrate the tragic results.

After a severe asthma attack and cardiac arrest rendered two-year-old Israel Stinson mostly unresponsive, doctors declared him brain dead and recommended removing his ventilator against the wishes of his parents. The parents sought an injunction to prevent Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles from ending their son’s life. Immediately after a judge ruled on behalf of the hospital, they disconnected Israel from his lifeline without even stopping to explain the process to his distraught parents. Israel died.

Israel’s parents didn’t believe their son was brain dead. Why might there be room for doubt when a patient receives such a diagnosis? According to the American Academy of Neurology, the guidelines for brain death determination are “opinion-based.”

Another reason is Jahi McMath.

A routine surgery went horribly wrong at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA. Jahi suffered severe blood loss resulting in a cardiac arrest and interruption of oxygen to her brain. Days later the hospital declared Jahi brain dead and pressured her family to donate her organs.

Eventually Jahi was transported to New Jersey where, with expert help, her parents have provided ongoing care in an apartment. After nearly five years, this so-called brain dead patient has experienced puberty and menstruates, has moved upon request and achieved other important milestones which have persuaded doctors to conclude that her diagnosis was in error. Jahi’s parents are now forced to navigate the court system to have the brain death diagnosis lifted.

What empowered these healthcare facilities to act in such heavy-handed ways against the parents? A California futile care law states “a healthcare provider or healthcare institution may decline to comply with an individual healthcare instruction or healthcare decision that requires medically ineffective healthcare…” provided they believe they’re acting “in good faith” (emphasis mine). “Ineffective” and “in good faith” are left to the interpretation of healthcare providers.

Andrea Clark’s life was in immediate danger when an ethics committee at St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston, TX decided to remove her ventilator and other life support, even though she was conscious and appeared to want to live. A subsequent public battle between the hospital and Andrea’s family eventually persuaded St. Luke’s to continue her care until she peacefully died without a “push” from the institution.

What entitled St. Luke’s raw authority over her family’s wishes and resulted in an attempt to end Andrea’s life? A Texas futile care law which allowed hospitals to end life-sustaining care with an agonizingly short ten-day notice to find another healthcare facility. Thankfully, this law has been amended to significantly limit its danger to vulnerable patients.

We are living in dangerous times, so it’s necessary to be watchful and aware of threats around us. Having said this, many communities are blessed with life-affirming hospitals and healthcare facilities that work hard to defend their patients. We thank them.

I’ll leave you with two action items to help protect at-risk patients.

Please pray for Alfie Evans and his parents. At this writing, Alfie’s life literally hangs in the balance.

Second, find out if your state has passed a futile care law that strips your right to make critical healthcare decisions for a loved one and empowers healthcare facilities to impose life-and-death verdicts based on “quality of life” or “cost-ratio” indicators.

Visit our website to take advantage of free critical-care resources, including a two-part episode DVD of Facing Life Head-On called Surprising Realities of Brain Death and Organ Donation. We were shocked by the revelations uncovered during our research.

Be equipped and prepared to defend life.

LifeNews.com Note: Bradley Mattes is the President of Life Issues Institute, a national pro-life educational group.

Self-Gratification Culture is So Not Cool

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Pope Saint John Paul II’s Evangelium vitae just about says it all when it comes to discussing the sanctity of human life, threats to life in the modern world, and the related Catholic Church’s teachings on the issues. In today’s culture –  where the deciding factor of an action among young people tends to be “if it feels good, do it” –  this encyclical should be added to the top of our student reading list.

Let me tell you why reading through the pages of The Gospel of Life is crucial.

If you’re a liberal arts major pondering the universe, Evangelium vitae covers moral issues from one end of the spectrum of human life to the other: abortion to euthanasia, embryonic research to the death penalty, contraception to in vitro fertilization, and so on. At our time in our lives we are confronted with so many challenges and we need to know how to defend human life in all its stages, right? And this encyclical covers so many threats to life humanity faces, we need to both know and understand what it says.

In Evangelium vitae, not only does John Paul condemn the immoral practices that destroy human life, but he also discusses the links between these and the rise of the “culture of death” – a culture that values self-gratification above everything else.

Two of the immoral practices condemned in this work are contraception and abortion. These inextricably linked evils are key to recognizing the culture of death throughout the world. A growing number of young people admit that abortion is wrong, but they’re not convicted contraception is also gravely immoral. Seeing images of the unborn via ultrasounds has greatly helped to expose the lie that an unborn child is just a “clump of cells.” Contraception seems “harmless” by comparison; it is as simple as using a condom, or taking a pill. And nobody gets killed, so we’re told (though numerous women have suffered fatal side effects from contraceptive use, and some are actually abortifacient).

But the Pope was wise, he understood all our struggles. Unlike the culture of death, Christianity is a love story. Remember all those thousands of confessions heheard? In Evangelium vitae he speaks to our hearts. Pope John Paul II reaffirms the immorality of contraception because it “contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love” and promotes “a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality” (13). The immorality of contraception is rooted in a violation of the nature of the sexual act, which is an act of total self-giving to one’s spouse. Yes, that means within marriage, it’s not just about “me.” I and my spouse need to be open to each other, to life and to children. Because of today’s contraceptive mindset, which sees the sexual act as solely a source of self-gratification, many sadly see procreation as a disease to be avoided.

Though “the close connection which exists…between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious” (13), in our over-sexualized culture it is unfortunately still not very clear to the average person. It’s just as important to tell those who think contraception is the best way to decrease abortions, claiming it prevents “unwanted pregnancies,” that it’s a lie and the numbers just don’t add up. In many countries where contraception is widely available, the abortion rate has also remained high, and sometimes even increased.

In the UK, the British government launched a “Teenage Pregnancy Strategy” program in 1999, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars to promote contraception in an attempt to lower the teenage pregnancy rate. But abortion rates among teenage girls in the UK are now higher than before the program started. Today over 60% of pregnant teens under 16 years of age abort their unborn baby.

You see, where contraception is everywhere, pregnancy is treated like a disease, an enemy:  “The life which could result from a sexual encounter becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception” (13). So when contraception fails – which it often does – abortion is seen as “necessary” and becomes widespread, as other assaults on life and human dignity naturally follow. The destruction of those who are inconvenient, whether it is an unborn child or a severely disabled person, gradually appears to be a reasonable and “enlightened” step to take.

Our pro-life generation needs to witness. Learn your Faith. Try to come annually to Marches for Life. Share prayer support and fellowship. Youth in the U.S. and around the world have to recognize and understand the tragic effects of contraception on our wider culture if we truly wish to abolish abortion and defend life.

So again, why not start with reading Evangelium vitae? We are the future; it’s increasingly important we understand its teachings so we can spread them far and wide, and finally free ourselves from this culture of death in which we live.

Lab accidentally destroys thousands of human embryos, faces wrongful death suits

April 6, 2018 (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) – A couple whose frozen embryos were destroyed in a storage tank malfunction could seek action for wrongful death – if a judge rules that an embryo is considered a life.

This is just one of the dozens of lawsuits facing The University Hospitals Fertility Clinic in Cleveland, after the failure in early March of a cryopreservation tank containing approximately 4,000 eggs and embryos belonging to at least 950 families.

The accidental destruction of these very young human beings is raising a host of ethical and legal questions, and highlighting some of the inherent problems of IVF.

Is an embryo a person?

In Cleveland, clinic patients Wendy and Rick Penniman’s attorney is “asking the court to declare that an embryo is a person and that life begins at conception”, allowing the couple to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the Roe v Wade decision, which legalised abortion, holds that a foetus, let alone an embryo, is not a person.

Antonia Tully, Director of Campaigns for SPUC said: “Of course we hope that the judge in this case does recognise the humanity of the embryos. But at the same time we must be clear that manufacturing human beings to order, outside the womb by IVF is inherently wrong. We must also remember that many other tiny embryonic humans will have been discarded at the time that these embryos were selected for freezing.”

How do you put a figure on children?

Even without arguing that the embryo is a person, lawyers are struggling to determine what compensation is appropriate for what one affected patient calls “irreplaceable” – the loss of one’s children, or, as many see it, their only chance to become parents.

Adam Wolf, an attorney who is working on a number of these cases, tells MarieClaire.com that putting a figure on an accidentally destroyed embryo is one of the most challenging aspects of these lawsuits.  “How to place a monetary value on an embryo is something I have struggled with for years. Because in some ways there isn’t enough a money in the world, and it is a little bit gross to think of monetary figure to represent the value of future children,” he says. “On the other hand, that is how the legal system compensates people.”

“It is really easy to quantify the amount of money that someone has spent on the process or treatment, and has paid in storage fees. It’s far more challenging to think: What is the price of parenthood? How much do you value the ability to have children?” he continues.

Experimenting on embryos

The case also highlights how the death of embryos is treated differently depending on the circumstances. Between 1978 and 2002 68,000 IVF babies have been born but in the process 1.2 million embryos created by IVF were frozen, destroyed or used in research. Embryos are not legally seen as persons, and are often deliberately destroyed or left frozen indefinitely.

SPUC has spoken out strongly against using embryonic human being for experimental purposes. Dr Anthony McCarthy criticised the proposal to extend the time limit on using embryos for experiments and made the point that parents do think of their embryos as children.

This is borne out by the distress to parents caused by the Cleveland fertility clinic malfunctions.

“I feel like I failed them”

Kathy and her husband, Ben had been planning on implanting one or more of their five frozen embryos this coming August, and were going to donate any remaining to another couple – a process controversially known as “embryo adoption”. “We wanted to do an open adoption, and keep in touch with the family. I realized that I needed to know that they were okay,” Kathy tells MarieClaire.com. But now none of this is possible, because their five embryos, stored at University Hospitals, are gone.  “Even if it didn’t make sense for my husband and I to raise them, I was still their mother and I wanted to protect them and I feel like I failed them now.”

Antonia Tully said: “While our hearts go out to infertile couples, no one has an absolute right to have children. IVF turns children into a commodity, rather than a gift.”

Published with permission from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Why your birth-control pill could kill you

By ALEXANDRA THOMPSON HEALTH REPORTER FOR MAILONLINE

  • Hormonal birth-control raises a woman’s risk of having an ischemic stroke
  • This occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked and makes up 85% of cases
  • Hormonal pills and patches do not increase the risk of bleeding in the brain
  • Certain birth-control pills appear to raise the risk by making blood clot easier
  • In the US, nearly 37% of women are currently using some form of birth control

Oral contraceptives increase the risk of women suffering from certain types of stroke, new research suggests.

Birth-control pills raise a woman’s likelihood of suffering from an ischemic stroke, which occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked and makes up around 85 percent of cases of the life-threatening condition, a study found.

The researchers, from Loyola University in Chicago, wrote: ‘[Among] women with other stroke risk factors, the risk seems higher and, in most cases, oral contraceptive use should be discouraged’.

Such contraceptives do not raise the risk of hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by bleeding in the brain, the research adds.

Birth-control pills, patches and jabs are thought to rise the risk of artery blockages by making blood more likely to clot.

The researchers stress, however, the risk is low among women without any risk factors for clotting. These include high-blood pressure and smoking.

Most women have tried at least one hormonal contraceptive in their lives. In the US, nearly 37 percent of women are currently using birth control.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women in the US, with 55,000 more females suffering than men every year.

Results further suggest women are not being accurately screened for potential stroke risk-factors before being prescribed hormonal contraceptives.

Among women at risk of the medical emergency, only 15 percent recall being advised not to take birth-control pills, while just 36 percent have been told to stop taking the medication.

Some 15 percent of women carry on their birth-control course after being told to discontinue.

The researchers believe this highlights the need for effective doctor-patient communication.

Speaking of how women can reduce their stroke risk, the researchers wrote: ‘The ideal drug is one with the lowest estrogen and progestin doses that will be effective in preventing pregnancy while minimizing adverse effects.’

The findings were published in the journal MedLink Neurology. 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5468371/Why-birth-control-pill-kill-you.html#ixzz59ZksyZv4

 

The Ultimate Discrimination: “Family Balancing”

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50836576 – stop in vitro gender selection. concept sign to ban sex selection giving preference to boys

The Ultimate Discrimination: “Family Balancing”

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

A New Jersey couple, who invested $25K and sacrificed the lives of four other embryos to insure they would have a baby girl, are just one example among many who see nothing wrong with a new trend called “family balancing.”

Breitbart is reporting on the story of Janine Tardibuono who told NJ101.5  that having her daughter, Gianna Rosalia, after having two boys, was a dream come true. But the way she went about having this little girl is raising alarms about the use of reproductive technology in a modern world.

As Tardibuono described, she and her husband went through in vitro fertilization (IVF) at North Hudson IVF in Englewood Cliffs. The procedure produced five embryos, one of which was female. This embryo was then implanted into Tardibuono’s uterus and, nine months later, their little girl was born.

What the story doesn’t mention, however, is that four little boys died in the process.

Typical of the mainstream media, there’s no mention of the embryos that were thrown away. Instead, it goes on to interview Dr. Jane Miller, medical director at the clinic, who refers to the sex selection procedure as “family balancing.” The doctor says that she is seeing an increase in the number of couples who are using IVF to choose the sex of their children.

“There’s been so much good, solid science that’s progressed what we can do in the embryo lab,” she told NJ 101.5.

She claims to often work with parents from cultures who “value male children” as if this is a good thing. Apparently, she hasn’t read the news about the demographic disaster being experienced in cultures where sex selection procedures have resulted in a lop-sided male to female ratio that is leaving many innocent young people without mates.

Tardibuono admitted to the station that their families were critical of what they were doing and accused them of “playing with God’s plans.”

She rebutted them by saying that “God created these doctors and these people that do the lab work. “So if God created them, then their work is good.”

Obviously, she never heard of free will and how a lot of people created by God use the personal freedom He gave them for evil purposes rather than for good – such as Hitler and Kim Jung Un and serial killers such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.

This twisted reasoning is resulting in a new trend where the commodification of children is being raised to new heights.

For example, Breitbart cites a Daily Mailarticle in which Vice correspondent Isobel Yeung said she spoke to biologists who predict that within the next five decades “we are going to completely change the way we procreate, so having sex for procreation reasons is going to feel a bit old fashioned.”

It’s already starting.

The Fertility Institutes, which operate in the U.S., Mexico, and India allow couples to use preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to choose a child’s sex as well as screen them for genetic defects. In fact, they are currently encouraging couples to commit the ultimate discrimination by offering a “special sale” – a discounted fee of $14,880 for cycles with PGD gender determinations made until June 30, 2018.

As one couple told Yeung, they chose IVF for fertility problems, but then decided to select the sex of their child while they were at it. Because they both had strong women in their lives who they looked up, they decided they wanted a girl who they could raise to be a “strong feminist.”

Being a “strong feminist” has nothing to do with flouting God’s will for our lives and making other people suffer in the process – such as the millions of tiny human lives who are being flushed down the drain in fertility centers for no other reason than because they’re the “wrong” sex.

An authentic feminist does the exact opposite. As we read in Full of Grace: Woman and the Abundant Life, she celebrates who she is and the fact that she can be in loving union with God’s plans and thus “be a catalyst of His love in the lives of others.”

Isn’t that what the world needs – love and acceptance of all? Isn’t there enough intolerance in this world already?

Too many so-called feminists run around with their hair on fire over every slight, shouting “discrimination!” and “sexist!” and yet think nothing of committing the ultimate discrimination against the unborn babies they abort and the tiny embryos they toss down the drain because they were inconvenient or didn’t match their specifications.

We can only pray for those who resort to “family balancing” to get what they want. As history has proven over and over again, whether one is a believer or not, standing in opposition to God’s will never ends well – and that’s something technology will never change.

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®  http://www.womenofgrace.com

 

 

Woman Becomes Pregnant With Triplets Despite Being on the Pill, Rejects Abortion

MICAIAH BILGER   JAN 29, 2018   |   1:30PM    LONDON, ENGLAND

In abortion activists’ minds, Beth Morton had many good reasons to have an abortion. She was young, unmarried and her birth control failed. What’s more, she was pregnant with triplets and completely unprepared to be a parent.

But the 26-year-old mother from Essex, England knew that her unborn babies were valuable human beings.

The Daily Mail reports Morton chose life for her non-identical triplets, Archie, Lola and Ralphie, and gave birth in June.

Morton said she had been taking the birth control pill for years, and was shocked last year to learn that they had failed. Her partner, Danny Bellamy, was supportive; but Morton said her family was worried about how she would handle the unplanned pregnancy.

“I’m only young and my family were worried about how I was going to take to it, but I’ve just taken it in my stride,” Morton said. “I’m very calm with the triplets and I love being a mom. So, even though it was a shock, I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Morton experienced another shock during her 12-week ultrasound scan when the technician announced that she was having triplets.

“I thought the sonographer was joking …” she said. “She told me she wasn’t joking, and I could see the three sacs in there. I burst out crying. I couldn’t take it in. Danny was really happy, but it was still a real shock to me.”

The medical team even suggested that she have a “selective reduction,” an abortion that would have destroyed one or two of the triples’ lives.

Morton said no.

Here’s more from the report:

Non-identical triplets are rarely conceived without the use of IVF, and Miss Morton was offered a ‘selective reduction’ – in which doctors terminate one or two of the babies to make it a safer pregnancy.

But the couple refused. Miss Morton said: ‘There was no way that we would have ever considered a selective termination.

‘How could you possibly choose one baby’s life over another … we were determined to give all three of them the best possible chance. I know it was a risky pregnancy, but I trusted the doctors to look after us all.’

A year later, Morton said she is happy as a mother of three, and each of the triplets already is displaying his or her own personality.

“They may have been a surprise, but I can’t imagine life without them now,” Morton said.

Woman Trusts God and Delivers “Miracle Baby” While Fighting Brain Cancer

MICAIAH BILGER   JAN 12, 2018   |   4:37PM    WASHINGTON, DC

An amazingly brave teenager gave birth to a baby girl last week in Philadelphia while battling a deadly brain cancer.

Dana Scatton, 17, of Pennsylvania, is doing fairly well undergoing rounds of radiation treatment, and her “miracle” baby, Aries Marie, is thriving. The past few months have been extremely difficult for Dana and her family, but they told The Advertiser that their faith is keeping them strong.

The first shock came during the summer when Dana discovered she was pregnant. Though afraid, Scatton chose life for her baby girl, and her parents Lenore and Robert Scatton supported her decision.

“In June, Dana found out she was pregnant,” her mother told the news outlet. “She had an orthodontist appointment to get braces that day – and I met her there. That’s when she told me. She got out of the car, grabbed me, hugged me, and told me in my ear that she was pregnant.”

Dana continued with her plans to attend college in the fall.

“I was shocked when I first found out I was having a baby, but I was happy,” she said. “I knew my life would change, I would grow up a little faster … but that gave me more motivation.”

But tragedy struck in December. Dana said she began to experience weird delays in her speech, and sometimes her legs did not respond correctly; she also felt extremely tired.

Her family took her to the emergency room where doctors ran a series of tests. According to the report, the doctors discovered a cancerous, 2.3 centimeter tumor on her brain. She later was diagnosed with a deadly, incurable form of brain cancer called DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), the report states.

That was on Dec. 10, and she was 7 months pregnant.

Dana decided to start radiation after she gave birth, fearing for her unborn daughter’s safety, but she quickly became sicker and sicker. She said she started struggling to breathe, and she could no longer walk up or down stairs.

On the day after Christmas, her doctors decided that Dana could not wait any longer. They began radiation, assuring her that her unborn baby would not be harmed.

“I feel like God just directed the doctors to help decide what I should do,” Dana said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start radiation without having the baby because I didn’t want it to hurt her. But I couldn’t decide what to do – it was too hard.”

She gave birth to her daughter, Aries Marie, on Jan. 4. The tiny miracle weighed 4 pounds 6 ounces.

Dana and her family said they continue to trust God for the future.

“God has been taking care of so much,” Dana said. “Like with the whole radiation thing, I was so worried about the baby, but when I was in there, I felt like he was holding my belly. I feel like I am just going along with him. My choice is to trust God with everything.

“Getting death thrown in your face … it’s so real,” she continued. “It really shows you what’s true. This world doesn’t matter, it’s temporary, you know? When I found out, I immediately let the world go. It’s like, that doesn’t matter anymore. We have to look at the eternal life. We all think we have so much time … honestly, I feel thankful that I have this time to wake up and realize what’s right. And I want everybody to see that.”

She currently is undergoing radiation five days a week, according to the report. Her family said Aries still is in the hospital, but she is doing very well.The family set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Dana’s medical expenses and a possible clinical trial that is not covered by insurance. People also can follow the family’s journey on Facebook.

Winter newsletter

What is One More Soul doing?

  • We continue to serve parishes, dioceses, pregnancy support centers and individuals with excellent
    resources to proclaim the blessings of children and the harm of contraception.
  • Julia has just completed a review of contact data for all Directory of NFP-Only Physicians. This
    resource is commonly sought for health care that is consistent with Catholic Church teaching.
  • We will soon publish Anne Cherney’s Supernatural Family Planning, the Original Method. In the first chapter, Anne describes how she and her husband just let God “plan” their family to have 10 children, and how He provided without delay their every need. I’m hoping/praying it will be printed in time for Christmas giving.
  • Sterilization Reversal, A Generous Act of Love, edited by John Long, describes the experience of 20
    Catholic couples who saw their marriages fall apart following sterilization. They were on the brink of divorce. Permanently separating life from love changed more than God’s perfect design for their bodies. A reversal changed everything; they experienced true love again; reversal is truly “a generous act of love.” We want to send sample copies to Family and Marriage Offices in every diocese and seminary. Your donations can make that possible.
  •  I will continue to encourage bishops and priests to follow Cardinal Sarah’s instructions for renewing the Liturgy so that both priests and laity will have the graces needed to preach and accept the moral teachings that affect our culture—a Culture of Death—abortion, contraception, IVF, ESCR, PAS, transgenderism, etc.\
  • Finally, I would like to upgrade our lighting by replacing 50+ fluorescent ceiling fixtures with a dozen LED fixtures and reduce our HVAC costs by adding ceiling insulation.

Thank you very much for your prayers and donations. You are the lifeblood of One More Soul. May God bless us.

Steve Koob, Director

PS Please participate in Mass often. The Mass is THE source AND summit of our Christion faith and life

 

Irony: As Babies are Killed in Late-Term Abortions, Scientists Create Artificial Sperm to Make Babies

WESLEY SMITH   JAN 2, 2018   |   11:35AM    WASHINGTON, DC

Irony: As Babies are Killed in Late-Term Abortions, Scientists Create Artificial Sperm to Make Babies

It is a profound irony that as we allow even very late term fetuses to be aborted on one hand, scientists are finding radical nature-bending ways to assist people have babies–including methods that could shatter familial norms.

Newest possibility: Artificial sperm and ova. From the Guardian story:

Speaking at the Progress Educational Trust annual conference in London this month, Azim Surani, director of germline and epigenetics research at the University of Cambridge’s Gurdon Institute, said he and colleagues had passed a significant milestone on the path to producing sperm in the laboratory.

The team is thought to be the first to have reached the halfway point on the developmental path from human stem cells to immature sperm.

The study hints that one day it may be possible to manufacture sperm and eggs from stem cells or even adult skin cells.

This could, at least in theory, permit men to become biological mothers, and with genetic engineering, women to become fathers:

Fertility clinics in Britain are currently banned from using artificial sperm or eggs to treat infertile couples. However, if scientists perfected the ability to produce germ cells in the lab – something Surani predicts is at least a decade away – regulators could face pressure to revise the law to reflect the new possibilities.

For instance, two men could potentially have a baby that was genetically related to both of them by using skin cells from one to make an egg and cells from the other to make the sperm.

Then, a woman would be hired or would volunteer to become a surrogate mother of a baby with two male biological parents.

Or, if some get their way, one of the men could have a uterus transplanted so that he could gestate and give birth via caesarean section. That has been seriously advocated by such bioethics luminaries as Joseph Fletcher.

Now, add in CRISPR gene editing, three-parent IVF techniques, and the “no limits” mentality of some in science and society, and the atomizing Brave New World possibilities become endless.

By the way, the (phony) ban mentioned in the article is typical of what we see in biotech all the time: Outlaw what can’t be done today to permit the research to be perfomed that will permit it to be done. Then, once that succeeds,, lift the ban–meaning the prohibition was really meant to give false assurance and public space to work out the technology.

This is recipe for the transhumanist dream of radical individualistic procreation, baby manufacture, and radical family restructuring. If that’s what we want–I don’t think it should be permitted, but I don’t have a monopoly on wisdom–it is what we want.

We should at least have a serious societal discussion before these things can be done, to determine–through democratic means–the breadth and scope of regulations that should govern these technologies. Otherwise, we are heading toward an anarchic procreative society.

LifeNews.com Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.

Anyone who is truly pro-life must oppose the baby-selling practice of gestational surrogacy arrangements

December 18, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – This month, two women from two different states contacted our office because the “intended parents” were now demanding that the women abort the “defective” children they were carrying as part of a surrogacy arrangement. One woman succumbed to the pressure, killing triplets. The other woman miscarried, undoubtedly, in part, because of the unrelenting stress being placed upon her. Her stillborn twin babies were hugging each other. This is the untold underside of the inherently immoral but deceptively alluring practice of “gestational surrogacy.”

Many staunchly pro-life people see only beautiful babies, innocent and precious. They want to celebrate the gift of life, and so they casually embrace surrogacy. Those treasured babies, however, should not be created through this abhorrent practice.

There are many reasons to oppose the practice of surrogacy – including its innate exploitation of women and purposeful destruction of the sanctity of the mother-child relationship – but it should be especially morally repugnant to those who are pro-life.

Here are three reasons why every pro-life person must be anti-surrogacy:

  1. surrogacy affirms that children are disposable;
  2. most of the embryos created are destroyed; and
  3. surrogacy contracts contain provisions making abortion mandatory.

First, and most obviously, surrogacy is the manufacture of children to be sold. Although the industry speaks in terms of “renting a womb” or “gestational services,” it is manifest that the purchaser is buying a child, because that is the very object of the contract. Clearly, the purchasing party would not pay a woman for the use of her womb if they were not given exclusive ownership of a baby at the end. When we reduce children into products, we cheapen their value and dehumanize the child. This is the very antithesis of the pro-life dogma of the intrinsic dignity and value of every person. Once created for sale, they can be destroyed at the purchaser’s whim. And that is exactly what is happening.

Second, most of the embryos created by surrogacy arrangements will not be allowed to live. In so-called “traditional surrogacy” the mother who carries the child is also genetically related to the child, because she provides the egg to be fertilized. In so-called “gestational surrogacy,” in contrast, the mother who carries the child has no genetic relationship with the child because the fertilized eggs transferred into her uterus are from an anonymous donor. To improve the chances of contract enforceability, the surrogacy industry favors the use of anonymous egg donors. Therefore, all “gestational surrogacy” arrangements require the use of IVF, where the egg and sperm are joined in a laboratory to create a living human being for transfer into another woman’s uterus.

Although IVF can be done so that all fertilized eggs will be used, most surrogacy participants create multiple embryos which will be destroyed or indefinitely frozen (cryopreserved). It is not uncommon for IVF arrangements to involve the creation of 10-20 embryos, where only 2-3 are used. Because of these practices, hundreds of thousands of embryos are in a state of suspended animation. Countless more have simply been killed.

Third, nearly all surrogacy contracts contain “selective reduction” provisions that allow the purchaser of the child to demand that the mother have an abortion. Here’s an example of how it works. The purchaser creates 15 embryos, which are then screened for genetic anomalies and selected by gender. To ensure that at least one embryo successfully implants (the fail rate can be as high as 50% in women under age 35), two or three of the desired embryos are transferred into the mother’s uterus. If all three embryos implant, triplets would be born, so a purchaser who wants only twins will demand that one child is aborted. These clauses, although not legally enforceable, are used to mislead and pressure vulnerable mothers to have abortions – whether they want one or not.

Surrogacy manufactures children for sale, creates human beings for intentional destruction, and permits children to live only at the expediency of their purchasers. It will, if left undeterred, irrevocably alter human civilization to the detriment of women, children, and the culture at large.

Surrogacy is not “giving the gift of life” – it is part of the culture of death.

Joseph R. Zakhary is an attorney at The Cassidy Law Firm in Shrewsbury, NJ which specializes in public interest litigation and is considered among the leading authorities on surrogacy and abortion law.

Embryology and Science Denial

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In an early draft of its next strategic plan, the Department of Health and Human Services has described its mission as “serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception” [emphasis added]. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Richard Paulson—a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and an infertility specialist—vehemently objects to HHS’s affirmation that life begins at conception. Paulson claims that this affirmation is based on religion rather than science, and that HHS should remove it from the report, because the agency’s endorsement of a religious view of human life violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

We heartily agree with Paulson that the HHS should define human life on the basis of “science and data, not faith-based belief.” But on the question of when the life of a new member of the human species comes to be, the scientific facts squarely support the position of HHS, not of Dr. Paulson. How he can be unaware of the pertinent facts is befuddling.

The standard science texts as well as scholarly articles in the fields of embryology, developmental biology, and microbiology assert the very position that Paulson says is merely faith-based and unscientific.

The Science of Embryology

The following are typical examples—only three of the many, many we could cite. These are from standard texts by embryologists, developmental biologists, and microbiologists:

“Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition.

“Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, Cell Tissue Research.

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte” (emphasis added; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition.

Many other examples could be cited, some of which may be found here.

These authorities all agree because the underlying science is clear. At fertilization—or, more precisely, when the sperm (a male sex cell) fuses with the oocyte (a female sex cell, more commonly referred to as an egg)—each of them ceases to be, and a new entity, one that is both genetically and functionally distinct from either parent, is generated. This new entity, initially a single totipotent cell, then divides into two cells, then (asynchronously) three, then four, eight, and so on, enclosed all the while by a membrane inherited from the oocyte (the zona pellucida), which then dissolves during implantation, allowing for continued growth in the direction of maturity as a member of the species. Even prior to implantation, however, these cells and membrane function as parts of a whole that regularly and predictably develops into the more mature stages of a complex human body.

How do we know that the result of sperm-oocyte fusion is a new entity, rather than a continuation of the oocyte? We know that a new entity exists because, once the sperm penetrates the oocyte, a completely new trajectory of biological development commences. The biological activity of an oocyte is directed toward successful fertilization; the biological activity of sperm is directed toward penetration of an oocyte. The biological activity of the new entity that results when sperm and oocyte fuse, however, is directed toward nothing less than the development of a mature human organism, distinct from either parent. Further, this new entity’s activities are directed not by instructions from the mother’s body, as some people wrongly suppose, but by its own unique set of instructions, especially the blueprint for development contained in its unique genetic material. The mother’s body recognizes the zygote and then the embryo as an entity distinct from itself. In fact, the embryo must send out chemical signals to prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking it. The embryo also emits chemical signals that induce changes in the lining of the mother’s uterus to enable successful implantation.

If this embryo is provided a suitable environment, nutrition, and protection from deliberate attack, serious injury, or disease, it will develop to the mature stage of a human organism. Thus, from the zygote stage onward this distinct, new organism has all of the internal resources—in its genetic and epigenetic structure—needed to develop itself (or, rather, himself or herself, since in the human sex is determined from the very beginning) to the mature stage of a human organism. At no point after fertilization—implantation, gastrulation, birth, puberty, etc.—does a fundamental change in biological trajectory occur. These subsequent stages of development are simply the unfolding of the zygote’s inherent dynamism toward human organismal maturity. This shows that the zygote already is a human organism—a member of the species Homo sapiens—albeit at an early stage of his or her development.

Paulson’s Arguments

But perhaps Dr. Paulson objects to HHS’s claim that life begins at conception not because it contradicts the overwhelming scientific consensus, but because he has decisive arguments against that view? We can’t rule that out a priori, so let’s examine his arguments.

First, Paulson claims that no new life is formed at fertilization because the egg and the sperm were already alive: “The human egg is a single living cell and it becomes a one-cell embryo if it successfully combines with a live sperm. No new life is formed — the egg and the sperm were already alive — and fertilization is not instantaneous.” This argument, however, rests on utter confusion.

No one after the work of Louis Pasteur has maintained that life comes from anything other than life. Of course there was life before fertilization (the egg and the sperm). There were living entities—living cells—from which the new living being came to be. But with fertilization there is a new life—that is, there is a new organism, a member of the same species as the parents and no mere part of either of them (as the male or female sex cells were)—an entity that was not there before.

If Paulson’s argument were sound, it would show that no new cells ever come to be, even in the asexual reproduction of cells—for example, within our bodies in cellular growth or repair. In such cases, the parent cell was alive before the reproduction, but of course the two daughter cells really do come to be. Thus, the continuum of life—which Paulson mentions again later in his piece—provides no evidence against the standard scientific view that a new human life comes to be at conception (fertilization).

Second, Paulson suggests that, because fertilization is a process, it can’t be the point at which a new human being comes to be. He writes: “fertilization is not instantaneous. Nearly 48 hours pass from the time sperm first bind to the outside of the zona pellucida, the human eggshell, until the first cell division of the fertilized egg.” But this argument too is stunningly weak. A radical change—in this case the coming to be of a new organism, marked by a radical change in the trajectory of the entity’s biological activity—can be caused by a coordinated series of smaller changes. Many smaller changes—such as the movement of sperm through the uterine tube and then through the outer protective structures of the oocyte—precede the radical change that occurs when one sperm cell penetrates the oocyte and its membrane fuses with the oocyte’s membrane to form a new, genetically distinct, single dynamic structure. As all the works of modern human embryology and developmental biology attest, this radical change marks the coming to be of a new human individual. A series of very small changes—a continuum—is no evidence at all against a discontinuity at the end of that series.

Note also that if Paulson’s argument were sound it would refute his own position as well. A human life can’t begin at conception, he says, because conception is an extended process. So, when does it occur? His answer: later during gestation, possibly with implantation. But of course, implantation too occurs by several small steps. The only point at which there is truly a radical change in biological trajectory—and so the only logical point to locate the generation of the new organism—is fertilization, with the ceasing to be of the male and female sex cells and the simultaneous coming to be of the self-directing new organism.

Third, Paulson claims that prior to implantation the human embryo is merely “a collection of stem cells, each of which has the capacity to grow into any part of the placenta, as well as fetal tissues and organs, but it is not itself a new human life.” But this ignores the internally coordinated collaboration of these cells. The embryo is of course composed of a multitude of cells (though not, it should be pointed out to Paulson, all of them stem cells). And the cells in the part of the embryo called the inner cell mass, when extracted from the human embryo, do qualify as pluripotent cells—that is, once extracted, they can be coaxed to become any type of human cell—but none of this shows that the embryo is a mere mass of undifferentiated cells rather than what it obviously is: an internally integrated organism. Again, all the scientific works acknowledge this fact.

Indeed, cell differentiation begins with the very first cell division. Unless something (such as twinning, discussed below) interferes with their trajectory, one of these two cells will develop into the future body, multiplying itself to form a cluster of cells at one end of the embryo called the inner cell mass. The other will develop into the placenta and other supporting structures, multiplying itself to form a ring of cells that lines the inside of the zona pellucida, leaving a large cavity in the middle of the embryo that is called the blastocoele. Thus, far from being an undifferentiated and unorganized mass, the embryo’s cells communicate and function together as parts of a complex whole in a regular and predictable manner, each new step preparing for the next along a developmental trajectory that, if all goes well, eventually by a continuous and gapless process results in a sixteen-year-old’s asking for the car keys.

Fourth, Paulson suggests that the possibility that an early embryo may give rise to twins (monozygotic) shows that they are not yet individuals: “It is also potentially more than one individual, since identical twins are the result of a single implantation.” However, from the fact that A can split into B and C, it simply does not follow, nor does the fact at all suggest, that A was not an individual before the division. Conceivably, A might cease to be and give rise to B and C, or A might be identical with B or with C. When a flatworm is sliced, the result is two living flatworms. It is obvious that a new individual is generated by the division of parts from a single whole. The fact that the division of a flatworm produces two flatworms in no way shows that prior to that division there was not actually a single flatworm. The evidence indicates that this same type of event occurs with most monozygotic twinning in human beings. That is, in most monozygotic twinning a single embryonic human being exists until the splitting of some cells from this first embryo, and this division generates a second embryo. Thus, monozygotic twinning casts no doubt at all on the fact that the human embryo is a distinct, whole, albeit immature, human organism from conception (fertilization) on.

In short, Dr. Paulson accuses the HHS of presenting a faith-based affirmation as if it were a scientific position. But it turns out that his denial of the claim that life begins at conception contradicts the standard scientific position, and his arguments against that claim are fallacious (sometimes egregiously so) and inaccurate. Ironically, it is Dr. Paulson, not the HHS, who seems to be basing his views about the beginning of human life on something other than scientific facts.

Patrick Lee is Phttps://onemoresoul.com/wp-admin/post-new.phprofessor of Philosophy and John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Melissa Moschella is an assistant professor of medical ethics at Columbia University.

An Absurd Fate: What Happens to Abandoned Embryos?

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it almost always starts with an emotional story.

The latest situation is an embryo custody battle in Arizona. It highlights the depth of real human emotions connected to having children and building a family, and the ways in which human lives are affected by a justice system that seeks to do what is right in the midst of a true ethical mess. As with all embryo custody battles, there are never any winners. There are plenty of losers, though, and the embryos have the most to lose by far.

This case, of course, tugs at our heartstrings. In 2014, at the age of thirty-three, Ruby Torres was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer—a very aggressive breast cancer that has the lowest five-year survival rate of all breast cancers. Torres was engaged at the time of her diagnosis. Because her cancer treatments might leave her infertile, she and her then-fiancé, Joseph Terrell, made the decision to undergo IVF to create embryos and freeze them for later use. A contract was signed stipulating that neither Torres nor Terrell “could use the embryos without the written permission of the other person.” Soon after, they were married.

In August 2016, Terrell filed for divorce and told the court that he did not want to have children with Torres. The case is now in the courts of Arizona, where there is no case law on the disposition of surplus embryos once they have been created. On one side, Torres, who is now infertile, is fighting for her “right to have her own biological children.” Terrell, on the other side, is fighting for his “right not to parent.”

A Maricopa County Family Court judge recently ruled that the embryos must be donated to a couple seeking embryo adoption or to a fertility clinic since Torres and Terrell are not in agreement. Torres has filed a notice of intent to appeal the ruling to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

There Ought to Be a Law

How can we keep cases like this from happening in the future? Perhaps the simplest way would be for the United States to adopt a policy similar to Germany’s. The law there prohibits the creation of so-called surplus human embryos. In Germany, only three embryos can be created in one IVF cycle, and they must all be transferred into the mother’s womb.

But embryo donation and adoption is big business in the United States. Current estimates are that there are nearly three-quarters of a million frozen embryos here. In addition, approximately 28 million federal dollars are funding embryo donation programs, thus creating a whole new industry, which shows no signs of being interested in putting itself out of business.

Our country is a long way from passing a law like Germany’s, in part because we are so far down the path of embracing embryo adoption. We are gripped by the emotional stories of “snowflake” children. Recall the George W. Bush-era embryo battles over surplus human embryos being either destroyed for cures or adopted into loving homes. Almost no one pushed for a law banning the creation and freezing of human embryos then—and almost no one is pushing for it now—which is one of the reasons why this case in Arizona is so troublesome for the courts.

Souls on Ice

At the height of those embryo battles, Liza Mundy wrote in Mother Jones about “Souls on Ice.” That was 2006, when the count of frozen embryos was “only” about half a million. Mundy raised the question of embryo disposition after speaking with a California couple who had fourteen surplus frozen embryos. What should they do with them? Should they “Give them away to another couple, to gestate and bear? Her own children’s full biological siblings—raised in a different family? Donate them to scientific research? Let them . . . finally . . . lapse?”

That was eleven years ago. Now the number of souls on ice is rapidly approaching three-quarters of a million.

Human life was not meant to be created in the lab, put on ice, and left for years and years. Many frozen embryos do not survive the thawing process. As Paul Ramsey explained back in 1972, freezing human embryos would “constitute unethical medical experimentation on possible future human beings, and therefore it is subject to absolute moral prohibition.” Though the medical community failed to heed his warning, Ramsey’s words are still true:

My only point as an ethicist is that none of these researchers can exclude the possibility that they will do irreparable damage to the child-to-be. And my conclusion is that they cannot morally proceed to their first ostensibly successful achievement of the results they seek, since they cannot assuredly preclude all damage.

In other words, it is thought to be safe to freeze, thaw, and transfer human embryos into wombs, but the truth is that we are performing a highly experimental procedure on human beings who cannot in any way consent to the procedure they are undergoing. In fact, research is being done on these children, following them over the course of their lives to see how they fare. In what other circumstance would such treatment not be considered horrific?

How can we clean up this mess?

Parents, Come Get Your Children!

As I mentioned above, a good place to start is by legally limiting the number of embryos that can be created and prohibiting the freezing of embryos, as Germany does. But what about the embryos currently in cryopreservation storage? We need a policy that would require the people who created the embryos to make a decision. They can choose to transfer the embryos into their mother’s body, donate them to an embryo adoption agency, or allow them to thaw and die. I am open to discussions of ways to incentivize transferring the embryos into the mother—this, in my view, is what should happen, or being donated for embryo adoption—but I am not open to having the embryos donated to scientific research where they will be destroyed, killed.

The human embryos who are currently abandoned in freezers were created for the purpose of building families. The simple answer is for parents to come and get their children. If you choose to abandon your embryos—that is, your children—you can opt to “donate” them to someone who is willing to bear and raise your child.

Embryo adoption, though, is fraught with its own set of ethical issues. Anyone choosing to donate their unwanted embryos or to adopt such embryos must enter into such a decision with a clear mind about the problems that are likely to arise.

Children created in this way will face many difficult and troubling realities as they come to know and understand their conception stories. They must come to terms with the fact that they were created, abandoned, seen as surplus and unwanted, and ultimately given away by their biological parents. This can be an enormous burden for a child to carry. Given my extensive work on issues around third-party conception—egg donationsperm donation, and surrogacy—I know all too well how likely it is that these children will grow up longing to know their biological parents, siblings, and larger family while at the same time feeling abandoned and perhaps even unloved.

Who Has Moral Obligations to Frozen Embryos?

Finally, I hold that we, the general public, have no moral obligation to rescue abandoned frozen embryos, just as we have no obligation to donate a kidney. Such acts—supererogatory acts—are those that are good but not morally required. I do believe, as I mentioned above, that the parents who created the embryos have a moral obligation to reclaim their embryos and have them transferred into the mother’s uterus. But that obligation does not extend beyond the parents who brought them into being. Physicians who assisted in creating and freezing embryos have broken with the Hippocratic roots of medicine, inevitably harming some embryos—that is, the ones that do not survive the freezing and thawing process.

Depending on where you are on the religious spectrum, you will find variations on the exact nature of our moral duty to abandoned embryos and their right to life. My own recommendation is to follow a pattern that Lutheran theologian Gilbert Meilaender, Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University and Scholar at The Paul Ramsey Institute, recommends in his most recent book, Not by Nature but by Grace. He writes,

What Christians, at least, should want [with respect to abandoned embryos] is a brief religious ritual to accompany their dying, a liturgy in which we commend these weakest of human beings to God, though perhaps also a liturgy in which with the psalmists we ask God how long his providence will permit this to continue. . . . We demonstrate our humanity by accompanying frozen embryos to their death and committing them liturgically to God’s care.

But we must recognize, as the Catholic encyclical Donum vitae states,

In consequence of the fact that they have been produced in vitro, those embryos which are not transferred into the body of the mother and are called “spare” are exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued.

Never to know the nurturing environment of their mothers’ wombs and never to be lovingly raised by their mothers and fathers, such embryos suffer an absurd—and tragic—fate indeed.

Jennifer Lahl is the Founder and President of the Center for Bioethics and Culture and producer of the documentary films, Eggsploitation, Anonymous Father’s DayBreeders: A Subclass of Women? and Maggie’s Story, which tells of a ten-time egg donor and her battle with stage-four cancer.

Experimenting on embryonic humans is evil and must be opposed

LONDON, England, October 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — UK scientists are experimenting on seven-day old humans to learn how to “edit” DNA before killing them and discarding them.

A team from the Francis Crick Institute is using “excess” living human embryos for their experiments who were frozen for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). They then “edit” the human DNA by taking out a vital gene from “healthy, normal” embryos.

States the BBC:

Breakthroughs in manipulating DNA have allowed the team at the Crick to turn off a gene – a genetic instruction – suspected to be of vital importance. The easiest way of working out how something works is to remove it and see what happens. So the researchers used the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 to scour the billions of letters of genetic code, find their genetic target and break the DNA to effectively disable it.

They were targeting a gene. You are unlikely to have heard of it, but OCT4 is a superstar in early embryo development. Its complete role is not understood but it acts like an army general issuing commands to keep development on track. The researchers used 41 embryos that had been donated by couples who no longer needed them for IVF. After performing the genetic modification, the team could watch how the embryos developed without OCT4…But without OCT4 the blastocyst cannot form. It tries – but implodes in on itself.

From the embryo’s perspective it is a disaster but for scientists it has given unprecedented insight.

Pro-lifers oppose destructive human embryonic experimentation because it’s a human life that’s being destroyed at his or her earliest beginning.

Governor Sam Brownback, whom President Trump nominated for Ambassador At Large for International Religious Freedom, put it this way: “What lies at the heart of this debate is our view of the human embryo. The central question in this debate is simple: Is the human embryo a person or a piece of property?”

“If unborn persons are living beings, they have dignity and worth, and they deserve protection under the law from harm and destruction. If, however, unborn persons are a piece of property, then they can be destroyed with the consent of their owner,” he said.

Christians have always affirmed that men and woman are created in the image of God from the very first moment of their existence. Since the embryo is a living human being and not just a clump of cells, experimentation involves the willful taking of human life and can only be judged as morally and ethically wrong in every instance.

This isn’t just a matter of rules, but a matter of respecting “persons.”

At no point is one person, no matter what size or what state of development — be they zygote, preborn, infant, toddler, child, teen, adult, senior — of less value or less of a person than another human being.

As Dr. Seuss put it, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

One’s degree of biological development is irrelevant to the fact that a new being comes into existence when sperm meets egg, a person who must be valued and respected as a member of the human family who is a bearer of God’s image.

The embryonic DNA manipulation performed by the UK scientists deliberately targets and kills human beings. Experimenting on people and then killing them, even with the good intention of using the knowledge gained to help others, is simply wrong. No matter what good follows from it, it is always evil to directly murder someone.

The world was horrified when it learned about the horrors of Nazi experiments on those in concentration/death camps. With equal fervor, anyone who stands for human rights and justice ought to be equally horrified with human embryonic destructive experimentation.

Human embryos are people. Experimenting on them is morally equivalent to experimenting on any other human, like you or me.

Pro-life pioneer Dr. J. Willke put it this way: “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t profess to be pro-life and support experimentation on these tiny children that will result in their deaths.”

In other words, the end does not justify the means.

“Common sense tells us that no one has the right to kill another human being, no matter how much good they claim will come from that act. Most people instinctively reject the notion that doctors are qualified to decide who should live and who should die ‘for the greater good.’  That is why doctors have for centuries taken an oath declaring their first duty not to harm, let alone kill, anyone in their care,” said family advocate Gary Bauer.

The manipulation and destruction of human life at any stage have no humility, no reverence, no place for God.

From the perspective of human rights and justice, the issue is clear: The lives of preborn children must be defended from the earliest, smallest, and most fragile stages of development.  Killing innocent human life for experimentation, or for any other reason, must be opposed.

‘There is hope’: Man comes out of ‘permanent vegetative state’ after 15 years

LYON, France, October 2, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — No human being is ever a “vegetable,” but the phrase “Permanent Vegetative State” certainly described “Jack.”

If someone falls into a “Persistent Vegetative State” (PVS), being completely unaware and unresponsive for a whole year, their condition is diagnosed as permanent.

Colloquially speaking, Jack (a pseudonym) looked awake, but he “wasn’t there.” Now, French doctors have shattered that medical conviction by reviving the 35-year-old man who spent 15 unresponsive years after a severe car accident.

Doctors implanted a device to stimulate Jack’s vagus nerve, the longest of the involuntary nerves that runs from the base of the brain to the abdomen. Besides helping regulate heart, lungs, and digestive tract, the nerve has a lot to do with wakefulness and attention.

They artificially stimulated Jack’s vagus nerve every day for a month. The results produced a medical science breakthrough perhaps greater than the discovery of penicillin.

Their subject responded for the first time in 15 years.

Jack didn’t gain full awareness, but he responded to simple requests. He followed objects with his eyes. He could turn his head when asked. He stayed awake listening to a therapist read a book. His eyes opened wide when someone suddenly got in his face.

In medical terms, he went from a “permanent vegetative state” to a minimally conscious state. “He cannot talk, but he can respond. Now he is more aware,” study leader Angela Sirigu of the Institute of Cognitive Science in Lyon said.

His dramatic change was documented in brain scan “before” and “after” comparisons. (PIC of brain scan comparison)

To the pro-life layman, this is a major vindication.

“Ever since Terri Schiavo, writing about the wrongness of removing feeding tubes from patients diagnosed with persistent unconsciousness (PVS) … is like spitting in the wind,” columnist Wesley J. Smith wrote. “Patients in this condition are often dehydrated to death by having their feeding tubes removed, which takes up to two weeks. … People with minimal awareness are legally dehydrated in all 50 states.”

“This should be good news that should cause us to pause in removing feeding tubes from the unconscious,” Smith advised. “Some bioethicists even want such removals to become standard” after a year or two, he warned.

Some still defend starving or painfully dehydrating patients “because they may be in horror at their impaired condition or otherwise suffering.” But Smith said a major study of patients who appeared completely unconscious but proved later to actually be awake and aware “shows that most are ‘happy,’ and majorities would not want euthanasia.”

“Let’s care for these seriously disabled patients — both apparently unconscious and conscious — as full and equal members of the moral community,” Smith concluded.   “And let’s think twice before removing sustaining treatment that can only have one result: a protracted and perhaps painful death.”

Smith noted that 40 percent of PVS diagnoses are wrong, but it now seems possible, at least thinkable, that some who actually do fall into such a state may be revivable.

Jack’s results were published in the journal “Current Biology.”

Niels Birbaumer of the University of Tübingen pointed out that “many of these patients may and will have been neglected, and passive euthanasia may happen often in a vegetative state.” Jack’s example, Birbaumer said, “is a warning to all those believing that this state is hopeless after a year.”

National Geographic’s Karen Weintraub speculated that “if the method is shown to work in a broader population, vagal nerve stimulation could give people with limited consciousness at least a bit of free will and the ability to communicate.”

Hannah Devlin of The Guardian wrote that Jack’s success “offer(s) hope to the families of patients in PVS that it may one day be possible to re-establish some basic form of communication.”

University of Birmingham cognitive neuroscientist Damian Cruse called Jack’s story “pretty exciting.” “If you can just push the patient over the threshold so they can start responding to external stimulation you can maybe help them follow speech therapy and get them to a level where they can start to communicate,” he said.

In recent years, a brain-computer interface has been developed that facilitates paralyzed patients previously thought in a “vegetative state” to communicate basic “yes” or “no” answers to let loved ones know what they want, feel and need.

Vagal nerve stimulation has been used with epileptics, those with neurological disorders, and those suffering from recent brain injury.

Smith exhorts pro-lifers to “never call (human beings) ‘vegetables,’ a term as denigrating and dehumanizing as a racial epithet.”

Futility Policies and the Duty to Die

I am on the road this week speaking to groups and doing radio interviews. So here is an article published in Voices magazine (a Catholic women’s’ magazine) in 2003 with an update in 2005.  In the intervening years, the problems have grown worse but I originally wrote this article when almost no one had heard of futility policies. Here is the article.

When I first saw “Jack” last September (2002), he was lying unconscious in an ICU with a ventilator to help him breathe. It had been two weeks since a truck struck the 60 year-old and his injuries were devastating — including broken bones, blunt-force trauma and a severe head injury.

When Jack’s family contacted me about seeing him, they were desperate. The doctors told them that he would never come out of the coma and the issue of withdrawal of treatment was raised. The wife refused.

I could make no guarantees but I gave Jack’s wife a pamphlet on coma stimulation and began visiting Jack weekly.

As an ICU nurse myself, I could see that some of the staff felt that taking care of Jack was a waste of time. So I was not surprised when the family was soon told that nothing more could be done. But it was shocking when the hospital told the family that Jack’s ventilator was going to be removed regardless of their wishes. The family was given a deadline to find another health facility to take him.

By that time, Jack was opening his eyes and his family thought he could squeeze their hands at times. The medical and nursing staff assured them that this was just a “reflex”.

After some frantic phone calls, Jack was transferred to a long care facility that took patients on ventilators. Soon after the transfer, his condition became critical again and the family insisted he be treated. Jack was transferred to a hospital ICU. When the staff found out I was a nurse, some of them asked me what the family’s rationale was for continuing treatment. It was obvious that they too felt Jack was a hopeless case.

But over time, Jack improved and was finally able to breathe on his own without a ventilator so he was transferred to a regular hospital bed. Eventually it became evident to all that Jack was starting to respond to commands but it took pressure to get rehab services for him.

Just before Thanksgiving — a little more than two months after his accident — Jack became fully awake. He is now in a rehabilitation facility near his home in Illinois where the staff is working to strengthen his arms and legs, which were broken in the accident. Now, no one meeting him would ever guess that he had had a brain injury.

Even doctors and nurses who ordinarily disdain religion often call cases like Jack’s “miracles”. Of course, for many in healthcare, it’s easier to believe in miracles than to accept that they were wrong and a life could have been unnecessarily or prematurely lost.

But while Jack’s story has a happy ending, many similar cases do not. Families often automatically accept or are even pressured into accepting a doctor’s grim prognosis for their loved one and withdraw treatment after a patient’s brain is injured by trauma or other conditions like a stroke. Usually, the patient then dies.

Unfortunately, families like Jack’s who choose to continue treatment despite a “hopeless” prognosis are increasingly being denied that choice because of “futile care” policies being adopted in many hospitals throughout the country.

And such “futile care” principles have so permeated much of medicine today that there are even cases of elderly or terminally ill patients expected to have months of life remaining whose doctors didn’t want to prescribe medications such as antibiotics because the person was going to die sooner or later anyway.

Futile Care Policies and “Choice”
Most people assume that either they or their families will have the right to decide about medical treatment when they become seriously or critically ill. The biggest problem, people are told, is that they or their loved one will be tethered to a machine forever if they do not sign a “living will” or other health care directive. The “right to die” movement has convinced most people and medical personnel that the ability to refuse treatment is one of the most important aspects of medical care to prevent patients and families from needless suffering. Indeed, poll after poll shows that most people say they would rather die than be a “vegetable”. And many people automatically assume that they would never want their lives prolonged if they had a terminal illness, were paralyzed or senile, etc. Most people assume that refusing treatment, like assisted suicide (the other goal of the “right to die” movement), means choice and control.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this supposed “right to die” nirvana.

Some families and patients did not “get with the program” and insisted that medical treatment be continued for themselves or their loved ones despite a “hopeless” prognosis and the recommendations of doctors and/or ethicists to stop treatment. Many doctors and ethicists were appalled that their expertise would be challenged and they theorized that such families or patients were unrealistic, “in denial” about the prognosis or were mired in dysfunctional family relationships. (In contrast, families who agree to withdraw treatment are almost always referred to as “loving” and their motives are spared such scrutiny.)

At a 1994 pediatric ethics conference I attended, one participant was even applauded when he suggested that parents who refused to withdraw treatment from their “vegetative” children were being “cruel” and even “abusive” by not “allowing” their children to die. In some cases, doctors and ethicists have even gone to court to force withdrawal of treatment over a family’s objections. These ethicists and doctors were stunned when judges were often reluctant to overrule the families.

Yet over the years and unknown to most of the public, many ethicists have still refused to concede the choice of a right to live and instead have developed a new theory that doctors cannot be forced to provide “inappropriate” or “futile” care and treatment to patients deemed “hopeless”. This theory has now evolved into “futile care” policies at hospitals in Houston, Des Moines, California and many other areas. Even Catholic hospitals are now becoming involved.

In the July-August 2000 issue of the Catholic Health Association’s magazine Health Progress, Catherine M. Mikus and Reverend Peter Clark — a lawyer and an ethicist — argue that it is “time for a formalized medical futility policy” in Catholic hospitals. Like many such articles in secular ethics journals, the authors refrain from being too specific about what conditions and which patients would be subject to such a policy. The authors concede that even the American Medical Association says that medical futility is a concept that “cannot be meaningfully defined” and is a “subjective judgment” on which there is no widespread agreement.

Mikus and Clark make it clear that they are not talking about treatments that are “harmful, ineffective, or impossible”, the traditional concept of medical futility that, of course, is not ethically obligatory. For example, no doctor would honor a family’s request for a kidney transplant for a person who is imminently dying. Instead, the authors argue for a new definition of futility to overrule patients and/or families on a case-by-case basis based on the doctor’s and/or ethicist’s determination of the “patient’s best interest”. Ironically, the “right to die” movement was founded on the premise that patients and/or families are the best judges of when it is time to die. Now, however, we are being told that doctors and/or ethicists are really the best judges of when we should die. This is reminiscent of the imperious statement attributed to Henry Ford that his Model T customers could “paint it any color, so long as it’s black”. Thus the “right to die” becomes the “duty to die”, with futile care policies offering death as the only “choice”.

But despite the lack of consensus on what constitutes futile care, these Catholic authors are passionate about why such policies should be adopted and insist that their policies are “firmly rooted in the Catholic tradition”:

“Proper stewardship of these resources entails not wasting them on treatments that are futile and inappropriate. They must be rationally allocated; to waste them is ethically irresponsible and morally objectionable”. (Emphasis added)

In other words, a social justice-style argument is being made to save money.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Mikus and Clark’s opinions, not only is a sense of humility lacking but also a sense of God’s jurisdiction:

“In assessing whether a treatment is medically futile, physicians must consider carefully not only the values and goals of the patient/surrogate, but also those of the community, the institution, and society as a whole”. (Emphasis added)

This not only ignores God’s ultimate role in life and death but also turns the Hippocratic oath on its head. While the Hippocratic oath is no longer routinely used with medical students, its enduring legacy has always been the sacredness of the commitment of the doctor to his individual patient. Now, new doctors are often told that their ultimate commitment instead resides with the health and welfare of society.

It is appalling that Catholic doctors are now also being encouraged to adopt the secular and utilitarian concept of the greatest good for the greatest number rather than a spiritual commitment to each individual for whom they care. Under this new standard, Jesus the great Healer must be considered a failure for tenderly concerning Himself with healing such “little” lives during His ministry rather than constructing a more “politically correct” health system.

Where Do We Go from Here?
Just a generation ago, doctors and nurses were ethically prohibited from hastening or causing death. Family disputes and ethically gray situations occurred, but certain actions (such as withdrawing medically assisted food and water from a severely brain-injured but non-dying person) were considered illegitimate no matter who was making the decision.

But with the rise of the modern bioethics movement, life is no longer assumed to have the intrinsic value it once did, and “quality of life” has become the overriding consideration. Over time, the ethical question “what is right?” became “who decides?” — which now has devolved into “what is legally allowed?”

Thus, it is not surprising that the Health Progress article on futility policies is subtitled “Mercy Health System’s Procedures Will Help Free Its Physicians from Legal Concerns”. This is no afterthought, but rather the greatest fear of the authors that families may sue.

Doctors are understandably afraid of civil or malpractice lawsuits. In this article, Mikus and Clark attempt to convince doctors that a written futility policy — no matter how vague — is necessary. Then doctors would use the power of an ethics committee to back up their decisions in any legal proceeding in order to prove that the determination of futility meets the hospital’s standard of care.

Even more ominously, there have been efforts to incorporate futile care policy into state and federal law. For example, Senator Arlen Specter introduced the Health Care Assurance Act of 2001 that, while aimed at improving health care for children and the disabled, nevertheless contains a provision that there is no obligation:

“to require that any individual be offered, or to state that any individual may demand, medical treatment which the health care provider does not have available, or which is, under prevailing medical standards, either futile or otherwise not medically indicated”. [Emphasis added.]

The first step in solving a problem is to recognize it. We cannot always rely on a mainstream media that would rather exhaustively cover a star’s shoplifting charge than alert us to thorny ethical problems. Legislation and policies are often developed without public knowledge or comment. Health insurance can no longer be counted on to pay for all needed treatment in many situations.

This is why publications such as Voices and many other Catholic periodicals, pro-life news services and the Internet are so important, especially in the area of ethics. We in the Church are also blessed with encyclicals, Vatican documents and the writings of the doctors of the Church, which give clear principles that are still just as valid and useful as ever in a world of increasing technology and seductive decadence.

If we truly want to protect lives, save souls and fight injustice, we cannot remain silent in the face of an ever-expanding “culture of death”.

Postscript (2005): A couple of years after this was published, Jack was home and doing well when I was contacted by a documentary team from the UK who were making a film about Jack’s experience. I was asked to be a part of this.

I spent a lot of time with the British team and they told me how giving up on someone like Jack would not happen in the UK, despite their government-run National Health Service.

I knew this because in 2000, Dr. Keith Andrews of the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability and his team in the UK had determined that “The slow-to-recover patient is often incorrectly labelled as being in VS (vegetative state)” at a rate of four out of 10. Dr. Andrews and his team developed the SMART (Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique) to be used in hospitals to reduce the danger of misdiagnosis.

 

Are we artificially breeding ourselves infertile?

Marcus Roberts | Sep 19 2017

Ten years ago, one in 35 Australian babies were born as a result of IVF treatment. Today, that number has tracked to one in 25 babies. In the Netherlands, one in 15 births is as a result of IVF treatment. Now, world-renowned Dr John Aitken, the University of Newcastle laureate professor, the director of the University’s Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science and the 2012 New South Wales Scientist of the Year, is warning us of the dangers of overreliance on IVF.

It seems that male children born of IVF procedures are themselves more likely to require IVF to reproduce. As Aitken notes:

“It’s an inexorable upward trend. We are taking recourse to IVF in increasing numbers and the thing we have to remember as a society is that the more you use assisted conception in one generation, the more you are going to need it in the next…There’s a negative pay-off. If you have a son from this process it is possible that he too will have the same pathology that you had.”

The trouble is that already, without interference, the human male is not very fertile: one in twenty males are infertile. Dr Aitken criticises the IVF industry for ignoring the fact that failure to conceive stemmed largely from male infertility problems. And aside from the increased incidence of infertility, male IVF children are also at greater risk of cancer if their fathers smoked and used assisted conception techniques.

But, as Aitken notes, society is now out of kilter with human biology. Women are at their most fertile at around 19 or 20 years’ old, but at that stage of life most are halfway through university and nowhere near starting a family. Instead, many are putting off having children, getting financially secure and then having to resort to IVF in their late 30s when they cannot conceive.

“The average age of women in IVF is 36/7 years. If you’re contemplating a family when you’re close to the edge, IVF cannot fix you up. IVF live birth rates decline from 35 to 42 exactly the same way in naturally conceived population.”

Do we really think that we can keep on relying on technology and scientific breakthroughs to mask the deficiencies of our current lifestyles? Do we really think that doing so won’t result in something having to give in the future? Perhaps not in the next generation, but perhaps the one after that, or the one after that when more and more of us rely on IVF to “fix” our problems that are either caused by us delaying having a family, or because our parents had us through IVF… Now imagine a society where not only are our birthrates failing to keep up to hte level required to keep the population stable, but where more and more men are naturally infertile. Where we rely on IVF more, and thus perpetuate the cycle.

Biology Matters- Take it from donor conceived kids with loving straight parents.

by  | Sep 14, 2017

If you believe that “all kids need is love” then these donor-conceived children should be perfectly happy. But they’re not.

Turns out that even if kids have one or two loving parents, many donor-conceived kids strugglewith the reality that they will never know half of their heritage. In addition, the fact that the decision to deny them a relationship with one of their biological parents was intentional– made by the very parent(s) with whom they are living- often leads these kids to feel guilty, angry, ashamed and… commodified.

So, do not continue reading unless you are ready for your “all kids need is love” paradigm to be challenged:

Well, my father is a anonymous sperm donor. If you had asked me a year ago how I felt about him, I would have felt mild curiosity and excitement. I wasn’t really concerned about him at all. But now I miss him like crazy. It sounds weird I know, how can you miss someone you never knew? But I feel it all the same. I’m also furious (and I know this sounds bad) at my mother. How dare she willingly deny me the right to know him? And my half brothers and sisters. I’ve tried talking to her about it but she just gets a face like a smashed plate every time in mention it. Sometimes I really hate her.

34 years ago my mother decided that it was time for her to have a child. With her biological clock ticking and no long term relationship in sight, she turned to an anonymous sperm donor. She probably thought like most women would: “I’ll give my baby enough love for two”. I was indeed a loved baby…but baby must grow… It was only recently That i truly realized that I’ll most probably never know anything about half of my heritage. I love my mother but often I find myself despising her for doing this to me, for being so selfish. I, myself, as a woman approaching the big 3.5, I know what it feels like to truly want a child but NEVER would I knowingly take away a child’s right to have a father and a family. Not only has my mother deprived me from having a father but also sisters, brothers, cousins, grandparents…. https://anonymousus.org/gift-life-gift-solitude/

I’ve only wanted one thing in this life that I have been missing: paternal love. ….All I ever wanted is to be loved by you. The reality is that you were some college aged student who needed money, so you chose to donate. I just want you to know that your selfish actions indeed have consequences. My mother tells me that I’m better off without a father than with a father who doesn’t love me. The issue with that statement is that in the latter situation, at least I would know who my father is, regardless of his love for me. In the first statement, I do not know if my father loves me or not, which causes this tornado of thoughts in my mind, but even worse: I feel like an entire half of my life is missing thanks to my mother’s decision. As much as mother depicts herself as the hero, she may be a villain in disguise. Perhaps, she does not even understand the impact of her selfish deeds. Did she ever think about how this could impact a child? How it keeps her daughter up at night, knowing that there is yet another man in this world who does not love her.

I am 22 years old and I just found out that I was conceived through sperm donation. This information was withheld from me for my entire life until now.I was born into a loving, happy family. My parents have had a strong admirable marriage for nearly 25 years. I never would have imagined that my father was not the biological male who contributed to my existence…However, I have since felt a shameful sadness about this news. In a single day, I went from looking at my appearance without second thought, to looking at a stranger…I feel sad, alone, confused, and lost at times, while other times I feel nothing at all. I am on a roller coaster of emotions and I am not even sure why. I don’t like that I am suddenly grieving a person that I do not know or care to ever know. More importantly, I feel as though I am grieving myself….In addition to not completely understanding why I feel this way, I feel guilty for feeling anything at all. I am afraid to tell my parents how this makes me feel out of the fear that they will misunderstand my confusion and curiosity for something that it isn’t. …I am uncomfortable knowing that this person exists out there (or doesn’t, I don’t know if he has died). I am equally uncomfortable knowing that this person out there knows that he might have genetic offspring in the world that he will never get to meet. I feel weirdly betrayed by this person. It makes me sick to admit that.

I am egg donor conceived. Male. I found out when I was 16… now in my mid 20’s. Years and years later I still wonder and ponder, “who is my REAL Mother”… where is she? Is she even alive? Would she accept me for who I am? My current Mother… well growing up never accepted me… or even really cared to grow a bond with me (favortizes my 3 sisters; yes I’m a Quadruplet). It makes sense why now. There is a massive dIsconnection due to IVF. My relationship with my father has always been the greater of the two. I wish to one day meet her. Talk with her, even if it’s for 5 minutes. You know who you are…. God has blessed my wife & I in being able to have children naturally, and it has been the most wonderful experience so far. I WILL give my children what I never had growing up and still am suffering with. Hurt. Wounds. Depression. Anxiety. And the “unknown” of my identity.

Today I’m overwhelmed with sadness. It is Thanksgiving. I’ve spent the days surrounded by sweet people who love me. My family. The ones who helped raise me. The ones who will claim me. I love them. I’m thankful to be with them. We’re having a lovely time.  But I miss my biological dad. I wish I could call him today. I wish I knew him well. I wish I could hug my bio brother, or send a quick, silly text to him. What is he doing today?  I look around the room at boys who look just like their daddies. Fathers and children who all have the same smirky giggle. I’ll never sit in the same room with him and know if we walk the same. I didn’t get to grow up reading the books he loves, or hearing his calming voice when I’m tired, or sharing a love for the way his mother, my grandmother, cooks. I cannot ever know these things. In the name of generosity, he gave me away.

My mother told him that she “knew” I was his child. [My dad] literally took that on faith, that “a mother knows”. I believe him, he is a trusting individual and I believe that he believes this to be true. However he had doubts or he would not share this with me at such a critical juncture. My first thoughts were “Are you expletive! kidding me?” Followed by thoughts that I shouldn’t exist, then followed by immense respect for my dad, who is most likely not my bio dad. He coached my baseball teams, taught me everything, was the best dad to me, and my friends that I have ever seen. Much better as a father than I am by leaps and bounds. He did everything for me. I could not look less like him. I look exactly like a male version of my mother. I have come to the realization that although I may want to know, he probably does not want to know, for certain, if I am his or not. He cares, but most likely would be devastated if he found out, like all my medical knowledge (am doctor) suggests that I am not his child. I have decided not to test at this time (somehow, it’s killing me), and upon his passing, reevaluate my desire to know. He told me the donor was a medical student. I am the first in my family, either side, in the medical profession. So many things seem different now, I am still processing, and am trying not to let it throw me off my game as a father myself, or even keep it inside and not tell everyone I know what I have just found out. I feel like running this by everyone I know because it alters my perception of my life so deeply. People have asked me already what is troubling me. I may need professional help to sort this through, and I will seek it out if my current mental state continues.

When my friends talk about their fathers they talk about their first fishing trip together and how he would always bait the hook for him, or when he didn’t like a significant other they brought home. When I talk about my father I don’t have any memories to reminisce on or a specific image that pops into my head, I am just filled with bitterness. Not just because you donated, and not because you did it anonymously, but that fact my single mother wanted it that way. She chose for me to never even have the chance to meet my real father. But I hate feeling this way because, how do I tell my mom she wasn’t enough, that her love doesn’t fill a hole that she created. Every time I even mention my biological father around her, I feel like I am betraying her in some way. But if I never bring you up, no one will. So many people say my mom and I look alike, and I hate hearing that, not because my mom is ugly, but because it just gives her more reason to just sweep you under the rug and ignore you exist. I wish I had the power to ignore you exist, but some nights I just can’t. stop. thinking. No matter how hard I try I just can’t. I try to muffle my cries because I can’t let my mom hear, because it will only hurt her. Then I get angry because I didn’t get any protection in this decision. I was put into this masturbated race without any rights or a voice at all. You get to hide behind your anonymity, and I can’t have my mom seeing that I am angry or sad because I don’t want her to get buyer’s remorse.

Biological connection matters to kids.  These children had to discover that the hard way- by missing out on it.

Judge: ‘Brain dead’ teen could actually be alive

September 7, 2017 (National Review) — This could be one of the biggest bioethics cases since Terri Schiavo.

A judge has ruled that the teenager, declared dead in California, may not be dead. From the East Bay Express story:

Jahi McMath, the Oakland teenager whose brain death case has sparked national debate, may not currently fit the criteria of death as defined by a state law written in conjunction with the medical establishment, a judge wrote in an order Tuesday.

In his ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Pulido wrote that while the brain death determination in 2013 was made in accordance with medical standards, there remains a question of whether the teenager “satisfies the statutory definition of ‘dead’ under the Uniform Determination of Death Act.”

Bottom line, if she is not brain dead, then by definition, she’s alive. At the very least, there is enough doubt in this case based on Dr. Alan Shewmon’s testimony to induce the judge to issue his ruling:

Pulido heavily cited Dr. Alan Shewmon, who concluded in a court declaration that Jahi doesn’t currently fit the criteria for brain death after reviewing 49 videos of her moving specific fingers and other extremities when given commands to do so.

Shewmon, a professor emeritus of pediatrics and neurology at UCLA, wrote that Jahi “is a living, severely disabled young lady, who currently fulfills neither the standard diagnostic guidelines for brain death nor California’s statutory definition of death.” Shewmon also reviewed an MRI.

Full disclosure. I recently visited Jahi and her mother, along with Bobby Schindler.

That visit reinforced my view, previously written here, that this case demands a much deeper investigation than it has received heretofore, including impartial and thorough renewed medical examinations.

So I am very pleased the case is going forward.

Reprinted with permission from The National Review.

Mom With Brain Tumor Who Refused Abortion Gives Birth to Baby Girl Named “Life”

MICAIAH BILGER   SEP 8, 2017   |   11:09AM    LANSING, MICHIGAN

A terminally ill Michigan woman who sacrificed her life to save her unborn baby’s gave birth to her baby girl, Life Lynn, on Wednesday.

Carrie DeKlyen, of Wyoming, Michigan, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in April. Not long after that, she and her husband, Nick, discovered that they were pregnant with their sixth child, Life Lynn.

WOOD TV reports Carrie refused to participate in a clinical trial that could have prolonged her life because doctors said she would have had to abort her unborn baby.

On Wednesday, Life Lynn was born weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces at University Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mlive.com reports. She spent 24 weeks and 5 days in the womb.

Carrie, 37, suffered a massive stroke earlier this summer and has not regained consciousness. She gave birth while in a coma, according to the report.

As the family celebrates the tiny baby girl’s life, they are preparing for their wife and mother’s death. Carrie’s condition has deteriorated, and she no longer is even minimally responsive, according to the family.

The DeKlyens said Carrie was taken off life support after she gave birth to her daughter, and they believe her life is “in God’s hands until he calls her home.”

Her sister-in-law, Sonya Nelson, said Life Lynn is doing “as well as could be expected” for a baby born so prematurely. She said doctors decided to deliver her this week because they feared that she would die in the womb if they waited much longer.

Here’s more from the local news:

“The doctors ran tests (Wednesday) and extensive ultrasounds – she wasn’t even moving and was very sick,” Nelson said, noting that the baby was born at 24 weeks and 5 days. “My brother said the doctors are extremely pleased with how the baby is doing.”

… “We are now just trying to keep Carrie comfortable and keeping it in God’s hands,” Nelson said. “We are so proud of Carrie. She laid down her life for her child while refusing treatment for (herself). Her rewards are going to be great.”

Her husband, Nick, told People that he is so proud of Carrie, and he is certain that he will see her again one day in heaven.

“Not in this life, but after my time is up I’ll be with her again in Heaven,” he said. “She made the decision to give Life a chance at life. And I couldn’t be more proud.”

Carrie has glioblastoma, a terminal brain cancer. Since she was diagnosed in April, she has undergone several surgeries to remove the tumor from her brain, but each time the cancer returned, according to the report.

The mother of six refused to participate in an experimental treatment that could have prolonged her life because it would have meant aborting her unborn daughter.

“The doctor said if you don’t terminate this baby, Carrie, you will die,” her husband told People in August. “But it was Carrie’s decision and I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ She said, ‘We’re keeping it.’”

Over the summer, Carrie began chemotherapy while pregnant; but she later suffered a massive stroke that left her unconscious. Doctors tried to keep her comfortable and her unborn baby in the womb until she developed enough to survive outside it.

“We are a family of faith,” Nelson said previously. “And so we are just believing that God’s plan for Carrie is to be healed. And if he chooses to heal her here or in heaven, we will still trust in him.”

The family is asking people to pray for Carrie and baby Life Lynn. Nelson also set up a GoFundMe page where people can donate to help with the large family’s expenses.

Fertility is Not a Disease

Hanna Klaus, February 8, 2017, Reproduced with Permission, Church Life Journal

Managing a couple’s fertility to regulate their family size does not require removing said fertility from the woman’s or the man’s body. This is not primarily a religious issue. Some years ago a psychologist from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who had no religious affiliation came to me for instruction in the Billings Ovulation Method of natural family planning. She had already used mechanical and hormonal contraceptives, but, responding to a comment I had made at an NIH meeting, she decided to seek a natural method. After using the method for three months she told me, “This method is so different—now I can be all there, now I am not holding anything back.” The contrast between contraception and fertility acceptance methods has never been explained more simply.

Today, hormonal contraceptives and sterilization are marketed aggressively and exclusively. While the physical side effects of contraceptive steroids on every organ system have been described in the medical literature, the personal, social, and spiritual effects of contraceptive steroid hormones, in fact of any blocking of the total mutual self-giving which is the essence of the marriage act—has consequences. Until the publication of “The Association of Hormonal Contraception with Depression” in JAMA Psychiatry in September 2016[1], too many family planning providers either denied the link to depression or prescribed anti-depressive medications rather than stopping the cause of the depression.

Contraceptives as the status quo

Removing fertility from the healthy body is a lifestyle choice and, when done with contraceptive steroids or surgery, is far from risk-free. The regulations which our Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) have issued only consider the end—reproduction-free sexual relations—as significant. Despite today’s contraceptive inundation, 54% of unplanned conceptions[2] begin in a cycle in which the woman used contraception, usually hormonal. She may not have used the drug correctly or consistently, or it may have failed.

Public health providers tend to think in terms of reaching the lowest common denominator. In the last five years LARCs—Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives—have been heavily promoted by public and private health care providers, especially to single teen mothers right after giving birth, and to single women “at risk” for pregnancy, especially teens. LARCs are either etonorgestrel or similar subdermal implants, levonorgestrel or copper IUDs, which are expected to remain in place for at least three years, or depoprovera injections which must be repeated every three months. While women report physical side effects such as patternless vaginal bleeding with both IUDs and implants, removal requires medical intervention and women are often persuaded that the symptoms will subside, and asked to try the devices a little longer. Between 80-85% of women still use the devices one year after insertion. Reports of side effects are limited to physical symptoms.

Apparently, no one has asked these predominantly low-income young women how they feel about being sexually available at all times, nor has anyone published figures for the occurrence or incidence of sexually transmitted infections among LARC users. However, a recent U.S. Public Health Service study of 15–19-year-old low-income girls found that half were sexually active.[3] According to the study, the overall incidence of the most common infections—chlamydia, human papilloma virus, herpes, and gonorrhea—was 26% for the total group. As only half the group was sexually active, it is reasonable to conclude that their disease burden was 50%. Their number of partners was not reported, so one can only speculate about the girls’ relationships or self-esteem. By 2015, the Center for Disease Control reports skyrocketing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly high among 15–19-year-old women.

A healthier approach to sex education and family planning

There is a better approach to helping youths manage their emerging sexuality and fertility. We began Teen STAR in 1980. STAR stands for Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility. With parental permission, Teen STAR students explore and discuss the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of sexuality and fertility. Girls learn to observe their fertility cycle, boys learn to understand their changing body and how to master its reactions. In religious settings the Theology of the Body is taught explicitly, but even in secular settings the sexual relationship is taught as part of procreation. Behavioral outcomes of program participants from the Americas, France, Uganda, and Ethiopia show excellent support for both primary and secondary abstinence.[4]

Indeed, natural means of recognition of times of fertility and infertility are available, reliable, and offer well-documented options that are free, both of side-effects and cost. Yet only a small number of couples follow any of these natural methods of family planning as they are seldom taught integrally to medical students. If the woman has the temerity to ask about natural methods, her physician either:

  1. does not know much about them;
  2. says they don’t work; (Most patient information inserts in contraceptive pill packages still cite a 25% failure rate for typical use of natural methods. This figure is the sum for modern NFP methods [described below], calendar rhythm, and “home methods.” The 2016 FDA-approved package inserts of contraceptive medications still cite the 25% failure rate. [See any contraceptives described in PDR Physicians Desk Reference 2016]. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists only began to cite more contemporary figures in their April 2015 ‘FAQ’.)
  3. belongs to a small select group who do know and advocate for fertility awareness based methods.

In 2013 the NIH offered $3,000,000 for proposals to produce non-hormonal contraceptives. (No active projects are on record—either no one applied, or none were funded.) But they need have looked no further, and saved taxpayer funds in the process.

Managing a couple’s fertility to regulate their family size can be achieved by understanding and heeding the physical sign(s) of a woman’s cyclic fertility. A man’s fertility begins at puberty and remains constant until age or disease reduce or remove it. A woman’s fertility begins at puberty and ends at menopause. As the egg cell matures in its follicle in each cycle, its rising estrogen causes the production of a changing mucus in her cervix which she can feel and see at the opening of her vagina. The discharge usually begins as a fairly dense material but becomes more fluid and slippery over the course of several days. The last day the mucus is slippery, clear and stringy is usually the day of ovulation. Couples who wish to conceive will ensure marital intercourse on the days of lubricative mucus; couples who wish to postpone conception will follow rules to avoid intercourse on the days of fertility, as it is known that sperm will survive for 3–5 days in the mucus which precedes ovulation.

Currently the Billings Ovulation Method, the Creighton Model, and Georgetown’s TwoDay Method rely on the mucus biomarker alone, while CCL (the Couple to Couple League) and Northwest Family Services add the postovulatory rise of the woman’s basal body temperature as well as a calendar calculation to determine the beginning and end of the couple’s fertile phase. The Marquette Model adds urinary testing for estrogen and luteinizing hormone (LH, the hormone which triggers ovulation) rise, as well as mucus and sometimes temperature observation, while LAM (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) and Georgetown’s SDM (Standard Days Method) rely on calendar calculations alone. All these methods have been professionally researched and need to be learned correctly from providers (or internet) and followed consistently to enable couples to manage their fertility reliably.

Fertility is not a disease.

The advent of non-coital methods of contraception gave rise to a highly lucrative industry which alters women’s bodies to remove their healthy fertility. Contraceptives are promoted aggressively and are now enshrined as a human “right” for which our government pays directly or by coercing third party payers.

The Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Mandate has limited the options for birth spacing to commodities approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Evidently the administration assumes that women want to include or exclude their fertility from any heterosexual encounter at will, and that they can do so without suffering any personal, physical, emotional, or spiritual sequelae.

By treating fertility as a disease, medicine today is close to coming full circle when it comes to ethics. Before Hippocrates, physicians might be either healers or killers. Hippocrates and his school taught that the function of the physician was to cure disease when possible, and relieve pain when cure was not possible. The physician-patient relationship was a fiduciary one, which obliged the practitioner to professional conduct irrespective of payment and to confidentiality. Altering or removing healthy organs was, and is, mutilation. Sadly, once this line was crossed with IVF (in vitro fertilization), manipulation and outright killing of embryos and fetuses became commonplace in Western medicine.

There is no need to remove fertility from the body of a woman or a man to allow them to have sexually fulfilling lives. What is needed is for men to understand the signs of the woman’s cyclic fertility and to behave in accordance with their family-building intentions.[5]

Featured Photo: Annabelle Shemer; CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.

[1] Bradley, Sarah E.K., T.N. Croft and S.O. Rutstein. The impact of contraceptive failure on unintended births and induced abortions: Estimates and strategies for reduction. 2013. Demography and health division, ICF Macro, Calverton MD.

[2] Skovlund, C.W., Morch L.S, Kessing, L.V. Association of Hormonal Contraception with Depression. 2016 JAMA Psychiatry publ. online Sep. 28,2016. (doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387)

[3] Forhan et. al. Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Bacterial Vaginosis among Female Adolescents in the United States: Data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2004. MMWR Weekly. August 24, 2007/56(33); 852.

[4] See Cabezón CVigil PRojas ILeiva MERiquelme RAranda WGarcía C. Adolescent pregnancy prevention: An abstinence-centered randomized controlled intervention in a Chilean public high school. J Adolesc Health. 2005 Jan; 36(1): 64–9; and
Jorge Alvarado and Hanna Klaus. The PEPFAR Program in Ethiopia and Uganda: Two and three year post program behavioral outcomes. Presented at NFP preconference, Catholic Medical Association, October 12, 2016.

[5] Information about natural family planning providers is widely available online. The USCCB natural family planning office within the office of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth offers a diocese-wide directory.

Hanna Klaus, MD

Hanna Klaus, MD, is a Medical Mission Sister and OB/GYN who directs the Natural Family Planning Center of Washington, D.C., and is co-founder of the TeenSTAR program. She has served in Pakistan and Bangladesh and on the faculties of Washington and St. Louis Universities in St. Louis, MO, and at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington D.C.

 

The Plan B controversy

By Doug Bean – JULY 26, 2017

http://www.clmagazine.org/article/the-plan-b-controversy-/

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article addresses a specific question regarding whether Catholic hospitals should administer Plan B in rape cases based on the scientific evidence regarding how the drug works. The discussion does not in any way imply that contraceptives are or can be morally licit. The Catholic Church teaches that “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil (CCC 2370 quoting Humanae Vitae 14).

Plan B is the most popular brand of the drug levonorgestrel, which has been dubbed an “emergency contraceptive” that is popularly known as “the morning-after pill.”

Some Catholics, even actively pro-life Catholics, might be surprised to know that Plan B has for many years been considered acceptable by numerous bishops for use in rape cases. But there is growing evidence that Plan B may work in many instances as an abortifacient.

Dr. Chris Kahlenborn, a Pennsylvania-based physician, researcher, and member of the Catholic Medical Association, has made it his mission to spread the word about the moral and ethical ramifications of Plan B. However, he and his collaborators, who include Dr. Rebecca Peck and Dr. Walter Severs, are increasingly frustrated with the lack of response to their findings. After 20 years of investigating the topic, he is flabbergasted that the science is clear and yet so few bishops in the Unites States have acknowledged the problem. The same goes for most Catholic hospitals and influential organizations such as the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

A sketchy presumption

Hospitals, doctors, and crisis centers most commonly give Plan B to women after they have been raped. It’s believed that the drug, if taken before ovulation, acts to prevent ovulation, and therefore, pregnancy. That was the accepted science in 1995 when Bishop John J. Myers, then the head of the Catholic diocese in Peoria, Illinois, approved its use and established directives that became known as the Peoria Protocol. Many other bishops and Catholic hospitals now refer to these guidelines to justify using Plan B.

“That was the presumption at the time,” Dr. Kahlenborn said of Plan B’s contraceptive nature. “However, I must say, even then, the evidence in favor of that presumption was sketchy at best. I contacted Bishop Myers—the local ordinary of Newark, New Jersey, at the time— about 15 years ago to plead with him to retract the protocol but received a return letter calling me an alarmist.”

Essentially, Plan B is a high dose of progestin birth control pill taken in two separate doses that may cause the destruction of human life within five days of fertilization when given prior to ovulation. According to a study published in the Linacre Quarterly and available at www.Polycarp.org, Plan B prevents pregnancy as a contraceptive only in a minority of cases. Rather than being called an “emergency contraceptive,” a more accurate term for the drug is “emergency abortifacient.”

Father Christopher Kubat, the executive director for Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska in the diocese of Lincoln, was involved in Linacre Quarterly publication on Plan B. He confirmed that Plan B is not acceptable to use post-sexual assault.

“In short, Plan B can never be used even after ‘ovulation testing,’ because despite determining that a woman is in the pre-ovulatory period of her cycle, most of them ovulate despite giving Plan B,” Father Kubat said. “The levonorgestrel given in this instance then acts as an abortifacient.”

The dignity of persons (Dignitatis Personae)

Meanwhile, RU-486, which increasingly has come into use in the US and other countries during recent years as a chemical alternative to surgical abortion, is strictly an abortifacient.

While RU-486 is supposed to be banned by Catholic health providers, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has not issued a similar condemnation of Plan B. It’s unclear how many Catholic hospitals allow its use, but Dr. Kahlenborn estimates about 75 percent make the emergency contraceptive available.

“This is probably a low figure,” he said. “Studies have shown that about 50 percent of Catholic hospitals dispensed EC about 20 years ago, so the figure is probably higher today. Most bishops have little idea whether their local hospitals dispense EC. Only a handful of bishops have advocated against it.”

Bishops in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin allow hospitals in their dioceses to administer the morning-after pill to rape victims. Some hospitals around the country perform an ovulation test in addition to a simple pregnancy test before handing out the drug. Several states have laws requiring hospitals to offer the drug to rape victims.

The Vatican has indicated in the past that the Church should leave the decision to the scientists and researchers. But 10 years ago, when the Holy See issued the document Dignitatis Personae, it said the morning-after pill fell within the sin of abortion and was gravely immoral. A former head of the Pontifical Academy for Life once said there is no exception for Plan B to keep it from being gravely immoral. Another head of the Academy emphasized that the morning-after drug is acceptable as long as it’s classified as a contraceptive in the case of rape and does not terminate a pregnancy.

Under the US bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” Catholic facilities are permitted to dispense emergency contraception to a rape victim but only to prevent ovulation or fertilization. Number 36 of “Ethical and Religious Directives” says it is not permissible to initiate or recommend procedures that destroy an already “fertilized ovum” (human being) or prevent implantation in the womb. In Catholic teaching, that is no longer contraception but abortion.

An abortion mechanism of action

The challenge for Dr. Kahlenborn and his collaborators is to convince the Church that, after administering Plan B, the human being could be destroyed. He is considering making a series of videos to explain the science and the need to examine more closely the ethical ramifications associated with “emergency contraception.” The scientific proof is there, through ultrasounds, to show Plan B fails to halt ovulation in the majority of instances when it is given within a few days prior to ovulation. “These two facts alone point strongly to an abortion mechanism of action, since if you have sperm (which Plan B does not impede) and an egg, you should be getting visibly pregnant, but you are not,” Dr. Kahlenborn said. From a moral perspective, researchers have determined that the drug cannot definitively prevent a pregnancy, and in fact, may terminate it by destroying a human being, which is illicit.

“The main argument that Plan B stops ovulation is not even an argument at this point,” Dr. Kahlenborn continued. “There’s no basis in research for that claim anymore.”

Since there is now legitimate evidence that the drug can cause a chemical abortion, the researchers are pleading that the bishops take the time to reevaluate the evidence and their position.

“The bishops refer to the theologians” for moral guidance, Dr. Kahlenborn explained. “But it really is a scientific question at this point.”

The Catholic Medical Association (CMA), the nation’s largest organization of Catholic healthcare professionals, has issued a position statement that Plan B distribution is unethical and that the Peoria Protocol is flawed because of the potential for abortion.

“Simply put, it’s pure hypocrisy to continue to allow Plan B to be dispensed,” Dr. Kahlenborn said. The CMA noted in their position statement that the Peoria Protocol cannot be safely followed because (Plan B) cannot be given prior to ovulation without having a possible post-fertilization effect on a new human life.

“The reasons for supporting the use of Plan B in the Peoria Protocol are now really excuses that result in the death of our embryonic brothers and sisters. The Catholic Medical Association has studied the science for years and would never have published their position paper unless the scientific evidence was compelling.”

In 2013, the USCCB condemned the government’s decision to allow Plan B to be sold over the counter, making it readily available to young teens. But there has not been any movement, at least publicly, by the bishops toward reassessing their stance. Celebrate Life Magazine contacted the USCCB to inquire whether the bishops plan to evaluate the latest evidence but did not receive a statement before publication.

Protocol and episcopal policies on Plan B need to change

Two years ago, a letter was sent to every US bishop with the latest research findings on Plan B, Dr. Kahlenborn said, “. . . and I didn’t hear from anybody. I was frustrated. What’s wrong? What’s the problem? Are they just all afraid?”

Planned Parenthood and other women’s abortion centers dispense Plan B at no cost and encourage women to “have some on hand in case you need it.” The Catholic Health Association, which has taken positions contrary to Church teaching on issues such as the Health and Human Services mandate on contraception coverage in Obamacare health insurance plans has stated that it does not consider Plan B an abortifacient but emergency contraception.

“Plan B should be challenged, especially given the pro-life stance of the current administration, since abortion pills should not be sold over the counter to anyone, especially teenagers,” Dr. Kahlenborn said.

Dr. Kahlenborn remains convinced that the influential National Catholic Bioethics Center based in Philadelphia has the influence to be the agent-of-change on the issue.

“The USCCB has made no movement to change their position on the Peoria Protocol, despite overwhelming medical evidence over the past few years,” Dr. Kahlenborn said. “It is my strong impression that the USCCB takes its cues from the National Catholic Bioethics Center. Unfortunately, the NCBC still endorses the antiquated and totally disproven hypothesis that Plan B stops ovulation. This hypothesis has been debunked even by pro-EC researchers. I addressed the NCBC directly last year and showed them the evidence and they still remain unconvinced. Very disheartening.” He concluded, “I am literally stunned that the NCBC, who are mainly composed of ethicists and theologians, are trying to argue the merits of the science, when the Catholic Medical Association has already stated that the scientific evidence is more than sufficient to now conclude that the Peoria Protocol is fatally flawed.”

Dr. Kahlenborn visited their headquarters to lay out the research, but its ethicists there have been unwilling to budge on their position.

“The National Catholic Bioethics Center remains concerned about the possibility of an abortifacient effect when using Plan B, but believes that with appropriate testing, the risk of such an event is sufficiently diminished to allow for the use of this drug in limited circumstances,” said Ted Furton, an ethicist and director of publications for The National Catholic Bioethics Center, (NCBC) in a statement to Celebrate Life Magazine.

The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly has published numerous articles pro and con on Plan B and its use. These studies are often highly technical. Plan B clearly poses dangers if a woman has conceived. The embryo may not successfully implant in the uterus. Therefore, careful testing is necessary to ensure that there is little-to-no likelihood that a woman has recently conceived before using this drug.

“The National Catholic Bioethics Center regularly meets to discuss pressing moral issues in healthcare, including the so-called Peoria Protocol. The Center continues to review published material on this topic as it becomes available. As of yet, there has been no change in our views on this matter.” Dr. John Haas, president of the NCBC, added, “We’re constantly studying this. We just don’t think the evidence is there.”

Dr. Kahlenborn was stunned by the response from this influential organization. While ethicists argue that there is no moral certainty, he said the medical evidence in most recent years gives one more than enough cause to pause the current Peoria Protocol: a similar conclusion was reached by the Catholic Medical Association’s in 2015, as noted on their position statement on emergency contraception. Dr. Kahlenborn noted: “It’s simply incomprehensible that the NCBC remains in denial regarding the most recent evidence when one considers that all of the top world researchers on Plan B, such as Dr. Horacio Croxatto and Dr. James Trussell—both of whom support Planned Parenthood—openly publish that Plan B does not effectively stop ovulation!”

“The studies the NCBC claim to support” that fertilization is impossible “do not support it at all and now new animal research and a human in-vitro trail have both shown that fertilization occurs with absent (Luteinizing Hormone) levels, disproving their hypothesis.”

Until the protocol changes and more bishops revamp their policy on Plan B, more babies face the possibility of death by abortifacient.

Neurologist Says Videos of Teenager Declared “Brain Dead” Show She is Still Alive

Micaiah Bilger   Jul 25, 2017   |   2:26PM    Oakland, CA

As the tragic case of British infant Charlie Gard nears a close, another family in the United States continues their fight for their severely ill daughter’s life.

Right now, McMath’s family is waiting for a court ruling on whether California, her home state, will revoke her death certificate, the AP reports. McMath was 13 when doctors declared her brain dead at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California in late 2013, and state officials issued her a death certificate.

Here’s more from the report:

In court documents filed last month supporting the family’s lawsuit to have the death certificate revoked, retired neurologist Dr. Alan Shewmon said videos recorded by Jahi McMath’s family from 2014 to 2016 show the teen is still alive.

Shewmon is a longtime critic of how brain death is defined and has filed similar court papers supporting efforts by McMath’s family to undo the death certificate. The family has previously shown video clips of McMath twitching her fingers, which they said showed she still has brain function.

Shewmon is a world-renowned expert on the brain and a professor emeritus at UCLA.

On Oct. 3, 2014, Shewmon testified about Jahi:

Based on the materials provided to me so far, I can assert unequivocally that Jahi currently does not fulfill the diagnostic criteria for brain death. The materials include extensive medical records from St. Peter’s University Hospital, which I am still in the process of reviewing, videos of Jahi moving her hand and her foot in response to verbal requests by her mother, images from an EEG done in her apartment on 9/1/14, images of a brain MRI scan done at Rutgers on 9/26/20-14, and heart rate variability analysis by my colleague Dr. Calizto Machado based on the EKG channel from 9/1/14 EEG. 

Last year, her family said her body has not deteriorated as is typical with brain dead patients on life support, and she is able to breathe on her own. A video showed her taking 14 to 15 breaths on her own in one minute at the prompting of her mother.

Her mother, Latasha Spears Winkfield, said they understand that Jahi’s brain is damaged, but they believe she still deserves a right to life.

Lawyers for the hospital say the videos do not necessarily prove that Jahi is not brain dead. They said Jahi’s movements could be “easily manipulated,” and the camera was located in a “convenient angle.”

A judge is expected to rule on Jahi’s life within the next two months, according to the report.

Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, who has been following her case, wrote last year:

If Jahi is alive, either the earlier death determination was mistaken or–and this would be huge–something never seen before in this field will have happened, a brain dead person recovering sufficient brain function to be deemed again alive. If Jahi lives, it will send shock waves through the medical, scientific, and organ transplant communities. ….But that’s tough. Our duty to Jahi, the integrity of the system, and the needs of scientific understanding require that the truth will out.

Humanae Vitae was prophetic…and right!

Pro-Lifers: Get Out of Medicine!

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/05/pro-lifers-get-out-of-medicine

by Wesley J. Smith
5 . 12 . 17

Doctors in the United States cannot be forced to perform abortions or assist suicides. But that may soon change. Bioethicists and other medical elites have launched a frontal assault against doctors seeking to practice their professions under the values established by the Hippocratic Oath. The campaign’s goal? To force doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others in the health field who hold pro-life or orthodox religious views to choose between their careers and their convictions.

Ethics opinions, legislation, and court filings seeking to deny “medical conscience” have proliferated as journals, legislative bodies, and the courts have taken up the cause. In the last year, these efforts have moved from the relative hinterlands of professional discussions into the center of establishment medical discourse. Most recently, preeminent bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel—one of Obamacare’s principal architects—coauthored with Ronit Y. Stahl an attack on medical conscience in the New England Journal of Medicine, perhaps the world’s most prestigious medical journal. When advocacy of this kind is published by the NEJM, it is time to sound the air raid sirens.

The authors take an absolutist position, claiming that personal morality has no place in medical practice. Under the pretext of “patients’ rights” and a supposed obligation of doctors to adhere to the medical moral consensus—a tyranny of the majority, if you will—Emanuel and Stahl would prohibit doctors from conscientiously objecting to performing requested procedures on moral grounds. From “Physicians, Not Conscripts—Conscientious Objection in Health Care” (my emphasis):

Making the patient paramount means offering and providing accepted medical interventions in accordance with patients’ reasoned decisions. Thus, a health care professional cannot deny patients access to medications for mental health conditions, sexual dysfunction, or contraception on the basis of their conscience, since these drugs are professionally accepted as appropriate medical interventions.

This includes human life–taking actions such as abortion:

[A]bortion is politically and culturally contested, it is not medically controversial. It is a standard obstetrical practice. Health care professionals who conscientiously object to professionally contested interventions may avoid participating in them directly. … Conscientious objection still requires conveying accurate information and providing timely referrals to ensure patients receive care.

This would mean that a Catholic doctor who opposes contraception would have to prescribe it or find a doctor willing to fill out the prescription—even if she informs her patients before being retained that she practices medicine in accord with her church’s moral teachings. It would also require a pro-life OB/GYN who refuses to terminate a pregnancy to find an abortionist, thus becoming complicit in the act. The authors would still allow doctors to decline to assist suicides—for now—but only because that practice is not yet accepted generally within the medical community. If euthanasia ever does becomes generally accepted—as it is now in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada—under the Emanuel/Stahl rule, dissenting physicians would be required to participate in homicide.

Emanuel and Stahl would drive noncooperating doctors out of medicine (my emphasis):

Health care professionals who are unwilling to accept these limits have two choices: select an area of medicine, such as radiology, that will not put them in situations that conflict with their personal morality or, if there is no such area, leave the profession.

Shattering medical conscience rights would also dissuade those who hold officially unwanted values—orthodox Catholics and other Christians, Jews, Muslims, and pro-lifers—from entering medical school in the first place. There is a method to this madness: The goal is to cleanse healthcare of all those who would dare to practice medicine in accord with sanctity-of-life moral viewpoints.

The attacks on conscience have already moved beyond mere intellectual advocacy. The government of Ontario, Canada is on the verge of requiring doctors either to euthanize or to refer all legally qualified patients. In Victoria, Australia, all physicians must either perform an abortion when asked or find an abortionist for the patient. One doctor has been disciplined under the law for refusing to refer for a sex-selective abortion. In Washington, a small pharmacy chain owned by a Christian family failed in its attempt to be excused from a regulation requiring all legal prescriptions to be dispensed, with a specific provision precluding conscience exemptions. The chain now faces a requirement to fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill, against the owners’ religious beliefs. In Vermont, a regulation obligates all doctors to discuss assisted suicide with their terminally ill patients as an end-of-life option, even if they are morally opposed. Litigation to stay this forced speech has, so far, been unavailing.

The ACLU recently commenced a campaign of litigation against Catholic hospitals that adhere to the Church’s moral teaching. For example, it sued a Catholic hospital that refused to sterilize a woman in conjunction with her caesarian section. That lawsuit failed. Undaunted, the supposed guardians of civil liberties—except the free exercise of religion, it seems—recently brought a case against a Catholic hospital for refusing to permit doctors to perform an elective hysterectomy as part of a sex-reassignment surgery.

There is a reason that moral diversity is under attack in health care. When doctors refuse to abort a fetus, participate in assisted suicide, excise healthy organs, or otherwise follow their consciences about morally contentious matters, they send a powerful message: Just because a medical act is legal doesn’t make it right. Such a clarion witness is intolerable to those who want to weaponize medicine to impose secular individualistic and utilitarian values on all of society.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human ExceptionalismHe is also a consultant to the Patients Rights Council.

Could ‘flushing’ fallopian tubes displace IVF?

Michael Cook

If a couple is having trouble conceiving after a year, or even as little as six months, they often head off to an IVF clinic.

However, as advocates of natural family planning have been saying for decades, the costly, emotionally draining and ethically contentious process of IVF many not be necessary.

And now the fertility industry could have another strong competitor. A cheap, simple, time-tested fertility remedy has been proved to be even more effective than IVF.

For a hundred years, doctors have checked whether a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked by flushing them with iodised poppy seed oil. Although the test is purely diagnostic, many women claimed that it helped them to become pregnant.

And now a team of Dutch and Australian researchers has shown that it really does help.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the benefits of flushing the fallopian tubes with either an oil-based or water-based solution in 1119 women.

The procedure, known as hysterosalpingography (HSG), is a dye test of the fallopian tubes conducted under X-ray. The procedure was first carried out in 1917, and since the 1950s both water-based and oil-based solutions have been used.

“Over the past century, pregnancy rates among infertile women reportedly increased after their tubes had been flushed with either water or oil during this X-ray procedure. Until now, it has been unclear whether the type of solution used in the procedure was influencing the change in fertility,” says Professor Ben Mol, a Dutch doctor at the University of Adelaide, in South Australia. He himself was conceived after his mother underwent such a procedure.

“Our results have been even more exciting than we could have predicted, helping to confirm that an age-old medical technique still has an important place in modern medicine,” he says. Almost 40 percent of infertile women in the oil group and 29 percent of infertile women in the water group achieved successful pregnancies within six months of the technique being performed.

“This is an important outcome for women who would have had no other course of action other than to seek IVF treatment. It offers new hope to infertile couples,” Professor Mol says. Writing in The Conversation, he noted that the technique has some big advantages over IVF:

Tubal flushing has several advantages over IVF, including that the benefit persists over time, while IVF only helps for the current cycle. Tubal flushing also helps achieve an otherwise natural conception, and its costs are around A$600, a fraction of the cost of a A$10,000 IVF cycle. IVF also has a heavy impact on emotional wellbeing and sometimes causes medical complications.

In our study, 40 percent of women undergoing HSG with an oil-based contrast achieved a successful pregnancy within six months. That’s 40 percent of couples with unexplained infertility who could avoid the huge financial and emotional costs associated with undergoing IVF treatment.

Until he embarked on this study, Professor Mol had no idea that he himself was the result of a successful pregnancy following such a procedure. In the 1960s, after being considered infertile for nine years, his mother underwent an HSG which, coincidentally, also used the poppy-seed oil. “It was only after I started researching this technique that my family told me what had happened,” Professor Mol says.

“My mother went from being infertile for many years to becoming pregnant, and I was born in 1965. I also have a younger brother. So it’s entirely possible – in fact, based on our team’s research, it’s highly likely – that my brother and I are both the result of this technique helping my mother to achieve fertility.”

A leading Australian IVF practitioner, Dr David Molloy, dismissed the news, saying that IVF patients have more complex fertility issues. “They are totally different populations of patients,” he told the ABC. “One is a low-risk group starting out at the very start of their infertility journey that have got virtually nothing wrong with them, and our IVF patients are a higher risk group.”

Scepticism about procedures which threaten the status (and profitability) of IVF is to be expected. But a big dollop of scepticism about IVF is needed, too.

IVF was adopted after the birth of Louise Brown in 1978 without the randomized control trials that doctors expect of nearly every other treatment. And ever since, according to research published earlier this year in a leading academic journal, Human Reproduction, “IVF patients are routinely offered and charged for a selection of adjunct treatments and tests or ‘add-ons’ that they are told may improve their chance of a live birth, despite there being no clinical evidence supporting the efficacy of the add-on.”

Fertility experts often exploit women’s longing for children by offering “new, improved” IVF techniques with little or no proof. One hundred years of proof backed up by formal research published in the world’s leading medical journal is worth investigating.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

– See more at: https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/will-flushing-fallopian-tubes-displace-ivf/19838#sthash.30Jgwhhm.dpuf

Dr. Paul Byrne: From preemies to end-of-life issues, one man has made a difference

By Rob Sample – MAY 25, 2017

 

The dedication and legacy of a prodigious pro-life hero

When five-year-old Lilliana Dennis was born in February 2011 in Indianapolis, doctors informed her mom and dad that she suffered from a rare genetic condition that was “incompatible with life.” As Lilliana approaches her sixth birthday, she continues to defy the odds and prove conventional medical wisdom both wrong and wrongheaded.

Lilliana has Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome. As with Down syndrome, such babies are born with an extra chromosome, resulting in heart defects, respiratory problems, and finger and toe abnormalities. Most die before their first birthday, the doctors said, and there was little the Dennises could do to stop that eventual outcome.

Fortunately, the Dennises did some of their own research, which contradicted what they had been told. In fact, one child graduated from college and lived to the age of 42. The Dennises also befriended Dr. Paul Byrne, a retired neonatologist, longtime pro-life activist, and founder of the Life Guardian Foundation (LifeGuardianFoundation.org). He recommended heart surgery for Lilliana, along with other life-saving measures, and although the road has been difficult, Lilliana’s prognosis continues to improve.

Dr. Byrne is no stranger to death-and-dying issues and the challenges posed by both preemies and babies with congenital illnesses. In 1963, he established the neonatal intensive care unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Though he no longer makes hospital rounds, he stays very, very busy working on behalf of the preborn, sick newborns, the disabled, the elderly, and people with illnesses deemed “terminal.”

“Not only do we have a culture of death in our society—it is a System of Death,” Dr. Byrne says. “We have to work hard to protect life from its beginning until true death. That’s why Life Guardian Foundation was founded.”

“I retired a few years ago after practicing medicine for 55 years,” Dr. Byrne adds. “Yet, instead of a retirement party, I asked my family to have a ‘redirection party.’ My work has not stopped—in fact, I’m busier than ever! People have a way of finding out that I can help them in the cause for life and in their own difficult situations.”

Small beginnings

To get a sense of how Dr. Byrne’s passion for saving lives all began, it’s helpful to go back to the very beginning, when he was a young doctor practicing at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in the mid- 1960s. There, Dr. Byrne established the hospital’s very first special care nursery for at-risk infants.

“Back then, there were no treatments for preemies and low-birthweight babies, the kinds of things we take for granted today,” he recalls. “I went to the administrator at Cardinal Glennon with the idea of creating a center where we could find ways to treat these babies. She said, ‘OK, let’s try it for a year.’”

After that first year, Dr. Byrne’s efforts had saved the lives of 30 babies. “How?” you might ask. For starters, he partnered with engineers working nearby on the space pro-gram. They had developed a plastic cuff to fit around the fingers of astronauts, enabling their blood pressure to be monitored during space missions. Together, they developed a spinoff that fit around the arm of a tiny baby: Before this invention, there was no way to monitor a baby’s blood pressure.

Dr. Byrne and his team also pioneered new techniques for feeding these babies intravenously as well as specially designed ventilators to augment their respiratory function. All were instrumental in helping such infants survive. Since preemies are so small, new, highly sensitive measurement protocols were also necessary to track their health.

“For instance, premature infants have very small total quantities of blood,” Dr. Byrne notes. “That required development of micro techniques to analyze blood for indicators of health or disease. These micro-techniques that were developed for sick babies are used for everyone. It was exciting for me to be able to participate in the development of what was then a brand-new field.”

Signs of life

It was also heartening for him to witness babies who had been deemed hopeless develop into healthy children and adults. The birth of Joseph in 1975—at a mere 24 weeks’ gestation— was one such miracle. “He had a flat electroencephalogram or EEG—in other words, no brainwaves,” Dr. Byrne recalls.

The EEG is a common method of measuring brain activity at any age. The flat EEG of Joseph was interpreted as “consistent with cerebral death.” “Nonetheless, Joseph went on to be a straight-A student in school, build a brilliant career, and he’s now married and the father of three kids.”

While considered breakthroughs in their day, many of these developments are now commonplace in both neonatal intensive care units and medical care as a whole. Plastic cuffs are routinely used to measure blood pressure of patients.

“My medical philosophy is that the best doctors are the ones who work the hardest on the people who are the sickest,” he says. “What you try to accomplish for those sickest people first will ultimately have a beneficial impact on the rest of humanity.”

Darker trends

During the early 1970s, Dr. Byrne witnessed a trend he found troubling: the increased acceptance of brainwave cessation as a legally acceptable marker of death. This occurred even before abortion became legally available in most states, and it owed in part to new ways to artificially resuscitate patients to keep a person’s heart beating with circulation and respiration. It also followed the world’s first heart transplant in 1967, after which organ transplants became common practice in a short amount of time.

“The push to accept ‘brain death’ has a lot do with the concurrent push for viable organs for transplants,” says Dr. Byrne. He noted that, following that first heart transplant, the medical community began lobbying elected officials for new laws that first codified “brain death” in the US.

This had practical reasons. Dr. Byrne points out that to transplant a heart or a liver, the donor’s heart, circulation and respiratory processes must be kept functioning for healthy vital organs to be removed. Organs from a cadaver are useless, he notes, because organs begin to decompose immediately after those functions cease.

“Now, when someone suffers a head injury or is deeply unconscious, there is a shift of emphasis from helping that patient to harvesting his or her organs for transplantation,” he says. The fact that viable organs are very valuable to the organ transplant industry can add a monetary incentive to the push to declare patients legally dead.

Forty-seven US states have passed the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) that presumes everyone is an organ donor. This is in addition to those who have willingly registered as organ donors on their drivers’ licenses. This often creates a conflict, when the same individuals have also filed advance DNR (do not resuscitate) directives. In such situations, that previous DNR order will be overruled and the patient will be resuscitated in order for their vital organs to be usable for transplantation.

It could happen . . . to anyone

This isn’t all just academic. In 2007, 19-year-old Gregory Jacobs sustained a severe head injury while skiing and died at a Pennsylvania hospital less than a week later. In a lawsuit, his parents maintained that their son “experienced neither a cessation of cardiac activity nor a cessation of brain activities when surgeons began the procedures for removing his vital organs.”

The Jacobs case was the subject of a CBS News report, and the elder Jacobses ultimately won a $1.2 million settlement in 2012. More recent is the case of the now-16-year-old Jahi McMath, who had severe sleep apnea and on which Dr. Byrne is a medical advisor.

Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy at a California hospital, which aimed to improve her ability to sleep at night. She later hemorrhaged and went into cardiac arrest. Physicians declared her to be “brain dead” and ordered the removal of life-support systems.

Jahi’s mom, Latasha Winkfield, disagreed and filed a lawsuit seeking to keep her on life support. A death certificate was issued for Jahi in California before she could be moved to a New Jersey hospital. She later was moved to an apartment with her mom, where she continues to live on life support.

Incidentally, Dr. Byrne was instrumental in getting a new law passed in that state, which gives parents or caregivers the ability to object conscientiously to such orders from a physician or hospital. A similar regulation, though not as strong, now exists in neighboring New York.

“Jahi McMath is very much alive . . . but a death certificate was issued in California!” exclaims Dr. Byrne. “She has had three birthdays since being declared legally dead.”

A broadened focus

Dr. Byrne is a steadfast pro-life advocate and supporter of American Life League (ALL). His knowledge and guidance shaped ALL’s policy on euthanasia and brain death; he is the author of our materials on the subject. Most recently, he played an important role in the development of a study guide on euthanasia for ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program. In addition to supporting ALL and other organizations, Dr. Byrne saw a need for another organization focusing attention on end-of-life issues. That led to the founding of the Life Guardian Foundation in 2007.

The organization’s website offers a rich repository of resources that helps people understand the controversies that now surround the end of life. Besides the moral and ethical implications, there’s a lot of practical value as well. Many of us now must deal with the treatment of elderly parents, and the use of feeding tubes is often taken to mean that their lives are at the end. Not necessarily so, says Dr. Byrne.

“People on a feeding tube don’t always have to remain on a feeding tube,” Dr. Byrne says. Noting that it’s not always easy, there are ways to treat such patients that can improve their outlook and lead to a time where a feeding tube can be removed. Similarly, severe head injury often leads to a grim prognosis— yet treating the patient with thyroid medications can greatly improve patient prognosis.

Poke around a bit more on the website and you’ll uncover other fascinating information. There are more than 30 disparate sets of criteria. You can be declared “brain dead” by one but be alive by others. The Uniform Declaration of Death Act (UDDA) now on the books in all 50 states mandates that the determination be “in accordance with acceptable medical standards.” The patient who is declared “brain dead,” whichever criteria are used, always has a beating heart with circulation and respiration, albeit on a ventilator.

The procedure of an apnea test (not a test for sleep apnea) is part of every set of “brain death” criteria. The patient is taken off the ventilator for 10 minutes. Carbon dioxide and acids accumulate. This makes the brain swelling worse. Everyone must learn to instruct No! to the apnea test. It can only cause the patient to get worse.

“If you end up unconscious and on a ventilator, the doctors at the hospital treating you will declare that your death is imminent, and by law, they have to notify the Organ Procurement Organization (OPO),” says Dr. Byrne. If you don’t want that to happen, Dr. Byrne strongly urges you to explicitly document your refusal in writing.

The foundation website offers three key directives that can help you accomplish that objective: a healthcare power of attorney directive, a directive to protect and preserve life for a dependent minor or mentally incapacitated person, and an organ donation opt-out form that can be carried in your wallet or purse.

“Very often I work with parents of students who go away to college, get into a car accident, and end up at the mercies of a medical system that wants their organs for a transplant patient,” he notes. Since few people have taken the time to study the issue, and since parents are often bewildered and grief-stricken at such times, it can become a complex battle to receive any form of life-extending care for such patients.

A modest hero

Upon being reached by phone for an hour-long interview, Dr. Byrne was quick to shift the emphasis away from himself and to his large family. He’s the father of 12 children. He also has 33 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He’s proud that he has reared a pro-life family.

He’s especially proud of the pro-life poems that his son, Mark, wrote from his heart in the eighth grade—and as Providence would have it—his granddaughter Kaitlyn, Mark’s daughter, recently wrote from her heart in the eighth grade as well. Celebrate Life has happily agreed to publish each poem in its entirety!

More critically, he pointed out the clarity by which young people often view the world around them, and the crystal-clear viewpoints they often form on issues that bedevil their elders, provides a lesson for the rest of us. Both pieces speak right to the heart, he says.

“If you read Mark’s and Kaitlyn’s poems, you can see how they recognize just what is at stake: that we must value life,” Dr. Byrne says. “Most importantly, they show us what we need to do to think correctly about life.”

Poems

Temptation ruled like an evil dictator,

destroying the hope of everyone around,

clouding the decisions people make every day,

where is our dignity?

Adultery shatters a marriage like a plate dropping,

broken vows scattered all over the ground,

lost faith with the cheating partner,

where is our trust?

Abortion killing like a gun,

helpless baby taken away from its needs,

one murder for one act of lust,

where is our compassion?

Lost in the web of your secrets,

dragged under by all the lies,

suffocated with dishonesty,

where is our humanity?

Humiliated by how wrong I was about you,

drowned by my own tears,

trembling in doubt,

where did I go wrong?

Honesty swept away like crumbs on the floor,

pushed aside for others’ happiness,

walked on by those who can’t help me,

where will I get put next?

Loyalty buried like an old treasure,

possibly will never see the light again,

overlooked by mislead eyes,

where is my search party?

Misguided by all your sweet talk,

lost in the sound of your lies,

let down by the hope in your eyes,

will we ever be the same?

Avoided like a bad mistake,

praying for help every day,

helped by the Lord every day,

does free will make or break us?

Chastity helps us every day,

protecting us from evil’s way,

respecting our bodies each day,

teaching those who might not know,

guarding us from harm’s way,

limiting the sins on our way,

saving lives day by day.

Chastity is the way,

that helps me every day.

—Kaitlyn Byrne

 

What I think of when I hear the word Life

When I hear the word Life

I think of birds flying gaily through

the sunlit light blue sky.

I think of fish swimming freely through

the refreshingly cool water.

I think of a fully blooming flower with

a touch of dew on its petal.

Waiting for the moment to spring

a new bud, but

when I hear the word Life—

I mostly think of a baby.

A baby who is playing gaily with its toys.

A baby that is laughing happily at

something that amuses it.

And then you hear a cry which tells

you the baby is part of a new world,

a new beginning.

And most of all the baby now has

God’s most precious gift to us,

The gift of Life.

—Mark Byrne

What’s wrong with prisoner euthanasia?

Michael Cook | Jun 6 2017

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are only legal in a handful of countries, but their supporters are already thinking of creative ways to integrate them into the economy and social life. Doctors in Belgium and the Netherlands are using organs from people who time their euthanasia for organ donation programs, for instance.

And recently an American law journal has published a study of euthanasia for prisoners serving life sentences. This is not a new idea. Australian activist Dr Philip Nitschke described it in his book Killing Me Softly as the “last frontier in prison reform”.

The article in the latest issue of the Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law takes a serious look at the hurdles such a scheme would encounter in Europe and in the United States. The authors are an Estonian Fullbright Scholar, Kärt Pormeister, and two officials at Baylor Scott & White Health, the largest not-for-profit health care system in Texas and one of the largest in the US. They conclude that

Where there is no feasible chance of the prisoner regaining freedom during their lifetime, [physician-assisted suicide] as a means of mercy could provide relief to suffering prisoners and closure to victims’ loved ones, while also enabling more efficient allocation of resources.

The springboard for this frank discussion of the merits of allowing lifers to kill themselves is a case in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal. In 2014 a man convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, Frank Van Den Bleeken, applied for euthanasia in accordance with the law. He was not ill, but he claimed that he was in a state of unbearable psychological anguish. He preferred to die with dignity rather than spend the rest of his life behind bars. A Belgian court granted his request, but at the last minute he was transferred to a more modern facility in the Netherlands where he could be better cared for.

Although Van Den Bleeken’s euthanasia never happened, his case was an instructive precedent for the authors. He was not seeking death as an end to unbearable physical pain, but as a “mercy”. Could this be incorporated into European and US legal systems?

It certainly is different from euthanasia for terminally ill patients. They typically ask for death because of a diminished quality of life. However, the whole point of prison is to diminish quality of life. Euthanasia is often described as the ultimate exercise of autonomy, but prison is an environment in which autonomy is severely limited in many ways, physical and psychological. In fact, the authors point out that “penal institutions might be inclined to maintain or even create harsher environments to encourage recourse to PAS” as a cost-saving measure.

So there are tricky legal issues to work through in both Europe and the US. In Europe prisoner euthanasia might be regarded as a revival of the death penalty, which is banned nearly everywhere. In the US, it might violate constitutional protections of people who are in the custody of the state, including self-inflicted harm. The victims and their relatives might think that escaping life imprisonment is unfair.

Although the difficulties in making a legal case for prisoner euthanasia are substantial, there are persuasive arguments for it, according to the authors.

The first are financial. There would be real benefits for society:

First, the choice of PAS as a means of mercy as an alternative to life in prison would eliminate costs of incarceration that accumulate during a prisoner’s lifetime … Second, allowing PAS as a means of mercy could influence society to move towards the abolition of the death penalty …

Thus, PAS as a means of mercy would enable tax revenue to be used in ways more beneficial to society than keeping someone in prison for their entire lifetime or executing them for retributive purposes. Instead, money could be reallocated to further help those prisoners who still stand a feasible chance of rehabilitation to become productive members of society again. Alternatively, such funds could be used to support the families of the perpetrator’s victims.

From another angle, it could be argued – as Frank Van Den Bleeker did – that a life sentence is a kind of torture.

considering the limited resources to offer proper psychiatric or other complex care to inmates, not offering PAS as a means of mercy to people serving life sentences could, in rare cases, constitute torture or cruel or inhuman treatment which is prohibited in both the U.S. and European human rights systems.

It’s not difficult to imagine courts accepting these arguments if euthanasia were already legal.

The conclusion reached by the authors is far from a ringing endorsement of prisoner euthanasia. They concede that there is a risk of coercion by prison officials and that drafting regulations would be difficult. But it could be “a viable option in rare cases”.

Coming from writers who are involved in shaping health care policy (Ms Pormeister works in the Ministry of Social Affairs in Estonia), the arguments in the journal article are alarming.

The experience in Belgium and the Netherlands is that supporters of euthanasia keep widening the boundaries. At the beginning, it was meant only for people who were terminally ill and in great pain. Now it is available for children of all ages in Belgium and for the mentally ill. Euthanasia for prisoners in a few exceptional cases is certain to expand to all prisoners who demand it. In the claustrophobic atmosphere of prison life, it could become an epidemic, like tattooing or drugs.

And the idea will have a seductive attraction for politicians who have already reconciled their consciences to euthanasia for free citizens – the dregs of society find relief and the state is relieved of the cost of their care. What’s not to like?

The answer is given in the paper: prisoners are amongst the most vulnerable people in society. Their crimes notwithstanding, they deserve to be treated with dignity and helped to discover a meaning in their lives – not helped to kill themselves.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. 

– See more at: https://www.mercatornet.com/careful/view/whats-wrong-with-prisoner-euthanasia/19923#sthash.pJ0TWqX0.dpuf

This new technology could produce babies from skin cells

http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=15601

Within the next 10-20 years, a new and controversial fertility technology called in vitro gametogenesis could make it possible to manipulate skin cells into creating a human baby.
However, this groundbreaking research has caused push-back from some critics, like Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, who says IVG would turn procreation into a transaction.

“IVG extends the faulty logic of IVF by introducing additional steps to the process of manipulating the origins of the human person, in order to satisfy the desires of customers and consumers,” Fr. Pacholczyk told EWTN News in an email interview.

“The technology also offers the possibility of introducing further fractures into parenthood, distancing children from their parents by multiplying the number of those involved in generating the child, so that 3-parent embryos, or even more parents, may become involved,” he continued.

IVG has been successfully tested by Japanese researchers on mice, which produced healthy babies derived from skin cells.

The process begins by taking the skin cells from the mouse’s tail and re-programing them to become induced pluripotent stem cells. These manipulated cells are able to grow different kinds of cells, and are then used to grow eggs and sperm, which are then fertilized in the lab. The resulting embryos are then implanted in a womb.

Although similar to in vitro fertilization, IVG eliminates the step of needing pre-existing egg and sperm, and instead creates these gametes

But many experts in the reproductive field are sceptical of its potential outcomes and ethical compromises.

“It gives me an unsettled feeling because we don’t know what this could lead to,” Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis, told the New York Times.

Knoepfler noted that some of the potential repercussions of IVG could turn into “cloning” or “designer babies.” Other dangers could include the “Brad Pitt scenario,” in which celebrity’s skin cells retrieved from random places, like hotel rooms, could be used to create a baby.

Potentially anyone’s skin cells could be used to create a baby, even without their knowledge or consent.

In an issue of Science Translational Medicine earlier this year, a trio of academics – a Harvard Law professor, the dean of Harvard Medical School, and a medical science professor at Brown – wrote that IVG “may raise the specter of ‘embryo farming’ on a scale currently unimagined, which might exacerbate concerns about the devaluation of human life.”

They added that “refining the science of IVG to the point of clinical use will involve the generation and likely destruction of large numbers of embryos from stem cell–derived gametes” and the process “may exacerbate concerns regarding human enhancement.”

Fr. Pacholczyk also pointed to further concerns, saying IVG disrupts the uniqueness of every individual’s sex cells.

“I.V.G raises additional concerns because of the way it manipulates human sex cells. Our sex cells, or gametes, are special cells. They uniquely identify us,” Fr. Pacholczyk stated.

“It is most unfortunate that overwhelming parental desires are being permitted to trump and distort the right order of transmitting human life,” he continued.

Fr. Pacholczyk said that processes like IVG “enable a consumerist mentality that holds that children are ‘projects’ to be realized through commercial transactions and laboratory techniques of gamete manipulation.”

The Catholic Church teaches that IVF and similar reproductive technologies are morally illicit for several reasons, including their separation of procreation from the conjugal act and the creation of embryos which are discarded.

Pope Francis recently spoke out against the destruction of human embryos, saying that no good result from research can justify the destruction of embryos.

“Some branches of research use human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves – such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society – can justify the destruction of human embryos,” the Holy Father said May 18.

Although IVG has proven successful in mice, there are still some wrinkles that need to be ironed out before it is tested on humans, and will entail years more of tedious bioengineering.

However, Fr. Pacholczyk hopes that potential parents will come to realize that children should not products that can be ordered or purchased by consumers, and should rather be seen as a gift.

“Turning commercial laboratories to create children on our behalf is an unethical step in the direction of treating our offspring as objects to be planned and created in the pursuit of parental gratification, rather than gifts received from the Lord.”

Moms are turning ‘extra’ embryos into jewelry. It’s not just barbaric, it’s demonic

Judie Brown

May 9, 2017 (ALL) — The latest fashion news from Australia is truly demonic: “Human embryos left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, as well as other bodily parts and fluids, can be transformed into jewelry.”

Baby Bee Hummingbirds, the company manufacturing these trinkets, is known for creating keepsakes containing such things such as breast milk and umbilical cords. Its latest product, the “leftover” human embryos from a couple’s IVF cycle, is, according to company founder Amy McGlade, a work of art. McGlade stated: “I don’t believe there is any other business in the world that creates jewelry from human embryos, and I firmly believe that we are pioneering the way in this sacred art, and opening the possibilities to families around the world.” McGlade says that this pioneering art of embryo jewelry is her way of giving couples “the everlasting tangible keepsake of a loved one that you can have forever.”

Naturally, many people find this disturbing. Writer Simcha Fisher is as disturbed about this latest Australian fad as we are, and in response to McGlade’s sentimental query “What a better way to celebrate your most treasured gift, your child, than through jewelry?” wrote:

Well, you could let him live, I suppose. You could allow him the basic dignity of spending time in the womb of his mother, to live or not, to grow or not, but at least to have a chance. You could celebrate the life of your child by giving him some small gift of warmth and softness, however brief, rather than letting him travel in an insulated pouch from lab to lab, frozen and sterile from beginning to end. You could conceive a child so as to give him life, and you could rise like a human should above the blind proliferation of biology.

Precisely!

Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network expressed her disgust as well: “It’s so undignified that these embryos have been destroyed to become jewelry. . . . I thought, ‘My gosh, it really has hit rock bottom.’”

But what many people apparently do not see is that the floor—or should I say the underside—of rock bottom where the synergies of evil reside is the practice of IVF itself. That is where the lack of respect for the dignity of human beings actually begins.

The Catholic Church has long held that, from a merely humane view of the child, we must realize that nobody has a right to a child. We must also understand that every child has the right to be procreated within a marriage and to have a stable family from the beginning. And certainly no child should ever be strung around someone’s neck in a piece of jewelry.

During the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the document Dignitas Personae in which it stated: “The Church moreover holds that it is ethically unacceptable to dissociate procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act: human procreation is a personal act of a husband and wife, which is not capable of substitution. The blithe acceptance of the enormous number of abortions involved in the process of in vitro fertilization vividly illustrates how the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure—in addition to being in contradiction with the respect that is due to procreation as something that cannot be reduced to mere reproduction—leads to a weakening of the respect owed to every human being.”

There is no doubt that the progeny of in vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies has done nothing to restore respect for the dignity of the human person. On the contrary, it has contributed to a cultural attitude that the human embryonic child is a thing, a possession, and a biological sample that can be accepted, destroyed, or frozen in time in a piece of jewelry.

Business enterprises like Baby Bee Hummingbirds gain traction in society because the bearing of a child has become nothing more than a mechanical function. And that, my friends, has taken the jewelry business to a new hellish low.

Reprinted with permission from American Life League.

 

17-year-old ballerina’s death caused by birth control pill, doctors believe

MANCHESTER, England, April 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Maria Santa, a healthy and gifted 17 year-old ballerina from Romania, died unexpectedly from a blood clot that doctors believe was caused by taking oral contraceptives.

Maria, who was studying in England on a scholarship at Manchester’s famous Northern Ballet School, went to a walk-in medical facility complaining of severe headaches, her father Robert Santa explained.  No testing was done to see what was wrong, and Maria was sent home with antibiotics.

But Maria only got worse “day by day,” her father said.  A second visit to the doctor did not help, either.

Maria began vomiting every hour, without eating or drinking.  Going to the healthcare center for the third time last fall, she said she found it difficult to stand or sit;  all she wanted to do was lie down.  She was again given pills and sent home.

Two days later, on November 11, Maria complained that it felt like her head was going to explode, and she couldn’t feel her right leg.  She was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Mr. Santa shared that when the doctor came into her hospital room, Maria “could speak, then when he came back and asked where the headache was, she couldn’t speak.”

“The doctor told us not to worry because she was tired,” Mr. Santa said.  “She didn’t speak any more, and she needed help with everything.”

Later that morning, Maria’s boyfriend found her unconscious at their apartment.

Maria was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital, but never regained consciousness.  She died two days later.

The doctor who treated Maria at the hospital, Dr. Jonathan Greenbaum, said, “She was a fit, young woman, and the only risk factor was being on the oral contraceptive pill.”

He explained that the risk of blood clots with oral contraception is “very low, but if you take the pill then your risk is slightly increased.”  He said identifying a medical risk is difficult, “because it’s so rare and the symptoms can be non-specific.”

Maria’s case, he said, was “just unfortunate and bad luck.”

“In Greater Manchester, I would guess we would see three or four patients a year with this problem,” Dr. Greenbaum estimated.

Dr. Piyali Pal, a pathologist, said Maria’s cause of death was blood clots in the brain.

“Causes could be dehydration, malnutrition, blood clotting disorders or somebody who had taken oral contraception pills. There was no underlying pathological cause,” he said. “It’s very very rare for someone so young to have this condition. One woman who was a similar age was also on some form of oral contraception.”

Coroner Simon Nelson recorded Maria’s cause of death as “natural causes.”

An Agonizingly Cruel Death Sentence

Physician assisted suicide legislation has been making the news recently. Legalized euthanasia in Canada, Netherlands, Belgium and other European nations have also generated headlines.

However, a silent, rampant killer is intentionally claiming lives of far more patients each day in America’s medical facilities.

This quiet, legal killer is taking the lives more Americans than all the assisted suicide deaths combined. It’s the withdrawal of food and water from patients whose lives are deemed “futile” by hospitals, nursing homes and hospices throughout the nation.

Food and water delivered by tube instead of mouth was once deemed “basic and ordinary care” but is now viewed as “extraordinary medical treatment.” Further, it’s legal in all 50 states to withhold food and water when it will directly result in the death of a patient.

Terri Schiavo was denied food and water. It too her 13 days to die.

So how many patients is this likely affecting? According to the American Hospital Association and the Centers for Disease Control, there are nearly 35,000 hospitals, nursing homes and hospices operating in the USA — 1.3 million patients in hospice alone. After doing the math it’s easy to assume that every day patients are being “put down” using an agonizingly cruel, drawn-out death sentence.

Bobby Schindler, president of the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network and brother to Terri Schiavo, saw this horror play out in a very personal way with his sister. It took her 13 excruciating days to die. A time period he appropriately describes as a nightmare for Terri and her family.

“My sister’s lips were horribly cracked to the point they were blistering. Her skin became jaundice with areas that turned different shades of blue. Terri’s breathing became rapid and uncontrollable. Her moaning, at times, was raucous, which indicated to us the insufferable pain she was experiencing. Terri’s face became skeletal, with blood pooling in her deeply sunken eyes and her teeth protruding forward. What will be forever seared in my memory is the look of utter horror on my sister’s face when my family visited her just after she died.”

Death with dignity?

How did a compassionate and progressive nation like ours resort to such a barbaric practice in the name of medicine? So-called bioethicist Daniel Callahan planted the seeds of what can be considered “medical cleansing” in 1983. “A denial of nutrition may in the long run become the only effective way to make certain that a large number of biologically tenacious patents actually die. . .it could well become a non-treatment of choice.”

Brutal and prophetic.

Don’t think you’re immune to the risk of death by dehydration. Laws in 46 states already allow the medical provider—not the patient or family—the right to refuse life-saving or sustaining treatments, including food and water.

Over the years laws have quietly been enacted that prioritize the financial standing of insurance companies and medical facilities over patient autonomy and well-being. Ending the life of a costly patient by dehydration and starvation is an economic no-brainer in this day and age of demanded profitability within medical care. Obamacare has expedited this process.

We have seen examples of patients like Stephanie Packer, California mother of four, denied life-saving treatment where physician assisted suicide is legal, while being offered coverage for a lethal prescription to end her life.

Hospital ethics committees routinely assume full decision-making authority over the treatment of patients when family members disagree on how to proceed. And medical facilities have effective methods of “treatment” for the biologically tenacious who simply refuse to die.

Ethicist Wesley Smith calls it “termination without request or consent.” It involves offing “futile” patients via the denial of food and water or by using terminal sedation, which administers a heavy dose of morphine or other pain killer, whether it’s needed or not, to slow respiration and cause an early death.

Bobby says the best way to protect yourself is to have a legally designated advocate as your power of attorney who will vigorously fight for you. Visit our website for free resources that can help protect you and your family.

Defending innocent human life,

Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. For 25 years, organizations and individuals around the world have depended upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

Pro-Life Victories: Several Bills Attempting to Legalize Assisted Suicide Have Gone Down in Defeat

Eric Metaxas   Apr 12, 2017   |   11:42AM    Washington, DC

A funny thing happened on the way to our supposed brave new world of assisted suicide.

 Proponents of assisted suicide would have us believe that legalized killing is an unstoppable freight train and that those who oppose it are going to get run over. And no wonder. Last year Colorado and the District of Columbia legalized it, while California enacted a bill that had been passed in 2015. They joined Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana where this great evil is now legal.

That’s why I’m very pleased to tell you that reports of the demise of a culture of life have been, to borrow a phrase, greatly exaggerated. We’re starting to win again. No, this doesn’t mean we can relax, but it’s really good news—and frankly, we could use some.

Bills to legalize euthanasia “have done very poorly” in 2017, Rita Marker, executive director of the Patients Rights Council, told Baptist Press. “That has been a shock to those who are in favor of it because they thought that all of [a] sudden the dam had burst and everything would happen for them.”

So far, that has not happened. Bills to advance the idea that some lives aren’t worth living have gone down to defeat in Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Tennessee. Also in New Mexico, the state senate voted 22-20 against a bill to legalize assisted suicide for people expected to die within six months. It was a bipartisan vote, with 7 Democrats joining 15 Republicans.

Similar bills stalled in Hawaii, Maryland, Utah, and Wyoming, Marker said, although it’s always possible they could be brought back. In Hawaii, a House of Representatives committee unanimously decided not to advance a proposal allowing physicians to prescribe lethal drugs on the same day a patient is diagnosed as terminally ill.

Eva Andrade of the Hawaii Family Forum said that Hawaiians should “say a prayer of thanksgiving” while remaining vigilant—because when it comes to assisted suicide bills, death is never final. “Although this may seem like the battle is over, please be advised that the battle is not over until the last day of session,” Andrade said. “And even then, the bill is still alive for next session. Even now, proponents are most likely regrouping.”

Dauneen Dolce, executive director of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, told the American Family Association that assisted suicide legislation likely will be introduced next year. Therefore, she said, those opposing the culture of death must remain “actively involved in some way,” by “educating yourself, or giving support to the organizations that are educating others, or [being] involved in the political arena. If you don’t do that,” she added, “you are handing over our state [and] our laws, and the culture of death will come to us—and that’ll be from apathy.”

The job is immense. According to a 2016 survey by LifeWay Research, 67 percent of Americans say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their physicians to help them end their lives. We must not only work to change—or block—laws in the political and legislative realms. We must also work—and pray—to change hearts and minds in our neighborhoods, in our social and work circles, and across society.

Apparently most Americans see pain and suffering as the ultimate evil and personal autonomy as the highest good. What I can only call this “sub-Christian worldview” completely misses the truth that God can and often does use the things we’d rather avoid in our lives—even at the end of life—to draw us closer to Himself.

Remember, when it comes to assisted suicide, apathy is deadly. So let’s educate our fellow Americans about the beauty and dignity of life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Remember as well: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

LifeNews Note:  Eric Metaxas is best known for two biographies: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery about William Wilberforce. He also wrote books and videos for VeggieTales.

This column originally appeared at Breakpoint.

 

 

Landscape shifts for surrogate motherhood

Tightening of laws in other countries fuels U.S. market, but not all states are relaxing statutes OSV Newsweekly

Landscape shifts for surrogate motherhood  Modern technology for nearly two decades has made it possible for infertile couples to use the wombs of other women, known as surrogates, to have their biological children. But cultural changes, a crackdown in international surrogacy and high-profile endorsements from celebrities experiencing fertility issues, including Kim Kardashian and Tyra Banks, have resulted in increased demand for surrogacy in the United States.

Surrogacy involves contracting with a woman to carry a child conceived through artificial means, such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. Many fertility companies recommend gestational surrogacy, where couples have their own IVF-manufactured embryo implanted into a surrogate mother, in order to decrease her likelihood of forming an attachment to the child she carried.

Patchwork of laws

International surrogacy arrangements have been popular because of the inexpensiveness of the procedure, compared to the United States. Whereas a surrogate pregnancy can cost $100,000 or more in the United States, similar arrangements would cost a third or less in countries like India or Thailand. In 2012, an estimated 20,000 children were born through international commercial surrogacy.

But beginning in 2015, the most popular countries for international surrogacy banned the practice: Thailand, Nepal, India and Mexico all issued instructions to prevent foreigners from using their citizens as surrogates. As these countries enacted new regulations, though, other countries, like Cambodia, become hubs for surrogacy tourism.

But the uncertainty of international surrogacy has made the United States a more attractive location for couples, despite the high price tag for an American surrogate. Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, told Our Sunday Visitor that the closure of other countries to international surrogacy has “most certainly” led to an increase of the industry in the United States, because “we have very favorable and friendly laws here.”

Church’s Concern For Those Seeking Parenthood
The suffering of unanticipated childlessness is real. Spouses may feel they have somehow failed, that they are inadequate in a basic aspect of their marital life. Their pain may even be aggravated by regret or guilt over past contraceptive use, sterilization, abortion, or other factors that can contribute to infertility. The sight of other couples’ children may make them yearn for a child all the more and add to their distress. Infertility can affect a couple’s sexual relationship and the stability of their marriage. It may even affect relationships with parents and in-laws who express disappointment at the absence of grandchildren. Catholic couples may feel this pain even more deeply as they hear the Church praise family life and teach that children are “the supreme gift of marriage” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 50).

In addition, Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteeing a right to marriage for same-sex couples, has removed in many states the barriers to these couples being listed as legal parents of a child, and many fertility clinics target their services to gay men looking to hire a surrogate.

The domestic fertility market, which the investment bank Harris Williams & Co. estimated at a value of $3-4 billion, lacks a coherent legal framework in the United States. In contrast to other western nations, there is little federal or state oversight of the industry, and laws vary among states.

“The surrogacy laws around the country are kind of a patchwork quilt,” Jason Adkins, executive director for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told OSV. While some states like Indiana or New York prohibit surrogacy agreements because they are contrary to the public good, others like California enjoy a booming business in surrogacy.

Other states have recently passed legislation allowing for gestational surrogacy. Last year Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who identifies as pro-life, signed legislation recognizing surrogacy contracts for married, heterosexual couples. New Hampshire has passed even less restrictive legislation, as has the District of Columbia.

Fertility clinics thrive in states where surrogacy agreements giving all parental rights to the contracting couple can be enforced in court. In such an arrangement, the contracting couple are listed as the parents on the birth certificate, and not the surrogate mother who delivered the child.

Pushing back on surrogacy

In states like Minnesota, where the law has not explicitly guaranteed the parental rights of a contracting couple, the fertility industry has repeatedly sought “enabling legislation, not regulations of surrogacy,” Adkins said.

If states “create a legal mechanism by which contracts are honored and enforced, it really creates a legal framework for the surrogacy market to flourish and grow.”

As states continue to pass legislation supportive of surrogacy, Minnesota represents a rare bright spot for those opposed to contracting women to carry children. Adkins credits the state’s success to stepping back from an emotionally fraught legislative environment.

“You’re not going to have rational discourse in the context of a heated legislative environment in which people need to take votes,” said Adkins.

The state created a bipartisan commission to hear evidence on the issue during several months of meetings, and it issued its report in December 2016. While a bill to enforce surrogacy contracts was sponsored in the 2017 legislative session, it died in committee.

Adkins told OSV that while “the moral teaching is clear” from the Church on surrogacy, the issue fails to attract the same attention or coordination of resources as abortion and assisted suicide do, even though abortion frequently plays a role in surrogacy, through selective reduction of implanted embryos or requests by parents to abort children with birth defects.

“Sometimes we overlook the key life and bioethics questions that aren’t directly related to abortion,” he said, “and that’s a significant deficit in the national Church.”

Pastoral care needed

The desire to have children propels the surrogacy industry, which presents the Church with the challenge to do more to recognize and address the particular role that infertile couples have. Timothy O’Malley, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and founding editor of Church Life: A Journal for the New Evangelization, told OSV that the Church is not providing enough pastoral care in this area.

“If you’re infertile as a couple, the only advice you’re going to get is from your doctor. No one in the Church is there for you, except for a couple of resources you might find online,” he said.

For O’Malley, infertility can serve as a charism of authentic marriage because “in the Catholic imagination, marriage is not reducible to having children, but is really a conjugal bond of love shared between husband and wife.” While children are often a gift of that love, “there are a variety of gifts that are not reducible to having children, and the infertile can have these gifts whether or not they have children.” O’Malley said that parishes and dioceses can value the marriages of the infertile in the pulpit, but also address their needs through diocesan support groups.

“It’s not just saying, well, let’s fix it for you, it’s saying that not being able to have children can become a particular icon of love for the Church, and it can lead to adoption, it can lead to foster care, but it can also lead to other spiritual gifts and renewal that can take place.”

Nicholas W. Smith writes from New York.

Study finds most women unable to track fertility

https://www.mercatornet.com/demography/view/most-women-unable-to-track-fertility/19562

Shannon Roberts | Mar 28 2017

With infertility more common than ever and birth rates around the world at a record low, a crucial first step for couples trying to get pregnant is to clearly understand exactly when they are fertile.  Yet that is something just 13 per cent of women surveyed were able to identify according to a new study just published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology which surveyed over 1000 New Zealand women.  That was despite a third of the women reporting that they monitored their ovulation.

The authors concluded that fertility knowledge needs to be better addressed among women intending to conceive.  Professor Wayne Gillett, a researcher at the university’s Dunedin School of Medicine and medical director at Fertility Associates Dunedin commented:

“When a couple are trying to have a baby, problems like age, endometriosis and male problems are always touted – but no one ever considers knowledge, and that’s one of the things we often see,”

Gillett said there was one enduring myth that the best time in the menstrual cycle to conceive was during, or even after, ovulation, when the reality is that the fertile window is pre-ovulation.  He expressed concern that even health professionals are not well-educated about a woman’s fertile window.
An article discussing infertility published in the New Zealand media this month comically writes “at high school we’re taught that if you so much as look at a girl strangely, she’ll get pregnant.”  Sadly many indeed carry this idea into adulthood after years of only being told how not to get pregnant.  However, given that interest in natural family planning continues to grow, it is hopeful that fertility knowledge will be better circulated, including the knowledge that fertility begins to reduce in a woman’s late twenties and more drastically after the age of 35.
One in six couples in Australia use IVF, and one in every 25 Australian children are now born as a result of IVF. In Denmark one in 15 children are IVF babies.  Yet it is questionable whether people are first given good advice about the other more simple and inexpensive options available to them – including accurate knowledge about their exact fertile window which is normally only 6 days long if not shorter.  To some, IVF services are a business and there is little incentive to first offer easier, cheaper options to couples.

John Aitken, Newcastle University laureate professor, Director of the University of Newcastle’s large 50-staff Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science, and the 2012 NSW Scientist of the Year,  recently commented:

“We should guard against recklessly marching into a future where we use too much assisted conception in order to compensate for our loss of fertility … It’s an inexorable upward trend. We are taking recourse to IVF in increasing numbers and the thing we have to remember as a society is that the more you use assisted conception in one generation, the more you’re going to need it in the next.”

Does the pill cause infertility? Yes and No

Does the pill cause infertility? Yes and No

Let’s say you are 33 years old and got married a year ago. In the past ten years, you have been using a variety of hormonal birth control methods. Now you and your husband are looking forward to starting a family. You get off the pill, hopeful and a bit anxious as you know time is working against you. You try for eight months and nothing happens.

You start getting concerned, and you talk your doctor into putting you on Clomid, a drug to stimulate ovulation. This drug actually lowers your chances of conceiving, unbeknownst to you. A few months later, you get your first appointment at a fertility clinic where you discuss Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), bracing yourself for several months of treatment and thousands of dollars in medical bills.

But could all that anxiety, doctor visits and interventions be completely unnecessary?

The pill may not cause long-term infertility after discontinuation, but it can delay fertility by up to a year. The delay is caused by the pill’s impact on the production of cervical fluid, an essential component of conception. The delay can be critical as women tend to start their family much later in life now than in earlier decades, and may lead them to engaging into unnecessary fertility treatment.

It takes three to get pregnant

We were all taught in high school biology or sex-ed that it took and a sperm and an egg (an ovule) to make pregnancy happen. What is often left out of this equation is the cervical fluid, aka cervical mucus.

In order for the sperm to survive more than a few hours in the vagina, and then have the energy reserves to travel through the uterus all the way to the fallopian tubes and maybe wait for the egg to arrive, it needs good quality fertile cervical fluid.

Cervical fluid is secreted by the cervix; it changes in aspect and properties as ovulation approaches. At the time of ovulation, it becomes stretchy, almost like raw egg whites, and allows the sperm to go through the cervix into the uterus. Before and after ovulation, the fluid is thick and blocks access to the uterus, a wonderful mechanism to protect the womb from infection. It also naturally prevents fertilization during a major part of the cycle.

Without sufficient, good quality mucus, no baby.

The way hormonal contraceptives work to stop pregnancy

Hormonal contraceptives, as generally documented in scientific literature, don’t work merely by suppressing ovulation. Another mechanism is the effect on the production of mucus, thickening it consistently throughout the cycle, providing a barrier in case ovulation still takes place (which does happen).

How does it work? The cervix normally follows the marching orders of hormones. With the use of contraceptives, the synthetic hormones take over the natural ones and run the cervix in a non-natural way to produce consistently this type of non-fertile mucus.

So far so good. What’s wrong with a secondary barrier to make sure pregnancy doesn’t happen when that’s the reason why the woman is on the pill in the first place?

Here is how things get more complicated.

The impact of the pill on the production of cervical fluid

Professor Erik Odeblad is one of the first scientists to use MRI technology for a medical purpose. A Swedish physician, professor and researcher born in 1922, he spent most of his life studying and explaining the secretion of cervical fluid: the various types of fluids at different stages in a woman’s cycle and in her life, and their role and composition.

One of his discoveries was to show that there are different types of mucus[i], which he called G, L, S. Each has different roles and is secreted from different cervical crypts (the pockets lining the cervix) at different times. For instance,  right after puberty, a young woman has an abundance of S crypts, and as she ages, the number decreases and are replaced by L crypts. S mucus is the type of mucus that is essential to fertilization: it allows passage and then transports and nourishes sperm.

What Dr. Odeblad found was that “for each year the Pill is taken, the cervix ages by an extra year.” He explains that: “If a woman takes the Pill for 10-15 years and then ceases taking it in order to achieve pregnancy, she may encounter some difficulties.”

In simple terms, a 20-year-old woman who stays on the pill for 10 years can end up with the cervix of a 40 year-old with 20% of S crypts instead of 40-50%. It can take a long time after a woman stops the pill for her cervix, and especially the S crypts, to function again. Her cervix may never recover some of those lost capacities.

To make matters worse, if she gets on Clomid, thinking it will increase her chance of pregnancy, it will do the opposite: a known side effect of this drug is to reduce the production of cervical fluid. A thorough evaluation of both her ovulation and of her mucus production is needed.

Why it matters more today

Woman are waiting longer to start their families now that in the past. In 1970, most women had their first pregnancy in their early 20s. The average age of first child birth was 22. Today, it has risen to 26.4 years old. More women are delaying their first pregnancy past age 30. The percentage of first birth to women over 30 went from just one in ten in 1970 to almost one in three in 2014[ii].

If these women have been on the pill, as many have been, it’s no surprise that they would experience more difficulties getting pregnant. As the cervix may take up to a year to retrieve a functioning production of mucus, many couples may be directed to drastic medical procedures, such as IVF, a costly and emotionally difficult process. If they waited or found other ways to improve the production of their cervical mucus, they could resolve their problem. Some good news: a pregnancy will rejuvenate the cervix by 2 to 3 years.

Here is the scoop: as a result of being on the pill for an extended time, a woman may not be able to conceive for up to a year, leading her to think she’s infertile, when she’s not! Her fertility is certainly impaired, but medication to stimulate ovulation will actually aggravate the problem.

We find here yet another great reason why young women who are hoping to get pregnant one day should avoid hormonal birth control all together and use a Fertility Awareness Based Method. Not only will these methods preserve their fertility, but when the couple is ready to achieve a pregnancy, the knowledge gained through training in a FABM will help them reach that goal more quickly and easily.

Other readings on this topic:

http://www.naturalfamilyplanning.ie/effects-of-the-pill/

https://biozhena.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/about-atrophy-reproductive-aging-and-how-it%E2%80%99s-really-not-nice-to-fool-mother-nature-%E2%80%93-or-with/

[i] The Discovery of Different Types of Cervical Mucus and the Billings Ovulation Method, Erik Obledad, Emeritus Professor, Dept. of Medical Biophysics, University of Umeå, Sweden,  Bulletin of the Ovulation Method Research and Reference Centre of Australia, 27 Alexandra Parade, North Fitzroy, Victoria 3068, Australia, Volume 21, Number 3, pages 3-35, September 1994.

[ii] First Births to Older Mothers, 1970-86 – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1349777/pdf/amjph00238-0089.pdf  and First Births to Older Women Continue to Rise , NCHS Data Brief No. 152, May 2014 by T.J. Mathews, M.S.; and Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db152.htm

 

My Submission to the AMA Opposing Neutrality on Physician-Assisted Suicide

Amid conflicting reports about whether or not the American Medical Association was going to consider a position of neutrality on physician assisted suicide, I was informed that the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs was collecting data, position statements, etc. for consideration of assisted suicide and other topics before the June AMA Annual meeting. The deadline for submissions was February 15.

The following is my submission titled “Neutrality on physician assisted suicide also hurts nurses”

Dear AMA,

I have been a registered nurse since 1969. After working in critical care, hospice, home health, oncology, dialysis and other specialties for 45 years, I am currently working as a legal nurse consultant and volunteer as well as spokesperson for the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses. Over the years, I have cared for many suicidal people as well as people who attempt suicide.

I have served on medical and nursing ethics committees, served on disability and nursing boards. I have written and spoken on medical ethics-especially end of life issues-since 1984.

The dangers of the legalization of physician-assisted suicide are especially acute for us nurses. Unlike doctors, we nurses cannot refuse to care for a patient  in a situation like assisted suicide unless another willing nurse can be found which can be impossible. If we do refuse, that is considered abandonment and cause for discipline and even termination. And we are necessarily involved when the assisted suicide act occurs in home health, hospice or health care facility even though the doctor is not required to be there.

marievalko

Marievalko Picture of Marie Valko 1979-2009

As a nurse and the mother of a suicide victim (see picture above), I am alarmed by reports that the AMA is considering a position of neutrality on physician-assisted suicide. I beg you to uphold the legal and ethical standard that medical professionals must not kill their patients or help them kill themselves. Suicide is a tragedy to be prevented if possible, not a civil right.

MY DAUGHTER KILLED HERSELF USING AN ASSISTED SUICIDE TECHNIQUE

In 2009, I lost a beautiful, physically well 30-year-old daughter, Marie, to suicide after a 16-year battle with substance abuse and other issues. Her suicide was like an atom bomb dropped on our family, friends and even her therapists.

Despite all of our efforts to save her, my Marie told me that she learned how to kill herself from visiting suicide/assisted suicide websites and reading Derek Humphry’s book Final Exit. The medical examiner called Marie’s suicide technique “textbook final exit” but her death was neither dignified nor peaceful.

Marie was not mere collateral damage in the controversy over physician-assisted suicide. She was a victim of the physician-assisted suicide movement, seduced by the rhetoric of a painless exit from what she believed was a hopeless life of suffering.

SUICIDE CONTAGION

Adding to our family’s pain, at least two people close to Marie became suicidal not long after her suicide. Luckily, these two young people received help and were saved, but suicide contagion, better known as “copycat suicide”, is a well-documented phenomenon. Often media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way.

STUDY SHOWS LEGALIZING PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE IS ASSOCIATED WITH AN INCREASE RATE OF TOTAL SUICIDES

A 2015 article in the Southern Medical Journal titled “How Does Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Affect Rates of Suicide?” came to these conclusions:

“Legalizing PAS has been associated with an increased rate of total suicides relative to other states and no decrease in nonassisted suicides. This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) nonassisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals.”

THE HEALTH AND ECONOMIC COSTS OF SUICIDE

My Marie was one of the almost 37,000 reported US suicides in 2009. In contrast, only about 800 assisted-suicide deaths have been reported in the past 16 years in Oregon, the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for Americans in 2012, with “More than 1 million people reported making a suicide attempt in the past year” and “More than 2 million adults reported thinking about suicide in the past year.” The CDC estimates that suicide “costs society approximately $34.6 billion a year in combined medical and work loss costs”, not to mention the emotional toll on families.

Obviously our real health-care crisis here is a staggering and increasing rate of suicides, not the lack of enough assisted suicides.

BRITTANY MAYNARD

There was a media frenzy in October 2014 when Brittany Maynard, a young newlywed woman with a brain tumor, announced plans to commit physician-assisted suicide on November 1 and raise money to have physician-assisted suicide legalized in all US states. There was an immediate and unprecedented media frenzy surrounding Ms. Maynard’s tragic story that routinely portrayed her pending assisted suicide as “heroic” and even counting down the days to her suicide. Personally, I thought this looked like a crowd on the street shouting for a suicidal person on a window ledge to jump.

In the end, Brittany hesitated for a day before she went through with her pledge to take the lethal overdose.

Now, assisted suicide supporters even deny that physician-assisted suicide is suicide, insisting that media stories use euphemisms like “aid-in-dying” and “death with dignity” in cases like Ms. Maynard’s to make assisted suicide more palatable to the public. However, this defies common sense when the definition of suicide is the intentional taking of one’s own life.

PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE AND MEDICAL DISCRIMINATION

I have been a registered nurse for 47 years, working in intensive care, oncology, hospice and home health among other specialties. Personally and professionally, I have cared for many people who attempt or consider killing themselves.

Some of these people were old, chronically ill or had disabilities. Some were young and physically healthy. A few were terminally ill. I cared for all of them to the best of my ability without discrimination as to their condition, age, socioeconomic status, race or gender. I will do anything to help my patients — except kill them or help them kill themselves.

Suicide prevention and treatment works, and the standards must not be changed just because some people insist their desire for physician-assisted suicide is rational and even a civil right.

Professor of Neurobiology: Human Life Begins at Conception, Fertilization

Professor of Neurobiology: Human Life Begins at Conception, Fertilization

Maureen Condic, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah. She has been a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a distinguished group of physicians, scientists, and theologians from the international community whose mission it is to study questions and issues regarding the promotion and defense of human life from an interdisciplinary perspective, since 2014. Dr. Condic is one of our nearly 40 associate scholars. In this interview, she discusses the beginning of human life and the moral status of the human being.

What can science tell us about when human life begins?

Condic: The question of when life begins has been addressed for a very long time by philosophers and religious thinkers—often without the benefit of detailed information regarding what actually happens during prenatal life. Consequently, this question has also been answered in a wide variety of ways, leading many to believe that the question simply cannot be answered.

The advantage of a scientific approach to the question of when life begins is that the answer is not based on opinion or personal values, but rather on direct observation. And in the modern age, we have very detailed observations, confirming beyond any reasonable doubt, that the cell produced by sperm-egg fusion (the zygote) is a human organism; i.e. a human being. We know this because immediately upon the binding and fusion of the gametes (a rapid event taking less than a quarter second to complete), the newly formed zygote enters into a sequence of molecular events that determine and direct its subsequent maturation and growth. The fact that the zygote autonomously initiates the process of embryonic development distinguishes it from a mere human cell and clearly indicates that it is a full and complete, albeit immature, member of the human species.

What can reason tell us about the moral status of the unique human being who comes into being at conception?

Condic: Similar to the question of when life begins, the question of when human beings have moral status and a right to life has also been answered in many ways. The three most common approaches are to confer rights based on 1) some aspect of form and/or function (ability), 2) social convention (or fiat) and 3) status as a human being (or nature).

Most of us reject linking rights to abilities as repugnant. It defies our basic sense of justice to envision a world where the strong, the beautiful, and the intelligent have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, while the weak, the plain, and the slow are enslaved or killed. Similarly, most of us find repulsive the idea that a simple plurality of opinion can decide, as it did in Nazi Germany, who has rights and who does not.

The principles of liberty and justice form the basis of all civilized societies. The only way of viewing human rights that does not offend these principles is that rights are inalienable for all human beings; i.e. that we have rights only and always because we are humans. And this would apply equally to humans at all stages of maturity, including the zygote stage.

Why is it important that the right to life of the human being from conception until natural death can be established by scientific and philosophical, rather than revelation-based, arguments? Does this mean that religious arguments are somehow unimportant or should be excluded from the public square?

Condic: I don’t believe that the right to life of the human being can be established by a scientific argument. Science is simply a useful system for making accurate and neutral observations. As such, it does not speak to abstract principles like human rights.

In contrast, reason and logic are common to both philosophy and science. And the conclusion that all human beings have human rights is a logical, not a scientific conclusion. This does not mean that the truths revealed by religion have no place in formulating moral judgments. But I would argue that religious truths must be consistent with both reason and observation. For example, a religion that denies rights to people of a particular gender, race, or faith would have to reconcile this belief with scientific fact and place it within a logically consistent framework.

Why should the state not fund or promote embryonic stem cell research, and what alternative research should the state support?

Condic: As a matter of justice, no state should support, or indeed tolerate, research that involves the destruction of a living human being. While embryonic stem cells are scientifically interesting, research on stem cells derived from ethical sources (for example; animal’s stem cells, stem cells from mature tissues, and stem cells produced by cell reprogramming) are viable alternatives to human embryonic stem cell research.

Why are you pro-life? If you had 60 seconds to explain to someone why you have pursued the work that you have throughout your career, what do you tell them?

Condic: I have pursued scientific research because I am fascinated by how things work. And human development is an enormously complex, and therefore enormously engaging intellectual problem. It is also an astonishingly beautiful process; an elegant, intricate, and yet quite robust molecular dance. It seems to me that anyone who appreciates the beauty of human development and who has paused long enough to think through the logical implications, would inevitably have a profound respect and admiration for the beauty of human life.

Legal group fights policy forcing pro-life doctors to refer for abortion, euthanasia

TORONTO, February 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A Calgary conscience rights group has joined Ontario Christian doctors in fighting a requirement that they refer patients for euthanasia and abortion — and perform both procedures in emergencies.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) was granted intervenor status in a legal action launched by five Ontario Christian doctors, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDS), and other doctors’ groups.

Their target is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which controls the profession with the power to licence and de-licence doctors. In June, the Christian doctors will go to court in an attempt to have two new college policies ruled unconstitutional.

The first policy, according to CMDS executive director Larry Worthen, requires doctors whose consciences prevent them from performing a procedure to provide an “effective referral” to another doctor who will do it.

The second requires the same protections specifically with euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The College of Physicians and Surgeon’s policy becomes even more morally problematic in an emergency. If there is no other doctor available, the objecting doctor objection must do it anyway, even if it is an abortion.

“Our members can’t do an effective referral,” Worthen told LifeSiteNews. An “effective referral” is what a doctor provides when he believes a treatment is required but cannot do it himself. But Worthen’s members do not believe that assisted suicide, euthanasia or abortion are morally or medically justified.
As for doing these procedures in emergencies, “There is no definition of emergency,” Worthen pointed out.

The CMDS will focus on how the college’s requirements violate provisions in the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protecting freedom of conscience. However, The Justice Centre will take a different tack.

John Carpay, director of the JCCF, said his group will attack the college’s basic premise that Canadians have a right to a specific treatment.

“We make the point that there is therefore no Charter right to healthcare” in general, nor any specific treatment, “including MAID,” Carpay stated. 

“Further,” he added. “There is no right, Charter or otherwise, to demand that an individual doctor perform or provide an effective referral for a specific medical procedure or service that violates that doctor’s conscientious or religious beliefs.”

Other intervenors on the Christian doctors’ side include the Ontario Catholic Bishops Conference and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Seven other provinces have adopted ethical guidelines for euthanasia and assisted suicide that respect doctors’ freedom of conscience. Worthen said this should carry weight in court because it will undermine the defence expected from the college. It will contend its policy was the only one available to it to protect patients wanting so-called “medical assistance in dying” or abortion.

One-Third of Colorado Hospitals Refuse to Allow Doctors to Kill Patients in Assisted Suicide

One-Third of Colorado Hospitals Refuse to Allow Doctors to Kill Patients in Assisted Suicide

Erin Parfet   Jan 20, 2017   |   3:38PM    Denver, CO

Hospitals and clinics throughout Colorado are refusing to comply with Proposition 106, Colorado’s newly passed legalization of doctor-prescribed suicide, StatNews reported.

Medical, disability rights, pro-life and religious groups all campaigned against the deadly measure. The Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado actively campaigned against the initiative, a parallel of Oregon’s doctor-prescribed suicide law, spending upward of $1.6 million in their effort to protect lives, the report states.

However, in November, the suicide measure passed in the polls by a two-thirds to one-third vote, and “victory” was declared within an hour of polls closing, the report continued.

“We are deeply disappointed and concerned about Colorado legalizing doctor-assisted suicide,” Jeff Hunt, Vice President of Public Policy at Colorado Christian University, told the Denver Post. “The fight is not over.”

Indeed the fight isn’t over on the ground, for several of the largest healthcare systems in the state.

Centura Health, the largest hospital system in the Centennial State operated by a partnership between Catholic Health Initiatives and the Adventist Health System, stated it would “opt out” of performing assisted suicides, according to StatNews.

SCL Health, Colorado’s second largest hospital system and rooted in the Catholic faith, issued a statement that patients requesting physician assistance in suicide “will be offered an opportunity to transfer to another facility of the patient’s choice.”

HealthONE, which is not affiliated with any religious groups, also said it will not allow doctor-prescribed suicides in its eight hospitals, according to the report.

The Colorado legislation permits doctors, nurses and pharmacists to decline participation in assisted suicide, euthanasia and similar practices, based on an individual’s conscience, the report continued.

It is noted by StatNews that one third of Colorado’s acute care hospital beds are under the umbrella of various Catholic-based health systems.

UCHealth and Kaiser Permanente allow physician-assisted suicide in their practices and clinics as permitted by state law, the report continued.

“This is a historic day for all Coloradans, and an especially tremendous victory for terminally ill adults who worry about horrific suffering in their final days,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, Compassion and Choices Action Network President in a statement reported by 9News.

“We are delighted the significant investment paid off and are proud to have lent the expertise and resources to empower the voters of Colorado. We congratulate Colorado for becoming the sixth state where more people have peace of mind at the end of life and fewer suffer unnecessarily.”

However, Alan Rastrelli, medical director for Divine Mercy Supportive Care, a non-profit hospice service, expressed different sentiments in an editorial in the Denver Post.

“The harm of physician-assisted suicide to patients and the healing profession of medicine was lamented in 400 BC by the Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates when he wrote: ‘The regimen I adopt shall be for the benefit of my patients … and not for their hurt or for any wrong. I will give no deadly drug to any, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such,’” Rastrelli wrote.

He continued: “The healing profession, with hospice and palliative care, is entrusted with the sacred privilege of assisting their patients compassionately through the dying process, ensuring that patients have the comfort and dignity they deserve. With ‘intensive caring’ we strive to ease their suffering, their fear of death — and their fear of living.”

Rastrelli emphasized that care, not killing, is the answer to help people who are suffering.

“Patients can choose to forgo life-sustaining interventions that may excessively burden them or prolong the dying process,” he wrote. “They can choose to allow a natural death in the comfort of their home, surrounded by loving caregivers. This is the difference between blowing out the candle vs. allowing it to flicker out on its own. Physicians and nurses are to help the patients as their life is ending, not end their life by an unethical act.”

 

Professor Warns IVF is Producing a Generation of Infertile Children Prone to Cancer

Life News

Micaiah Bilger   Nov 28, 2016   |   7:22PM    Washington, DC

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The controversial infertility procedure in vitro fertilization may lead to a greater risk of infertility and cancer in children conceived through the procedure, an Australian researcher says.

University of Newcastle laureate professor John Aitken, a world-renowned expert on male fertility, warned about the negative effects of over-using in vitro fertilization, or IVF, to conceive, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

In the past decade, couples experiencing infertility or waiting until later in life to get pregnant have increasingly turned to IVF to conceive. The procedure involves harvesting sperm and eggs and using them to create living, human embryos outside the womb; the embryos then are implanted in the woman’s womb.

One of the problems with the procedure is that most couples have more embryos created than they will use. Sometimes the leftover embryos are destroyed or donated to research. Others believe the procedure has commoditized human life.

Aitken said the children conceived through IVF and born also are being impacted. He said the infertility procedure, which is used by one in six couples in Australia, is producing a new generation of infertile children. He also pointed to research showing that male children conceived through IVF to aging fathers were more likely to get cancer.

“There is a negative pay-off,” Aitken said, citing new research in Belgium about male infertility. “If you have a son from this process, it is possible that he too will have the same pathology that you had.”

Studies also have linked IVF to Down syndrome and other genetic disorders. A 2008 study from the Centers for Disease Control found an increased risk of birth defects among children conceived through IVF. The Mayo Clinic reports it also can increase the risk of multiple births, which can have negative effects on the babies, including premature birth and low birth weight.

Aitken expressed serious concern at society’s heavy reliance on assisted conception through procedures like IVF. In Australia, one in 25 babies are now born after being conceived through in vitro fertilization, according to the report. The rate in which couples use IVF is increasing in the U.S., too. Aitken blamed the infertility industry for ignoring that male infertility problems often are to blame, and that IVF should not always be the solution.

“Its an inexorable upward trend. We are taking recourse to IVF in increasing numbers and the thing we have to remember as a society is that the more you use assisted conception in one generation, the more you’re going to need it in the next,” he said.

Another bioethics concern with IVF is the screening of eggs and embryos for health problems, as well as qualities desired by the couple. Some fear that couples are using the screening to pick and choose their child’s traits.

 

Voting as a Catholic in 2016

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By Archbishop of Denver Samuel Aquila
Source: http://denvercatholic.org/voting-catholic-2016/

I have voted in every presidential election since 1972 and I have never experienced an election like this year’s. Both candidates are disliked, lack credibility, and have made comments that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The American public is fed up with politics as usual and with the establishment in both parties. So, what should Catholics do when we vote in November?

That question is one that I have been asked by the faithful more this year than in any previous election. Recently in a dinner discussion with a group of Catholics, the conversation turned to politics and became vigorous, as some at the table supported Clinton and some Trump. All eyes turned to me and one of them asked, “Archbishop, what do you think?”

First, I shared my aversion for both candidates. Then I said that they need to reflect on the platforms of both parties, with an emphasis on the human life issues. Everyone at the table knew well the teaching of the Church on life and the dignity of life. They knew that Catholics in good conscience cannot support candidates who will advance abortion.  All pretty much agreed that, when it comes to life issues, Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle have put party ideology before their faith and living their faith in the public square.

This is the most important guidance I can give: allow your ongoing personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the Church to guide your political decisions. I say this because we believe that the truth about ourselves and the world we live in is revealed in and through him. Our society suffers and has suffered for quite some time because too few people live an integrated life – one that does not divide “the personal” from “the public.”

This year there are some critical changes to the two major parties’ platforms that some at the dinner were not aware of.  Most important is that this year the Democratic party platform calls for the overturning of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that both parties have voted to include in the federal budget and on other spending bills for 40 years. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal taxpayer money from being used for abortion. The platform is aggressively pro-abortion, not only in funding matters, but in the appointment of only those judges who will support abortion and the repealing of the Helms Amendment, which prevents the U.S. from supporting abortion availability overseas. Conversely, the Republican party platform is supportive of the Hyde Amendment and just this year strengthened its support for life by calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, banning dismemberment abortion and opposing assisted suicide.

Our conversation then turned to the understanding of the freedom of religion, the freedom of conscience, and the ability for faith-based organizations like the Church to provide charity through shelters, hospitals, homes for the elderly, etc., without fear of government interference and the existence of a respect for religious values.

In that vein, the subject was raised of the Health and Human Services mandate. This regulation requires the provision of contraceptives, sterilizations and some abortifacients through employer’s health plans. Most surprising to me was that all at the table were practicing Catholics who are involved in their faith, and a couple of them had neither heard of the difficulty the Obama Administration has created for the Little Sisters of the Poor, nor the litigation that has occurred trying to force them to violate their consciences.

Catholic voters must make themselves aware of where the parties stand on these essential issues. The right to life is the most important and fundamental right, since life is necessary for any of the other rights to matter. There are some issues that can legitimately be debated by Christians, such as which policies are the most effective in caring for the poor, but the direct killing of innocent human life must be opposed at all times by every follower of Jesus Christ. There are no legitimate exceptions to this teaching.

The health of our nation depends on a deep respect for human life from the moment of conception until natural death, and the future of our society depends on how we protect that right. If we don’t, eventually we will go the way of Rome and Greece and other great civilizations that have risen and fallen.

Some, both in politics and in the Church, have stated that it is the Church that needs to change her teaching to include abortion, same-sex unions, and even euthanasia. Yet, in faithfulness to Jesus Christ, to the Gospel and to Sacred Tradition, the Church cannot change her teaching on these issues without denying Christ. She would cut herself from the vine and only wither away, as promised by Christ. The further we move away from Jesus Christ and his teachings, the more will our churches empty.

We are where we are today because too many Catholics and other people of faith have embraced the ways of the world and not the ways of Christ. They have not served as leaven that transforms society, but rather have condoned evil and the throw-away culture that Pope Francis frequently reminds us to reject.

When we fail to do this, the government will step in to fill the void. Indeed, the government will become “god” and impose its beliefs on the citizens. One only needs to look to the Health and Human Service contraceptive mandate, or the attempt by President Obama to force a transgender agenda onto public schools. We may even soon see the federal funding of abortion and the approval of physician-assisted suicide in Colorado. We are witnessing the dictatorship of relativism and the erosion of true freedom. And as Pope Francis often preaches, the devil gets in the mix quickly, especially when people no longer believe in God.

So my advice to Catholics in voting in this presidential election is to first look at who forms you and your conscience. Is it your personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the Church, the voice of God which cannot contradict the truth or revelation, or is it the ideology of some political party? Secondly, look at how you have been a leaven in society. How have you sought the common good and the values of the Gospel, especially by serving the poor, the needy, the unborn and the dying. If you truly live your Catholic faith, you will not find complete alignment with any political party, and that is okay.  Thirdly, look at how each party platform supports human life from conception through natural death, the freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience, the family, and the poor. Finally, do vote, as every Catholic has an obligation to participate in the political process.

For many, the presidential election will involve a choice between the lesser of two evils. On the Colorado ballot, we will also face the evil of physician-assisted suicide, known as Proposition 106. In conforming our hearts and minds with the Gospel and its clear teaching on life, all Catholics are called to vote “no” on this issue. A “yes” vote only furthers the throw-away society, and the culture of death. You will be hearing much more on this in the days and weeks ahead. Let us keep our country and state in our daily prayers, praying for God’s protection and blessings in these challenging, difficult times in which we live. And let us in charity pray for the conversion of those who support a throw-away culture of death!

Shocking Report Reveals Scientists Have Created the Word’s First Baby With Three-Parents

A shocking new report claims the world’s first three-parent baby (pictured above) has been born. Children born through ‘three-person IVF’ would contain some genetic material from each of three different people.

There are about 50 known mitochondrial diseases (MCDs), which are passed on in genes coded by mitochondrial (as opposed to nuclear) DNA. They range hugely in severity, but for most there is presently no cure and little other than supportive treatment. The goal behind creating “designer babies” with three parents is to eliminate such diseases.

But there are good reasons for pro-life people to be concerned about the process and the eugenics-based reasons behind it.

Here’s more on the infant born from three parents:

It’s a boy! A five-month-old boy is the first baby to be born using a new technique that incorporates DNA from three people, New Scientist can reveal. “This is great news and a huge deal,” says Dusko Ilic at King’s College London, who wasn’t involved in the work. “It’s revolutionary.”

The controversial technique, which allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies, has only been legally approved in the UK. But the birth of the child, whose Jordanian parents were treated by a US-based team in Mexico, should fast-forward progress around the world, say embryologists.

The boy’s mother carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the developing nervous system. Genes for the disease reside in DNA in the mitochondria, which provide energy for our cells and carry just 37 genes that are passed down to us from our mothers. This is separate from the majority of our DNA, which is housed in each cell’s nucleus.

Around a quarter of her mitochondria have the disease-causing mutation. While she is healthy, Leigh syndrome was responsible for the deaths of her first two children. The couple sought out the help of John Zhang and his team at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City.
Dr. Peter Saunders, a pro-life physician in England, has commented on the ethical problems with three-parent embryos:

This is not about finding a cure. It is about preventing people with MCD being born. We need first to be clear that these new technologies, even if they are eventually shown to work, will do nothing for the thousands of people already suffering from mitochondrial disease or for those who will be born with it in the future.

Is it safe? This is far from established. Each technique involves experimental reproductive cloning techniques and germline genetic engineering, both highly controversial and potentially very dangerous. Cloning by nuclear transfer has so far proved ineffective in humans and unsafe in other mammals with a large number of cloned individuals spontaneously aborting and many others suffering from physical abnormalities or limited lifespans. Also, any changes, or unpredicted genetic problems (mutations) will be passed to future generations. In general, the more manipulation needed, the higher the severity and frequency of problems in resulting embryos and fetuses.

Is it ethical? No, there are huge ethical issues. A large number of human eggs will be needed for the research, involving ‘harvesting’ that is both risky and invasive for women donors. How many debt-laden students or desperate infertile women will be exploited and incentivised by being offered money or free IVF treatment in return for their eggs? How many thousands of human embryos will be destroyed? If it ever works, what issues of identity confusion will arise in children with effectively three biological parents? What does preventing those with mitochondrial disease being born say about how we value people already living with the condition? Where will this selection end? Some mitochondrial diseases are much less serious than others. Once we have judged some affected babies not worthy of being conceived, where do we draw the line, and who should draw it?

Toddler forcibly removed from life support: a horrific end to a devastating ordeal

September 2, 2016 (Life Legal Defense Foundation) — Just days ago, two-year-old Israel Stinson was forcibly removed from life support at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. I was on the phone with Jonee Fonseca, Israel’s mother, when doctors disconnected his ventilator.

I could hear Jonee begging the doctors to wait just a few more hours until her family arrived to say goodbye to Israel. They refused. Then I heard her begging her son to breathe.

It was a horrific end to an ordeal that began over four months ago. Israel suffered an asthma attack and stopped breathing while being treated at a Sacramento hospital on April 2 of this year. He was resuscitated, but was placed on a ventilator.

Jonee called Life Legal for help when a second hospital declared Israel brain dead. Doctors at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Roseville, California said Israel’s condition would soon deteriorate and that his heart would stop beating even if he were kept on life support. They refused to feed Israel for over five weeks, saying that giving him a feeding tube would be “catastrophic.”

Life Legal attorneys were able to obtain court orders in state and federal court keeping Israel alive until arrangements could be made to care for Israel at home. In order for that to happen, Israel needed two minor procedures to provide him with a breathing tube and feeding tube. Kaiser refused to perform those procedures.

A Catholic hospital in Central America agreed to accept Israel as a patient to do the procedures. In May, Israel was transported by air ambulance to Guatemala. He had to leave a hospital with state-of-the-art healthcare and travel thousands of miles to a developing nation to get the care he needed to survive.

After the procedures, Israel’s condition improved markedly. Doctors did two EEGs, which showed active brain waves. Three separate doctors reported that Israel was not brain dead! Moreover, the doctors were so committed to saving Israel’s life that they agreed to treat Israel without cost during the last few weeks at the Guatemalan hospital.

Jonee then began the arduous process of finding a hospital that would accept Israel temporarily while she arranged for him to be cared for at home. Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles agreed to admit Israel after speaking with Israel’s doctors about his condition.

However, shortly after Israel arrived at Children’s Hospital, doctors threatened to end Israel’s life. They refused even to look at the EEGs or examine Israel’s movements in response to his mother’s voice. They did not consider that Israel’s condition in Guatemala had stabilized such that he needed no artificial means to maintain his heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature. Jonee asked that a Los Angeles neurologist be permitted to examine Israel, as California’s brain death statute requires an independent exam. The hospital refused.

Ten days ago, Jonee called me saying the hospital was going to remove Israel’s ventilator the following day. I flew to Los Angeles to assist her in obtaining a court order. The judge ordered that Israel be kept on life support for three weeks to allow the neurologist to complete his exam. We also found a local attorney to work with Jonee going forward.

But the hospital immediately filed a motion asking the judge to dissolve the court order so they could terminate Israel’s life as soon as possible.

Again, Life Legal attorneys fought heroically alongside Jonee, but ultimately the fight for Israel’s life was lost.

So where do we go from here?

Last January, in a unanimous decision, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the state’s brain death guidelines should be reexamined after a young woman was declared brain dead even though several EEGs showed that she had active brain waves. In that case, the woman died because the hospital refused to feed or treat her.

We have no ethical obligation to fight nature every step of the way in the dying process. However, these cases continue a very disturbing trend of medical professionals actually facilitating a person’s death. Life Legal has represented people in several recent cases where hospitals and hospice facilities have tried to end the life of a patient with a brain injury because doctors or family members believed that person had no chance for recovery. In reality, however, the decision was made in haste, before the person’s brain had a chance to heal. In two cases, young women were sentenced to death who, just weeks later, were on their way to a full recovery. This should NEVER be permitted to happen!

Please join Life Legal as we press on in the fight to protect vulnerable human life.

Reprinted with permission from Life Legal Defense Foundation.

Little Israel Stinson Dies After Hospital Called Him “Brain Dead” and Refused Treatment

In an abrupt, unexpected, and surprise decision, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Thursday dissolved an injunction that prevented a local hospital from turning off 2-year-old Israel Stinson’s ventilator.

The adorable little boy, whose brain-dead diagnosis was fought on two continents by his parents, died shortly afterwards.

“They are devastated. I think still in shock,” family attorney Alexandra Snyder told reporters. “It’s not even my child; I am still in shock this could happen so quickly.”

According to CBS News/Los Angeles

Snyder is shocked by a judge’s decision because just last week the court gave her a temporary order to stop the hospital from removing the ventilator so they could get an opinion from another neurologist.

Many reporters have covered this tragic situation which is eerily similar to Jahi McMath, also diagnosed as brain-dead, whose mother moved her out of California when doctors refused to treat her daughter and who is alive today two and one-half years later.

The most complete appeared in today’s Washington Post

It all started last April, reports Michael E. Miller, “with an asthma attack.”

Israel Stinson was an adorable toddler with a sweet smile and unruly hair. But on April 1, he began having trouble breathing. After he was taken to a northern California hospital, the unthinkable happened: Israel suffered a heart attack. After 40 minutes of CPR, doctors were able to restart his heart. But nearly an hour without oxygen had left him brain dead, they determined.

That’s when the battle began.

In those nearly four months, the family had pulled out all the legal stops and moved Israel to Guatemala on May 22 just before Israel was to be taken off the ventilator. There, Snyder told the Post,

three Guatemalan doctors, including a neurologist, declared that the boy was not brain dead after all.

That diagnosis was based in part on EEG, or electroencephalogram, tests, used to measure electrical activity in the brain, she said.

Snyder declined to name the Guatemalan doctors or their hospital but dismissed the idea that their opinion weighed less than that of American doctors.

“We’re not talking voodoo here,” she told The Post. “They have access to the same equipment as American doctors. Many of them probably have degrees from American medical schools.”

Some three months later they returned to the United States, Miller wrote because, “Despite the pending death certificate, and possibly because of the EEG tests from Guatemala, he had been accepted as a patient at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.”

But, within days,

the new hospital also moved to take the boy off life support. Once again, the family sought an injunction. And on Aug. 11, they received a temporary restraining order blocking the hospital from taking Israel off his ventilator.

Then, on Thursday, came a final, sudden twist in the international medical saga.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge removed the restraining order, saying the case had already been decided at state and federal level before the family traveled to Guatemala.

And with that, doctors turned off Israel’s ventilator.

“I heard them disconnect the ventilator and then heard, of course, a very grieving mother,” said Snyder, who was on the phone with Fonseca at the time.

Snyder told the Post, “What I really don’t understand is why this hospital agreed to take this little boy in the first place,” adding

the boy’s parents never would have brought Israel back to the United States if they had known the hospital was going to pull the plug. “They knew exactly what his condition was, what his treatment was, and they agreed to take him. But it appears they only accepted him as a patient to put him to death. …

“The irony is this little boy was cared for so much better in Guatemala than he was here,” she added.

LifeNews.com Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. This post originally appeared in atNational Right to Life News Today —- an online column on pro-life issues.

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Profs debunk human-chimp 99% shared genes myth at World Youth Day

WYDEditor’s note: The following address was given in a catechesis to youth at World Youth Day.

World Youth Day
July 28, 2016
(Church of the Conversion of St. Paul, Krakow, Poland)
Hugh Owen, Director, Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation
Dr. Thomas Seiler, Ph.D., Physics, Technical University of Munich

Your Excellency, Reverend Fathers, brothers and sisters, younger brothers and sisters in Christ, God is a loving Father, He is Mercy Itself.  So, He always teaches us clearly the things that we need to know for our happiness here on Earth and in eternity.  He doesn’t confuse us. In fact, He teaches us through the inspired, inerrant words of Holy Scripture that, “HE is NOT the Author of confusion.” He is the Father of Mercy who CLEARLY proclaims the Truth that saves us from the father of Lies, from Sin and from Death.   And so that we would never be in doubt about the fundamental truths, the Dogmas, of the Catholic Faith, God has appointed the Holy Father and the Bishops to GUARD the Deposit of Faith that was handed down from the Apostles, so that all that was taught by the Apostles and defined by their successors through the centuries, will always be upheld in its original form, without any corruption or deviation.   That is Divine Mercy in action.

Today, however, my younger brothers and sisters, there is great confusion among many Catholics, especially about what it means to be a man or a woman, and about God’s unchanging plan for Holy Marriage and for the Family.  God is not the Author of this confusion.  And no one who studies and abides by His teaching on this subject as it has been handed down from the Apostles will ever be confused.

Now what is this beautiful teaching on man and woman, on Holy Marriage and on the family that was handed down by all of the Apostles, Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching?

It is very simple and very clear.

It is that “In the beginning, God created ONE Man for ONE woman for LIFE.”

My scientist colleague Dr. Thomas Seiler and I are here to proclaim that sound theology, sound philosophy, and sound natural science ALL confirm this beautiful revelation from God that in the beginning He created Adam’s body from the material elements of the Earth and at one and the same time created his soul to be the form of that body; then He created EVE for Adam from Adam’s side; and placed them as the king and queen of the entire universe, a universe that was completely free not only from human death but from any kind of deformity or disease.

Less than 150 years ago, when the enemies of the Church launched the current war against Holy Marriage and the Family by trying to legalize divorce in Catholic countries where it was forbidden by law, Pope Leo XIII wrote an entire encyclical on Holy Marriage.  In that encyclical Pope Leo directed the Bishops of the whole world to defend Holy Marriage on this foundation. He wrote—and please listen very carefully:

We recall what is known to all and cannot be denied by anyone that God on the sixth day of creation having created Adam from the dust of the Earth and breathed into him the breath of life gave him a companion whom He formed from his side miraculously while he was locked in sleep.

Now the Pope was certainly correct to direct the Bishops in this way — because if every Catholic young person in the world were taught that God created one man for one woman for life from the beginning, it wouldn’t be possible to be confused about the Church’s teaching on Holy Marriage, divorce, contraception, and sexual morality!  When God created Eve, the first woman, for the first man, Adam, by creating Eve’s body from the body of Adam, He showed us CLEARLY that the union of man and woman in Holy Marriage is not something that comes up from the animals; it is something that comes down from the Heaven.  And, therefore, any use of the gift of sexual intimacy outside of a Holy Marriage between one man and one woman committed to each other for life is not only a great sin but a sacrilege — because it takes a gift that God created specifically for man and woman in a permanent, holy, exclusive, and life-giving union and desecrates it.

That is why when Jesus was asked about divorce, He answered CLEARLY, “From the beginning of creation God made them male and female . . .” and of divorce He said to the Pharisees, “From the beginning it was not so . . .”

Now, my younger brothers and sisters, why is it that this beautiful doctrine which the Vicar of Christ on Earth said is “known to all and cannot be denied by any” is today known by so few of your generation and denied by so many of your teachers?

I think you all know the answer.

The reason why many young Catholics do not hear this beautiful Catholic teaching on the creation of Adam and Eve is because we are told that “science” — meaning natural and physical science — has proven that the bodies of the first human beings evolved from microbes over hundreds of millions of years through mutation and natural selection. And, so, we are told, what all of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers in their authoritative teaching called the sacred HISTORY of Genesis—is actually a myth.

But is that true?

Did God allow His Church to teach a totally false account of the origins of man and the universe for almost two thousand years only to enlighten her through the wild speculations of godless men like Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, and T. H. Huxley who hated the Church and wanted to destroy her?

At this point I would like to introduce a Catholic natural scientist who has dedicated much of his life to studying the scientific evidence for and against the hypothesis that molecules turned into human bodies over billions of years of the same kinds of natural processes that are going on now — Dr. Thomas Seiler.  Dr. Seiler has a Ph.D. in Physics from the Technical University of Munich, Germany.  He has lectured at Catholic universities, seminaries, schools, and parishes all over the world, demonstrating that all of the evidence in natural science harmonizes with the traditional Catholic teaching that all human beings on Earth today are descended from one man and one woman who were created in a state of genetic perfection less than ten thousand years ago, just as we are told in the sacred history of Genesis.  Dr. Seiler . . .

Dr. Thomas Seiler:

Most of you may have heard the statement that chimpanzees and humans are having 99% of their genes in common. However, what you are usually not told is that this result was not based on comparing the entire DNA of man and ape but only on comparing a very small fraction of it (ca. 3 %). The function of the other 97% of the genetic code was not understood. Therefore, it was concluded that this DNA had no function at all and it was considered “leftover junk from evolution” and not taken into consideration for the comparison between man and ape. Meanwhile, modern genetics has demonstrated for almost the entire DNA that there is functionality in every genetic letter. And this has led to the collapse of the claim that man and chimpanzee have 99% of their DNA in common.

In 2007, the leading scientific journal Science therefore called the suggested 1% difference “a myth.” And from a publication in Nature in 2010 comparing the genes of our so-called Y-chromosome with those of the chimpanzee Y-chromosome we know now that 60% of human Y-chromosome is not contained in that of the chimpanzee. This represents a difference of one billion genetic letters, known as nucleotides.

And modern genetics has recently made another important discovery which was very unexpected. Researchers found that all of the different groups of humans on earth, wherever they live and whatever they look like, have 99.9% of their genes in common. This leads to a problem for the hypothesis of evolution because if humans really were descended from the apes, then how could it be that we only have 40% of our Y-chromosome in common with the apes but at the same time there is almost a complete genetic identity among all humans? If there had been an evolution from ape to man then it should still go on among men and reveal significant genetic differences. These recent discoveries therefore drastically widen the gap between man and the animals. And they confirm that there are in reality no such things as human “races”. Asians, Europeans, Africans and Indigenous people from America and Australia only have superficial differences like color of skin or shape of the nose but they are all extremely similar on the genetic level.

And these recent breakthrough discoveries even go further. Today, because of the extreme similarity of the human genome, it is considered a well-established fact among geneticists, that all humans living on earth now are descended from one single man and from one single woman. In order to convince yourself of this you only have to search in the internet for the terms “mitochondrial Eve” or “Y-chromosome Adam”. These names were given by evolutionists in an ironic sense but now many regret that choice of name because this discovery perfectly confirms the Catholic Doctrine of Creation which has taught for 2000 years that all humans are brothers and sisters descended from one single human couple, the real historical persons Adam and Eve, not from a multitude of subhuman primates.

Another evolution-related research field is embryology. Biologist Ernst Haeckel proposed his so-called “Biogenetic Law” according to which the embryonic development of vertebrates repeats the assumed history of their evolution from one-celled ancestors. This was formulated by Julian Huxley in the following way: “Embryology gives us the most striking proof of evolution. Many animals which are extremely different as adults are hard to tell apart as embryos. You yourself when you were a young embryo were very like the embryos of lizards, rabbits, chickens, dogfish, and other vertebrates. The only reasonable explanation is that we vertebrates are all related by common descent.” However, apart from the logical error of concluding from similarity to descent, the “evidence” for this proposed law only consisted in Haeckel’s skillful drawings of embryos belonging to different animals and man.

After 120 years, British embryologist Michael Richardson used modern microscopes and examined the embryos of humans and different animals at the same stage of development.  His work has been published in the scientific literature and he summarized the significance of Haeckel’s influential drawings in an interview in The Times London in 1997: “This is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud. It’s shocking to find that somebody one thought was a great scientist was deliberately misleading. … What he [Haeckel] did was to take a human embryo and copy it, pretending that the salamander and the pig and all the others looked the same at the same stage of development. They don’t … These are fakes.”

A further field of research which is related to origins is anatomy. If evolution were true, we would expect to find many vestiges of the organic constructions produced in the course of evolutionary history. Anatomist Robert Wiedersheim presented about one hundred “rudimentary” or “vestigial” organs in humans, organs which have a reduced function or no function at all because they are left-overs from an earlier stage of evolution. Famous examples include the vermiform appendix and the tonsils. Wiedersheim and most of his peers did not understand the function of these organs and concluded from this that they have no function at all. Meanwhile, however, new scientific research has reached a different conclusion. For the appendix, for example, it was found that it has indeed a function in the immune system, especially during the first years of our life.

A similar conclusion has been reached in regard to the tonsils and also for almost all of the other organs functionality has meanwhile been discovered. Yet, even if there were still many organs whose function is unknown, we would never be allowed to conclude from our ignorance of a biological function that there is no function. This would be exactly the same logical error which has been made with the so-called “junk-DNA” for many years.

Now you may ask: But what about the Neanderthals? Have we not found much fossil evidence that there were once ape-men on earth which were our ancestors?

To say it briefly: All fossils which we have found finally turned out to be either fully human, like Neanderthals and others, or fully ape, like Australopithecines. Paleontologists could not find any ape-man fossils — which indicates that these creatures never existed.

The theory of evolution predicts that things change from less complex to more complex, from incompleteness to completeness and that we should find many failures, lost functions, wrong constructions and half-finished organs which are in the process of evolution. However, all the different areas of relevant research, such as genetics, embryology, anatomy and paleontology, over and over again confirm that all the different kinds of creatures began their existence as already perfect and fully formed. Indeed, we do not find any evolving, half-finished eye, ear, leg, or wing in nature, neither in the fossil record nor in today’s world. If such half-complete organs ever had existed then many of them should have survived until today since they were per definition more fit than their ancestors which did not have that organ at all and which are still existing, like the wing-less reptile which supposedly has turned into a bird or the land-mammal which should have turned into a whale.

Furthermore, all changes which we do actually observe in nature are never processes of genetic increase or perfection but always processes of genetic loss and degeneration. This certainly supports that in the beginning, everything must have been perfect and not vice versa. Geneticists observe an ongoing accumulation of harmful mutations in our genome instead of an ongoing perfection of our DNA. This observation is to be expected because the most fundamental natural law, the law of increasing entropy, demands that all natural processes can only proceed from order to disorder and never vice versa. Also so-called open systems cannot produce new constructional information, not in one single case. Therefore, assumed processes like changing a leg into a wing or an ape body into a human body by mutation and selection are excluded by natural law.

Let me conclude with an analogy: One could certainly change a refrigerator into a television by many small steps, replacing one small electrical or mechanical part by another one until one has got a TV. However, it is very improbable that each of these small changes towards the television would lead to a fridge which is a better one than its predecessor or the original one. However, that would be needed to make evolution via continuous selection possible.

For more information, you can visit www.originality-of-species.net.

Hugh Owen:

So, you see, my younger brothers and sisters, REAL NATURAL SCIENCE does not support the evolutionary mythology that human bodies resulted from hundreds of millions of years of genetic mistakes! It confirms the traditional Catholic teaching on the creation of Adam and Eve.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, what difference does it make?”

I will show you that it makes a huge difference.

In the first place, this doctrine tells us that God really did create ONE man for ONE woman for LIFE from the beginning of creation, just as Jesus said.

So we can be sure that God will not bless any change in the Church’s teaching on Holy Marriage, divorce, contraception, or sexual morality.

We can be sure that your happiness and the happiness of your brothers and sisters all over the world depends on KNOWING and OBEYING this teaching — even if some of the professors and teachers in our Catholic institutions want to introduce something new.

Divine Mercy demands that we believe and proclaim this teaching to the whole world: that God created one man for one woman for life from the beginning of Creation.

By our words and by our lives, we must tell the whole world, loudly and clearly, “If you want to be happy, you must follow God’s plan for Holy Marriage.”

That is Divine Mercy.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, the great saint of Auschwitz, understood and defended this teaching against those like Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin who abandoned the Christian doctrine of creation to embrace evolution. The last teaching that St. Maximilian gave before he went to the starvation bunker in Auschwitz was a defense of this beautiful doctrine. Let me share it with you in closing.

As most of you know, Our Blessed Mother visited Lourdes in the south of France in 1858 on the very eve of the publication of Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species in which he argued that humans had evolved from sub-human primates. At the request of her pastor, St. Bernadette asked Our Lady: “Who are You?” And the Blessed Mother answered

“I AM THE Immaculate Conception.”

St. Maximilian meditated on these words for decades and before he died he explained that with these words Our Blessed MOTHER defended the traditional Catholic teaching that God created ONE MAN body and soul for ONE WOMAN for LIFE from the beginning of creation and refuted Darwin’s claim of man’s descent from the apes.

Listen to his explanation.

“Adam,” St. Maximilian explained, “was not conceived in the womb of a parent.  He was created body and soul.” “Eve,” St. Maximilian observed, “was not conceived in the womb of a mother; she was created by God from Adam’s side.”

“Our Lord’s Divine Personhood,” St. Maximilian continued, “was not conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. As a Divine Person — the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity — He existed from eternity.”

Therefore, St. Maximilian concluded, it is true: Our Blessed Mother is THE UNIQUE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.

But, you see, if so-called theistic evolution is true, then Adam was conceived in the womb of a sub-human primate; so was Eve. And if that were true — since theistic evolutionists must hold that Adam and Eve were created without sin — then the Blessed Virgin would have said to St. Bernadette: “I am Immaculate Conception Number Three.”

But She didn’t say that.

Why?

Because She wanted to remind us that God CREATED ONE MAN (body and soul) for ONE WOMAN (formed from his side), FOR LIFE, from the beginning of Creation.

And that is why the Blessed Mother is the UNIQUE, ONE AND ONLY, IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.

Live, embrace and proclaim that Truth wherever you go, and you will be a powerful channel of Divine Mercy!

God bless you all!

‘I’d rather them take my life than to take her,’ says Jahi McMath’s mom

HERNDON, Virginia, July 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The mother of a teenager who was declared “brain dead” and had to be transferred to a hospital across the country in order to continue receiving medical care told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive video interview that her daughter gives her the strength to continue fighting.

Nailah Winkfield, the mother of Jahi McMath, told LifeSiteNews at the 2016 National Right to Life Convention that despite having received death threats for keeping Jahi alive, God — and Jahi herself — give her the strength to move forward in the legal and medical battles surrounding Jahi’s situation.

In 2013, after routine surgery for sleep apnea and to remove her tonsils, then 13-year-old Jahi went into cardiac arrest. She lost oxygen to her brain and a lot of blood, and doctors at a California children’s hospital subsequently declared her brain dead. Jahi’s family did not want the care keeping her alive withdrawn and had to battle the hospital for their daughter’s life. After Jahi’s “brain death” diagnosis, the hospital refused to give her medical care because in California a “brain death” diagnosis legally classifies a person as deceased.

Jahi’s family was eventually allowed to move her to a hospital in New Jersey, and she is now well enough to live at home with her mother.

“To me, there’s nothing more important to me in this world than my kid, so I’d rather them take my life than to take her,” Winkfield said. “And I always tell people all the time, I’d pull the trigger on myself before I’d pull the plug on Jahi. And I’m serious about that. I would not let anything happen to her within my control.”

Winkfield said one of the underlying issues in the way the hospital treated Jahi was money. Had Jahi died, the hospital would have paid Jahi’s family $250,000, but Jahi surviving surgery with serious complications could mean a much heftier price.

“My kid’s life has no price tag on it,” Winkfield said. “So there’s nothing that they could tell me, there’s no amount of money they could give me in the world that could give me back what my daughter lost: her ability to walk, talk, laugh, smile. I miss those things. There’s no money that could give me that back.”

In order for Winkfield to be able to move Jahi from New Jersey back to California, a judge must revoke the adolescent’s death certificate.

“I’ve submitted tons of videos” to the courts of Jahi responding to what she’s asked to do, Winkfield said, along with the testimonies of neurologists and experts saying she is not brain dead.  Now the family must find a judge willing to listen.

Potential for false brain death diagnosis means ‘you’re really not safe anywhere’

Winkfield advised parents faced with a similar situation to stay strong and “just never give up.”

“If you feel that you’re doing the right thing for your kid, you keep doing it,” she said. “And get a good legal team. You have to get a good legal team because if you don’t, you won’t get anywhere.”

Winkfield told LifeSiteNews that it was “shocking” when doctors informed her she didn’t have the right to continue caring for her daughter once they had diagnosed her with brain death.

“They told me I had 72 hours to say my goodbyes to her,” Winkfield said. “I immediately told them no, I didn’t feel that she was dead, and I felt that I didn’t want care withdrew from her and it was my decision. They told me at this point it was not — it was no longer my decision or anybody else’s.”

“I gave birth to her, I’ve been taking care of her her whole life, and you’re gonna tell me I don’t have rights to [take care of] her?” Winkfield asked. “But if she was … to commit a crime or something, and go to juvenile hall, they would say, ‘You have to pay for all these expenses for her. You’re responsible for her.’ But now that I want to keep her alive, [they’re] saying, ‘no, you’re no longer responsible for her.’ We are responsible for her.”

“You’re really not safe anywhere” if your child is diagnosed with brain death, Winkfield warned, and the only state that allows a religious exemption for parents who wish to continue treatment is New Jersey.

Winkfield said that because of her decision to continue caring for her daughter, she has received death threats, people have photoshopped pictures of Jahi to make her look “like her skin is deteriorating,” and her opponents have even called the police and told them a dead girl is in Winkfield’s house.

“People go to the extreme,” Winkfield explained. “I don’t understand why, because I’m not bothering anybody, I’m not asking anybody for anything. The only thing I’m asking is for my child to have a right to live. That’s it. And I want her to have the same benefits and the same treatment as any other child with a disability. That’s all I’m asking for.”

New academic program teaches kids to defend life, family amidst hostile culture

June 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A new academic program that can be integrated into any curriculum teaches students of all ages to understand and defend the sanctity of life, one of the program’s pioneers told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive video interview.

The American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program uses educational supplements to teach students in an age-appropriate way about the value of each human life.  This equips them to respond to the culture of death, which “plays on their emotions,” the program’s Educational Outreach Coordinator Mary Flores said.

“Young people today are very empathetic,” and the culture of death takes advantage of this, especially in regard to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, Flores said.

“One of the most important studies that we released actually last December was our first unit study for high school students, and that is on the difficult topic of euthanasia,” said Flores.  The study is called Euthanasia: An Introduction and is increasingly relevant as the practice is pushed across the United States and Canada and teenagers struggle to understand it, she said.

Flores told LifeSiteNews that even at pro-life conferences, she meets young people who are not well-educated on the issue.

Watch LifeSiteNews’ full interview with Mary Flores:

The euthanasia study is “very simple to follow” and it can make anyone “an instant expert” on the topic, Flores said.

The majority of the program’s creators are homeschooling mothers, Flores said, which has ensured that the content is age-appropriate and easy to incorporate into other curricula.

“The fact that we’re mothers gives us a really special angle,” said Flores. “We also work with pro-life experts from around the country to make sure that all of our unit studies, including the ones for younger children, are age-appropriate and also top-notch.”

Younger children learn about being made in the image and likeness of God “from the moment of creation” through the program’s beginning series of lessons, titled Life Primer. Middle school students “continue their studies of the basic principles of the gospel of life in the series Life Foundations by examining age-appropriate pro-life topics in literature, history, science, and religion,” according to program’s website.

And in high school, the program places more emphasis on evangelization and communication through critical thinking and hands-on activities in the final three series of studies: Life Quest, Life Lens, and Life Scope.

One of the studies for high school students includes a unit on Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and how she promoted artificial birth control across the country. The American Life League is currently hosting a kickstarter campaign to fund the delivery of this unit to supporters of the project.

One of the best things about the Culture of Life Studies Program is “that the materials can be easily worked into youth groups or religious education programs,” said Flores, which can reach public school students who typically do not receive this kind of information.

“I definitely see the Culture of Life Studies Program as an antidote to the many problems in our schools,” said Flores.

In Poland, the government wishes to fund NaProTech rather than IVF

http://www.genethique.org/en/poland-government-wishes-fund-naprotech-rather-ivf-65384.html#.V1iP_Dbmpdh

In December, the new Polish Government[1] decided to terminate State funding of the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) programme with effect from mid-2016 (cf. Poland: the government announces cessation of IVF reimbursement). The Health Minister, Konstanty Radziwill, completed this announcement: He wishes to integrate a “national programme for procreation”. It will suggest NaProTech solutions “that don’t provoke as much controversy as in vitro fertilisation.

During a press conference, the Polish Health Minister gave more details concerning his projects: diagnosis, treatment of infertility, as well as preventive measures will be funded within the new programme announced. “Treating infertility cannot be limited to IVF, the government must be able to suggest other solutions, and fund them equally”. Konstanty Radziwill used the word “abuse” to qualify the fact of suggesting IVF to infertile couples without looking for the cause of their infertility. He wishes to develop NaProTech which is not only less expensive[2] and simpler but also more effective without bringing up ethical issues.

Short for Natural Procreative Technology, NaProTech was developed by the American Professor Thomas W. Hilgers, obstetrician-gynaecologist, specialist in reproductive medicine. While medically assisted fertilisation avoids the causes of infertility, NaProTech looks at treating the underlying causes of infertility and offers results that speak for themselves: women of about 35 years old who have been trying to conceive a child for 5 years have a probability of success between 40% and 50% thanks to this method. For couples experiencing repeated miscarriages, 80% can hope to carry their pregnancy to term.

[1] Elected in October 2015.
[2] The Minister for Health reminded the people that in Ireland, Slovenia, and Luxemburg IVF procedures are not reimbursed, although “these countries are richer than Poland”.

Groundbreaking method of natural family planning helped 90% of infertile couples conceive: study

June 6, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A study conducted by one of the pioneers of natural family planning found that there are inexpensive, highly effective ways for couples to achieve pregnancy without artificial fertility treatments.

Mercedes Wilson, a fertility expert and the president and founder of Family of the Americas, conducted the study, called Natural, Scientific and Highly Effective Treatment for Infertility, with Family of the Americas staff. Wilson has presented the study’s findings at medical conferences and the Pontifical Academy for Life, of which she is a member.

The study was conducted from January 2010 to April 2014 and outlines the effectiveness and simplicity of what Wilson calls the Ovulation Method, which teaches women to recognize natural indicators of their fertility in order to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Wilson’s study found that an overwhelming 90.74 percent of couples struggling to conceive who used her method, which emphasizes nutrition and a holistic approach to the woman’s health, were able to achieve pregnancy.

Wilson studied 54 couples whose struggles with infertility ranged anywhere from 1-12 years. Over the course of just over four years, 50 of the couples achieved pregnancy. The study stresses that the methods it used are essentially free and easy to learn, making them ideal for couples with limited financial resources. The only cost to the method is its educational component.

By contrast, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), an artificial method of combining egg and sperm in a Petri dish to create an embryo and then implanting it into the mother’s uterus, has a success rate of anywhere from 20 to 40 percent. IVF typically costs upwards of $15,000 per cycle. The procedure frequently results in the destruction of “extra,” unwanted human embryos or selective abortion if a woman becomes pregnant with multiple babies.

Natural, Scientific and Highly Effective Treatment for Infertility detailed how the Ovulation Method of natural family planning has been successful in helping couples conceive despite their sometimes past use of artificial contraception.

“Couples from low income brackets, particularly in the cities of poor nations around the world are not informed of the serious side effects of artificial methods of birth control, and its abortifacient effect,” the study notes. Low-income women are frequently pressured into using artificial contraception, the study says, which results in health problems and fertility issues.

One 33-year-old woman was “given the three month Depo-Provena injection after miscarriages, an unfortunate medical procedure.” The contraceptive injection caused her to bleed for 23 days. After taking vitamins and maintaining good nutritional intake, she ultimately was able to conceive and deliver a baby girl.

“Because the poor are humble, they are afraid to question the recommendation of the doctors who often do not instruct them on the serious side effects of such dangerous hormonal chemicals of birth control,” the study noted.

Another woman who had had one miscarriage and had never used artificial birth control was able to regulate her cycle by taking vitamins. She also conceived and delivered a baby.

The study outlines the positive effects on fertility that nutrition and decreased stress can have. Many times women who are overweight, underweight, excessively exercise, or excessively work have difficulty conceiving, the study said, and teaching them to naturally improve their health and monitor their bodies for signs of fertility is sometimes all that is necessary for them to conceive.

Although the study is small and will likely need to be replicated in order to solidify its authority to the medical community, the authors say it shows that artificial reproductive technologies and hormonal contraceptives are not the all-encompassing solution to infertility.

Toddler spared as he’s airlifted out of hospital that wanted to remove his life support

SACRAMENTO, California, May 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The parents of a two-year-old California boy on life support have won a crucial interim victory in the fight to keep their son alive, the latest in a lengthy dispute over his condition and care.

Israel Stinson was airlifted to a hospital in an undisclosed location outside the United States on Saturday after weeks of searching for a facility that would provide him treatment in preparation for long-term care, in a case hinging on the contested issue of the legal definition of brain death.

The Sacramento-area Kaiser Permanente facility where Israel Stinson had been since mid-April had declared him brain dead shortly after his arrival, eschewing treatment since then and providing the child only minimal nutrition while acting to remove him from life support.

“Victory!” his Israel’s mother Jonee Fonseca said in a statement Sunday. “Israel Stinson was transferred out of Kaiser Permanente yesterday. He has been taken to another facility and is already receiving treatment.”

“It is remarkable that Israel was given more treatment in the first five hours at the new hospital than in more than five weeks at the Kaiser facility,” Life Legal Defense Fund (LLDF) Executive Director Alexandra Snyder told LifeSiteNews.

Fonseca said because of the sensitivity of her son’s case, the family is not yet prepared to release his location.

“But we can say this, in order for Israel to receive his badly needed care, he had to be transferred out of the United States,” Fonseca stated. “That’s right. After weeks and weeks of searching, no hospital facility in the United States would accept our son.”

The difficulty securing a facility to accept and treat Israel while the family sought long-term care stemmed from Kaiser’s doctors having declared him brain dead, despite the conflicting opinions of specialists retained by the family.

Snyder told LifeSiteNews that doctors at the facility where Israel is now have also said the boy is not brain dead.

“A neurologist and Israel’s pediatric specialist did an extensive examination and determined that Israel is not brain dead,” she said. “This doesn’t mean he is out of the woods, as he does have a severe brain injury. But at least he is being provided treatment and nutrition now.”

Israel’s mother celebrated the fact that her son is now being “treated like a patient” and receiving basic nutrition and care.

“Israel’s medical chart at Kaiser said he was deceased. But Israel is alive!” Fonseca said. “He is right now receiving nutrients and a treatment protocol for the first time in 6 weeks.”

Israel’s story began April 1 when he was brought to the Sacramento Mercy General ER with a severe asthma attack. After he was stabilized, Israel was moved to the pediatric unit at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where he suffered another attack resulting in cardiac arrest. The toddler was put on a ventilator, and then transferred April 12 to the Kaiser facility for treatment at the family’s request due to concern over the handling of his treatment during the second attack at UC Davis.

Less than 24 hours after his arrival at Kaiser, the hospital performed brain function testing on Israel, without the family’s full knowledge or consent and against their wishes, prompting Fonseca to contact LLDF for help.

The legal battle began with a temporary restraining order enjoining Kaiser from removing life support to allow the family to find an interim facility for Israel, the ultimate goal being long-term care. The family was looking at New Jersey for this since its state law does not allow for a declaration of brain death in cases where the family members believe that life continues until the heart stops beating.

Fonseca and Israel’s father Nate Stinson have maintained throughout that Israel has been responsive to their touch and voices, as well as music, and they have relied openly on their faith to get them through.

LLDF has worked with Pacific Justice Institute as the case has wound its way through the courts to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was again headed this past Monday before Israel’s transfer over the weekend from Kaiser.

While Israel’s situation has stabilized for the time being, his family’s Pacific Justice Institute attorneys say the little boy’s case broaches the issue of the state of California’s law regarding a determination of brain death.

“While an important goal of this case has been achieved, it has also raised serious questions about the constitutionality of the California Uniform Determination of Death Act,” Matt McReynolds stated in a report by The Sacramento Bee. “It has become clear that declarations of brain death do not always reflect medical consensus and do not comport with basic notions of due process. These legal claims have not been mooted, and we will be evaluating how best to pursue these important constitutional questions.”

Fonseca’s suit against Kaiser to prevent the facility from removing Israel from life support contended that the hospital’s declaration of brain death violated her constitutional rights of due process to determine her son’s care.

Pacific Justice Institute lead attorney Kevin Snider said the crisis in Israel’s case was over, but a reason and opportunity to challenge the law remains, and it will be up to Israel’s parents if they want to go forward with that.

After Israel’s transfer Saturday to a new hospital Fonseca thanked supporters on the family’s GoFundMe page, set up last month to help fund the toddler’s transfer to another facility. Donations on the page have reached $20,000, and Fonseca said that because of the support, “Israel was able to beat the odds and is now being cared for as a live human being.”

The prayers of supporters have “made all the difference,” Fonseca continued, giving her son the chance to recover. But with the quest to finally get him home still ongoing, she asked supporters to remain engaged in his case.

“We have a long road ahead,” Fonseca stated. “Our story is not yet over.”

Scientists say life begins at conception with a flash of light

May 3, 2016 (LiveActionNews) — Abortion advocates often claim as a defense of abortion that no one can really, truly define the moment life begins. Without knowing that, they say, there’s no real argument against abortion. Consider, for example, Melissa Harris-Perry’s insistence that life begins “whenever you feel like it does.” Obama famously said that the question of when life begins was above his pay grade. While the science of embryology has long been settled, it’s still not good enough for abortion activists.

But a new scientific breakthrough might go a long way towards changing hearts and minds: scientists have been able to capture the moment life begins, with a bright flash of light as a new life is conceived…

Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.

An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.

egg6-large_

Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in…animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.

The photos included were not of actual embryos being created — the scientists used a sperm enzyme to replicate the incredible moment that life begins.

Unfortunately, rather than using this discovery to defend life, scientists are using it to better discern which lives to destroy.

Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.

… “This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilization, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization.

“It’s a way of sorting egg quality in a way we’ve never been able to assess before. “All of biology starts at the time of fertilization, yet we know next to nothing about the events that occur in the human.”

So basically, the scientists are advocating for embryos to be created in order to facilitate IVF, and then destroyed if they don’t seem to be the healthiest, strongest embryos. The ones with a dimmer glow are deemed to be weaker, perhaps because of a genetic abnormality, and so after creating their unique lives, scientists plan to destroy them. This is even though science has also just confirmed that babies with abnormalities can self-correct while still in the womb. People who are undergoing IVF are often encouraged to destroy “defective” embryos, ending the lives that were just created, without giving the embryos any chance at all to grow and develop, and certainly without placing any value on the uniqueness of each human life.

As Secular Pro-Life pointed out:

[T]he article is refreshingly clear about conception being the point where life begins. There is no obfuscation. The very first line of the article is “Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.”

Which is why the rest of the article is so incredibly disturbing.

Agreed. It’s sad that such a life-affirming discovery is being used to further the culture of death.

Reprinted with permission from Live Action News.

African families gravely threatened by Western governments, international agencies and Vatican departments

August 18, 2015 (VoiceoftheFamily) — John Smeaton, Chief Executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn  Children, and co-founder of the international coalition Voice of the Family, spoke on 7th August at a two day pro-life conference organised by the bishops of Ghana. The conference was entitled “Protecting Life and Family Values in the continuing Culture of Death”.

In his talk to the conference Mr Smeaton outlined the threat posed to Africa by the international population control movement. He also drew attention to the collaboration between leading figures in that movement and important Vatican departments. He went on to give an overview of the threat posed to families, in Africa and around the world, by the instrumentum laboris of the Ordinary Synod, to be held in Rome in October this year. His full talk can be read below:

I begin by drawing your attention to National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200). The National Security Council of the United States completed a study in 1974 entitled Implications of the Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests known in short as NSSM 200.

NSSM 200, promoted and endorsed by Dr Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s National Security Adviser, expressed the gravest fears that the political consequences of current population factors in the less developed countries might create “political or even national security problems for the US”.

A 1977 annual report on the implementation of NSSM 200 emphasises the strategic importance of using “intermediaries” such as the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the World Bank and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), since they could operate in countries where the United States “are not now acceptable” thus avoiding the accusation of imperialism.

This is exactly what Marie Stopes International (MSI) and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and others are doing in Ghana today. According to the IPPF website, Planned Parenthood Association Ghana, IPPF’s subsidiary, delivered in Ghana in the year 2011:

5.8 million condoms

330,000 contraceptive services

526,000 other sexual and reproductive health services

606,000 services to young people under 25 years

When International Planned Parenthood Federation refer to “reproductive health” they are referring to access to contraception and abortion – according to the definition of “reproductive health” used by the UNFPA and other UN bodies, governments such the current US administration and international anti-life NGOs such as IPPF and MSI.

On 26th March 2014 in New York, the International Planned Parenthood Federation co-hosted an event, particularly targeting African nations, to “present a declaration calling for universal access to safe and legal abortion”.

Let me say a little here about President Obama because his policies affect all of us, not least the people of Ghana. On October 12th 2009 the Obama administration confirmed at the UN that it would be promoting legalised abortion throughout the world, targeting adolescents in a worldwide abortion drive.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron has threatened to withhold UK aid from poor countries that do not conform and I quote: “British aid should have more strings attached”. David Cameron was speaking here in particular of the UK government’s homosexual rights agenda.

The homosexual rights agenda in my nation and in so many other nations represents a massive attack on the sanctity of human life for many reasons. For example, as you know, same-sex couples are now demanding the right to have children– making it even more difficult for pro-life groups effectively to oppose surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation. According to peer-reviewed research, for every baby born by IVF, 23 are either discarded, or frozen, or used in destructive experiments, or miscarry.  Defending the right to life of unborn children will increasingly be viewed as an attack on the rights of homosexual couples.

Morever, the homosexual rights’ agenda is a top priority for Planned Parenthood working here in Ghana.

Make no mistake, Planned Parenthood, hugely funded by the US government, the British government and the overwhelming majority of nations worldwide, are the enemy of Ghana’s children. In 2011, at the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Population Council and other pro-abortion groups held a meeting to launch worldwide a massive programme of so-called comprehensive sex education entitled: “It’s All One Curriculum”.

The curriculum shows itself to be nakedly polemical rather than educational. It states:

“People can support or join movements for social change at the global level. For example: …youth-led networks for sexual and reproductive rights and services.” (p.231)

And on page 61 of their curriculum guidelines they advise educators: “Certain social movements promote greater equality and dignity within marriage. These include: movements to legalize same-sex marriage”.

In the same document, International Planned Parenthood Federation tell teachers of young children that sexual self-abuse is a human right. They say:

“Sexuality may be expressed by oneself … Sexuality — expressed alone…can be a source of pleasure and meaning in life. (p.84) “ … Masturbation is an important way that people learn about their bodies and sexuality … Masturbation is a safe sexual behavior. It is neither physically nor mentally harmful.” (p.99)]

This is the kind of thing which Planned Parenthood is delivering to your children here in Ghana. In their “Access, Services and Knowledge (ASK) programme” which IPPF describes as a “‘ what young people want, what young people need’ programme” they target your 10 – 24 year-olds including underserved groups: The specific focus – an uptake of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. The 3 year programme targets African young people in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal.”

IPPF Africa Region says: “ASK aims to ensure that young people … receive direct information on sexual and reproductive health and rights so that they can make independent informed decisions.” For a full appreciation of IPPF’s concept of sexual rights I urge you to study Sexual Rights: an IPPF Declaration.

Moreover, yesterday, a story in The Ghanaian Times reports that the Norweigan Development Agency is targeting thousands of your 15 – 25 year-old young women in poor and urban and peri-urban areas of Ghana to introduce them, amongst other things, to sexual and reproductive health – a term meaning access to contraception and abortion.

Powerful Western forces as I speak are seeking to control your population by corrupting your nation’s values, in particular by targeting the innocence of your children and young people.

In a book entitled Adam and Eve after the Pill – Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, Mary Eberstadt, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, describes the teaching of Pope Paul VI inHumanae Vitae on regulation of birth, published on July 25, 1968, as “perhaps the most unfashionable, unwanted, and ubiquitously deplored moral teaching on earth”. She then goes on to show that the teaching of Humanae Vitae is in fact the “most thoroughly vindicated” moral teaching on earth “by the accumulation of secular, empirical, post-revolutionary fact”. In this connection, Mary Eberstadt cites Nobel-Prize winning economist George Akerlof. In a 1996 article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Akerlof explains “why the sexual revolution, contrary to common prediction, especially those in and out of the church who wanted the teaching on birth control changed, had led to an increase in illegitimacy and abortion.” Mary Eberstadt continues: “In another work published in the Economic Journal in 1998, Akerlof traced the empirical connections between the decrease in marriage and married fatherhood for men – both clear consequences of the contraceptive revolution – and the simultaneous increase in behaviours to which single men appear more prone: substance abuse, incarceration, and arrests, to name just three.”

Mary Eberstadt in Adam and Eve and the Pill also says: “The years since Humanae Vitae have … vindicated the encyclical’s fear that government would use the new contraceptive technology coercively”.

In this connection, who can seriously doubt the effectiveness of powerful western nations and NGOs in promoting anti-life sex education programmes which seek to eliminate the role of parents as the primary educators and protectors of their children? This is a form of coercion on families which is resulting worldwide, not least in the UK my own country, in schoolchildren being given access to contraception and abortion without the knowledge of their parents, including in Catholic schools.

Thank God for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ghana for your witness on these fundamental matters. In particular, I congratulate and thank you for your Communiqué last November in which you said: “We also deplore in no uncertain terms a radical and faceless culture of death which promotes among other things the supply and use of the condom in our schools, the in vitro fertilization and the contraception agenda of some national and international institutions in Ghana … we urge those who represent Ghana at the United Nations and other such bodies to realise that these practices are culturally abominable and morally and spiritually reprehensible …”

Above all, as Pope John Paul II pointed out in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, there is a close interconnection between contraception and abortion. According to the manufacturers, one of the contraceptive pill’s modes of action is to cause an early abortion. Thus the use of contraception undermines respect for the sanctity of human life from conception and makes the possibility of abortion an option.

As a pro-life leader for four decades and as a Catholic layman, a father and grandfather, I believe that it is urgent and overdue that the Church reaffirm the unchangeable teaching of Humanae Vitae on the separation of the procreative and unitive dimensions of the sexual act by the use of contraceptive methods. The separation of the procreative and unitive dimensions of the sexual act which is intrinsic to the use of contraception has acted as major catalyst of the culture of death. I am certain that until the core teaching of Humanae Vitae is constantly proclaimed throughout the Church and at the highest level of authority, the pro-life movement will not prevail.

In this connection, I am grateful to His Eminence Cardinal Turkson for sensitising our pro-life conference today to the pressures on church leaders which are constantly being brought to bear to change the Church’s unchanging and unchangeable teaching on contraception and abortion.

Particularly in relation to population control in Africa, I want to draw attention to the activities of Dr Jeffrey Sachs, the special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Jeffrey Sachs heads the Sustainable Solutions Network, which was responsible for producing a draft for the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for increased access to abortion and contraception worldwide.

Jeffrey Sachs made a plea for legalizing abortion as a cost-effective way to eliminate “unwanted children” when contraception fails in his 2008 book Commonwealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet.

In his book The Age of Sustainable Development, published last March, Jeffrey Sachs states quite clearly that the birth rate in Africa must be reduced.

Sachs proposes three methods of fertility rate reduction, the third of which is that governments must encourage their populations to lower family size by promoting birth control and providing access to free or low-cost contraception and family planning.

In 2011 Sachs expressed his horror at Nigeria’s rising population and called for the Nigerian government “to work towards attaining a maximum of three children.”

In June this year he called for the UN to provide 1 million healthcare workers for Africa. That is 1 million UN workers travelling through Africa promoting abortion and contraception.

Sachs will be in the Vatican in November to take part in a workshop organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which will discuss how to “use children as agents of change” in pursuing sustainable development and the environmental agenda.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences’ workshop explicitly cites the papal encyclical Laudato Si, as the basis for its work.

I repeat: the subject of the Vatican Workshop in November us “using children as agents of change” in pursuing sustainable development and the environmental agenda.

Not only in this context, as a parent and grandparent, I am deeply concerned that Laudato Si makes no reference to parents as the primary educators of their children. Using children as agents of change in pursuing sustainable development and the environmental agenda will very soon become a required part of school curricula throughout the world. Have no doubt that the worldwide population control powers-that-be, led by people like Jeffrey Sachs, will make their influence well and truly felt in shaping those school curricula.

It is extremely disturbing that at the very moment when the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, the organization which I lead, and other pro-life organisations, have been fighting tooth-and-nail at the United Nations to protect developing countries from the pro-abortion, pro-contraception, anti-parent elements written into the sustainable development goals, that the Holy See has been seeking Jeffrey Sachs’s advice and permitting him to help shape the Holy See’s policies on sustainable development.

Jeffrey Sachs has played a leading role at Vatican conferences and workshops on these matters no less than six times in the last couple of years and has had a personal audience with Pope Francis.

I note here with great foreboding that the omission of any reference to Church teaching on the use of contraception in the papal encyclical in the environment leaves Catholics ill-prepared to resist the international population control agenda. The encyclical calls for increased international environmental action in paragraphs 173-175, while neglecting to prepare Catholics for what such action will undoubtedly involve: renewed attempts to further impose contraception and abortion on the developing world. There is now a grave danger that our children will be exposed to this agenda under the guise of education on environmental concerns. The proposed plans of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and the lack of clear teaching on these dangers in the encyclical, put us on our guard. Catholic parents must resist all attacks on our children, even when they emanate from within the Vatican.

Even more disturbing in relation to contraception is the recently published instrumentum laboris, the working document for the forthcoming Family Synod. The instrumentum laboris, clearly undermines the teaching of the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. Paragraph 137 effectively seeks to nullify the central teaching of Humanae Vitae which declared morally inadmissable “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, [which] is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”

Paragraph 137 of the instrumentum laboris, without in any way restating this fundamental teaching of Humanae Vitae, suggests that a balance must be reached between the “role of conscience” and the “objective moral norm” under “the regular guidance of a competent and spiritual guide”. The implication of the whole passage is that contraceptive acts may sometimes be permitted. Let me conclude this section of my talk by quoting again the timeless teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae:

“Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it …  even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.”

Furthermore, Paragraph 86 of the instrumentum laboris contains a direct attack on the rights of parents. The paragraph states that “the family, while maintaining its privileged spot in education, cannot be the only place for teaching sexuality.” This statement is directly contrary to Catholic teaching which affirms the right and duty of parents to be the first and foremost providers of education to their children in sexual matters. Parents are entirely capable of performing this task by themselves and it is entirely their choice if they wish to involve others. Paragraph 86 of the instrumentum laboris leaves Ghanaian children, and my grandchildren, at the mercy of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

There are other major terrible and terrifying passages for families throughout the world, Catholic and non-Catholic families, in the instrumentum laboris on which I don’t have the time to comment today – but I will leave copies of an analysis of this disturbing document for your attention.

I say these things to you today to fulfil my responsibility outlined in Canon 212 of the Code of Canon Law:

According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

The crisis in the Church is quite possibly unparalleled. So let us say a prayer for Pope Francis. May the Lord preserve him and give him life and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

In June this year, a consultative meeting of African prelates was held in Accra, Ghana, which culminated in the 45 bishops and 5 cardinals representing episcopal conferences across the continent expressing their intention to present a united determination to defend Church teaching about marriage and family at the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family.

In the closing communique of the meeting in Accra, the bishops of Africa said that at the upcoming Synod on the Family they would offer “a clear affirmation of family and marriage values according to the Word of God and the doctrine of the Church.”

Thank God for the African bishops. My family and families throughout the world will be praying for you in the coming months – that you continue to be courageous apostles of the unchanging and unchangeable Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the family, the Gospel of life.

Our Lady of America needs your help!‏

 

 

Our Lord and His Blessed Mother Mary visited with Precious Blood Sister Mary Ephrem on several occasions from the 1940s until at least 1959 and probably until Sister’s death in 2000. Mary identified herself as the Immaculate Conception, and also as “Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin”.

On September 25th, 1956, Our Lady promised that greater miracles than those granted at Lourdes and Fatima would be granted here in America, the United States in particular, if we would do as she desires. Our Lady indicated that this promise was not for miracles of the body, but of the soul. The following morning, Mary spoke ‘very solemnly and distinctly’:  “I am Our Lady of America. I desire that my children honor me, especially by the purity of their lives.”

“Our Lady made three requests:

* That a medal be cast that bore her image as Our Lady of America, with these words around it: “By your Holy and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, deliver us from evil.” The Coat of Arms of the Christian Family is on the other side of the medal and includes a representation of the Divine Indwelling.

* That a statue be made according to the description she gave to Sister Mary Ephrem, and

* That this statue be placed, after being solemnly carried in procession, in the Shrine of The Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. She wishes to be honored there in a special way as Our Lady of America, the Immaculate Virgin. (Nov 15, 1956)

Her first two requests have been accomplished and her statue is very near to the Shrine. Her third request-made over 58 years ago-has still not been granted. In three separate messages during 1959 (February, July, and December), Our Lady made it clear that she had run out of patience and could no longer stop the persecution that Her Son promised if her requests were not granted.

Could it be that the threatened persecution actually began the following year-1960-with the introduction of the revolutionary Birth Control Pill?1 Can this persecution be stopped by granting Mary’s third request?

Pope Francis will be at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday September 23rd to canonize Fr Junipero Serra.

This may be a graced opportunity for having Our Lady’s remaining request granted. You can help make that happen by writing to Pope Francis.

Here is how to do that.

Ask Pope Francis to Advocate for, and Join in, that Solemn Procession

Write a letter to Pope Francis in which you ask His Holiness to endorse personally the devotion to Our Lady of America and to invite the United States Catholic Bishops to join Him in the Solemn Procession and permanent placement of the statue of Our Lady of America into the Basilica of the National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception at Washington, DC when he visits that shrine church in September.

You should address your letter or postcard, as follows:

His Holiness, Pope Francis c/o Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.A. 3339 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008-3610

[EXAMPLE POST CARD MESSAGE]

Re: Our Lady of America, Her unique request here in the USA

Dear Pope Francis,

When you come to the USA in September 2015, please encourage the United States bishops to join you in a solemn procession and the permanent placement of the Our Lady of America statue into the National Shrine

Basilica of The Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

Please know that we pray for you faithfully.

Most respectfully,

[Your name]

[Be sure to include your return address]

______________________________

For more examples go to:

http://www.ourladyofamerica.org/PopeFrancisSampleLetters.php

1. Our nation’s laws chronicle the shifts our culture has taken:

a) Prayer in public schools determined to be illegal-1962

b) Laws against distribution of birth control overturned-1965

c) First no-fault divorce law (CA)-1969

d) Title X provides free contraceptives to low-income women-1970

e) Laws against distribution of birth control to single people overturned-1972

f) All laws against abortion declared unconstitutional-1973

g) Supreme Court reaffirms Roe vs Wade, admits that abortion is necessary for failed contraception, and gives people the right to organize intimate relationships and make choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society-1992

h) First physician assisted suicide law approved in Oregon-1992

i)Supreme Court decides Texas Law banning sodomy is unconstitutional and thus eliminates all state laws against sodomy-2003

j) Legality of same-sex “marriage” established nation-wide-2015.

 

May God bless America and each of us.

 

The birth control pill shrinks women’s brains

monofasicaApril 15, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Women who use the birth control pill may be shrinking their brains and increasing their chances of developing Crohn’s disease, two new studies have found.

Neuroscientists from the University of California, Los Angeles found that the two main regions of the brain controlling emotion and decision-making are thinner in women who take the pill.

A study published April 2 in the journal Human Brain Mapping reports that the pill’s chemicals block the body’s natural hormones, altering the brain’s structure and function.

The study concluded that oral contraceptive use “was associated with significantly lower cortical thickness measurements in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex.”

The orbitofrontal cortex controls decision-making and the posterior cingulate manages emotions. And among the, both of these two areas were smaller than average in those taking the pill.

The UCLA scientists – who studied 90 women, 44 who were on the pill and 46 who were not – found that the pill can shrink parts of the brain but stated their data pointed to no conclusive results about the effects of chemical contraceptives on female behavior.

The researchers also did not determine whether this brain shrinkage is permanent, and indicated more research is needed.

“Future studies can investigate the time course of these effects. It is currently not known whether these effects appear immediately after initiating OC use, or gradually accumulate and increase over time,” they said. “Further, it is not known how long these effects persist after OC discontinuation.”

Another report released in March says the pill triples the chance of developing the incurable digestive condition known as Crohn’s disease.

Harvard gastroenterologist Doctor Hamed Kha conducted a study of 230,000 American women who had used the pill for at least five years, finding that the synthetic hormones contained in the contraceptives can

weaken the digestive system, creating ideal conditions for Crohn’s development.

The study also concluded that the abortifacient “morning after” pill, which carries a higher dose of synthetic hormones, can also increase the likelihood of developing Crohn’s.

British researchers also found a link between chemical contraceptives and Crohn’s in 2009.

Kha said it was not likely the pill alone would cause Crohn’s, and that genetics also came into play. But he told The Telegraph that he expects women genetically predisposed to Crohn’s to be warned soon to avoid the pill.

A doctor in the UK was already doing so.

“If you have a family history of Crohn’s I would advise against starting on the pill,”

said Doctor Simon Anderson, a consultant gastroenterologist at London Bridge hospital.

Hormonal contraceptives, especially the birth control pill, have a well-documented history of physically harming the women who take them.

In 2005 a division of the World Health Organization declared chemical contraceptives to be a Group 1 Carcinogen, the highest classification of carcinogenicity, used only when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans.

The birth control pill has been linked to social ills and many medical problems, such as breast cancer, hair loss, increased risk of glaucoma and blood clots, hardening of the arteries and cervical cancer.

A 2014 study found the pill negatively affected women’s attraction to men, and a 2011 study linked the pill to reduction in women’s memory.

A specific type of hormone pill meant to treat acne and excessive hair growth in women which has often been used off-label as a contraceptive, was implicated in the deaths of 27 women in the Netherlands in 2013.

Researchers at the University of Missouri at Columbia found in 2005 that boys exposed certain synthetic hormones in the pill had a greater risk of prostate cancer and other urinary tract problems later in life.

Chemical contraceptives finding their way into water systems have adversely affected wildlife as well, mutating the gender of some species of fish and nearly causing extinction of others.

We Are ‘Synthetic Children’ And We Agree With Dolce & Gabbana

http://thefederalist.com

This past week has seen the outrage generated by parents of donor and invitro-fertilization children following a now-infamous Panorama magazine interview conducted with the fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana, wherein Domenico Dolce proclaimed, “You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. I call children of chemistry, synthetic children.” Immediately, Elton John advocated a boycott of the designers’ products in retaliation for the perceived offense against his two sons, who were conceived via an egg donor and surrogate mother.

Speaking as two donor-conceived young women—alive because of reproductive technologies—we felt an urgent need to respond…in support of Dolce and Gabbana.

John’s children were commissioned in partnership with his spouse, David Furnish, and it is not yet public information which man is the biological father, or if they both are and the children are not fully genetically related. The hashtags #BoycottDolceGabbana as well as #BoycottEltonJohn are trending on Twitter, with a multitude of parents defending IVF and their “beautiful children.” Many users are posting pictures of infants with captions such as:

It is important to note, however, that infants, toddlers, and all of these “miracle” beings are too young to protest their own objectification. We however, are now of age and in a position to speak for ourselves. “Synthetic” indeed is a harsh and inaccurate description of us offspring born by third-party reproduction. Dolce’s word choice was a mistake. But there is much underlying truth in what he said: “life [does] have a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” Emphasis ours.

Those of us conceived non-traditionally are full human beings with equal capacity in every regard—no one need question our humanity. It is not our individual, case-by-case worth as humans that is debatable; rather, it is how we value human beings in general that warrants discussion. Has anyone asked John for how much he purchased his kids? How much money he and Furnish paid the boy’s genetic and birth mother for their absence and invisibility?
Has anyone asked Elton John for how much he purchased his kids?

I (Alana) remember when I was in school and I told my then-best friend the truth about my conception. When our friendship frayed, as tween friendships do, she released my secret as gossip—invisible, quiet, and as poisonous as carbon monoxide fumes—and I became the “test-tube girl.” The label was humiliating.

Later, in a college English class we studied “Brave New World,” and it immediately became one of my favorite works of fiction, up there with “Gattaca.” What we were essentially studying was what it means to be human. My classroom was located in Cupertino, California, and even in my liberal environment the teacher and students took heed at Huxley’s warning against manufactured people and the “outdated” nature of mothers. The class was angry at the possibility of such a world—they felt that their humanity and most important relationships (like the one with their mothers and fathers) were being threatened. The din got to a point where I had to raise my hand and speak up. I was 17 years old. I barely understood myself, let alone the world, and I said simply and defensively, “I was conceived with reproductive technologies.”

The class was silent for a very long time. Finally, a boy sitting next to me offered solemnly, “Well, she seems like a perfectly fine human being—maybe we shouldn’t be so hysteric.”

I am indeed a human being. My liver, heart, hair, and enzymes all work the same. I’ve discovered it is my psychology that is different and not-quite-right, due to my conception. It’s not a matter for doctors to fix; it’s a spiritual problem. My father accepted money, and promised to have nothing to do with me. My mother was wonderful and I have always loved her deeply, as she has loved me. But my journey is a battle against the void left by my father’s absence, and a particular disability in understanding the difference between sacred and commercial, exploitation and cooperation. Those torments for me far outweigh any social stigma or momentarily painful gossip I’ve endured from ignorant people.

For children whose genetic or birth mother’s absence has been commissioned, they will ask, “Where is my mother?” Like this young author at The Anonymous Us Project:

I’m 14 and live with my father. He always told me that my mom died when I was very young. Recently I was going through some files and found out that I was actually born by a person who donated their egg and I was born through a surrogate mother in Virginia. This led me to believe that my father was never married. I’m also very sure my dad was never married because I discovered that he is gay. Why would my dad keep this all from me?

Implicitly stated in this post is that the author’s father considered a dead mother to be better, healthier than an egg donor or surrogate mother.
My father accepted money, and promised to have nothing to do with me.

And I (Hattie) have undergone a strikingly similar experience; my mother informed me of my true parentage when I was 14, and it was, as they say, irrevocable. My mother’s then-husband had waited until they divorced to permit her to tell me, and the revelation of his not being my biological father clarified an overwhelming amount of issues between us. For a multitude of reasons—his background, my personality and beliefs, our lack of biological connection—the cards were stacked against our having a conventional, loving father-daughter relationship. And we didn’t.

One of the greatest tragedies of donor conception is the loss of belonging: to family, to a culture. Essentially, one becomes malleable like an infant. I crave a home. I see myself as I travel in many directions—doing anything in order to find one.

Through the storytelling of other donor-conceived individuals, and scientific research pertaining to third-party reproduction and genetics, I have discovered that my situation is by no means unique, and I now understand the scientific explanations as to why my social father and I—up to a certain point—were unable to bond. It is natural for me to desire my father, for evolution has blessed those that secure such a bond with better survival rates.

The lack of my biological father’s presence is a devastating reality, a burden I will likely bare my entire existence. And now, knowing the truth of my conception, when I remember my past I remember everything that was absent from it.
Team Elton is literally promoting the obliteration of mothers—not through vilification, but by pretending they don’t even exist.

Team Elton, and the media that surround them, seem to think that this discussion is about gay parents. Team Dolce and Gabbana are instead trying to draw attention to missing parents. And to what should be the horror of millions, Team Elton is literally promoting the obliteration of mothers—not through vilification, but by pretending they don’t even exist.

Dolce and Gabbana, on the other hand, have recently unveiled two campaigns celebrating women and motherhood. And while this emphasis is unprecedented in the world of fashion, it seems a most rational tribute; these men spend hours designing garments made specifically to compliment women’s bodies; their hands—measuring and configuring—are constantly in proximity to a female figure. While fitting bustiers to real women’s bodies the last 30 years, perhaps Stefano or Domenico once considered to themselves, “Hmm, I wonder what these breast things are for?”

“I’m Sicilian and I grew up in a traditional family, made up of a mother, a father and children. I am very well aware that there are other types of families and they are as legitimate as the one I’ve known,” says Dolce, attempting consolation amid the uproar against he and his business partner. Currently, the family dynamic that has proved the healthiest and most successful has been the traditional one, and that of Dolce’s experience: A mother, a father, and ensuing offspring from the sexual and social union of the two sexually complimentary parents.

In the study “My Daddy’s Name Is Donor,” it was found that, “Regarding troubling outcomes, even with controls, the offspring of lesbian couples who used a sperm donor to conceive appear more than twice as likely as those raised by their biological parents to report struggling with substance abuse,” an alarming result displaying the reality of being raised without both genetic parents.
In order to obey the desires of one parent we must agree to the obliteration of the other.

Some suggest that spending more money on making children means that they are more loved. Our children are definitively wanted, they say.

“The baby doesn’t care anything about the money,” says marriage and family therapist Nancy Verrier, regarding the issues surrounding surrogacy. “That’s not what hurts the baby. The baby is hurt by the separation, by the loss of that mother that it knows.” This ever-present realization of loss remains with both mother and child throughout their lives. Nature has ensured that mothers and children attach to one another, as it is a trait necessary to our survival; without motivation to love or instinctively care for her child, why would a mother protect her children from potential danger? She wouldn’t, and that would have heralded the end of our species. With this biological connection so immediate and meaningful, why doesn’t society view maintenance of that connection as more imperative?

Dolce and Gabbana are realists whose daily work consumes their time with raw natural materials. They work hard to understand the practical applications and limitations of tangible things—silks, leathers, jewels, studs. As masters of their art, they know what is possible, and what is foolish to attempt. They owe their success to their understanding, appreciation, and honoring of the human body.

Growing up donor-conceived, it has been a great struggle to comply with the commandment “Honor thy mother and thy father,” because in order to obey the desires of one parent we must agree to the obliteration of the other. We plead, we beg: let us honor both our mothers and fathers as essential and irreplaceable.

Thank you, Domenico and Stefano, for your bravery.

Contraception gave us divorce and gay ‘marriage’ and will destroy us: here’s how

March 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Although there has always been contraception, its acceptance and practice by society as a whole is a relatively new phenomenon. In the first part of the 20th century barrier methods became through mass production increasingly used. However, with the advent of the hormonal contraceptive pill in the 1960s the contraceptive era, ushering in the sexual revolution, really took off.

The term “revolution” is by no means exaggerated, for the result was a fundamental change in the understanding of human sexuality in society. With the pill, people thought, nothing can happen, i.e. no child could be conceived. Inhibitions broke down, so that there was an increase in adultery, living together before marriage and living together with no thought of marriage. Amoral sex education with the message, “You can do anything you like so long as your partner agrees and you use contraception. If there is an accident, have an abortion,” promoted sexual promiscuity from puberty onwards. Sexual activity has been degraded into a form of entertainment.

The immediate consequences of promiscuity starting in adolescence are obvious: the rampant increase of sexually transmitted diseases, infertility and the incapability of forming long-term relationships through frequent changes of partners and repeated disappointments.

The assumption that “nothing can happen” is erroneous, because contraceptives are by no means 100% effective. Children are conceived, and such “errors” must be corrected – the child is aborted.[1] The result has been devastating: the number of babies killed by abortion every year is about the same as the total number of deaths in the whole of World War II.

Apart from the carnage, enormous havoc is created in the relationship of the parents, whether married or not, very often leading to its breakdown. It would also be naive to imagine that Catholic women never resort to abortion.

The situation of couples practising NFP however is quite different. They are aware every day of the state of their fertility, asking themselves whether the marriage act on that day would result in conception; they do not lose sight of the child who could be conceived. They do not forget the fundamental purpose of the act. An unplanned child is therefore usually accepted.

The widespread practice of abortion leads to euthanasia. If it is acceptable to kill one category of people, then it is logically acceptable to kill others, specifically the ill, the handicapped and the old, for human life is no longer sacred. A chilling example of this kind of development can be seen in the National Socialist regime in Germany.

The pill “culture” leads to the rejection of children, small families, and a demographic winter. In the long-term it will be impossible to pay pensions. For couples practising NFP however, the child is neither an error nor a threat. Their natural love of children is not destroyed. They have larger families. The 15 teaching couples in our organisation, for example, have 62 children so far, an average of 4.1 per family.

The separation of sexual activity from child-bearing leads to the acceptance of the production of children through assisted reproduction without recourse to the marital act in the case of infertility. Through IVF society is being led, inspired by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, to the acceptance of controlled reproduction. Human beings are reduced to products. They are mass produced, selected, rejected, frozen or used in experiments. They are treated as material goods, in short, as slaves.

Slavery has been formally reintroduced into society. A doctor, whether mixing sperm and eggs in a Petri dish or injecting a sperm into an egg, is playing God. The arrogance of it! Surely this modern sin should be listed amongst those which cry to heaven.

When the practice of sterilised sexual intercourse is accepted, it leads logically to the acceptance of all practices leading to orgasm: oral, anal, homosexual acts, etc. The whole homosexual movement has become possible only through the general acceptance of contraceptive practice and the reduction of sexuality to a source of entertainment.

The practice of contraception within marriage contains within itself the mutual rejection of the spouses. It leads to the destruction of love. It belongs to the nature of love to give oneself, even to the point of sacrifice, seen eminently in the self-sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Even in our ordinary life a mother’s sacrifice of herself for her child is by no means exceptional. A mother will naturally go to great lengths to help her child, exceptionally even giving up her own life. The marriage act is meant to be an act of mutual love. The natural fruit of that love is the child. The spouses give and receive each other mutually completely. Even during the naturally infertile days of the cycle they give each other all they have at that time – their mutual love.

But if they use contraception they say to each other subconsciously, “I do give myself to you, but without my fertility, and I don’t want your fertility either.” Is that love? The act which in its nature expresses the total self-giving and receiving of the spouses contains an element of rejection, and therefore becomes a lie. When this act of rejection is systematically and continually repeated, love dies. The marriage is at least burdened. Many marriages break down.

Couples who use NFP do not practise this subconscious, systematic rejection. From personal experience and observation of our clients we see that such marriages are more stable. This is also shown in studies. Greater stability is evident even in those without religious practice. [2]

Contraception, which leads logically to other evils as described above, is destroying society. There are too few children and nations are dying out. It leads to abortion, as those who promote it concede. The combination of promoting promiscuity through Godless sex education, the long-term use of hormonal contraception with back-up abortions and the postponement of child-bearing leads to increased infertility.

The solution offered is not a true therapy of infertility, but assisted reproduction which bypasses the normal process of transmission of life through the marriage act. The long-term purpose of this policy could well be the desire to subject reproduction to state control, which would allow only those children to be born who pass quality control. At present this is illusory, but the tendency can be seen. It would appear that an elite group wishes to create a society of virtual slaves obedient to their desires. A new totalitarianism is being formed.

To this end it is necessary to destroy or at least weaken marriage and the family. For this purpose contraception, especially the convenient hormonal forms, is eminently suitable. And those who pour their millions into the homosexual movement and the gender ideology are not concerned with helping homosexuals and those with problems of sexual identity. Rather they are using these people to extend the concept of marriage and ultimately to widen its meaning so much as to make it meaningless.

 


[1] Baklinski, P, Two-thirds of women seeking abortions were using contraception: Britain’s largest abortion provider, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/two-thirds-of-women-seeking-abortions-were-using-contraception-britains-lar

[2] Wilson, M.A.: The Practice of Natural Family Planning versu the Use of Artificial Birth Control: Family, Sexual and Moral Issues, Catholic Social Sceince Review, Volume VII, November 2002.

Rhomberg, W., Rhomberg, M, Weißenbach, H.: Natural Family Planning (NFP): The Symptothermal Method (Rötzer) as a Familiy Binding Tool. Results of a Survey among Members of INER, 2008, http://www.iner.org/files/02_anwenden/Download/NER%20Survey%202008%20Cathol%20Soc%20Sci%20Rev.pdf

Canadian palliative care doctors don’t want to assist in suicide’—new survey

By Xavier Symons

logo canadianThe majority of Canada’s palliative care specialists don’t want to participate in assisted suicide, according to a survey recently conducted by the country’s Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP). The survey – discussed in the latest edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal – revealed that only 25% of CSPCP members would be open to helping patients end their lives.

75% of respondents said assisted suicide fell outside the purview of palliative care (even when one adopts the World Health Organization’s definition of palliative care).*

Although some palliative care doctors may choose to assist patients in ending their lives once that becomes legal, others believe that who should actually administer lethal doses of medication is still an open question.

“There’s a huge misconception out there that that’s what palliative care is —it’s all about death”, remarked CSPCP president Dr. Susan McDonald. “No. The great majority of it is about life and living life as best as you possibly can”.

“[Assisted suicide] It’s not part of our practice and we don’t anticipate it will become part of our practice,” says Dr. Doris Barwich, the Society’s past president and current executive director of the British Columbia Centre for Palliative Care.

In a landmark decision on the 6th of February, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that prohibiting assisted suicide is unconstitutional and a violation of the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Various healthcare organisations and representative bodies are currently debating the practicalities of the new law.

*Subsequent to the publication of this story on the 7th of March, the CMAJ have made a correction to their original article. The CSPCP study found that not 56% but rather 75% of respondents didn’t think they should provide assisted suicide or euthanasia. The CMAJ had originally reported 56%

MDs can’t control pain, but now they’re expected to kill?

Brilliant! The same Canadian doctors who are apparently very poorly trained in palliative care, have been given a license to kill by the recent radical ruling of the country’s Supreme Court.

This medical and potentially humanitarian mess is sorted through in a good column in the Toronto Star by Harvey Max Chochinov. From, “Canada Failing on Palliative Care:”

Despite the impressive strides that palliative care has taken — in areas such as pain and symptom management, and sensitivities to the psychosocial, existential and spiritual challenges facing dying patients and their families — at their time of licensure, physicians have been taught less about pain management than those graduating from veterinary medicine.

Once in practice, most physicians have knowledge deficiencies that can significantly impair their ability to manage cancer pain.

Doctors are also not generally well-trained to engage in end-of-life conversations, meaning that goals of care often remain unclear; and patients may not receive the care they want or the opportunity to live out their final days in the place they would want to die…

For 70 to 80 per cent of Canadians, palliative care is not available and hence, not a real choice.

Yikes! And remember, the Supreme Court case legalized both assisted suicide and euthanasia to the dying, disabled, and mentally ill!

This means that doctors who can’t adequately care, will be allowed to kill–assuming they don’t botch it, which can definitely happen:

In the future, how might this kind of scenario play itself out in the many Canadian settings that do not have adequate palliative care? There, the choices will come down to settling for sub-optimal care; dislocating from friends and family to seek out better care elsewhere; or, if one is so inclined, considering medically hastened death.

We are about to become a country that extends patients the right to a hastened death, but offers no legislative guarantees or assurances that they will be well looked after until they die.

Some “choice.” Some “compassion.”

Is Brittany Maynard’s Husband Fighting the Wrong Battle?

by Jennifer Lahl, CBC President

The tagline of our film Eggsploitation is “The infertility industry has a dirty little secret.” In the film we seek to expose the many facets of the market for human eggs, which very few people are aware of. These dirty little secrets include:

Egg donors aren’t tracked over their lifetimes, so we have no idea what the long-term effects on young women’s health are.
No major peer-reviewed studies have been done on the long-term effects of super ovulation on this donor population.
Eggs aren’t tracked, so once they leave a human body it’s difficult to know where they end up, which sometimes literally means they can be halfway around the world.
Many of the drugs used with egg donors carry risks of cancers, and some drugs have never been safety approved for this sort of use.
Children born via egg donation often aren’t told of their conception story, and they often don’t have access to important information about their genetic mother.

Because of what might arguably be described as a cavalier attitude toward young women, their eggs, and their reproductive health, a great deal of important information is never recorded as part of their medical records. I often wonder how many women receiving a cancer diagnosis have in their history the fact they sold or donated their eggs. How many women struggling to conceive today were egg donors during college, for example? Since the egg donor is not considered a patient, often her primary care physician doesn’t know to ask or to include this information in her health history. Women may not even think that the fact that they donated their eggs is relevant to include in their medical histories and thus may not inform their physicians.

Take, for example, the recent case of Brittany Maynard. Brittany is remembered mostly because of her decision to take her own life after receiving a tragic diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, glioblastoma. What most people don’t know about Brittany’s medical history is that she was an egg “donor.” A year ago, a close family friend of Brittany’s, who has asked to remain anonymous, contacted me. This friend knew about my work exposing the risks to egg donors, and was worried, wondering if Brittany’s decision to sell her eggs and expose herself to potentially harmful fertility drugs might have any connection with her cancer diagnosis.

This important part of Brittany’s health profile does not appear to be part of her medical history, and it certainly was not part of the larger, very public conversation that followed once she made the decision to end her life.

As with many egg donors, it’s often a secret that only a few know. I’ve interviewed countless women who sold their eggs, and this is rarely on the top of their list of things to talk about. Often it is only when an egg donor suffers health-related problems that this information becomes known to others.

What do we know about glioblastomas, and might there be any connection with hormone use in egg donation? Glioblastomas are more common in men than women. This tumor is more common in older people than in younger people, primarily striking those between the ages of 45-70. One reason it is less common in women is because of the protective effect estrogen has for women. Some research suggests that there is evidence that hormonal factors might influence glioma risk. This clue initially came from the fact that women are significantly less likely to get such tumors. Then researchers discovered that exposure to estrogen due to early age at menarche may act to protect against DNA damage to glial cells. This is discussed in a prospective study by Silvera, et al., (2006:1322). In other words, estrogens appear to be neuroprotective.

Is it possible that, during the Lupron phase of egg donation when estrogen production is blocked and the woman is put into a medically induced menopause, the woman is exposed to risks from which she would otherwise be protected? What might the repeated effect of this be for women, like Brittany, who donated her eggs more than once?

I wonder about the children born from Brittany’s eggs who should know about their biological mother’s health history and diagnosis of glioblastoma. What, if anything, will they ever be told?

When will we will finally track and monitor women who donate and sell their eggs? When will we do the studies necessary to ensure their health is protected?

Of course, I wish that policies would change so that women wouldn’t be targeted for their eggs and that this practice would be stopped altogether.

But the bottom line in Brittany’s case is that she had repeated exposure to a medley of hormone altering substances during her young and all too short life.

As I was finalizing this piece for publication, Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, announced he is going to work to expand the legalization of assisted suicide. This effort is deeply mistaken on many levels.

My point here is this: eggsploitation is real. I will continue to work to expose the dirty little secrets of the practice. And I wish, for the sake of the health of egg donors like Brittany, that her husband would join me and put his efforts into protecting women like his wife.

Priests – why don’t you ever give homilies on sex?

By Clare Short

Dear Priests,

I love you. You know I love you dearly. I pray and fast for you every single day. But why don’t you ever give homilies on sex?

It’s a good question!

I am 34 years old and I have never, ever, not once, heard a priest talk about sex – either in or out of the pulpit. My mum is in her 70’s and she cannot recall ever hearing sex mentioned in church AT ALL throughout her entire life.

I have been thinking about why this could be:

1. This is Britain, and we don’t talk about that sort of thing.
2. Priests are celibate and don’t feel confident talking about sex.
3. There could be children in the congregation.
4. It’s embarrassing.
5. Telling people that artificial contraception is bad would be a very unpopular homily.

It’s a shame because it is becoming more and more obvious that the Catholic teaching on sex is one of THE biggest tools of evangelization in the modern age. The Catholic teaching on chastity, sex and marriage is completely and utterly counter-cultural. It teaches life in our ‘culture of death’. It is so radical that even you, the Priests don’t want to talk about it. (BTW, please don’t use ridiculous terms like ‘nuptial union’ and ‘conjugal act’!!! Instead use terms such as ‘make love’ and ‘have sex’, or if there are lots of children present say ‘be together’ or ‘be intimate’.)

conjugal acts

From my own limited observations, I am confident to say that most people inside and outside of the church have absolutely no idea what the Catholic teaching on sex actually is. The vast majority have never read, or even heard of Humanae Vitae or Theology of the Body. They don’t know about NFP, Billings, Creighton or Napro technology which offers a natural alternative to IVF. They have no clue as to the damage artificial contraception is having on their bodies, their relationships or their souls. Because of this (and I use this word respectfully)… ignorance, they cannot understand why the church opposes gay marriage.

There is call now from liberal Catholics and dissident groups such as ‘A Call To Action’ to publish the results from the recent Vatican survey. They are of course hoping to highlight the fact that most Catholics ignore the church teaching on artificial contraception – and then get the teaching on sex officially ‘modernised’.

It is time for you, Priests, to start teaching your congregations what sex and marriage IS not just what it isn’t. Because if you don’t speak about it, who will?
I’ll tell you… the extremely vocal gay lobby. The sex saturated media. The secularist lefty politicians. The money-making contraception and abortion industry (yes, it is an industry, with sales targets and bonuses and advertising campaigns.)

Please, Priests, do us a favour… learn Theology of the Body and Humanae Vitae like your life depends on it. Give it to us, your congregations in bite sized chunks each week. Trust me, the second you mention the word sex, you will have every eye and ear in the whole place focused on you. No one will be reading the newsletter or checking their Facebook status through that homily!

Visit 1flesh.org and catholicmarriagecentre.org.uk and the Couple to Couple League for tons of info. Explain the awful truth about the history of artificial contraception and its links to eugenics from people like  Marie Stopes and Margaret Sanger. Find out who your local NFP teacher is and invite them to your parish.  Start the conversation within your own parish and keep it going. Because if you don’t preach the beauty of Gods design on sex and marriage, no one will. Please don’t leave us to fight this battle on our own…

Humanae Vitae full version – 

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

Theology of the Body full version – 

http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2TBIND.HTM

Shocking Report Will Reveal How Doctors Hasten Death to Harvest Patients’ Organs

by Bobby Schindler, Brad Mattes | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 9/26/14 6:51 PM

 

A silent and deadly epidemic is moving across America. No one is broadcasting it. No one is writing about it. Almost no one is even talking about it. But every day in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices across the country, more and more of our medically vulnerable loved ones are being euthanized.

Indeed, some physicians have admitted to this behavior. A 1998 article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that hastening death is occurring and is not rare.

In a survey of 355 oncologists, “(15.8%) reported participating in euthanasia or physician assisted suicide,” and “38 of 53 (72%) oncologists described clearly defined cases of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.1

These decisions are being made by paid medical professionals. And loved ones, to their horror, are finding they’re not even part of the discussion.

The patients’ crimes? They’re charged with having insufficient quality of life, being too expensive to keep alive, and being beyond the reach of medical science and therefore beyond hope.

Such judgments may lie behind what seems to be an increase in the “brain death” diagnosis. The difficulty of making a pinpoint diagnosis in such complex neurological matters—and the lucrative financial incentives to harvest organs—will ultimately propel this issue into the forefront of public consciousness and discourse.

Not surprisingly, the current procurement market for human tissues and organs in the United States is booming, driven by insufficient supply and heavy demand.

According to The Milliman Report (see page 4), if all 11 tissues and organs could be harvested from a single patient declared brain-dead, however unlikely, the going rate for procurement would exceed half a million dollars.

If all costs related to those 11 transplants are counted—preparation, physicians’ services, post-op care and the like—the money involved exceeds $5.5 million.2

It’s crucial to shed a bright light on this menacing darkness, but we need your help.

Here are four ways you can assist:

First, we need to hear from healthcare workers and professionals. If you’ve witnessed this happening in your work environment, please come forward and share your observations with us.Perhaps you or someone you know has inside knowledge of the organ donation process as it relates to a situation of euthanasia.

Second, we need your personal stories. We’re also looking for family members willing to share healthcare experiences involving a loved one that are similar to what we’ve conveyed in this letter. Please trust that if you request your identity be held in confidence, that confidentiality will not be violated.

Third, we need people willing to be interviewed on camera. We have a golden opportunity to educate more Americans to euthanasia in our midst. A special episode of the Emmy© award-winning pro-life television series Facing Life Head-On with Brad Mattes plans to feature real-life accounts of people sharing specifics of this American travesty.

The program reaches tens of millions of American households, so imagine the number of people whose eyes could be opened. America will be told what is happening to the elderly, the chronically sick and the cognitively disabled. If necessary, we can keep the identity of our TV guests confidential.

Finally, we need your prayers. This is, first and foremost, a battle against powers and principalities. We cannot hope to win on our own. Only the power of prayer will permit us to expose this hideous and inhumane attack on precious human life. If you prefer not to be on television, we still need you.

Our ultimate goal is to build a network of people who can speak publicly about these issues to educate others regarding this horrific, unnoticed practice. This may entail speaking to pro-life groups or others sympathetic to protecting innocent human life; addressing a state legislative committee regarding pending legislation; or speaking to a hospital ethics committee as they struggle with a challenging situation or policy.

Our goal is to develop a network of experienced experts who can speak directly to the issues at hand. This is literally a life-and-death matter. And we who are blessed to have life and a voice must intervene to help those who are in danger of having life taken from them. We hope to hear from you soon. Reach us by e-mail or visit the Euthanasia page on the Life Issues Institute website.

For more information about this troubling issue, visit www.lifeissues.org and www.lifeandhope.com. Sincerely for the vulnerable among us, Bradley Mattes Bobby Schindler Executive Director Executive Director Life Issues Institute Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network

UCLA Neurologist: Jahi “Alive!” “Awake!”

By Wesley J. Smith, October 4, 2014

I know and deeply respect Dr. Alan Shewmon, professor emeritus in neurology at UCLA. He is a world renowned expert on the brain, particularly dealing with pediatrics.

A source has sent me a declaration under penalty of perjury that Shewmon signed on October 3, 2014, testifying that Jahi McMath is not only alive, but now also awake! From his declaration (my emphases):

Based on the materials provided to me so far, I can assert unequivocally that Jahi currently does not fulfill the diagnostic criteria for brain death. The materials include extensive medical records from St. Peter’s University Hospital, which I am still in the process of reviewing, videos of Jahi moving her hand and her foot in response to verbal requests by her mother, images from an EEG done in her apartment on 9/1/14, images of a brain MRI scan done at Rutgers on 9/26/2014, and heart rate variability analysis by my colleague Dr. Calizto Machado based on the EKG channel from 9/1/14 EEG.

Wait, there’s more: Jahi does not currently fulfill criteria for brain death on several grounds.

First and foremost, the videos and the personal testimonies to me of several trustworthy witnesses of her motor responsiveness (yourself [lawyer Nolan], Drs. DeFina and Machado) leave no doubt that Jahi is conscious and can not only hear but even understand simple verbal requests (“move your hand,” “Move your foot,” even, “move your thumb.”)

Thus, the very first of the “three cardinal findings in brain death,” according to the American Academy of Neurology’s Practice Parameters for Determining Brain Death in Adults (and all other diagnostic criteria for brain death that have ever been proposed, for that matter)–namely “coma or unresponsiveness”–is not fulfilled.

More, Jahi now has periods: Corpses do not menstruate. Neither to corpses undergo sexual maturation. Neither is there any precedent in the medical literature of a brain-dead body beginning menarche and having regular menstrual periods.

The MRI: Jahi’s recent MRI scan shows vast areas of structural preserved brain, particularly the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia and cerebellum. There is major damage to the corpus callosum and the brainstem, particularly the pons…corresponding to the severe brainstem dysfunction that has been documented in her progress notes from St. Peter’s.

By contrast, the relative integrity of the cerebral cortex no doubt underlies her ability to understand language and to make voluntary motor responses.

Shewmon doesn’t blame the original diagnosing doctors. Clearly, Jahi is not currently brain dead. Yet, I have no doubt that at the time of her original diagnosis, she fulfilled the AAN diagnostic criteria, correctly and rigorously applied by the several doctors who independently made the diagnosis then…

She is an extremely disabled but very much alive teenage girl. Shewmon doesn’t believe in brain death–not from a religious but a scientific perspective. That is a heterodox position, with which I disagree when the condition is accurately diagnosed.

But no matter. He is not an advocate but medical doctor and scientist with an excellent worldwide reputation.

This is the kind of evidence I said was necessary for this case to go forward. The heft of Shewmon and Machado’s reputation compel the case be reopened.

Sometimes, we would be better heeding family observations than smugly assuming–as I have often seen in these kinds of cases–that they are only seeing what they want to see.

Good for Jahi’s family. Good for Bobby Schindler and the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network that went to their aid. And good for attorney Chris Dolan, who took a very unpopular case. Standing up to widespread scorn and derision is never easy–but so worth doing in the cause of what you see to be right.

To view video of Jahi moving hand and foot on command, go to original reference [http://www.nationalreview. com/human-exceptionalism/389564/ucla-neurologist-jahi-alive-awake-wesley-j-smith

Four Reasons AAP Is Wrong To Push IUD, Implants for Teen Girls

Posted by Eric Scheidler (September 30, 2014 at 3:02 pm)

Yesterday the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new recommendation [http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/09/24/peds.2014-2299.full.pdf] that physicians promote the progestin implant and the intrauterine device (IUD) for teen girls. As the father of six girls—including three teenagers—I find this new recommendation particularly disturbing.

It’s not just that I bristle at the thought of a doctor asking my daughters a battery of questions about sex, as the AAP recommends. It’s that I know how upset they would be to hear sexual acts they’ve never given a thought to presented as perfectly normal, or even expected of them.

Some might accuse me of being naïve, but they don’t know my girls. And that points to the first of four reasons the new AAP recommendations are wrong-headed:

1. They undermine the role of parents.
In the new AAP recommendation, doctors are strongly discouraged from involving parents in their daughters’ contraceptive use, even in states where the law doesn’t require such “confidentiality.” Though a nod is given to abstinence, moral questions about sex have no place in this private discussion between doctors and young girls, according to the AAP.

The message to teen girls is that—contrary to what their parents, church community and even their own well-formed consciences may have told them—there is no moral choice involved in whether or not to have sex. Sadly, it should come as no surprise that this AAP recommendation would undermine the role of parents.

One of the authors, Gina Sucato, is a member of the pro-abortion group Physicians for Reproductive Health, and testified against a parental notification bill in Washington State. Such measures are overwhelmingly supported by the public.

2. They weaken teens’ choice not to have sex.

Though you wouldn’t know it looking at our entertainment and news media, teen sex has actually been on the decline for over two decades—13% since 1991. How much more might it have declined in the absence of the constant barrage of messages teens are exposed to, telling them that everybody’s doing it and you’re kind of weird if you’re not?

Now add to that your own family doctor, with the door closed to your mom and dad, suggesting that you might want to have progestin implanted in your arm or an IUD inserted so you can have sex without worrying about pregnancy for years on end. The message is clear: You can’t be counted on to make good choices.

First, you can’t be counted on to take a pill every day (which is why the AAP is pushing implants and IUDs). Nor can you be counted on to decide not to have sex, despite all the reasons it’s not a good idea. Yet, somehow, you can be counted on to use a condom to prevent STDs. Sort of. The AAP’s attitude towards condoms is particularly puzzling.

In defending the new preference for implants and IUDs, they point out how inadequate condoms are for preventing pregnancy—both because teens often don’t want to use them, and even when used they have at least an 18% failure rate. But then, they insist that condoms are absolutely necessary, each and every time a girl has sex, lest she get an STD.

Back to the implants and IUDs, as one of my adult sons asked, what kind of impact will it have on a girl should it become known around school that she’s using one of these long-term methods of birth control?

Finally, the headlines accompanying the new AAP recommendations are discouraging both to teens who are abstaining form sex and the parents, pastors and educators who want to encourage that choice. What, instead, might Abe the impact of headlines announcing the AAP’s support for abstinence as the best choice for teens?

3. They set a double standard on adolescent health.

Even as parents and coaches are trying to discourage the boys on the football team from using steroids to improve athletic performance, the AAP is encouraging the girls on the cheerleading squad—or the volleyball team—to have steroid-releasing devices implanted in their bodies.

That’s what the artificial hormones in these devices are: steroids. Why the double standard? Shouldn’t we be protecting both our sons and daughters from artificial steroids, and the health risks associated with them? One of the long-term birth control methods being recommended by the AAP doesn’t release hormones: the copper IUD. However, it may be more problematic for my final objection:

4. They ignore the abortifacient potential of the IUD.

It was because the IUD has the potential to cause an early abortion that Hobby Lobby objected to providing the devices without copay in their high-profile lawsuit against the HHS Mandate. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the owners of such closely-held corporations cannot be forced to violate their moral objection to abortion by being required by the government to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans.

But the AAP has no problem promoting the IUD to teen girls without disclosing its abortifacient potential, which is completely ignored in the new birth control recommendations to doctors—despite the fact that teen girls might choose differently if they knew the IUD could cause an early abortion.

We already know that one of the co-authors of the new recommendations is a radical abortion advocate. Not only did she speak out against parental notification, she signed an amicus brief  with the Supreme Court in opposition to the federal ban on partial birth abortion—again, a position at odds with the moral judgment of most Americans.

But however strongly Gina Sucato supports abortion, shouldn’t she and her colleagues at the AAP seek to respect the pro-life views of their patients? Don’t they have an ethical responsibility to disclose the fact that an IUD may prevent a newly-conceived human being at its embryonic stage of life from implanting in its mother’s uterus? In these new recommendations on birth control for teen girls, the AAP has adopted a cavalier attitude not only towards girls’ best interests and parents’ relationships with their daughters, but to the value of life itself.

I encourage parents to contact the AAP [ http://www2.aap.org/guestbook/ contactus-form.cfm ] to respectfully voice your objections to the new recommendation and call on them to emphasize abstinence as the only good choice for our daughters. – See more at: http://prolifeaction.org/hotline/2014/aapiud/#sthash.EA2vJFaH.dpuf

Vatican Official Clarifies Stand On Vaccines From Fetal Tissue

VATICAN, July 26, 2005 (CWNews.com /LifeSiteNews.com) – Although the Pontifical Academy for Life has strongly condemned the development of vaccines from fetal tissues, the president of that Academy notes that parents may still be justified in having their children inoculated with such vaccines.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, in a July 23 interview with Vatican Radio, clarified the position taken by the Pontifical Academy for Life, in response to an inquiry from an American pro-life group. The bishop said that pharmaceutical manufacturers have a grave moral obligation to provide vaccines that do not use fetal tissues. But parents whose children may risk serious disease without inoculation may still choose vaccination, he said.

Bishop Sgreccia said that the Vatican had sent a two-part message to the American pro-life group. “On the one hand,” he said, “in a particular context such as that in the United States, it is licit to use these vaccines, because there are no others actually available.” The bishop explained that parents have a serious obligation to protect their children from disease whenever possible, and in doing so they are not signaling their approval for aborton.

On the other hand, Bishop Sgreccia continued, drug manufacturers have the choice to provide vaccines that do not use fetal tissue, so their continued use of the “tainted” vaccines does involve formal cooperation in abortion. He said that government should press the pharmaceutical companies to make other vaccines available, using morally licit means such as the use of animal tissue, and Catholic families should join actively in that pressure campaign.

In a paper published in Medicina e Morale , a journal published by Rome’s University of the Sacred Heart, the Pontifical Academy had argued that parents might have the right to refuse vaccinations. The paper argued even more strongly that parents have an obligation—and government an even stronger obligation—to press for the development of vaccines that are not developed from fetal tissues.

The Vatican document—which was made public last week by the American group, Children of God for Life—said that different actors have different degrees of moral involvement in the use of fetal tissues. While drug manufacturers are “culpable of cooperation” in abortion, the parents who are under pressure to use vaccines have only a “very remote material cooperation” in the immoral act, the paper argues.

Even if they do accept vaccination for their children, the Vatican statement argued, parents remain obligated to press for the ethical development of other vaccines.
The statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life was approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Vatican Condemns Vaccines Made with Tissue Obtained by Abortion
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jul/05071801.html

Vatican Condemns Vaccines Made with Tissue Obtained by Abortion

LARGO, FL, July 18, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Pontifical Academy for Life under the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued an “approved” study regarding vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines. The study was undertaken in response to a US group called Children of God for Life, which has for years fought for the creation of ethical vaccines which are not ‘tainted’ by abortion.

In the document published in Medicina e Morale by the Center for Bioethics of Catholic University in Rome and titled, Moral Reflections On Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Foetuses, Vatican officials put the burden of guilt 100% on the pharmaceutical industry, comparing their moral complicity to that of the abortionists themselves.

The 8-page document, which has been anxiously awaited for several years by pro-life parents and physicians nationwide states that, doctors and families “have a duty to take recourse to alternatives, putting pressure on political authorities and health systems…They should use conscientious objection and oppose by all means ” in writing, through various associations, mass media, etc, – the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human foetus…”

The document, which can be viewed in full athttp://www.cogforlife.org/vaticanresponse.htm also supports parents who refuse to use the vaccines, citing that those who have been forced to vaccinate experience “a moral coercion of the conscience … an unjust alternative choice which must be eliminated as soon as possible.”

Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life Executive Director, who has battled this issue for years and received the document and letter directly from Bishop Elio Sgreccia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
“We brought the matter to Canon lawyers at the St. Joseph Foundation prior to sending an appeal on to the Vatican,” Vinnedge said. “There is a serious problem when parents are denied the right to abstain from these vaccines in accord with State law, simply because there was nothing from the Vatican directly addressing it.”

Vinnedge says the Vatican document, which calls for “rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers” should also spur action on their Fair Labeling and Informed Consent Act, introduced to members of Congress earlier this year. The legislation requires that pharmaceutical companies give full disclosure whenever aborted fetal or embryonic cell lines are used in their products.

Dr Steven White, President of the Catholic Medical Association agreed. “We must demand that the pharmaceutical industry provide accurate information on the origin of all vaccines so that we are able to make informed decisions in accord with our moral conscience – and we must mobilize to support development of ethical alternatives,” he said.

New Record Highs in Moral Acceptability

Premarital sex, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia growing in acceptance
by Rebecca Riffkin, May 30, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American public has become more tolerant on a number of moral issues, including premarital sex, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia. On a list of 19 major moral issues of the day, Americans express levels of moral acceptance that are as high or higher than in the past on 12 of them, a group that also encompasses social mores such as polygamy, having a child out of wedlock, and divorce.

These 19 issues fall into five groups, ranging from highly acceptable to highly unacceptable. Overall, 11 of the 19 are considered morally acceptable by more than half of Americans. Ninety percent of Americans believe birth control is morally acceptable, putting it into the “highly acceptable” category, which has little moral opposition — the only such issue among the 19. Nine of the other 10 issues with majority acceptance can be put into a “largely acceptable” category, as they have smaller majorities considering them morally acceptable and sizable minorities that consider them morally wrong. Moral agreement with doctor-assisted suicide, though at the majority level this year, is separated from disagreement by fewer than 10 percentage points, and so this issue is considered “contentious.”

Solid majorities of Americans consider seven of the issues morally wrong. Four of these — extramarital affairs, cloning humans, polygamy, and suicide — are considered morally wrong by more than 70% of Americans and fall into the “highly unacceptable” group. Three other issues fall into the “largely unacceptable” category, as smaller majorities of Americans consider them morally wrong, and at least three in 10 consider them morally acceptable.

Abortion receives neither majority support nor majority disapproval, making it the most contentious issue of the 19 tested. The current split is similar to what Gallup measured last year, but is a more even division than the four prior years when at least half said it was morally wrong.

Gallup has tracked Americans’ views on the moral acceptability of 12 of these issues annually since 2001 and the rest annually since 2002 or later. These data are from an overall question asked each year as part of Gallup’s Values and Beliefs poll, the latest of which was conducted May 8-11, 2014.
Americans’ views on the morality of many of these issues have undergone significant changes over time. For example, acceptance of gay and lesbian relations has swelled from 38% in 2002 to majority support since 2010. Fifty-three percent of Americans in 2001 and 2002 said sex between an unmarried man and woman was morally acceptable, but this year it is among the most widely accepted issues, at 66%. Similarly, fewer than half of Americans in 2002 considered having a baby outside of wedlock morally acceptable, but in the past two years, acceptance has been at or near 60%.

Additionally, a few widely condemned actions, such as polygamy, have become slightly less taboo. Five percent of Americans viewed polygamy as morally acceptable in 2006, but that is now at 14%. The rise could be attributed to polygamist families being the subject of television shows — with the HBO TV show “Big Love” one example — thus removing some of the stigma.

Republicans and Democrats Divided on Moral Acceptability of Several Issues
Republicans, Independents, and Democrats have differing views of the morality of several issues. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to consider issues like divorce, gambling, medical research using embryos, and having a baby outside of wedlock morally acceptable. But Republicans are more likely than Democrats to see wearing fur, the death penalty, and medical testing on animals as morally acceptable. Independents tend to fall in the middle of the two groups.

In the 12 years Gallup has asked this overall question, Democrats have become significantly more tolerant on many issues, while independents generally show a smaller shift in the same direction and Republicans’ views have changed little. The percentage of Democrats who say an issue is morally acceptable has increased for 10 issues, including abortion, sex between an unmarried man and woman, extramarital affairs, cloning humans, divorce, cloning animals, suicide, research using stem cells from human embryos, polygamy, and gay and lesbian relations.

In some cases, the change among Democrats has been substantial. For example, in 2003, 52% of Democrats said having a baby outside of wedlock was morally acceptable, and 40% of Republicans and 61% of independents agreed. This year, 72% of Democrats, a 20-percentage-point increase, say it is morally acceptable. Meanwhile, Republicans have seen no change, with 40% still saying it is morally acceptable, although a higher 50% viewed it as morally acceptable last year. Independents have also not seen a change, with 60% saying having a baby out of wedlock is morally acceptable this year.
Republicans are slightly more accepting of gay and lesbian relations, sex between an unmarried man and woman, and divorce than they were in 2001, when these questions were first asked. Independents’ views on the first two issues (but not divorce) also have seen small shifts, but neither group has seen changes as drastic as those among Democrats.

Bottom Line
Americans largely agree about the morality of several issues. Most say birth control is acceptable but that extramarital affairs are wrong. However, other issues show clear, substantial divides. These differences are largely explained by party identification, but previous research has shown that age also plays a factor.

Attitudes about the morality of these behaviors have in many instances changed over the past 13 years, especially among Democrats, and Americans are

A Reflection on the Muñoz Tragedy

Posted on February 13, 2014 by LLDF Staff

Many in the pro-life community are reflecting on two tragic stories with very different outcomes: the Munoz situation in Texas and the Benson situation in Canada. In both, the wife and mother was declared brain dead. In the Benson story, Iver Benson, son of Dylan Benson and his now deceased wife, Robyn, has been allowed to live. Read more on the still-developing story at,  http://www.lifenews.com/2014/02/11/son-is-born-after-husband-keeps-brain-dead-pregnant-wife-alive-to-give-birth/ 

In the Munoz situation, the result was the heartbreaking loss of both mother and child. We offer our sincere condolences to both families faced with these tragic situations.

Texas Attorney Jeff Turner is a long-time friend of Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) who has supported our work over the years.  His reflection on the tragedy of the Baby Munoz situation is compelling and he has allowed LLDF to share it.

On Friday, January 24, the 96th District Courtroom in Tarrant County, Texas was the stage for a tragic tale, not told by idiots, but still one “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” And by nothing, I mean a profound absence. The tale is one that will be retold more often as medical technology advances to keep people alive, in this case, Marlise Munoz, who in November 2013 suffered a pulmonary embolism when she was fourteen weeks into her pregnancy. Her husband and her parents asked John Peter Smith Hospital to discontinue all life-sustaining treatment for her, which action indirectly would cause the death of her (and his) child in utero. They contend that the very doctors treating her reported that she was brain dead and recommended the withdrawal of such treatment. The hospital did not oblige their request, relying solely on a provision of the Texas Health & Safety Code that provides that a “person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatmentunder this subchapter from a pregnant woman.” (emphasis added).

Absent from the courtroom, however, was any mention of God as the Author of all human life, including that of Baby Munoz. The mystery of God’s purpose in permitting this tale to unfold will remain that—an impenetrable mystery. What can be known is that He willed Baby Munoz’ life into existence and that fact deserves some weight. It is congruent with America’s Judeo-Christian heritage that God be included in her judicial determinations. The United States Supreme Court still opens each session with “God save the United States and this honorable court.” Edith Jones, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, placed a replicated Harlan Bible (named after Justice John Marshall Harlan’s personal Bible which he donated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1906) prominently in her chambers “as a reminder to all who visit that we … remember our judgments are ultimately subject to a Divine standard.” The “Divine standard” is love: love of God and of neighbor, and love sometimes requires sacrifice of one’s own rights, interests, and desires for the benefit of another, like Baby Munoz. Love sometimes requires one to “wait for the Lord with courage.” Psalms 27:14. There was no mention of this “Divine standard” in the 96th District Court in determining the fate of Baby Munoz.

Also absent was any advocate for Mrs. Munoz or for Baby Munoz. Larry Thompson, the Assistant District Attorney who represented JPS Hospital, informed this writer that the appointment of an attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem had been considered; however, no such appointment was sought. This decision was a glaring error. An attorney appointed to zealously represent each party would have forced Mr. Munoz’ attorneys to prove his case. For example, does Mrs. Munoz’s medical condition satisfy the legal definition for “death?” The same Health & Safety Code states that a person is dead “when, according to ordinary standards of medical practice, there is irreversible cessation of the person’s spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions.” It further states that “if artificial means of support preclude a determination that a person’s spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions have ceased, the person is dead when, in the announced opinion of a physician, according to ordinary standards of medical practice, there is irreversible cessation of all spontaneous brain function. Death occurs when the relevant functions cease.” Death must be pronounced before a doctor can discontinue artificial or mechanical means of supporting a person’s respiratory and circulatory systems. Because artificial means of support had been initiated when Mrs. Munoz first arrived at JPS Hospital, the fact whether “all” of her spontaneous brain function had stopped became a critical issue.

“Brain death” was introduced in 1968 by an ad hoc committee of the Harvard Medical School in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was introduced mainly to facilitate “organ harvesting” and to reallocate resources away from patients whose prognosis was unfavorable. Unfortunately, after three decades of clinical implementation, this standard has proven to be “conceptually flawed,” according to medical ethicist Dan Wikler of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, a member of a 1981 presidential commission that recommended a uniform law defining death. There is no reliable way to determine “irreversible cessation of all spontaneous brain function” unless and until the entire brain has been destroyed; but, in order for this destruction to occur, the respiratory and circulatory functions must stop. Cases have occurred in which the patient met the test for “brain death” because an EEG could not detect electrical activity on his brain’s surface, but the patient clearly had functioning of the mid-brain and brain stem, and maybe even of the cortex. The brain may not be the exclusive central organizing organ of the human person. Doctors have reported over thirty cases of protracted survival of “brain dead” patients, ranging from one week to fourteen years.

No expert witness was called to testify on behalf of Mrs. Munoz. Instead, the assistant district attorney, representing the state and not Mrs. Munoz or Baby Munoz, simply stipulated that the mother was “brain dead.” That stipulation practically decided the case.

An advocate for Baby Munoz not only would have challenged the allegation of “brain death” but also would have raised the equally crucial question of whether his client was viable. Viability refers to the gestational age at which a child in utero has a 50% chance to survive outside the womb. Most doctors believe viability is reached around 24 weeks of gestation. However, there is no hard and fast rule. Amillia Taylor, for example, was born in 2006 at 21 weeks, 6 days of gestation (but under 20 weeks from fertilization). At nine inches and 10 ounces, she faced digestive and respiratory issues and a brain hemorrhage. Today, “she runs, she plays, she does things she’s not supposed to do.” But, again, the assistant district attorney essentially threw the case by stipulating that Baby Munoz was not viable.

Another gaping absence was any discussion of medical ethics. As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, there are two patients. The first rule of medical ethics is: Do no harm. Removing the ventilator (which supports but does not substitute for the respiratory system) from Mrs. Munoz obviously caused harm to Baby Munoz. He died. The second rule is: Take all reasonable action to give the patient a fair chance to live. All that Baby Munoz needed was 3 to 4 more weeks. This would not have been the first time a brain-dead pregnant woman delivered a baby. In 2012, in Michigan, Christine Bolden delivered twins before her respirator was removed. Dr. Cosmas Vandeven, a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at University of Michigan hospital, said that an important ethical issue in such cases is whether a brain-dead woman would suffer by being kept on a respirator and undergoing a C-section. “Almost every parent would give their life for their child,” Dr. Vandeven opined. “But you need to get truly independent opinions: Are we sure we’re not causing harm to the mom?” Ms. Bolden’s brother said, “I know she wants the babies to be with us. This has brought our family together.”

In contrast, the Texas courtroom stage was filled with provocative commentary on Mrs. Munoz’ allegedly decaying corpse and the “smell of death.” Mr. Munoz’ attorneys pursued a backhanded ad hominem attack against JPS Hospital employees by accusing them of engaging in a scientific experiment with Mrs. Munoz’ body, thus questioning their motives. The defense failed to offer any alternative argument to its insistence that the Texas Health & Safety Code applies to a pregnant woman, whom it already had stipulated was dead, when the relevant subchapter at issue concerns only “qualified patient[s]” who have been diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition, Implicitly, it does not apply to a dead patient.

This writer does not question the motive of either the hospital employees or Mr. Munoz. This writer does question whether Mrs. Munoz or Baby Munoz received a fair hearing and whether all available legal and ethical arguments were presented.

In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth found no meaning or purpose in life after his wife’s death. Let us pray that Mr. Munoz will find meaning and purpose after the death of his wife and child. Let us pray further that our culture, including our judiciary, will strive to meet the Divine standard by which we all will be judged.

 

The author, Jeff Turner, is a lawyer, poet, and human rights activist. This article appeared in Texas for Life Coalition’s Blog at http://texlife.org/2014/01/rest-in-peace-mrs-and-baby-munoz/. Used with permission.

 

Woman Conceived in IVF Mourns the Loss of Her Sibling Embryos Who Died

by Rebecca Taylor | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 1/1/14

This e-mail from a reader broke my heart. It is a cry for help from a young IVF-conceived woman who mourns the loss of her siblings that didn’t make it. It is also a look at the darker-side of IVF that no one wants to talk about: the massive loss of life inherent in the IVF process.

She writes:

I was wondering if you knew of any websites or resources that support people struggling after being conceived using IVF. I’ve been searching and searching online, and I’ve been unable to find a single source of advice.

I was one of three embryos created in the process, but I was the only one who survived. I mourn my siblings every single day. I can’t talk about them with my parents, because bringing the subject up inevitably causes fights, and they don’t feel the way I do. They don’t regret what they did, they don’t see anything wrong with IVF, and they don’t count my siblings as members of the family.

They never bring them up in conversation, and when I talk about them, they’ll concede that they are my siblings, but it’s only to make me feel better. I don’t think they really believe it. If they did, they’d regret what they did. When people asked how many children they had, they’d say three. They’d talk about them as members of the family, and say how much they wished they could be there at Christmas and birthdays. My mum would light candles for them at church and have Masses said for them. But it’s just me. I’m the only one who seems to care about them.

It hurts me every time I see in the news something about IVF, because the media treats it as if it’s okay. There’s never any mention that people die during the process. I don’t even know if there’s anyone else out there who feels the same way I do. If there is, I’ve never met them. Sometimes, I feel like a freak. The only person I’ve found who understands me at all is my local priest, who I’ve spoken to about everything, but I can’t be bothering him all the time! It’d be nice to have someone else who understood.

The support groups I know of are for those conceived with donor gametes. I do not know of any support groups for those conceived with IVF without donor sperm or egg.

Does anyone know of a group that could help this young woman? Her pain is very real and she needs others who can understand what she is feeling.
Contact Rebecca:  rhtaylor@marymeetsdolly.com

“Death Panels” Are Euthanizing Patients Every Day as Doctors Make Treatment Decisions

by Bobby Schindler | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 11/4/13

Former Governor Sarah Palin, whether it was intentional or not, certainly began the discussion on end of life issues when she referred to “death panels” in a 2009 debate about federal health care legislation to cover the uninsured in the US.

Governor Palin was referring to death panels in the context of government officials making life and death decisions if/when the government took over our health care system.
However, what the general public doesn’t seem to realize is that death panels (if you want to use that label) already exist. Perhaps even more alarming, however is the extent that our medical rights have deteriorated due to an unrelenting anti-life agenda that has slowly transformed our laws – and our culture – into accepting the killing of our most medically vulnerable American citizens.

Patients and family members are now seeing health care professionals empowered to make life and death decisions – quality of life assessments – when a person should or should not receive treatment regardless of what the patient wants or what the family wants.
To make things worse, we have the vast majority of the mainstream media, by the manner in which they report on this issue, desensitizing the general public when it comes to how we treat our medically vulnerable. Ironically, each one of us is now in the position to potentially become a victim of this acceptance.
But not only are we seeing physicians having more control over our health care decisions, there has been a fundamental shift when it comes to the mentality of these caretakers, particularly when it comes to treating, or not treating, those with profound cognitive disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, the elderly, and countless other medically vulnerable persons.

Add to this the laws that have now changed, and you can see the fear of some and the possibility of a euthanasia explosion occurring in our nation’s health care system. Perhaps, as I seem to think, this is already a reality.

No longer, for example, is food and water (via feeding tubes) considered basic and ordinary care. We now define food and water as medical treatment, and as such, depending on the state you live in, can make it rather easy to deny food and water to individuals, even when they have expressed wishes that they want food and water.
In fact, according to a recent report by the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, “the laws of all but twelve states may allow doctors and hospitals to disregard advance directives when they call for treatment, food, or fluids.” So call them what you want, but the reality is that “ethics committees” are now empowered to deny even the most basic care from each and every one of us, if they decide that is what they want to do.

For many years, Bioethicists Wesley J. Smith has been writing about these issues and the ominous direction we are moving as a nation. In particular, pointing out time and time again how the media, for the most part, is helping push the agenda.

Perhaps the only good news is the fact that there has been so much talk about Obamacare and how it relates to end of life issues and “death panels” that some people are now beginning to pay at least some attention to what is happening. Indeed they should, because not only may it affect their end of life care, but any type of medical treatment they may or may not receive, as well.

How is it that all you hear about from those who support euthanasia and assisted suicide is that a patient’s rights must be protected and we must allow the patient to make the decision if they want to take their life. But what happens when it is their choice that they want to live and receive certain treatments? What happens then?
In a recent case involving a hospital in Liverpool, Britain’s highest court ruled in favor of the hospital to withhold treatment from a terminally ill man despite the family’s opposition. Not to mention that in Belgium, they are now considering euthanasia for children, if you can believe that. From the AP, “Belgium considering new euthanasia law for kids.”

Should children have the right to ask for their own deaths? In Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering extending it to children — something that no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.
All of this is very troubling and we can no longer say this is only happening “across the pond”, so to speak. Every single day, here in the United States, people are being euthanized either by terminal sedation, denial of food and water, or withholding treatment. And I’m sure there are other ways where death is being imposed upon patients.

Sadly, other than some awareness that is being raised, there seems to be no real push back coming from the general public or the organizations equipped to expose this insidious and growing culture of death issue.

Maybe it is due to the fact that we have become a nation so desensitized to the value and dignity of all life that when we see the medically vulnerable, we have convinced ourselves that we are acting out of “compassion” to end their lives, rather than caring for them. Whatever the reasons, and I am sure there are many, as widespread as I believe euthanasia is occurring across our nation’s health care facilities, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Diocese bans Catholic school trips to center where students could ‘handle’ embryonic stem cells

MADISON, WI, September 12, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic schoolchildren will no longer take field trips to a center that conducts embryonic stem cell research and gives students the opportunity to handle the aborted cells, the Diocese of Madison has announced in a letter.

One More Soul, Our History, Philosophy, Theology and Branding

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One More Soul (OMS) is an organization founded and maintained by people committed to their Catholic Faith. This Catholic-rooted apostolate was conceived in the minds of Mary Ann Walsh and Steve Koob as a result of their common love for preborn children and almighty God. They realized that abortion and contraception were intrinsically intertwined evils, with contraception being the root cause for abortion. In 1992, they resolved to spend their remaining years helping others understand not just the evil of contraception, but more importantly, the infinite blessing of a child. This article will help you appreciate our purpose in making these educational resources available.

History

Steve and Mary Ann were both involved in their large families, parishes, and anti-abortion work throughout the 1980s, and began to work together at Dayton Right to Life Society in 1985. Between them, they covered the gamut of pro-life activities— education, legislation, politics, activism and support for abortion-vulnerable women. In 1992, they realized that contraception was the root cause for abortion.1

steve, smallforwebMary Ann forweb

With that realization, they began the formidable task of finding, developing, and distributing resources for explaining the harm of birth control and the blessings of children. The following year, One More Soul became an Ohio not-for-profit corporation, and received IRS recognition as a tax exempt charitable organization 501(c)(3).

OMS’s first resources were Janet E Smith’s “The Connection between Contraception and Abortion” and Bishop Glennon P Flavin’s, “In Obedience to Christ: A Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians on the Issue of Contraception.” Encouraging articles were beginning to appear, notably by Fathers Charles Mangan and David Meconi, SJ. Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae always resonated well, and has been a constant source of inspiration. Janet Smith’s 1994 Ohio speaking tour resulted in the talk “Contraception: Why Not” which rapidly became One More Soul’s most recognized resource, with over one million copies distributed in a variety of formats.

For the following 18 years, OMS continued to add educational resources for helping people understand and accept God’s plan for chastity, marriage, sex, and children. The “One More Soul” name, and a distinctive logo inspired by Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”, emphasize our primary mission— encouraging married couples to be open to life—accepting a child as the supreme gift from God to their marriage. Consistent with this “one more soul” focus is our great variety of resources describing the harm of artificial birth control and the benefits of Natural Family Planning. These resources are widely used by parishes, dioceses, pregnancy support centers, and schools to promote healthy bodies, minds, souls, and relationships. Authentic marriage and real health care are promoted by healthcare conferences and a robust web site—www.OneMoreSoul.com. In 2002, One More Soul, Canada became OMS’s lone affiliate organization, though we would welcome OMS affiliates in other countries and in every diocese.

We promote Natural Family Planning (NFP) by teaching couples and individuals, training teachers, and offering many educational resources in a variety of formats. Our online Directory of NFP-Only Physicians, NFP Teachers, NFP and NaProTechnology Centers for the USA and Canada is very useful for couples, priests, and physicians.

As important as these resources have been to OMS growth and effectiveness, our most valued resource is people— generous donors of intellectual property and finances, capable and loyal vendors, conscientious trustees, and a talented, loyal and sacrificial staff. Except for a brief sabbatical, Steve Koob has been One More Soul’s Director.

Philosophy

One More Soul’s philosophical development mimics that of the founders, and to some extent that of the pro-life movement. The already large number of anti-abortion organizations, including over 2000 centers providing all manner of assistance to pregnant women, frees One More Soul (OMS) to focus on its unique apostolate confronting contraception and encouraging married couples to welcome children. However, Mary Ann’s and Steve’s anti-abortion philosophy remains core to all that we do, as it must for all God’s people. How can we as a nation continue to murder our own children? It wrenches the heart and soul to think that we kill thousands of children every day, over 4000 by surgical abortion and an unknown and uncounted number by hormonal birth control methods, artificial reproductive technologies, and embryonic stem cell research. This outrageous disregard for human life continues in spite of clear evidence that life begins at conception—a fact acknowledged by many who support abortion on demand without restriction.

We believe that abortion will continue as long as contraception is widely accepted. We recognize the anti-life mentality of couples who contracept and abort. All contraceptives do fail— and couples often choose not to use contraceptives; babies happen — then the choice is life or death. It seems obvious that if all those who engage in sexual intercourse (the marriage act—the procreation act) appreciated the blessings of a new human life, there would be no interest in contraception or abortion. Thus, our mission and struggle is finding ways to encourage married couples to accept another child. We are FOR LIFE. We are PRO-CONCEPTION; we are PROCEPTION—the opposite of contraception.

However, we can do nothing worth doing without God. Thus, the next (last?) stop in One More Soul’s philosophical evolution is to recognize and support development of a “sense of God”. A quote from Blessed John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium VitaeThe Gospel of Life (21 & 23) confirms this need:

When the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life.(21) . . . [and] inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle: ‘And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God. God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct” (Rom 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one’s own material well-being. The so-called “quality of life ” is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions–interpersonal, spiritual and religious–of existence.(23)2 (emphasis added)

In other words, our efforts to build a Culture of Life will continue to be frustrated until we develop a sense of God and see fit to acknowledge God. Pope Benedict XVI recently echoed his beloved predecessor,

The Incarnation of the Son of God speaks to us of how important man is to God, and God to man. Without God, man ultimately chooses selfishness over solidarity and love, material things over values, having over being. We must return to God , so that man may return to being man. With God, even in difficult times or moments of crisis, there is always a horizon of hope: the Incarnation tells us that we are never alone, that God has come to humanity and that he accompanies us.3 (emphasis added)

The insight of these two great Popes is clear—our efforts to build a Culture of Life and a Civilization of Love—in obedience to God’s Second Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself ”—are doomed without a sense, acknowledgement, and return to God . Obedience to God’s First Great Commandment, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul” is certainly being called for, and raises two questions: How do we expand our focus to include God? Are there bridges between God and Man to assist our refocusing?

Theology—A Sense of God

How can we develop a sense of God? How can we acknowledge God? How can we return to God?

We honor God by our love, praise and worship; we respect and love God by obeying His commands. As Catholics, we honor and show our love for God primarily by our worship service— Holy Mass—the Sacred Liturgy—the Eucharist. Vatican Council II referred to the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of faith and Christian Life. It is at Mass that we receive Jesus in His Word during the Liturgy of the Word, and receive His Body and Blood during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Mass then is our primary opportunity for developing a “sense of God”, and it follows that the Mass must be done as well as possible—in performance and participation. Achieving that end will encourage our submission to all God’s Commandments and enhance our quest for a Culture of Life. (See OMS resources on the Mass, BTSL & BMAS.)

We also show our love for God by directing our prayers of praise, thanksgiving and petition to God, and by recognizing God as love, truth, and beauty—this latter being most evident in creation—especially His creation of human life—ourselves, families, friends and communities. By these activities, we will develop our sense of God, acknowledgment of God, and return to God. In the next section we continue our quest for a sense of God by recognizing several bridges between God and Man, and their relationship to the OMS apostolate.

Theology—Identifying Bridges between God and Man—between the Two Great Commandments

Adjusting our focus to include both God and Man is facilitated by recognizing connections, or bridges, between God and Man: Love, Jesus Christ and His Mother Mary, God’s Genesis Command to be fruitful, and One More Soul. We are all quite familiar with God’s two Great Commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul”; and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”4 In the First Great Commandment, we are called to place God first in our lives. The focus of the Second Great Commandment is on our brothers and sisters in this world, starting with our own family members and extending to all humankind. As the above Papal quotes indicate, these Great Commandments are connected.

Love is the action word in both Great Commandments, and an obvious bridge between them. “Love” is a complex word, useable as noun, verb, adjective and adverb—a word about which more has been written, spoken, sung, and filmed than any other. What does love mean in God’s language? We need only look to the Trinity, Creation, Redemption, and Truth to recognize God’s love and His gifts that flow from His love. By obeying His Commandments, we return His love. Mary’s words at Cana offer a simple summation—“Do whatever He tells you.”

Jesus Christ—both God and Man—is another obvious bridge. As the Word— the Second Person of the Trinity—Jesus existed for all time. At the Annunciation, the Word became Incarnate (took human flesh) in the body of Mary the Virgin. This special moment in time that we celebrate as the Solemnity of the Annunciation (and Incarnation) resets the ageless, endless, universal clock—a new “big bang” that actually did reset the world’s calendars. That God would come to earth and develop like other human beings in the womb of a mother sends a powerful message about the dignity of every pre-born child, and is a tremendous demonstration of God’s love for all of us, and particularly for those in the earliest and most vulnerable phase of life. The Solemnity of the Annunciation is celebrated on the 25th of March (nine months before the Nativity). For many years, One More Soul has joined with a Dayton area parish to offer a special Solemnity Mass with a lecture afterward. We have also planned Tribute to Mary Concerts and Prayers in conjunction with the Solemnity celebration. We are pleased to encourage others to comprehend and celebrate this great event (see KCAI & KLJW). By Mary’s life long connection to Jesus, we recognize her as a part of the Jesus bridge between God and Man.

The GREAT Commandments were preceded by God’s command to Adam and Eve, “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” 5 (Gen 1: 28). This is God’s first command—let us call it the “Genesis Command.” Following the Great Flood, God gave the same command (twice) to Noah and family in Gen (9:1, 7). It is thus abundantly clear that God wants Heaven and Earth to be heavily populated. God’s “be fruitful, . . .” Genesis mandate is a bridge by the very nature of procreation’s requirement for a soul (life-giving principle) from God, sperm from a man, and ovum from a woman. By the Genesis Command, God transfers responsibility for human creation to man and woman. He relinquishes His creative powers to the creative powers given to man and woman in their combined fertility—an awesome gift, an awesome responsibility, and an awesome trust. However, God did not just leave this fruitfulness mandate to chance. He made us with a bias toward that purpose by designing the act of procreation to be both sacred and joyful. By this clever design, God has virtually assured that we would be “fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth”. And the joy associated with the procreation act bonds the man and woman together to provide an optimal environment—marriage—for raising those children who are the fruit of their union. The long gestation time for children, and their much longer time to maturity, calls for a life-time commitment of the parents—to each other, their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. This model for marriage as a life-time commitment between one man and one woman has proven to be the most natural basic unit of society—for the benefit of both Church and state. Happily, many (possibly even most) of the new lives (children) that God allows to be created are welcomed with great joy into a normal family. But sadly, many are conceived outside of marriage, aborted, and even produced in a laboratory—all inconsistent with His plan.

We humbly, yet proudly, believe that One More Soul’s mission of encouraging married couples to accept the gift of a child is yet another bridge between the Great Commandments.

Branding—One More Soul Logos

OMS-logos

The “One More Soul” name, and a distinctive logo inspired by Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”, emphasize our primary mission— encouraging married couples to be open to life and accept a child as the supreme gift from God to their marriage. The soul is depicted as a spark between the fingers of God and Adam—a spark/soul that leaps from Adam to Eve and from them reverberates through the generations to our own children and grandchildren. In his Christmas 2000 Urbi et Orbi message to the world, John Paul II says this:

Between the finger of God and the finger of man stretching out to each other and almost touching, there seems to leap an invisible spark: God communicates to man a tremor of his own life, creating him in his own image and likeness.

We like to think that the Pope’s beautiful message was inspired by One More Soul’s logo! [I plan to ask him when I see him.] This logo depicts our commitment to the 1st great Commandment.

By the second OMS logo—a simple stick family—we intend to represent OMS’s commitment to the 2nd Great Commandment’s focus on love of neighbor, recognizing the family as one’s first neighbor.

References

1. The US Supreme Court admitted this connection in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey —

for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.

2. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_ evangelium-vitae_en.html (1995)

3. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ hom_20121004_loreto_en.html (2012)

4. Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

5. Some versions have “fertile” rather than “fruitful”, cfex http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_ INDEX.HTM

Transcript of a great post-election sermon by Father Jeffrey Montz

I want to begin today by thanking those of you who went out on Tuesday and voted for the sacredness of human life. Just as the widow’s deed in our 1st reading will never be forgotten as long as the Scriptures are read, be assured that no righteous deed that we ever undertake will be forgotten by Almighty God.
This past Wednesday, the day after the election, I received a message on my phone at the parish office, from a gentleman who didn’t identify himself by name but who said he was a parishioner. And in this message, this gentleman ranted for several minutes about Tuesday’s election results. And here were the first words out of his mouth, “You lost Father; you lost!” Well, the first thing I want to say about Tuesday night’s election results is that I didn’t lose on Tuesday night our entire country lost! (more…)

UCLA researchers link IVF to increased birth defect risk

by Thaddeus Baklinski
Source: LifeSiteNews.com

Researchers studying the incidence of birth defects in California have found that children conceived by in vitro fertilization have a significantly higher rate of genetic disorders compared to children conceived naturally.

UCLA researchers presented findings from their study, titled, “Congenital Malformations Associated With Assisted Reproductive Technology: A California Statewide Analysis,” on October 20 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference in New Orleans. (more…)

Why are Catholics Praising the Nobel Prize Stem Cell Technology?

By Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D.
Source : The American Catholic

It’s been all over the news lately, particularly in the Catholic and conservative spheres, how Dr. Shinya Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize in medicine for reprogramming adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). People praised this research for creating new pluripotent stem cell lines to study without creating or destroying embryos. They claimed that the process doesn’t require any morally tainted source cells. They announced the feat as an achievement of great ethical significance, a beautiful and ethical science. They pointed out that the process does not pose ethical issues because embryos are not manipulated, and that embryonic stem cell research will soon be largely put out of business. What a moral victory!

However, digging into and decoding the scientific methodological explanations reveals that what is being praised is definitely not so praiseworthy. It reveals something quite significant, and it mostly hinges on one word — reprogramming. Did anyone notice that in all the cheering, little was explained about the method itself? (more…)

Autism, traffic, and unstudied vaccine components

by Matthew Hanley

Back in November, the Wall Street Journal featured a prominent article with the following headline: “The Hidden Toll of Traffic Jams; Scientists Increasingly Link Vehicle Exhaust With Brain-Cell Damage, Higher Rates of Autism”. It was careful to point out that current evidence is circumstantial; no one is certain about such a connection between traffic, exhaust, brain-cell damage and autism. After all, vehicles today put out far, far less pollution than those operating decades ago, when autism rates were far, far lower.

(more…)

Obama Agency Rules PepsiCo Cannibalizing Aborted Fetus is ‘Ordinary Business’

In a shocking decision delivered February 28, President Obama’s Security and Exchange Commission ruled that PepsiCo’s use of aborted fetal remains in its research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce flavor enhancers falls under “ordinary business operations.” (more…)

Studies: Birth Control, Contraception Don’t Cut Abortions

by Keith Riler
“Contraception reduces unintended pregnancies” has joined its fantastic make-believe friends “death with dignity,” the “efficacy” of embryonic stem cells, the “certainty” of man-made global warming, and the “positive” multiplier effect in the leftist vernacular. Hopeful that repetition supplants truth, choirs of liberal faithful are singing:

Most importantly, broadening access to birth control will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions – Jeanne Shaheen, Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray

Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services – White House Fact Sheet on Contraception Coverage

Now consider, instead, reality.
(more…)

Organ Transplantation and Informed Consent: Who Decides, You or the Government? What Are the Risks? What is Brain Death?

Recent news reports of responses in persons declared “brain dead” should have alerted everyone that “brain death” is not true death. These observed responses prevented the organ transplantation protocols from going further. Zack Dunlap later reported how he could hear discussions of his death, but he could not respond at that time. Val Thomas had flat brain waves for 17 hours before her response was observed. While these might be of only passing interest to many, it ought to be of grave concern to every citizen of the United States of America, and the rest of the world. (more…)

Major Pro-Life Legal/Scientific Document Launched at UN Headquarters

By Austin Ruse

NEW YORK, October 6 (C-FAM) It is commonplace now for UN officials and American law professors to tell foreign governments that they are required by international law to liberalize their abortion laws. Just last month the UN Special Rapporteur on Health issued a report making this claim. The Secretary General endorsed his report. Shortly thereafter the UN High Commission on Human Rights said the same thing.

Pro-life activists have been saying for years that this is a false assertion. (more…)

Biotech company using aborted fetal cell lines to test food flavor enhancers

(Largo, FL) Children of God for Life is calling for a public boycott of major food companies partnering with Senomyx, a biotech company that produces artificial flavor enhancers using aborted fetal cell lines to test their products.

In 2010, the pro-life organization wrote to Senomyx CEO Kent Snyder, pointing out that moral options for testing their food additives could and should be used. But when Senomyx ignored their letter, they wrote to the companies Senomyx listed on their website as “collaborators” warning them of public backlash and threatened boycott. Food giants Pepsico, Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup, Solae and Nestlé are the primary targets of the boycott.

Senomyx website states: “The company’s key flavor programs focus on the discovery and development of savory, sweet and salt flavor ingredients that are intended to allow for the reduction of MSG, sugar and salt in food and beverage products….Using isolated human taste receptors, we created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor.”

Their collaborators provide Senomyx research and development funding plus royalties on sales of products using their flavor ingredients.

“What they don’t tell the public is that they are using HEK 293 – human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors”, stated Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director for Children of God for Life, a pro-life watch dog group that has monitored the use of aborted fetal material in medical and consumer products for years. Here is their patent (read the abstract …expression methods will use HEK-293 cells…).

“They could have easily chosen animal, insect, or other morally obtained human cells expressing the G protein for taste receptors”, she added.

In writing to their collaborators, it took three letters before Nestlé finally admitted the truth about their relationship with Senomyx, noting the cell line was “well established in scientific research”.

Both Pepsico and Campbell Soup also responded.

Shockingly, Pepsico wrote: “We hope you are reassured to learn that our collaboration with Senomyx is strictly limited to creating lower-calorie, great-tasting beverages for consumers. This will help us achieve our commitment to reduce added sugar per serving by 25% in key brands in key markets over the next decade and ultimately help people live healthier lives.”

Campbell Soup was more sensitive in their response: “Every effort is made to use the finest ingredients and develop the greatest selection of products, all at a great value. With this in mind, it must be said that the trust we have cultivated and developed over the years with our consumers is not worth compromising to cut costs or increase profit margins.”

While Campbell didn’t state they would change their methods, their response, gave Vinnedge hope.

“If enough people voice their outrage and intent to boycott these consumer products, it may convince Senomyx to change their methods”, she noted. “Otherwise, we will be buying Coca-Cola, Lipton soups and Hershey products!”

See www.cogforlife.org/senomyxalert.htm for mailing addresses of Senomyx and the food companies.

UPDATE!!! March 29, 2011 11:45AM ( from Children of God for Life)

Within hours of our press release, Children of God for Life received notice from Campbell Soup that they have severed their ties with Senomyx.

Stated Juli Mandel Sloves, Senior Manager of Nutrition & Wellness Communications at Campbell Soup Company, “We are no longer in partnership with Senomyx. This fact was discussed during the Senomyx conference call with its investors earlier this month.”

If you choose to write to Campbell Soup, please thank them for their decision. Mmmm good!

UPDATE May-7-2012

PROLIFE ACTIVISM has paid off- Pepsi stops using Fetal Cells Lines to test flavors

NY Catholic Bishops: Right to Life Outweighs other Concerns in Voting

By Peter J. Smith

NEW YORK, October 18, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – New York’s Catholic Bishops are telling the state’s Catholics this year that the right to life must be their first concern when they step into the voting booth in November, not party loyalty or other issues where good people may differ in opinion or judgment.

The pastoral letter “Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty,” signed by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and seven other New York state bishops, says Catholics must be “cautious” when they cast votes this election, so as “not to be guided solely by party loyalty or by self interest.”

While state and national officials will have great influence on issues important to the voting Catholic, such as foreign policy, war and peace, the right to life, education, and “how we treat the poor and the vulnerable,” the bishops emphasize that “not every issue is of equal moral gravity.”

In fact, the bishops make clear that while it is “rare” for a candidate to agree with the Church on all these issues, it is the right to life that has to rank number one in Catholics’ minds at the voting booth.

“The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all,” they state.

“The right to life is the right through which all others flow. To the extent candidates reject this fundamental right by supporting an objective evil, such as legal abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research, Catholics should consider them less acceptable for public office,” they continue. “As Faithful Citizenship teaches, ‘Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil.’”

The letter admits that the job of investigating where the candidates stand on the issues is no easy task.

“Yet our state is facing many critical issues which are of vital concern to faithful Catholics,” they emphasize. “Thus it is absolutely necessary for good citizens to take a careful look at every candidate and to vote accordingly for the better candidates.”

The letter also provides a whole list of questions for Catholics to consider in forming their consciences before entering the voting booth, under the following headings: “The Right to Life,” “Parental Rights in Education,” “Protecting Marriage,” “Immigration Reform,” “Access to Health Care,” “Protecting the Poor,” and “Religious Liberty.”

The bishops provide a list of all candidates for elected office at the website for the New York Catholic Conference. www.nyscatholic.org

The letter is signed by Timothy Dolan Archbishop of New York; Howard Hubbard Bishop of Albany; Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn; Edward U. Kmiec, Bishop of Buffalo; Terry R. LaValley, Bishop of Ogdensburg; Robert J. Cunningham, Bishop of Syracuse; Matthew H. Clark, Bishop of Rochester, and William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre.

Read Full Article Here.

Scientists Admit IVF Has High Rate of Abnormalities

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

BONN, Germany, October 18, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Scientists announcing their success at achieving a new genetic defect-screening technique have at the same time admitted that many of the two-thirds of IVF embryos that fail to survive do so because of genetic abnormalities.

Luca Gianaroli, chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), and Cristina Magli, an embryologist from Bologna, Italy, announced their success in a study of a genetic testing procedure called “comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) by microarray,” after two women gave birth to healthy children following screening of the embryos using the technique.

However, Gianaroli said in a statement that, “We have learnt from more than 30 years of IVF that many of the embryos we transfer (into the womb) have chromosome abnormalities,” and went on to explain that two out of every three embryos implanted into a woman’s womb during the IVF procedure fail to develop into a pregnancy, often because of genetic abnormalities.

“The whole world of IVF has been trying to find an effective way of screening for these abnormalities for more than a decade,” Gianaroli said. “Now we have a new technology … and our hopes are that this will finally provide a reliable means of assessing the chromosomal status of the embryos we transfer.”

The admission by the scientists of the high rate of genetic defects inherent in the IVF procedure aligns with the high rate of over-all health problems suffered by IVF children compared to naturally conceived children.

Congenital malformation rates as high as 11% have been reported by some studies of IVF children.

A recent French study found that over 4% of children born through assisted reproductive technology had some form of congenital deformity, compared to the rate of between 2% and 3% for children conceived naturally.

A large-scale study by the National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health in Helsinki, Finland, found an overall increase in poor health among IVF children, including recurring specific abnormalities such as heart diseases, cerebral palsy, and malformations of the uro-genital system.

A summary of the research published by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology is available here.

Read Full Article Here.

A New Frontier in Pro-Life Stem-Cell Research

(via her-menutics) A team of researchers at Georgia’s health science university, the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), announced last week that they are conducting a clinical trial using stem cells from umbilical-cord blood as a treatment for cerebral palsy. The trial will build on a successful series of past tests using adult stem cells in regenerative medicine.

“Evidence up to this point has been purely anecdotal,” said James Carroll, chief of pediatric neurology at the MCG and principal investigator on the study. “While a variety of cord blood stem-cell therapies have been used successfully for more than 20 years, this study is breaking new ground in advancing therapies for brain injury.” (more…)

Homilies from Called to Give Life

Homilies from Called to Give Life

Here are sixteen homilies dealing with morality for married couples and with contraception in particular. They are offered here for the use of priests and others who might find them useful. The printable version of the homilies (see above) can be opened in Microsoft Word and saved or edited from there. For those who do not have Word, the html text on this page can be copied and pasted into any word processor.

Additional homilies can be found on the God’s Plan For Life website on the homily page. That site also offers other important pro-life resources.

(more…)

Gospel of Life – Evangelium Vitae

To the Bishops Priests and Deacons Men and Women religious Lay Faithful and all People of Good Will on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life

Introduction

1. The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as “good news” to the people of every age and culture.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this “great joy” is the birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). In truth, he is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying Spirit. It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance.

The incomparable worth of the human person

2. Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage, and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence. It is a process which, unexpectedly and undeservedly, is enlightened by the promise and renewed by the gift of divine life, which will reach its full realization in eternity (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2). At the same time, it is precisely this supernatural calling which highlights the relative character of each individuals earthly life. After all, life on earth is not an “ultimate” but a “penultimate” reality; even so, it remains a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.

The Church knows that this Gospel of life, which she has received from her Lord,1 has a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of every person-believer and non-believer alikebecause it marvelously fulfills all the hearts expectations while infinitely surpassing them. Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded.

In a special way, believers in Christ must defend and promote this right, aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: “By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being.”2 This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person.

The Church, faithfully contemplating the mystery of the Redemption, acknowledges this value with ever new wonder.3 She feels called to proclaim to the people of all times this “Gospel,” the source of invincible hope and true joy for every period of history. The Gospel of Gods love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.

For this reason, manliving manrepresents the primary and fundamental way for the Church.4

New threats to human life

3. Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Churchs very heart; it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life in all the world and to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15).

Today this proclamation is especially pressing because of the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenseless. In addition to the ancient scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic diseases, violence and war, new threats are emerging on an alarmingly vast scale.

The Second Vatican Council, in a passage which retains all its relevance today, forcefully condemned a number of crimes and attacks against human life. Thirty years later, taking up the words of the Council and with the same forcefulness I repeat that condemnation in the name of the whole Church, certain that I am interpreting the genuine sentiment of every upright conscience: “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.”5

4. Unfortunately, this disturbing state of affairs, far from decreasing, is expanding: with the new prospects opened up by scientific and technological progress there arise new forms of attacks on the dignity of the human being. At the same time a new cultural climate is developing and taking hold, which gives crimes against life a new andif possibleeven more sinister character, giving rise to further grave concern: broad sectors of public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom, and on this basis they claim not only exemption from punishment but even authorization by the State, so that these things can be done with total freedom and indeed with the free assistance of health-care systems.

All this is causing a profound change in the way in which life and relationships between people are considered. The fact that legislation in many countries, perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions, has determined not to punish these practices against life, and even to make them altogether legal, is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline. Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable. Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defense and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practice it is degraded. In such a cultural and legislative situation, the serious demographic, social and family problems which weigh upon many of the worlds peoples and which require responsible and effective attention from national and international bodies, are left open to false and deceptive solutions, opposed to the truth and the good of persons and nations.

The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.

In communion with all the bishops of the world

5. The Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals held in Rome on April 4-7, 1991 was devoted to the problem of the threats to human life in our day. After a thorough and detailed discussion of the problem and of the challenges it poses to the entire human family and in particular to the Christian community, the Cardinals unanimously asked me to reaffirm with the authority of the Successor of Peter the value of human life and its inviolability, in the light of present circumstances and attacks threatening it today.

In response to this request, at Pentecost in 1991 I wrote a personal letter to each of my Brother Bishops asking them, in the spirit of episcopal collegiality, to offer me their cooperation in drawing up a specific document.6 I am deeply grateful to all the Bishops who replied and provided me with valuable facts, suggestions, and proposals. In so doing, they bore witness to their unanimous desire to share in the doctrinal and pastoral mission of the Church with regard to the Gospel of life.

In that same letter, written shortly after the celebration of the centenary of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum, I drew everyones attention to this striking analogy: “Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church very courageously came to their defense by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice. Hers is always the evangelical cry in defense of the worlds poor, those who are threatened and despised and whose human rights are violated.”7

Today there exists a great multitude of weak and defenseless human beings, unborn children in particular, whose fundamental right to life is being trampled upon. If, at the end of the last century, the Church could not be silent about the injustices of those times, still less can she be silent today, when the social injustices of the past, unfortunately not yet overcome, are being compounded in many regions of the world by still more grievous forms of injustice and oppression, even if these are being presented as elements of progress in view of a new world order.

The present Encyclical, the fruit of the cooperation of the Episcopate of every country of the world, is therefore meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability, and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace, and happiness!

May these words reach all the sons and daughters of the Church! May they reach all people of good will who are concerned for the good of every man and woman and for the destiny of the whole of society!

6. In profound communion with all my brothers and sisters in the faith, and inspired by genuine friendship towards all, I wish to meditate upon once more and proclaim the Gospel of life, the splendor of truth which enlightens consciences, the clear light which corrects the darkened gaze, and the unfailing source of faithfulness and steadfastness in facing the ever new challenges which we meet along our path.

As I recall the powerful experience of the Year of the Family, as if to complete the Letter which I wrote “to every particular family in every part of the world,”8 I look with renewed confidence to every household and I pray that at every level a general commitment to support the family will reappear and be strengthened, so that today tooeven amid so many difficulties and serious threatsthe family will always remain, in accordance with Gods plan, the “sanctuary of life.”9

To all the members of the Church, the people of life and for life, I make this most urgent appeal, that together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love.

Chapter I The Voice of Your Brothers Blood Cries to Me from the Ground

Present Day Threats to Human Life

“Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him” (Gen 4:8): the roots of violence against life

7. “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all things that they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devils envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24).

The Gospel of life, proclaimed in the beginning when man was created in the image of God for a destiny of full and perfect life (cf. Gen 2:7; Wis 9:2-3), is contradicted by the painful experience of death which enters the world and casts its shadow of meaninglessness over mans entire existence. Death came into the world as a result of the devils envy (cf. Gen 3:1,4-5) and the sin of our first parents (cf. Gen 2:17, 3:17-19). And death entered it in a violent way, through the killing of Abel by his brother Cain: “And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him” (Gen 4:8).

This first murder is presented with singular eloquence in a page of the Book of Genesis which has universal significance: it is a page rewritten daily, with inexorable and degrading frequency, in the book of human history.

Let us re-read together this biblical account which, despite its archaic structure and its extreme simplicity, has much to teach us.

“Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had not regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

“Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? He said, I do not know; am I my brothers keeper? And the Lord said, What have you done? The voice of your brothers blood is crying to me from the

ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brothers blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. Cain said to the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me this day away from the ground; and from your face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me. Then the Lord said to him, Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gen 4:2-16).

8. Cain was “very angry” and his countenance “fell” because “the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering” (Gen 4:4-5). The biblical text does not reveal the reason why God prefers Abels sacrifice to Cains. It clearly shows however that God, although preferring Abels gift, does not interrupt his dialogue with Cain. He admonishes him, reminding him of his freedom in the face of evil: man is in no way predestined to evil. Certainly, like Adam, he is tempted by the malevolent force of sin which, like a wild beast, lies in wait at the door of his heart, ready to leap on its prey. But Cain remains free in the face of sin. He can and must overcome it: “Its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:7).

Envy and anger

have the upper hand over the Lords warning, and so Cain attacks his own brother and kills him. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “In the account of Abels murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man.”10

Brother kills brother

. Like the first fratricide, every murder is a violation of the “spiritual” kinship uniting mankind in one great family, 11 in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity. Not infrequently, the kinship “of flesh and blood” is also violated; for example when threats to life arise within the relationship between parents and children, such as happens in abortion or when, in the wider context of family or kinship, euthanasia is encouraged or practiced.

At the root of every act of violence against ones neighbor there is a concession to the “thinking” of the evil one, the one who “was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn 8:44). As the Apostle John reminds us: “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 Jn 3:11-12). Cains killing of his brother at the very dawn of history is thus a sad witness of how evil spreads with amazing speed: mans revolt against God in the earthly paradise is followed by the deadly combat of man against man.

After the crime, God intervenes to avenge the one killed. Before God, who asks him about the fate of Abel, Cain, instead of showing remorse and apologizing, arrogantly eludes the question: “I do not know; am I my brothers keeper?” (Gen 4:9). “I do not know”: Cain tries to cover up his crime with a lie. This was and still is the case, when all kinds of ideologies try to justify and disguise the most atrocious crimes against human beings. “Am I my brothers keeper?” Cain does not wish to think about his brother and refuses to accept the responsibility which every person has towards others. We cannot but think of todays tendency for people to refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Symptoms of this trend include the lack of solidarity towards societys weakest memberssuch as the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, and children and the indifference frequently found in relations between the worlds peoples even when basic values such as survival, freedom and peace are involved.

9. But God cannot leave the crime unpunished: from the ground on which it has been spilt, the blood of the one murdered demands that God should render justice (cf. Gen 37:26; Is 26:21; Ez 24:7-8). From this text the Church has taken the name of the “sins which cry to God for justice,” and, first among them, she has included willful murder.12 For the Jewish people, as for many peoples of antiquity, blood is the source of life. Indeed “the blood is the life” (Dt 12:23), and life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself.

Cain is cursed by God and also by the earth, which will deny him its fruit (cf. Gen 4:11-12). He is punished: he will live in the wilderness and the desert. Murderous violence profoundly changes mans environment. From being the “garden of Eden” (Gen 2:15), a place of plenty, of harmonious interpersonal relationships and of friendship with God, the earth becomes “the land of Nod” (Gen 4:16), a place of scarcity, loneliness and separation from God. Cain will be “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen 4:14): uncertainty and restlessness will follow him forever.

And yet God, who is always merciful even when he punishes, “put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him” (Gen 4:15). He thus gave him a distinctive sign, not to condemn him to the hatred of others, but to protect and defend him from those wishing to kill him, even out of a desire to avenge Abels death. Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this. And it is precisely here that the paradoxical mystery of the merciful justice of God is shown forth. As Saint Ambrose writes: “Once the crime is admitted at the very inception of this sinful act of parricide, then the divine law of Gods mercy should be immediately extended. If punishment is forthwith inflicted on the accused, then men in the exercise of justice would in no way observe patience and moderation, but would straightaway condemn the defendant to punishment…. God drove Cain out of his presence and sent him into exile far away from his native land, so that he passed from a life of human kindness to one which was more akin to the rude existence of a wild beast. God, who preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, did not desire that a homicide be punished by the exaction of another act of homicide.”13

“What have you done?” (Gen 4:10): the eclipse of the value of life

10. The Lord said to Cain: “What have you done? The voice of your brothers blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen 4:10). The voice of the blood shed by men continues to cry out, from generation to generation, in ever new and different ways.

The Lords question: “What have you done?,” which Cain cannot escape, is addressed also to the people of today, to make them realize the extent and gravity of the attacks against life which continue to mark human history; to make them discover what causes these attacks and feeds them; and to make them ponder seriously the consequences which derive from these attacks for the existence of individuals and peoples.

Some threats come from nature itself, but they are made worse by the culpable indifference and negligence of those who could in some cases remedy them. Others are the result of situations of violence, hatred, and conflicting interests, which lead people to attack others through murder, war, slaughter, and genocide.

And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition, and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes? And what of the violence inherent not only in wars as such but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood? What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the worlds ecological balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity which, besides being morally unacceptable, also involve grave risks to life? It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today!

11. Here though we shall concentrate particular attention on another category of attacks, affecting life in its earliest and in its final stages, attacks which present new characteristics with respect to the past and which raise questions of extraordinary seriousness. It is not only that in generalized opinion these attacks tend no longer to be considered as “crimes”; paradoxically they assume the nature of “rights,” to the point that the State is called upon to give them legal recognition and to make them available through the free services of health-care personnel. Such attacks strike human life at the time of its greatest frailty, when it lacks any means of self-defense. Even more serious is the fact that, most often, those attacks are carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the familythe family which by its nature is called to be the “sanctuary of life.”

How did such a situation come about? Many different factors have to be taken into account. In the background there is the profound crisis of culture, which generates skepticism in relation to the very foundations of knowledge and ethics, and which makes it increasingly difficult to grasp clearly the meaning of what man is, the meaning of his rights and his duties. Then there are all kinds of existential and interpersonal difficulties, made worse by the complexity of a society in which individuals, couples, and families are often left alone with their problems. There are situations of acute poverty, anxiety or frustration in which the struggle to make ends meet, the presence of unbearable pain, or instances of violence, especially against women, make the choice to defend and promote life so demanding as sometimes to reach the point of heroism.

All this explains, at least in part, how the value of life can today undergo a kind of “eclipse,” even though conscience does not cease to point to it as a sacred and inviolable value, as is evident in the tendency to disguise certain crimes against life in its early or final stages by using innocuous medical terms which distract attention from the fact that what is involved is the right to life of an actual human person.

12. In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of todays social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death.” This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.

13. In order to facilitate the spread of abortion, enormous sums of money have been invested and continue to be invested in the production of pharmaceutical products which make it possible to kill the fetus in the mothers womb without recourse to medical assistance. On this point, scientific research itself seems to be almost exclusively preoccupied with developing products which are ever more simple and effective in suppressing life and which at the same time are capable of removing abortion from any kind of control or social responsibility.

It is frequently asserted that contraception, if made safe and available to all, is the most effective remedy against abortion. The Catholic Church is then accused of actually promoting abortion, because she obstinately continues to teach the moral unlawfulness of contraception. When looked at carefully, this objection is clearly unfounded. It may be that many people use contraception with a view to excluding the subsequent temptation of abortion. But the negative values inherent in the “contraceptive mentality”which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal actare such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Churchs teaching on contraception is rejected. Certainly, from the moral point of view contraception and abortion are specifically different evils: the former contradicts the full truth of the sexual act as the proper expression of conjugal love, while the latter destroys the life of a human being; the former is opposed to the virtue of chastity in marriage, the latter is opposed to the virtue of justice and directly violates the divine commandment “You shall not kill.”

But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree. It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe Gods law fully. Still, in very many other instances, such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.

The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices, and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being.

14. The various techniques of artificial reproduction, which would seem to be at the service of life and which are frequently used with this intention, actually open the door to new threats against life. Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act, 14 these techniques have a high rate of failure: not just failure in relation to fertilization but with regard to the subsequent development of the embryo, which is exposed to the risk of death, generally within a very short space of time. Furthermore, the number of embryos produced is often greater than that needed for implantation in the womans womb, and these so-called “spare embryos” are then destroyed or used for research which, under the pretext of scientific or medical progress, in fact reduces human life to the level of simple “biological material” to be freely disposed of.

Prenatal diagnosis

, which presents no moral objections if carried out in order to identify the medical treatment which may be needed by the child in the womb, all too often becomes an opportunity for proposing and procuring an abortion. This is eugenic abortion, justified in public opinion on the basis of a mentalitymistakenly held to be consistent with the demands of “therapeutic interventions”which accepts life only under certain conditions and rejects it when it is affected by any limitation, handicap or illness.

Following this same logic, the point has been reached where the most basic care, even nourishment, is denied to babies born with serious handicaps or illnesses. The contemporary scene, moreover, is becoming even more alarming by reason of the proposals, advanced here and there, to justify even infanticide, following the same arguments used to justify the right to abortion. In this way, we revert to a state of barbarism which one hoped had been left behind forever.

15. Threats which are no less serious hang over the incurably ill and the dying. In a social and cultural context which makes it more difficult to face and accept suffering, the temptation becomes all the greater to resolve the problem of suffering by eliminating it at the root, by hastening death so that it occurs at the moment considered most suitable.

Various considerations usually contribute to such a decision, all of which converge in the same terrible outcome. In the sick person the sense of anguish, of severe discomfort, and even of desperation brought on by intense and prolonged suffering can be a decisive factor. Such a situation can threaten the already fragile equilibrium of an individuals personal and family life, with the result that, on the one hand, the sick person, despite the help of increasingly effective medical and social assistance, risks feeling overwhelmed by his or her own frailty; and on the other hand, those close to the sick person can be moved by an understandable even if misplaced compassion. All this is aggravated by a cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs. This is especially the case in the absence of a religious outlook which could help to provide a positive understanding of the mystery of suffering.

On a more general level, there exists in contemporary culture a certain Promethean attitude which leads people to think that they can control life and death by taking the decisions about them into their own hands. What really happens in this case is that the individual is overcome and crushed by a death deprived of any prospect of meaning or hope. We see a tragic expression of all this in the spread of euthanasiadisguised and surreptitious, or practiced openly and even legally. As well as for reasons of a misguided pity at the sight of the patients suffering, euthanasia is sometimes justified by the utilitarian motive of avoiding costs which bring no return and which weigh heavily on society. Thus it is proposed to eliminate malformed babies, the severely handicapped, the disabled, the elderly, especially when they are not self-sufficient, and the terminally ill. Nor can we remain silent in the face of other more furtive, but no less serious and real, forms of euthanasia. These could occur for example when, in order to increase the availability of organs for transplants, organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor.

16. Another present-day phenomenon, frequently used to justify threats and attacks against life, is the demographic question. This question arises in different ways in different parts of the world. In the rich and developed countries there is a disturbing decline or collapse of the birthrate. The poorer countries, on the other hand, generally have a high rate of population growth, difficult to sustain in the context of low economic and social development, and especially where there is extreme underdevelopment. In the face of overpopulation in the poorer countries, instead of forms of global intervention at the international levelserious family and social policies, programs of cultural development and of fair production and distribution of resourcesanti-birth policies continue to be enacted.

Contraception, sterilization, and abortion are certainly part of the reason why in some cases there is a sharp decline in the birthrate. It is not difficult to be tempted to use the same methods and attacks against life also where there is a situation of “demographic explosion.”

The Pharaoh of old, haunted by the presence and increase of the children of Israel, submitted them to every kind of oppression and ordered that every male child born of the Hebrew women was to be killed (cf. Ex 1:7-22). Today not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every persons inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive program of birth control. Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy.

17. Humanity today offers us a truly alarming spectacle, if we consider not only how extensively attacks on life are spreading but also their unheard-of numerical proportion, and the fact that they receive widespread and powerful support from a broad consensus on the part of society, from widespread legal approval and the involvement of certain sectors of health-care personnel.

As I emphatically stated at Denver, on the occasion of the Eighth World Youth Day, “with time the threats against life have not grown weaker. They are taking on vast proportions. They are not only threats coming from the outside, from the forces of nature or the Cains who kill the Abels; no, they are scientifically and systematically programmed threats. The twentieth century will have been an era of massive attacks on life, an endless series of wars, and a continual taking of innocent human life. False prophets and false teachers have had the greatest success.”15 Aside from intentions, which can be varied and perhaps can seem convincing at times, especially if presented in the name of solidarity, we are in fact faced by an objective “conspiracy against life,” involving even international Institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available. Nor can it be denied that the mass media are often implicated in this conspiracy, by lending credit to that culture which presents recourse to contraception, sterilization, abortion and even euthanasia as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom, while depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions which are unreservedly pro-life.

Am I my brothers keeper?” (Gen 4:9): a perverse idea of freedom

18. The panorama described needs to be understood not only in terms of the phenomena of death which characterize it but also in the variety of causes which determine it. The Lords question: “What have you done?” (Gen 4:10), seems almost like an invitation addressed to Cain to go beyond the material dimension of his murderous gesture, in order to recognize in it all the gravity of the motives which occasioned it and the consequences which result from it.

Decisions that go against life sometimes arise from difficult or even tragic situations of profound suffering, loneliness, a total lack of economic prospects, depression, and anxiety about the future. Such circumstances can mitigate even to a notable degree subjective responsibility and the consequent culpability of those who make these choices which in themselves are evil. But today the problem goes far beyond the necessary recognition of these personal situations. It is a problem which exists at the cultural, social and political level, where it reveals its more sinister and disturbing aspect in the tendency, ever more widely shared, to interpret the above crimes against life as legitimate expressions of individual freedom, to be acknowledged and protected as actual rights.

In this way, and with tragic consequences, a long historical process is reaching a turning point. The process which once led to discovering the idea of “human rights”rights inherent in every person and prior to any Constitution and State legislationis today marked by a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.

On the one hand, the various declarations of human rights and the many initiatives inspired by these declarations show that at the global level there is a growing moral sensitivity, more alert to acknowledging the value and dignity of every individual as a human being, without any distinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion or social class.

On the other hand, these noble proclamations are unfortunately contradicted by a tragic repudiation of them in practice. This denial is still more distressing, indeed more scandalous, precisely because it is occurring in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast. How can these repeated affirmations of principle be reconciled with the continual increase and widespread justification of attacks on human life? How can we reconcile these declarations with the refusal to accept those who are weak and needy, or elderly, or those who have just been conceived? These attacks go directly against respect for life and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights. It is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic coexistence: rather than societies of “people living together”, our cities risk becoming societies of people who are rejected, marginalized, uprooted and oppressed. If we then look at the wider worldwide perspective, how can we fail to think that the very affirmation of the rights of individuals and peoples made in distinguished international assemblies is a merely futile exercise of rhetoric, if we fail to unmask the selfishness of the rich countries which exclude poorer countries from access to development or make such access dependent on arbitrary prohibitions against procreation, setting up an opposition between development and man himself? Should we not question the very economic models often adopted by States which, also as a result of international pressures and forms of conditioning, cause and aggravate situations of injustice and violence in which the life of whole peoples is degraded and trampled upon?

19. What are the roots of this remarkable contradiction?

We can find them in an overall assessment of a cultural and moral nature, beginning with the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others. But how can we reconcile this approach with the exaltation of man as a being who is “not to be used”? The theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others. We must also mention the mentality which tends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, or at least perceptible, communication. It is clear that on the basis of these presuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, and can only communicate through the silent language of a profound sharing of affection. In this case, it is force which becomes the criterion for choice and action in interpersonal relations and in social life. But this is the exact opposite of what a State ruled by law, as a community in which the “reasons of force” are replaced by the “force of reason,” historically intended to affirm.

At another level, the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them. While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of “the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit.

It is precisely in this sense that Cains answer to the Lords question: “Where is Abel your brother?” can be interpreted: “I do not know; am I my brothers keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Yes, every man is his “brothers keeper,” because God entrusts us to one another. And it is also in view of this entrusting that God gives everyone freedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This is a great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person and of his fulfillment through the gift of self and openness to others; but when freedom is made absolute in an individualistic way, it is emptied of its original content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted.

There is an even more profound aspect which needs to be emphasized: freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth. When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim.

20. This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus, society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail. Still, in the face of other peoples analogous interests, some kind of compromise must be found, if one wants a society in which the maximum possible freedom is guaranteed to each individual. In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life.

This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the peopleeven if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the “right” ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the “common home” where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenseless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations: “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practiced: some individuals are held to be deserving of defense and others are denied that dignity?” 16 When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin” (Jn 8:34).

And from your face I shall be hidden” (Gen 4:14): the eclipse of the sense of God and of man

21. In seeking the deepest roots of the struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death,” we cannot restrict ourselves to the perverse idea of freedom mentioned above. We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism, which, with its ubiquitous tentacles, succeeds at times in putting Christian communities themselves to the test. Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into a sad vicious circle: when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern Gods living and saving presence.

Once again we can gain insight from the story of Abels murder by his brother. After the curse imposed on him by God, Cain thus addresses the Lord: “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me this day away from the ground; and from your face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me” (Gen 4:13-14). Cain is convinced that his sin will not obtain pardon from the Lord and that his inescapable destiny will be to have to “hide his face” from him. If Cain is capable of confessing that his fault is “greater than he can bear,” it is because he is conscious of being in the presence of God and before Gods just judgment. It is really only before the Lord that man can admit his sin and recognize its full seriousness. Such was the experience of David who, after “having committed evil in the sight of the Lord,” and being rebuked by the Prophet Nathan, exclaimed: “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done” (Ps 51:5-6).

22. Consequently, when the sense of God is lost, the sense of man is also threatened and poisoned, as the Second Vatican Council concisely states: “Without the Creator the creature would disappear … But when God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible.”17 Man is no longer able to see himself as “mysteriously different” from other earthly creatures; he regards himself merely as one more living being, as an organism which, at most, has reached a very high stage of perfection. Enclosed in the narrow horizon of his physical nature, he is somehow reduced to being “a thing,” and no longer grasps the “transcendent” character of his “existence as man.” He no longer considers life as a splendid gift of God, something “sacred” entrusted to his responsibility and thus also to his loving care and “veneration.” Life itself becomes a mere “thing,” which man claims as his exclusive property, completely subject to his control and manipulation.

Thus, in relation to life at birth or at death, man is no longer capable of posing the question of the truest meaning of his own existence, nor can he assimilate with genuine freedom these crucial moments of his own history. He is concerned only with “doing,” and, using all kinds of technology, he busies himself with programming, controlling and dominating birth and death. Birth and death, instead of being primary experiences demanding to be “lived,” become things to be merely “possessed” or “rejected.”

Moreover, once all reference to God has been removed, it is not surprising that the meaning of everything else becomes profoundly distorted. Nature itself, from being “mater” (mother), is now reduced to being “matter,” and is subjected to every kind of manipulation. This is the direction in which a certain technical and scientific way of thinking, prevalent in present-day culture, appears to be leading when it rejects the very idea that there is a truth of creation which must be acknowledged, or a plan of God for life which must be respected. Something similar happens when concern about the consequences of such a “freedom without law” leads some people to the opposite position of a “law without freedom,” as for example in ideologies which consider it unlawful to interfere in any way with nature, practically “divinizing” it. Again, this is a misunderstanding of natures dependence on the plan of the Creator. Thus it is clear that the loss of contact with Gods wise design is the deepest root of modern mans confusion, both when this loss leads to a freedom without rules and when it leaves man in “fear” of his freedom.

By living “as if God did not exist,” man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being.

23. The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism, and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct” (Rom 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of ones own material well being. The so-called “quality of life” is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty, and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensionsinterpersonal, spiritual and religiousof existence.

In such a context suffering, an inescapable burden of human existence but also a factor of possible personal growth, is “censored,” rejected as useless, indeed opposed as an evil, always and in every way to be avoided. When it cannot be avoided and the prospect of even some future well being vanishes, then life appears to have lost all meaning and the temptation grows in man to claim the right to suppress it.

Within this same cultural climate, the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions, and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the others richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: In this way, the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, or indeed the intention, to have a child “at all costs,” and not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents.

In the materialistic perspective described so far, interpersonal relations are seriously impoverished. The first to be harmed are women, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly. The criterion of personal dignitywhich demands respect, generosity, and serviceis replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they “are,” but for what they “have, do and produce.” This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak.

24. It is at the heart of the moral conscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place. It is a question, above all, of the individual conscience, as it stands before God in its singleness and uniqueness.18 But it is also a question, in a certain sense, of the “moral conscience” of society: in a way it too is responsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behavior contrary to life, but also because it encourages the “culture of death,” creating and consolidating actual “structures of sin” which go against life. The moral conscience, both individual and social, is today subjected, also as a result of the penetrating influence of the media, to an extremely serious and mortal danger: that of confusion between good and evil, precisely in relation to the fundamental right to life. A large part of contemporary society looks sadly like that humanity which Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans. It is composed “of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (1:18): having denied God and believing that they can build the earthly city without him, “they became futile in their thinking” so that “their senseless minds were darkened” (1:21); “claiming to be wise, they became fools” (1:22), carrying out works deserving of death, and “they not only do them but approve those who practice them” (1:32). When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt 6:22-23), calls “evil good and good evil” (Is 5:20), it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.

And yet all the conditioning and efforts to enforce silence fail to stifle the voice of the Lord echoing in the conscience of every individual: it is always from this intimate sanctuary of the conscience that a new journey of love, openness, and service to human life can begin.

You have come to the sprinkled blood” (cf. Heb 12: 22, 24): signs of hope and invitation to commitment

25. “The voice of your brothers blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen 4:10). It is not only the voice of the blood of Abel, the first innocent man to be murdered, which cries to God, the source and defender of life. The blood of every other human being who has been killed since Abel is also a voice raised to the Lord. In an absolutely singular way, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, the voice of the blood of Christ, of whom Abel in his innocence is a prophetic figure, cries out to God: “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God … to the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (12:22, 24).

It is the sprinkled blood. A symbol and prophetic sign of it had been the blood of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, whereby God expressed his will to communicate his own life to men, purifying and consecrating them (cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 17:11). Now all of this is fulfilled and comes true in Christ: his is the sprinkled blood which redeems, purifies and saves; it is the blood of the Mediator of the New Covenant “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). This blood, which flows from the pierced side of Christ on the Cross (cf. Jn 19:34), “speaks more graciously” than the blood of Abel; indeed, it expresses and requires a more radical “justice,” and above all it implores mercy, 19 it makes intercession for the brethren before the Father (cf. Heb 7:25), and it is the source of perfect redemption and the gift of new life.

The blood of Christ, while it reveals the grandeur of the Fathers love, shows how precious man is in Gods eyes and how priceless the value of his life. The Apostle Peter reminds us of this: “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pt 1:18-19). Precisely by contemplating the precious blood of Christ, the sign of his self-giving love (cf. Jn 13:1), the believer learns to recognize and appreciate the almost divine dignity of every human being and can exclaim with ever renewed and grateful wonder: “How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he gained so great a Redeemer (Exsultet of the Easter Vigil), and if God gave his only Son in order that man should not perish but have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:16)!” 20

Furthermore, Christs blood reveals to man that his greatness, and therefore his vocation, consists in the sincere gift of self. Precisely because it is poured out as the gift of life, the blood of Christ is no longer a sign of death, of definitive separation from the brethren, but the instrument of a communion which is richness of life for all. Whoever in the Sacrament of the Eucharist drinks this blood and abides in Jesus (cf. Jn 6:56) is drawn into the dynamism of his love and gift of life, in order to bring to its fullness the original vocation to love which belongs to everyone (cf. Gen 1:27; 2:18-24).

It is from the blood of Christ that all draw the strength to commit themselves to promoting life. It is precisely this blood that is the most powerful source of hope, indeed it is the foundation of the absolute certitude that in Gods plan life will be victorious. “And death shall be no more,” exclaims the powerful voice which comes from the throne of God in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:4). And Saint Paul assures us that the present victory over sin is a sign and anticipation of the definitive victory over death, when there “shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? ” (1 Cor 15:54-55).

26. In effect, signs which point to this victory are not lacking in our societies and cultures, strongly marked though they are by the “culture of death.” It would therefore be to give a one-sided picture, which could lead to sterile discouragement, if the condemnation of the threats to life were not accompanied by the presentation of the positive signs at work in humanitys present situation.

Unfortunately it is often hard to see and recognize these positive signs, perhaps also because they do not receive sufficient attention in the communications media. Yet, how many initiatives of help and support for people who are weak and defenseless have sprung up and continue to spring up in the Christian community and in civil society, at the local, national and international level, through the efforts of individuals, groups, movements and organizations of various kinds!

There are still many married couples who, with a generous sense of responsibility, are ready to accept children as “the supreme gift of marriage.”21 Nor is there a lack of families which, over and above their everyday service to life, are willing to accept abandoned children, boys and girls and teenagers in difficulty, handicapped persons, elderly men and women who have been left alone. Many centers in support of life, or similar institutions, are sponsored by individuals and groups which, with admirable dedication and sacrifice, offer moral and material support to mothers who are in difficulty and are tempted to have recourse to abortion. Increasingly, there are appearing in many places groups of volunteers prepared to offer hospitality to persons without a family, who find themselves in conditions of particular distress or who need a supportive environment to help them to overcome destructive habits and discover anew the meaning of life.

Medical science

, thanks to the committed efforts of researchers and practitioners, continues in its efforts to discover ever more effective remedies: treatments which were once inconceivable but which now offer much promise for the future are today being developed for the unborn, the suffering and those in an acute or terminal stage of sickness. Various agencies and organizations are mobilizing their efforts to bring the benefits of the most advanced medicine to countries most afflicted by poverty and endemic diseases. In a similar way, national and international associations of physicians are being organized to bring quick relief to peoples affected by natural disasters, epidemics, or wars. Even if a just international distribution of medical resources is still far from being a reality, how can we not recognize in the steps taken so far the sign of a growing solidarity among peoples, a praiseworthy human and moral sensitivity, and a greater respect for life?

27. In view of laws which permit abortion and in view of efforts, which here and there have been successful, to legalize euthanasia, movements and initiatives to raise social awareness in defense of life have sprung up in many parts of the world. When, in accordance with their principles, such movements act resolutely, but without resorting to violence, they promote a wider and more profound consciousness of the value of life, and evoke and bring about a more determined commitment to its defense.

Furthermore, how can we fail to mention all those daily gestures of openness, sacrifice and unselfish care which countless people lovingly make in families, hospitals, orphanages, homes for the elderly and other centers or communities which defend life? Allowing herself to be guided by the example of Jesus the “Good Samaritan” (cf. Lk 10:29-37) and upheld by his strength, the Church has always been in the front line in providing charitable help: so many of her sons and daughters, especially men and women Religious, in traditional and ever new forms, have consecrated and continue to consecrate their lives to God, freely giving of themselves out of love for their neighbor, especially for the weak and needy. These deeds strengthen the bases of the “civilization of love and life,” without which the life of individuals and of society itself loses its most genuinely human quality. Even if they go unnoticed and remain hidden to most people, faith assures us that the Father “who sees in secret” (Mt 6:6) not only will reward these actions but already here and now makes them produce lasting fruit for the good of all.

Among the signs of hope we should also count the spread, at many levels of public opinion, of a new sensitivity ever more opposed to war as an instrument for the resolution of conflicts between peoples, and increasingly oriented to finding effective but “non-violent” means to counter the armed aggressor. In the same perspective there is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of “legitimate defense” on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform.

Another welcome sign is the growing attention being paid to the quality of life and to ecology, especially in more developed societies, where peoples expectations are no longer concentrated so much on problems of survival as on the search for an overall improvement of living conditions. Especially significant is the re-awakening of an ethical reflection on issues affecting life. The emergence and ever more widespread development of bioethics is promoting more reflection and dialoguebetween believers and non-believers, as well as between followers of different religions on ethical problems, including fundamental issues pertaining to human life.

28. This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

For us too Moses invitation rings out loud and clear: “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 30:15, 19). This invitation is very appropriate for us who are called day by day to the duty of choosing between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death.” But the call of Deuteronomy goes even deeper, for it urges us to make a choice which is properly religious and moral. It is a question of giving our own existence a basic orientation and living the law of the Lord faithfully and consistently: “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live … therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days” (30:16,19-20).

The unconditional choice for life reaches its full religious and moral meaning when it flows from, is formed by and nourished by faith in Christ. Nothing helps us so much to face positively the conflict between death and life in which we are engaged as faith in the Son of God who became man and dwelt among men so “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). It is a matter of faith in the Risen Lord, who has conquered death; faith in the blood of Christ “that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (Heb 12:24).

With the light and strength of this faith, therefore, in facing the challenges of the present situation, the Church is becoming more aware of the grace and responsibility which come to her from her Lord of proclaiming, celebrating and serving the Gospel of life.

Chapter II I Came That They Might Have Life

The Christian Message Concerning Life

The life was made manifest, and we saw it” (1 Jn 1:2): with our gaze fixed on Christ, “the Word of life”

29. Faced with the countless grave threats to life present in the modern world, one could feel overwhelmed by sheer powerlessness: good can never be powerful enough to triumph over evil!

At such times the People of God, and this includes every believer, is called to profess with humility and courage its faith in Jesus Christ, “the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1). The Gospel of life is not simply a reflection, however new and profound, on human life. Nor is it merely a commandment aimed at raising awareness and bringing about significant changes in society. Still less is it an illusory promise of a better future. The Gospel of life is something concrete and personal, for it consists in the proclamation of the very person of Jesus. Jesus made himself known to the Apostle Thomas, and in him to every person, with the words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). This is also how he spoke of himself to Martha, the sister of Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25-26). Jesus is the Son who from all eternity receives life from the Father (cf. Jn 5:26), and who has come among men to make them sharers in this gift: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

Through the words, the actions and the very person of Jesus, man is given the possibility of “knowing” the complete truth concerning the value of human life. From this “source” he receives, in particular, the capacity to “accomplish” this truth perfectly (cf. Jn 3:21), that is, to accept and fulfill completely the responsibility of loving and serving, of defending and promoting human life. In Christ, the Gospel of life is definitively proclaimed and fully given. This is the Gospel which, already present in the Revelation of the Old Testament, and indeed written in the heart of every man and woman, has echoed in every conscience “from the beginning,” from the time of creation itself, in such a way that, despite the negative consequences of sin, it can also be known in its essential traits by human reason. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, Christ “perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself; through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his death and glorious Resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth. Moreover, he confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed: that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.”22

30. Hence with our attention fixed on the Lord Jesus, we wish to hear from him once again “the words of God” (Jn 3:34) and meditate anew on the Gospel of life. The deepest and most original meaning of this meditation on what revelation tells us about human life was taken up by the Apostle John in the opening words of his First Letter: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of lifethe life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to usthat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1:1-3).

In Jesus, the “Word of life,” Gods eternal life is thus proclaimed and given. Thanks to this proclamation and gift, our physical and spiritual life, also in its earthly phase, acquires its full value and meaning, for Gods eternal life is in fact the end to which our living in this world is directed and called. In this way the Gospel of life includes everything that human experience and reason tell us about the value of human life, accepting it, purifying it, exalting it and bringing it to fulfillment.

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Ex 15:2): life is always a good

31. The fullness of the Gospel message about life was prepared for in the Old Testament. Especially in the events of the Exodus, the center of the Old Testament faith experience, Israel discovered the preciousness of its life in the eyes of God. When it seemed doomed to extermination because of the threat of death hanging over all its newborn males (cf. Ex 1:15-22), the Lord revealed himself to Israel as its Savior, with the power to ensure a future to those without hope. Israel thus comes to know clearly that its existence is not at the mercy of a Pharaoh who can exploit it at his despotic whim. On the contrary, Israels life is the object of Gods gentle and intense love.

Freedom from slavery meant the gift of an identity, the recognition of an indestructible dignity and the beginning of a new history, in which the discovery of God and discovery of self go hand in hand. The Exodus was a foundational experience and a model for the future. Through it, Israel comes to learn that whenever its existence is threatened it need only turn to God with renewed trust in order to find in him effective help: “I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me” (Is 44:21).

Thus, in coming to know the value of its own existence as a people, Israel also grows in its perception of the meaning and value of life itself. This reflection is developed more specifically in the Wisdom Literature, on the basis of daily experience of the precariousness of life and awareness of the threats which assail it. Faced with the contradictions of life, faith is challenged to respond.

More than anything else, it is the problem of suffering which challenges faith and puts it to the test. How can we fail to appreciate the universal anguish of man when we meditate on the Book of Job? The innocent man overwhelmed by suffering is understandably led to wonder: “Why is light given to him that is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hid treasures?” (3:20-21). But even when the darkness is deepest, faith points to a trusting and adoring acknowledgment of the “mystery”: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Revelation progressively allows the first notion of immortal life planted by the Creator in the human heart to be grasped with ever greater clarity: “He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into mans mind” (Ec 3:11). This first notion of totality and fullness is waiting to be manifested in love and brought to perfection, by Gods free gift, through sharing in his eternal life.

“The name of Jesus … has made this man strong” (Acts 3:16): in the uncertainties of human life, Jesus brings lifes meaning to fulfillment

32. The experience of the people of the Covenant is renewed in the experience of all the “poor” who meet Jesus of Nazareth. Just as God who “loves the living” (cf. Wis 11:26) had reassured Israel in the midst of danger, so now the Son of God proclaims to all who feel threatened and hindered that their lives too are a good to which the Fathers love gives meaning and value.

“The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Lk 7:22). With these words of the Prophet Isaiah (35:5-6, 61:1), Jesus sets forth the meaning of his own mission: all who suffer because their lives are in some way “diminished” thus hear from him the “good news” of Gods concern for them, and they know for certain that their lives too are a gift carefully guarded in the hands of the Father (cf. Mt 6:25-34).

It is above all the “poor” to whom Jesus speaks in his preaching and actions. The crowds of the sick and the outcasts who follow him and seek him out (cf. Mt 4:23-25) find in his words and actions a revelation of the great value of their lives and of how their hope of salvation is well-founded.

The same thing has taken place in the Churchs mission from the beginning. When the Church proclaims Christ as the one who “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38), she is conscious of being the bearer of a message of salvation which resounds in all its newness precisely amid the hardships and poverty of human life. Peter cured the cripple who daily sought alms at the “Beautiful Gate” of the Temple in Jerusalem, saying: “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). By faith in Jesus, “the Author of life” (Acts 3:15), life which lies abandoned and cries out for help regains self-esteem and full dignity.

The words and deeds of Jesus and those of his Church are not meant only for those who are sick or suffering or in some way neglected by society. On a deeper level, they affect the very meaning of every persons life in its moral and spiritual dimensions. Only those who recognize that their life is marked by the evil of sin can discover in an encounter with Jesus the Savior the truth and the authenticity of their own existence. Jesus himself says as much: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:31-32).

But the person who, like the rich landowner in the Gospel parable, thinks that he can make his life secure by the possession of material goods alone, is deluding himself. Life is slipping away from him, and very soon he will find himself bereft of it without ever having appreciated its real meaning: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk 12:20).

33. In Jesus own life, from beginning to end, we find a singular “dialectic” between the experience of the uncertainty of human life and the affirmation of its value. Jesus life is marked by uncertainty from the very moment of his birth. He is certainly accepted by the righteous, who echo Marys immediate and joyful “yes” (cf. Lk 1:38). But there is also, from the start, rejection on the part of a world which grows hostile and looks for the child in order “to destroy him” (Mt 2:13); a world which remains indifferent and unconcerned about the fulfillment of the mystery of this life entering the world: “there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). In this contrast between threats and insecurity on the one hand and the power of Gods gift on the other, there shines forth all the more clearly the glory which radiates from the house at Nazareth and from the manger at Bethlehem: this life which is born is salvation for all humanity (cf. Lk 2:11).

Lifes contradictions and risks were fully accepted by Jesus: “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The poverty of which Paul speaks is not only a stripping of divine privileges, but also a sharing in the lowliest and most vulnerable conditions of human life (cf. Phil 2:6-7). Jesus lived this poverty throughout his life, until the culminating moment of the Cross: “he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:8-9). It is precisely by his death that Jesus reveals all the splendor and value of life, inasmuch as his self-oblation on the Cross becomes the source of new life for all people (cf. Jn 12:32). In his journeying amid contradictions and in the very loss of his life, Jesus is guided by the certainty that his life is in the hands of the Father. Consequently, on the Cross, he can say to him: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” (Lk 23:46), that is, my life. Truly great must be the value of human life if the Son of God has taken it up and made it the instrument of the salvation of all humanity!

Called … to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:28-29): Gods glory shines on the face of man

34. Life is always a good. This is an instinctive perception and a fact of experience, and man is called to grasp the profound reason why this is so.

Why is life a good?

This question is found everywhere in the Bible, and from the very first pages it receives a powerful and amazing answer. The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man, although formed from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7, 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 103:14; 104:29), is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory (cf. Gen 1:26-27; Ps 8:6). This is what Saint Irenaeus of Lyons wanted to emphasize in his celebrated definition: “Man, living man, is the glory of God.”23 Man has been given a sublime dignity, based on the intimate bond which unites him to his Creator: in man there shines forth a reflection of God himself.

The Book of Genesis affirms this when, in the first account of creation, it places man at the summit of Gods creative activity, as its crown, at the culmination of a process which leads from indistinct chaos to the most perfect of creatures. Everything in creation is ordered to man and everything is made subject to him: “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over … every living thing” (1:28); this is Gods command to the man and the woman. A similar message is found also in the other account of creation: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). We see here a clear affirmation of the primacy of man over things; these are made subject to him and entrusted to his responsible care, whereas for no reason can he be made subject to other men and almost reduced to the level of a thing.

In the biblical narrative, the difference between man and other creatures is shown above all by the fact that only the creation of man is presented as the result of a special decision on the part of God, a deliberation to establish a particular and specific bond with the Creator: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). The life which God offers to man is a gift by which God shares something of himself with his creature.

Israel would ponder at length the meaning of this particular bond between man and God. The Book of Sirach too recognizes that God, in creating human beings, “endowed them with strength like his own, and made them in his own image” (17:3). The biblical author sees as part of this image not only mans dominion over the world but also those spiritual faculties which are distinctively human, such as reason, discernment between good and evil, and free will: “He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil” (Sir 17:7). The ability to attain truth and freedom are human prerogatives inasmuch as man is created in the image of his Creator, God who is true and just (cf. Dt 32:4). Man alone, among all visible creatures, is “capable of knowing and loving his Creator.”24 The life which God bestows upon man is much more than mere existence in time. It is a drive towards fullness of life; it is the seed of an existence which transcends the very limits of time: “For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity” (Wis 2:23).

35. The Yahwist account of creation expresses the same conviction. This ancient narrative speaks of a divine breath which is breathed into man so that he may come to life: “The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen 2:7).

The divine origin of this spirit of life explains the perennial dissatisfaction which man feels throughout his days on earth. Because he is made by God and bears within himself an indelible imprint of God, man is naturally drawn to God. When he heeds the deepest yearnings of the heart, every man must make his own the words of truth expressed by Saint Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”25

How very significant is the dissatisfaction which marks mans life in Eden as long as his sole point of reference is the world of plants and animals (cf. Gen 2:20). Only the appearance of the woman, a being who is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones (cf. Gen 2:23), and in whom the spirit of God the Creator is also alive, can satisfy the need for interpersonal dialogue, so vital for human existence. In the other, whether man or woman, there is a reflection of God himself, the definitive goal and fulfillment of every person.

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?,” the Psalmist wonders (Ps 8:4). Compared to the immensity of the universe, man is very small, and yet this very contrast reveals his greatness: “You have made him little less than a god, and crown him with glory and honor” (Ps 8:5). The glory of God shines on the face of man. In man the Creator finds his rest, as Saint Ambrose comments with a sense of awe: “The sixth day is finished and the creation of the world ends with the formation of that masterpiece which is man, who exercises dominion over all living creatures and is as it were the crown of the universe and the supreme beauty of every created being. Truly we should maintain a reverential silence, since the Lord rested from every work he had undertaken in the world. He rested then in the depths of man, he rested in mans mind and in his thought; after all, he had created man endowed with reason, capable of imitating him, of emulating his virtue, of hungering for heavenly graces. In these his gifts God reposes, who has said: Upon whom shall I rest, if not upon the one who is humble, contrite in spirit and trembles at my word? (Is 66:1-2). I thank the Lord our God who has created so wonderful a work in which to take his rest.”26

36. Unfortunately, Gods marvelous plan was marred by the appearance of sin in history. Through sin, man rebels against his Creator and ends up by worshipping creatures: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). As a result man not only deforms the image of God in his own person, but is tempted to offences against it in others as well, replacing relationships of communion by attitudes of distrust, indifference, hostility and even murderous hatred. When God is not acknowledged as God, the profound meaning of man is betrayed and communion between people is compromised.

In the life of man, Gods image shines forth anew and is again revealed in all its fullness at the coming of the Son of God in human flesh. “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), he “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Heb 1:3). He is the perfect image of the Father.

The plan of life given to the first Adam finds at last its fulfillment in Christ. Whereas the disobedience of Adam had ruined and marred Gods plan for human life and introduced death into the world, the redemptive obedience of Christ is the source of grace poured out upon the human race, opening wide to everyone the gates of the kingdom of life (cf. Rom 5:12-21). As the Apostle Paul states: “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45).

All who commit themselves to following Christ are given the fullness of life: the divine image is restored, renewed, and brought to perfection in them. Gods plan for human beings is this, that they should “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). Only thus, in the splendor of this image, can man be freed from the slavery of idolatry, rebuild lost fellowship, and rediscover his true identity.

Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:26): the gift of eternal life

37. The life which the Son of God came to give to human beings cannot be reduced to mere existence in time. The life which was always “in him” and which is the “light of men” (Jn 1:4) consists in being begotten of God and sharing in the fullness of his love: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn 1:12-13).

Sometimes Jesus refers to this life which he came to give simply as “life”, and he presents being born of God as a necessary condition if man is to attain the end for which God has created him: “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). To give this life is the real object of Jesus mission: he is the one who “comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33). Thus can he truly say: “He who follows me … will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

At other times, Jesus speaks of “eternal life.” Here the adjective does more than merely evoke a perspective which is beyond time. The life which Jesus promises and gives is “eternal” because it is a full participation in the life of the “Eternal One.” Whoever believes in Jesus and enters into communion with him has eternal life (cf. Jn 3:15; 6:40) because he hears from Jesus the only words which reveal and communicate to his existence the fullness of life. These are the “words of eternal life” which Peter acknowledges in his confession of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69). Jesus himself, addressing the Father in the great priestly prayer, declares what eternal life consists in: “This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). To know God and his Son is to accept the mystery of the loving communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into ones own life, which even now is open to eternal life because it shares in the life of God.

38. Eternal life is therefore the life of God himself and at the same time the life of the children of God. As they ponder this unexpected and inexpressible truth which comes to us from God in Christ, believers cannot fail to be filled with ever new wonder and unbounded gratitude. They can say in the words of the Apostle John: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. … Beloved, we are Gods children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:1-2).

Here the Christian truth about life becomes most sublime

. The dignity of this life is linked not only to its beginning, to the fact that it comes from God, but also to its final end, to its destiny of fellowship with God in knowledge and love of him. In the light of this truth Saint Irenaeus qualifies and completes his praise of man: “the glory of God” is indeed, “man, living man,” but “the life of man consists in the vision of God.”27

Immediate consequences arise from this for human life in its earthly state, in which, for that matter, eternal life already springs forth and begins to grow. Although man instinctively loves life because it is a good, this love will find further inspiration and strength, and new breadth and depth, in the divine dimensions of this good. Similarly, the love which every human being has for life cannot be reduced simply to a desire to have sufficient space for self-expression and for entering into relationships with others; rather, it develops in a joyous awareness that life can become the “place” where God manifests himself, where we meet him and enter into communion with him. The life which Jesus gives in no way lessens the value of our existence in time; it takes it and directs it to its final destiny: “I am the resurrection and the life … whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25-26).

“From man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting” (Gen 9:5): reverence and love for every human life

39. Mans life comes from God; it is his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life. God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: man cannot do with it as he wills. God himself makes this clear to Noah after the Flood: “For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting … and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life” (Gen 9:5). The biblical text is concerned to emphasize how the sacredness of life has its foundation in God and in his creative activity: “For God made man in his own image” (Gen 9:6).

Human life and death are thus in the hands of God, in his power: “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind,” exclaims Job (12:10). “The Lord brings to death and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam 2:6). He alone can say: “It is I who bring both death and life” (Dt 32:39).

But God does not exercise this power in an arbitrary and threatening way, but rather as part of his care and loving concern for his creatures. If it is true that human life is in the hands of God, it is no less true that these are loving hands, like those of a mother who accepts, nurtures and takes care of her child: “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mothers breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul” (Ps 131:2; cf. Is 49:15; 66:12-13; Hos 11:4). Thus Israel does not see in the history of peoples and in the destiny of individuals the outcome of mere chance or of blind fate, but rather the results of a loving plan by which God brings together all the possibilities of life and opposes the powers of death arising from sin: “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist” (Wis 1:13-14).

40. The sacredness of life gives rise to its inviolability, written from the beginning in mans heart, in his conscience. The question: “What have you done?” (Gen 4:10), which God addresses to Cain after he has killed his brother Abel, interprets the experience of every person: in the depths of his conscience, man is always reminded of the inviolability of lifehis own life and that of othersas something which does not belong to him, because it is the property and gift of God the Creator and Father.

The commandment regarding the inviolability of human life reverberates at the heart of the “ten words” in the covenant of Sinai (cf. Ex 34:28). In the first place, that commandment prohibits murder: “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13); “do not slay the innocent and righteous” (Ex 23:7). But, as is brought out in Israels later legislation, it also prohibits all personal injury inflicted on another (cf. Ex 21:12-27). Of course, we must recognize that in the Old Testament this sense of the value of life, though already quite marked, does not yet reach the refinement found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is apparent in some aspects of the current penal legislation, which provided for severe forms of corporal punishment and even the death penalty. But the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person. It culminates in the positive commandment which obliges us to be responsible for our neighbor as for ourselves: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18).

41. The commandment “You shall not kill,” included and more fully expressed in the positive command of love for ones neighbor, is reaffirmed in all its force by the Lord Jesus. To the rich young man who asks him: “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”, Jesus replies: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:16,17). And he quotes, as the first of these: “You shall not kill” (Mt 19:18). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands from his disciples a righteousness which surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, also with regard to respect for life: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment. But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22).

By his words and actions, Jesus further unveils the positive requirements of the commandment regarding the inviolability of life. These requirements were already present in the Old Testament, where legislation dealt with protecting and defending life when it was weak and threatened: in the case of foreigners, widows, orphans, the sick and the poor in general, including children in the womb (cf. Ex 21:22; 22:20-26). With Jesus these positive requirements assume new force and urgency, and are revealed in all their breadth and depth: they range from caring for the life of ones brother (whether a blood brother, someone belonging to the same people, or a foreigner living in the land of Israel) to showing concern for the stranger, even to the point of loving ones enemy.

A stranger is no longer a stranger for the person who must become a neighbor to someone in need, to the point of accepting responsibility for his life, as the parable of the Good Samaritan shows so clearly (cf. Lk 10:25-37). Even an enemy ceases to be an enemy for the person who is obliged to love him (cf. Mt 5:38-48; Lk 6:27-35), to “do good” to him (cf. Lk 6:27, 33, 35) and to respond to his immediate needs promptly and with no expectation of repayment (cf. Lk 6:34-35). The height of this love is to pray for ones enemy. By so doing we achieve harmony with the providential love of God: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:44-45; cf. Lk 6:28, 35).

Thus, the deepest element of Gods commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person. This is the teaching which the Apostle Paul, echoing the words of Jesus, addresses to the Christians in Rome: “The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:9-10).

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28): mans responsibility for life

42. To defend and promote life, to show reverence and love for it, is a task which God entrusts to every man, calling him as his living image to share in his own lordship over the world: “God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth ” (Gen 1:28).

The biblical text clearly shows the breadth and depth of the lordship which God bestows on man. It is a matter first of all of dominion over the earth and over every living creature, as the Book of Wisdom makes clear: “O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy… by your wisdom you have formed man, to have dominion over the creatures you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness” (Wis 9:1, 2-3). The Psalmist too extols the dominion given to man as a sign of glory and honor from his Creator: “You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea” (Ps 8:6-8).

As one called to till and look after the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15), man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations. It is the ecological questionranging from the preservation of the natural habitats of the different species of animals and of other forms of life to “human ecology” properly speaking 28which finds in the Bible clear and strong ethical direction, leading to a solution which respects the great good of life, of every life. In fact, “the dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to use and misuse, or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree (cf. Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.”29

43. A certain sharing by man in Gods lordship is also evident in the specific responsibility which he is given for human life as such. It is a responsibility which reaches its highest point in the giving of life through procreation by man and woman in marriage. As the Second Vatican Council teaches: “God himself who said, It is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18) and who made man from the beginning male and female (Mt 19:4), wished to share with man a certain special participation in his own creative work. Thus he blessed male and female saying: “Increase and multiply” (Gen 1:28).30

By speaking of “a certain special participation” of man and woman in the “creative work” of God, the Council wishes to point out that having a child is an event which is deeply human and full of religious meaning, insofar as it involves both the spouses, who form “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), and God who makes himself present. As I wrote in my Letter to Families: “When a new person is born of the conjugal union of the two, he brings with him into the world a particular image and likeness of God himself: the genealogy of the person is inscribed in the very biology of generation. In affirming that the spouses, as parents, cooperate with God the Creator in conceiving and giving birth to a new human being, we are not speaking merely with reference to the laws of biology. Instead, we wish to emphasize that God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood quite differently than he is present in all other instances of begetting on earth. Indeed, God alone is the source of that image and likeness which is proper to the human being, as it was received at Creation. Begetting is the continuation of Creation.”31

This is what the Bible teaches in direct and eloquent language when it reports the joyful cry of the first woman, “the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20). Aware that God has intervened, Eve exclaims: “I have begotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Gen 4:1). In procreation therefore, through the communication of life from parents to child, Gods own image and likeness is transmitted, thanks to the creation of the immortal soul.32 The beginning of the “book of the genealogy of Adam” expresses it in this way: “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and called them man when they were created. When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen 5:1-3). It is precisely in their role as co-workers with God who transmits his image to the new creature that we see the greatness of couples who are ready “to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior, who through them will enlarge and enrich his own family day by day.”33 This is why the Bishop Amphilochius extolled “holy matrimony, chosen and elevated above all other earthly gifts” as “the begetter of humanity, the creator of images of God.”34

Thus, a man and woman joined in matrimony become partners in a divine undertaking: through the act of procreation, Gods gift is accepted and a new life opens to the future.

But over and above the specific mission of parents, the task of accepting and serving life involves everyone; and this task must be fulfilled above all towards life when it is at its weakest. It is Christ himself who reminds us of this when he asks to be loved and served in his brothers and sisters who are suffering in any way: the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned … Whatever is done to each of them is done to Christ himself (cf. Mt 25:31-46).

“For you formed my inmost being” (Ps 139:13): the dignity of the unborn child

44. Human life finds itself most vulnerable when it enters the world and when it leaves the realm of time to embark upon eternity. The word of God frequently repeats the call to show care and respect, above all where life is undermined by sickness and old age. Although there are no direct and explicit calls to protect human life at its very beginning, specifically life not yet born, and life nearing its end, this can easily be explained by the fact that the mere possibility of harming, attacking, or actually denying life in these circumstances is completely foreign to the religious and cultural way of thinking of the People of God.

In the Old Testament, sterility is dreaded as a curse, while numerous offspring are viewed as a blessing: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Ps 127:3; cf. Ps 128:3-4). This belief is also based on Israels awareness of being the people of the Covenant, called to increase in accordance with the promise made to Abraham: “Look towards heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them … so shall your descendants be” (Gen 15:5). But more than anything else, at work here is the certainty that the life which parents transmit has its origins in God. We see this attested in the many biblical passages which respectfully and lovingly speak of conception, of the forming of life in the mothers womb, of giving birth and of the intimate connection between the initial moment of life and the action of God the Creator.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5): the life of every individual, from its very beginning, is part of Gods plan. Job, from the depth of his pain, stops to contemplate the work of God who miraculously formed his body in his mothers womb. Here he finds reason for trust, and he expresses his belief that there is a divine plan for his life: “You have fashioned and made me; will you then turn and destroy me? Remember that you have made me of clay; and will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love; and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:8-12). Expressions of awe and wonder at Gods intervention in the life of a child in its mothers womb occur again and again in the Psalms.35

How can anyone think that even a single moment of this marvelous process of the unfolding of life could be separated from the wise and loving work of the Creator, and left prey to human caprice? Certainly the mother of the seven brothers did not think so; she professes her faith in God, both the source and guarantee of life from its very conception, and the foundation of the hope of new life beyond death: “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws” (2 Mac 7:22-23).

45. The New Testament revelation confirms the indisputable recognition of the value of life from its very beginning. The exaltation of fruitfulness and the eager expectation of life resound in the words with which Elizabeth rejoices in her pregnancy: “The Lord has looked on me … to take away my reproach among men” (Lk 1:25). And even more so, the value of the person from the moment of conception is celebrated in the meeting between the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth, and between the two children whom they are carrying in the womb. It is precisely the children who reveal the advent of the Messianic age: in their meeting, the redemptive power of the presence of the Son of God among men first becomes operative. As Saint Ambrose writes: “The arrival of Mary and the blessings of the Lords presence are also speedily declared … Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice; but John was the first to experience grace. She heard according to the order of nature; he leaped because of the mystery. She recognized the arrival of Mary; he the arrival of the Lord. The woman recognized the womans arrival; the child, that of the child. The women speak of grace; the babies make it effective from within to the advantage of their mothers who, by a double miracle, prophesy under the inspiration of their children. The infant leaped, the mother was filled with the Spirit. The mother was not filled before the son, but after the son was filled with the Holy Spirit, he filled his mother, too.”36

“I kept my faith even when I said, I am greatly afflicted ” (Ps 116:10): life in old age and at times of suffering

46. With regard to the last moments of life too, it would be anachronistic to expect biblical revelation to make express reference to present-day issues concerning respect for elderly and sick persons, or to condemn explicitly attempts to hasten their end by force. The cultural and religious context of the Bible is in no way touched by such temptations; indeed, in that context the wisdom and experience of the elderly are recognized as a unique source of enrichment for the family and for society.

Old age is characterized by dignity and surrounded with reverence

(cf. 2 Mac 6:23). The just man does not seek to be delivered from old age and its burden; on the contrary his prayer is this: “You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth… so even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim your might to all the generations to come” (Ps 71:5, 18). The ideal of the Messianic age is presented as a time when “no more shall there be … an old man who does not fill out his days” (Is 65:20).

In old age, how should one face the inevitable decline of life? How should one act in the face of death? The believer knows that his life is in the hands of God: “You, O Lord, hold my lot” (cf. Ps 16:5), and he accepts from God the need to die: “This is the decree from the Lord for all flesh, and how can you reject the good pleasure of the Most High?” (Sir 41:3-4). Man is not the master of life, nor is he the master of death. In life and in death, he has to entrust himself completely to the “good pleasure of the Most High,” to his loving plan.

In moments of sickness too, man is called to have the same trust in the Lord and to renew his fundamental faith in the One who “heals all your diseases” (cf. Ps 103:3). When every hope of good health seems to fade before a persons eyesso as to make him cry out: “My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass” (Ps 102:11) even then the believer is sustained by an unshakable faith in Gods life-giving power. Illness does not drive such a person to despair and to seek death, but makes him cry out in hope: “I kept my faith, even when I said, I am greatly afflicted ” (Ps 116:10); “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the pit” (Ps 30:2-3).

47. The mission of Jesus, with the many healings he performed, shows Gods great concern even for mans bodily life. Jesus, as “the physician of the body and of the spirit,”37 was sent by the Father to proclaim the good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted (cf. Lk 4:18; Is 61:1). Later, when he sends his disciples into the world, he gives them a mission, a mission in which healing the sick goes hand in hand with the proclamation of the Gospel: “And preach as you go, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (Mt 10:7-8; cf. Mk 6:13; 16:18).

Certainly the life of the body in its earthly state is not an absolute good for the believer, especially as he may be asked to give up his life for a greater good. As Jesus says: “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it” (Mk 8:35). The New Testament gives many different examples of this. Jesus does not hesitate to sacrifice himself and he freely makes of his life an offering to the Father (cf. Jn 10:17) and to those who belong to him (cf. Jn 10:15). The death of John the Baptist, precursor of the Savior, also testifies that earthly existence is not an absolute good; what is more important is remaining faithful to the word of the Lord even at the risk of ones life (cf. Mk 6:17-29). Stephen, losing his earthly life because of his faithful witness to the Lords Resurrection, follows in the Masters footsteps and meets those who are stoning him with words of forgiveness (cf. Acts 7:59-60), thus becoming the first of a countless host of martyrs whom the Church has venerated since the very beginning.

No one, however, can arbitrarily choose whether to live or die; the absolute master of such a decision is the Creator alone, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

All who hold her fast will live” (Bar 4:1): from the law of Sinai to the gift of the Spirit

48. Life is indelibly marked by a truth of its own. By accepting Gods gift, man is obliged to maintain life in this truth which is essential to it. To detach oneself from this truth is to condemn oneself to meaninglessness and unhappiness, and possibly to become a threat to the existence of others, since the barriers guaranteeing respect for life and the defense of life, in every circumstance, have been broken down.

The truth of life is revealed by Gods commandment.

The word of the Lord shows concretely the course which life must follow if it is to respect its own truth and to preserve its own dignity. The protection of life is not only ensured by the specific commandment “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17); the entire Law of the Lord serves to protect life, because it reveals that truth in which life finds its full meaning.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Gods Covenant with his people is so closely linked to the perspective of life, also in its bodily dimension. In that Covenant, Gods commandment is offered as the path of life: “I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of” (Dt 30:15-16). What is at stake is not only the land of Canaan and the existence of the people of Israel, but also the world of today and of the future, and the existence of all humanity. In fact, it is altogether impossible for life to remain authentic and complete once it is detached from the good; and the good, in its turn, is essentially bound to the commandments of the Lord, that is, to the “law of life” (Sir 17:11). The good to be done is not added to life as a burden which weighs on it, since the very purpose of life is that good and only by doing it can life be built up.

It is thus the Law as a whole which fully protects human life. This explains why it is so hard to remain faithful to the commandment “You shall not kill” when the other “words of life” (cf. Acts 7:38) with which this commandment is bound up are not observed. Detached from this wider framework, the commandment is destined to become nothing more than an obligation imposed from without, and very soon we begin to look for its limits and try to find mitigating factors and exceptions. Only when people are open to the fullness of the truth about God, man and history will the words “You shall not kill” shine forth once more as a good for man in himself and in his relations with others. In such a perspective we can grasp the full truth of the passage of the Book of Deuteronomy which Jesus repeats in reply to the first temptation: “Man does not live by bread alone, but… by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Dt 8:3; cf. Mt 4:4).

It is by listening to the word of the Lord that we are able to live in dignity and justice. It is by observing the Law of God that we are able to bring forth fruits of life and happiness: “All who hold her fast will live, and those who forsake her will die” (Bar 4:1).

49. The history of Israel shows how difficult it is to remain faithful to the Law of life which God has inscribed in human hearts and which he gave on Sinai to the people of the Covenant. When the people look for ways of living which ignore Gods plan, it is the Prophets in particular who forcefully remind them that the Lord alone is the authentic source of life. Thus Jeremiah writes: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (2:13). The Prophets point an accusing finger at those who show contempt for life and violate peoples rights: “They trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (Amos 2:7); “they have filled this place with the blood of innocents” (Jer 19:4). Among them, the Prophet Ezekiel frequently condemns the city of Jerusalem, calling it “the bloody city” (22:2; 24:6, 9), the “city that sheds blood in her own midst” (22:3).

But while the Prophets condemn offences against life, they are concerned above all to awaken hope for a new principle of life, capable of bringing about a renewed relationship with God and with others, and of opening up new and extraordinary possibilities for understanding and carrying out all the demands inherent in the Gospel of life. This will only be possible thanks to the gift of God who purifies and renews: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezek 36:25-26; cf. Jer 31:34). This “new heart” will make it possible to appreciate and achieve the deepest and most authentic meaning of life: namely, that of being a gift which is fully realized in the giving of self. This is the splendid message about the value of life which comes to us from the figure of the Servant of the Lord: “When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his life … he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied” (Is 53:10, 11).

It is in the coming of Jesus of Nazareth that the Law is fulfilled and that a new heart is given through his Spirit. Jesus does not deny the Law but brings it to fulfillment (cf. Mt 5:17): the Law and the Prophets are summed up in the golden rule of mutual love (cf. Mt 7:12). In Jesus the Law becomes once and for all the “gospel,” the good news of Gods lordship over the world, which brings all life back to its roots and its original purpose. This is the New Law, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2), and its fundamental expression, following the example of the Lord who gave his life for his friends (cf. Jn 15:13), is the gift of self in love for ones brothers and sisters: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren” (1 Jn 3:14). This is the law of freedom, joy, and blessedness.

“They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37): the Gospel of life is brought to fulfillment on the tree of the Cross

50. At the end of this chapter, in which we have reflected on the Christian message about life, I would like to pause with each one of you to contemplate the One who was pierced and who draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 19:37; 12:32). Looking at “the spectacle” of the Cross (cf. Lk 23:48) we shall discover in this glorious tree the fulfillment and the complete revelation of the whole Gospel of life.

In the early afternoon of Good Friday, “there was darkness over the whole land … while the suns light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two” (Lk 23:44, 45). This is the symbol of a great cosmic disturbance and a massive conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil, between life and death. Today we too find ourselves in the midst of a dramatic conflict between the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” But the glory of the Cross is not overcome by this darkness; rather, it shines forth ever more radiantly and brightly, and is revealed as the center, meaning and goal of all history and of every human life.

Jesus is nailed to the Cross and is lifted up from the earth. He experiences the moment of his greatest “powerlessness,” and his life seems completely delivered to the derision of his adversaries and into the hands of his executioners: he is mocked, jeered at, insulted (cf. Mk 15:24-36). And yet, precisely amid all this, having seen him breathe his last, the Roman centurion exclaims: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39). It is thus, at the moment of his greatest weakness, that the Son of God is revealed for who he is: on the Cross his glory is made manifest.

By his death, Jesus sheds light on the meaning of the life and death of every human being. Before he dies, Jesus prays to the Father, asking forgiveness for his persecutors (cf. Lk 23:34), and to the criminal who asks him to remember him in his kingdom he replies: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). After his death “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Mt 27:52). The salvation wrought by Jesus is the bestowal of life and resurrection. Throughout his earthly life, Jesus had indeed bestowed salvation by healing and doing good to all (cf. Acts 10:38). But his miracles, healings and even his raising of the dead were signs of another salvation, a salvation which consists in the forgiveness of sins, that is, in setting man free from his greatest sickness and in raising him to the very life of God.

On the Cross, the miracle of the serpent lifted up by Moses in the desert (Jn 3:14-15; cf. Num 21:8-9) is renewed and brought to full and definitive perfection. Today too, by looking upon the one who was pierced, every person whose life is threatened encounters the sure hope of finding freedom and redemption.

51. But there is yet another particular event which moves me deeply when I consider it. “When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Afterwards, the Roman soldier “pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (Jn 19:34).

Everything has now reached its complete fulfillment. The “giving up” of the spirit describes Jesus death, a death like that of every other human being, but it also seems to allude to the “gift of the Spirit,” by which Jesus ransoms us from death and opens before us a new life.

It is the very life of God which is now shared with man. It is the life which through the Sacraments of the Churchsymbolized by the blood and water flowing from Christs sideis continually given to Gods children, making them the people of the New Covenant. From the Cross, the source of life, the “people of life” is born and increases.

The contemplation of the Cross thus brings us to the very heart of all that has taken place. Jesus, who upon entering into the world said: “I have come, O God, to do your will” (cf. Heb 10:9), made himself obedient to the Father in everything and, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1), giving himself completely for them.

He who had come “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45), attains on the Cross the heights of love: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). And he died for us while we were yet sinners (cf. Rom 5:8).

In this way, Jesus proclaims that life finds its center, its meaning, and its fulfillment when it is given up.

At this point our meditation becomes praise and thanksgiving, and at the same time urges us to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps (cf. 1 Pt 2:21).

We too are called to give our lives for our brothers and sisters, and thus to realize in the fullness of truth the meaning and destiny of our existence.

We shall be able to do this because you, O Lord, have given us the example and have bestowed on us the power of your Spirit. We shall be able to do this if every day, with you and like you, we are obedient to the Father and do his will.

Grant, therefore, that we may listen with open and generous hearts to every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. Thus, we shall learn not only to obey the commandment not to kill human life, but also to revere life, to love it and to foster it.

Chapter III You Shall Not Kill

Gods Holy Law

If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17): Gospel and commandment

52. “And behold, one came up to him, saying, Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life? ” (Mt 19:6). Jesus replied, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). The Teacher is speaking about eternal life, that is, a sharing in the life of God himself. This life is attained through the observance of the Lords commandments, including the commandment “You shall not kill.” This is the first precept from the Decalogue which Jesus quotes to the young man who asks him what commandments he should observe: “Jesus said, You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal… ” (Mt 19:18).

Gods commandment is never detached from his love:

it is always a gift meant for mans growth and joy. As such, it represents an essential and indispensable aspect of the Gospel, actually becoming “gospel” itself: joyful good news. The Gospel of life is both a great gift of God and an exacting task for humanity. It gives rise to amazement and gratitude in the person graced with freedom, and it asks to be welcomed, preserved and esteemed, with a deep sense of responsibility. In giving life to man, God demands that he love, respect and promote life. The gift thus becomes a commandment, and the commandment is itself a gift.

Man, as the living image of God, is willed by his Creator to be ruler and lord. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes that “God made man capable of carrying out his role as king of the earth … Man was created in the image of the One who governs the universe. Everything demonstrates that from the beginning mans nature was marked by royalty… Man is a king. Created to exercise dominion over the world, he was given a likeness to the king of the universe; he is the living image who participates by his dignity in the perfection of the divine archetype.”38 Called to be fruitful and multiply, to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over other lesser creatures (cf. Gen 1:28), man is ruler and lord not only over things but especially over himself, 39 and in a certain sense, over the life which he has received and which he is able to transmit through procreation, carried out with love and respect for Gods plan. Mans lordship however is not absolute, but ministerial: it is a real reflection of the unique and infinite lordship of God. Hence man must exercise it with wisdom and love, sharing in the boundless wisdom and love of God. And this comes about through obedience to Gods holy Law: a free and joyful obedience (cf. Ps 119), born of and fostered by an awareness that the precepts of the Lord are a gift of grace entrusted to man always and solely for his good, for the preservation of his personal dignity and the pursuit of his happiness.

With regard to things, but even more with regard to life, man is not the absolute master and final judge, but ratherand this is where his incomparable greatness lieshe is the “minister of Gods plan.”40

Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well. Man must render an account of it to his Master (cf. Mt 25:14-30; Lk 19:12-27).

“From man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life” (Gen 9:5): human life is sacred and inviolable

53. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God, and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being.”41 With these words the Instruction Donum Vitae sets forth the central content of Gods revelation on the sacredness and inviolability of human life.

Sacred Scripture

in fact presents the precept “You shall not kill” as a divine commandment (Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17). As I have already emphasized, this commandment is found in the Decalogue, at the heart of the Covenant which the Lord makes with his chosen people; but it was already contained in the original covenant between God and humanity after the purifying punishment of the Flood, caused by the spread of sin and violence (cf. Gen 9:5-6).

God proclaims that he is absolute Lord of the life of man, who is formed in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-28). Human life is thus given a sacred and inviolable character, which reflects the inviolability of the Creator himself. Precisely for this reason God will severely judge every violation of the commandment “You shall not kill,” the commandment which is at the basis of all life together in society. He is the “goel,” the defender of the innocent (cf. Gen 4:9-15; Is 41:14; Jer 50:34; Ps 19:14). God thus shows that he does not delight in the death of the living (cf. Wis 1:13). Only Satan can delight therein: for through his envy death entered the world (cf. Wis 2:24). He who is “a murderer from the beginning,” is also “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). By deceiving man, he leads him to projects of sin and death, making them appear as goals and fruits of life.

54. As explicitly formulated, the precept “You shall not kill” is strongly negative: it indicates the extreme limit which can never be exceeded. Implicitly, however, it encourages a positive attitude of absolute respect for life; it leads to the promotion of life and to progress along the way of a love which gives, receives and serves. The people of the Covenant, although slowly and with some contradictions, progressively matured in this way of thinking, and thus prepared for the great proclamation of Jesus that the commandment to love ones neighbor is like the commandment to love God; “on these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (cf. Mt 22:36-40). Saint Paul emphasizes that “the commandment… you shall not kill… and any other commandment, are summed up in this phrase: You shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Rom 13:9; cf. Gal 5:14). Taken up and brought to fulfillment in the New Law, the commandment “You shall not kill” stands as an indispensable condition for being able “to enter life” (cf. Mt 19:16-19). In this same perspective, the words of the Apostle John have a categorical ring: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn 3:15).

From the beginning, the living Tradition of the Churchas shown by the Didache, the most ancient non-biblical Christian writingcategorically repeated the commandment “You shall not kill”: “There are two ways, a way of life and a way of death; there is a great difference between them… In accordance with the precept of the teaching: you shall not kill… you shall not put a child to death by abortion nor kill it once it is born… The way of death is this: … they show no compassion for the poor, they do not suffer with the suffering, they do not acknowledge their Creator, they kill their children and by abortion cause Gods creatures to perish; they drive away the needy, oppress the suffering, they are advocates of the rich and unjust judges of the poor; they are filled with every sin. May you be able to stay ever apart, o children, from all these sins!” 42

As time passed, the Churchs Tradition has always consistently taught the absolute and unchanging value of the commandment “You shall not kill.” It is a known fact that in the first centuries, murder was put among the three most serious sinsalong with apostasy and adulteryand required a particularly heavy and lengthy public penance before the repentant murderer could be granted forgiveness and readmission to the ecclesial community.

55. This should not cause surprise: to kill a human being, in whom the image of God is present, is a particularly serious sin. Only God is the master of life! Yet from the beginning, faced with the many and often tragic cases which occur in the life of individuals and society, Christian reflection has sought a fuller and deeper understanding of what Gods commandment prohibits and prescribes.43 There are in fact situations in which values proposed by Gods Law seem to involve a genuine paradox. This happens for example in the case of legitimate defense, in which the right to protect ones own life and the duty not to harm someone elses life are difficult to reconcile in practice. Certainly, the intrinsic value of life and the duty to love oneself no less than others are the basis of a true right to self-defense. The demanding commandment of love of neighbor, set forth in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, itself presupposes love of oneself as the basis of comparison: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31). Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self-defense out of lack of love for life or for self. This can only be done in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love of self into a radical self-offering, according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:38-40). The sublime example of this self-offering is the Lord Jesus himself.

Moreover, “legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for anothers life, the common good of the family or of the State.”44 Unfortunately it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason.45

56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with Gods plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is “to redress the disorder caused by the offense.”46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring peoples safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behavior and be rehabilitated.47

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”48

57. If such great care must be taken to respect every life, even that of criminals and unjust aggressors, the commandment “You shall not kill” has absolute value when it refers to the innocent person. And all the more so in the case of weak and defenseless human beings, who find their ultimate defense against the arrogance and caprice of others only in the absolute binding force of Gods commandment.

In effect, the absolute inviolability of innocent human life is a moral truth clearly taught by Sacred Scripture, constantly upheld in the Churchs Tradition and consistently proposed by her Magisterium. This consistent teaching is the evident result of that “supernatural sense of the faith” which, inspired and sustained by the Holy Spirit, safeguards the People of God from error when “it shows universal agreement in matters of faith and morals.”49

Faced with the progressive weakening in individual consciences and in society of the sense of the absolute and grave moral illicitness of the direct taking of all innocent human life, especially at its beginning and at its end, the Churchs Magisterium has spoken out with increasing frequency in defense of the sacredness and inviolability of human life. The Papal Magisterium, particularly insistent in this regard, has always been seconded by that of the Bishops, with numerous and comprehensive doctrinal and pastoral documents issued either by Episcopal Conferences or by individual Bishops. The Second Vatican Council also addressed the matter forcefully, in a brief but incisive passage.50

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.51

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action.”52

As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. This equality is the basis of all authentic social relationships which, to be truly such, can only be founded on truth and justice, recognizing and protecting every man and woman as a person and not as an object to be used. Before the moral norm which prohibits the direct taking of the life of an innocent human being, “there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the poorest of the poor on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.”53

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance” (Ps 139:16): the unspeakable crime of abortion

58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime.”54

But today, in many peoples consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy,” which tends to hide abortions true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenseless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defense consisting in the poignant power of a newborn babys cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame, not only when he directly pressures the woman to have an abortion, but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone to face the problems of pregnancy: 55 in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”. Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible, when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.

But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter, on the administrators of the health-care centers where abortions are performed. A general and no less serious responsibility lies with those who have encouraged the spread of an attitude of sexual permissiveness and a lack of esteem for motherhood, and with those who should have ensuredbut did noteffective family and social policies in support of families, especially larger families and those with particular financial and educational needs. Finally, one cannot overlook the network of complicity which reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world. In this sense abortion goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and beyond the harm done to them, and takes on a distinctly social dimension. It is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be societys promoters and defenders. As I wrote in my Letter to Families, “we are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of individuals but also to that of civilization itself.”56 We are facing what can be called a “structure of sin” which opposes human life not yet born.

60. Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life. But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the program of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires timea rather lengthy timeto find its place and to be in a position to act.”57 Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?.”58

Furthermore, what is at stake is so important that, from the standpoint of moral obligation, the mere probability that a human person is involved would suffice to justify an absolutely clear prohibition of any intervention aimed at killing a human embryo. Precisely for this reason, over and above all scientific debates and those philosophical affirmations to which the Magisterium has not expressly committed itself, the Church has always taught and continues to teach that the result of human procreation, from the first moment of its existence, must be guaranteed that unconditional respect which is morally due to the human being in his or her totality and unity as body and spirit: “The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.”59

61. The texts of Sacred Scripture never address the question of deliberate abortion and so do not directly and specifically condemn it. But they show such great respect for the human being in the mothers womb that they require as a logical consequence that Gods commandment “You shall not kill” be extended to the unborn child as well.

Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth. All human beings, from their mothers womb, belong to God who searches them and knows them, who forms them and knits them together with his own hands, who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now written in the “book of life” (cf. Ps 139: 1, 13-16). There too, when they are still in their mothers wombas many passages of the Bible bear witness60they are the personal objects of Gods loving and fatherly providence.

Christian Tradition

as the Declaration issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out so well61is clear and unanimous, from the beginning up to our own day, in describing abortion as a particularly grave moral disorder. From its first contacts with the Greco-Roman world, where abortion and infanticide were widely practiced, the first Christian community, by its teaching and practice, radically opposed the customs rampant in that society, as is clearly shown by the Didache mentioned earlier.62 Among the Greek ecclesiastical writers, Athenagoras records that Christians consider as murderesses women who have recourse to abortifacient medicines, because children, even if they are still in their mothers womb, “are already under the protection of Divine Providence.”63 Among the Latin authors, Tertullian affirms: “It is anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born; it makes little difference whether one kills a soul already born or puts it to death at birth. He who will one day be a man is a man already.”64

Throughout Christianitys two thousand year history, this same doctrine has been constantly taught by the Fathers of the Church and by her Pastors and Doctors. Even scientific and philosophical discussions about the precise moment of the infusion of the spiritual soul have never given rise to any hesitation about the moral condemnation of abortion.

62. The more recent Papal Magisterium has vigorously reaffirmed this common doctrine. Pius XI in particular, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, rejected the specious justifications of abortion.65 Pius XII excluded all direct abortion, i.e., every act tending directly to destroy human life in the womb “whether such destruction is intended as an end or only as a means to an end.”66 John XXIII reaffirmed that human life is sacred because “from its very beginning it directly involves Gods creative activity.”67 The Second Vatican Council, as mentioned earlier, sternly condemned abortion: “From the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”68

The Churchs canonical discipline, from the earliest centuries, has inflicted penal sanctions on those guilty of abortion. This practice, with more or less severe penalties, has been confirmed in various periods of history. The 1917 Code of Canon Law punished abortion with excommunication.69 The revised canonical legislation continues this tradition when it decrees that “a person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.”70 The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.71 By this reiterated sanction, the Church makes clear that abortion is a most serious and dangerous crime, thereby encouraging those who commit it to seek without delay the path of conversion. In the Church, the purpose of the penalty of excommunication is to make an individual fully aware of the gravity of a certain sin and then to foster genuine conversion and repentance.

Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church, Paul VI was able to declare that this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable.72 Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishopswho on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrineI declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Churchs Tradition, and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.73

No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.

63. This evaluation of the morality of abortion is to be applied also to the recent forms of intervention on human embryos which, although carried out for purposes legitimate in themselves, inevitably involve the killing of those embryos. This is the case with experimentation on embryos, which is becoming increasingly widespread in the field of biomedical research and is legally permitted in some countries. Although “one must uphold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but rather are directed to its healing, the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival,”74 it must nonetheless be stated that the use of human embryos or fetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person.75

This moral condemnation also regards procedures that exploit living human embryos and fetusessometimes specifically “produced” for this purpose by in vitro fertilizationeither to be used as “biological material” or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases. The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act.

Special attention must be given to evaluating the morality of prenatal diagnostic techniques which enable the early detection of possible anomalies in the unborn child. In view of the complexity of these techniques, an accurate and systematic moral judgment is necessary. When they do not involve disproportionate risks for the child and the mother, and are meant to make possible early therapy or even to favor a serene and informed acceptance of the child not yet born, these techniques are morally licit. But since the possibilities of prenatal therapy are today still limited, it not infrequently happens that these techniques are used with a eugenic intention which accepts selective abortion in order to prevent the birth of children affected by various types of anomalies. Such an attitude is shameful and utterly reprehensible, since it presumes to measure the value of a human life only within the parameters of “normality” and physical well-being, thus opening the way to legitimizing infanticide and euthanasia as well.

And yet the courage and the serenity with which so many of our brothers and sisters suffering from serious disabilities lead their lives when they are shown acceptance and love bears eloquent witness to what gives authentic value to life, and makes it, even in difficult conditions, something precious for them and for others. The Church is close to those married couples who, with great anguish and suffering, willingly accept gravely handicapped children. She is also grateful to all those families which, through adoption, welcome children abandoned by their parents because of disabilities or illnesses.

It is I who bring both death and life” (Dt 32:39): the tragedy of euthanasia

64. At the other end of lifes spectrum, men and women find themselves facing the mystery of death. Today, as a result of advances in medicine and in a cultural context frequently closed to the transcendent, the experience of dying is marked by new features. When the prevailing tendency is to value life only to the extent that it brings pleasure and well being, suffering seems like an unbearable setback, something from which one must be freed at all costs. Death is considered “senseless” if it suddenly interrupts a life still open to a future of new and interesting experiences. But it becomes a “rightful liberation” once life is held to be no longer meaningful because it is filled with pain and inexorably doomed to even greater suffering.

Furthermore, when he denies or neglects his fundamental relationship to God, man thinks he is his own rule and measure, with the right to demand that society should guarantee him the ways and means of deciding what to do with his life in full and complete autonomy. It is especially people in the developed countries who act in this way: they feel encouraged to do so also by the constant progress of medicine and its ever more advanced techniques. By using highly sophisticated systems and equipment, science and medical practice today are able not only to attend to cases formerly considered untreatable and to reduce or eliminate pain, but also to sustain and prolong life even in situations of extreme frailty, to resuscitate artificially patients whose basic biological functions have undergone sudden collapse, and to use special procedures to make organs available for transplanting.

In this context the temptation grows to have recourse to euthanasia, that is, to take control of death and bring it about before its time, “gently” ending ones own life or the life of others. In reality, what might seem logical and humane, when looked at more closely is seen to be senseless and inhumane. Here we are faced with one of the more alarming symptoms of the “culture of death”, which is advancing above all in prosperous societies, marked by an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency and which sees the growing number of elderly and disabled people as intolerable and too burdensome. These people are very often isolated by their families and by society, which are organized almost exclusively on the basis of criteria of productive efficiency, according to which a hopelessly impaired life no longer has any value.

65. For a correct moral judgment on euthanasia, in the first place a clear definition is required. Euthanasia in the strict sense is understood to be an action or omission which of itself and by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating all suffering. “Euthanasias terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used.”76

Euthanasia must be distinguished from the decision to forego so-called “aggressive medical treatment,” in other words, medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are by now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family. In such situations, when death is clearly imminent and inevitable, one can in conscience “refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.”77 Certainly there is a moral obligation to care for oneself and to allow oneself to be cared for, but this duty must take account of concrete circumstances. It needs to be determined whether the means of treatment available are objectively proportionate to the prospects for improvement. To forego extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it rather expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death.78

In modern medicine, increased attention is being given to what are called “methods of palliative care,” which seek to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to ensure that the patient is supported and accompanied in his or her ordeal. Among the questions which arise in this context is that of the licitness of using various types of painkillers and sedatives for relieving the patients pain when this involves the risk of shortening life. While praise may be due to the person who voluntarily accepts suffering by forgoing treatment with painkillers in order to remain fully lucid and, if a believer, to share consciously in the Lords Passion, such “heroic” behavior cannot be considered the duty of everyone. Pius XII affirmed that it is licit to relieve pain by narcotics, even when the result is decreased consciousness and a shortening of life, “if no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties.”79 In such a case, death is not willed or sought, even though for reasonable motives one runs the risk of it: there is simply a desire to ease pain effectively by using the analgesics which medicine provides. All the same, “it is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason.” 80 as they approach death people ought to be able to satisfy their moral and family duties, and above all they ought to be able to prepare in a fully conscious way for their definitive meeting with God.

Taking into account these distinctions, in harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors 81 and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Churchs Tradition, and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.82

Depending on the circumstances, this practice involves the malice proper to suicide or murder.

66. Suicide is always as morally objectionable as murder. The Churchs tradition has always rejected it as a gravely evil choice.83 Even though a certain psychological, cultural and social conditioning may induce a person to carry out an action which so radically contradicts the innate inclination to life, thus lessening or removing subjective responsibility, suicide, when viewed objectively, is a gravely immoral act. In fact, it involves the rejection of love of self and the renunciation of the obligation of justice and charity towards ones neighbor, towards the communities to which one belongs, and towards society as a whole.84 In its deepest reality, suicide represents a rejection of Gods absolute sovereignty over life and death, as proclaimed in the prayer of the ancient sage of Israel: “You have power over life and death; you lead men down to the gates of Hades and back again” (Wis 16:13; cf. Tob 13:2).

To concur with the intention of another person to commit suicide and to help in carrying it out through so-called “assisted suicide” means to cooperate in, and at times to be the actual perpetrator of, an injustice which can never be excused, even if it is requested. In a remarkably relevant passage Saint Augustine writes that “it is never licit to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live.”85 Even when not motivated by a selfish refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false mercy, and indeed a disturbing “perversion” of mercy. True “compassion” leads to sharing anothers pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages.

The choice of euthanasia becomes more serious when it takes the form of a murder committed by others on a person who has in no way requested it and who has never consented to it. The height of arbitrariness and injustice is reached when certain people, such as physicians or legislators, arrogate to themselves the power to decide who ought to live and who ought to die. Once again we find ourselves before the temptation of Eden: to become like God who “knows good and evil” (cf. Gen 3:5). God alone has the power over life and death: “It is I who bring both death and life” (Dt 32:39; cf. 2 Kg 5:7; 1 Sam 2:6). But he only exercises this power in accordance with a plan of wisdom and love. When man usurps this power, being enslaved by a foolish and selfish way of thinking, he inevitably uses it for injustice and death. Thus the life of the person who is weak is put into the hands of the one who is strong; in society the sense of justice is lost, and mutual trust, the basis of every authentic interpersonal relationship, is undermined at its root.

67. Quite different from this is the way of love and true mercy, which our common humanity calls for, and upon which faith in Christ the Redeemer, who died and rose again, sheds ever new light. The request which arises from the human heart in the supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when faced with the temptation to give up in utter desperation, is above all a request for companionship, sympathy and support in the time of trial. It is a plea for help to keep on hoping when all human hopes fail. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us: “It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence becomes most acute” and yet “man rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the absolute ruin and total disappearance of his own person. Man rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to mere matter.”86

This natural aversion to death and this incipient hope of immortality are illumined and brought to fulfillment by Christian faith, which both promises and offers a share in the victory of the Risen Christ: it is the victory of the One who, by his redemptive death, has set man free from death, “the wages of sin” (Rom 6:23), and has given him the Spirit, the pledge of resurrection and of life (cf. Rom 8:11). The certainty of future immortality and hope in the promised resurrection cast new light on the mystery of suffering and death, and fill the believer with an extraordinary capacity to trust fully in the plan of God.

The Apostle Paul expressed this newness in terms of belonging completely to the Lord who embraces every human condition: “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords” (Rom 14:7-8). Dying to the Lord means experiencing ones death as the supreme act of obedience to the Father (cf. Phil 2:8), being ready to meet death at the “hour” willed and chosen by him (cf. Jn 13:1), which can only mean when ones earthly pilgrimage is completed. Living to the Lord also means recognizing that suffering, while still an evil and a trial in itself, can always become a source of good. It becomes such if it is experienced for love and with love through sharing, by Gods gracious gift and ones own personal and free choice, in the suffering of Christ Crucified. In this way, the person who lives his suffering in the Lord grows more fully conformed to him (cf. Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 2:21) and more closely associated with his redemptive work on behalf of the Church and humanity.87 This was the experience of Saint Paul, which every person who suffers is called to relive: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christs afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24).

We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29): civil law and the moral law

68. One of the specific characteristics of present-day attacks on human lifeas has already been said several timesconsists in the trend to demand a legal justification for them, as if they were rights which the State, at least under certain conditions, must acknowledge as belonging to citizens. Consequently, there is a tendency to claim that it should be possible to exercise these rights with the safe and free assistance of doctors and medical personnel.

It is often claimed that the life of an unborn child or a seriously disabled person is only a relative good: according to a proportionalist approach, or one of sheer calculation, this good should be compared with and balanced against other goods. It is even maintained that only someone present and personally involved in a concrete situation can correctly judge the goods at stake: consequently, only that person would be able to decide on the morality of his choice. The State therefore, in the interest of civil coexistence and social harmony, should respect this choice, even to the point of permitting abortion and euthanasia.

At other times, it is claimed that civil law cannot demand that all citizens should live according to moral standards higher than what all citizens themselves acknowledge and share. Hence the law should always express the opinion and will of the majority of citizens and recognize that they have, at least in certain extreme cases, the right even to abortion and euthanasia. Moreover, the prohibition and the punishment of abortion and euthanasia in these cases would inevitably leadso it is saidto an increase of illegal practices: and these would not be subject to necessary control by society and would be carried out in a medically unsafe way. The question is also raised whether supporting a law which in practice cannot be enforced would not ultimately undermine the authority of all laws.

Finally, the more radical views go so far as to maintain that in a modern and pluralistic society people should be allowed complete freedom to dispose of their own lives as well as of the lives of the unborn: it is asserted that it is not the task of the law to choose between different moral opinions, and still less can the law claim to impose one particular opinion to the detriment of others.

69. In any case, in the democratic culture of our time it is commonly held that the legal system of any society should limit itself to taking account of and accepting the convictions of the majority. It should therefore be based solely upon what the majority itself considers moral and actually practices. Furthermore, if it is believed that an objective truth shared by all is de facto unattainable, then respect for the freedom of the citizenswho in a democratic system are considered the true rulerswould require that on the legislative level the autonomy of individual consciences be acknowledged. Consequently, when establishing those norms which are absolutely necessary for social coexistence, the only determining factor should be the will of the majority, whatever this may be. Hence every politician, in his or her activity, should clearly separate the realm of private conscience from that of public conduct.

As a result, we have what appear to be two diametrically opposed tendencies. On the one hand, individuals claim for themselves in the moral sphere the most complete freedom of choice and demand that the State should not adopt or impose any ethical position but limit itself to guaranteeing maximum space for the freedom of each individual, with the sole limitation of not infringing on the freedom and rights of any other citizen. On the other hand, it is held that, in the exercise of public and professional duties, respect for other peoples freedom of choice requires that each one should set aside his or her own convictions in order to satisfy every demand of the citizens which is recognized and guaranteed by law; in carrying out ones duties the only moral criterion should be what is laid down by the law itself. Individual responsibility is thus turned over to the civil law, with a renouncing of personal conscience, at least in the public sphere.

70. At the basis of all these tendencies lies the ethical relativism which characterizes much of present-day culture. There are those who consider such relativism an essential condition of democracy, inasmuch as it alone is held to guarantee tolerance, mutual respect between people and acceptance of the decisions of the majority, whereas moral norms considered to be objective and binding are held to lead to authoritarianism and intolerance.

But it is precisely the issue of respect for life which shows what misunderstandings and contradictions, accompanied by terrible practical consequences, are concealed in this position.

It is true that history has known cases where crimes have been committed in the name of “truth.” But equally grave crimes and radical denials of freedom have also been committed and are still being committed in the name of “ethical relativism.” When a parliamentary or social majority decrees that it is legal, at least under certain conditions, to kill unborn human life, is it not really making a “tyrannical” decision with regard to the weakest and most defenseless of human beings? Everyones conscience rightly rejects those crimes against humanity of which our century has had such sad experience. But would these crimes cease to be crimes if, instead of being committed by unscrupulous tyrants, they were legitimated by popular consensus?

Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a “system” and as such is a means and not an end. Its “moral” value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behavior, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs. If today we see an almost universal consensus with regard to the value of democracy, this is to be considered a positive “sign of the times,” as the Churchs Magisterium has frequently noted.88 But the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. Of course, values such as the dignity of every human person, respect for inviolable and inalienable human rights, and the adoption of the “common good” as the end and criterion regulating political life are certainly fundamental and not to be ignored.

The basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable “majority” opinions, but only the acknowledgment of an objective moral law which, as the “natural law” written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself. If, as a result of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience, an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in bringing into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations, and would be reduced to a mere mechanism for regulating different and opposing interests on a purely empirical basis.89

Some might think that even this function, in the absence of anything better, should be valued for the sake of peace in society. While one acknowledges some element of truth in this point of view, it is easy to see that without an objective moral grounding not even democracy is capable of ensuring a stable peace, especially since peace which is not built upon the values of the dignity of every individual and of solidarity between all people frequently proves to be illusory. Even in participatory systems of government, the regulation of interests often occurs to the advantage of the most powerful, since they are the ones most capable of maneuvering not only the levers of power but also of shaping the formation of consensus. In such a situation, democracy easily becomes an empty word.

71. It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote.

Consequently there is a need to recover the basic elements of a vision of the relationship between civil law and moral law, which are put forward by the Church, but which are also part of the patrimony of the great juridical traditions of humanity.

Certainly the purpose of civil law is different and more limited in scope than that of the moral law. But “in no sphere of life can the civil law take the place of conscience or dictate norms concerning things which are outside its competence,”90 which is that of ensuring the common good of people through the recognition and defense of their fundamental rights, and the promotion of peace and of public morality.91 The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may “lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” (1 Tim 2:2). Precisely for this reason, civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something whichwere it prohibited would cause more serious harm,92 it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individualseven if they are the majority of the members of societyan offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life. The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom.93

In the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII pointed out that “it is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, coordinated, defended, and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority. Thus any government which refused to recognize human rights or acted in violation of them, would not only fail in its duty; its decrees would be wholly lacking in binding force.”94

72. The doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with the moral law is in continuity with the whole tradition of the Church. This is clear once more from John XXIIIs Encyclical: “Authority is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience…; indeed, the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse.”95 This is the clear teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who writes that “human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence.”96 And again: “Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law.”97

Now the first and most immediate application of this teaching concerns a human law which disregards the fundamental right and source of all other rights which is the right to life, a right belonging to every individual. Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law. It might be objected that such is not the case in euthanasia, when it is requested with full awareness by the person involved. But any State which made such a request legitimate and authorized it to be carried out would be legalizing a case of suicide-murder, contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life. In this way the State contributes to lessening respect for life and opens the door to ways of acting which are destructive of trust in relations between people. Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.

73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws. Instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. “They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live” (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: “the midwives feared God” (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to Godto whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereigntythat the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for “the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10).

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.”98

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favoring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nationsparticularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislationthere are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

74. The passing of unjust laws often raises difficult problems of conscience for morally upright people with regard to the issue of cooperation, since they have a right to demand not to be forced to take part in morally evil actions. Sometimes the choices which have to be made are difficult; they may require the sacrifice of prestigious professional positions or the relinquishing of reasonable hopes of career advancement. In other cases, it can happen that carrying out certain actions, which are provided for by legislation that overall is unjust, but which in themselves are indifferent, or even positive, can serve to protect human lives under threat. There may be reason to fear, however, that willingness to carry out such actions will not only cause scandal and weaken the necessary opposition to attacks on life, but will gradually lead to further capitulation to a mentality of permissiveness.

In order to shed light on this difficult question, it is necessary to recall the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions. Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to Gods law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).

To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right. Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics, and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27): “promote” life

75. Gods commandments teach us the way of life. The negative moral precepts, which declare that the choice of certain actions is morally unacceptable, have an absolute value for human freedom: they are valid always and everywhere, without exception. They make it clear that the choice of certain ways of acting is radically incompatible with the love of God and with the dignity of the person created in his image. Such choices cannot be redeemed by the goodness of any intention or of any consequence; they are irrevocably opposed to the bond between persons; they contradict the fundamental decision to direct ones life to God.99

In this sense, the negative moral precepts have an extremely important positive function. The “no” which they unconditionally require makes clear the absolute limit beneath which free individuals cannot lower themselves. At the same time they indicate the minimum which they must respect and from which they must start out in order to say “yes” over and over again, a “yes” which will gradually embrace the entire horizon of the good (cf. Mt 5:48). The commandments, in particular the negative moral precepts, are the beginning and the first necessary stage of the journey towards freedom. As Saint Augustine writes, “the beginning of freedom is to be free from crimes…like murder, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, sacrilege and so forth. Only when one stops committing these crimes (and no Christian should commit them), one begins to lift up ones head towards freedom. But this is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom.”100

76. The commandment “You shall not kill” thus establishes the point of departure for the start of true freedom. It leads us to promote life actively, and to develop particular ways of thinking and acting which serve life. In this way we exercise our responsibility towards the persons entrusted to us and we show, in deeds and in truth, our gratitude to God for the great gift of life (cf. Ps 139:13-14).

The Creator has entrusted mans life to his responsible concern, not to make arbitrary use of it, but to preserve it with wisdom and to care for it with loving fidelity. The God of the Covenant has entrusted the life of every individual to his or her fellow human beings, brothers and sisters, according to the law of reciprocity in giving and receiving, of self-giving and of the acceptance of others. In the fullness of time, by taking flesh and giving his life for us, the Son of God showed what heights and depths this law of reciprocity can reach. With the gift of his Spirit, Christ gives new content and meaning to the law of reciprocity, to our being entrusted to one another. The Spirit who builds up communion in love creates between us a new fraternity and solidarity, a true reflection of the mystery of mutual self-giving and receiving proper to the Most Holy Trinity. The Spirit becomes the new law which gives strength to believers and awakens in them a responsibility for sharing the gift of self and for accepting others, as a sharing in the boundless love of Jesus Christ himself.

77. This new law also gives spirit and shape to the commandment “You shall not kill.” For the Christian it involves an absolute imperative to respect, love and promote the life of every brother and sister, in accordance with the requirements of Gods bountiful love in Jesus Christ. “He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).

The commandment “You shall not kill,” even in its more positive aspects of respecting, loving, and promoting human life, is binding on every individual human being. It resounds in the moral conscience of everyone as an irrepressible echo of the original covenant of God the Creator with mankind. It can be recognized by everyone through the light of reason and it can be observed thanks to the mysterious working of the Spirit who, blowing where he wills (cf. Jn 3:8), comes to and involves every person living in this world.

It is therefore a service of love which we are all committed to ensure to our neighbor, that his or her life may be always defended and promoted, especially when it is weak or threatened. It is not only a personal but a social concern which we must all foster: a concern to make unconditional respect for human life the foundation of a renewed society.

We are asked to love and honor the life of every man and woman and to work with perseverance and courage so that our time, marked by all too many signs of death, may at last witness the establishment of a new culture of life, the fruit of the culture of truth and of love.

Chapter IV You Did It to Me

For a New Culture of Human Life

You are Gods own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9): a people of life and for life

78. The Church has received the Gospel as a proclamation and a source of joy and salvation. She has received it as a gift from Jesus, sent by the Father “to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). She has received it through the Apostles, sent by Christ to the whole world (cf. Mk 16:15; Mt 28:19-20). Born from this evangelizing activity, the Church hears every day the echo of Saint Pauls words of warning: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). As Paul VI wrote, “evangelization is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”101

Evangelization is an all-embracing, progressive activity through which the Church participates in the prophetic, priestly and royal mission of the Lord Jesus. It is therefore inextricably linked to preaching, celebration, and the service of charity. Evangelization is a profoundly ecclesial act, which calls all the various workers of the Gospel to action, according to their individual charisms and ministry.

This is also the case with regard to the proclamation of the Gospel of life, an integral part of that Gospel which is Jesus Christ himself. We are at the service of this Gospel, sustained by the awareness that we have received it as a gift and are sent to preach it to all humanity, “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With humility and gratitude we know that we are the people of life and for life, and this is how we present ourselves to everyone.

79. We are the people of life because God, in his unconditional love, has given us the Gospel of life and by this same Gospel we have been transformed and saved. We have been ransomed by the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15) at the price of his precious blood (cf. 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 1:19). Through the waters of Baptism we have been made a part of him (cf. Rom 6:4-5; Col 2:12), as branches which draw nourishment and fruitfulness from the one tree (cf. Jn 15:5). Interiorly renewed by the grace of the Spirit, “who is the Lord and giver of life,” we have become a people for life and we are called to act accordingly.

We have been sent.

For us, being at the service of life is not a boast but rather a duty, born of our awareness of being “Gods own people, that we may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (cf. 1 Pet 2:9). On our journey we are guided and sustained by the law of love: a love which has as its source and model the Son of God made man, who “by dying gave life to the world.”102

We have been sent as a people.

Everyone has an obligation to be at the service of life. This is a properly “ecclesial” responsibility, which requires concerted and generous action by all the members and by all sectors of the Christian community. This community commitment does not however eliminate or lessen the responsibility of each individual, called by the Lord to “become the neighbor” of everyone: “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37).

Together we all sense our duty to preach the Gospel of life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy and in our whole existence, and to serve it with the various programs and structures which support and promote life.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (1 Jn 1:3): proclaiming the Gospel of life

80. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1 Jn 1:1, 3). Jesus is the only Gospel: we have nothing further to say or any other witness to bear.

To proclaim Jesus is itself to proclaim life.

For Jesus is “the word of life” (1 Jn 1:1). In him “life was made manifest” (1 Jn 1:2); he himself is “the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 Jn 1:2). By the gift of the Spirit, this same life has been bestowed on us. It is in being destined to life in its fullness, to “eternal life,” that every persons earthly life acquires its full meaning.

Enlightened by this Gospel of life, we feel a need to proclaim it and to bear witness to it in all its marvelous newness. Since it is one with Jesus himself, who makes all things new 103 and conquers the “oldness” which comes from sin and leads to death, 104 this Gospel exceeds every human expectation and reveals the sublime heights to which the dignity of the human person is raised through grace. This is how Saint Gregory of Nyssa understands it: “Man, as a being, is of no account; he is dust, grass, vanity. But once he is adopted by the God of the universe as a son, he becomes part of the family of that Being, whose excellence and greatness no one can see, hear or understand. What words, thoughts, or flight of the spirit can praise the superabundance of this grace? Man surpasses his nature: mortal, he becomes immortal; perishable, he becomes imperishable; fleeting, he becomes eternal; human, he becomes divine.”105

Gratitude and joy at the incomparable dignity of man impel us to share this message with everyone: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1 Jn 1:3). We need to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society.

81. This involves above all proclaiming the core of this Gospel. It is the proclamation of a living God who is close to us, who calls us to profound communion with himself and awakens in us the certain hope of eternal life. It is the affirmation of the inseparable connection between the person, his life, and his bodiliness. It is the presentation of human life as a life of relationship, a gift of God, the fruit and sign of his love. It is the proclamation that Jesus has a unique relationship with every person, which enables us to see in every human face the face of Christ. It is the call for a “sincere gift of self” as the fullest way to realize our personal freedom.

It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason, procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable. Not only must human life not be taken, but it must be protected with loving concern. The meaning of life is found in giving and receiving love, and in this light human sexuality and procreation reach their true and full significance. Love also gives meaning to suffering and death; despite the mystery which surrounds them, they can become saving events. Respect for life requires that science and technology should always be at the service of man and his integral development. Society as a whole must respect, defend, and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that persons life.

82. To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously from the very first proclamation of the Gospel, and thereafter in catechesis, in the various forms of preaching, in personal dialogue and in all educational activity. Teachers, catechists, and theologians have the task of emphasizing the anthropological reasons upon which respect for every human life is based. In this way, by making the newness of the Gospel of life shine forth, we can also help everyone discover in the light of reason and of personal experience how the Christian message fully reveals what man is and the meaning of his being and existence. We shall find important points of contact and dialogue also with nonbelievers, in our common commitment to the establishment of a new culture of life.

Faced with so many opposing points of view, and a widespread rejection of sound doctrine concerning human life, we can feel that Pauls entreaty to Timothy is also addressed to us: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). This exhortation should resound with special force in the hearts of those members of the Church who directly share, in different ways, in her mission as “teacher” of the truth. May it resound above all for us who are bishops: we are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of life. We are also entrusted with the task of ensuring that the doctrine which is once again being set forth in this Encyclical is faithfully handed on in its integrity. We must use appropriate means to defend the faithful from all teaching which is contrary to it. We need to make sure that in theological faculties, seminaries and Catholic institutions sound doctrine is taught, explained, and more fully investigated.106 May Pauls exhortation strike a chord in all theologians, pastors, teachers and in all those responsible for catechesis and the formation of consciences. Aware of their specific role, may they never be so grievously irresponsible as to betray the truth and their own mission by proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life as faithfully presented and interpreted by the Magisterium.

In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the worlds way of thinking (cf. Rom 12:2). We must be in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn 15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16:33).

I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14): celebrating the Gospel of life

83. Because we have been sent into the world as a “people for life,” our proclamation must also become a genuine celebration of the Gospel of life. This celebration, with the evocative power of its gestures, symbols and rites, should become a precious and significant setting in which the beauty and grandeur of this Gospel is handed on.

For this to happen, we need first of all to foster, in ourselves and in others, a contemplative outlook.107 Such an outlook arises from faith in the God of life, who has created every individual as a “wonder” (cf. Ps 139:14). It is the outlook of those who see life in its deeper meaning, who grasp its utter gratuitousness, its beauty, and its invitation to freedom and responsibility. It is the outlook of those who do not presume to take possession of reality but instead accept it as a gift, discovering in all things the reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person his living image (cf. Gen 1:27; Ps 8:5). This outlook does not give in to discouragement when confronted by those who are sick, suffering, outcast or at deaths door. Instead, in all these situations it feels challenged to find meaning, and precisely in these circumstances it is open to perceiving in the face of every person a call to encounter, dialogue and solidarity.

It is time for all of us to adopt this outlook, and with deep religious awe to rediscover the ability to revere and honor every person, as Paul VI invited us to do in one of his first Christmas messages.108 Inspired by this contemplative outlook, the new people of the redeemed cannot but respond with songs of joy, praise and thanksgiving for the priceless gift of life, for the mystery of every individuals call to share through Christ in the life of grace and in an existence of unending communion with God our Creator and Father.

84. To celebrate the Gospel of life means to celebrate the God of life, the God who gives life: “We must celebrate Eternal Life, from which every other life proceeds. From this, in proportion to its capacities, every being which in any way participates in life, receives life. This Divine Life, which is above every other life, gives and preserves life. Every life and every living movement proceed from this Life which transcends all life and every principle of life. It is to this that souls owe their incorruptibility; and because of this, all animals and plants live, which receive only the faintest glimmer of life. To men, beings made of spirit and matter, Life grants life. Even if we should abandon Life, because of its overflowing love for man, it converts us and calls us back to itself. Not only this: it promises to bring us, soul and body, to perfect life, to immortality. It is too little to say that this Life is alive: it is the Principle of life, the Cause and sole Wellspring of life. Every living thing must contemplate it and give it praise: it is Life which overflows with life.”109

Like the Psalmist, we too, in our daily prayer as individuals and as a community, praise and bless God our Father, who knitted us together in our mothers womb, and saw and loved us while we were still without form (cf. Ps 139:13, 15-16). We exclaim with overwhelming joy: “I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. You know me through and through” (Ps 139:14). Indeed, “despite its hardships, its hidden mysteries, its suffering and its inevitable frailty, this mortal life is a most beautiful thing, a marvel ever new and moving, an event worthy of being exalted in joy and glory.”110 Moreover, man and his life appear to us not only as one of the greatest marvels of creation: for God has granted to man a dignity which is near to divine (Ps 8:5-6). In every child which is born and in every person who lives or dies we see the image of Gods glory. We celebrate this glory in every human being, a sign of the living God, an icon of Jesus Christ.

We are called to express wonder and gratitude for the gift of life and to welcome, savor and share the Gospel of life not only in our personal and community prayer, but above all in the celebrations of the liturgical year. Particularly important in this regard are the Sacraments, the efficacious signs of the presence and saving action of the Lord Jesus in Christian life. The Sacraments make us sharers in divine life, and provide the spiritual strength necessary to experience life, suffering, and death in their fullest meaning. Thanks to a genuine rediscovery and a better appreciation of the significance of these rites, our liturgical celebrations, especially celebrations of the Sacraments, will be ever more capable of expressing the full truth about birth, life, suffering and death, and will help us to live these moments as a participation in the Paschal Mystery of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

85. In celebrating the Gospel of life, we also need to appreciate and make good use of the wealth of gestures and symbols present in the traditions and customs of different cultures and peoples. There are special times and ways in which the peoples of different nations and cultures express joy for a newborn life, respect for and protection of individual human lives, care for the suffering or needy, closeness to the elderly and the dying, participation in the sorrow of those who mourn, and hope and desire for immortality.

In view of this and following the suggestion made by the Cardinals in the Consistory of 1991, I propose that a Day for Life be celebrated each year in every country, as already established by some Episcopal Conferences. The celebration of this Day should be planned and carried out with the active participation of all sectors of the local Church. Its primary purpose should be to foster in individual consciences, in families, in the Church and in civil society a recognition of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition. Particular attention should be drawn to the seriousness of abortion and euthanasia, without neglecting other aspects of life, which from time to time deserve to be given careful consideration, as occasion and circumstances demand.

86. As part of the spiritual worship acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1), the Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. In this way, our lives will become a genuine and responsible acceptance of the gift of life and a heartfelt song of praise and gratitude to God who has given us this gift. This is already happening in the many different acts of selfless generosity, often humble and hidden, carried out by men and women, children and adults, the young and the old, the healthy and the sick.

It is in this context, so humanly rich and filled with love, that heroic actions too are born. These are the most solemn celebration of the Gospel of life, for they proclaim it by the total gift of self. They are the radiant manifestation of the highest degree of love, which is to give ones life for the person loved (cf. Jn 15:13). They are a sharing in the mystery of the Cross, in which Jesus reveals the value of every person, and how life attains its fullness in the sincere gift of self. Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope.

Part of this daily heroism is also the silent but effective and eloquent witness of all those “brave mothers who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves.”111 In living out their mission “these heroic women do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and continue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete … We thank you, heroic mothers, for your invincible love! We thank you for your intrepid trust in God and in his love. We thank you for the sacrifice of your life … In the Paschal Mystery, Christ restores to you the gift you gave him. Indeed, he has the power to give you back the life you gave him as an offering.”112

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?” (Jas 2:14): serving the Gospel of life

87. By virtue of our sharing in Christs royal mission, our support and promotion of human life must be accomplished through the service of charity, which finds expression in personal witness, various forms of volunteer work, social activity and political commitment. This is a particularly pressing need at the present time, when the “culture of death” so forcefully opposes the “culture of life” and often seems to have the upper hand. But even before that it is a need which springs from “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). As the Letter of James admonishes us: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:14-17).

In our service of charity, we must be inspired and distinguished by a specific attitude: we must care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to become neighbors to everyone (cf. Lk 10:29-37), and to show special favor to those who are poorest, most alone and most in need. In helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, and the imprisonedas well as the child in the womb and the old person who is suffering or near deathwe have the opportunity to serve Jesus. He himself said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Hence we cannot but feel called to account and judged by the ever relevant words of Saint John Chrysostom: “Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not neglect it when you find it naked. Do not do it homage here in the church with silk fabrics only to neglect it outside where it suffers cold and nakedness.”113

Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent.

It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good. We need then to “show care” for all life and for the life of everyone. Indeed, at an even deeper level, we need to go to the very roots of life and love.

It is this deep love for every man and woman which has given rise down the centuries to an outstanding history of charity, a history which has brought into being in the Church and society many forms of service to life which evoke admiration from all unbiased observers. Every Christian community, with a renewed sense of responsibility, must continue to write this history through various kinds of pastoral and social activity. To this end, appropriate and effective programs of support for new life must be implemented, with special closeness to mothers who, even without the help of the father, are not afraid to bring their child into the world and to raise it. Similar care must be shown for the life of the marginalized or suffering, especially in its final phases.

88. All of this involves a patient and fearless work of education aimed at encouraging one and all to bear each others burdens (cf. Gal 6:2). It requires a continuous promotion of vocations to service, particularly among the young. It involves the implementation of long-term practical projects and initiatives inspired by the Gospel.

Many are the means towards this end which need to be developed with skill and serious commitment. At the first stage of life, centers for natural methods of regulating fertility should be promoted as a valuable help to responsible parenthood, in which all individuals, and in the first place the child, are recognized and respected in their own right, and where every decision is guided by the ideal of the sincere gift of self. Marriage and family counseling agencies by their specific work of guidance and prevention, carried out in accordance with an anthropology consistent with the Christian vision of the person, of the couple and of sexuality, also offer valuable help in rediscovering the meaning of love and life, and in supporting and accompanying every family in its mission as the “sanctuary of life.” Newborn life is also served by centers of assistance and homes or centers where new life receives a welcome. Thanks to the work of such centers, many unmarried mothers and couples in difficulty discover new hope and find assistance and support in overcoming hardship and the fear of accepting a newly conceived life or life which has just come into the world.

When life is challenged by conditions of hardship, maladjustment, sickness or rejection, other programssuch as communities for treating drug addiction, residential communities for minors or the mentally ill, care and relief centers for AIDS patients, associations for solidarity especially towards the disabledare eloquent expressions of what charity is able to devise in order to give everyone new reasons for hope and practical possibilities for life.

And when earthly existence draws to a close, it is again charity which finds the most appropriate means for enabling the elderly, especially those who can no longer look after themselves, and the terminally ill to enjoy genuinely humane assistance and to receive an adequate response to their needs, in particular their anxiety and their loneliness. In these cases the role of families is indispensable; yet families can receive much help from social welfare agencies and, if necessary, from recourse to palliative care, taking advantage of suitable medical and social services available in public institutions or in the home.

In particular, the role of hospitals, clinics, and convalescent homes needs to be reconsidered. These should not merely be institutions where care is provided for the sick or the dying. Above all, they should be places where suffering, pain, and death are acknowledged and understood in their human and specifically Christian meaning. This must be especially evident and effective in institutes staffed by Religious or in any way connected with the Church.

89. Agencies and centers of service to life, and all other initiatives of support and solidarity which circumstances may from time to time suggest, need to be directed by people who are generous in their involvement and fully aware of the importance of the Gospel of life for the good of individuals and society.

A unique responsibility belongs to health-care personnel: doctors, pharmacists, nurses, chaplains, men and women religious, administrators and volunteers.

Their profession calls for them to be guardians and servants of human life. In todays cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health-care professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation, their responsibility today is greatly increased. Its deepest inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the health-care profession, something already recognized by the ancient and still relevant Hippocratic Oath, which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.

Absolute respect for every innocent human life also requires the exercise of conscientious objection in relation to procured abortion and euthanasia. “Causing death” can never be considered a form of medical treatment, even when the intention is solely to comply with the patients request. Rather, it runs completely counter to the healthcare profession, which is meant to be an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life. Biomedical research too, a field which promises great benefits for humanity, must always reject experimentation, research or applications which disregard the inviolable dignity of the human being, and thus cease to be at the service of people and become instead means which, under the guise of helping people, actually harm them.

90. Volunteer workers have a specific role to play: they make a valuable contribution to the service of life when they combine professional ability and generous, selfless love. The Gospel of life inspires them to lift their feelings of good will towards others to the heights of Christs charity; to renew every day, amid hard work and weariness, their awareness of the dignity of every person; to search out peoples needs and, when necessary, to set out on new paths where needs are greater but care and support weaker.

If charity is to be realistic and effective, it demands that the Gospel of life be implemented also by means of certain forms of social activity and commitment in the political field, as a way of defending and promoting the value of life in our ever more complex and pluralistic societies. Individuals, families, groups and associations, albeit for different reasons and in different ways, all have a responsibility for shaping society and developing cultural, economic, political and legislative projects which, with respect for all and in keeping with democratic principles, will contribute to the building of a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and protected and the lives of all are defended and enhanced.

This task is the particular responsibility of civil leaders. Called to serve the people and the common good, they have a duty to make courageous choices in support of life, especially through legislative measures. In a democratic system, where laws and decisions are made on the basis of the consensus of many, the sense of personal responsibility in the consciences of individuals invested with authority may be weakened. But no one can ever renounce this responsibility, especially when he or she has a legislative or decision-making mandate, which calls that person to answer to God, to his or her own conscience and to the whole of society for choices which may be contrary to the common good. Although laws are not the only means of protecting human life, nevertheless they do play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behavior. I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent persons natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law. For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society.

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defense of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the reestablishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life. Here it must be noted that it is not enough to remove unjust laws. The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood. A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies. For this reason, there need to be set in place social and political initiatives capable of guaranteeing conditions of true freedom of choice in matters of parenthood. It is also necessary to rethink labor, urban, residential and social service policies so as to harmonize working schedules with time available for the family, so that it becomes effectively possible to take care of children and the elderly.

91. Today an important part of policies which favor life is the issue of population growth. Certainly public authorities have a responsibility to “intervene to orient the demography of the population.”114 But such interventions must always take into account and respect the primary and inalienable responsibility of married couples and families, and cannot employ methods which fail to respect the person and fundamental human rights, beginning with the right to life of every innocent human being. It is therefore morally unacceptable to encourage, let alone impose, the use of methods such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion in order to regulate births. The ways of solving the population problem are quite different. Governments and the various international agencies must above all strive to create economic, social, public health and cultural conditions which will enable married couples to make their choices about procreation in full freedom and with genuine responsibility. They must then make efforts to ensure “greater opportunities and a fairer distribution of wealth so that everyone can share equitably in the goods of creation. Solutions must be sought on the global level by establishing a true economy of communion and sharing of goods, in both the national and international order.”115 This is the only way to respect the dignity of persons and families, as well as the authentic cultural patrimony of peoples.

Service of the Gospel of life is thus an immense and complex task. This service increasingly appears as a valuable and fruitful area for positive cooperation with our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities, in accordance with the practical ecumenism which the Second Vatican Council authoritatively encouraged.116 It also appears as a providential area for dialogue and joint efforts with the followers of other religions and with all people of good will. No single person or group has a monopoly on the defense and promotion of life. These are everyones task and responsibility. On the eve of the Third Millennium, the challenge facing us is an arduous one: only the concerted efforts of all those who believe in the value of life can prevent a setback of unforeseeable consequences for civilization.

“Your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Ps 128:3): the family as the “sanctuary of life

92. Within the “people of life and the people for life,” the family has a decisive responsibility. This responsibility flows from its very nature as a community of life and love, founded upon marriage, and from its mission to “guard, reveal and communicate love.”117 Here it is a matter of Gods own love, of which parents are co-workers and as it were interpreters when they transmit life and raise it according to his fatherly plan.118 This is the love that becomes selflessness, receptiveness and gift. Within the family each member is accepted, respected and honored precisely because he or she is a person; and if any family member is in greater need, the care which he or she receives is all the more intense and attentive.

The family has a special role to play throughout the life of its members, from birth to death. It is truly “the sanctuary of life: the place in which lifethe gift of Godcan be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth.”119 Consequently the role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.

As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to a new life, parents recognize that the child, “as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them.”120

It is above all in raising children that the family fulfills its mission to proclaim the Gospel of life. By word and example, in the daily round of relations and choices, and through concrete actions and signs, parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the sincere gift of self, and they cultivate in them respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity and all the other values which help people to live life as a gift. In raising children Christian parents must be concerned about their childrens faith and help them to fulfill the vocation God has given them. The parents mission as educators also includes teaching and giving their children an example of the true meaning of suffering and death. They will be able to do this if they are sensitive to all kinds of suffering around them and, even more, if they succeed in fostering attitudes of closeness, assistance and sharing towards sick or elderly members of the family.

93. The family celebrates the Gospel of life through daily prayer, both individual prayer and family prayer. The family prays in order to glorify and give thanks to God for the gift of life, and implores his light and strength in order to face times of difficulty and suffering without losing hope. But the celebration which gives meaning to every other form of prayer and worship is found in the familys actual daily life together, if it is a life of love and self-giving.

This celebration thus becomes a service to the Gospel of life, expressed through solidarity as experienced within and around the family in the form of concerned, attentive and loving care shown in the humble, ordinary events of each day. A particularly significant expression of solidarity between families is a willingness to adopt or take in children abandoned by their parents or in situations of serious hardship. True parental love is ready to go beyond the bonds of flesh and blood in order to accept children from other families, offering them whatever is necessary for their well being and full development. Among the various forms of adoption, consideration should be given to adoption-at-a-distance, preferable in cases where the only reason for giving up the child is the extreme poverty of the childs family. Through this type of adoption, parents are given the help needed to support and raise their children, without their being uprooted from their natural environment.

As “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good,”121 solidarity also needs to be practiced through participation in social and political life. Serving the Gospel of life thus means that the family, particularly through its membership of family associations, works to ensure that the laws and institutions of the State in no way violate the right to life, from conception to natural death, but rather protect and promote it.

94. Special attention must be given to the elderly. While in some cultures older people remain a part of the family with an important and active role, in others the elderly are regarded as a useless burden and are left to themselves. Here the temptation to resort to euthanasia can more easily arise.

Neglect of the elderly or their outright rejection are intolerable. Their presence in the family, or at least their closeness to the family in cases where limited living space or other reasons make this impossible, is of fundamental importance in creating a climate of mutual interaction and enriching communication between the different age groups. It is therefore important to preserve, or to re-establish where it has been lost, a sort of “covenant” between generations. In this way parents, in their later years, can receive from their children the acceptance and solidarity which they themselves gave to their children when they brought them into the world. This is required by obedience to the divine commandment to honor ones father and mother (cf. Ex 20:12; Lev 19:3). But there is more. The elderly are not only to be considered the object of our concern, closeness, and service. They themselves have a valuable contribution to make to the Gospel of life. Thanks to the rich treasury of experiences they have acquired through the years, the elderly can and must be sources of wisdom and witnesses of hope and love.

Although it is true that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family,”122 it must be admitted that modern social, economic and cultural conditions make the familys task of serving life more difficult and demanding. In order to fulfill its vocation as the “sanctuary of life,” as the cell of a society which loves and welcomes life, the family urgently needs to be helped and supported. Communities and States must guarantee all the support, including economic support, which families need in order to meet their problems in a truly human way. For her part, the Church must untiringly promote a plan of pastoral care for families, capable of making every family rediscover and live with joy and courage its mission to further the Gospel of life.

Walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8): bringing about a transformation of culture

95. “Walk as children of light… and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph 5:8, 10-11). In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death,” there is need to develop a deep critical sense, capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.

What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life: new, because it will be able to confront and solve todays unprecedented problems affecting human life; new, because it will be adopted with deeper and more dynamic conviction by all Christians; new, because it will be capable of bringing about a serious and courageous cultural dialogue among all parties. While the urgent need for such a cultural transformation is linked to the present historical situation, it is also rooted in the Churchs mission of evangelization. The purpose of the Gospel, in fact, is “to transform humanity from within and to make it new.”123 Like the yeast which leavens the whole measure of dough (cf. Mt 13:33), the Gospel is meant to permeate all cultures and give them life from within, 124 so that they may express the full truth about the human person and about human life.

We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves. Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting. With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our Dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth. At the same time, we need to promote a serious and in-depth exchange about basic issues of human life with everyone, including non-believers, in intellectual circles, in the various professional spheres and at the level of peoples everyday life.

96. The first and fundamental step towards this cultural transformation consists in forming consciences with regard to the incomparable and inviolable worth of every human life. It is of the greatest importance to re-establish the essential connection between life and freedom. These are inseparable goods: where one is violated, the other also ends up being violated. There is no true freedom where life is not welcomed and loved; and there is no fullness of life except in freedom. Both realities have something inherent and specific which links them inextricably: the vocation to love. Love, as a sincere gift of self, 125 is what gives the life and freedom of the person their truest meaning.

No less critical in the formation of conscience is the recovery of the necessary link between freedom and truth. As I have frequently stated, when freedom is detached from objective truth it becomes impossible to establish personal rights on a firm rational basis; and the ground is laid for society to be at the mercy of the unrestrained will of individuals or the oppressive totalitarianism of public authority.126

It is therefore essential that man should acknowledge his inherent condition as a creature to whom God has granted being and life as a gift and a duty. Only by admitting his innate dependence can man live and use his freedom to the full, and at the same time respect the life and freedom of every other person. Here especially one sees that “at the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God.”127 Where God is denied and people live as though he did not exist, or his commandments are not taken into account, the dignity of the human person and the inviolability of human life also end up being rejected or compromised.

97. Closely connected with the formation of conscience is the work of education, which helps individuals to be ever more human, leads them ever more fully to the truth, instills in them growing respect for life, and trains them in right interpersonal relationships.

In particular, there is a need for education about the value of life from its very origins. It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. Sexuality, which enriches the whole person, “manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love.”128 The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life. Only a true love is able to protect life. There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love, an education which involves training in chastity as a virtue which fosters personal maturity and makes one capable of respecting the “spousal” meaning of the body.

The work of educating in the service of life involves the training of married couples in responsible procreation. In its true meaning, responsible procreation requires couples to be obedient to the Lords call and to act as faithful interpreters of his plan. This happens when the family is generously open to new lives, and when couples maintain an attitude of openness and service to life, even if, for serious reasons and in respect for the moral law, they choose to avoid a new birth for the time being or indefinitely. The moral law obliges them in every case to control the impulse of instinct and passion, and to respect the biological laws inscribed in their person. It is precisely this respect which makes legitimate, at the service of responsible procreation, the use of natural methods of regulating fertility. From the scientific point of view, these methods are becoming more and more accurate and make it possible in practice to make choices in harmony with moral values. An honest appraisal of their effectiveness should dispel certain prejudices which are still widely held, and should convince married couples, as well as health-care and social workers, of the importance of proper training in this area. The Church is grateful to those who, with personal sacrifice and often unacknowledged dedication, devote themselves to the study and spread of these methods, as well to the promotion of education in the moral values which they presuppose.

The work of education cannot avoid a consideration of suffering and death.

These are a part of human existence, and it is futile, not to say misleading, to try to hide them or ignore them. On the contrary, people must be helped to understand their profound mystery in all its harsh reality. Even pain and suffering have meaning and value when they are experienced in close connection with love received and given. In this regard, I have called for the yearly celebration of the World Day of the Sick, emphasizing “the salvific nature of the offering up of suffering which, experienced in communion with Christ, belongs to the very essence of the Redemption.”129 Death itself is anything but an event without hope. It is the door which opens wide on eternity and, for those who live in Christ, an experience of participation in the mystery of his Death and Resurrection.

98. In a word, we can say that the cultural change which we are calling for demands from everyone the courage to adopt a new life-style, consisting in making practical choicesat the personal, family, social and international levelon the basis of a correct scale of values: the primacy of being over having, 130 of the person over things.131 This renewed life-style involves a passing from indifference to concern for others, from rejection to acceptance of them. Other people are not rivals from whom we must defend ourselves, but brothers and sisters to be supported. They are to be loved for their own sakes, and they enrich us by their very presence.

In this mobilization for a new culture of life, no one must feel excluded: everyone has an important role to play. Together with the family, teachers and educators have a particularly valuable contribution to make. Much will depend on them if young people, trained in true freedom, are to be able to preserve for themselves and make known to others new, authentic ideals of life, and if they are to grow in respect for and service to every other person, in the family and in society.

Intellectuals

can also do much to build a new culture of human life. A special task falls to Catholic intellectuals, who are called to be present and active in the leading centers where culture is formed, in schools and universities, in places of scientific and technological research, of artistic creativity and of the study of man. Allowing their talents and activity to be nourished by the living force of the Gospel, they ought to place themselves at the service of a new culture of life by offering serious and well documented contributions, capable of commanding general respect and interest by reason of their merit. It was precisely for this purpose that I established the Pontifical Academy for Life, assigning it the task of “studying and providing information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Churchs Magisterium.”132 A specific contribution will also have to come from Universities, particularly from Catholic Universities, and from Centers, Institutes and Committees of Bioethics.

An important and serious responsibility belongs to those involved in the mass media, who are called to ensure that the messages which they so effectively transmit will support the culture of life. They need to present noble models of life and make room for instances of peoples positive and sometimes heroic love for others. With great respect they should also present the positive values of sexuality and human love, and not insist on what defiles and cheapens human dignity. In their interpretation of things, they should refrain from emphasizing anything that suggests or fosters feelings or attitudes of indifference, contempt, or rejection in relation to life. With scrupulous concern for factual truth, they are called to combine freedom of information with respect for every person and a profound sense of humanity.

99. In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination,” in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.

Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life.”133 You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the womans womb … This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the womans personality.”134 A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyones right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

100. In this great endeavor to create a new culture of life we are inspired and sustained by the confidence that comes from knowing that the Gospel of life, like the Kingdom of God itself, is growing and producing abundant fruit (cf. Mk 4:26-29). There is certainly an enormous disparity between the powerful resources available to the forces promoting the “culture of death” and the means at the disposal of those working for a “culture of life and love.” But we know that we can rely on the help of God, for whom nothing is impossible (cf. Mt 19:26).

Filled with this certainty, and moved by profound concern for the destiny of every man and woman, I repeat what I said to those families who carry out their challenging mission amid so many difficulties: 135 a great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer. Jesus himself has shown us by his own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). As he taught his disciples, some demons cannot be driven out except in this way (cf. Mk 9:29). Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life. May this same power turn their hearts to resolutions and goals inspired by the civilization of life and love.

We are writing this that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:4): the Gospel of life is for the whole of human society

101. “We are writing you this that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:4). The revelation of the Gospel of life is given to us as a good to be shared with all people: so that all men and women may have fellowship with us and with the Trinity (cf. 1 Jn 1:3). Our own joy would not be complete if we failed to share this Gospel with others but kept it only for ourselves.

The Gospel of life is not for believers alone: it is for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a concern of Christians alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone.

Consequently, all that we do as the “people of life and for life” should be interpreted correctly and welcomed with favor. When the Church declares that unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent personfrom conception to natural deathis one of the pillars on which every civil society stands, she “wants simply to promote a human State. A State which recognizes the defense of the fundamental rights of the human person, especially of the weakest, as its primary duty.”136

The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.

There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every persons dignity and without respect for his or her rights.

Nor can there be true peace unless life is defended and promoted. As Paul VI pointed out: “Every crime against life is an attack on peace, especially if it strikes at the moral conduct of people… But where human rights are truly professed and publicly recognized and defended, peace becomes the joyful and operative climate of life in society.”137

The “people of life” rejoices in being able to share its commitment with so many others. Thus may the “people for life” constantly grow in number and may a new culture of love and solidarity develop for the true good of the whole of human society.

Conclusion

102. At the end of this Encyclical, we naturally look again to the Lord Jesus, “the Child born for us” (cf. Is 9:6), that in him we may contemplate “the Life” which “was made manifest” (1 Jn 1:2). In the mystery of Christs Birth the encounter of God with man takes place and the earthly journey of the Son of God begins, a journey which will culminate in the gift of his life on the Cross. By his death Christ will conquer death and become for all humanity the source of new life.

The one who accepted “Life” in the name of all and for the sake of all was Mary, the Virgin Mother; she is thus most closely and personally associated with the Gospel of life. Marys consent at the Annunciation and her motherhood stand at the very beginning of the mystery of life which Christ came to bestow on humanity (cf. Jn 10:10). Through her acceptance and loving care for the life of the Incarnate Word, human life has been rescued from condemnation to final and eternal death.

For this reason, Mary, “like the Church of which she is the type, is a mother of all who are reborn to life. She is in fact the mother of the Life by which everyone lives, and when she brought it forth from herself she in some way brought to rebirth all those who were to live by that Life.”138

As the Church contemplates Marys motherhood, she discovers the meaning of her own motherhood and the way in which she is called to express it. At the same time, the Churchs experience of motherhood leads to a most profound understanding of Marys experience as the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for.

A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1): the motherhood of Mary and of the Church

103. The mutual relationship between the mystery of the Church and Mary appears clearly in the “great portent” described in the Book of Revelation: “A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (12:1). In this sign the Church recognizes an image of her own mystery: present in history, she knows that she transcends history, inasmuch as she constitutes on earth the “seed and beginning” of the Kingdom of God.139 The Church sees this mystery fulfilled in complete and exemplary fashion in Mary. She is the woman of glory in whom Gods plan could be carried out with supreme perfection.

The “woman clothed with the sun”the Book of Revelation tells us”was with child” (12:2). The Church is fully aware that she bears within herself the Savior of the world, Christ the Lord. She is aware that she is called to offer Christ to the world, giving men and women new birth into Gods own life. But the Church cannot forget that her mission was made possible by the motherhood of Mary, who conceived and bore the One who is “God from God,” “true God from true God.” Mary is truly the Mother of God, the Theotokos, in whose motherhood the vocation to motherhood bestowed by God on every woman is raised to its highest level. Thus Mary becomes the model of the Church, called to be the “new Eve,” the mother of believers, the mother of the “living” (cf. Gen 3:20).

The Churchs spiritual motherhood is only achievedthe Church knows this toothrough the pangs and “the labor” of childbirth (cf. Rev 12:2), that is to say, in constant tension with the forces of evil which still roam the world and affect human hearts, offering resistance to Christ: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:4-5).

Like the Church, Mary too had to live her motherhood amid suffering: “This child is set … for a sign that is spoken againstand a sword will pierce through your own soul alsothat thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35). The words which Simeon addresses to Mary at the very beginning of the Saviors earthly life sum up and prefigure the rejection of Jesus, and with him of Mary, a rejection which will reach its culmination on Calvary. “Standing by the cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25), Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself: she offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets him to the end for our sake. The “yes” spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the Cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive and beget as her children all those who become disciples, pouring out upon them the saving love of her Son: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son! ” (Jn 19:26).

And the dragon stood before the woman … that he might devour her child when she brought it forth” (Rev 12:4): life menaced by the forces of evil

104. In the Book of Revelation, the “great portent” of the “woman” (12:1) is accompanied by “another portent which appeared in heaven”: “a great red dragon” (Rev 12:3), which represents Satan, the personal power of evil, as well as all the powers of evil at work in history and opposing the Churchs mission.

Here too Mary sheds light on the Community of Believers. The hostility of the powers of evil is, in fact, an insidious opposition which, before affecting the disciples of Jesus, is directed against his mother. To save the life of her Son from those who fear him as a dangerous threat, Mary has to flee with Joseph and the Child into Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-15).

Mary thus helps the Church to realize that life is always at the center of a great struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. The dragon wishes to devour “the child brought forth” (cf. Rev 12:4), a figure of Christ, whom Mary brought forth “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) and whom the Church must unceasingly offer to people in every age. But in a way, that child is also a figure of every person, every child, especially every helpless baby whose life is threatened, becauseas the Council reminds us”by his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person.”140 It is precisely in the “flesh” of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ. This is the fascinating but also demanding truth which Christ reveals to us and which his Church continues untiringly to proclaim: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Mt 18:5); “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

Death shall be no more” (Rev 21:4): the splendor of the Resurrection

105. The angels Annunciation to Mary is framed by these reassuring words: “Do not be afraid, Mary” and “with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:30, 37). The whole of the Virgin Mothers life is in fact pervaded by the certainty that God is near to her and that he accompanies her with his providential care. The same is true of the Church, which finds “a place prepared by God” (Rev 12:6) in the desert, the place of trial but also of the manifestation of Gods love for his people (cf. Hos 2:16). Mary is a living word of comfort for the Church in her struggle against death. Showing us the Son, the Church assures us that in him the forces of death have already been defeated: “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Lifes own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign.”141

The Lamb who was slain

is alive, bearing the marks of his Passion in the splendor of the Resurrection. He alone is master of all the events of history: he opens its “seals” (cf. Rev 5:1-10) and proclaims, in time and beyond, the power of life over death. In the “new Jerusalem,” that new world towards which human history is travelling, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).

And as we, the pilgrim people, the people of life and for life, make our way in confidence towards “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), we look to her who is for us “a sign of sure hope and solace.”142

O Mary,

bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born, of the poor whose lives are made difficult, of men and women who are victims of brutal violence, of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy. Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time. Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peters, on 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in the year 1995, the seventeenth of my Pontificate.

Notes

1

The expression “Gospel of life” is not found as such in Sacred Scripture. But it does correspond to an essential dimension of the biblical message.

2

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22.

3

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 10; AAS 71 (1979), 275.

4

Cf. ibid., 14: loc.cit., 285.

5

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 27.

6

Cf. Letter to all my Brothers in the Episcopate regarding the “Gospel of Life” (19 May 1991): Insegnamenti XIV, 1 (1991), 1293-1296.

7

Ibid., loc.cit., p. 1294.

8

Letter to Families Gratissimam sane (2 February 1994), 4: AAS 86 (1994), 871.

9

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 39: AAS 83 (1991), 842.

10

No. 2259.

11

Saint Ambrose, De Noe, 26:94-96: CSEL 32, 480-481.

12

Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1867 and 2268.

13

De Cain et Abel, II, 10, 38: CSEL, 32, 408.

14

Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae: AAS 80 (1988), 70-102.

15

Address during the Prayer Vigil for the Eighth World Youth Day, Denver, 14 August 1993, II, 3: AAS 86 (1994), 419.

16

John Paul II, Address to the Participants at the Study Conference on “The Right to Life and Europe”, 18 December 1987: Insegnamenti, X, 3 (1987), 1446-1447.

17

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36.

18

Cf. ibid., 16.

19

Cf. Saint Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, 13, 23: CCL 143A, 683.

20

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 10; AAS 71 (1979), 274.

21

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.

22

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 4.

23

“Gloria Dei vivens homo”: Adversus Haereses, IV, 20, 7: SCh 100/2, 648-649.

24

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 12.

25

Confessions, I, 1: CCL 27, 1.

26

Exameron, VI, 75-76: CSEL 32, 260-261.

27

“Vita autem hominis visio Dei”: Adversus Haereses, IV, 20, 7: SCh 100/2, 648-649.

28

Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 38: AAS 83 (1991), 840-841.

29

John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 34: AAS 80 (1988), 560.

30

Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.

31

Letter to Families Gratissimam sane (2 February 1994), 9: AAS 86 (1994), 878; cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Humani Generis (12 August 1950): AAS 42 (1950), 574.

32

“Animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides nos retinere iubet”: Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Humani Generis (12 August 1950): AAS 42 (1950), 575.

33

Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50; cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 28: AAS 74 (1982), 114.

34

Homilies, II, 1; CCSG 3, 39.

35

See, for example, Psalms 22:10-11; 71:6; 139:13-14.

36

Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, II, 22-23: CCL, 14, 40-41.

37

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians, 7, 2: Patres Apostolici, ed. F.X. Funk, II, 82.

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