Kathleen Gilbert

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Trouble in Vatican: Pontifical Academy members upset with ethics deficit at infertility conference

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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VATICAN CITY, February 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A gathering of the Vatican’s own academy for promoting respect for life was met with palpable discontent from its own members and other registrants after presenters on the topic of infertility alluded to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other artificial reproduction technologies as “natural” and legitimate for treating patients, despite their conflict with Catholic moral teaching.

In addition, one prominent Catholic doctor who noted the link between the birth control pill and breast cancer was told by the moderator that his claim was false.

The Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) on Friday took up the topic of managing infertility at its 18th General Assembly

A press packet included an interview with PAV President Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula emphasizing the Assembly would not be “dealing with ethical considerations of artificial fertilization” because “that’s a different subject”. The bishop, who in 2010 publicly criticized the awarding of a Nobel prize to a pioneer of in vitro fertilization, said that the February 24 Vatican workshop’s concern was to utilize a “rigorously medical and scientific” approach to divulge insufficiently known methods of fertility treatment to couples.

While some attendees said much of the conference offered helpful insights into the causes of infertility, such as delaying pregnancy and environmental factors, and presented some excellent new research on treating infertility causes,  the majority of speakers also discussed such procedures as IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) as viable alternatives for couples having difficulty conceiving. The speakers were selected by the PAV leadership.

At least three of the four morning speakers, according to witnesses, referred to IVF as an appropriate option for some female sufferers of infertility. And although witnesses say moderators distanced the PAV’s views from the presenters’, the assurance fell short for audience members who gave vent to frustration during the day.

During the lunch break, one prominent member told LifeSiteNews that the morning sessions were “the best case you get for amoral science.” Another called the conference “a disaster” and another “a tragedy”.

In the afternoon session, Eberhard Nieschlag of the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Andrology at the University of Münster noted that artificial insemination “can be tried if there are not enough sperm” and, after showing a video of a needle forcing a sperm into a human egg, described the process as “not really artificial.”

Pressed on the point by an audience member during a later Q&A (see audio file below), Nieschlag defended the remark by saying that “the actual fertilization process is completely natural.” “The way to bring the sperm and the egg together [is artificial] but the fertilization is not artificial,” he said. “That’s what I mean. But I think it’s mainly a semantic problem.”

Listen to brief audio of notable excerpts from Q & A session at the end of the conference:

The audience responded to the last remark with a growing clamor, including some rapping on their chairs in protest.

“I think from the audience’s reaction it’s clearly not,” chairperson Prof. Angelique Goverde interjected, adding that she would not enter “a theoretical or philosophical or religious debate” but the audience response indicated “we have a different point of view in this concern.”

The teaching authority of the Catholic Church has stated that artificial reproduction is morally objectionable, not only because techniques such as IVF regularly dispose of human embryos and “reduce” multiple pregnancies with abortions, but because children have a right to be conceived naturally in the marital act and not as a consumer product.

On its website, the PAV describes itself as existing “for the promotion and defense of human life, especially regarding bioethics as it regards Christian morality.”

Another conflict arose after several audience members challenged the morning speakers for emphasizing beneficial effects of the hormonal birth control pill on women’s health, to the exclusion of its detriments. Thomas Hilgers, Director of the National Center for Women’s Health at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, took to the microphone to point out that this tack fell in line with “a major marketing component of the oral contraceptive for the last ten years.”

“They’ll raise things like, once raised this morning, that you can cut the ovarian cancer rate in half [by taking oral contraceptives]. Well that’s good, but what if you increase the breast cancer rate in the process, or the cervical cancer rate?” he said. “It’s given as a health benefit without looking at the health implications, and that’s an unbalanced view, but it’s being sold that way, and it’s on purpose.”

Chairperson Goverde interjected asserting to the contrary that oral contraceptives did not increase the breast cancer risk but did agree that it increased the cervical cancer risk. Hilgers interjected to refer Goverde to a 2006 meta-analysis by the Mayo clinic showing the pill’s clear link to breast cancer. Hilgers later pointed to Ortho Tri-Cyclen’s own documentation showing the breast cancer link.


IVF industry eclipses real science: expert

Hilgers’ half-hour talk outlined the significant success of NaPro technology, a cost-effective method for discovering and treating underlying causes of infertility, and one that is not “built on a foundation of destroying life.” However, he said, these gains have been largely eclipsed by the IVF industry, particularly in the United States: had it not been for the race to create children artificially, said Hilgers, “we probably would have had a cure for infertility by now.”

The NaPro expert’s presentation that was fully in line with Catholic moral ethics was met with sustained applause far exceeding that given for any of the other speakers of the day.

In later remarks to LSN, the doctor expressed concern that the crowding-out of real infertility treatment by the IVF mindset was reflected at the conference itself.

Hilgers, a member of the PAV since 1994 and an international leader in his field, said the science of the day’s speakers “wasn’t good at all” and named several experts who could have offered insights into authentic fertility treatment, but said the conference didn’t approach him for suggested names. According to the PAV website, topics and speakers are chosen from a pool of submitted professional papers by a Governing Council currently composed of four lay experts and four clerics who include the President and Chancellor or the PAV.

Not all PAV conferences have been so controversial: Hilgers pointed out that last year’s conference on the psychological effects of abortion featured “really good” experts and information. However, he said, like a similar fertility conference by the academy over a decade ago, Friday’s was problematic for featuring “one IVF person after another.”

“[This year’s conference was] a huge disservice to Catholics everywhere for the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is the major Catholic pro-life organization you could say, to come into formal cooperation with a group of people who are diametrically opposed to the Church’s teaching,” he said.

Others told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that at a follow-up meeting Saturday morning for official members, several members expressed their discontent regarding the selection of speakers and the lack of ethical context throughout most of the day. One PAV member called it a “pile-on”. It was said that more wanted to express similar comments but were not recognized by the PAV leadership.


‘The arrogance of taking the place of the Creator’

The following morning, the speakers, PAV members, and others at the conference attended a special PAV audience with Pope Benedict XVI in the Apostolic Palace.

In contrast to the conference’s avoidance of Catholic ethical concerns, a notably subdued pontiff emphasized the moral roots of reproduction in the conjugal act and warned against the fertility industry’s lure of “easy income, or even worse, the arrogance of taking the place of the Creator,” quoting his own words from 2008. “The human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, doesn’t consist in a ‘product’, but in its link to the conjugal act, an expression of the love of the spouses of their union, not only biological but also spiritual,” said Benedict.

The pope also warned that the “indifference of conscience to what is true and good represents a dangerous threat to genuine scientific progress,” as “scientism and the logic of profit” now dominate the field “to the point of limiting many other areas of research.”

“The humility and precision with which you study these issues, considered obsolete by some of your colleagues before the allure of the technology of artificial insemination, deserves encouragement and support,” he said.

One member said the pope’s remarks were a saving grace for the troubled conference.

“If it weren’t for the pope’s speech, the conference would have been a devastating blow to truth,” the member said.


Contact information:

pav@acdlife.va

See list of staff and members of PAV

 

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Sandra Cano, ‘Mary Doe’ of Doe v. Bolton, RIP

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By Ben Johnson
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Sandra Cano, the woman whose divorce custody case morphed into a Supreme Court decision extending the “constitutional right” to an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnacy, has passed away of natural causes.

Cano was “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, the other case settled by the High Court on January 22, 1973. In 1970, at 22, Cano saw an attorney to divorce her husband – who had a troubled legal history – and regain custody of her children. The Georgia resident was nine weeks pregnant with her fourth child at the time.

Cano said once the attorney from Legal Aid, Margie Pitts Hames, deceptively twisted her desire to stay with her children into a legal crusade that has resulted in 56 million children being aborted.

“I was a trusting person and did not read the papers put in front of me by my lawyer,” Cano said in a sworn affidavit in 2003. “I did not even suspect that the papers related to abortion until one afternoon when my mother and my lawyer told me that my suitcase was packed to go to a hospital, and that they had scheduled an abortion for the next day.”

Cano was so disgusted by the prospect that she fled the state.

Yet the legal case went on, winding up before the Supreme Court the same day as Roe v. Wade. The same 7-2 majority agreed to Roe, which struck down state regulations on abortions before viability, and Doe, which allowed abortions until the moment of birth on the grounds of maternal “health” – a definition so broad that any abortion could be justified.

All the justices except Byron White and future Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed that “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age” are all “factors [that] may relate to [maternal] health.”

“I was nothing but a symbol in Doe v. Bolton with my experience and circumstances discounted and misrepresented,” Cano said in 2003.

Two years later, she told a Senate subcommittee, “Using my name and life, Doe v. Bolton falsely created the health exception that led to abortion on demand and partial birth abortion... I only sought legal assistance to get a divorce from my husband and to get my children from foster care. I was very vulnerable: poor and pregnant with my fourth child, but abortion never crossed my mind.”

On the 30th anniversary of the case, she asked the Supreme Court justices to revisit the ruling that bears her pseudonym, but they denied her request. “I felt responsible for the experiences to which the mothers and babies were being subjected. In a way, I felt that I was involved in the abortions – that I was somehow responsible for the lives of the children and the horrible experiences of their mothers,” she explained.

By that time, both Cano and Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, opposed abortion and implored the Supreme Court to overturn the rulings made in their names. Both also said their pro-abortion attorneys had misrepresented or lied about their circumstances to make abortion-on-demand more sympathetic.

"I pledge that as long as I have breath, I will strive to see abortion ended in America,” Cano said in 1997.

Priests for Life announced last week that Cano was in a hospital in the Atlanta area, in critical condition with throat cancer, blood sepsis, and congestive heart failure.

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“My heart is broken that Sandra will never witness an end to abortion,” Janet Morana said. “She never wanted to have an abortion. She never had an abortion, and she certainly never wanted to be a part of the Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Bolton, that opened the gates for legal abortion at any time during pregnancy and for any reason.”

“Sandra’s work to overturn that devastating decision that was based on lies will not end with her death,” Fr. Frank Pavone said. “When life ultimately triumphs over death, Sandra will share in that victory.”

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We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

First we killed our unborn children. Now we’re killing our own parents.

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

In a culture that elevates transient pleasure as a “value,” while reducing “value” itself to a subjective and utilitarian status, I suppose it should not be surprising that the worth of human beings is now constantly in question.

We once lived in a culture that drafted laws to protect “dependents”: the very young, the very old, and the disabled. This was done in recognition of the fact that a human being’s increased vulnerability correspondingly heightens our moral responsibility to that human being.

Now, however, the exit strategists of the Sexual Revolution are burning the candle at both ends - abortion for children in the womb, euthanasia and “assisted suicide” for the old. Both children and elderly parents, you see, can be costly and time-consuming.

We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.

I noted some time ago that the concept of “dying with dignity” is rapidly becoming “killing with impunity,” as our culture finds all sorts of excuses to assist “inconvenient” people in leaving Planet Earth.

There is a similarity to abortion, here, too—our technologically advanced culture is no longer looking for compassionate and ethical solutions to the complex, tragic, and often heartbreaking circumstances. Instead, we offer the solution that Darkness always has: Death. Disability, dependence, difficult life circumstances: a suction aspirator, a lethal injection, a bloody set of forceps. And the “problem,” as it were, is solved.

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We don’t kill problems anymore. We kill people, and pretend that it is the same thing.

There is something chilling about the intimacy of these killings. As Gregg Cunningham noted, “Ours is the first generation that, having demanded the right to kill its children through elective abortion, is now demanding the right to kill its parents through doctor-assisted suicide.” The closest of human relationships are rupturing under the sheer weight of the selfishness and narcissism of the Me Generation.

The great poet Dylan Thomas is famous for urging his dying father to fight on, to keep breathing, to live longer:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Such sentiment is not present among the advocates of euthanasia. In fact, the tagline “dying with dignity” is starting to very much sound like, “Now don’t make a fuss, off with you now.” Consider this story in The Daily Mail from a few days ago:

An elderly husband and wife have announced their plans to die in the world's first 'couple' euthanasia - despite neither of them being terminally ill.

Instead the pair fear loneliness if the other one dies first from natural causes.

Identified only by their first names, Francis, 89, and Anne, 86, they have the support of their three adult children who say they would be unable to care for either parent if they became widowed.

The children have even gone so far as to find a practitioner willing to carry out the double killings on the grounds that the couple's mental anguish constituted the unbearable suffering needed to legally justify euthanasia.

… The couple's daughter has remarked that her parents are talking about their deaths as eagerly as if they were planning a holiday.

John Paul [their son] said the double euthanasia of his parents was the 'best solution'.

'If one of them should die, who would remain would be so sad and totally dependent on us,' he said. 'It would be impossible for us to come here every day, take care of our father or our mother.'

I wonder why no one considers the fact that the reason some elderly parents may experience “mental anguish” is that they have come to the sickening realization that their grown children would rather find an executioner to dispatch them than take on the responsibility of caring for their parents. Imagine the thoughts of a mother realizing that the child she fed and rocked to sleep, played with and sang to, would rather have her killed than care for her: that their relationship really does have a price.

This is why some scenes in the HBO euthanasia documentary How To Die In Oregon are so chilling. In one scene, an elderly father explains to the interviewer why he has procured death drugs that he plans to take in case of severe health problems. “I don’t want to be a burden,” he explains while his adult daughter nods approvingly, “It’s the decent thing to do. For once in my life I’ll do something decent.”

No argument from the daughter.

If we decide in North America to embrace euthanasia and “assisted suicide,” we will not be able to unring this bell. Just as with abortion and other manifestations of the Culture of Death, the Sexual Revolutionaries work hard to use heart-rending and emotional outlier examples to drive us to, once again, legislate from the exception.

But for once, we have to start asking ourselves if we really want to further enable our medical community to kill rather than heal. We have to ask ourselves if the easy option of dispatching “burdensome” people will not impact our incentive to advance in palliative care. And we have to stop simply asking how someone in severe pain might respond to such a legal “service,” and start asking how greedy children watching “their” inheritance going towards taking proper care of their parents.

And to the pro-life movement, those fighting to hold back the forces of the Culture of Death—the words of Dylan Thomas have a message for us, too.

Do not go gentle into that good night…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Luka Magnotta http://luka-magnotta.com
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Gay porn star admits dismembering ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Montreal gay porn actor Luka Magnotta admits killing and dismembering his ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film, but pled not guilty on Monday to all five charges filed against him.

Magnotta shocked the world in June 2012 by allegedly killing and cannibalizing a 33-year-old university student from China, Jun Lin, then posting a video of his actions and the results online. He later hid some of the dismembered parts in the garbage, but also mailed parcels containing body parts to political offices in Ottawa and schools in Vancouver.

He was charged with first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a body, publishing obscene material, mailing obscene and indecent material, and criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other MPs.

Magnotta's lawyer Luc Leclair is basing the not guilty plea on the defendant having a history of mental illness, thus making him not criminally responsible.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said he intends to prove that Magnotta planned the alleged murder well before it was committed.

"He admits the acts or the conducts underlying the crime for which he is charged. Your task will be to determine whether he committed the five offences with the required state of mind for each offence," Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer instructed the jury, according to media reports.

However, some authorities have pointed out that Magnotta’s behavior follows a newly discernible trend of an out-of-control sexual deviancy fueled by violent pornography.

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Dr. Judith Reisman, an internationally-recognized expert on pornography and sexuality, told LifeSiteNews in 2012 she believes Magnotta’s behavior “reflects years of brain imprinting by pornography.”

“His homosexual cannibalism links sex arousal with shame, hate and sadism,” said Reisman. Although cannibalism is not as common as simple rape, she added, “serial rape, murder, torture of adults and even of children is an inevitable result of our ‘new brains,’ increasingly rewired by our out-of-control sexually exploitive and sadistic mass media and the Internet.”

In their 2010 book “Online Killers,” criminology researchers Christopher Berry-Dee and Steven Morris said research has shown “there are an estimated 10,000 cannibal websites, with millions ... who sit for hours and hours in front of their computer screens, fantasizing about eating someone.” 

This underworld came to light in a shocking case in Germany in 2003, when Armin Meiwes was tried for killing his homosexual lover Bernd Jürgen Brandes, a voluntary fetish victim whom Meiwes picked up through an Internet forum ad seeking “a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.”

After the warrant was issued for his arrest, Magnotta was the target of an international manhunt for several days until he was arrested in Berlin, where police say he was found looking at online pornography alongside news articles about himself at an Internet café.

The trial is expected to continue to mid-November, with several dozen witnesses being called to testify before the jury of six men and eight women.

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