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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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The first pro-abortion Republican enters the 2016 presidential race

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By Ben Johnson

EXETER, NH, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The large and expanding field of would-be Republican presidential candidates grew by one today, as George Pataki became the first GOP presidential hopeful this election season to openly support abortion-on-demand.

The 69-year-old long-shot candidate also has a history of supporting homosexual legislative causes.

In the weeks leading up to his formal announcement, George Pataki took out TV ads asking Republicans to refrain from talking about abortion and gay “marriage,” branding them “distractions.”

“In 12 years [as governor], I don’t think I talked about that issue twice,” he once said of abortion.

On same-sex “marriage,” he says, “I think, leave it to the states. I don’t think it’s a role in Washington.”

However, Pataki has a long history of enacting the homosexual political agenda as governor of New York from 1994-2006. He signed a “hate crimes” law that added the words “gay” and “lesbian” to New York state law for the first time.

He signed the Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Act (SONDA), which prohibits business owners from “discriminating” against homosexuals in housing or hiring, with an exemption only for religious institutions.

He also added sexual orientation to state civil rights laws, alongside such immutable characteristics as race and sex, in an apparent quid pro quo for a gay activist group's endorsement in his last run for governor. The New York Times reported that, under pressure from Pataki, then then-Senate Majority Leader “shifted his position on the bill as part of what is tacitly acknowledged, even by Senator [Joseph] Bruno's senior aides, to have been a deal to win an endorsement for Governor Pataki from the state's largest gay rights group, the Empire State Pride Agenda.”

After the LGBT activist group endorsed Pataki in 2002, citing a long list of his service to the homosexual political cause, Pataki personally lobbied senators for the bill's passage, then signed it into law that December.

Coupled with his stance on gun control, environmentalism, and other issues, he stands well to the left of the Republican mainstream.

The three-term governor of New York, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, took his own advice by largely avoiding social issues today. The closest he came was his vow, “I'd repeal oppressive laws like ObamaCare and end Common Core.”

He added that he would “fire every current IRS employee abusing government power to discriminate on the basis of politics or religion. That is not America!”

Otherwise, Pataki's announcement speech hewed to stand pat Republican issues like reducing taxes, shrinking the number of federal employees, increasing military spending, and supporting entrepreneurship.

He began by thanking his supporters, in English and Spanish.

Smiling, his head pivoting between twin teleprompters, he said, “Let me tell you some of the things I'd do right away to get oppressive government off the backs of Americans.”

He would institute a lifetime ban on congressmen acting as lobbyists after they leave office. “If you ever served one day in Congress, you will never be a lobbyist,” he said. He favors forcing Congress to live under the laws it passes, so there will be “no special rules for the powerful.”

He cited his history of cutting taxes, reducing welfare rolls, and leaving his state with billions of dollars in surplus. “That's what our policies can do,” he said. “I know we can do the same thing for the United States.”

In recent weeks, he has called for a more interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East. Today, he reminded his audience that he was governor of New York in 9/11. “I will not fear the lesson of September 11,” he said. “To protect us, first we must protect the border,” he said – an unexpected phrase, as Pataki supports amnesty for the at least 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

“We will stand with our ally, Israel, a democracy on the front lines of terror and barbarism,” he said.

Like former Sen. Rick Santorum, who announced he is running for president yesterday, Pataki agreed that “if necessary, American forces will be used to actually defeat and destroy ISIS on the ground – although he promised not to become “the world's policeman.”

Some of his campaign promises drew skepticism, such as seeking to develop self-driving cars and to cure Alzheimer's disease and cancer within the next decade.

The speech's venue was chosen deliberately by Pataki, who considered entering the presidential race in 2000, 2008, and 2012. The town of Exeter, New Hampshire, claims to be the founding place of the Republican Party. (Ripon, Wisconsin, makes a similar claim.)

More importantly, the first-in-the-nation primary skews more libertarian on social issues than evangelical-dominated Iowa and South Carolina, so Pataki has essentially staked his candidacy on doing well in New Hampshire. Fellow pro-abortion Republican Rudy Giuliani made a similar bet in 2008, banking on a good showing among transplanted New Yorkers in the Florida primary. He left the race after finishing a distant third.

Short of a stunning upset in the Granite State, Pataki has little chance of breaking through the pack this year. A Fox News poll ranks him dead last among 16 announced and potential candidates. Holly Bailey of Yahoo! News said, “George Pataki would never say this, but you do have to wonder if he's sort of, maybe, gaming for vice president.”

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Pataki is not the first “pro-choice” Republican to run for president.  Giuliani (who supported partial birth abortion) and Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (another potential 2016 candidate, who supports abortion during the first trimester) ran in 2008. Twelve years earlier, both California Gov. Pete Wilson and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter supported abortion-on-demand. Arlen Specter later left the party and became a Democrat.

In 1988, General Alexander Haig opposed a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So did Texas Gov. John Connally in 1980.

George H.W. Bush supported abortion and voted for Planned Parenthood funding early in his career but changed his position by the time he ran for president the second time, in 1988.

President Gerald Ford was the last Republican nominee to proclaim himself “pro-choice.” 

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Ireland ‘defied God’ by voting for gay ‘marriage’: Cardinal Burke

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By Pete Baklinski

OXFORD, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Cardinal Raymond Burke lamented how formerly Catholic Ireland has gone further than the pagans in the pre-Christian days of old and “defied God” by calling homosexual behavior “marriage” in the referendum last week.

“I mean, this is a defiance of God. It’s just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage,” he told the Newman Society, Oxford University’s Catholic organization, in an address Wednesday about the intellectual heritage of Pope Benedict XVI. The Tablet, Britain’s liberal Catholic newspaper, reported his remarks.

On Friday, 1.2 million Irish people voted to amend the country’s constitution to say: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” A little over 734,000 people voted against the proposal. 

Burke said that he could not understand “any nation redefining marriage.”

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The cardinal also emphasized the important role that parents play in protecting their children in a culture increasingly hostile to God’s laws. “The culture is thoroughly corrupted, if I may say so, and the children are being exposed to this, especially through the internet,” he said. One practical piece of advice that he offered families was to put computers in public areas to prevent children from “imbib[ing] this poison that’s out there.”

During the same Oxford visit, but during a homily at a Mass the day before, Burke called marriage between a man and woman a “fundamental truth” that has been “ignored, defied, and violated.”

Burke warned during the homily of the dangers of “various ideological currents” and of “human deception and trickery which strives to lead us into error.”

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Why young Christians can’t grasp our arguments against gay ‘marriage’

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By John Stonestreet

May 28, 2015 (BreakPoint.org) -- For five years, Dr. Abigail Rine has been teaching a course on gender theory at George Fox University, an evangelical school in the Quaker tradition.

At the beginning of the semester, she tells her students that “they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.”

Writing at FirstThings.com recently, she related how five years ago it was easy to find readings that challenged and even offended the evangelical college students “considering the secular bent of contemporary gender studies.”

But today, things are different. “Students now,” she says, “arrive in my class thoroughly versed in the language and categories of identity politics; they are reticent to disagree with anything for fear of seeming intolerant—except, of course, what they perceive to be intolerant.”

And what do they find “intolerant”? Well, in her class, an essay entitled “What is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson, which was the beginning of the book “What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.”

In their article, Girgis, George, and Anderson defend what they call the conjugal view of marriage. “Marriage,” they write, “is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other … that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.” They defend this view against what they call the “revisionist view” of marriage, which redefines marriage to include, among other things, same-sex couples.

“My students hate it,” Dr. Rine wrote. They “lambast the article.” “They also,” she adds, “seem unable to fully understand the argument.” And again, these are evangelical students at an evangelical school.

The only argument for conjugal marriage they’ve ever encountered has been the wooden proof-texting from the Bible. And besides, wrote Rine, “What the article names as a ‘revisionist’ idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem ‘new’ to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.”

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As Rine points out “the redefinition of marriage began decades ago” when “the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination.”

And if marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction,” then it seems mean-spirited to Rine’s students to argue that marriage by its very nature excludes same-sex couples.

And where do students get the idea that marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction”? Well, everywhere—television, church, school, their homes, in youth groups.

Rine writes, “As I consider my own upbringing and the various ‘sex talks’ I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist.”

In other words, once you say, “I do,” you get “the gift” of sex which is presented as “a ‘gift’ largely due to its [erotic], unitive properties, rather than its intrinsic capacity to create life.” Even in the Church, children have become an optional add-on to married life rather than its primary purpose.

What can we do to win back our children, our churches, and the culture? In our recent book “Same Sex Marriage,” Sean McDowell and I lay out a game plan. We offer strategies for the short-term and the long-term, with the ultimate goal: re-shaping the cultural imagination towards what God intended marriage to be, starting with the church. Come to BreakPoint.org to pick up your copy.

As Chuck Colson once said in a BreakPoint commentary about marriage, “We Christians are very good at saying ‘No.’ But we’ve got to get better at saying ‘Yes’: showing how God’s plan for humanity is a blessing. That His ways, including faithful, life-giving marriage between one man and one woman, lead to human flourishing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point.

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