Friday, 30 January 2009

Mexico's experience proves once more: strong religious leadership defeats abortion

There's excellent news from Mexico. Not only has the Mexican state of Colima rejected an initiative by Mexican socialists to legalize abortion by an overwhelming majority (19 votes to 1!), the Catholic Church has been given the credit for this pro-life victory.

Reportedly, Adolfo Nunez Gonzales of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who introduced the measure, has attributed his defeat to the influence of the Catholic Church, saying:
"It's not a secret for anyone that the Catholic Church is a sector with a lot of power and weight, and that, of course, what is said in a church one Sunday or whatever day the mass is done, influences the people to analyze it all week".
Excellent! That's exactly what Pope John Paul II called for, in 1995, in Evangelium Vitae when he wrote: "What is urgently called for is a general mobilitzation of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life ... " (EV, 95)

Four years earlier, on 19 May 1991, Pope John Paul wrote a personal letter to "each of my brother bishops" saying: "All of us, as pastors of the Lord's flock, have a grave responsibility to promote respect for human life in our dioceses. In addition to making public declarations at every opportunity, we must exercise particular vigilance with regard to the teaching being given in our seminaries and in Catholic schools and universities."

Equally excellent are the outspoken comments of Archbishop Raymond Burke, called to Rome recently to head the Church's top canonical court, who has observed that the US bishops' statement Faithful Citizenship had contributed to Obama's victory in the recent US presidential election. LifeSite news reports as follows:
"Archbishop Burke, citing an article by a priest and ethics expert of St. Louis archdiocese, Msgr. Kevin McMahon, who analysed how the bishops’ document actually contributed to the election of Obama, called its proposal 'a kind of false thinking, that says, there’s the evil of taking an innocent and defenceless human life but there are other evils and they’re worthy of equal consideration.

“But they’re not. The economic situation, or opposition to the war in Iraq, or whatever it may be, those things don’t rise to the same level as something that is always and everywhere evil, namely the killing of innocent and defenceless human life.”
What's happened in Mexico shows that with strong religious leadership, from all faiths and none, throughout the world - the pro-life movement not only can prevail, the pro-life movement will prevail. We've seen this also in Northern Ireland - where politicians of different faiths who are totally unafraid of declaring their religious faith - have resisted pro-abortion efforts to impose Britain's Abortion Act on Northern Ireland for over four decades.

Let's continue to hear it for the unborn from bold bishops and from other religious leaders. Abortion is the top political issue of today. 4,000 babies are killed in Britain every week. If it were 4,000 policemen, teachers, Catholics, Muslims, being killed each week - who would doubt that this was the top political issue on which to judge politicians? If a difference is being made for the unborn, then they're not being treated as fully human.

It breaks my heart. I still find it shocking that we live in a country which allows us to murder our children: Fr Guy de Gaynesford

The parish priest of St. Mary's and St. Petroc's, Bodmin, Fr Guy De Gaynesford, delivered a moving homily in support of the White Flower Appeal for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Listen to it here.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Latin American reaction to Obama's funding of overseas abortions

Mr Barack Obama's presidency began ignominiously with an order to allow US funding for abortion overseas. The Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, said the move, which would cost lives, contrasted with the decision to leave Iraq. Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez said the president was mistaken and the measure would further bring down America's morality. Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso, vice president of the Argentinian senate, said using taxpayers' money for abortion eroded the principal human right – the right to life. Congresswoman Martha Lorena de Casco of Honduras said the move threatened her country's legislation. Mrs Christine Vollmer of the Latin American Alliance for the Family said: "Instead of a positive message of wanting to work to better conditions for every Latin American, President Obama has announced his willingness to fund the enemies of the people of Latin America whose laws generally are very respectful of the right to life before birth." Yes to Life of El Salvador said Mr Obama shouldn't press their nation to imitate America's "tragic, anti-life experience".

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Fearless Bishop O’Donoghue makes plea to fellow bishops on catechetics

In a forthright talk at Oxford University this evening, Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue has fearlessly explained how many Catholics in Britain have rejected “much that is essential to Catholic faith and practice, relentlessly criticising the Church’s past, placing their own judgement above the authority of the Church, these ‘Catholics’ advocate, and import into the Church, what the secular world holds up as ‘good’ as being in keeping with the ‘tolerance’ and ‘compassion’ of Jesus – divorce, contraception, abortion, IVF, homosexual acts/unions, embryonic stem cell research.”

Bishop O’Donoghue was speaking at the Newman Society, Oxford University's oldest student Catholic society, on Why I wrote Fit for Mission: Church, the bishop's document, published last year, which has won a number of plaudits from the Vatican. (Cardinal John Henry Newman pictured above)

Bishop O'Donoghue's talk provided a frank analysis of how secularism is influencing the Catholic Church, continuing a theme he developed in last weekend’s Catholic Herald. He spoke about “obstacles” put in the way of “the authentic implementation” of the Second Vatican Council by Catholics “particularly in positions of leadership in schools, seminaries, parishes, and dioceses”.

“ … Looking around at the pathetic situation of catechetics in this country”, Bishop O’Donoghue said, “and the extent of ignorance and apostasy among generations of Catholics since the Council, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Why has Pope John’s vision for the Council not been realised in this country?’…”

In a plea to his brother bishops, he asked: “Why are some Catholic education authorities, even bishops in this country, so fearful of Fit for Mission Schools?” – an earlier document in which he called on parents, schools and colleges to reject anti-life sex education.

“After all”, the bishop said, “it only re-iterates the teaching of the Church and it is has been widely and publicly welcomed by the Vatican and many bishops, clergy and laity around the world?”

Bishop O’Donoghue continued:

“In Fit for Mission? Schools and Fit for Mission? Church I have sought to identify the obstacles that have blocked the true vision and grace of the Council. Let me briefly list what has got in the way and continues to do so …

“… Catholics in this country have interpreted the Council as signalling a wholesale rejection of aspects of the Church’s identity, out of a desire to be open to modernity … A wide-spread caricature of the Council’s Decree on Religious Freedom has resulted in many Catholics holding that if – in conscience – they disagree with any teaching of the Church then they have the freedom – even the duty – to reject that teaching.

“For many, the authority of the autonomous conscience has overthrown the authority of Christ given to Peter and the Apostles. Catholics have forgotten that a conscience ill-informed about the divine law and natural law has a predisposition to make errors of judgement, due to being easily swayed by passion and self-interest, and weakened by habitual sin. As a consequence for some Catholics the objective authority of the Church’s doctrine, morality and discipline has been replaced by a subjective, personal judgement of the so called ‘pick and mix’ generation of Catholics … ”

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists must resist anti-life laws, says Turin archbishop

Cardinal Severino Poletto (pictured), the archbishop of Turin, is reported to be urging Italian doctors to resort to conscientious objection if they are ordered to let Eluana Englaro—known as the Terri Schiavo of Italy—die of starvation.

Cardinal Poletto's statement immediately follows strong comments from the Vatican condemning US President Obama's arrogance over abortion. Obama's promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act which seeks to compel medical professionals to provide abortions, with no opt-outs for conscientious objection, reflects political trends elsewhere in the world. This includes Britain - on euthanasia by neglect - and in Europe, where unelected international bodies are seeking to advance a new doctrine of human rights, including the right to abortion, as human rights expert Jakob Cornides has pointed out.

Cardinal Poletto's intervention and leadership in the case of Eluana Englaro are exactly what's needed in the world today. He says: “No human law can go against conscience, obliging it to commit acts that are against our own convictions ... This is valid for a doctor who is being asked to practice an abortion, as well as for the one who is forced to remove Eluana’s feeding tube, or for the pharmacist who refuses to sell a certain pill”.

SPUC has been reporting on this story since July last year. Eluana was injured in a vehicle accident in 1992 since when she has been in a semi-coma "showing some signs of extremely limited consciousness", according to Monsignor Barreiro, director of the Rome office of Human Life International. He added: "However, we are not fighting for Eluana's life because she has limited signs of consciousness but because of her dignity as a human being".

Cardinal Poletto's comments reflect the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, re-stated on 1st August 2007 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in "Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration".

The CDF document, which is in question and answer form, begins:
"First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a “vegetative state” morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

"Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented ... "

In a most helpful commentary on their responses to the US bishops, the CDF shows how the Church's position on "the nutrition and hydration of patients in the condition commonly called a 'vegetative state'" has been its consistent teaching on this matter, making a careful distinction between this medical situation and the "use and interruption of techniques of resuscitation". The Commentary states:

" ... The Address of Pope Pius XII to a Congress on Anesthesiology, given on November 24, 1957, is often invoked in favor of the possibility of abandoning the nutrition and hydration of such patients. In this address, the Pope restated two general ethical principles. On the one hand, natural reason and Christian morality teach that, in the case of a grave illness, the patient and those caring for him or her have the right and the duty to provide the care necessary to preserve health and life. On the other hand, this duty in general includes only the use of those means which, considering all the circumstances, are ordinary, that is to say, which do not impose an extraordinary burden on the patient or on others. A more severe obligation would be too burdensome for the majority of persons and would make it too difficult to attain more important goods. Life, health and all temporal activities are subordinate to spiritual ends. Naturally, one is not forbidden to do more than is strictly obligatory to preserve life and health, on condition that one does not neglect more important duties.

"One should note, first of all, that the answers given by Pius XII referred to the use and interruption of techniques of resuscitation. However, the case in question has nothing to do with such techniques. Patients in a “vegetative state” breathe spontaneously, digest food naturally, carry on other metabolic functions, and are in a stable situation. But they are not able to feed themselves. If they are not provided artificially with food and liquids, they will die, and the cause of their death will be neither an illness nor the “vegetative state” itself, but solely starvation and dehydration. At the same time, the artificial administration of water and food generally does not impose a heavy burden either on the patient or on his or her relatives. It does not involve excessive expense; it is within the capacity of an average health-care system, does not of itself require hospitalization, and is proportionate to accomplishing its purpose, which is to keep the patient from dying of starvation and dehydration. It is not, nor is it meant to be, a treatment that cures the patient, but is rather ordinary care aimed at the preservation of life.

"What may become a notable burden is when the “vegetative state” of a family member is prolonged over time. It is a burden like that of caring for a quadriplegic, someone with serious mental illness, with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, and so on. Such persons need continuous assistance for months or even for years. But the principle formulated by Pius XII cannot, for obvious reasons, be interpreted as meaning that in such cases those patients, whose ordinary care imposes a real burden on their families, may licitly be left to take care of themselves and thus abandoned to die. This is not the sense in which Pius XII spoke of extraordinary means ... "

Monday, 26 January 2009

Vatican condemnation of Obama's "arrogance" is well-judged

It's the morning after the night before as the world wakes up to the terrible reality of Barack Obama's presidency of the US.

In a well-judged response, the Vatican has been swift to pronounce a severe judgement on one of Obama's first presidential decisions: to sign an order to "aggressively promote" abortion as a tool of population control in developing countries - as I explained in my blog "The party's over ... " last week.

The BBC reports that: "Senior Vatican official Monsignor Rino Fisichella (pictured), President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, urged Mr Obama to listen to all voices in America without 'the arrogance of those who, being in power, believe they can decide of life and death' ... If this is one of President Obama's first acts, I have to say, in all due respect, that we're heading quickly toward disappointment".

His predecessor, Monsignor Eli Sgreccia, put it even more strongly, likening Obama's policy to that of King Herod and his slaughter of the innocents.

These strength of the Vatican's response to Barack Obama's action is well-judged, in view of the gravity of the situation. In addition, the new President has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act which seeks to compel medical professionals to provide abortions, with no opt-outs for conscientious objection. Such presidential action will only serve to strengthen moves elsewhere in the world - the Philippines, Kenya, the European Institutions, and Britain - where attacks on conscientious objection are either proposed (as in the Philippines and in Kenya); are government policy or enshrined in legislation (as in Britain) or are being powerfully promoted (as in the European institutions).

As I've mentioned before, peaceful resistance is the way forward for the pro-life movement worldwide - as well as continuing our existing educational, political, and compassionate caring work. SPUC's campaign of peaceful resistance is focused on resisting euthanasia at the bedside and the Society's Safe at School campaign. Please contact me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk for further details.

In addition, later this week SPUC is launching its campaign to make the right to life a top priority issue at the next general election. Abortion, euthanasia, IVF and embryo research cannot be dismissed as a "single issue" of no more significance than any other social justice issue. As Bishop Sgreccia says: we're fighting against the "slaughter of the innocents" and it's time for the campaign strategy of the pro-life movement, which includes our supporters in the faith communities, fully to reflect that reality.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Stem cell scientist prays that Obama has "crisis of conscience" on federally-funded execution of human embryos

SPUC's news summary service (for which you can sign up here) reported Friday's news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has approved a test of the treatment of spinal injuries in around 10 people with paraplegia using human embryo cells.

The company concerned, the Geron Corporation, wants to do a similar test with diabetics. President Obama is expected to lift President Bush's ban on federal funding for research on new human embryo lines.

James L. Sherley, M.D., Ph.D.(pictured), a leading stem cell scientist, senior scientist at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, who has travelled the world pointing out the inefficacy of embryonic stem cell research to his scientific colleagues, has written to me with the following comment:
“Executives of the Geron Corporation in the U.S. must be quite pleased with the news media tizzy inspired by their Obama-timed announcement of a first clinical trial with human embryonic stem cells. Such clamour excites, builds anticipation, and favors optimism over realism, even when the caveats are well known to the approving U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and reporters.

“In fact, the price of Geron's stock has been climing consistently during the month of December, had a sudden pick up in rate during this week, and surged today on the heels of news reports of the approval of their clinical trial. The problem with some Americans is that they will often abandon even our most fundamental principles, if they see an opportunity for personal gain.

“In the case of Geron's approval, reporters are clumsily obscuring the important principle that is being dismissed by Geron and the FDA. Reporters are mechanically penning reassurances from Geron that they are working appropriately with the FDA to evaluate whether Geron's cells will injure patients. Geron's approved phase I trial will evaluate whether spinal injury patients, who volunteer for the trial, experience undue harm after injection of human embryonic stem cells.

“Of course, the whole trial is a complete ruse, since a greater harm already occurred with the deaths caused by making the embryonic stem cells. President Obama's delay in keeping his promise that he would immediately order federally-funded execution of nascent human beings for research could mean that he now experiences a crisis of conscience. I certainly pray that he will.

“After all, how can one lead on a promise of unity and respect for the American principle of the inalienable right to life, but at the same time promote the death of people just because they are younger? Geron's trial may be legal because of a current exception in U.S. law that permits elective killing of persons who are younger than the stage of birth, but it is certainly not right in any sense of the word.”
You may like to join Dr Sherley in prayer by joining the daily prayer campaign for Barack Obama, and Tony and Cherie Blair, that they will have a change of heart - and that they will use their influence in the world to save lives and become powerful ambassadors in the world for the unborn and for the value and inviolability of human life.