The Pontifical Academy of Sciences’ scandalous ‘brain death’ advocacy
May 20, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Mercedes Wilson, formerly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, now a member of the newly-founded John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family, has described her efforts to organize a conference under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to discuss the pros and cons of the “brain death” criterion for human death within the framework of Catholic theology, philosophy, and magisterial teaching. Wilson writes:
[In 2005] I submitted to the Academy a list of potential presenters that included scientists, physicians, philosophers, and theologians, all of whom are in agreement with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
The Academy submitted its list, the makeup of which was quite alarming. Some of them had been notorious opponents of the teachings of the Catholic Church. In fact, one of the presenters admitted to me moments before the conference began that “brain dead” donors are alive, but since their quality of life is so poor, it was better for their organs to be used to save someone’s life. I asked him, Do you believe in God? And he replied, No! What’s more, some of the presenters at the conference were personally involved in the business of vital organ transplantation.
Some of the doctors who were to address conference participants were actively transplanting organs. The conflict of interest was as obvious as it was serious. I suggested that the presenters should have impeccable credentials in the field of science, philosophy, and theology and at the very least be supportive of the teachings of the Magisterium, which respects life from the moment of conception until its natural end.
My list of presenters awakened a contentious period of negotiations. I was flatly told that if I did not agree to accept an even number of presenters, the meeting would not take place. Wanting the conference to convene in the hope of getting the truth known, I reluctantly agreed to that condition. I was later told that I would be required to fund at least 70% of the cost of the conference. If I did not agree to do so, the important and potentially historic conference would not take place.
Wilson goes on to describe how she raised the funds to organize the conference only to find that the Academy refused to publish the proceedings:
During the conference, there were heated debates between the two forces … Our presenters emphasized that the leadership of the Catholic Church cannot support a declaration of true death unless there is no doubt that the soul has separated from the body. Pope John Paul II stated in his written remarks, February 3, 2005 (read in his absence due to illness), to the participants of this Pontifical Academy of Sciences conference entitled “The Signs of Death”:
Within the horizon of Christian anthropology, it is well known that the moment of death for each person consists in the definitive loss of the constitutive unity of body and spirit. Each human being, in fact, is alive precisely insofar as he or she is ‘corpore et anima unus’ (body and soul united) (Gaudium et Spes, n. 14), and he or she remains so for as long as the substantial unity-in-totality subsists.
At the end of the conference, a majority of the participants concluded that “brain death” is not true death. As long as the heart is beating, the donor is alive and his soul has not departed from the body. The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences asked to review the papers of all the participants, as he intended to include their individual contributions during the discussions, in order to publish them as part of the proceedings.
Sadly, two months later, April 2, 2005 our dear Holy Father John Paul II died. The proceedings of the conference, however, were prepared by the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and were ready for publication in November 2005. Soon thereafter, much to our surprise, we were informed that the proceedings would not be published by order of “higher authorities” within the Vatican. Nevertheless, the presenters who concluded that “brain death” was not true death, agreed to publish the proceedings themselves with the assistance of the National Research Council of Italy. The title of the book is FINIS VITAE: Brain Death is NOT True Death.
Most Catholics would be scandalized by this report. But, sad to say, the story gets worse. Wilson concludes her testimony with this:
Surprisingly, on September 11, 2006, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was asked by “higher authorities” to convene another conference with the same title (“The Signs of Death”) and had the audacity to relegate the conference of February 3-4, 2005 requested by His Holiness John Paul II as a “pre-conference.”
Only two of the participants who had opposed the “brain death” criteria of the 2005 conference were invited to participate at the new conference. The rest of the participants of the September 11, 2006 conference were notorious supporters of “brain death” criteria and some of them were involved in the marketing of human organs. Curiously, the 2006 conference and proceedings were highly publicized and fully funded by the Vatican. The published proceedings of that conference recognized “brain death” as true death.
The Pontifical Academy’s endorsement of the bogus “brain death” criterion for human death has had far-reaching consequences. It has definitely played a part in the Vatican’s willingness to accommodate the anti-life policies of the People’s Republic of China. Speaking at an organ donation and transplantation conference held in Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said, “Pope Francis has love and confidence in China; and China trusts Pope Francis.” In light of the evidence presented in this article, I hope that it is clear that the same anti-culture of death that has taken over the hearts and minds of so many of our secular leaders has also taken over the hearts and minds of many of the Catholic scientists whose duty it is to give good counsel to the Popes in matters pertaining to natural science.
Hugh Owen is the Director of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation and co-author of GMO Food: Boon or Bane? which is available from the Kolbe Center at www.kolbecenter.org.