Saturday, 27 December 2008

Humanae Vitae and truth about marriage intimately linked to the pro-life message

As a pro-lifer, I am grateful for Bishop Campbell's translation of Pope Benedict's 2008 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia. (Bishop Campbell, pictured, is coadjutor bishop of Lancaster.)

It's clearer than ever from this papal address, given two days before Christmas, that Catholic teaching on the full truth about human sexuality - "the nature of the human being as man and woman" - is intimately linked with Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life.

In an illuminating passage, Pope Benedict urges the world to re-read Humanae Vitae. He reminds mankind, showing no fear of the hostility of politically-correct opponents of church teaching: "The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind ... Beginning from this perspective, it would be beneficial to read again the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as a consumer entity, the future as opposed to the exclusive pretext of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation ... "

I have referred in previous posts to how "the nature of man" has been manipulated, in fulfilment of Pope Paul VI's prophecy, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, as a result of ignoring, and ignorance of, the message of Humanae Vitae: the promotion of abortifacient birth control and abortion, without parental knowledge or consent, including in Catholic schools, in England and Wales; coercive abortion in China, funded by the overwhelming majority of the world's governments (including the Republic of Ireland); the countless lives destroyed through IVF practices - also so widely accepted amongst Catholics.

Pope Benedict echoes Pope John Paul when he says the devaluation of the "language of creation" leads to "the self-destruction of man". In paragraph 97 of Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul teaches that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

All of this is very timely for us in England - the Pope's address and Bishop Campbell's speedy translation of it - especially when the link between the sanctity of life and the church's teaching in Humanae Vitae has been so unfortunately challenged in an interview in The Catholic Herald this past week.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Higher abortion rate for black Americans may have eugenic implications

Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, bioethical advisers to SPUC, have sent me the following analysis of a disturbing new paper published by the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:

Commentary for SPUC on Does Induced Abortion Account for Racial Disparity in Preterm Births, and Violate the Nuremberg Code?, Rooney et al., December, 2008

“The great irony is that abortion has done what the [Ku Klux] Klan only dreamed of.” (Dr Alveda King, niece of Rev. Martin Luther King, human rights campaigner.)

Black American women and their children are 4.3 times more likely than non-black American women to be subject to a procedure that was never tested on animals. Added to this inequality is the resulting high rate of preterm and extremely preterm births, and associated disability, in black infants – triple the risk of early preterm birth, and quadruple the risk of extremely preterm birth. This is according to a paper published this year in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, by Rooney, Calhoun and Roche. [1]

This procedure is abortion. It seems that no animal testing or small human studies have ever been undertaken for the most common method of abortion, vacuum aspiration. This violates the Nuremberg Code that has required, since the 1940s, that “the danger of each experiment must be previously investigated by animal experimentation.”

Animal experimentation possibly has higher ethical standards than the average abortion clinic. For example, in Australia the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Code regarding animal research mercifully entails that “investigators must assume that foetuses have the same requirements for anaesthesia and analgesia as adult animals of the species, unless there is specific evidence to the contrary”. [2]

The tragedy here is not simply that the principle of the Nuremberg Code has been broken. Rather it is that abortion is now known to have substantial risks to women’s health, and to the health of their future children. Not to mention the deadly nature of the procedure for their unborn child.

As Rooney and colleagues note, there is a large body of research evidence to show that abortion is a risk factor for early preterm birth and extremely preterm birth. Extremely preterm birth infants have a 129 times higher risk of cerebral palsy, as well as higher risks for other disabilities and health problems.

But rather than proceeding by the accepted scientific method of initial animal studies, these risks have been established by subjecting millions of women all over the world to abortion. In effect, this means that millions of women have participated in an experiment using the most common method of abortion, vacuum aspiration, and have not been made aware of the risks involved in such experimentation.

In 2004, 38.2% of all surgical abortions in the US were performed on black women. But black women make up only 12.5% of the US female population. So black women have an abortion rate 4.3 times that of non-blacks.

Is this an important cause of the observed higher rates of preterm birth among black American babies? Rooney and colleagues think so, and point to the dramatic drop in abortion in Poland (a 98% drop between 1989 and 1993) which was followed by a substantial drop in the rate of preterm and extremely preterm birth rates.

In summary, this paper makes the following disturbing points:

  • abortion has not been subject to the usual rigorous process of experimentation before being applied on a large scale to women and children;
  • in particular, no animal studies are known to have been undertaken using vacuum aspiration abortion procedures;
  • black women have an abortion rate 4.3 times higher than non-black women in the US;
  • abortion is now known to increase the risk of preterm and extremely preterm birth in infants born later in the woman’s life; so that not only are more black children killed in the womb, but more experience disability from birth.

At the very least, this data calls for abortion consent forms to carry clear information regarding the risk of preterm and extremely preterm birth, and exactly what that means for a woman’s future children. As Rooney and colleagues point out, “even if an adverse risk from a medical treatment is merely a potential or plausible risk, the patient must be warned of it.” Notably, the May 2007 online consent form provided by Planned Parenthood of Australia makes no mention of the established link between abortion and preterm birth.

The other key issue emphasised by Rooney and colleagues is the high abortion rates of Black American women compared to others. This serious issue must be investigated for its possible eugenic implications.

[1] Rooney B, Calhoun BC and Roche LE (2008), Does Induced Abortion Account for Racial Disparity in Preterm Births, and Violate the Nuremberg Code?, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Vol. 13, No. 4, Winter, pp. 102-104

[2] National Health and Medical Research Council (2004), Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, 7th Edition, Australian Government, Canberra, p. 31.

more items from our news summary

The European Court of Human Rights has refused to hear an appeal concerning the semi-conscious woman in Italy whose father wants her to die from dehydration. Judges said they would not hear the matter because the Italian pro-life organisations bringing the case were not linked to Ms Eluana Englaro. Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro of Human Life International, Rome, claimed the court, in Strasbourg, France, was biased towards allowing euthanasia. He said: "[The judges] do not hold in high esteem the life of the handicapped. They take a utilitarian position - that people like Eluana Englaro are 'useless mouths'. [That] their life has no social value." The Italian government should issue a decree to save her. [LifeSiteNews, 23 December]

The UK family doctors' body says prescription-free birth control pills will not cut teenage pregnancy because girls forget to take them. Dr Sarah Jarvis, women's health spokeswoman for the Royal College of General Practitioners, recommends implants and coils instead. [BBC, 24 December] Hormonal birth control, including pills, implants and coils, can cause early abortion.

The Russian Orthodox church has expressed its support for the Grand Duke of Luxembourg's refusal to approve the legalisation of euthanasia. Locum tenens Metropolitan Kirill of Moscow wrote that legal euthanasia destroyed traditional morals. It: " ... encroaches on the sacred gift of life, [a] reverent attitude to which was nurtured in Europe's Christian culture for years." It also perverted doctors' professional duty. The Luxembourg parliament has changed the grand duke's status so the bill can be passed. [Interfax, 22 December]

The British government is running a consultation in England on a scheme for monitoring so-called living wills made under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act. The Care Quality Commission would inspect hospitals and care homes, speaking to patients and residents. [Nursing Times, 22 December]

Money intended to improve midwifery has not reached British hospitals, according to the Royal College of Midwives. Professor Cathy Warwick suggests 10s of millions of pounds destined for recruitment have yet to arrive, risking women's health. Central government said the money had left them while health trusts denied having it. [Telegraph, 22 December] The royal college's former president suggests women who give birth need 10 days resting in bed afterwards. Widespread advice is to move around to stop problems like deep-vein thrombosis. Ms Caroline Flint says on a DVD that bed rest allows for bonding with, and feeding of, babies. [Telegraph, 19 December]

A UK survey suggests only around a fifth of nurses agree with the legalisation of assisted suicide. [ on Response Source, 22 December]

Vitamin D deficiency in expectant mothers increases the likelihood of the need for Caesarean section, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Centre, Massachusetts, studied more than 250 women and speculate that a lack of the nutrient could diminish muscle strength. The Health Research Forum, said a lack of vitamin D also made pre-eclampsia more likely. [Mail, 24 December]

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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

items from SPUC's news summaries

There will reportedly be no prosecution of a doctor who admitted going with a woman from Scotland to Switzerland where she killed herself with barbiturates. Dr Michael Irwin, 77 (right), was investigated by police for two years after he went to Dignitas, Zurich, with Ms May Murphy, 75, who had multiple system atrophy. Surrey Police say they lack evidence to pursue the case. Dr Irwin, a former UN medical director, says he has provided plenty of evidence and would do it again. [Independent, 22 December] Dr Irwin resigned as chairman of VES (now Dignity in Dying) after conspiring to assist in a suicide on the Isle of Man in 2003.

Birth control and pregnancy tests are being offered to 11-year-olds in schools in England without parental knowledge. Morning-after pills are being given to children in Wiltshire, which has a high rate of sexually transmitted infection. The Life organisation said it was irresponsible. Evidence suggested such moves did not cut pregnancy or abortion. [Western Daily Press, 22 December] The main British opposition party says in a report that children aged 11 and above should be taught about refusing consent to sex. The Conservatives' Ending Violence Against Women also says sex education should not be value-free [Sunday Telegraph, 21 December] John Smeaton of SPUC said: "We shall study the Conservatives' report. Current sex education policies have comprehensively failed and must be entirely rejected by policy-makers."

A member of the Pontifical Academy for Life has described how some prenatal testing is licit and even desirable. Dr Carlo Bellieni, director of the department of intensive neonatal therapy at Le Scotte University Polyclinic, Siena, Italy, told Zenit that prenatal testing can be genetic or non-genetic. The former is not presently performed with a view to curing the child. However, certain non-genetic testing can be used to benefit the unborn and mothers. Routine testing could encourage parents to want perfect children. Even if there was no intention to abort, some tests such as amniocentesis carried risks. Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Pennsylvania, has pointed out that prenatal testing for Krabbe's leukodystrophy means that parents can seek matched bone marrow to treat the child in good time. Spina bifida could also be treated in utero. [Zenit on EWTN, 22 December]

A jury in America has called for legal clarity on organ donation. They issued a statement just after acquitting a California surgeon of harming a patient to obtain his kidney and liver. They found that Dr Hootan Roozrokh did not harm Mr Ruben Navarro, 25, when using a technique involving removing him from life support before extracting organs. Mr Navarro survived for eight hours after being taken off a ventilator. [New York Times, 18 December]

Doctors in South Korea are appealing against a court order to stop giving food and drink to a 75-year-old woman in a coma who is not dying. Kim Ok-kyung's family asked that all support should be withdrawn at Severance Hospital, Seoul, saying her existence was painful and meaningless. [LifeSiteNews, 19 December]

A report on state-funded abortions in Australia reportedly found that babies born alive after attempts to abort them were being left to die. Senator Guy Barnett of Tasmania may propose that the Medicare system stops funding second and third trimester abortions, of which there have been more than 10,500 since 1994 [ABC, 22 December]

Scientists have used chemicals to make nerve cells from a young patient's skin tissue, which could help develop treatments for spinal muscular atrophy. The University of Wisconsin-Madison will be able to study the new cells which exhibit the characteristics of the currently incurable disease, says Nature magazine. [Daily Mail, 22 December] The team says the technique could also help with understanding Huntington's and other diseases. BBC, 22 December]

A state's supreme court has ruled that pharmacists and pharmacy owners can bring a legal challenge against a regulation requiring them to supply morning-after pills. Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois ordered in 2005 that pharmacists should dispense the drugs or resign. Americans United for Life said the ruling was "a huge victory for the freedom of conscience of all healthcare providers." [LifeSiteNews, 19 December]

A woman's obesity does not significantly reduce the IVF success rate, according to a study of 1,700 women in Aberdeen, Scotland, by the city's university; it seems age is a more important factor. The researchers, whose work is published in Human Reproduction suggest obese women should still lose weight to avoid an increased risk of miscarriage. [BBC, 21 December]

An opinion poll suggests public support in developed countries for IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. The 22,500 respondents to a survey by the BBVA Foundation in Europe, the US, Japan and Israel were less keen on sex selection and on using technology to enable over-45s to have children. Most approved of the use of donated sperm if a man is infertile, but not to try to have an intelligent child. [Medical News Today, 21 December] The BBVA Foundation is a "social responsibility" body associated with the Spanish Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria. The full report is available here.

You can see our archive of news on our website and you can subscribe to emails, including those containing news summaries, also on the site.

Courageous Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue stands up to the State to defend marriage

Please write to the Bishop to thank him for his great leadership.

With formidable courage and clarity Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue has defended marriage from the ravages of the parental state - an issue which, for many of us, is intimately connected to the defence of the sanctity of human life. I reproduce in full below the letter to priests and people in his diocese, which will thrill and inspire Catholics and people of good will throughout Britain and other parts of the world.

Please pray that the Bishop of Lancaster's stand marks a turning point in standing up to the parental state - rather than being governed by unjust laws and policies even within the intimate sanctuary of our schools and families.

From: Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue
Bishop’s Apartment
Cathedral House
Balmoral Road
Lancaster LA1 3BT
Tel 01524 596050

17 December 2008

My dear Priests and People,

Catholic Caring Services

Thursday 11 December 2008 will forever be etched in my memory, because it was on that day that the relationship between the Diocese of Lancaster and Catholic Caring Services suffered an irretrievable breakdown.

This relationship – which had been forged by countless thousands of laity and clergy over more than 100 years – ended when the Trustees voted 9-1 in favour of dropping ‘Catholic’ from their title, signifying their capitulation to Government legislation on ‘same sex’ adoption with no attempt at resistance.

The Trustees rejected out of hand my repeated pleas in writing and at Meetings of the Board and with the CEO that we should seek an exemption under Human Rights & Religious Freedom Legislation, or failing this, attempt a legal challenge.

Where does this leave us as the Diocese of Lancaster?

As Bishop, I have now been forced to resign from the Board of Trustees of Catholic Caring Services because I consider such membership incompatible with my duty as a Catholic Bishop, with a responsibility to safeguard doctrine and morals, and to care for the well-being of the Catholic children and parents of this great Diocese of ours.

One of the fundamental responsibilities of a Catholic Bishop in the current climate is to protect and defend the sacrament of marriage. My insistence that Catholic Caring Services cannot have an ‘Open Policy’, that includes ‘same sex’ partnerships, rests on the fact that children develop and thrive best in the context of marriage.

The Church’s teaching on marriage rests on Jesus’ re-iteration of His Father’s revelation in Genesis, ‘Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female and that He said to them: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh. (Matthew 19:4-5; cf. Genesis 2:24).

It is God’s intention that children are nurtured and raised by a loving father and mother, who become role models to boys and girls about what it means to be a husband and wife, a mother and a father. That this is seen as an unrealistic ideal by some in politics and the media shows how far our society has distorted morality.

If Catholic Caring Services truly hold that the needs of children are paramount it would do whatever possible to ensure that a child is placed with a father and a mother.

Whatever devalues marriage and the fundamental importance of a child having a mother and a father must be resisted by all Catholics and people of good will, because not only is the good of the child put at risk, but also the good of society.

This does not mean that I do not value the love, devotion and self-sacrifice of single parents, but it is also my duty to safeguard the ideal of marriage, particularly when it is under such sustained attack.

Consequences of the Trustees’ decision

I would want to make it clear that the new charity is no longer a Catholic charity and can no longer operate as an agency in the name of the Catholic Church of this Diocese (cf.Canon 300; cf. 216).

As a direct consequence of the Trustees’ decision, it is with great sadness that the Diocese will now begin the process of implementing the actions that I outlined in my letter of 5 October 2008:

a) The Charity Commission will be informed by the Diocese that the Trustees of Catholic Caring Services are no longer prepared to act in accordance with Catholic moral teaching and for that reason Catholic Caring Services is no longer regarded by the Church as being a Charity acting in the name of the Catholic Church.

b) The Trustees must now approach the Charity Commission to ask their approval of the name change from Catholic Caring Services to Caritas Care. They must also change the Objects of Catholic Caring Services, removing the reference to “the Roman Catholic Church both in this diocese of Lancaster and elsewhere in the United Kingdom”. It will be up to the Charity Commission to decide whether the Trustees of Catholic Caring Services are lawfully entitled to make such changes.

c) With deep sadness I must declare that all churches, parishes, schools and other Catholic organisations or societies are to have no formal associations with Catholic Caring Services and the new charity is no longer entitled to have access to Diocesan Collections - The Good Shepherd (Bishop’s Fund), or the Christmas Crib collections.

d) With regard to the properties in the ownership of the Diocesan Trustees, but currently occupied by Catholic Caring Services – including Tulketh Rd, Wellington Rd and Marian House, Beech Grove (all in Preston) – it will be now be necessary for the Diocesan Trustees to conduct a review of the terms of the leases to determine:

i) whether there is any potential breach of the terms of occupation
ii) whether the new charity’s responsibilities are within our Memorandum and
the Articles of Association.

e) The Diocese will, of course, now need to review the receipt and usage of past and future legacies and/or bequests made in favour of Catholic Caring Services and determine whether it is appropriate for any past legacies and/or bequests to be repaid to the diocese or future legacies/bequests to be retained by the Diocese.

It pains me beyond measure to make the above decisions, and certainly, I have done everything in my power to prevent this tragic rejection of the Church’s moral teaching.

Catholics must follow the teaching of the Church

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has stated that allowing children to be adopted by persons in homosexual unions is gravely immoral. (CDF, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons. 2003).

All Catholics have a clear obligation to abide by the moral teaching of the Church. If, in conscience, they decide that they cannot follow the Church’s teaching they should resign – as a matter of integrity – from any position of authority they hold in the Church or an agency of the Church.

In my judgement the Government is imposing a great injustice on the Catholics of this country by forcing Catholic social agencies to choose between co-operating or not cooperating with acts that are gravely immoral. It is a violation of our consciences and our religious freedom.

Though I accept that the Trustees of Catholic Caring Services have been faced with a difficult decision, I cannot accept their unwillingness to challenge this unjust law. It is this unwillingness that has left me with no choice but to make this painful decision.

Though Catholic Caring Services are involved in a whole range of valuable work with the disabled, the disadvantaged and the marginalised, how can I allow the Catholic Church to be associated with a body that has chosen a path that co-operates with actions that are against the explicit moral teaching of the Church?

Renewing our commitment to social caring

Now the diocese is faced with a pressing challenge and opportunity, because Catholic Caring Service’s decision to break with the teaching of the Church does not mean that the Diocese of Lancaster is abandoning our work with the disabled, the disadvantaged, and the marginalised. Furthermore, I am determined that we will continue to support the marvellous commitment of parents who adopt children.

As we look confidently to the future there are three positive and practical steps to take which I would recommend for immediate action:

1. The formation of a new Diocesan Adoption/Fostering Support Service with the task of positively encouraging and canvassing married couples to adopt/foster. The offer of help, pre-and post adoption, will also be in this brief. The funding of this Service will come from the Christmas Crib, Good Shepherd and other Collections etc.

2. The Diocese will take steps to increase its engagement with individuals, groups and organisations (i.e. SVP) in establishing a systematic programme of active social care in all of our parishes and deaneries. I know, too, that much is being done in this field already.

3. The Diocese will set up a Social Care Commission to develop and facilitate increased support at parish-level for all involved in the care of the vulnerable, especially children wherever they may be. They are truly the caring face of the Church!

The immediate priority for the new Social Care Commission will be the establishment and oversight of the Diocese’s new Adoption/Fostering Support Service.

Please do all you can to strongly support the Crib Collection in your parish this Christmas and send the proceeds marked ‘Adoption Support Service’ directly to:
Mr Paul Ryan,
The Diocesan Finance Office,
The Pastoral Centre,
Balmoral Road

The money that people donate to this collection will be used to help improve the lives of vulnerable children and a sign, too, of support for the Diocese and its Bishops in their decision.

I would like to thank those members of the clergy and laity who have supported and advised me during some of the most difficult months of my episcopacy, including social work professionals, moral theologians and lawyers. I would also like to thank all who have offered their prayers for the resolution of this crisis. Please continue praying for the success of the work ahead of us.

With every good wish and prayer this Christmas,

As ever in Christ,
+Patrick O’Donoghue
Bishop of Lancaster