Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Famous Tenor expresses gratitude for his mother's commitment to life

The famous Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, said recently in a newspaper interview: ‘It’s not Christian to go against someone.  I am in favour of life.’

If you Google ‘Andrea Bocelli – video on abortion’ you will find there a short video of the singer telling the beautiful story of how his mother, when pregnant with him, refused her doctor’s advice to abort him

You can find the wonderful video on this link 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Irish Justice Minister considering the publication of official guidelines in order ‘to prevent babies ending up in “legal limbo” following IVF and related procedures?

Last week I blogged on the subject of IVF (22 November 2011), and I am now returning to the same theme.
The relentless push for the destruction of human life continues, together with the demystification of the wonder of creation, and the making of children into mere commodities – to be picked off a shelf when and where it suits.   This is child abuse – pure and simple.   And the Irish Government, in common with other western governments, is aiding and abetting this abuse.
The Government’s ‘special rapporteur on child protection’ is concerned at the lack of legislation to regulate the ‘assisted human reproduction’ industry in Ireland.   He worries that a child whose father could be Ukrainian, or Danish, or whose mother might be Indian, or Spanish, or whatever, ‘may never be able to trace their genetic parents or have access to important genetic information.’  It is estimated that there are approximately 500 such children born in Ireland each year.
Now, let nobody accuse me of being unfeeling or uncaring towards those couples that cannot conceive a child of their own.   It is a very sad situation in which to find themselves.   But the child that they obtain through the involvement of ‘donor’ sperm or eggs is not their biological child, and this very fact is a violation of the child’s rights.   Every child is a child created by God – no matter what are the circumstances of his or her conception.  But a child is nevertheless the God-given fruit of the love of a man and a woman – ideally husband and wife.    Following lobbying on the part of the ‘reproductive’ industry, the Government says that in the current economic climate it will only be possible to provide for legislation either for IVF or in relation to the ECHR decision in the AB&C case. 
The Irish Minister for Justice – ironically – is seriously considering the publication of official guidelines in order ‘to prevent babies ending up in “legal limbo” ’    How come?    It seems that couples travel abroad from Ireland so that their child (or someone else’s?) will be borne and given birth to by a woman in some other country.  Such a baby is considered to be ‘stateless’, and unable to be provided with a passport.    So the people who profess to be concerned with the rights of children want to have legislation introduced in Ireland that would negate the fact that a child is a birth child of one woman, while making legal the parental claim of a couple to the child – who may or may not be the biological child of either one of the ‘commissioning’ couple.

The Irish Government would do well to sit back and consider the awful implications of what is involved here – in particular the awful destruction of human life that is involved in the IVF industry, and the denial of their basic human rights to the children who are the  so called ‘products’ of such inhuman experiments.

On the other hand a figure of approximately 4,000 is usually quoted for the number of Irish women and girls whose babies are aborted outside Ireland each year.    How much more humane it would be if the Irish Government – instead of its policy of encouraging the abortion industry and the IVF industry – were to assist, morally and financially, those who unintentionally become pregnant.   Couples who find themselves unable to bear a child of their own could then give a loving home to the child of the mother who for whatever reason is unable or unwilling to raise her child.   This may sound a simplistic solution – but when one considers the physical and mental injury caused by abortion, and the trauma and cost involved in the use of IVF, maybe it’s not such a remarkable suggestion.

The heart break of infertility on the one hand and the stress of the dehumanising procedures involved in the IVF industry quite apart from the shocking destruction of human embryos need not be inevitable. Many women are completely unaware that there is a natural alternative treatment for infertility. The science of NaproTechnology has been developed to such an extent that not only does it assist in the planning and spacing of pregnancies, it is also used to assist many seemingly infertile women to become pregnant thus making IVF redundant. 
NaproTechnology is the first women's health science to network family planning with reproductive health monitoring and maintenance. It is a fertility-care based medical approach rather than a fertility-control approach to family planning and gynecological health.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Spurious survey findings on Irish GP's attitudes to abortion

The Irish Times on Nov 25th reported on a survey of GP’s attitudes to abortion, which was carried out by a County Sligo junior doctor.  The report says that the survey findings show that a majority of Irish doctors support legalization of abortion in Ireland.
The study according to the Irish Times report was carried out by Dr Mark Murphy, a GP with the Sligo General Practice Training Scheme and was based on a postal/e-mail survey of randomly chosen family doctors,
The results of the survey are suspect for a number of reasons, first the questionnaire used in the survey appears to have been flawed in that it fails to make an adequate distinction between a necessary medical intervention, which unintentionally causes the death of a baby, on one hand and an induced abortion on the other hand.
Secondly the report also gives the impression that 750 family doctors including some doctors in training responded to the survey, however it appears that considerably less than half of those invited to do so actually responded to the survey.  It is understood that as few as 324 actually responded, hardly a statistically significant result.
The survey also claims that 42 per cent of GPs feel that a woman’s healthcare suffers “as a result of the requirement to travel for an abortion which is described as a termination of pregnancy or “ToP”, Significantly Dr Murphy did not ask  any questions about possible adverse physical or psychological effects of abortion.

Dr Murphy previously sparked controversy last May at the Irish Medical Organisation AGM when he cited the discredited 18th century advocate of population control, Thomas Malthus, in support of a motion calling on Irish Aid to promote population control in developing countries. See this link. The motion was defeated amid accusations that it was "arrogant" and "racist".

‘Advancing the Culture of Life in Hope and with Obedience’: Address by Cardinal Raymond Burke

Cardinal Raymond Burke gave the keynote address at a Prayer Breakfast that took place in McHenry County, Illinois, U.S.A., at the end of October.  The title of Cardinal Burke’s address was ‘Advancing the Culture of Life in Hope and with Obedience’, and he started off by honouring Bishop Thomas Doran, Bishop of Rockford, on the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination.   The Cardinal quoted from Bishop Doran’s book At the Crossroads: A Vision of Hope:

We accept things in contemporary society that we know in the depths of our being are terribly, terribly wrong, and we do not want to talk about them.  If a child is inconvenient before it is born, kill him, kill her, but do not call it killing, call it abortion.  If a person lives beyond the years when the doctor and society consider that person to be useful, kill him, kill her, but do not call it killing, call it euthanasia.

Cardinal Burke continued, in his own words:
[…] We are presently experiencing in our nation a period of intense struggle in the advancement of the culture of life.  Our government follows openly and aggressively a totally secularist philosophy with its inherent anti-life and anti-family agenda.  […] Catholics in public office, who obstinately persist in advocating and providing for the most egregious violations of the natural moral law, are the cause of the gravest scandal; they confuse and lead into error their fellow Catholics and non-Catholics alike regarding the most fundamental truths of the moral law.  […] Western Europe, for example, has become pervasively secularised.  A culture which is totally Christian in its roots and owes its entire development to the Christian faith now does not want in any way to be associated with the name of Christ.  It is a culture which is dying, but there are many faithful Christians who live in Western Europe, who have not given up hope and who work to transform the society.  […] Many of our citizens defend the right to observe the dictates of a rightly-formed Christian conscience, against those, even in government, who want to force Christians to violate the dictates of conscience regarding the most fundamental moral truths, that is, the inviolable dignity of innocent and defenceless human life, and the integrity of marriage as the faithful, enduring and life-giving union of one man and one woman. […]
Today, sadly, through a failure of education, first, in the family and then in our schools, many do not understand the nature of human life itself, created in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed by the suffering and death of God the Son Incarnate.  They have lost the sense of their own inherent dignity as true sons and daughters of God and, therefore, have lost respect for their neighbors as brothers and sisters in the one family whose Father is in Heaven and loves His children with all His heart.  Our mission of promoting respect for all human life must, in a particular way, devote itself to promoting purity of heart, sexual purity.  The virtue of purity is fundamentally the disciplined expression of respect for life as God created us, male and female.  In this regard, I note the confusion and error diffused through the language of gender, which fundamentally denies manhood and womanhood, and manipulates human sexuality to include a host of immoral activities which are a violation of the relationship of male and female, as God ordained it from the beginning.  […]
I refuse to believe that most of our fellow countrymen are in favor of destroying babies in the womb in order to honor the so-called right of a woman to make a choice about pregnancy, as if we are ever free to choose with regard to what nature itself has ordained, in accord with God’s plan for man and woman.  I refuse to believe that most of our countrymen are in favor of generating human life artificially and then destroying it at the embryonic stage of development for the sake of experiments, no matter how noble may be the supposed goals of the experimentation.  I refuse to believe that most of our countrymen are in favor of the redefinition of what nature has ordained regarding the union of man and woman in marriage for the sake of their salvation and the procreation and education of offspring to include relationships which are contrary to nature and a betrayal of true friendship between persons of the same sex. […]
The manipulation of the conjugal act, as the Servant of God Pope Paul VI prophetically observed, has led to many forms of violence to marriage and family life.  Through the spread of the contraceptive mentality, especially among the young, human sexuality is no longer seen as the gift of God, which draws a man and a woman together, in a bond of lifelong and faithful love, crowned by the gift of new human life, but, rather, as a tool for personal gratification.  Once sexual union is no longer seen to be, by its very nature, procreative, human sexuality is abused in ways that are profoundly harmful and indeed destructive of individuals and of society itself.  One has only to think of the devastation which is daily wrought in our world by the multi-million dollar industry of pornography.  Essential to the advancement of the culture of life is the proclamation of the truth about the conjugal union, in its fullness, and the correction of the contraceptive thinking which fears life, which fears procreation. […]

The Cardinal referred to
[…] the hypocrisy of Catholics who claim to be practicing their faith but who refuse to apply the truth of the faith in their exercise of politics, medicine, business and the other human endeavors.  These Catholics claim to hold ‘personally’ to the truth of the faith, for example, regarding the inviolability of innocent and defenceless human life, while, in the political arena or in the practice of medicine, they cooperate in the attack on our unborn brothers and sisters, or on our brothers and sisters who have grown weak under the burden of years, of illness, or of special needs.  Their disobedience pertains not to some truth particular to the life of the Church, that is, not to some confessional matter, but to the truth of the divine natural law written on every human heart and, therefore, to be obeyed by all men. […]

Cardinal Burke then spoke about the true meaning of the phrase ‘the Common Good’, particularly in the context of what he had already said.   His speech is recommended to be read in its entirety.

Although he was speaking to an American audience, his words are equally relevant for and to all of us in Europe today.

Cardinal Burke's full address can be accessed on the Rockford Diocese website by following this link and scrolling down to the relevant news item  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holy See make two important interventions at UN General Assembly Committee

The Third Committee of UN General Assembly currently meeting in New York on Tuesday Nov. 22nd approved two resolutions under Item 65A, one on The Girl Child and one on the Rights of the Child. Both resolutions had been under negotiation for the last six weeks.
During the final plenary session the Holy See delegate to the third committee Fr Philip Bené made two excellent statements upholding the right to life of the unborn from conception and in support of parental rights and family values.
Fr Bené in his statement on the resolution on the Girl Child, told the meeting:
"We are grateful that many issues facing girls have been incorporated into this comprehensive Resolution including, inter alia, prenatal sex selection, female infanticide, female genital mutilation and forced marriage."
and he continued,
 "Of concern to my delegation, however, is that this Resolution can create a misleading impression that early pregnancy, per se, constitutes a health risk, a fact not supported by the report of the Secretary-General on the girl child (A/66/257) which limited its observations to complications arising during childbirth. In this regard, my delegation emphasizes that what is needed in such cases is prenatal and postnatal healthcare for the mother and her child, especially skilled birth attendants and appropriate emergency obstetric care, as enshrined in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)." 
The full text of Fr Bené's statement can be viewed here

Fr Bené in his statement on the resolution on the Rights of the Child then told the meeting:
    My delegation welcomes in this text the inclusion of the role of parents in the upbringing and development of girls, even though the prior and primary responsibility of their parents is not explicitly cited. In matters concerning the upbringing and development of the child, particularly in the area of attitudes and life skills, the measure of the best interests of the child is guaranteed by parental priority, as enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed in Article 18, 1, of the CRC. Without these guarantees, what stands between children and the coercive power of the State in those places where serious human rights violations could be inflicted against them?

    The Holy See reaffirms its reservations with the Resolution, especially regarding its references to “sexual and reproductive health” since the Holy See does not consider abortion or abortion services to be a dimension of such terms and regarding the term “family planning” as the Holy See in no way endorses contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.
The full text of this statement can be viewed here

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pope Benedict's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Africae Munus

Pope Benedict XVI to close his recent visit to Benin presented a document – Africae Munus a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, which sets out a charter for the evangelization of the African continent in the coming years.  
The document is comprehensive and is worth reading in full but it also contains very powerful recommendations on protecting life from conception to natural death and on the sacredness of the family. 
In the new document Pope Benedict praised the Synod Fathers for the concern expressed by them in respect of anti life measures, which use confusing and ambiguous language in international documents on women’s reproductive health, which could suggest support for abortion.
The following is an extract from the document

A. The protection of life
70. Among the initiatives aimed at protecting human life on the African continent, the Synod members took into consideration the efforts expended by international institutions to promote certain aspects of development.[109] Yet they noted with concern a lack of ethical clarity at international meetings, and specifically the use of confusing language conveying values at odds with Catholic moral teaching. The Church is perennially concerned for the integral development of “every man and the whole man”, as Pope Paul VI put it.[110] That is why the Synod Fathers took pains to emphasize the questionable elements found in certain international documents, especially those concerned with women’s reproductive health. The Church’s position on the matter of abortion is unambiguous. The child in his or her mother’s womb is a human life which must be protected. Abortion, which is the destruction of an innocent unborn child, is contrary to God’s will, for the value and dignity of human life must be protected from conception to natural death. The Church in Africa and the neighbouring islands must be committed to offering help and support to women and couples tempted to seek an abortion, while remaining close to those who have had this tragic experience and helping them to grow in respect for life. She acknowledges the courage of governments that have legislated against the culture of death – of which abortion is a dramatic expression – in favour of the culture of life.[111]
71. The Church knows that many individuals, associations, specialized groups and states reject sound teaching on this subject. “We must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the thinking of this world (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. Jn16:33).”[112]
72. Serious threats loom over human life in Africa. Here, as elsewhere, one can only deplore the ravages of drug and alcohol abuse which destroy the continent’s human potential and afflict young people in particular.[113]Malaria,[114] as well as tuberculosis and AIDS, decimate the African peoples and gravely compromise their socio-economic life. The problem of AIDS, in particular, clearly calls for a medical and pharmaceutical response. This is not enough, however: the problem goes deeper. Above all, it is an ethical problem. The change of behaviour that it requires – for example, sexual abstinence, rejection of sexual promiscuity, fidelity within marriage – ultimately involves the question of integral development, which demands a global approach and a global response from the Church. For if it is to be effective, the prevention of AIDS must be based on a sex education that is itself grounded in an anthropology anchored in the natural law and enlightened by the word of God and the Church’s teaching.
73. In the name of life – which it is the Church’s duty to defend and protect – and in union with the Synod Fathers, I offer an expression of renewed encouragement and support to all the Church’s institutions and movements that are working in the field of healthcare, especially with regard to AIDS. You are doing wonderful and important work. I ask international agencies to acknowledge you and to offer you assistance, respecting your specific character and acting in a spirit of collaboration. Once again, I warmly encourage those institutes and programmes of therapeutic and pharmaceutical research which seek to eradicate pandemics. Spare no effort to arrive at results as swiftly as possible, out of love for the precious gift of life.[115] May you discover solutions and provide everyone with access to treatments and medicines, taking account of uncertain situations! The Church, indeed, has been pleading for a long time for high quality medical treatment to be made available at minimum cost to all concerned.[116]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Humanum quarterly review

The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog gives a link to a very interesting website – it’s about a new online review called Humanum, the quarterly review of the Center for Cultural and Pastoral Research.
A note from the editor, Stratford Caldecott, tells us that: 

Each issue [of the review] will have a main theme around which the reviews and articles cluster, and these themes will progress over the next two years as follows, with four issues per year.  We begin with an issue on THE CHILD, because this reveals the foundation of our perspective on humanity: the child is the purest revelation of man and his relationship to Being.  Then, in a cycle of four issues under the heading of “Recovering Origins” we focus on Adult Children of Divorce, Artificial Reproduction, Same-Sex Unions, and Fatherhood.  In this way we will examine some of the most challenging developments in modern technological culture and their impact on human life and meaning.  In the second year-long cycle of issues we focus on “Home and Family”, including Motherhood, Work, and the Elderly, before moving on in the following year to the theme of “Education”.
The articles and reviews on offer in these electronic pages are intended as a service to help you in your work of research and discernment.  We hope you will find them useful, whatever your field of interest or line of work, whether you read as a parent, a health-care professional, a marriage counsellor, a scientist, a teacher, or a student.   If you are interested in humanity, then Humanum is for you.  We welcome your interest, your involvement, and your advice. 

There’s a challenge! 

Some other subjects featured on the website are as follows: ‘Child 7 Billion – Are seven billion people too many?’; ‘Caring for the Old – In Britain, concerns keep surfacing about the treatment of the elderly in care homes’; ‘Materialism bad for marriage – A new study confirms the obvious’; ‘MaterCare International – The organization MaterCare International recently held a conference in Rome to draw attention to the urgent plight of mothers around the world’. 

There is much, much more reading and study material here too. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

IVF: A human life abuse

The London Independent newspaper reports (17 November 2011) that: ‘Single women who have given up waiting for Mr Right are increasingly turning to IVF to start a family.’   The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is quoted as stating that a big rise in the number of IVF cycles ‘using donated sperm’ has been noted.
The ‘head of reproductive medicine services’ at St. George’s University Hospital in London is reported as saying: ‘More and more single women are coming for treatment.  Every IVF clinic will tell you the same; they are treating more single women.’ 

‘Women know the clock is ticking.  The biological clock is different for men and women and women know they cannot afford to wait.  They want to go and have their children and if a man turns up later, well fine, they will have their children and a partner.’

The list of wrongs involved in the above account is endless and, beyond any other consideration, to deny a child his or her God-given dignity in being conceived in God’s plan for humanity, is horrendous.   
Are children once more being regarded as commodities – accessories – to enhance the lifestyle of many people?   What about the child?   What about the human right of a child to have and to know his or her own mother and father?   Does anyone consider that in later life a child may meet and fall in love with a half-brother or half-sister?  Where are all the so-called ‘defenders’ of children’s rights?

The Irish Times appears to be cashing in on the problem of infertility, too.  In its weekend ‘review’ section the newspaper makes a huge story about the anguish of those people in Ireland who find that they cannot conceive a child.   While not in any way seeming to minimise the disappointment of men and women who find themselves in that situation, at the same time we must recognise that the child, too, has rights over and above those claimed by people who are infertile.   It is a lie to say that a child conceived by means of a ‘donor’ – either male or female – is the natural child of the ‘commissioning’ couple.   To persist with such an attitude is to perpetuate that lie, and denies a human being the knowledge of who is his or her own mother or father.  Apart from the ethics and morality involved in such a situation, the stress and physical and emotional damage caused – particularly to the female – are enormous, a fact actually admitted in the Irish Times feature.

Another extraordinary admission on the part of the Irish Times feature writer occurs when describing the IVF ‘procedure’ (in a very clinical manner) – ‘[…] and there it is: human life in its very first seconds.’      Acknowledgment of the fact that pro-life people have known and teach without compromise – human life starts at the moment of conception.
The feature poses the question – ‘How, in a country where abortion is illegal, do you destroy unwanted embryos?’   How, indeed!  It would appear that a purpose of the article is the enacting of legislation around the issue of ‘assisted human reproduction’, which is an issue fraught with moral and ethical difficulties and one which the Irish government might find it hard to present to the people – bearing in mind the pro-life principles held by them as evidenced in the recent poll (see my blog for 18 November 2011). 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Population Growth; debunking the myths

I Blogged earlier this month on the issue of global demographics and population growth, the announcement by the UN of the birth of baby 7 billion. see this link

The Population Research Institute (PRI) has produced a series of videos explaining in simple terms the implications of population growth and exposes the myths being spread by populations controllers, which sadly are believed by many.

I have linked to three of the PRI videos below. It should be noted that the information presented in these videos is based on solid scientific research.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good News on the Stem Cell front

There have been a number of good news stories regarding the development of treatments using adult stem cells while at the same time attempts to produce stem cells from embryos has faltered. 
For the first time, stem cells from patients' own hearts have been shown to battle heart failure. In a small study of 16 patients, cardiac stem cells improved heart function and reduced the amount of tissue damage in patients with heart failure -- a disabling and lethal condition caused by the death of heart muscle tissue.
The research, carried out at the University of Louisville and published in the Lancet, found the heart’s blood-pumping efficiency increased in 14 patients whilst at the same time the amount of dead heart muscle tissue decreased. 
By contrast the Geron corporation this week announced that it will cease attempts to produce embryonic stem cells using human embryos. The company cited loss of interest from investors as its reason for this decision. Investment has shifted away from embryonic to adult stem cell research because of the great strides that have been made in the development of treatments using a patient’s own stem cells.
The significance of the progress in the area of adult stem cells is set out in a BLOG post by Dr Peter Saunders which I have included in full below and is accessible on this link
It has been an amazing week in the field of stem cell technology with five big stories hitting the news all at once. New doors of therapeutic promise are opening whilst at the same time other doors are slamming shut.

I recently highlighted a New Scientist editorial, ‘In praise of stem-cell simplicity’ which gives a fantastic overview of exciting new avenues in ethical stem cell research which are opening up. But the speed of new developments has increased by leaps and bounds just in the last few days.

Stem cells are naturally occurring cells in the body which have the capacity to develop into a variety of specialist cells. They have been recognized for well over a decade as having huge potential in the treatment of diseases where is there is tissue or cell loss – such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal injury and heart disease.

The reason stem cells are so controversial is that the harvesting of embryonic stem cells involves the destruction of existing embryos and yet some British scientists have for years maintained that they are essential for research.

On the other hand, other scientists have argued that stem cells derived from ethical sources (adult stem cells, umbilical stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells) are safer than embryonic stem cells and have greater therapeutic potential.

Both adult stem cells (from bone marrow and other body tissues) and umbilical stem cells are already used in treatment for a wide variety of haematological and other conditions. By contrast the first clinical trials using embryonic stem cells have only just recently begun.

In addition to this iPS cells, which appear to have all the characteristics of embryonic stem cells, can now be produced by stimulating ordinary body cells to revert to an earlier developmental stage without having to destroy embryos.

What has happened this week is that there have been some fantastic advances in using stem cells from ethical sources whilst at the same time a huge setback for embryonic stem cell technology. It appears that ethical stem cell research is opening more and more doors whilst unethical research using embryos is foundering. These developments are another nail in the coffin for the misinformation and hype that the British public have been fed by the British press on these issues for so long.

For the first time, adult stem cells from patients’ own heart have been shown to improve heart failure.

In the research, carried out at the University of Louisville and published in the Lancet the heart’s blood-pumping efficiency in 14 patients who responded to the stem cell treatment, increased from 30.3% to 38.5% whilst at the same time the amount of dead heart muscle tissue decreased by 24% percent over four months. Seven control patients who did not receive the stem cell treatment showed no improvement.

Second, the doctors behind the world’s first transplant of an artificial windpipe made from a patient’s own stem cells are to begin clinical trials next year on a stem-cell ‘bandage’ for mending torn knee cartilage.

Professor Anthony Hollander of the University of Bristol, who helped save the life of a Colombian woman, Claudia Castillo, with the transplant of a tissue-engineered windpipe, will lead a team treating patients with torn knee cartilages, a common problem among sportspeople. The doctors aim to transplant stem cells derived from a patient’s bone marrow on to a damaged knee joint, where it is hoped the cells will act like a repairing bandage to mend the tissue.

Third, Embryonic-like stem cells have been isolated from breast milk in large numbers. The discovery raises the possibility of sourcing embryonic stem cells for regenerative medicine, without the need to destroy embryos.

Peter Hartmann at the University of Western Australia in Crawley and his colleagues first announced the discovery of stem cells in breast milk in 2008. Now they have grown them in the lab and shown that they can turn into cells representative of all three embryonic germ layers, called the endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm – a defining property of embryonic stem cells (ESC).

Embryonic-like stem cells have previously been discovered in amniotic fluid and in the umbilical cord, but this is the first time they have been discovered in an adult. Chris Mason of University College London has said, ‘If they are truly embryonic, this would be another way of getting stem cells that would not raise ethical concerns.’

Fourth, Scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have demonstrated that baby mice in utero can heal their mothers’ heart disease. They found that foetal stem cells from the placenta, which they had marked with green fluorescent protein, travelled to the pregnant mother’s heart and were transformed into a variety of cells to repair cardiac damage. This may help to explain a phenomenon seen in previous studies where one in two women with peripartum cardiomyopathy spontaneously recovered after pregnancy.

The director of cardiovascular regenerative medicine at the institution, Dr Hina Chaudhry, has described it as ‘an exciting development that has far-reaching therapeutic potential’. The findings, which are published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation Research, could help researchers find a stem cell treatment for heart disease.

Finally, the company doing the much-heralded first trial on embryonic stem cell therapy is discontinuing further stem cell work.

Geron, a pioneer in stem cell research that has been testing a potential spinal cord injury treatment, said late Monday that it’s halting development of its stem cell programs to conserve funds. It is seeking partners to take on the programs’ assets and is laying off 66 staff, 38% of its entire workforce.

Those scientists who have been singing the praises of embryonic stem cells most loudly are, perhaps predictably, expressing their disappointment. The firm is claiming that its decision is ‘purely financial’ but John Martin, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at University College London has said: ‘The Geron trial had no real chance of success because of the design and the disease targeted. It was an intrinsically flawed study… The first trials of stem cell that will give an answer are our own in the heart. The heart is an organ that can give quantitative data of quality.’

Josephine Quintavalle from the group CORE (Comment on Reproductive Ethics) was rather more frank: ‘At long last after 10 years of unremitting hype, reality has caught up with embryonic stem cell claims. If Geron is abandoning this project it is because it is simply not working, despite the millions of dollars and hot air that has been invested in the promotion of this research.’

So in summary, this has been a week where ethical stem cell research has marched on whilst embryonic stem cell work has ground to a halt. What were perhaps always blind alleys are now closing but new highways of promise are opening ever and ever wider.

The best and most effective treatments are also ethical treatments. Maybe that is the most important lesson to learn from all this.

New poll shows significant majority of Irish people want protection for unborn babies

According to an Irish Times article a Millward Brown Poll carried out on behalf of the Pro-Life Campaign found that over two thirds of Irish people want to see the right to life of the unborn child protected in law.
The poll was based on a national random sample of 984 adults.
To the question: “Are you in favour or opposed to constitutional protection for the unborn that prohibits abortion but allows the continuation of the existing practice of intervention to save a mother's life, in accordance with Irish medical ethics?”
61% were in favour of constitutional protection for the unborn child, with 17% opposed. 22% didn't know or had no opinion.
When the “don’t knows” are excluded, 78% are in favour of legal protection for the unborn, while 22% are opposed.
The survey also asked the following question: “In a recent Supreme Court decision, the judges said that human embryos were not protected by the Constitution but deserved respect and that their protection was a matter for the Government. Do you think the Government should legislate or not to protect human embryos from deliberate destruction either by experimentation or by methods of assisted human reproduction that destroy embryos?
59% were in favour of Government legislation to protect the human embryo, 16% were opposed and 26% did not know or had no opinion.
When the “don’t knows” are excluded, 79% are in favour of legislation to protect the human embryo and 21% are opposed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

US Bishops speak out against same-sex civil unions

In recent months, two American bishops have spoken out and made statements in relation to the passage of legislation approving same-sex civil unions in the area of their respective dioceses.   When quoting from statements such as these it is often difficult to present the entire message in a condensed form.     I shall, therefore, give below a small number of extracts from each of the statements.
In a Decree issued by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, he states:

‘[…] For millennia, civil authority recognized the true nature of marriage.  The marital union between one man and one woman was universally accepted by civil law as a constitutive element of human society, which is vital to the human family and to the continuation of human race.  In a reversal of this tradition, the New York State Legislature recently enacted a law that recognizes same-sex unions as marriages in the State of New York.  This law is irreconcilable with the nature and the definition of marriage as established by Divine law.
‘Recognizing my responsibility as Diocesan Bishop to guide the Faithful by clearly teaching the truths of the Faith with charity and without compromise, I hereby decree the following diocesan policy regarding same-sex civil marriages.   This policy is to be followed by all persons whose activities are subject to my moral authority as Archbishop of New York.   It is intended to provide instruction for the activities of these persons and for the use of the property and facilities of the Church and Catholic-affiliated entities within the canonical boundaries of this Archdiocese.’

The Decree continues with a detailed list of instructions as indicated by the Archbishop, ending with the admonition that ‘Failure to adhere to this policy may result in the imposition of canonical sanctions.’

Bishop Thomas Tobin, Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, in his statement, says:

‘I am deeply disappointed that Rhode Island will establish civil unions in our state.  The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty.
‘In this context it is my obligation to remind Catholics of the teachings of the Church on this matter.  First, the Church continues to have respect and love for persons with same-sex attraction; they are indeed children of God and our brothers and sisters in the human family.  We pray for their well-being and offer them spiritual guidance and pastoral care.  We also extend our love and support to families of homosexual persons who sometimes struggle with this difficult emotional issue.
‘[…] Because civil unions promote an unacceptable lifestyle, undermine the faith of the Church on holy matrimony, and cause scandal and confusion, Catholics may not participate in civil unions.  To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful.  A civil union can never be accepted as a legitimate alternative to matrimony. […]’ 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI received participants, at a conference on adult stem cells in audience, on Saturday last, Nov 12th. The three-day conference "Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture", was promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture in collaboration with the U.S. Stem for Life Foundation.

Vatican Information Services published extracts from the Holy Fathers address and some are included below:

  "Since human beings are endowed with immortal souls and are created in the image and likeness of God, there are dimensions of human existence that lie beyond the limits of what the natural sciences are competent to determine. If these limits are transgressed, there is a serious risk that the unique dignity and inviolability of human life could be subordinated to purely utilitarian considerations. But if instead these limits are duly respected, science can make a truly remarkable contribution to promoting and safeguarding the dignity of man".

  "In this sense, the potential benefits of adult stem cell research are very considerable, since it opens up possibilities for healing chronic degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissue. ... The improvement that such therapies promise would constitute a significant step forward in medical science, bringing fresh hope to sufferers and their families alike. For this reason, the Church naturally offers her encouragement to those who are engaged in conducting and supporting research of this kind, always with the proviso that it be carried out with due regard for the integral good of the human person and the common good of society.

[…] When the end in view is one so eminently desirable as the discovery of a cure for degenerative illnesses, it is tempting for scientists and policy-makers to brush aside ethical objections and to press ahead with whatever research seems to offer the prospect of a breakthrough. Those who advocate research on embryonic stem cells in the hope of achieving such a result make the grave mistake of denying the inalienable right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death. The destruction of even one human life can never be justified in terms of the benefit that it might conceivably bring to another.[...]

  "Yet, in general, no such ethical problems arise when stem cells are taken from the tissues of an adult organism, from the blood of the umbilical cord at the moment of birth".

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SPUC one day conference on Maternal Mortality

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has announced the holding of a conference on Maternal Mortality to be held in London on March 20th 2012. The Conference titled  : "Abortion or Maternal Health: What should we be funding in developing countries?"will be held in Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, London W1

Millennium Development Goal 5 pledged to cut global maternal mortality by 75% by 2015, but with that deadline looming hard questions need to be asked about why this goal will not be reached and what changes need to be made to reduce the unacceptably high rates of maternal death in developing countries. This one-day conference will bring together medical experts who work to provide live-saving health care to pregnant women in developing countries and legal specialists with expertise in the legislative context within which aid strategies are promoted.  Maternal mortality is, in the words of SPUC's Fiorella Nash, the Trojan Horse of the Abortion Lobby. By raising this highly-charged subject, the abortion industry seeks to garner more public support for itself and gain an ever increasing share of international aid, all in the name of humanitarian concern. Yet, as this briefing makes clear, talk of maternal mortality from the abortion industry has less to do with genuine help for women than with an agenda which is in fact acutely damaging to women and the unborn.

In conjunction with the announcement of the conference SPUC has issued a briefing package on Maternal Mortality challenging the pro-abortion mantras that constantly demand more and more access to what they call "safe legal abortion", while at the same time ignoring the fact that more abortion means more maternal mortality regardless of whether it is legal or illegal.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Legislation that offends the objective moral law.

‘Given the proneness of our human nature to evil, given the enticement of bodily satisfaction, given the widespread modern incitement to un-chastity, it must be evident that an access, hitherto unlawful, to contraceptive devices will prove a most certain occasion of sin, especially to immature persons.  The public consequences of immorality that must follow for our whole society are only too clearly seen in other countries.
‘If they who are elected to legislate for our society should unfortunately decide to pass a disastrous measure of legislation that will allow the public promotion of contraception and an access, hitherto unlawful, to the means of contraception, they ought to know clearly the meaning of their action, when it is judged by the norms of objective morality and the certain consequences of such a law.
‘To add to the confusion, it is being suggested that our society ought to be brought into line with the outlook of other countries.  Hitherto, we have endeavoured to legislate according to the established beliefs and standards of our own people.  One can conceive no worse fate for Ireland than that it should, by the legislation of our elected representatives, be now made to conform to the patterns of sexual conduct in other countries.
‘It is also being suggested that such uniformity of sexual outlook and practice can, in some obscure way, assist the re-unification of our country.   One must know little of the Northern people, if one can fail to realise the indignant ridicule with which good Northern people would treat such an argument.  It would indeed be a foul basis on which to attempt to construct the unity of our people.
‘It may well come to pass that, in the present climate of emotional thinking and pressure, legislation could be enacted that will offend the objective moral law.   Such a measure would be an insult to our Faith; it would, without question, prove to be gravely damaging to morality, private and public; it would be, and would remain, a curse upon our country.’

Prophetic words!   The above is an extract from a letter written by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, to his priests in 1971, following the announcement by Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland) that she had drafted a Bill which would allow for the provision of contraception to be made legal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

March for Life December 10 - The Hague

Cry for Life - Hilversum, The Netherlands have issued the following invitation and hope for a large attendance
Herewith you are invited to participate in the annual March for Life, organized amongst others, by the Dutch Pro-life association Schreeuw om Leven/Cry for Life, Christians for Truth

The March for Life is held annually in order to raise awareness for the protection of the unborn. By participating in the silent March participants ask our Queen and government to turn our liberal laws on abortion and euthanasia, which are a threat to the unborn, our elder citizens and the Christian family values.

The March is organized around the date the Dutch government passed the Pregnancy Termination Law, December 18, 1980; allowing the availability of abortion on demand for any women up to the 24th week of her pregnancy.

The two-and-a-half hour program will start at 13.00 hrs on December 10 on the Square (Plein) with an introduction by drs. L.P. Dorenbos and his wife Mrs. W. Dorenbos. After highlighting the work of the Cry for Life help center Er is Hulp, various participants representing national and international ministries will introduce their organization in support of the March.

The March will lead participants thought the center of the Hague. It is a silent March. Banners and signs will be made available through the March organization.

Women will testify revealing the impact of abortion in their lives. After the March Indian pastor P.P. Job will speak on behalf of the girl child discrimination in India and evangelist Brunt deliver a message from the Bible.

For further information and bus reservations (open until December 1 2011) visit: <> <>

For further information dial  +31(0)35 6244351

During the March the following cell phones are available:
+31(0)651199125 / +31(0)638384149 / +31(0)648270406

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pope Benedict's address to new German Ambassador

Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the new German ambassador reiterated the vital importance of respecting life at all stages from conception to natural death
Pope Benedict in one of the key passages from his speech says of society;

"We are not qualified to judge - to speak of one particularly important topic - whether an individual is 'already a person' or 'still a person'; even less so do we have the right to manipulate and, so to say, 'to create' man. Only a society, which unconditionally respects and defends the dignity of each human being, from conception to natural end, can call itself a human society. ... If the Holy See enters into the field of lawmaking on fundamental questions that involve man's dignity - such as those that arise today concerning the prenatal existence of man - she does so not as a way of indirectly imposing her faith upon others, but of defending values which are evident to everyone because they concern the truth about human beings".
A synopsis of the text is set out below

VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Reinhard Schweppe, the new German ambassador to the Holy See. In his remarks to the diplomat he recalled his own recent visit to the country of his birth which, he said, provided an opportunity "to reflect upon the service the Catholic Church and the Holy See can make in a pluralistic society".
"Many of our contemporaries see the influence of Christianity, and of other religions as a way of imposing a specific culture and lifestyle upon society", the Pope observed. "This view is not incorrect, but it is not a complete understanding of the Catholic Church, ... which has not only formed different kinds of cultural community in different countries, but has herself been moulded by the traditions of individual nations".

"The Church is aware - thanks to her faith - that she knows the truth about man, and thus that she is obliged to protect those values which are valid for mankind as such, over and above individual cultures", the Holy Father went on. "Fortunately, a fundamental part of shared human values became law in the German Constitution of 1949 and in the Declaration of Human Rights after World War II. ... Today, however, certain basic values of human life are again been put into question, values which defend the dignity man possesses simply by virtue of being a man. It is here that the Church sees she has a duty, over and above her faith, to defend truths and values that are under threat".

Pope Benedict went on: "We are not qualified to judge - to speak of one particularly important topic - whether an individual is 'already a person' or 'still a person'; even less so do we have the right to manipulate and, so to say, 'to create' man. Only a society, which unconditionally respects and defends the dignity of each human being, from conception to natural end, can call itself a human society. ... If the Holy See enters into the field of lawmaking on fundamental questions that involve man's dignity - such as those that arise today concerning the prenatal existence of man - she does so not as a way of indirectly imposing her faith upon others, but of defending values which are evident to everyone because they concern the truth about human beings".
Benedict XVI then went on refer to gender discrimination against women, describing it as "a critical problem which, due to materialistic and hedonistic tendencies, seems to be on the increase, above all in the Western world". The Pope highlighted how "a relationship which fails to take account of the fact that man and woman have equal dignity represents a grave affront to humankind. The time has come to take an energetic stance against prostitution and the widespread availability of erotic and pornographic material, also on the Internet. The Holy See will ensure that the Catholic Church in Germany takes clear and decisive initiatives against this form of abuse".

In conclusion, the Pope thanked the German federal government and the governments of the Lander for supporting the Catholic Church "which enjoys excellent openings in Germany", both to announce the Gospel and to help people in need through her social and charitable institutions "the work of which, in the final analysis, is of benefit to all citizens".

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Forum on End of Life in Ireland: ‘Think Ahead’ project

Following on my blogs on the Forum on End of Life in Ireland, and the launch of the ‘Think Ahead’ project at the most recent meeting of the Forum (see, in particular, my blog of 17 October 2011) it is interesting to read the comments of Professor Des O’Neill, who is a consultant in geriatric and stroke medicine, on the subject:

‘[…] On, the latest initiative from the Forum on End of Life, it is disappointing to see how few people realise the danger of simplistic solutions to care giving for those who might have impaired intellectual capacity in later life, and also the danger of terming these plans largely based on not having treatment.
‘For, contrary to popular opinion, the greatest danger at the end of life is not that you will be overtreated, but that you will be undertreated, in a system that has strains of ageism and prejudice against disability, in particular dementia. […]
‘The availability of palliative care for terminal stroke and dementia, while increasing, is limited.
‘As research develops into future care planning, there has been a marked cooling of enthusiasm for the concept of rigidly binding advance directives.  Once faced with the realities of illness, people show huge changes over time in their preferences for the future.  Indeed, the perceptiveness of age has been shown in the first Irish longitudinal study on ageing […], where older people wish to make any such plans only at advanced old age.
‘Also the public and some healthcare professionals often underestimate both a patient’s quality of life and their ability to signal their needs and wishes, even with advanced dementia. […]
I would like to request positive, proactive care, such as specifying that those looking after me would have specific training in gerontology and dementia care, so that my wishes can be interpreted in a sensitive fashion for as long as possible.
‘Rather than binding my healthcare providers into an outdated view of a fast-changing medical landscape, I would like it to be phrased in terms of advanced care preferences with a strong moral force rather than a legally binding directive. […]
‘In the case of the advance directives currently proposed by the Forum on End of Life, certainty might also foreclose early on your options for a full palette of care at the end of your life.’
[Irish Times Healthplus, 1.11.11

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thoughts on Baby 7 Bilion

Alan Titley, a columnist with the Irish Times newspaper, presented his readers recently with a prayer ‘for the seven billionth person’.   It is a sort of wish list of beautiful prayers, and I will do my best to convey in English what Mr. Titley has given us in his original Irish:

May you come safely from the womb, because there are many who do not.
May you come safely from the cradle if you are a girl in India, or in China, because there are many girl children who will not.
May you survive the knife if you are a girl in those countries where it is considered a good thing to destroy your femininity.
May you be spared from hunger if your stomach is swollen with want rather than plenty.
May you have parents who will not abandon you.
May you have some small attribute that no-one else ever had.
May you see the sun every morning.
May you see the beauty [of nature] that not all can see.

There are many more deep and thoughtful prayers included in this quiet piece, and the whole is something that should be treasured and acknowledged.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Public consultation for Human Rights and Equality Commission

Once again, a ‘public consultation process’ has been advertised.   This time, the Department of Justice and Equality (in Ireland) would like to know what you think the most recent quango – the Human Rights and Equality Commission (HREC) – should do.  The HREC is an amalgamation of the former Irish Human Rights Commission, and the Equality Authority, and what the Working Group set up to establish the new body wishes to know is (a) what you want the new body to do; (b) what features and functions does it need to do these things; and (c) how should it be structured and what working methods should it use to achieve the above.
The Working Group is made up of members of the former Irish Human Rights Commission (4), the former Equality Authority (4), a representative of the Department of Justice and Equality, and the Special Adviser to the Minister for Justice and Equality.
The first stated purpose of the Working Group is ‘to identify best practice in each organisation and the structure and process through which the HREC can ensure respect for human rights, equality, diversity and the freedom and dignity of the individual and the practices in each organisation, if any, that require change and the recommended changes.’

It is interesting to read the final note in the list of purposes of the Working Group:
‘To advise on the best form of enquiry powers, and, in particular, to consider whether adopting the model used for Cloyne might be more effective than the current enquiry power.’
What’s going on here?

Further information may be obtained from the Secretariat of the Working Group, Department of Justice and Equality, Floor 2, Bishop’s Square, Redmond’s Hill, Dublin 2.
It is important that anyone who is in a position to do so should send in a submission (not more than 1,500 words) – email to, or post to the address given above – before 5.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 23 November 2011.