Anthony J. Caruso

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Change of heart: Eminient Chicago IVF doctor quits practice of creating babies in Petri dishes

Anthony J. Caruso
By Anthony Caruso
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April 24, 2012 (MercatorNet.com) - Dr Anthony J. Caruso is a Chicago doctor who worked in the field of in vitro fertilisation for 15 years before he quit in 2010. We interviewed him by email about the reasons for his change of heart.

MercatorNet: You ran a successful IVF practice in Chicago for ten years. Why did you leave?

Anthony Caruso: I was a member of several infertility practices since joining the field in 1995. In 2008 I was increasingly concerned about the kind of procedures we were doing. Initially it was the demands of same-sex couples. Then it was the way in which everybody looked at the embryos that had undergone pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

Finally, it was the realization that the embryos that we were producing were just as important as the embryos that were transferred. I could not change my practice to accommodate the way I was looking at the process. I wish I could say that I had an “Aha!” moment, but I left my last position largely due to financial realities. They needed to pare salaries and I was next to go.

How did your colleagues react?

The reaction came at an officers’ meeting of the Chicago Association of Reproductive Endocrinologists. I was the President-Elect and I resigned at the officers’ meeting because of my religious and ethical positions. To say that my colleagues were disappointed or angry would probably be too strong, but they probably really think that I am insane. I fear that I have lost many friendships that I had over the years.

Is there one event that crystallised your decision to stop?

The reading of a 2008 document from the Vatican, Dignitas Personae, was the first blow. That instruction is written beautifully, and uses all of the current statistics in its analysis.

Bioethically speaking, what distressed you most about the process of IVF?

One of the basic purposes of marriage is blurred with IVF. Children as gifts from God have become desires and pawns in the life process. IVF breaks the very tenet of the principle of double effect. The nature of the act is not good. The good effect is a wanted child. However, that desire does not outweigh the negative nature of the act. One need look no further than the way in which embryos are treated to see this.

Do most people understand the stress that IVF brings with it?

Absolutely NOT. People who are going through IVF largely refuse to seek emotional or psychological support. And people who have not gone through the process do not understand what it entails. Perhaps the most interesting response that I have gotten to the presentations I am giving is from those who did not know exactly what happened during this process. Once they learn, the spectrum goes from rationalization to horror.

“Every child is a wanted child” is a slogan for IVF clinics. But does that mean that children become commodities?

What you see in this statement is the problem. One of the reasons for the delay in my response to your questions was a challenge that I was involved with to an IVF clinic being proposed within one block of a Catholic Church. The first meeting with the city council went well. We were able to make both ethical and practical arguments against the clinic. Once the city council tabled the bill for another meeting, though, you should have seen the number of couples and single people who showed up and showed off their IVF kids!

This is not the issue when it comes to IVF. Every child is a gift from God. However, the process that brought them into existence has led to an attitude towards the embryo that is no different than any other commodity.

If you add pre-implantation diagnosis into the equation, then you really have a situation that is no different than an auto dealership or a department store. “I will take two of these and then freeze these and toss these.” The very people who are showing off their beautiful children will not answer questions about how many frozen embryos are still present or how many they asked to be destroyed.

Also, I doubt that anyone has ever thought how they might describe these things to their children—the fate of their siblings—because they are not seen as such. They are seen as simply a means to an end.

Is selective reduction a common feature of IVF?

Selective reduction [editor’s note: aborting some foetuses in a multiple pregnancy to allow others to grow] is a feature of every IVF consent. Fortunately, it was the rarest discussion I ever had with a couple. However, it is an issue that is slowly growing in popularity. The New York Times recently reported that couples are reducing twins and triplets to singletons. Since the Octomom fiasco, the number of high order pregnancies has dropped as they try to stay more faithfully with the guidelines published by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

What happens if a couple learns that a child will not be “perfect”?

There is a spectrum here as well. While many will continue to love their child no matter what, there is a true desire to quickly determine the health of the child, so that, if somehow defective, the option of termination is still viable. What we know now about the possibilities of pre-implantation diagnosis may further change that, with the focus being on the “perfect” genetic child.

Will having an IVF child bring happiness to a couple who have been longing for children?

Hard to answer. Children can salve much unhappiness. Remember, though, couples that go through IVF are approaching the procedure with a mindset of “I want this baby, I need this baby.” One can only surmise what possibilities exist down the road. But, at least on discharge, they seem happy.

What effect does the process of IVF have on women?

The data is slowly coming in. Certainly, it is well-known that there are dangers in over-stimulating a woman’s ovaries. Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome can be severe, especially in the environment of a pregnancy. Though the other immediate risks are very small, there is a risk of bleeding, injury to the intestines and infection.

There is also a risk of blood clots and their sequelae. The long-term effects are now slowly coming into focus. Remember, the first IVF pregnancy was in 1978, but the first IVF pregnancy from a stimulated ovary was in 1981. That was only 30 years ago and the women going through that procedure are largely just entering the age of chronic disease. One study from the Netherlands suggests that 15 years after an IVF pregnancy, there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer. While there are no controlled trials, many reproductive endocrinologists anecdotally describe women who present with breast tumours after IVF stimulation.

The websites of IVF clinics feature joyful stories about couples who are finally cuddling their bundle of joy. But are there features of IVF practice which are kept from the public?

Of course, that is the focus that keeps the public happy. Babies are happy things! But most people only know that part of it. They don’t know anything about the drugs and the process that leads to the babies. And we don’t discuss it openly because if we did, I think more of us would be against it.

Doing IVF is certainly an accomplished technical feat. But is it really medicine if it doesn’t cure infertility? Has it become more a business than medicine?

IVF does not cure infertility. It bypasses the barriers to natural fertility. As such, it is really a business. Just think about the number of clinics that offer cash-back programs. They guarantee that if the couple does not conceive within a certain number of cycles, they will get some or all of their money back. Where is the “medicine” in that?

What do you advise infertile couples to do now?

I encourage people who are having challenges to conception to have faith and ask God for help. There are several clinics in the United States that do offer more natural options. Of course, my own dream is to open a clinic in Chicago that provides care for these couples in line with the ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care. But that is in God’s time and in the hands of the people we are asking to support it.

You participated in an amicus curiae brief recently to the US Supreme Court which warned that “IVF poses an array of serious dangers to women, children, medicine,and society at large”. How is IVF a threat to society? What about the future?

I think I have answered that above. But let me use the words of Dr Robert Edwards, Nobel laureate and laboratory director of the laboratory which “created” the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. He stated in a 2003 interview with the London Times marking the 25th anniversary of that birth:

“I wanted to find out exactly who was in charge, whether it was God Himself or whether it was scientists in the laboratory - it was us! The Pope looked totally stupid. You can never ban anything. You can say, ‘hang on a minute’. But never say ‘never’, and never say that this is the worst decision for humankind, otherwise you can look a fool. Now there as many Roman Catholics coming for treatment as Protestants.”

He also said in this very enlightening interview that the IVF process was not designed to make couples happy. “It was a fantastic achievement”, he conceded modestly, “but it was about more than infertility. It was also about issues like stem cells and the ethics of human conception.”

In other words, it was the next step to be taken, the next obstacle to be overcome on the road ahead to the Brave New World which technology will bring us. Now, as this ageing scientist looks to the future, he is all in favour of cloning. With regard to pre-natal sex selection (whereby parents would be allowed to abort babies of unwanted gender) he says, “go ahead and use it. Those parents have to raise those children. Why should a politician tell me what I can and can’t do?”

And Dr Peter Brinsden, Edwards’ successor at the Cambridgeshire clinic he founded, predicts that “in 50 years assisted conception will have almost become the norm. This is because screening techniques will have improved to such an extent that parents can make their children free of even minor defects.”

I doubt if many in the field have seen these quotes, and the article itself is difficult to get (I have it through a secondary source). But after meeting Dr Edwards, which I did a few years ago when the University of Chicago conferred on him one of its highest honours, I can believe all of it.

This is a good summary of the problem with IVF and its potential impact on the society at large.

And we haven’t even scratched the surface. We haven’t talked about the donor gametes and the possibilities of progeny to meet somewhere, or more immediately, the effects on the donors themselves, particularly the oocyte donors.

This article by Anthony J. Caruso was originally published on MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons Licence. If you enjoyed this article, visit MercatorNet.com for more
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Matt Fradd Matt Fradd

5 reasons it isn’t your wife’s fault that you use porn

Matt Fradd Matt Fradd
By Matt Fradd

As someone who used to watch a lot of porn, I have the utmost compassion for men who are really struggling to quit and can’t seem to find the willpower to do so. I love talking with and helping blokes like this.

That said, when I’m writing and speaking about the subject of pornography, I occasionally run into men who really believe their wives are the source of the problem.

These men, I have less respect for.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The struggle against objectification and lust is a fight most men face. If you are striving with all your heart to be a better man to your bride, I’m in the same boat as you.

But if you are more interested in justifying your porn use by shifting the blame, this article has been written to set you straight. I don’t write it as someone who thinks he’s in anyway above you. As Saint John Paul the Great wrote: “every man’s heart is a battlefield between love and lust.” The reason I’m going to be extremely frank in this article is because sometimes nothing less than unvarnished truth will wake us up to reality.

Are you ready? Good.

Now, in one sense, I get why some men think their wives are to blame. Pornography has the nagging habit of making a man feel like a man without requiring him to be one. Given enough time with porn, men can delude themselves into thinking if their wives were a little more _________, they wouldn’t touch porn.

I have five reasons for why this is a ridiculous argument.

1. Your wife’s so-called “frigidity” is not the catalyst for your habit. In fact, it might be the other way around.

Perhaps there are men today who don’t touch porn until after they are married, but I have never met one.

Most men start their porn habits long before they get married; so to blame a woman for the habit is clearly mistaken.

Furthermore, in nearly every case I’ve seen, what men interpret as a woman’s “frigidity” is actually a lack of initiative on the his part. A man might say, “But I ask my wife for sex all the time.” To which I reply, “When was the last time you really fostered an environment of romance in the home that would make your wife feel treasured and not just like a warm body?”

Unfortunately, porn trains this belief into us: sex should be on-demand—as quick to boot up as my web browser. Healthy intimacy, however, takes time, attention, and devotion to maintain.

2. Porn is cleverly edited, high-octane sex, and no woman can (or should) compete with this.

Everywhere women are told they need to be younger, prettier, and bustier. The last place they need to have that message reinforced is in their marriages. In the arms of their husbands they should feel beautiful—because they are.

But using porn not only communicates the opposite to a woman, it trains men to believe the opposite.

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Here’s an odd story to illustrate my point:

Back in the 1860s, Americans made the mistake of bringing the gypsy moth from Europe to Boston. Within 10 years, swarms of gypsy moths were devastating the forests and continued doing so for over a century. Attempts to eradicate this moth failed. But then in the 1960s scientists devised a new strategy. Biologists knew that the male gypsy moth found the female by following her scent—her pheromones. Scientists developed massive quantities of a synthetic version of this pheromone and then scattered small pellets of it from the air. The effect was overpowering for the males. Overwhelmed by the highly concentrated pheromone, they became confused and didn’t know which direction to turn to find the female, or they became desensitized to the lower levels of pheromones naturally given out by the female.

This is what porn is to men: a highly synthetic, industrial, commercial form of sexuality, pumped into our atmosphere and found in ultra-concentrated doses online. If overexposed to this high-octane sex, suddenly the subtleties of a woman’s natural mystique and beauty are lost.

This is why there are so many young, healthy men today who are experiencing what one Harvard professor calls, “porn-induced erectile dysfunction.” This is a real thing: young men, raised on porn from their teen years, have so hardwired their brains they can’t even get it up for a real woman when they want to.

Why porn causes this problem is dealt with in the next reason…

3. Porn is about sexual novelty and variety; marriage is about loving commitment.

The pornographic experience is one of constant novelty: multiple tabs open, endless clicking, browsing, and always searching for the next girl who will really send you over the edge.

It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t hundreds of two-dimensional Internet women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t as clickable and customizable as the endless parade of digital women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she doesn’t become sexually euphoric at the drop of a hat like the porn stars you frequent. She is a woman—a human being with sexual desires and feelings of her own.

A mind trained for constant sexual novelty and variety simply won’t take the time and effort to really connect with one woman in a truly intimate way.

4. Porn is objectifying and selfish; marriage celebrates your wife’s humanity.

Russell Brand is making waves right now with his recent video about pornography. After honesty admitting about his own struggles with porn, Brand says, “If I had total dominion over myself, I would never look at pornography again.” Why? Because he hates how porn is intricately linked to a culture of objectification. When we reduce sex to an extracted physical act, we allow ourselves to turn women into objects to be used rather than women to be loved and cherished.

Porn is consumer, Burger-King sex: your way, right away. You can handpick the exact women you want to see, down the smallest specification. The women in porn are dolled up to play to any stereotype or fetish you desire. All traces of humanity are stripped away until there is nothing left but misogynistic fantasy.

Porn is entirely selfish. By that I don’t mean that masturbation is a solo act—though that is true as well—I mean the whole point of porn is to play to a man’s desire for validation: the women are portrayed as sex goddesses that cater to the man’s every whim. They are objects to use for his pleasure.

A married man with a mind trained for objectification can only go one of three ways:

1. He will drag his wife into that objectification, not seeing sex as a giving act but as an opportunity to act out pornographic fantasies in real life.

2. He will ignore his wife to pursue more online objectification—or worse.

3. He will turn away from a culture of objectification and relearn what it means to make his wife his standard of beauty.

As my friend Luke Gilkerson wrote in his book Your Brain on Porn, “‘Free porn’ is a misnomer. Pornography always costs somebody something. And it’s the women and girls in our culture, surrounded by boys and men with porn expectations, who often end up paying the highest price.”

5. Porn is an insult to your marriage vows, so your wife has every right to feel betrayed.

When you stood before God and others, slipped that ring on your wife’s finger, and told her you would “forsake all others,” did you really think that sneaking off to masturbate to digital prostitutes would fit with the spirit of that vow?

Some men actually have the nerve to say, “I get my needs met with porn. At least I’m not going out sleeping with other women.”

Really? Is this what we’ve come to: the measure of your virtue as a husband is not sleeping around?

Deep down, despite all the excuses, this is not who a man really wants to be. Do you want to be the man who loves one woman well for the rest of your life, gladly sacrificing yourself for the good of another—experiencing an intimate sexual bond? Or do you want to be the guy who sneaks off to get a fix from your computer screen and your hand? Which one of these sounds closer to the wedding vows you spoke and the man you wish to become?

A Word to Wives

If your husband struggles with porn—and I mean that in the truest sense of the word…that he contends with porn like an adversary—then you can count yourself blessed. I wish that more men counted porn as an enemy.

However, if your husband is brazenly using porn despite your wishes, know this: you are not the problem. No matter what you have done or not done, no matter how you have contributed to marital strife, no matter how you look, your husband’s porn problem is his to own. No offense—real or imaginary—is license to sin again you.

Wives, We Need Your Help!

My friends at Covenant Eyes are getting ready to re-release their amazing book, Porn and Your Husband. They want to hear from you before they release it. Please fill out their one-question survey and let them know: What's the one big thing you hope they cover in the book, Porn and Your Husband?

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Lisa Bourne

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Alabama Supreme Court rebuffs federal court in ‘historic’ ruling: forbids marriage licenses for gay couples

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

MONTGOMERY, AL, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Alabama’s high court has upheld the state’s definition of marriage and ordered a halt to marriage licenses for homosexual couples in the state, while also criticizing its federal counterpart for striking down DOMA.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that “nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides” state judges’ duty to administer state law.

The all-Republican court also said the federal district court had employed a “judicial sleight of hand” in “conferring fundamental-right status upon a concept of marriage divorced from its traditional understanding.”

“Throughout the entirety of its history, Alabama has chosen the traditional definition of marriage,” the ruling said. “That fact does not change simply because the new definition of marriage has gained ascendancy in certain quarters of the country, even if one of those quarters is the federal judiciary.”

The ruling is significant in making Alabama the first state to directly resist federal imposition of marriage redefinition, with a great majority of the states having had their legal definition of marriage overturned by judicial order.

“The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well-reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Staver praised the order for upholding state’s rights and for resisting judicial tyranny.

“The legitimacy of the judiciary is undermined when a judge legislates from the bench or usurps the power reserved to the states regarding natural marriage,” he said. “This decision of the Alabama Supreme Court is very well reasoned, which is quite rare from today’s courts. The decision not only affirms natural marriage but also restores the rule of law.”

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade had struck down a constitutional amendment and an Alabama state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in a January 23 decision, saying the laws violate homosexuals’ due process and equal protection rights according to the U.S. Constitution. The ruling was on hold until the state’s appeal to the 11th Circuit.

Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore contested the judicial action to redefine marriage. He told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples as it would violate state law. He also urged Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in a January 27 letter to fight the federal decision. 

Moore wrote to all 50 of the nation’s governors in 2014 urging them to preserve marriage in the U.S. Constitution with an amendment. He was not part of the March 3 Alabama State Supreme Court ruling, and his absence was not explained, according to the SCOTUS blog.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined an application February 9 by the State of Alabama to stay the decision striking down the state's constitutional amendment and state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, pending its ruling on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex “marriage,” expected by the end of June.

The seven-to-one majority decision by the Alabama high court rebutted every argument made for same-sex “marriage” as a constitutional matter, the SCOTUS blog said, and “lambasted the Supreme Court for making a ‘moral judgment, not a legal judgment’ when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor in June 2013.”

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The order to stop issuance of marriage licenses to homosexual couples extends to all sixty-eight Alabama probate judges, some of whom have been issuing such licenses after the district federal judge’s ruling. Most of the state judges, those not not named directly in the case, were given five days from Tuesday to answer the challenge and argue why they should not have to observe the statewide order against licenses for homosexual “marriages.” 

The SCOTUS blog said that because the state court’s ruling is an interpretation of the federal Constitution, it is likely subject to direct appeal to the Supreme Court, if any state judge wanted to take it there. What’s not clear, it said, is whether same-sex couples could appeal it because they were not parties in the case, but the couples could probably bring a new lawsuit against any state probate judge who refused them a license in accord with the order.

Marriage supporters praised the Alabama Supreme Court decision.

"I applaud the Alabama Justices in their wise decision respecting the freedom of Alabama's voters to uphold natural marriage,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “In a refreshing change, Alabama's Supreme Court is using the law to determine their actions -- not a politically motivated opinion of a lower court federal judge.”

He pointed to recent polling that found sixty-one percent of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court forcing marriage redefinition on all 50 states.

“If Americans were truly on board with this effort to redefine marriage, governors, state attorneys general, and other elected officials wouldn't bother fighting it.” Perkins said. “Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court reflects where the American people really are on the issue --and it is respecting the freedom of the voters to uphold natural marriage.”

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Cardinal George Pell John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews.com
Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

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The attack on Cardinal Pell: is someone trying to silence his voice for orthodoxy?

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By Hilary White

ROME, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last week an Italian tabloid launched an attack on one of the most outspoken opponents of the so-called “Kasper Proposal” to abolish the Church’s discipline on refusing communion to Catholics in “irregular” unions. Based on leaked information from within the Vatican, the gossip magazine L’Espresso accused Cardinal George Pell of padding his expenses.

The Australian member of Pope Francis’ inner circle of nine cardinals serves as the head of the Secretariat of the Economy, charged with reorganizing the Vatican’s finances.

Some observers are saying the attack on Pell comes from opposition to his financial reforms. However, Pell was also a leading voice for doctrinal orthodoxy at last autumn’s Synod of Bishops, and some see that as a motivating factor as well.

L’Espresso published leaked documents that they said showed Pell spending money on refurbishing his apartment, on airline tickets, and on liturgical vestments from a high-end Roman ecclesiastical tailor. The story was picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald, a longtime opponent of Pell from his days as archbishop of Sydney, who accused him of “living it up at the Holy See’s expense.”

Father Federico Lombardi, the head of the Holy See Press Office, condemned the leak, saying, “Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal.” The statement said that the Secretariat’s expenses, around 500,000 USD according to the leaked information, remain below its budget allotment.

Pell is said to be “ruffling the feathers” of a deeply entrenched, and largely Italian, bureaucratic culture that has hitherto operated largely without scrutiny or rules. Recently the cardinal announced that his office had “found” hundreds of millions of Euros “tucked away” that had never been recorded in the official books. 

America’s leading Vaticanist, John Allen, suggested that the motive for attacking Pell was his financial work. Allen says Pell’s “pugnacious” personality has rubbed Vatican officials the wrong way, but also cites his hard-hitting reforms of official financial practices.

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The UK’s Damian Thompson also took this tack, saying, “Cardinal Pell is embattled because, from now on, Curial officials will have to account for their spending. He’s brought an end to a culture of fiddling your exes which makes 20th-century Fleet Street look like a Presbyterian knitting circle.”

However, Thompson also suspects Pell’s stand for orthodoxy played a part. “I knew a hit job was coming; and I was doubly certain when he spoke up for orthodox cardinals when their views were being trashed by the liberal organisers of the chaotic ‘Carry On Synod’ on the Family,” he wrote.

Mainstream newspapers have downplayed the cardinal’s high-profile support at the Synod for the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage in the face of the ongoing crisis over Cardinal Walter Kasper’s notorious “proposal.” Cardinal Kasper and his supporters see the year between Synods as a time of campaigning for their program, and they are giving interviews and lectures around the world.

Pell was among those Synod fathers who joined the now-famous rebellion of bishops against the “manipulation” of the Synod in October. It was widely reported in Rome during the Synod in October that Pell directly and forcefully confronted the Synod’s organizer, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, over the apparent push for a change in the Church’s “pastoral practice” of withholding Communion from divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

In a video interview, Pell said the bishops would not capitulate to the machinations of “radical elements” in the Church.

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