Friday, October 31, 2014

Adult stem cell conference in Galway

The Regenerative Medicine Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, in collaboration with the UK Stem Cell Society held a two-day international stem cell conference in the Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway on the 29th and 30th October.

World-renowned experts from the field of stem cell science attended the conference, which focused on the latest developments in basic science and translational aspects of Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) research in Ireland, the UK and worldwide.
MSCs, are adult stem cells which posess enormous potential.

Prof Frank Barry the Scientific Director of REMEDI, the Regenerative Medicine Institute at NUI Galway, told the conference that clinical trials would begin on a number of MSC projects next year. These will include trials in the treatment of peripheral arterial disease and osteoarthritis followed in 2016 by trials in treatments for corneal transplants and diabetic ulcers.

It is a great pity however that this conference was marred by calls for embryonic stem cell research which ignores the fact that human embryos must be killed for such research to be carried out.

Despite the fact that such major strides have been made in the production of adult stem cells and that millions of dollars have been wasted on attempts to manipulate embryonic stem cells without any success researchers brush aside both the ethical concerns and the lack of success and still insist that embryonic stem cell research is essential.

According to a report in the Irish Independent on Oct 30th Prof Barry said that, while Ireland is at the front of research in adult stem cell projects and can compete internationally, it has made "little contribution" to the area of embryonic stem cell research. Professor Barry acknowledged that he was aware of objections to the process on the basis of ethical concerns but believed such research could give rise to important treatments and should be developed in Ireland.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in an address to participants at a conference arranged by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2011 on adult stem cells told them that,
“(T) 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.”
Extracts from the address by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are set out 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, October 21, 2014

Open letter from Africa to Synod fathers

Obianuju Ekeocha of Culture of Life Africa has once again issued an open letter. This time to Cardinal Kasper, resulting from his unfortunate remarks about Africa during the Synod on the Family.
The full text of the open letter is reprinted below.
Many Africans have been prayerfully following the reports from the Extraordinary synod. As I say this I think of my seventy-year old mother who is living out her faith in the small city of Owerri, Nigeria. She has assured me that many of the women in her small parish are fervently praying for all the synod Fathers, that they may be strengthened and sustained by the Holy Spirit during this important synod. Many of these women in my home parish where I grew up are materially poor but spiritually rich with tremendous love for the Church. And it is such a marvel to me that the Catholic Church is so universal that it embraces people of every race, nation, culture, tribe and tongue. 

So imagine my shock today as I read the words of one of the most prominent Synod Fathers who implied that the views and values that our African Synod Fathers have expressed on certain issues will not or have not been listened to (probably by the synod fathers from the Western and more wealthy parts of the world). 
He also went further to say: 

"...the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us should not tell us too much what we have to do."

Reading this interview brought much tears to my eyes and much sadness to my heart because as an African woman now living in Europe, I am used to having my moral views and values ignored or put down as an "African issue"or an "African view point".  I have had people imply that I am not sophisticated or evolved enough in my understanding of human sexuality, homosexuality, marriage, sanctity of human life from conception, openness to life and the so called "over-population". 
So as a result, in many circles, any contributions I make in discussions are placed in second or third rung. 
How can Africa stand shoulder to shoulder with other cultures if our views are considered uncouth or uncool by a standard strictly scripted by Western, worldly and wealthy nations? 

This is touching and troubling to me but in spite of this unfair reality, I have always been confident that the one place where there is true universality and unity is within the Catholic Church. The one place where the standard is scripted by God Himself through the Scriptures and Magisterium. 

I am a third generation Christian and the Gospel has been accepted and handed over to me from my Grandparents through my parents. I, and millions of Africans like myself, have been raised to love the Church and to trust that the Church will always hold up the unchanging truth of the Gospel. That she will hold up this truth high enough for every Christian in every part of the world  to see, even the most far-flung, uneducated and poorest ones in the most rural parts of Africa. Yes. I know many people where I come from who cannot read the actual words of the Gospel, but they have heard and embraced the goodnews brought to them by the Church. Some of them could have chosen polygamy but because the Church has taught them what true marriage is they have resisted and overcome this lifestyle. Some of them could choose infidelity but the Church lovingly has taught them that this choice is contrary to the Gospel. Some of them may have wanted to get into a convenient and cheaper arrangement of cohabitation but the Church says that is not consistent with the Gospel. 
Through all of this fidelity to the teachings of Christ, African churches have flourished and blossomed even in the midst of the most difficult tragedies, even in the most extreme conditions and in the face of a growing cultural imperialism from the Western nations. 
When Africans lose everything, they still have their families and they have their faith. And this is how we remain resilient even in the darkest and most turbulent times by leaning on the unchanging Faith preserved at the heart of the Church and by clinging to our unbroken families protected by the heart of the Church. 

So I respectfully turn to your Eminence and to all the Western synod Fathers who may not want to listen or consider the African contributions at the synod, and I appeal to you as a woman raised in the world of the poor and faithful ones. Our moral views and values are not irrelevant to the universal church. Even when we express views that are considered countercultural and politically incorrect by the preeminent worldly and western standards, our unflinching hope is that all the synod Fathers will listen to us and consider the devastating effects that will be unleashed upon millions of faithful families in Africa if our world is redefined and reshaped. 
Our heart-felt appeal for Gospel values to be upheld is indeed a cry for survival for our people. Because in this year alone many African nations and leaders have been terrorised and threatened by powerful and well funded homosexual lobbying groups who have tried to bend us or break us into acceptance of their lifestyle. We have seen humanitarian aid withdrawn by Western nations at the insistence of these totalitarian groups. We have seen a new brand of "comprehensive sexuality education" targeted at our African children. We have suffered the scourge of abortion lobbyists from the West. We have been forced to welcome extremely rich western philanthropists bearing the unwanted "gift" of contraception. 
All of these have become a heavy cultural noose around our neck which could very easily enslave us or destroy us if we resist. And this is why we weep and cry at the feet of all the synod Fathers to hear and respect the voices of our African synod Fathers on these issues that have been blown into Africa by a powerful wind from the West. 
No, these are not just "African problems", they are global problems that have violently ravaged many western societies with an unacceptably high toll on marriages and families. 
If the structure and stature of marriage and family life is to be protected everywhere for peoples of all cultures, all races, all nations, tongues and tribes, if this our Catholic Church is truly a universal church where the poor are considered the "treasures of the Church", then all the Fathers of the Synod should protect us by unanimously and heroically rising in defence of these "unsophisticated", "unevolved" and "uncool" Gospel views and values that are still being proclaimed loudly and clearly from the Altar of the tiniest and poorest parish church in Africa. For we are the Church Universal.

Respectfully and humbly I lay down my appeal at thy feet your Eminence. 
Consider the tears of the poor who confidently turn to you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hard hitting Synod intervention by Aechbishop Kaigama

Excellent and hard hitting intervention by Archbishop Kaigama of Jos Nigeria  during the Synod on the Family in Rome.
We are confronted with some issues, and sometimes [they are] quite perplexing. We recently had a big conference on pro-life issues, and in that conference, we came out very clearly to ascertain the fact that life is sacred, marriage is scared, and the family has dignity.
We get international organizations, countries, and groups which like to entice us to deviate from our cultural practices, traditions, and even our religious beliefs. And this is because of their belief that their views should be our views. Their opinions and their concept of life should be ours.

We say, "No we have come of age." Most countries in Africa are independent for 50, 60, 100 years. We should be allowed to think for ourselves. We should be able to define: What is marriage? What makes the family? When does life begin? We should have answers to those [questions].

We are wooed by economic things. We are told, "If you limit your population, we're going to give you so much." And we tell them, "Who tells you that our population is overgrown?" In the first place, children die -- infant mortality -- we die in inter-tribal wars, and diseases of all kinds. And yet, you come with money to say, "Decrease your population; we will give you economic help."

Now you come to tell us about reproductive rights, and you give us condoms and artificial contraceptives. Those are not the things we want. We want food, we want education, we want good roads, regular light, and so on. Good health care.

We have been offered the wrong things, and we are expected to accept simply because they think we are poor. And we are saying poverty is not about money. One can be poor in spirituality, poor in ideas, poor in education, and in many other ways.

So we are not poor in that sense. We may be poor materially but we are not poor in every sense. So we say no to what we think is wrong. And time has gone when we would just follow without question. Now, we question. We evaluate. We decide. We ask questions. This is what we do in Africa now.

The Synod must proclaim the beauty and truth about marriage: attempting to bend the rules is not true compassion or mercy

During the daily Holy See Synod press conference on October 8th Fr. Rosica explained what he believed to be “one of the salient interventions” of the day, noting that according to the presenter, “language such as ‘living in sin’, ‘intrinsically disordered’, or ‘contraceptive mentality’ are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to Christ and the Church.”
“There is a great desire that our language has to change in order to meet the concrete situations,” he added.
“Marriage is already seen by many as being filtered in harsh language in the Church. How do we make that language appealing, and loving and inviting. We’re not speaking about rules or laws we’re speaking about a person who is Jesus who is the source of our faith, the leader of our Church, he is the one who invites us into a mystery.” 
The president of the New Zealand Bishop’s Conference  Archbishop John Dew Of wellington blogged the same day that he was one of the speakers at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family to call on the Church to drop traditional language describing sin, such as the term “disordered.”
‘I gave my own Intervention today and it seemed to be well received by most. I basically said that we have to change the language which is used in various Church documents so that people do not see and hear the Church judging or condemning, passing out rules and laws, but rather showing concern and compassion and reaching out to help people discover God in their lives he wrote 
This approach seems to echo the recent pastoral letter issued by the Bishop’s Conference of New Zealand on the ‘Responses of the Preparatory Document’ for the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which claimed that (A) strong sense of exclusion and hurt is felt by many people who are living in situations not in accord with Church teaching in areas such as divorce and re-marriage, cohabitation, contraception and same sex unions. This sense of exclusion and hurt they say is also felt by their family and friends, and by those in the wider community who see what they consider to be the exclusion of others.

The sense of exclusion according to the Pastoral letter can come from one or all of the following:
·      The existence of the teaching itself, which on its own is seen to exclude those who can’t match the ideal.
·      Hard-line un-pastoral presentation of the teaching, in a few cases by priests, but mostly by organizations or individuals who “police” the “rules”.
·      The attitudes of some parishioners which are perceived to be, or actually are, judgmental in relation to the life situation of others.
·      A strong personal sense of failure, of “not meeting the ideal” set by the Church, and therefore a feeling of not being accepted in the Church community. 
Colleen Bayer of Family Life International who is the New Zealand spokesperson for Voice of the Family has expressed concern that those proclaiming the truth of marriage and family at the Synod on the Family are described as “defensive” by Archbishop John Dew, while those proposing a new language were being “pastoral”.
“Pastoral care of the faithful includes teaching them so that they know the truth and can live it” she said.  “Those who teach the truth unreservedly do so out of great love and compassion as they know that ultimately healing and peace can only come through following Jesus through the teaching of the Church.”

She stressed that pitting pastoral versus defensive against each other only served to undermine the teaching authority of the Church.

Those who wish to see the Church’s teaching change or certain language removed, were causing the faithful serious harm through lack of teaching and a skewed version of the Catholic faith.

In relation to the NZ Catholic Bishop’s Statement Colleen was unsure if this was a true and fair understanding and analysis of the real situation or a reaction to the perceived hurts of individuals.

She noted that she knows families who faithfully live out the Church’s teaching on marriage and family.  “These families often struggle, but they rely on God’s grace to get them through” she said.

Often these families are seen as fundamentalist or self-righteous. They often feel marginalized for their faithfulness.  “This is not mentioned in the Bishop’s statement” Colleen said.

Bayer felt that the Bishop’s really needed to be acknowledging these families and their difficulties and thanking them for their faithfulness, their deep love of Christ and His Church and for their sacrificial love.

She felt the Church needed to put in place concrete support systems for families and provide solid teaching so that the faithful can be real witnesses as they live the truth in love.

“Yes there are people hurting and who feel they don’t belong because of their personal circumstances, but ‘bending the rules’ as it were to make them feel welcome is not loving them, it is not showing them true compassion and mercy.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Life has no 'use by' date: Archbishop Eamon Martin

The Day for Life celebrated on Sunday October 5th is intended to be a day dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition.

There was considerable disappointment among pro-life people, that the issue of abortion was ignored when the Catholic Bishops’ statement for this years Day for Life was published, bearing in mind that it is just over a year since the Irish Government legislated for abortion and the statement was issued almost simultaneously with the issue of the Government’s abortion regulations.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find that the new Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin made a separate statement as reported in the Irish Independent.
According to the Independent article;
The Catholic primate has warned the Government that his church will continue to campaign for "a society without abortion"

Speaking in St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh on the catholic church's Day for Life, Archbishop Eamon Martin described the last year's abortion legislation as "unnecessary" and "medically flawed".

Referring to last month's publication of guidelines on the legislation, he said these confirmed that abortion was now prescribed as an answer to a mother's suicidal feelings, "despite all the medical evidence to the contrary".

He said a mother in crisis needed every possible support and the very best of care, as did her unborn child, and not abortion.

"The church will continue to call for a society without abortion which loves and cares for all life equally and does everything possible to protect the life of both the mother and her unborn child - even in the most delicate and traumatic of circumstances," he said.

The new head of the Catholic church warned people to beware of "the misguided mercy of euthanasia" whereby a right to die could easily give way to "a duty to die." Referring to a letter sent by Pope Francis for the Day for Life, in which the Pontiff criticised society's throwaway culture, the Archbishop said human life is treated like a commodity, which is dispensable, as if it had a 'use by' date.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bonny proposals not so bonny

Zenit news agency reports today on the work of our pro-family and pro-life coalition, Voice of the Family, and in particular our criticism of the Bishop of Antwerp Johan Bonny and the fact that his open letter appears to be totally contrary to Catholic teaching and to endorse the use of IVF which typically involves the destruction of human embryos.
Bonny in his open letter ;
                denies the reality of moral absolutes in the name of ‘proportionalism’, an approach to morality always condemned by the Church
                contradicts those teachings of the Second Vatican Council which uphold objective morality and moral absolutes, including in the area of sexual ethics
                quotes selectively from the Second Vatican Council, omitting crucial material which rejects the bishop’s approach
                rejects natural moral law, which the Church has upheld throughout its history
                effectively denies the indissolubility of marriage, by reducing it to the subjective decisions of couples
                offers no real support for couples in difficult situations
                ignores the needs of children, including the need to be protected from damaging effects of parents’ irregular situations
                gives no criteria for worthiness to receive Holy Communion, and no explanation how mortal sin could possibly be compatible with receiving Holy Communion
                fails to define ‘conscience’, even though it is a key topic in the Letter
                appears to endorse use of IVF, despite the fact that IVF has been repeatedly condemned by the Church, and typically involves the destruction of human life
implies support for the myth of world ‘over-population’.