Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Famous actor presents petition opposing looser embryo research law

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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PARIS, France, February 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Monday morning two vintage Citroën 2CV’s left onlookers astounded when they drove up to the monumental steps that lead to the main façade of the French National Assembly, climbing onto the side-walk and parking right under the noses of the police force guarding the Palais Bourbon.

Out stepped a retired engineer, Stanislas de Larminat, and famed French actor Michael Lonsdale, well known for major roles in the James Bond film Moonraker, The Day of the Jackal, Smiley’s People, and Of Gods and Men. The pair bore a heavy cardboard box with letters to every one of the 570 members of the French National Assembly asking for a moratorium on embryo research.

During the last few weeks, over 11,000 people signed the online petition accompanying the letter. Larminat and Lonsdale symbolically handed over one of the envelopes to Xavier Breton, a deputy from de Lyon region, who is heading a group of representatives trying to amend the law in order to ban all research on human embryos.

Even as the pair were presenting the petition, however, research laboratories and top geneticists in France were preparing to push forward with embryo research. Monday morning, Axel Kahn, president of the prestigious Descartes University in Paris and Director of Research at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), said in an interview that research on the human embryo is “legitimate and necessary.”

“Even if I consider the embryo to be a person, that is no argument in favor of not doing research on it, insofar as we do research at every age of the human person: it’s the basis of medical research, no less,” he said.

As the National Assembly is preparing to debate a new bioethics law on Tuesday, many public figures, health ministers and scientists have been arguing that France needs a more liberal law so as not to be “left behind,” compared with other nations which have few, if any safeguards on embryo-destructive research.

At this morning’s press conference, retired engineer Stan de Larminat’s explained how the petitions came to be: “When I saw what is happening: that French representatives are being asked to approve a law that turns human embryos into laboratory material, I knew I must act.”

He explained: “I had no mailing lists. No backing. I just drew up my letter asking for parliamentarians not to make themselves to blame through an irresponsible decision, and sent it to my friends.

“When they liked it, and signed, I contacted ordinary people.  I found a list of hotelkeepers: several signed up. People forwarded my e-mails on a person-to-person basis.”

De Larminat said that those who signed were simply “the ‘man in the street’” and that he is sure that the ordinary Frenchman does not want embryo research: “And that is the message we’re getting across to the political representatives.”

What started out as a private initiative blossomed into a full-fledged media event, with a successful press conference, national media coverage and the support of a well-loved and famous actor who decided to help on the sole strength of the demands de Larminat was presenting: “To save science and liberty at one and the same time, because liberty is power and power needs to be checked and balanced.”

Speaking to the press in front of the National Assembly, representative Xavier Breton said matters of scientific research in such critical areas should be decided by a nation’s citizens: “We are grateful, as politicians, to hear the people’s voice, it preserves us from being maneuvered by scientists and interested parties.”

Michael Lonsdale, who is known for his Christian commitment, said he participated in the event because he “believes in life.”

“Life is infinitely precious,” he said. “It is more and more exposed to modern research that is really mind-boggling. When you realize they are meddling with the very beginnings of life, it’s important to be very much alert. It’s a question of good life, of honest life, of life that is beautiful, and of not letting embryos to be exposed to God knows what manipulation. Because the Bad one is always present there.”

The revision of the French bioethics laws would, in the worst case scenario, authorize embryonic stem cell research completely. A less extreme possibility is that it would extend indefinitely the system introduced in 2004 for five years, which prohibits embryo research in principle but allows for exemptions decided by the French Agency for Biomedicine (ABM). The ABM itself officially promotes embryo research.

Several pro-life associations who today publicly supported Larminat’s call have pointed out that embryonic stem cells have yet to be used successfully in any therapy. The pro-life associations involved are the Fondation Jérôme-Lejeune, the Alliance pour les droits de la vie (Alliance for the Rights of life) and appelalaverite.com (“call for truth”). Together they represent tens of thousands of people.

The revised bioethics bill also aims, among other things to make access to artificial procreation easier for unwedded couples. It would widen the scope of pre-implantation diagnosis, and allow women to donate their eggs before having given birth themselves, with a perk added: part of the eggs would be deep-frozen for future use, when they themselves would feel ready for childbearing.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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