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Savita’s husband won’t cooperate with investigation; other EU life and family updates

Hilary White
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Savita update: three Galway docs dropped from probe; family demands independent inquiry

DUBLIN – The inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar is running into difficulties out of the gate. Savita’s widower, Praveen Halappanavar, has said that he and the family will not cooperate with the government’s probe because it is being run by the same government agency that he alleges caused his wife’s death. The Health Services Executive has been refused access to the young woman’s medical records, a decision that will cripple the investigation.

In addition, three senior medical consultants from Galway have been dropped from the group of seven physicians conducing the inquest. Mrs. Halappanavar’s family had objected to them on the grounds that no doctor from the Galway University Hospital where Savita died should be included. Despite the removal of the doctors, Mr. Halappanavar said, “I will not be co-operating with the inquiry in any way.”

Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny told Parliament that Health Minister Dr. James Reilly had removed the doctors from the panel to ensure the investigation would be completely independent.

Ireland’s Minister of Public Spending, Brendan Howlin, told the state broadcaster RTE that the government wanted the investigation to provide answers “speedily, thoroughly and comprehensively” and opposed the family’s demands for an investigation independent of the HSE. “We don’t want a tribunal that goes on for ever more,” he said on RTE’s Morning Ireland.


Don’t use marriage as ‘political football’ : Westminster Archbishop

LONDON – The Catholic archbishop of Westminster has warned politicians not to use the institution of marriage as a “political football”. Vincent Nichols warned Chancellor George Osborne that “same-sex marriage” might not be the vote winner the Conservative Party is looking for. Nichols says he detects “deep unease” over the issue.

“This is not simply a redefining of marriage to accommodate a few, it is a redefining of marriage for everyone and therefore all marriages, if this bill is introduced, will be different.

“It is a different reality for everybody and that is a very serious matter and one to which we are very strongly opposed and will remain strongly opposed,” Nichols told reporters this week.

Nichols called marriage “a very important building block in society” and said it is “very foolish” to propose to alter its definition when, “as far as we can see there is not a specific identified problem that that change is supposed to be addressing”.

“My own sense is that many people feel deeply uneasy about this move, it was not in any election manifesto, it has not in that sense been put to the country.”

Referring to the majority of negative submissions to the government’s consultation on the matter, Nichols added, “That is why the strength of opinion expressed in the consultation ought not to be hidden and that’s why we want the full disclosure of the results of that consultation.”


Church of England votes both for and against female bishops

LONDON – At yesterday’s meeting of the General Synod, the decision-making body of the Church of England made up of separate houses for bishops, clergy and laity, voted down a proposal to start ordaining women as bishops. The proposal was accepted by a wide majority of votes in both the houses of the bishops and clergy, but was rejected by the laity.

The bishops voted 44 for, three against with two abstentions. The clergy voted 148 for, 45 against, with no abstentions. The laity voted 132 for, 74 against and no abstentions. The proposal could only pass by gaining a two-thirds majority in each house.

The issue will now rest for the time being. The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said, “The motion having been lost ... we do not proceed any further.” Others feel that it is only a matter of time before the change passes. Christina Rees, a Synod member and former chairman of the advocacy group Women and the Church, told Reuters, “Women bishops will come, but this is an unnecessary and an unholy delay.”

Women are already ordained as bishops in the Anglican churches of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.


List grows of EU member states rebelling over EU’s iron budget grip

BRUSSELS – With the virtual buy-out of Greece, Ireland and Spain by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Euro-scepticism is growing among Europe ministers from member states. The European Union has imposed a series of harsh “austerity measures” on Greece that have created widespread unemployment and reduction of public services that has resulted in riots. Several EU states are starting to balk at EU attempts to impose centralized control over national budgets.

Thus far, Latvia, Italy, Portugal, the UK, Denmark, France, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Poland have all objected in various ways to attempts by Brussels to impose limitations on national budgets. Some countries, including economic powerhouses Italy and the UK, have said they are prepared to veto the European Union’s seven-year budget plan if better deals are not hammered out. Leaders of the 27 EU states are due to meet in Brussels later this week to debate the budget for 2014-2020.

Today Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said that his government is prepared to veto the budget unless it gets a better deal on agricultural subsidies. “If our interests are completely ignored, we don’t exclude that possibility (of a veto),” Dombrovskis told the Latvian television.

Italian Europe Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi has said Italy is “ready to use its veto” if it considers that the next long-term EU budget is “harmful for the country and burdensome for the Italian taxpayer.” Italy’s previous government was removed by pressure from EU chiefs and replaced by a hand-picked, unelected government, made up of EU loyalists, in November last year.

Fatwa issued against Welsh opt-out organ donation plan

CARDIFF – The Association of Muslim Scholars UK) has issued a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, on the proposal by the government of Wales to start a presumed-consent organ donation plan that would assume everyone in the province is an organ donor unless specifically stated otherwise. The plan is being called “deemed consent” and would automatically declare as organ donors everyone living in Wales more than six months old, including prisoners tourists and students.

The ruling calls on Muslims to oppose strongly “this unjust, unislamic, inhumane bill by all legal and peaceful means”.

The ruling said, “Our organs and our bodies belong to our Creator: ALLAH. We are ordered in Islam to protect all our organs from any harm like alcohol and smoking, and to allow them to be satisfied physiologically with all their needs and as ALLAH wanted. We do not own any of our organs and no one has the right (Muslim or non Muslim) to take any of our organs especially at time of death.”

The fatwa says that Muslims who wish to donate are free to do so, but this should be voluntary and include written consent. This consent must be obtained only after the person is made aware of details of the surgical procedure, including the possibility of organs being taken while the patient is still alive and the heart is still beating or pain is still felt, and any possible harm to the donor when he/she is still alive.

There must be no “interference with the natural moment of death as fixed by ALLAH Almighty and not by doctors,” the ruling continued. “There should not be any interference with the natural moment of death.” This is defined in the ruling as the moment when both the “heart and respiration (and all brain activity) stop naturally and normally the soul leaves the body after natural death”.


Slovakia removes haloes from saints’ images on Euro coins

BRATISLAVA – In a move that is being criticized as kow-towing to secularists, the government of Slovakia has removed the haloes from the images of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, pivotal figures in the country’s history.

The images are on the design for the €2 coin issued to commemorate the 1,150th anniversary of the arrival of the missionary saints in Moravia. The Euroskeptic website Euractiv notes that EU member states are allowed to mint commemorative coins once a year but the design on the back must be “accepted by the remaining eurozone members and the European Commission”.

The Greek Cyril and Methodius were brothers of the 9th century, who became missionaries to the pagan Slavic countries to the north and are regarded as the founding fathers of Slavonic Christianity. They created the Cyrillic alphabet, based on Greek letters, in order to have the Bible and other texts translated into Slavic languages.

One Byzantine Catholic priest commented, calling the decision to remove the haloes an example of “anti-historical and ideological manipulation.”


Watch this beautiful story of an Irish family who welcome a child with anencephaly


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African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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