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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Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish

Did Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood lie about illegal organ harvesting?

Ben Johnson and Andy Parrish
By Ben Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Somebody in the abortion industry is breaking a Minnesota law that bans the sale or donation of aborted babies' body parts.

That's the conclusion of numerous elected officials, who are renewing calls to investigate Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos about the harvesting and sale of fetal organs and tissue.

Dozens of Republican state legislators asked Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to investigate the abortion provider after the Center for Medical Progress released videos detailing the little-known practice. The sale or donation of fetal organs or tissue is illegal under state law.

The local Planned Parenthood affiliate - Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) - said that it had never been involved in fetal tissue donation.

However, in the latest video released by CMP, the head of a biological company says it has an abortion facility operating in Minnesota.

Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), says she procures fetal organs and tissue from abortion facilities "in San Diego, in Oregon, in Minnesota, and soon we will be starting in New Jersey and Philadelphia."

At the heart of the issue is a Minnesota state law that requires abortion facilities to dispose of aborted babies' bodies "by cremation, interment by burial, or in a manner directed by the commissioner of health." To do otherwise is a misdemeanor.

Thus, ABR's research would be illegal in any case.

As it turns out, ABR has been registered as a non-profit in the state of Minnesota since April 2009. Its location is listed as 1010 N. Dale St. in St. Paul.

A former ABR employee, Deborah Heap Tierney, listed her occupation on LinkedIn as "procurement specialist" at the company, in Minnesota, from February 2009 - two months before ABR's business filing as a nonprofit - to November 2009.

Investigators want to know: If organ donation was illegal, what was she procuring, and who acted as ABR's supplier?

"Why is the nation's largest and oldest fetal procurement company in Minnesota in the first place, let alone four miles from Planned Parenthood Minnesota?" said State Representative Mary Franson, R-08B, in a statement sent exclusively to LifeSiteNews. "Minnesota law requires a dignified and sanitary disposal of fetal remains. Sales or donation of fetal remains is not permitted."

"Advanced Bioscience Resources admits in a recent video that they procure fetal tissue in Minnesota. That alone is illegal and criminal," State Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-39B, told LifeSiteNews. "I am calling on Ramsey County Prosecutor John J. Choi to investigate these claims and if true to pursue criminal charges against them."

But what about Planned Parenthood? Did it tell the truth when it denied ever having participated in ABR's organ harvesting business?

State Rep. Matt Dean, R-38B, sent a letter on July 24 to Sarah Stoesz, the president and CEO of PPMNS, to find out. He asked for the affiliate's "official policy on the donation of fetal tissue."

Echoing Cecile Richards, Stoesz replied on August 3, "I want to be absolutely clear." Although Planned Parenthood "believes strongly in the value of fetal tissue research...PPMNS does not participate, and has never participated, in any type of tissue donation program that would involve providing fetal remains (with reimbursement of expenses or otherwise) to any commercial vendor or to any other entity for the purpose of medical research."

When asked for official policy, she responded, "PPMNS does not and never has donated tissue of any kind and, accordingly, does not have a policy dedicated to this issue."

She then said that one of its policies requires that state law be followed on the disposal of aborted babies' remains, and the policy was adopted in 2011. She sent a copy of their policy, which was signed by Stoesz and two other PPMNS officials on July 27 - three days after Dean's letter.

Gov. Mark Dayton accused Republicans of "full-time grandstanding," saying, "As far as I'm concerned there's no basis for an investigation at taxpayer expense into a private nonprofit organization that has stated they don't engage in those practices here in Minnesota."

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith - who was part of the Planned Parenthood affiliate's leadership - agrees. Smith is a former vice president for external affairs at PPMNS.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-31A today told LifeSiteNews through a spokesperson that the state's Democratic leadership has turned a blind eye to a burgeoning scandal, and justice must be enforced at once.

"Speaker Daudt is outraged by the developments with Planned Parenthood," Susan Closmore, state House Republican communications director, told LifeSiteNews. "Speaker Daudt has called on Governor Mark Dayton to investigate this issue."

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Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

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Vatican: It’s ‘impossible’ for transsexuals to serve as godparents

Sofia Vazquez-Mellado
By Sofia Vazquez-Mellado

MADRID, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews)- After Alex Salinas, a woman living as a man in San Fernando, Spain, claimed her parish priest had allowed her to be the “godfather” for the baptism of her two nephews, local bishop of Cadiz and Ceuta, Don Rafael Zornoza took the matter up with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The response, which strongly affirms Church teaching on the nature of gender, was published yesterday on the diocese’s website.

“On this particular case I inform you of the impossibility of admission,” read the response. “Transsexual behavior publicly reveals an opposition to the moral demand of resolving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sex. It is therefore evident that said person does not comply with the requirement of leading a life of faith and to the function of godparent (CIC, can 874 §1,3).”

“This is not seen as discrimination, but merely as the recognition of an objective lack of requirements that by their nature are necessary to take on the ecclesiastic responsibility of being a godparent,” it concluded.

The prelate explained how Pope Francis has confirmed this doctrine on several occasions and quoted his last encyclical Laudato Si: “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.”

Bishop Zornoza also quoted Benedict XVI on the “ecology of man,” as “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father,” continued Zornoza quoting Francis. “Thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology.”

The bishop went on to explain that if parents are unable to find a suitable person to qualify as godparent, the priest can baptize the child without godparents, “which are not necessary to celebrate this sacrament.”

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“Words have been attributed [to me] which I have not pronounced,” he noted, referring to the media falsely reporting his approval of Salinas as godfather. He explained he had reached out to the Congregation “due to the complexity and the media relevance this matter has reached, and keeping in mind the possible pastoral consequences of any decision on the matter.”

Local media reported that the baptism, scheduled for this September, has been cancelled, and that Salinas’ sisters will not baptize their children until the bishop changes his mind.

Salinas, who had declared herself to be a “firm believer,” has now claimed to be an “apostate” due to the Church’s rejection, reported Spain’s EFE.

In a petition started by change.org, Salinas wrote she didn’t understand why “the Catholic Church denies me the possibility of being a godfather” if Spanish authorities have already changed her name from Alexandra to Alexander in her official IDs.

The petition falsely celebrated a “victory” after Salinas claimed she was being allowed as godfather.

Mainstream media, which initially reported Salina’s “celebration,” have not yet reported on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s response.

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Forced abortions at Canadian clinics central to cover-up of 12-yr-old’s abuse: pro-life leaders

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By Pete Baklinski

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, September 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A renowned Canadian judge is calling for an investigation into why two Canadian abortion centers failed to report an underaged girl who was forced by her stepfather to undergo two abortions after being repeatedly raped by him, one at the former Morgentaler Clinic in Newfoundland and the other at a Winnipeg, Manitoba hospital.

Retired Manitoba justice Ted Hughes told CBC News that the province of Manitoba should investigate how a 12-year-old girl with a previous record of abortion could be given another abortion and not have providers bring the child to the attention of welfare officials.

"I'm surprised that child-and-family-services, the ministry, isn't taking an aggressive stand. I would have expected that, because, unquestionably this child was in need of protection," said Hughes, who received national attention last year when he made 62 recommendations for improving the child welfare system after investigating the 2005 murder of 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

"Do I think this should be looked into? I certainly do,” he said.

After making these concerns public yesterday, Manitoba's Office of the Children's Advocate stated on the same day that it has launched an investigation, but that its findings will not be made public.

Pro-life leaders say the girl’s experience at the hands of abortionists is an indictment of the entire industry.

“Abortion centers are not health care centers. They are businesses, and their product is dead babies, professionally emptied uteruses. So they have a vested financial interest in not asking any questions,” said Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, to LifeSiteNews.

On Friday, the girl’s 35-year-old stepfather was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexual assault that began in 2011 when the girl was 11 and continued for over two years, during which the girl became pregnant twice. The stepfather traveled across country for the first forced abortion at the former Morgentaler Clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He then took the girl closer to home for the second forced abortion at the Health Sciences Centre in the Women's Hospital in Winnipeg.

"He arranged abortions for both pregnancies, including cover stories," said Justice Christopher Martin at the sentencing, describing the man’s crimes as "shockingly calculated and cruel” and “among the worst nightmare scenarios.”

The man was arrested in 2012 after sexually assaulting his step-daughter’s best friend and the girl’s mom after breaking into their home. He cannot be identified to protect the victims.

The young girl, who is now 15, called both abortions "murder" in a victim-impact statement.

While legal and human rights experts are busy pointing fingers at who might be ultimately responsible for failing to help this girl as a victim of sexual assault, hardly anyone wants to point a finger at the abortion industry itself.

But Canadian pro-life leaders say the blame for this girl’s ongoing abuse rests primarily with the abortion establishment.

“By providing this abortion service for this young victim without asking any questions and without bringing in social services, these abortion providers were essentially protecting this incestuous stepfather and child rapist and setting up a situation that allowed him to continue abusing this poor little girl. They were protecting the perpetrator, not the victim,” Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews.

Douglas said that what this girl experienced in the hands of abortion providers proves that the abortion industry does not really care about women.

“It says they don’t care anymore for this young girl than they do for the little victims that were in her womb. They don’t care about the girl, they don’t care about the baby. All they do is provide death,” she said.

Natalie Sonnen, Executive Director of LifeCanada, said that legalized abortion in Canada has created a situation that “favours the abuser, without doubt.”

“Thousands of women and girls are susceptible to coercion by these men who get away with their crimes and are propped up by the industry. It is an absolute tragedy that these girls or women can be forcibly aborted and then sent back into the abusive relationship again. We have known for years that coerced abortion is a huge problem that our society refuses to address, for fear of offending the sacrosanct abortion establishment,” she told LifeSiteNews.

Various attempts have been made by pro-life politicians to introduce bills that would offer women some protection from coerced abortion, but with no success.

In 2008, Alberta Conservative MP Ken Epp saw his bill titled The Unborn Victims of Violent Crime reach second reading before it was squelched by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was keeping his promise to steer clear of the abortion issue. The bill would have allowed for separate punishments for killing an unborn child in a violent attack on a pregnant mother.

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In 2010, Tory MP Rod Bruinooge introduced a private member’s bill in 2010 called Roxanne’s Law that would have made it an offense to coerce a woman to seek an abortion. The bill was named after Roxanne Fernando, a Winnipeg woman beaten to death by her boyfriend in 2007, after refusing to get an abortion. Again, following Harper’s lead, the bill was only supported by half of the Conservative caucus and a handful of Liberals and failed to pass first reading.

Jonathan Van Maren, communications director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, criticized politicians and the abortion industry for opposing the above bills that could have helped the young girl if they had been passed.

“The term ‘pro-choice’ rings hollow for many women and girls who are coerced into having an abortion, or feel that they are pressured into having an abortion against their will. Yet, the abortion industry and most of our politicians opposed Roxanne's Law, which would have made it illegal to do so.”

Van Maren said that far from securing women’s freedom, abortion-on-demand has reached a point where it is now being used as a “tool of oppression, not only for the pre-born child who is, as this poor girl tragically recognized, murdered, but also for those women and girls who bear the scars of their lost children and the trauma of being forced into this so-called government funded service against their will.”

Mike Schouten, Campaign Director for WeNeedALaw.ca, said that Canada’s continual resistance to regulating abortion has manifested itself in what he called a “real life tragedy.”

“While it is understandable that we focus on the rapist and the callousness of his crimes we also do well to collectively ask ourselves how we have come to live in a society that cares so little about the health and well-being of women, and in this case a young girl,” he told LifeSiteNews.

"This tragedy is a direct result of individualizing abortion to the point where the maximum amount of energy is put into protecting the so called ‘right to choose’ and little or no effort into actually caring for the health of this young girl."

"This sad story is another indication that a time of reckoning is coming whereby Canadians come to understand that abortion does not liberate a woman. Rather, it brings a host of new problems, and in this tragic case allowed for the continued abuse of a vulnerable young girl,” he said.

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