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

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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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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

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By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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