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:

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See list of staff and members of PAV

 

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 6, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Bobby Jindal: I’ll fight for religious freedom against Hollywood and Wall Street

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Although other Republican governors have “quickly cowered” when large corporations place the homosexual agenda ahead of religious liberty, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal vowed today to defend freedom of conscience from anyone – whether the assault comes from Hollywood liberals, activist judges, homosexual pressure groups, or even a traditional Republican ally like Big Business.

In a New York Times op-ed that combined constitutional philosophy with political strategy, Jindal wrote those who believe in traditional values are under assault from a well-funded alliance of secular “progressive” elitists from L.A. to Wall Street.

“Hollywood and the media elite are hostile to our values and they tip the scales to our liberal opponents at every opportunity,” he wrote. “Liberals have decided that if they can’t win at the ballot box, they will win in the boardroom.”

The two-term governor had a simple message for anyone who would try to get him to change his position on marriage or religious protections: “Save your breath.”

Jindal said he had already received corporate pushback as he fought for his state's pending Marriage and Conscience Act (H.B. 707).

Contrary to media caricatures of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts – like the one Jindal signed in 2010 – RFRA bills do not create a blanket right for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals. However, a devout business owner would not have to violate his, or her, conscience by participating in a same-sex “marriage” ceremony, a ritual with clearly religious implications.

“As a nation we would not compel a priest, minister or rabbi to violate his conscience and perform a same-sex wedding ceremony,” Jindal wrote. “But a great many Americans who are not members of the clergy feel just as called to live their faith through their businesses.”

Jindal's proposed H.B. 707 would add an additional layer of legal protection by preventing the state from denying state funding, licenses, or taking any “adverse action” against business owners who refused to participate in or recognize same-sex “marriages.”

The bill does not forbid gay “marriage” statewide – another, popular law already does that. But David Badash wrote at The New Civil Rights Movement that under the bill's terms, for instance, “Your employer doesn't have to extend medical coverage to your spouse.”

That has not made corporate interests, which often favor left-leaning social policies, happy.

Jindal linked to a letter from James M. Driesse, the Senior State Executive of IBM, who clearly linked its economic participation in Louisiana with Jindal's revising the law.

“IBM has made significant investment” in the state, Driesse wrote, but allowing businesses to deny same-sex “marriages” for religious reasons “will create a hostile environment.”

“IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law,” the letter warned.

Jindal, who is a likely 2016 presidential hopeful, said he is “certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will” follow suit, “but they will not deter me.”

Instead, they should be joining what had once been a three-legged stool of social, economic, and national security conservatives fighting against the Left, he said.

“The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence,” he wrote. “The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly.”

He added that denying religious freedom would rend our fraying social fabric. “A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us,” he counseled. “That’s why religious freedom laws matter.”

His op-ed immediately generated angry remarks from the Left and sighs of recognition on the Right.

Travis Weber, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council told LifeSiteNews that Jindal is “correct that corporations have to do some soul-searching to see if they truly support religious freedom for all, or if they are prepared to tell some religious believers their claims aren’t worth as much as others.”

“Big Business needs to remember that the many Americans who support its services and buy its products will observe how it treats and talks about their deeply held beliefs. All they are asking is to be left alone by the government to freely live out these beliefs in their lives and businesses,” Weber told LifeSiteNews.

“Governor Jindal recognizes this,” he said. “Big Business should do the same.”

Voices on the Left pursued their well-worn line, accusing Jindal of aiding discrimination and giving sanction to bigotry. The feminist, and often vulgar, website Wonkette.com riffed, “This is an important, serious religion in the United States, the God Hates Fags religion, and it deserves to be protected!”

But Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said that Jindal walked the line between conscience and charity perfectly, acting as “both a defender of religious liberty and an opponent of unjust discrimination.”

The Catholic spokesman called the governor's “willingness to publicly chastise corporations, from Wal-Mart to Wall Street, that have jumped on board the gay-marriage bandwagon” as “perhaps the boldest and most refreshing part of Jindal's essay.”

Economic freedom alone is not enough to maintain liberty, he said. “A free society depends as much on the virtue of its citizens as it does any factor.”

Conservative writer Dan Calabrese seemed pleased that “if the radical gay lobby or terrified Chamber of Commerce weenies try to bully Jindal into changing” the law, “they're apparently not going to get very far.”

When corporations demanded RFRA bills be vetoed or gutted, other Reublican governors – Mike Pence of Indiana and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas – “folded like cheap suits,” he wrote.

Yet there was no great difference in the underlying principles of those state bills and the pending bill Jindal has so strongly championed, he said. “Jindal just explains it better.”

Calabrese “challenges conservatives to stop being such cowards in the face of liberal/media pressure on issues like this” and “counter their lies.”

“What Jindal understands is that you treat the radical gay mob the same way you treat a bully on the schoolyard,” he said. “You stand up to them. You refuse to be intimidated.”

Donohue agreed. “He gets it,” he said. “Hopefully he will inspire others to get it as well.”

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Patricia Jannuzzi
Fr. Peter West

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A priest’s response to the gay activist who tried to silence a Catholic teacher for opposing his agenda

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West

Editor’s note: On April 2, Father Peter West, a Catholic priest and pro-life leader, wrote an open letter at MyCentralJersey.com to Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon defending Catholic teacher Patricia Jannuzzi after she was suspended by her Catholic school for criticizing the homosexual agenda. The newspaper ran a response to Father West on the same day by Scott Lyons, Sarandon’s nephew and a former student at Jannuzzi’s school.

The following letter is Father West’s full response to Lyons, published with his permission. A shorter version ran at MyCentralJersey.com on April 17.

Dear Scott Lyons,

In your letter campaigning against Patricia Jannuzzi, you said you hoped to start a dialogue. Dialogue is good, but what you call “dialogue” is really more like pressure tactics which led to Patricia fearing the loss of her job. Her statements were bold and controversial and would have been interesting dialogue for a classroom discussion. However, your campaign stifled “dialogue” through intimidation.

You may think this statement, "We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity,” was offensive and violated modern standards of political correctness, but it is absolutely consistent with what Pope Francis and the Catholic Church teach. Pope Francis said, “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity,” and “the family is…a remedy against social fragmentation.” Societies that accept the homosexual agenda are in danger of extinction.

Patricia’s comment that "homosexual behavior is a choice ... sometimes violently taught" affirms Catholic teaching: homosexual orientation is not chosen, but behavior is. Choose to be chaste or choose to fulfill sexual desires in disordered ways. Her statements are correct and although they offend you, they are not reason enough for firing from a Catholic school. Patricia may have used some hyperbole using the term “violently taught,” but she was essentially correct about this too.

Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen co-authored a book called After the Ball; How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's. The strategy advocated was a technique called "jamming" -- public smearing of Christians or others who oppose the homosexual agenda. You applied this very tactic to Patricia Jannuzzi with your Aunt Susan’s support. Principal Jean Kline, Msgr. Seamus Brennan, and Bishop Bootkoski cooperated in your efforts by buckling to the pressure. They should have had Patricia’s back; instead they threw her under the proverbial bus. Had there not been a campaign by faithful Catholics and other people of good will, Patricia Jannuzzi would have lost her job.

When you compare beheadings and gay relationships, brutal violence is obviously a far greater evil. But both violence and the attack on the foundation of the family, through the attack on marriage as a union between one man and one woman, are evils. Pope Francis explained this as well: "The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life. These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself."

Scott, the big picture here is the message of love, repentance and salvation preached by Jesus Christ. Patricia Jannuzzi didn’t judge homosexuals, she judged lifestyle choices. Though we must treat persons who struggle with a homosexual orientation with compassion, we can never approve of disordered behaviors. Catholic leaders should not be afraid to boldly proclaim and defend the truth. When Patricia Jannuzzi did so, it was easy for your supporters to isolate and vilify her with hate speech calling her a "vile bigot who got what she deserved."

Though your tone is much more reasonable now, your campaign against Patricia Jannuzzi has successfully intimidated many Catholic teachers. Even though Patricia has been reinstated, Immaculata High School, Immaculate Conception Parish, and the Diocese of Metuchen still act as if she has done something terribly wrong. They owe her an apology for what they put her through.

They should question how Immaculata graduates end up becoming homosexual activists who fight against Church teaching and intimidate others into silence. Instead, they’re more worried about not offending anyone. Truth will cause division. (Mat. 10, 34-36) While it is true that Bishop Bootkoski did not say anything denying Church teaching, nor did he do anything to defend it. This situation is extremely disturbing: silence is complicity.

I believe those in charge of your formation failed you by failing to impart a proper understanding and love of the Catholic faith, especially her beautiful teaching about God’s plan for human sexuality, marriage, and the family. I wonder if you have even heard of Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I believe that God’s judgment on those who failed to impart the faith to you will be more severe than yours.

Scott, I believe Jesus loves you, but he loves you too much to leave you in your sins. Jesus praised John the Baptist as the greatest man of his times. (Mat. 11, 11) In the spirit of John the Baptist, who told Herod that it was not right for him to live with his brother’s wife (Mark 6,18), I say to you it is not right that you should live with another man as a husband.

Love, indeed, is the highest good, but following the moral law including on matters of sexual morality is part of requirements of love. Jesus said, "If you love me, obey my Commandments.” (John 14, 15) My hope is that you will eventually come to understand the emptiness of seeking satisfaction apart from God's will, repent of your sins, and begin to follow Christ's teachings, including those regarding chastity, and that you return to the practice of your Catholic faith.

Sincerely,

Fr. Peter West

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March-related events will begin at noon, with a rally from 12:00-1:00, and then the march itself at 1:00. Participants will gather at the mall in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
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Thousands to join March for Marriage in D.C. Sat. under shadow of Supreme Court hearing

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By Dustin Siggins

April 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - On Saturday, thousands of pro-family Americans are expected to flock to Washington, D.C. for the third annual March for Marriage.

Organized by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), March-related events will begin at noon, with a rally from 12:00-1:00, and then the march itself at 1:00. Participants will gather at the mall in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.  

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex "marriage," or if states should be allowed to make their own marriage policy.

The will take place in the shadow of what may be the most consequential marriage hearing in American history. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex "marriage," or if states should be allowed to make their own marriage policy.

A related rally, sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom, will take place before the March. The NOM rally will begin at noon Eastern Time, with the March starting at 1:00 Eastern. The rally and March will be live-streamed by LifeSiteNews, the March for Marriage’s official media partner.

"We expect thousands of people to attend,” Frank Shubert, National Political Director of NOM, told LifeSiteNews. “This is the third March for Marriage and will attract the largest group of marriage supporters yet. We have people coming from all over the country."

"Imagine if we could go back in time and rally the pro-life community in Washington before the infamous Roe v Wade case was heard by the justices of the Supreme Court. We have that opportunity now to preserve marriage.

“The March for Marriage is our last, best opportunity to show the justices of the Court, the media and opinion leaders in Washington that the American people continue to support marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and demand that their votes and values be respected and upheld."

The March has drawn dozens of sponsors and coalition partners, as well as national voices on marriage.

When: Saturady April 25, from noon-1:00
Where: The mall in front of the U.S. Capitol

 

Speakers include:

Brian Brown
Senator Ruben Diaz
Reverend Brandon B. Porter Prelate
Josh Duggar
Rev. Bill Owens
Rev. Jim Garlow
Tom Minnery
Mat Staver
Archbishop Kurtz
Jennifer Marshall
Carlos Luis Vargas Silva
Bishop Anne Gimenez (closing Prayer)
Cathy Ruse

Sponsors include:

ActRight
Alliance Defending Freedom
American Principles Project
Catholic Vote
Christian Union
Citizen Link
Crown Them With Glory
Manhattan Declaration
Tradition, Family, Property
USCCB

Coalition Partners:

2nd Vote
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Centro Biblico Internacional
Coalition of African-American Pastors
FRC
Focus on the Family
FRC Action
Heritage Foundation
Human Life International
Liberty Counsel
MRC
North Carolina Family Policy Council
NC Values Coalition
The Family Foundation (VA)
Wisconsin Family Action

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