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Conference may Begin to Sway Vatican Opinion Against Brain Death: Eminent Philosopher

LifeSiteNews.com
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By Hilary White

ROME, February 24, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - While he said that he could not predict the future, Professor Josef Seifert told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) on Friday that a conference on "brain death" criteria last week had possibly opened a door to moving opinion in the Vatican away from support for the use of the criteria for organ transplants.

In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com the day after the conference, Professor Seifert said, "I’m not a prophet. On the other hand, if one believes in the Catholic Church as I do, then one must assume that earlier or later the truth will triumph and that the Church will not teach something false on central issues of faith or morals. And if that is so, and if what we say is true, I trust that it will be formulated."

Professor Seifert is a philosopher and the rector of the International Academy for Philosophy of Liechtenstein and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Life and was a speaker at the ‘Signs of Life’ conference held last week near the Vatican.

The conference was organized by Human Life International (HLI) and the American Life League (ALL), as well as the Italian organization Associazione Famiglia Domani and other groups, to address the growing opinion in academia, medicine and even within the Church that "brain death" is a legitimate diagnosis. The conference speakers, including eminent neurologists, jurors, philosophers and bioethicists, were united in their denunciation of the "brain death" criteria as a tool in the determination of death.

Speaking at the conference on the original formulation of the so-called 1968 Harvard Criteria that created "brain death," Professor Seifert told participants, "We look in vain for any argument for this unheard of change of determining death ... except for two pragmatic reasons for introducing it, which have nothing to do at all with the question of whether a patient is dead but only deal with why it is practically useful to consider or define him to be dead."

The two "pragmatic reasons" cited by the Harvard Report, he said, were "the wish to obtain organs for implantation and to have a criterion for switching off ventilators in ICUs." He said these must be rejected because they "possess absolutely no theoretical or scientific value to determine death." This conclusion was amply supported by clinical neurologists, and neurocardiologists, who told participants that a patient who is declared "brain dead" by the standard criteria, is, quite simply, still alive.

To LSN Professor Seifert responded to comments made in September 2008 by Francesco D’Agostino, professor of the philosophy of law and president emeritus of the Italian bioethics committee, that opposition to the "brain death" criteria in the Church is "strictly in the minority." A 2006 document, entitled "Why the Concept of Brain Death Is Valid as a Definition of Death," was signed by Cardinal Georges Cottier, then theologian to the papal household; Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, at the time president of the Pontifical Council for the Family; Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan; and Bishop Elio Sgreccia, the then president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Professor Seifert, however, said that he did not agree with the assertion that there is a universal consensus in the Church supporting brain death. He pointed to the act in 2005 by Pope John Paul II in convening a conference to discuss "brain death" as evidence that the subject is far from closed at the Vatican. Indeed, continued interest was signaled last week by the presence at the Signs of Life conference of Cardinals Arinze and Sebastiani and two representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"There’s no official church teaching at all against the conclusion that all the speakers reached yesterday that the brain death definition is not correct," he said.

He also said, however, that the matter of whether there is a universal consensus among medical professionals on "brain death" is not a central concern for the Church. "For the Magisterium of the Church it’s a question of whether it’s a fact or not."

Professor Seifert also noted the address by Pope Benedict XVI in November to the participants at a Vatican sponsored conference on organ transplants in which he did not use the term "brain death" but pointedly referred only to "actual death." 

The Pope said that "the main criterion" must be "respect for the life of the donor so that the removal of organs is allowed only in the presence of his actual death," a strong indicator that he does not accept the concept of "brain death" as indicating actual death, according to Seifert.

Professor Seifert said, "One could hope that this speech prepares the way for formulating this even more clearly with reference to brain death. Many people like, Dr. [Paul] Byrne, who organized the conference, interprets this statement in this way. Now it may be wishful thinking, but it may also be correct."

The idea that there is a majority opinion among theological and ethics experts, including the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in the Church in favor of "brain death" is irrelevant, he said, in the search for the truth.

"The same happened in the case of Humanae Vitae. There was a minority and a majority and the majority report said you should admit the Pill and contraception. But the Pope followed the minority report. A majority opinion is never what dominates and what should determine Church teaching is rather the truth. In the light of reason and also of Revelation, and not simply the opinion of a majority of people."

"Particularly not the majority of scientists," he added, "who are very fallible individuals."

"Normally there is much more common sense in simple people than in academicians and professors who all have their theories. It’s very rare, I think, to have academicians to have the same simple pursuit of truth than among non-academicians."

He warned that the "brain death" theory has the characteristics of an ideology.

"It’s clear that [transplantation] is a million or billion dollar business and it is clear that also it is useful for many patients." He said that motives such as fame for transplant doctors and researchers and money are among the "vested interests that could obscure the truth."

"For that reason, I think, if there’s a majority in favor, it doesn’t say much."

Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Pope Warns Organ Transplant Conference of Abuses of Death Criteria
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/nov/08110706.html

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Victoria Duran screams at 17-year-old Created Equal intern Ian Spencer at a demonstration in Columbus, OH, July 9.
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Mother plans lawsuit after video of her daughter assaulting pro-life teen goes viral

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

The mother of a Burger King employee caught on video shoving and hitting members of a pro-life activist group and kicking down their signs during an obscenity-laden tirade against “male privilege” says she will file a civil lawsuit against the pro-life group due to the “emotional distress” her family has experienced after the embarrassing clip went viral online.

The video in question shows Victoria Duran, 28, screaming in the face of a teenage boy who was standing beside an image of an abortion victim and passing out literature for pro-life group Created Equal on a street corner in Columbus, Ohio.  Duran was apparently enraged over a poster depicting a 12-week-old unborn child, which she insisted was a “lie.”

WARNING: EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE – VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED

“That is not what a fetus looks like,” Duran screams in the video. “It’s a clump of cells at 12 weeks. It does not look like that! It’s a clump of blank cells. You’re a racist f—ing male that doesn’t stand for women’s rights!”  She then violently kicked over the poster, and when she realized she was being filmed, physically assaulted the person holding the camera and started running down the street, kicking over another poster as she fled.  

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Seth Drayer, the group’s director of training, pursued Duran on foot and informed her they were calling the police.  She stopped running and confronted Drayer face-to face, screaming obscenities at close range until she spotted the police.  At that point, she shoved Drayer aside and boarded a nearby city bus.  The police removed her from the bus and arrested her on charges of assault and criminal damaging of property.

Duran’s mother, Anairis Carter, who lives in Florida, fought the charges, claiming her daughter is autistic and therefore can’t be blamed for her actions.  The county prosecutor dropped the criminal charges, but ordered Duran to pay $80 to Created Equal to cover the cost of the posters she destroyed.

Now, Carter is suing Created Equal for emotional distress.  She says that ever since the group posted video of her daughter’s violent outburst, her family has received threats and harassment, driving her to purchase a security system for their house.

“On top of emotional distress all the excess things that have to do that have come out of pocket for me to be able to protect my children because of what they've done," Carter complained to ABC6. "It irritates me that [the pro-life activists] are trying to make themselves be victims when they are hardly that if you're a victim you don't sensationalize it.”

On Created Equal’s Facebook page, Carter continued to defend her daughter and vowed to keep up the fight against the pro-life group.

“[Victoria] had an outburst ... autistic people have them,” Carter wrote. “She didnt [sic] deserve everything else that happened afterwards and THAT'S why I AM SUEING [sic] them. They have HURT my children and their lives and their way of life … So, no, I wont leave them alone. The courts will decide on what happens. It will be in their hands.”

In another Facebook post, Carter compared Created Equal to abortion clinic bombers and expressed her support for abortion-on-demand. 

“I am so disgusted by these people,” Carter wrote. “I actually went on their website and I saw the MOST horrendous of things [sic]. These people are using an intro of MLK's ‘I have a dream speech’ [sic] to compare themselves and what they do to to [sic] the civil rights and civil liberties movement. They are comapring [sic] what they do to something so important as this?”

“Trying to overturn Roe v Wade is the most horric [sic] thing there is,” declared Carter. “Trying to send women back to the 30's, 40's, and 50's where llegal [sic] abortions with wire hangers and dying on kitchen tables must be more acceptable to them than the alternative.”

Carter has repeatedly accused Created Equal of lying about her daughter shoving Drayer into the side of a city bus.  In response, the group recently posted a second video that clearly shows the assault, along with a bystander threatening to mace Duran if she continued her violent behavior.

WARNING – OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE – VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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