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Francis links abortion with abuse, yet press doesn’t follow: GetReligion, April 16, 2014 May 9, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Abuse, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Italian press has placed an interesting interpretation on Pope Francis’ Friday comments on the clergy abuse. It reports that in the pope’s mind clergy abuse of children is tied to the “abomination” of abortion. Look for this theme in the Anglo-American press and tell me if you can find it? I can’t.

Francis’ comments to the International Catholic Child Bureau meeting at the Vatican on April 11 received wide spread coverage. CNN reported:

Pope Francis made his strongest condemnation yet of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on “men of the church” who harm children.

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” the Pope said in remarks quoted by Vatican Radio.

As an aside, I chose CNN’s story over the others because of its aesthetic and journalist quality. It is really quite good. To my mind Daniel Burke is one of the most highly skilled writers covering religion and this article shows why he deserves that accolade. The language is tight, conveying the story in a minimum of words.  The story is told well with very little fluff or filler. The article is balanced — offering comments from abuse activists while also allowing Francis to speak. The author’s views on the issue can be discerned by the layout of the story — paragraph placement is one of the key elements in constructing an article — yet there is no preaching or bombast in a topic (clergy abuse of children) that is often spoilt by opinion masking as news. A great job all round.

Yet, Burke is back in America and must rely on material provided by others when reporting on Rome. Has he been given the full story by his stringers in Rome?

For on the same day as the pope spoke to the International Catholic Child Bureau, he addressed a pro-life group. For the Italian press, the messages Francis offered on the clergy abuse scandal and abortion were intertwined. The lede to the story ”Pedofilia, il Papa chiede perdono per gli abusi commessi dai sacerdoti” in the Milan-based Corriere della Sera makes this clear. (N.b. with a circulation of over 350,000 Corriere della Sera is one of Italy’s largest and most influential newspapers. It’s main competitors are the Rome’s la Repubblica and Turin’s La Stampa.) It states:

Pope Francis has asked “forgiveness” for the child abuse perpetrated by men of the Church. In unambiguous tones, Francis said: “I am called to this burden” to “ask for forgiveness”, and to assure you that we will not take any “step back” in addressing this problem and seeing that “penalties will be imposed.” Children should be protected and have a family, the pontiff said. “They have a right to grow up with a father and mother.” And before that children must be protected in the womb, he added, because “the unborn child is the innocent par excellence.” Drawing upon the words of the Second Vatican Council Francis added “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

The Corriere della Sera article gives a fuller picture of Francis’ views on the clergy abuse scandal than the CNN piece by stressing Francis’ argument that both are crimes against children and against God.


It could be argued that a pope condemning abortion is not news. However, Francis was the center of a media frenzy last year when in an interview the the Jesuit publicationAmerica, he said:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.” …“The teaching of the church … is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

This was interpreted by some media outlets as evidence that Francis would change, perhaps not the substance, but certainly the tone of church teachings. The New York Times lede to its September 19 story on the interview followed this line:

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

Why the silence from the Anglo-American press on the pope’s latest abortion comments? GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly has addressed the dichotomy between the coverage and reality of Francis’ views on abortion in other posts. Is there something in the mindset of American reporters that prevents them from making the link between abuse and abortion that the Corriere della Sera has made?

Vatican Radio and the Holy See Press Office / Vatican Information Service released reports on the addresses made by the pope, but these came out in separate stories. If all you had to work with were the press releases, connecting the dots may not have been obvious to US based reporters.

The “why” should also be examined in the context of “should”. Should CNN and other news outlets linked the abortion and abuse stories? Is this an editorial step too far byCorriere della Sera? Or have they offered the insight and context expected of quality newspapers?

My imperfect knowledge of the situation does not allow me to say CNN or the Corriere della Sera had it right. My instincts though tell me the Italian report gives a broader, and ultimately better, picture of what is actually happening in Rome.

Schiavo Redux: Get Religion, January 21, 2014 January 30, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion.
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A French court has ordered a Reims hospital to provide nutrition and hydration to 38-year old quadriplegic Vincent Lambert, who has been in a state of minimal consciousness (en état de conscience minimale) for five years following a motorcycle accident.

Last Thursday a tribunal administratif overruled the wishes of the hospital, Lambert’s wife and some of his siblings who wanted to cut off intravenous feeding. The court sided with his parents and his other siblings, who as observant Catholics, objected to euthanizing him. Le Monde reports the Lambert case will reopen the contentious debate about euthanasia, the value of life and human dignity in France.

Have we not heard this before?

The Lambert case has a number of parallels with Terri Schiavo saga in America: a spouse ready to move on vs. Catholic parents not ready to let go; no clear statement of the patient’s wishes, conflicting medical terminology of persistent vegetative state v. minimal consciousness; political intervention by Congress and partisan debates in the French parliament; and a high profile role played by Catholic bishops. While it is early days yet, the most striking difference is the different decisions reached by the courts.

In Florida the courts came down on the side of death, even though the presumption of the law is in favor of life, while in France they have chosen life, even though euthanasia is legal.

The hospital authorities can now appeal against the decision before France’s Constitutional Council. The French press reports the Lambert case comes amidst a growing social and political debate over legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. President Francois Hollande this week entered into the fray, saying he favored the legalization of euthanasia, but covered his bases by saying it was appropriate only under strict government scrutiny.

A 2005 law permits passive euthanasia, where a person causes death by withholding or withdrawing treatment necessary to maintain life. According to Aujourd’hui en France the court ruled against death as Lambert’s condition was not terminal.

Le tribunal a notamment «jugé que la poursuite du traitement n’était ni inutile, ni disproportionnée et n’avait pas pour objectif le seul maintien artificiel de la vie et a donc suspendu la décision d’interrompre le traitement». La juridiction a par ailleurs estimé que «c’est à tort que le CHU de Reims avait considéré que M. Lambert pouvait être regardé comme ayant manifesté sa volonté d’interrompre ce traitement».

The court’s ruling “held that continuing treatment was neither unnecessary nor disproportionate and was not intended only for the artificial preservation of life and accordingly suspended the decision to stop treatment.” The court further held that “it is wrong for [the hospital] to have decided that Mr. Lambert could have been regarded as having expressed a desire to discontinue treatment.”

Le Figaro explained the court in Chalons-en-Champagne ruled against ending Lambert’s life as he was neither “sick nor at the end of life … “, « ni malade ni en fin de vie ».

The French newspapers I have seen have done an excellent job is covering this story. The Aujourd’hui en France story quotes doctors and family members on both sides of the debate, a spokesman for the French Episcopal Conference, and the politician who introduced the 2005 euthanasia law to parliament.

Le Figaro and Le Monde are equally even handed in the sourcing of their stories and in the description of Lambert’s condition and the court ruling.

How different the French reporting on Vincent Lambert has been so far compared to the job the American press did with the Terri Schiavo case. It will be fascinating to see if the New York Times and other outlets on this side of the Atlantic pick up the story, and whether they use the phrase “brain dead” — a legal not medical term the French press have so far avoided.

First printed in Get Religion.

Missing Catholic voices in Belgium’s euthanasia debate: Get Religion, November 5, 2013 November 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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Let me commend to you an excellent article on a horrible subject.

The Associated Press story “Belgium considering unprecedented law to grant euthanasia for children, dementia patients” reports on moves by the ruling Socialist Party to permit doctors to euthanize children as well as adults with dementia. This report — long at 1000 words from a wire service — offers a balanced account on the move to extend the right to die to children.

It is thorough, balanced, provides context and expert analysis to allow a reader to make up his own mind. Yet, are some voices missing? The article opens with a question:

Should children have the right to ask for their own deaths?

It lays out the issue:

In Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering extending it to children — something that no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.

Advocates argue that euthanasia for children, with the consent of their parents, is necessary to give families an option in a desperately painful situation. But opponents have questioned whether children can reasonably decide to end their own lives. …

Provides context:

Belgium is already a euthanasia pioneer; it legalized the practice for adults in 2002. In the last decade, the number of reported cases per year has risen from 235 deaths in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. Doctors typically give patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart. …

And offers opinion from a Catholic archbishop and medical ethicists.

“It is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in key areas, such as getting married, but might (be able) to decide to die,” Catholic Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard testified. Charles Foster, who teaches medical law and ethics at Oxford University, believes children couldn’t possibly have the capacity to make an informed decision about euthanasia since even adults struggle with the concept.

“It often happens that when people get into the circumstances they had so feared earlier, they manage to cling on all the more,” he said. “Children, like everyone else, may not be able to anticipate how much they will value their lives if they were not killed.”

There are others, though, who argue that because Belgium has already approved euthanasia for adults, it is unjust to deny it to children. “The principle of euthanasia for children sounds shocking at first, but it’s motivated by compassion and protection,” said John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester. “It’s unfair to provide euthanasia differentially to some citizens and not to others (children) if the need is equal.” …

The AP’s sentiments are with those opposed to euthanizing children — closing with comments by an anti-euthanasia voice that lands a solid hit on those who call for death-choice. But it nevertheless offers both sides to the story and refrains from demonizing those with whom it disagrees. For a template on how to write a story about a contested moral issue, I would offer this piece.

Yet an American reader might question the use of the expert quotes. The commentary begins with a soft quote from the Catholic archbishop and then moves into a more rigorous back and forth on the topic between medical ethicists and physicians. Why do we not hear moral arguments from religious leaders? Where are the Catholic voices? (This is Belgium. after all.)

Selecting experts to respond to an issue is one way of shading a story — setting a dope against an expert, or a zealot against a rational voice is one way a newspaper can push the story in the direction it fancies. Should we then say the AP is unconcerned with the religious element to this story? Getting the soundbite out of the way from the archbishop before bringing in the important voices? Or, was there no faith voice comparable in stature to the ethicists and physicians available to speak?

There may be some of that present, but my sense is that the use of ethicists to discuss the issue rather than moral theologians reflects the state of the debate in a post-Christian society like Belgium. European anti-clericalism, the growing power of secularism coupled with the abuse scandals has driven the Catholic Church out of the public square in some parts of Europe.

A well-rounded Anglo-American or even French newspaper account of the debate on this issue would include faith voices. Not so in Belgium, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries or Germany where faith voices are heard less and less in the public square.The intellectual and political culture of those countries holds to the privatization of religion that does not welcome its insights into debates on public morality.

By including faith voices in moral debates in the Anglo-American press, are we privileging religion? Or are we giving it is fair place in the debate? Is the expected faith voice a political or intellectual choice? By that I mean do we hear from the Catholic churchman, Rabbi, or Protestant theologian because of the position accorded them by society — or because of the strength of their arguments?

As a journalistic issue, should we expect to hear religious voices opine on moral topics in irreligious societies?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. First published at Get Religion.

Removing religious voices from ‘right to die’ debate: Get Religion, August 5, 2013 August 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The Court of Appeal for England and Wales has upheld the blanket ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide, holding there is no “right to die” under British and European Community law. The court in Nicklinson & Anor, R (on the application of) v A Primary Care Trust [2013] EWCA Civ 961 held there was no legal, moral or social need to rethink Parliament’s prohibition on euthanasia.

However, if you turned to The Independent to find out what happened you might well be excused for thinking this was an exercise in unthinking, hard-hearted judicial tyranny. The article “Barbaric and inhumane: Paralysed man Paul Lamb hits back after judges dismiss his right-to-die appeal” is unbalanced and ill-informed. It may well be that The Independent wanted a news story to accompany an op-ed piece entitled “Comment: Case for assisted dying is overwhelming”, but I am hard pressed to tell which is news story and which is the special pleading of one of the parties.

The story opens with:

Britain’s right-to die laws are “barbaric and inhumane” a paralysed man said after three of the country’s most senior judges today rejected his appeal to be allowed assistance to help him end his own life.

Paul Lamb, 57, has spent the past 23 years receiving round-the-clock care following a car crash which left him with only a tiny degree of movement in his right arm. He said politicians were “scared to death” to bring the UK in line with other countries where assisted suicide was legal.

Having framed the story in terms of the feelings of one of the appellants the article states:

Mr Lamb said he had no plans to take his life at present. But he said: “I am doing this for myself as and when I need it. I’m doing it for thousands of other people living what can only be described as a hell. Many of them have been in touch with me begging me to continue this fight. The more it goes on the stronger I am getting,” he said.

This case tells us a great deal about the opinions of Paul Lamb and the British Humanist Association. It is not until the very last paragraph of the story that we hear the voice of someone who believes the court decidedly wisely. And we hear almost nothing as to what the court said and why it said it.

It was not as if the opinion lacked pull quotes. Paragraph 155 of the decision addresses the issues of judicial activism:

Parliament represents the conscience of the nation. Judges, however eminent, do not: our responsibility is to discover the relevant legal principles, and apply the law as we find it. We cannot suspend or dispense with primary legislation. In our constitutional arrangements such powers do not exist.

While paragraph 156 notes:

The legislation criminalising assisting suicide was recent and unequivocal; and even if it were constitutionally permissible (which it was not) for judges to intervene on the basis that Parliament had failed to address a desperately urgent social need, Parliament had not in fact done so in this particular case.

Facts and sober analysis are of secondary interest to the human interest story of Paul Lamb.  There is no balance, no nuance, no research, no context, no curiosity in this article. Nor is there any reference to the wider intellectual and theological debate taking place in Britain and across Europe on this issue.

I am not surprised, however, at this omission by The Independent. In an editorial printed last week on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s campaign to end predatory lending, the newspaper argued religion has no place in the public square.

The question is neither Archbishop Welby’s motivations nor his capabilities; as a former oil executive and a member of the mettlesome Commission on Banking Standards, he has both the background and the acuity to make an informed contribution. The question is whether he should do so.

For The Independent, even when we agree with him, the answer must be no. For all his fine qualities – many of which were on display in yesterday’s gracious, candid response to the Wonga embarrassment – Archbishop Welby is still the unelected leader of a minority institution which enjoys disproportionate influence on the basis of history alone. His efforts to reclaim the initiative and make the Church relevant again are understandable. But they are also erroneous.

This is no swipe at religion, but such matters are a private affair, and spiritual leaders – for all the authority they may have among their own – have no business in mainstream politics. That bishops still sit in the House of Lords is an anachronism that makes a mockery of British democracy. If Archbishop Welby wishes the Church of England to support credit unions, it is his prerogative to act accordingly, but there his legitimacy ends.

As an aside, the poor old CoE can’t seem to catch a break from the press.  When it questioned the policies of Margaret Thatcher conservative newspapers mouthed the same “religion is a private affair and has no place in politics” line. Now it is the left’s turn to take up the mantra.

The Independent has adopted an editorial line and carried it forward in its reporting that religion has no standing in the public square — that it is irrelevant to the life of the mind, to politics, to law and the social contract. Yet should not a newspaper report the whole of an issue, not merely those arguments and issues it finds congenial?

The result for journalism of this closed mind worldview can be seen in this article.

First printed in Get Religion.

Child euthanasia in the European press: Get Religion, June 13, 2013 June 13, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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A front page story in the Monday edition of the Brussels’s daily De Morgen on a Belgian Senate committee’s deliberations on whether the country’s laws should be extended to permit the euthanasia of children and dementia patients has created a buzz on pro-life and political websites.

American commentators picked up the story after the Presseurop website ran an English language summary of the story entitled: “Another step towards euthanasia for children”.

Writing in National Review Online Wesley J. Smith captured the outrage common amongst these stories. He observed:

Child euthanasia: It’s all over but the final voting in Belgium as the Parliament agrees across party lines that doctors should be able to euthanize children. From the Presseurop story:

“In the wake of several months of testimony from doctors and experts in medical ethics, a Belgian Senate committee will on June 12 examine the possible extension of the country’s euthanasia law to include children. “On both sides of the linguistic border, liberals and socialists appear to agree on the fact that age should not be regarded as a decisive criteria in the event of a request for euthanasia,”De Morgen. They want doctors to decide on a minor’s capacity for discernment on a case by case basis.”

Treating a child like a sick horse is what passes for “compassion” these days.

I have received several emails from GR readers alerting me to these posts. This is a powerful story — but is it a GetReligion story? I would say no — this is a political story with an ethical question serving as the MacGuffin.

What is a MacGuffin you ask? It is a plot device in fiction and film — the object of passion, desire or motivation for the action, but of little real consequence to the film. Wikipedia notes that Alfred Hitchcock explained the term “MacGuffin” in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: “[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the ‘MacGuffin’. It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers”.

Why is euthanasia a MacGuffin in this story? Is it not an ethical question whose coverage would fall under ambit of GR? Perhaps. But in this case what we are seeing from the commentators is reaction to a single story from a left-wing Dutch language newspaper that was summarized by a website for an English-speaking audience. And the title served as a great hook too.

If you move outside of the De Morgen story what you find is the euthanasia argument is part of a the larger story of the dysfunction of the coalition government in Belgium. The Liberals and Socialists want to relax the law to allow under 18s to have the right to kill themselves — they still will not be able to drink, vote or smoke but would be able under law to be adjudged competent as to whether they want to live. The other coalition parties — the Christian Democrats and centrist parties object to the change, arguing this was not part of the manifesto that formed the coalition. The left is soliciting support from the Flemish nationalists and the Greens — currently in opposition — to supplant the center right coalition partners — and they want to do this before the next general election so the issue does not dominate the political debates.

The French language Brussels daily, Le Soir explains that:

(The center-right coalition party) CDH is slamming on the brakes, and (a second cener-right party) CD&V does not appreciate seeing their government allies take off without them, leaving them high and dry. This was the case in 1990 regarding another ethical matter, abortion. There also, the Christian family of parties was isolated since the socialists and liberals could count on the nationalist and ecologist votes. This cobbled-together majority left a bad taste.

“The work undertaken in the senate needs to continue in order to pull together a consensus in the government majority”, confides Benoît Lutgen. The CDH president emphasizes that in addition, this ethical matter does not appear in the general government policy declaration. “Having each party go off with its own partisan shopping list is out of the question. We don’t each vote for whatever strikes our fancy. I am requesting in regard to this text a consensus among party presidents.” And if not? “We have not yet gotten to that point”, adds Lutgen.

Wouter Beke adopted the same position: “No patchwork majority in this ethical matter.” What if, due to lack of consensus, it had to be done? At this point in the discussions in committee, this is the most likely scenario. “It would cause problems within the majority”, admits the MR.

Taken as a whole, the press coverage in Belgium gives a well rounded account of the political and faith issues at play. However, you will not find all points expressed in a single article. Liberal papers do a great job presenting the pro-Euthanasia perspective, while conservative and Catholic papers present to the pro-life arguments and issues. They are fulfilling their responsibilities under the European advocacy model of journalism — where there is no pretense of balance or impartiality. This would be a GetReligion story if an Anglo-American newspaper — committed to the classical liberal school of journalism — wrote the sort of story we find in De Morgen or Le Soir where one perspective is offered or if a particular point of view is privileged.

This is also a cautionary tale about the advocacy press. You can trust what you read, but remember you are not getting the full story.

First printed at Get Religion

Sydney churches lobby parliament to defeat euthanasia bill: The Church of England Newspaper, May 19, 2013 p 6. May 22, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Church leaders in New South Wales called for the rejection of a private members bill that would legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide, urging parliament to support palliative care.

“This is a dangerous bill. If enacted, the bill will redefine the value of the lives of some people as not worth living. Our challenge as a society is to transform the experience of people who are disabled or dying, not to intervene to end their lives,” the President of the NSW Council of Churches, Dr Ross Clifford, said on 8 May 2013.

Greens Party MLC Cate Faehrmann on 2 May 2013 presented “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill” to the NSW Legislative Council for debate. Supporters stated the bill would ensure that a patient who has a terminal illness and who is experiencing unacceptable pain or suffering can lawfully receive assistance to end their life if that is their wish.

The bill states that to receive assistance to kill themselves a patient must be: at least 18 years old, be suffering from a terminal illness that is causing severe pain or distress unacceptable to the patient, be fully mentally capable and able to make informed decisions, be a resident of NSW, and have received counseling on other options, including palliative care.

NSW President of Dying with Dignity, Richard Mills said “This legislation provides for people who are suffering terribly and with no prospects for recovery the choice to determine when their life should end,” he said, adding the bill reflected “community attitudes” toward euthanasia.

“Advances in palliative care make assisted death unnecessary. Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on reviews of every death by euthanasia, the NSW Government should improve resources for palliative care so that terminally ill patients in our community receive the care and comfort they deserve at the end of life to minimize suffering,” Dr. Clifford countered.

In his 2010 Synod address the Archbishop of Sydney Dr. Peter Jensen said: “My fundamental problem with [euthanasia] is that we are sinners and we do not have the moral capacity to administer it. It is the myth of so-called voluntary euthanasia. At a moment in time of adversity and suffering we ask people to make up their minds about termination of a life. We cannot – we can never – know what is going through the mind of the sufferer or of those whose lives will be changed by the death of the patient.”

Dr Jensen said the assertion that autonomy was the paramount moral value was a”boldly sectarian and secularist assertion. It is based on the denial of original sin and it leads to a denial of the full humanity of others, since it asks us to be self-centred.”

“It really says that no matter how many cultures there are in modern Australia, the only culture which can be trusted to provide moral guidance is the culture of unbelief. And this is the horrifying culture of individualism, the culture, the cult rather, which is bleeding our society dry of compassion and friendship.” Dr Jensen said.

Interview, Issues, Etc.: April 25, 2013 April 28, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Issues Etc, Press criticism.
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Here is an to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 25 April 2013
Crossroads 4 25 13.mp3

GetReligion contributor George Conger discusses international media coverage of a Philadelphia abortionist charged with multiple counts of murder.

Direct download: Crossroads_4_25_13.mp3

Master of my Domain: Get Religion, April 23, 2013 April 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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… (T)he best persuaded of himself, so cramm’d, as he thinks, with excellencies that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him.

Twelfth Night, 2.3.150-152 (1623)

The counterrevolution has begun.

The press is pushing back against its critics over the Kermit Gosnell affair. Stung by the criticisms and the hypocrisies detailed by Mollie Hemingway on this website, Kirsten Powers at USA Today and other outlets, some have begun reporting on the murder trial of the Philadelphia abortionist. Other outlets in their op-ed sections havedefended their non-coverage or sought to deflect criticisms – – the New York Times‘ Tiller editorial is classic sleight-of-hand, substituting one story for another. “Nothing here to see folks. Move along.”

A few have embarked upon the high road. Writing in Religion Dispatches Diane Winston argues in “The Myth of News Media as Secularist Conspiracy” there has never been a golden era when reporters

provided smart, in-depth, contextualized coverage of religious leaders, issues, ideas, and communities.

In support of this contention, the article offers historical examples purporting to show the press has always done a poor job — missing stories, printing pablum in place of news or voicing prejudice such as H.L. Menken’s critique of Fundamentalism in his account of the Scope’s “monkey” trial or the “anti-Hindu coverage that ran through Western newspapers in the 1910s and 1920s.” The crux of her argument is that the problem is not a lack of:

trained religion reporters, but rather Americans’ widespread ignorance about religion. Religion is absent from many high school curricula and university classrooms, and many of us barely know the religious history of our own country much less the role of religion worldwide.

But her argument then pivots, stating:

Yet, I’m not convinced that improving the American educational system is really at the heart of Cannon’s plaint about religion coverage and his subsequent post on Kermit Gosnell.

Making more Americans aware of religion and historical incidents like an anti-Hindu press — a history of which I was not aware — would not have mattered in the Gosnell story as:

The Gosnell story is not a religion story, it’s a crime story. People with religious convictions may read their passions into it, but Gosnell did not seem to be motivated one way or the other by a faith commitment. Yet cultural religionists imply that the absence of religious commitment in the nation’s newsrooms—and consequent acceptance of baby-killing, oops abortion, is among the reasons that the Gosnell story was overlooked.

The notion that the news media is a secularist cabal ignoring stories that challenge its shibboleths is wrongheaded.

I do not agree. There is just a hint of Coriolanus going before the plebs here. That large sections of the media believe an abortionist charged with multiple counts of murder is a crime story without significant religious or moral overtones speaks to the failings and biases of the press, not readers. (One need only look to the loss of market share and trust the mainstream media have experienced to know that all is not well — or the studies and monographs on the triumph of ideology over reporting in major American newspapers.)Nor does she show a logical connection between her observations about ignorance of the audience and the silence about Gosnell.

Criticisms voiced by GetReligion have nothing to do with the private conscience of reporters who write about religion but about their ignorance of the topics they are covering coupled with a self-satisfied, complacent, high opinion of their own importance and disdain for views that conflict with their own. Large sections of the American press are like Mr. Podsnap who “stood very high in Mr. Podsnap’s opinion,” — they see religion reporting through the lens of anthropology and institutions, not through the culture and belief of people.

And it is this failure of intelligence, relevance and imagination that lies behind the Gosnell fracas. The personal views of reporters are irrelevant — it is their professional competence at issue.

Let me offer an example of good religion journalism to illustrate my argument of ideology free competent reporting. In a front page story Warsaw’s Gazeta Wyborczalast week reported on a paper released by the Polish Bishops’ Conference (Konferencja Episkopatu Polski) objecting to in vitro fertilization, abortion, euthanasia, and contraception, arguing they were a threat to humanity.

In vitro fertilization should be “banned” because it:

begins with masturbation… All doubts in the field of human existence should be resolved in favor of life. We must also stand firmly against all kinds of action that are a threat to humans. Even the loftiest purpose does not justify actions that put human life in danger,” reads the document written by the Bishops’ Bioethics Expert Team

“A Christian must care about the truth. This is why he or she should uncover lies, one of which is the particularly harmful suggestion that in vitro fertilization is a treatment for infertility. It does not treat anything. Infertile people stay infertile. They entrust the production of children to strangers,” the bishops write.

According to the authors of the document, in vitro is the poorly-fulfilled desire of infertile couples, who wish to be parents. The church authorities believe that it gives permission “to sacrifice a few human beings” in order to have a child. This refers to the embryos that are destroyed during in vitro trials. “The sperm is obtained from a father through masturbation, the mother’s body is repeatedly manipulated, meaning that the child becomes a product,” the document reads.

These quotes are a gift. When reporters dream, unlike other men (and women), they dream dreams of bishops condemning masturbation. The possibilities for displaying smutty lowbrow humor are endless. Yet given this set up, the Gazeta Wyborcza plays it straight giving the bishops space to explain their views — to paraphrase my colleague TMatt, they allow people not just paper to speak.

Archbishop [Henryk] Hoser is the main author of the paper. Trained as a physician, he is one of the Episcopal Commission on Bioethics’ experts.  Yesterday he said: “The prenatal human is viewed more as a thing, not as a human being [by those who support IVF]. Many lives are lost in a procedure intended to produce a sole survivor. 

[The Church] opposes the creation of extra embryos produced to be frozen and considers this tantamount to killing them. “Most frozen and thawed embryos die in the process or are otherwise unable to continue healthy growth. Yet the embryo is a person and each embryo turns out to be a helpless member of the human family,whose dignity and rights are ruthlessly trampled.”

Against these comments Gazeta Wyborcza sets contradictory medical opinion.

“Not true. Medicine is moving forward. Maybe 20-25 years ago you could propound this thesis, but not today. … [If properly stored the rate of success of frozen embryos] in implantation in the uterus is the same, or even greater than in the case of embryos transferred without freezing,” argues Prof. Waldemar Kuczynski, Chairman of the Section of Fertility and Infertility of the Polish Gynecological Society and consultant to the government program … The bishops’ arguments are “biased and unfair”.

The article also points to what it believes to be an inconsistency in the bishops’ argument.

The hierarchy also criticized contraception and abortion … “Claiming the right to abortion is an expression of a highly unworthy conduct …”. Anti-abortion rhetoric is heard more often in the church, but in the 90s the bishops approved the so-called Compromise Law that allowed abortion in three cases: rape, danger to life or health of the mother, and severe irreversible damage to the fetus.

Why is this a good article? It is a straight forward summary of the report with comments from critics. First off, the article pulled quotes from the report that would excite its readers, while also providing quotes that placed the controversial statements in context. Both sides can hear their points of view expressed clearly, the article provides the key quotes from the report, places them in context and allows the church to explain why it said what it said. It also wrote this story with its audience — not against it. There is no mockery (that I could see) as it takes its audience’s faith seriously — it understands these are moral questions not merely “health news”.

But this is not a pro-church puff piece. The criticisms are given a full airing and the newspaper’s skepticism of the absolutist position on abortion is made clear by reference to the church’s tolerance for some abortions.

Ask yourself if you believe the New York Times would have printed this story? Which takes me back to the defense of the non-reporting on the Gosnell trial. Perhaps it is old news, a local crime story that would upset readers with the testimony of savagery and barbarity worthy of Auschwitz? Or then again could there be a “secularist cabal ignoring stories that challenge its shibboleths”?

Whatever you may decide, what the press has done (returning once more to Maria’s description of Malvolio in Twelfth Night) is that it has shown itself to be an “affection’d ass”.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Missing the grasshopper in the stem cell debate: Get Religion, December 7, 2012 December 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion, Roman Catholic Church.
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Master Po: Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Young Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

D0 you remember “Kung Fu?” From 1972 to 1975 ABC broadcast the story of Caine, a Sino-American Shaolin monk tramping across the old West in search of enlightenment and his half-brother. Following upon the martial arts craze of the early 1970′s, “Kung Fu” also instructed America in  the wisdom of the East. Like the Charlie Chan movies of an earlier generation, each episode episode included a faux pearl of oriental wisdom — a philosophical bromide designed to expand the viewer’s conscious.

The deep thought from this episode, young grasshopper, is the distinction between seeing and perceiving. One can see but still be blind to the world around you. Let’s take this lesson and apply it to Wednesday’s reports in the press on the embryonic stem cell vote in the French Senate. (How’s that for a transition …)

In several posts at GetReligion I have lauded the European advocacy model of reporting, where a news story is unashamedly presented from a particular partisan political view. Read the coverage about the same issue in Le Figaro (right), Le Monde (center) and Liberation (left) and you will have a good appreciation of a subject.  (So long as they are not talking about the United States.) My accolade for a partisan press is premised on there being a conversation — a dialogue between the reader and the newspapers — where all the facts are presented and disparate interpretations are offered for the intelligent reader to assess.

This model does not work well, however, when newspapers devote different space and resources to a story — or when an important perspective is ignored. Le Figaro, Le Monde and Liration — generally considered to be France’s newspapers of record — offered good first day stories on the Senate vote but fell down in the follow up. The politics were done well, the moral issues were not. Here is some background:

The major newspapers reported that the French Senate on 4 Dec 2012 passed the first reading of a bill to overturn the country’s ban on embryonic stem cell research. In 2004 France outlawed research on fetal stem cells and the ban was re-affirmed on ethical grounds in 2011 by the conservative government. The new Socialist government, however, has backed a bill allowing the research.

The parties of the left, the Socialists, Radicals, Communists, all voted in favor, while the conservatives split. The final vote was 203 to 74 — 63 conservative senators were either not present for the vote, or abstained.

All three of the major French newspapers had extensive quotes from senators for and against the measure. Liberation had the most extensive coverage, Le Figaro the least — but from a journalistic perspective all did a solid job as a reader could understand and assess the arguments proffered by both sides. The government and it supporters held that fetal stem cell research would be a boost to French science, would lead to scientific discoveries that would save lives, and would be strictly regulated by the government allowing no “commodication” of stem cells.

The conservatives said fetal stem cell research was immoral, scientifically unnecessary and contradicted established government policy.  From Le Figaro:

« “Il s’agit d’un revirement à 180 degrés » a protesté Dominique de Legge (UMP).  « Les cellules souches adultes ne sont-elles pas une alternative crédible à la recherche sur l’embryon? » s’est-il demandé.

Roughly translated — “This is a 180 degree turnabout,” protested Dominique de Legge of the conservative Union pour un Mouvement Populaire party. “Are not adult stem cells a viable alternative to embryos for research,” he asked.


Jean-François Copé, président proclamé de l’UMP, a dans un communiqué publié avant le début de la discussion vivement critiqué le texte.« Ce projet de la gauche est un renversement complet de la logique actuelle du Code civil qui garantit le respect de la vie et de la dignité humaine », a-t-il estimé.

Jean-Francois Cope, president-elect of the UMP was strongly critical of the bill. In a statement released before the debate he stated: “This project of the Left is a complete reversal of the current logic of our Civil Code which guarantees respect for life and for human dignity.”

The second day stories took a geographic turn, with regional newspapers reporting on how their senators voted. What was nt reported was the news the French Episcopal Conference denounced the bill on ethical grounds. Outside  the Catholic press, I found one mention of the church’s response — in Le Telegramme, a conservative paper from Brittany.

Le Croix, is a “Catholic” newspaper but not a “church” newspaper. By this I mean it is a general interest newspaper, with approximately 100,00 subscribers — roughly a third the size of the big three — and is written from a Catholic intellectual and moral perspective. It covered the senate debate in detail, but also ran a story on the reaction from the hierarchy.

The article “Mgr d’Ornellas juge« choquant » le vote du Sénat autorisant la recherche sur l’embryon” stated the Archbishop of Rennes, Msg. Pierre d’Ornellas was “shocked” by the vote.

Speaking on behalf of the French Episcopal Conference, the archbishop said the church objected to the vote on moral and political grounds.

« L’embryon humain a le droit d’être protégé … », indique Mgr d’Ornellas selon qui le Sénat « a remis en cause ce respect ».

“The human embryo has a right of protection,” Msg. d’Ornellas said, and the Senate “has challenged this respect.”


« Cela est choquant. Et un tel changement est opéré sans même qu’un véritable débat ait eu lieu.»

“This is shocking. And such a change is being made without any real debate taking place.”

Msg. d’Ornellas saved his best argument for last. For goodness sakes, even the Germans do not allow experimentation on embryonic stem cells, protested the archbishop.

« L’Allemagne maintient l’interdiction de recherche sur l’embryon humain. Faudra-t-il que ce soit l’Allemagne qui soit en avance dans le respect dû à l’être humain ? »

“Germany maintains the ban on human embryo research. Will Germany be ahead of us in the respect due to human beings?”

None of this saw the light of day except in Le Croix and other Catholic outlets. All three of the majors reported on the ethical questions raised in the Senate debate — but I’ve not found where they followed up with a report on the the source of these ethical questions — the Catholic Church.

Here is one of the problems of advocacy reporting — the omission of news that does not fit into the worldview of the editorial board of a newspaper. When there is a multitude of voices, there can be a multitude of angles for a story. But as this story demonstrates — it can also lead to the silencing of important aspects of a story. We hear the birds. We hear the water, but do not hear or see the grasshopper at our feet.

First printed at GetReligion.

No Catholics in the new Europe: Get Religion, November 30, 2012 November 30, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Ink, EU, Roman Catholic Church.
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This is a great country. I’ve been privileged to live and work abroad, but there is no place like America. It’s a cleaner, cheaper, nicer place. Big cars, big hair, the big country — purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain and all that — makes me proud to be an American. Give me a political landscape dominated by God, guns and gays and I’m happy. Yet, I must admit there are some things Europeans do better than Americans. I take away nothing from the observations made in Philip Jenkins book, “The New Anti-Catholicism, The Last Acceptable Prejudice”, but the Europeans do anti-Catholicism or anti-clericalism much better than we do.

While it is the French who have unfairly earned a reputation as cheese-eating surrender monkeys in the American psyche, it is the the European establishment — Matthew Arnold’s chatter classes — who deserve the accolade. But as church-eating surrender monkeys.

Religion has no place in the public square in European political life. In January the Irish Independent reported the Irish Labour Party had called for a secularist litmus test for senior civil servants. Catholics were bad people who needed to be kept under close scrutiny lest they undermine the government.

All senior officials in state bodies which are likely to have to deal with the Catholic Church should be screened to ensure that they will not show inappropriate deference to the Catholic Church. Those who feel they are ‘Catholic first and Irish second’ should seek promotion in other organs of the State.

Such sentiments are not exceptional. The news this week of the appointment of a new EU health commissioner offered an illustration of this Weltanschauung. On 28 Nov 2012 the BBC and the DPA (the German wire service) reported the European parliament had given its approval to the appointment of Malta’s Foreign Minister Tonio Borg as health commissioner. For those who missed this news here are extracts from the DPA story:

Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg will be the European Union‘s new health commissioner, EU governments confirmed Wednesday, giving the appointment its final blessing. Borg, 55, will replace John Dalli, who resigned last month over claims he did nothing to stop an acquaintance from using his ties to ask a Swedish company for money to influence new EU tobacco rules.

Borg has vowed not to water down the rules, which he has identified as a priority and has said should be ready in January. Borg‘s nomination had proven controversial, after some EU parliamentarians raised concerns about his conservative views on abortion and homosexuality. He has pledged to abide by the EU‘s human rights charter, regardless of his personal views on social issues.

The story received more play from the Times of Malta and Malta Today, which ran a provocative second day story based upon an interview with a Swedish MEP.

Cecilia Wikström, the Liberal Swedish MEP who had dubbed Tonio Borg “a dinosaur that does not belong in our modern world” when the former foreign minister was nominated for the post of EU Commissioner, has reiterated her stand that Borg’s personal political standpoints did not make him fit for the post of health and consumers affairs policy Commissioner.

And these objectionable beliefs are?

“Borg is a very well known politician with a high education [who] would have been a fantastic leader of Europe a couple of decades ago,” Wikström said, pointing out that his conservative beliefs might put him at loggerheads with several aspects of his portfolio. “Had Borg’s portfolio been on something else, like fisheries, culture, higher education or even the internal market, he would have been a wonderful commissioner. “Since Borg’s portfolio deals with rights and the choices people make, I think this is going to be complicated for him,” Wikström said, mentioning as an example, sexual and reproductive health rights that would include the provision of safe and legal abortion for women.

Ms. Wikström, who also is a Lutheran minister, believes Borg’s Catholicism to be incompatible with government service, save in areas that don’t matter much like Fish & Agg.

The only mainstream English-language report on Borg’s appointment that I have seen that raises these questions was the New Scientist – the British science news weekly. Its article “Staunch conservative to be new EU health commissioner” framed the story around the objections to Borg’s Catholicism.

Borg is Catholic and is known for his conservative views on abortion, homosexuality and divorce. For example, he is a supporter of the Embryo Protection Act currently being debated in the Maltese parliament. If approved at the end of November, the bill will prevent experimentation on human embryos, ban egg and sperm donation, and prohibit the freezing of embryos for IVF procedures other than in a few special cases.

The article reported on the grilling MEPs gave to Borg during his confirmation hearings.

Some MEPs questioned Borg’s stance on abortion, recalling how he tried to incorporate the ban on abortion, even if the mother’s life is at risk, into Malta’s constitution. Borg replied: “The laws on abortion are a matter of national law… These are not matters within the competence of the Commission and the Union.”

But in the end Borg’s appointment was approved on a 386 to 281 with 28 abstentions. The New Scientist rounded out its story with comments from liberal MEPs who warned they would be watching Borg for signs his faith was influencing his job, and with comments from International Planned Parenthood and a stem cell researcher who said that:

“Although I do not dispute his technical skills, there is the risk that personal views, especially when radical in nature, will interfere with or slow down important projects which have already been endorsed by public opinion,” he says.

From the classical journalism perspective, the New Scientist story is incomplete. We have the back and forth between Borg and his critics, but the comments and critical observations offered that would give context are one-sided — Planned Parenthood and a stem cell researcher. Nothing is offered from those on the opposing side of the argument. That, however, is not a surprise, as the New Scientist’s reputation is one of being on the secular left — and I do not fault them for being true to their editorial line.

But from the mainstream media we have next to nothing. The wire services and the short BBC item do not do justice to the ethical issues at play. Part of the problem is the lack of space and resources. Not all stories can be covered and editors must pick and choose how they utilize their space on the page and their reporter’s time. However, I also believe there is an agreement in just about all newsrooms that the criticisms raised by the New Scientist are valid. This belief that religion belongs to the private sphere of life and is not welcome in the public square permeates the European press.

A response I hear from supporters of the secularist model runs along the lines of “If you want to hear a sermon go to church”, meaning the worlds of faith and news are so far apart that one should not trespass on the other. I do not agree. Incorporating faith or ethical issues into journalism is not proselytizing. It is being faithful to the dictates of honest fair and full reporting.

First printed in GetReligion.

Mission and Public Affairs Council rejects call to legalize euthanasia: The Church of England Newspaper, November 26, 2012 November 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council has urged Parliament to reject a draft bill that would legalize euthanasia.

In a response published in 15 Nov 2012, the council said proposals put forward by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Choice at the End of Life would harm the social and moral fabric of England.

The proposals offered in APPG’s Safeguarding Choice: A Draft Assisted Dying Bill for Consultation, would “permit people actively to participate in bringing about the deaths of other individuals, something that, apart from cases of self defence, has not formed part of the legal landscape of the United Kingdom since the abolition of capital punishment,” the council said.

The APPG released its draft assisted dying bill on 3 July 2012 and was based upon the recommendations of the Commission on Assisted Dying chaired by the former Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer QC.

On 30 June 2012 Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, the pro-euthanasia group which helped produce the draft bill, said: “The time has come to change the law and allow people the choice of an assisted death if they are competent and nearing the end of a terminal illness. A clear and present problem combined with overwhelming public support means that change is inevitable.”

The council did not agree, saying that legalizing “assisted suicide” undermined the value of human life and created a hierarchy of values that would determine whether a life was worth living based upon “age, illness, disability or economic or social status.”

Allowing people to participate in the deaths of others “would have far-reaching and damaging effects on the nature of our society; a price too great to pay for whatever perceived benefits they might arguably bring to a few.”

The council said that those seeking to end their lives “may be seen as being vulnerable, their position needs to be considered alongside the obvious vulnerability of more than 300,000 elderly people who suffer abuse each year in England and Wales, very many of them at the hands of their own family members, often for pecuniary reasons.”

The question must be asked, the council said was “might a change in the law place more vulnerable people at increased risk of neglect, marginalisation or abuse?  Unless the answer can be a demonstrable and convincing ‘no’ it would be negligent in the extreme to contemplate such a change.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Biologist bishop appointed to govt embryology panel: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2012 p 5. June 27, 2012

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Dr. Lee Rayfield

The Department of Health last week announced that the Bishop of Swindon, the Rt. Rev. Lee Rayfield has been appointed to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority with effect from 23 April 2012.

“I am delighted that the Bishop of Swindon is joining us,” Professor Lisa Jardina, the chairman of the HFEA said.  “The Authority deals with issues at the cutting edge of reproductive science and ethics. Bishop Lee’s extensive experience of scientific as well as ecclesiastical matters means he is well placed to contribute to this important work.”

Dr. Rayfield has been a member of the Society of Ordained Scientists since 1995 and has published over 30 scientific papers and articles in the field of human biology.  From 2000 to 2009 he served as a member of the UK Gene Therapy Advisory Committee.

In a 2008 conference organized by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) entitled “Is the embryo sacrosanct? Multi-faith perspectives”, Dr. Rayfield spoke to the Church of England’s view on human embryology.  It was the Christian belief that human beings were made in the image of God, he explained and this understanding guided church views.

The Church of England held to a “gradualist perspective” he said, that recognised that it was inappropriate to speak of a 14 day old embryo as a person and that, while it holds a unique and protected status, it is not inviolable.

While research was permitted on embryos up to 14 days old that would otherwise be destroyed, Christians do not permit embryos to be  created purely for research, because that would disregard the status of the embryo as an end in itself, the bishop told the conference.

Educated at the University of Southampton, Dr. Rayfield served as a lecturer in Immunology at the University of London before entering Ridley Hall to train for the ministry.  He served his curacy at Woodford in the Diocese of London and was vicar of St Peter’s with St Mark’s, Furze Platt, Maidenhead from 1997 and Area Dean of Maidenhead and Windsor from 2000 until his consecration of Bishop of Swindon in the Diocese of Bristol in 2005.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Irish parliament rejects abortion bill: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2012 p 7. May 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland.
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Clare Daley TD

The lower house of the Irish Parliament has rejected a private member’s bill to ease the Republic’s abortion laws.  In a vote of 109 to 20, the Dáil rejected the bill brought by Clare Daly of the opposition Socialist Party that would permit “termination of pregnancy where a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman exists.”

Ms Daly had urged the Dáil to bring Ireland in line with a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruled that held the country’s failure to implement the existing constitutional “right” to abortion was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.  In 1992 the Irish courts legalized abortion in limited circumstances in the “X” case.  However, successive governments have declined to enact legislation codifying the country’s abortion laws.

“We believe that it is only a first step for abortion to be legalized in Ireland in all circumstances. We have waited long enough,” Ms. Daly said before the vote.

“Over 100,000 Irish abortions have taken place in Britain for many different reasons, none of them easy, all of them valid. The hypocrisy, injustice and expense of having to travel to England for terminations, away from family and friends, is a disgrace,” she said.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly rejected the Bill on the grounds that the House should await the report of an expert group commissioned by the government in response to the ECHR ruling.

A spokesman for the Church of Ireland told The Church of England Newspaper noted that as this was a private members bill, there had been no government consultation and no opportunity for the church to address the legislation.

However, the Church of Ireland had made submissions on abortion to the Oireachtas Éireann, the upper and lower houses of Parliament, in 2011, the spokesman said.

“The Lambeth Declaration on Abortion remains the Church of Ireland’s officially stated and essential position: ‘In the strongest terms, Christians reject the practice of induced abortion, or infanticide, which involves the killing of a life already conceived (as well as the violation of the personality of the mother) save at the dictate of strict and undeniable medical necessity’,” the spokesman said.

He added that “within the Church there is probably a diversity of opinions on certain aspects of the abortion issue – areas of disagreement in exceptions of lethal or severe congenital abnormality of the foetus; pregnancy after incest; pregnancy after rape.”

However, “it has been the Church of Ireland view that the constitutional way is not the best method of dealing with the abortion issue,” the spokesman from the Church of Ireland Press Office said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

‘Abortion a blessing’ dean testifies before Congress: The Church of England Newspaper, March 16, 2012 p 7. March 22, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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Dr. Katharine Ragsdale, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School

The ordination vows of the Episcopal Church provide a moral mandate for helping minors procure abortions, the dean of the Episcopal Divinity School told Congress last week.

Appearing as a witness called by the Democrat members of the U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Dr. Katharine Hancock Ragsdale shared an account of her having taking a 15 year old girl to an abortionist without informing the girl’s parent’s.

Her remarks came as Congress debated the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (H.R. 2299). The proposed bill would criminalize attempts to “circumvent parental consent laws in a state by, without the parents’ knowledge, taking a minor girl across state lines for an abortion.”

While “New Hampshire was closer to that girl’s home than Boston, as it happened, I did not take her across state lines,” Dr. Ragsdale said, adding “Nor did I, to my knowledge, break any laws.”

But “if either of those things had been necessary in order to help her, I would have done them,” she said.

“If helping young women like her should be made illegal I will, nonetheless, continue to do it,” Dr. Ragsdale said, citing the promises made at her ordination as leaving her “no choice” but to break the law to help young girls procure abortions.

The vocal activist for gay rights and abortion views have elicited criticism.  In a 2007 speech given in Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Ragsdale stated that abortion was a “blessing” for women.

Abortions prompted by rape, poverty, disabilities were blessings to a mother, the dean said, as was personal convenience.  “When a woman simply gets pregnant unintentionally and decides this is not a good time for her to bear and care for a child – there is no tragedy. The ability to enjoy healthy sexuality without risking a pregnancy that could derail her education or career, the development or exercise of the gifts God has given her, is a blessing.”

In response to her, committee chairman, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said the position taken by Dr. Ragsdale “just astonishes me beyond comprehension.”  The congressman said he hoped his three year old daughter would “never run into someone with the philosophy of Rev. Ragsdale.”

The dean’s testimony was “appalling,” wrote the prominent American Catholic blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. “It is hard to wrap my mind around this evil thinking.”

IVF after Death: Get Religion, March 9, 2012 March 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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Bottle of mine, it’s you I’ve always wanted!
Bottle of mine, why was I ever decanted?
Skies are blue inside of you,
The weather’s always fine;
For … There ain’t no Bottle in all the world
Like that dear little Bottle of mine.

I expect most GetReligion readers will recognize this passage from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The 1932 novel portrays a world without mothers or fathers. Where humanity is engineered as embryos. A world where babies are decanted not born.

An article in the German daily Die Welt entiled “Witwe kämpft um das Sperma ihres toten Mannes” (Women fights for her dead husband’s sperm) brought this book to mind — as well as the ’70’s flick the Boys from Brazil.

Die Welt has printed a sympathetic account of a 29 year old widow’s attempt to conceive a child through In Vitro Fertilization from the sperm of her deceased husband. The hook for this story is that her quest flies in the face of German laws which forbid the use of sperm or eggs from a deceased person in artificial insemination. An English version of the article can be found here.

As my colleagues at GetReligion have noted, the moral issues surrounding IVF are seldom addressed in the U.S. press. But in this German article we find no hint that there are any moral and ethical questions involved. What we have in this story is a piece about desire, with no degree of self-awareness that the article treats children as commodities.

The story begins:

Rike R.’s face radiates joy as she remembers her husband – her soulmate. Despite the tough-guy impression his multiple tattoos and piercings may have given off, he was in fact a very shy man, she recalls.

The 29-year-old woman talks about their five years together, and the fact that life gave her such a great love – something she had thought would never be hers. Her mood changes quickly, though, as she is reminded of their shattered dream of having a child together. Going over in her head the details of her husband’s recent passing, of how she held him in her arms, she begins to sob with her whole body, the tears flowing down her cheeks.

And it continues in this vein, recounting her husband, Holger’s, unsuccessful battle with cancer.

“We’d planned to have a child, and so we decided that, before chemo began, Holger would have some sperm frozen,” says the young widow. They also married, and she began hormone therapy. Things took an unexpected turn in February of this year, however, when Holger’s condition suddenly worsened dramatically. He was running a very high temperature, and could no longer eat. Just a few days later, on Feb. 11, he died.

And in paragraph six (of twelve) we reach the issue raised in the headline.

Shortly afterwards, Rike R. suffered a second shock when the clinic for reproductive medicine told her — one week before she was due to be artificially inseminated — that the hormone therapy would be stopped and that her husband’s sperm could neither be used nor handed out to her. Technically they should also destroy the sperm, doctors said, but in view of Rike R.’s present emotional fragility they would not proceed with that right away.

The clinic’s strict adherence to the rules is fueled by fears of legal repercussions should it in any way be construed as aiding and abetting a pregnancy that under German law can no longer take place. It is strictly forbidden in Germany to use the sperm or eggs of a dead person for artificial insemination. “My only hope was that I could still have our baby,” says Rike R. And she doesn’t understand why “what we so wished for together, the thing Holger deeply wanted to happen when he died and which is my only consolation now that he’s gone” can’t happen.

The author’s voice appears at this stage ..

The clinic’s position may seem heartless, but it is in accordance with German laws governing the protection of embryos. Violations are punishable, so clinics commit to using neither the sperm nor eggs of a deceased person for artificial insemination. Nor will they even release them, for fear that a person could take the sperm or eggs abroad to a country where insemination under those conditions would be legal.

The article winds down with a vow from Rike that she will fight on, and a note that her cause has been taken up by fans of a local football (soccer) club in Hamburg.

So what’s the problem? Die Welt appears to believe that there is only one side to this issue — Rike’s desire to have a child with her dead husband. There is no discussion of why German law forbids artificial insemination from the eggs or sperm of the dead. The article manipulates the reader by placing Rike’s feelings against that of the clinic’s “heartless” conformity to the law. The assumption underlying this story is that personal desire has primacy over all other considerations. Because Rike wants a child to be conceived with her dead husband, she should have a right to this child.

I find that frightening — and somewhat creepy. My reading of this tragic story is that Die Welt does not appear to hear the moral or religious chords that posthumous parenting sound. After reporting upon Rike’s desire it appears satisfied that it has done its job and abandons further discussion of “why”.

This story appears to have been written in isolation to the intellectual, legal and religious debates the issue has generated in Europe. The Catholic and Evangelical churches in Germany have released a number of joint statements that support the state’s tight controls on IVF. There is no mention of this — nor even an awareness from Die Welt that this might be germane.

Nor do we hear about the wider legal and ethical debates taking place. In 2011 the Supreme Court of New South Wales ruled that the preserved sperm of a deceased man was the property of his estate. The court held that the dead man’s wife thus held a property interest in the sperm and could use it for IVF. The husband died before he gave his express written consent for the use of his sperm after death — a requirement under Australian law. Written consent was no longer necessary prior to IVF treatment because sperm, eggs, embryos are property in Australia — the ramifications of that are extraordinary.

The U.S. Supreme Court has also been asked to decide whether children conceived through IVF after the death of their biological father are entitled to receive Social Security survivor benefits. How human are these children?

In the Caputo case, the Social Security Administration denied a claim filed by a women on behalf of her twins born 18 months after the death of their father. The issue before the court is whether children conceived after the death of their father may receive Federal welfare benefits, even though they cannot inherit personal property from the father under state intestacy laws.

We have reached the point where “Developing reproductive technology has outpaced federal and state laws, which currently do not address directly the legal issues created by posthumous conception,” the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has noted.

This article could have been done a number of different ways. If Die Welt wanted to keep away from the moral issues, it could have lightened the tone — acknowledging the existence of moral questions, but using humor or some other distraction to indicate that it was not going there.

Sonja: Oh don’t, Boris, please. Sex without love is an empty experience.
Boris: Yes, but as empty experiences go, it’s one of the best.

From Love and Death by Woody Allen (1975)

Instead we have a tearjerker tailor made for Bette Davis. There is no subtlety, no nuance, no real reporting. Die Welt would have done a much better job in placing Rike’s tragedy against the state’s reasons for not acceding to her wishes. That would have been a compelling article. Instead we have this weepy puff piece.

What say you GetReligion readers? Should Die Welt have broadened its focus? Am I being heartless? Are there two sides to this issue? How should journalists report upon the ethical implications of IVF? Are there ethical implications to IVF from the eggs or sperm of the dead? Have we made having children a fetish — or is this a natural right? Can we even speak of natural rights when they are achieved by unnatural means?

First printed in GetReligion.

Council of Europe assemby calls for ban on euthansia: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2012, p 7. February 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, EU.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has called for its member states to ban euthanasia.

On 25 January 2012 the Strasbourg-based assembly adopted resolution 1859/2012 entitled “Protecting human rights and dignity by taking into account previously expressed wishes of patients” to establish principles governing living wills and advance directives in Europe.

A living will or advance directives is a legal document endorsed by an individual when they are of sound mind that sets out their wishes relating to a medical intervention or treatments, should they not be able to express their wishes at the time of the intervention.

In debating the measure, MPs argued that living wills had been abused in some cases to permit euthanasia.  PACE adopted a series of guidelines to govern the crafting of the documents and adopted the resolution stating: “Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited.”

The Assembly also recommended “that the Committee of Ministers [the 47 national ambassadors in Strasbourg] bring the Resolution to the attention of member states, with a request for implementation.”

While PACE has no authority to bind member states, including the U.K., its decisions guide the deliberations of the European Court of Human Rights, which is scheduled to review the case of Koch v. Germany, where the court will review Germany’s ban on assisted suicide. In 2011 the ECHR ruled in Haas v. Switzerland that the European Convention of Human Rights did not create a right to suicide.  In light of last week’s resolution, the court will be asked to decide whether suicide and euthanasia is a violation per se of the right to life guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights.

Dr Grégor Puppinck, Director of the European Centre for Law and Justice – a pro-life pressure group – stated “this resolution is a clear indication that the growing majority of Europeans is opposed to euthanasia.”

The “many abuses” occurring in states such as Holland which permit euthanasia are “alarming and constitute violations of true human rights,” he claimed.

Dr. Puppinck urged those European States that have legalized euthanasia to conform their laws to the “principles set forth by the PACE.”

Anglicans back birth control bill in the Philippines: The Church of England Newspaper, June 10, 2011 p 6. June 13, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Philippines.
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Prime Bishop Edward Malecdan of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ACNS photo)

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) has given its support to the government’s Reproductive Health Bill, arguing that the use of contraceptives for birth control does not violate Christian moral teachings.

Government funding for birth control has led to a political showdown between the country’s powerful Roman Catholic Church and the government of President Benigno Aquino.  On Jan 30 the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines released a pastoral letter condemning House Bill No. 5043, the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008 pending before Congress.

“Far from being simply a Catholic issue, the RH bill is a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial,” the bishops said.

“Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life,” they argued.  The government’s claim that the RH bill would protect life was false, the bishops argued, as it failed to protect the health “of the sacred human life that is being formed or born.”

However, in a pastoral letter dated April 1, the Prime Bishop of the ECP, the Most Rev. Edward Malecdan noted the 1958 Lambeth Conference affirmed the morality of contraception and stated that family planning was among the prudential choices given by God to man.

“Humanity was made in the image of God,” the prime bishop noted, and “we were made stewards of God’s creation and given wisdom and discernment which we exercise in determining how best all of creation and human society shall be ruled.”

The RH bill was not solely about government funding of birth control, Bishop Malecdan said.  It also speaks to the “State’s commitment to ‘uphold and promote responsible parenthood’ and the ‘right of the people’, particularly women” to participate in the formulation of government health policies.

“It is in this spirit that we support the need for a Reproductive Health Bill,” Bishop Malecdan said.

On June 4, the synod of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Luzon gave its support to the bill.  Bishop Renato Abibico told the diocese “we need the bill so there will be an oversight on maternal health issues,” noting the RH bill was “pro-life and pro-women and -children, not anti-life as propagated by those against it. “

The  synod resolution declared the Episcopal Church “recognizes the need for family planning and responsible parenthood as a stewardship to uphold the sanctity of life” and resolved to educate its members on issues pertaining to dignity of life.

Australian church ‘no’ to euthanasia: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 29, 2010 p 7. November 3, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Archbishop Jeffrey Driver of Adelaide

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Adelaide has called for the government to put the question of de-criminalizing euthanasia to a national vote.

“If politicians believe voluntary euthanasia is a public policy priority of first importance, then let them seek an electoral mandate upon it,” Archbishop Jeffrey Driver told his diocesan synod last week.

“It is too significant an issue to be introduced any other way,” he said on Oct 21.

Dr. Driver’s comments follow upon church-wide denunciations of euthanasia in the wake of the new Labor government’s decision to debate the issue.  State legislatures in Australia have also taken up the issue, with the upper house of the South Australia parliament scheduled to vote on Nov 24 on a bill sponsored by the Green Party to legalise voluntary euthanasia.  A similar bill was defeated by a single vote last year.

On Sept 24, the Bishop of the North West Region of the Melbourne Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Philip Huggins told his diocesan newspaper that he was disappointed euthanasia was not part of the pre-General Election political debate.

“The question is: would people have voted the same way if they had thought a Labor Government, with the Greens, would as a first action promote a conscience vote on euthanasia in the Federal Parliament?” asked Bishop Huggins.

“There would be more integrity in taking such a proposal to the next Federal Election, allowing the community to weight this matter against other issues which might then shape their vote,” he said.

At last month’s General Synod, delegates unanimously passed a motion proposed by Bishop Huggins affirming the “sanctity of life; that life is God’s gift and that our task is to protect, nurture and sustain life to the best of our ability.”

“This motion conveys to the Prime Minister and Federal Parliament that we will not be silent on this issue, now or in the future,” he said.

At the Sydney synod, Archbishop Peter Jensen on Oct 11 also criticized moves to legalize euthanasia, saying “my fundamental problem with it is that we are sinners and we do not have the moral capacity to administer it.”

Dr. Driver told the Adelaide synod that he too was “concerned about the recent renewed push for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia around Australia.”

While some were frightened by the potential loss of “personal autonomy and the endurance of severe pain and suffering that terminal illness can bring,” the “legalisation of voluntary euthanasia” was not the “most helpful response to these concerns.”

“The prohibition against deliberate taking of innocent human life is what impels us to research and practise good palliative care,” Dr. Driver said, and also “frees the individual from constantly having to interrogate the hidden motives of others, and allows the sick and dying to accept their care without shame.”

Bishop Huggins told Anglican Media Melbourne that while “many people have hard and difficult deaths,” there was a “threshold we cross when our efforts are not focussed on protecting life, providing comfort and pain relief until life ends and the departed is entrusted to God’s eternal life.”

Scottish Episcopal Church urges ‘no’ vote on Holyrood Euthanasia Bill: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 1, 2010 p 4. October 5, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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Bishop David Chillingworth

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) has urged the Scottish Parliament to reject a bill permitting assisted suicide and euthanasia.

In a Sept 27 statement, the Primus of the SEC, Bishop David Chillingworth of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane stated the “view of the Bishops is that they would be reluctant to see moves to enshrine the right to die through assisted suicide formally enshrined in legislation.”

Last week religious leaders presented testimony before a committee hearing the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill proposed by Independent MSP Margo MacDonald.  In a joint submission, the Church of Scotland, the Salvation Army and the Methodist Church said they “fundamentally disagree” with any move which would end “the societal prohibition in the taking of human life

The Free Church of Scotland called the bill “seriously defective” and said it would turn a doctor from being a healer to a “destroyer of life,” while the Muslim Council of Scotland said the proposed law was “an act of ingratitude against the creator” that would devalue the lives of the elderly and infirm.

The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities stated they were “concerned” the law would be used as a “cover for murder.  The death of a burdensome relative may be welcome to some people,” they said.

The Bill states its purpose is “to permit assistance to be given to persons who wish their lives to be ended,” and defines “end of life assistance” as “assistance, including the provision or administration of appropriate means, to enable a person to die with dignity and a minimum of distress.”

Individuals 16 years of age or older may seek voluntary euthanasia or physician assisted suicide if they have been diagnosed as terminally ill and find life intolerable, or are permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent as not to be able to live independently and find life intolerable.

Two requests separated by a “cooling off” period would have to be approved by a doctor and psychiatrist before a fatal overdose was given.  To prevent “death tourism,” only those registered with a Scottish GP for 18 months could apply for physician assisted suicide.

The BMA Scotland has opposed any change in the current law, while the General Medical Council and Nursing and Medical Council have taken a neutral stance.  The Humanist Society of Scotland has endorsed the proposed legislation.

The SEC’s Sept 27 statement said their College of Bishops submitted written evidence to the committee drafting the legislation.   “The submission recognises the differing views which are held among members of our Church.  It draws on resolutions of the Lambeth Conference 1998 and contributions on this subject from the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

The bishops said they would not welcome legalizing assisted suicide.  “The Church is committed to supporting the hospice movement and to compassionate care of those who face debilitating illnesses which erode human dignity and well-being,” the College of Bishops said.

Kenya adopts new constitution over church protests: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 13, 2010 p 5. August 18, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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President Mwai Kibaki

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

hurch leaders in Kenya have voiced disappointment over the approval of the country’s draft constitution in a national referendum held on Aug 4, but have pledged to support the outcome of the vote.

“The historic journey that we began over 20 years ago is now coming to a happy end,” President Mwai Kibaki said in a nationally broadcast address on Aug 5.  “Let us all join hands together to as we begin the process of national renewal under the new constitution.”

Almost 70 percent of the country’s 12 million voters supported the document, which will replace the constitution drawn up at independence in 1963.  The new constitution reduces the power of the president, setting up a system of checks and balances among the executive, the judiciary and parliament, and devolves power to the regional and local governments, while also creating a commission to begin work on the contentious issue of land reform.

Church leaders had objected, however, to provisions in the document that allow Muslims to set up a government backed Sharia court system, while Section 26 of the constitution included language which allowed abortions when in the “opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”

The Catholic Church had called upon its members to vote ‘no’, while Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, who that while he would vote ‘no’, Anglicans were free to “vote their conscience.”

In a pastoral letter released after the preliminary results were announced, Cardinal John Njue and the Catholic Bishops Conference said, that while respecting the outcome, “truth and right are not about numbers. We therefore, as the shepherds placed to give moral guidance to our people, still reiterate the need to address the flawed moral issues in this proposed constitution. That voice should never be silenced.”

Education Minister William Ruto, the leader of the ‘no’ coalition, said his side would accept the outcome of the election. He called on the government to engage in negotiations over the parts the clauses on abortion and land ownership, and address the root causes of the tensions that led to violence and social unrest after the 2007 elections.

“You cannot just go and tell people ‘live together nicely, now forgive each other’ when in fact somebody lost his parents or lost his land or business and yet nothing has been done about it,” Bethuel Kiplagat, chairman of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, told Reuters AlertNet.

“We have to approach it through the healing of the individual and communities. If nothing is done about them; an acknowledgement, counseling and reparations.  I am afraid the seeds of the next conflict are dormant, waiting to explode again,” he said.

A date for the promulgation of the new document is to be announced with 14 days of the vote.  After the promulgation, parliament will be prorogued while top leaders will be required to take fresh oaths of office. In three months, parliament will form committees to implement the new law.

Churches call for ‘no’ vote on Aug 4 referendum: The Church of England Newspaper, August 6, 2010 p 5. August 5, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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Archbishop Eliud Wabukala

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders held a joint prayer service on July 30 in Nairobi, urging Kenyans to vote “No” in the country’s Aug 4 constitutional referendum.

While opinion pollsters predict the constitution will be backed by a majority, a close vote will likely be seen as a moral victory by Christian leaders who disapprove of the new constitution’s legalisation of abortion and legal recognition of Islamic Khadi Courts to regulate marriage and inheritance in the Muslim community.

Kenya’s 2007 election divided the country along ethnic lines, with the violence between supporters of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), led by current Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and the Party of National Unity (PNU), led by President Mwai Kibaki, bringing the country to the brink of civil war.

However, Prime Minister Odinga and President Kibaki and their parties have united in support of the constitution, while the “no” campaign has brought together Christian leaders and Daniel Arap Moi, who served as president of Kenya from 1978 to 2002.

Political analysts fault the government for not consulting with the country’s churches in the drafting of the proposed constitution which seeks to decrease the power of the president and to create a system of checks and balances that can reduce corruption and the accumulation of power in few hands.  Church leaders have endorsed the constitution’s devolution of authority to local and regional governments, but say the documents support for abortion mandates a ‘no’ vote.

In the July 30 prayer service at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi, Roman Catholic Cardinal John Njue, Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, and the General Secretary of Kenya’s National Council of Churches Canon Peter Karanja along with the heads of the country’s main Christian churches called for unity and calm before the vote.

“It is true this Constitution has many good things but the good has been mixed with evil sections that affect the moral life and rights of this country in fundamental ways,” a joint statement by the leaders read by Canon Karanja said.

“There are no two ways; either we are Christians or we are not. You cannot tell me to approve something that goes against the commandments of God that say ‘do not kill’,” Cardinal Njue said, condemning the legalization of abortion under the proposed constitution.

Archbishop Wabukala concurred, saying “it is time the Church stands together and influences kingdom principles in our society.”

“The greatest right is the right to life.  This right does not need to be qualified for the unborn simply because they can’t speak for themselves,” the archbishop said.

Irish bishop calls for a rethink of abortion laws: The Church of England Newspaper, June 18, 2010 p 5. June 23, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Bishop Michael Burrows

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Ireland’s Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Rt Rev Michael Burrows, has urged Anglicans to rethink their stance on abortion and gay unions, writing in his diocesan newspaper it was time for Ireland to “come of age.”

The Government of the Republic of Ireland on June 26, 2009, introduced a Civil Partnership Bill in the Dáil that if adopted would recognise same-sex civil partnerships, but stops short of gay marriage. On May 27, 2010 the Bill was released from committee and is scheduled to pass to the report stage this month. If adopted by the Irish Parliament, it would likely be enacted by October 2010.

In his June diocesan newspaper, Bishop Burrows said “civil partnership legislation is certainly not perfect but it deserves to be welcomed and to be given time.”

The Republic of Ireland was about to “embark upon something of a new social order” by adopting civil unions, he said, adding “I dare to hope that those who choose civil partnership will find it gives them some deep sense of peace and acceptance.”

The bishop also said that it was time for a rethink of Irish abortion laws. Over 18 years had passed since the infamous “X case”, where the Attorney General filed an injunction to prevent a 14-year-old girl from travelling to Britain to have an abortion after having been raped.

On appeal, the Irish Supreme Court held that if there was a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother, and this could be averted only by the termination of her pregnancy, then abortion was lawful. However, the court also found that if there was no such threat to her life, the constitutional right to travel could be restrained if the trip were for the purpose of obtaining an abortion.

Bishop Burrows wrote that “18 years is a long time; it is the time it takes individual humans to ‘come of age’. As a society, however, we have failed dismally to come of age in relation to matters at the heart of the X case.”

“We still remain hypocritical and incapable of engaging with the truth about ourselves at a legislative level – despite successive referenda on these matters, tragic individual human stories are dragged all the way to the Supreme Court in the absence of legislation,” the bishop said.

While not actively calling for the legalisation of abortion, Bishop Burrows noted that he had a “high view of politics and parliament, yet elsewhere I have had occasion to condemn what I term the ‘systematic spinelessness’ of the Legislature when it comes to a range of ethical issues surrounding the beginning of human life.”

Primus urges dialogue of science and ethics over synthetic biology: The Church of England Newspaper, May 28, 2010 p 5. June 7, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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The Most Rev David Chillingworth

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has urged geneticists and their critics in the environmental movement not to talk past each other in light of last week’s announcement of the creation of a synthetic cell by a US genetic engineering firm, but to engage in a dialogue that allows science and ethics to find the best way forward for the new technology.

On May 20, the magazine Science reported that a team led by US geneticists led by Dr. Craig Venter had synthesized a bacterium that causes mastitis in goats, but was constructed from laboratory chemicals.  The single-celled organism has four “watermarks” written into its DNA to identify it as an artificial creation.

“This is an important step both scientifically and philosophically,” Dr Venter told Science. “It has certainly changed my views of definitions of life and how life works.”

Julian Savulescu, professor of practical ethics at Oxford University, told the Guardian that Dr. Venter was “creaking open the most profound door in humanity’s history, potentially peeking into its destiny. He is not merely copying life artificially … or modifying it radically by genetic engineering. He is going towards the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally.”

The Canadian environmental organization the Etc Group has called upon governments to block further development of synthetic life.   Jim Thomas of Etc told the Independent that “synthetic biology is a high-risk, profit-driven field, building organisms out of parts that are still poorly understood” that could have harmful consequences for the environment.

Other geneticists have urged calm saying the results produced by Venter were being hyped by the media.  Writing in the Atlantic, Dr. William Haseltine stated “has man indeed made life? I think not. The replica is indistinguishable in form and function from the original. … It is as if one were to create a copy of Michelangelo’s David, accurate down to the last crack and imperfection except for the signature, and call it new.”

However, the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church observed that the creation of the synthetic cell promised an “enticing range of possible outcomes,” including new bio-fuels, clean water, new ways of cleaning up pollution, new vaccines and drugs, new sources of food.”

It is all too easy either to over-hype the possibilities or to reach for doom-laden language about scientists ‘playing God’,” he said on May 24.

However, the creation of the synthetic cell “raises difficulties and dilemmas.”  Those raising “ethical and other questions have difficulty grasping the complexity of the science,” Bishop Chillingworth said, while “those who lack expert scientific knowledge find it difficult to arrive at a measured understanding of both the possibilities and the dangers of what is on offer.”

Scientists risk becoming “intoxicated by their achievements,” he noted, and are often “less willing to engage whole-heartedly in moral and ethical questioning.”

“What is needed now is a period in which, as the research develops, it is possible to take a measured view both of the possible applications and their benefits for human society and of the potential dangers,” the Primus said.

“Only as a result of that dialogue will the true and long term benefits for humanity become evident and be developed in such a way as to ensure the maximum benefit for the whole of humanity while avoiding the dangers,” Bishop Chillingworth said.

Kenyan ‘no’ to abortion and Sharia law: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2010 p 8. April 11, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Islam.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Kenya’s church leaders have warned that any accommodation of Sharia law or abortion in the nation’s proposed constitution will lead to its rejection by the nation’s Christians at the ballot box.

On March 18 the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and other church groups released a statement saying that carving out a place for Sharia law and Kadhi Courts for Muslims within the judicial system was unacceptable.

The constitutional reform process had “consistently ignored the views of the Christian Community in Kenya” in preparing the new national charter, they said, noting that such a tactic would ensure the “draft is rejected” when put to a national referendum.

The church leader’s objections centered round Islam and abortion. The first draft of the constitution had contained two clauses: “that state and religion shall be separate,” and “that the state shall treat all religions equally.” This had been replaced by the clause “there shall be no state religion.”

Such an amendment was acceptable, provided the other two clauses were added back into the constitution. They also objected to Article 24(4) which would exempt Muslims from the protections of the Bill of Rights.

“The Church believes that no person should be denied or exempted from the provisions of the Bill of Rights whatsoever,” they said. Exempting Muslims from the protections of the Bill of Rights and giving them their own system of government-funded Khadhi Courts that were governed by Sharia law was “unacceptable.”

“If the Proposed Constitution shall contain any reference to Kadhis Courts, we shall reject the draft in total,” they warned.

“Providing for Kadhis Courts alone in a multi-religious society is a recipe for chaos, is repugnant to justice,” they said. However “in the interest of justice for all Kenyans and in consideration of the need for Kenya to get a new constitution,” Christians would agree to giving “religious courts” jurisdiction over “personal status, marriage, divorce and inheritance” when all parties to the dispute agreed to submit to their private arbitration.

Church leaders also asked that the constitution plainly state that abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia be outlawed. Speaking to the press on March 24, Cardinal John Njue has said that Christians will continue to lobby the government on these three issues.

The cardinal said this during an ecumenical meeting also attended by members of parliament at a Nairobi hotel on Wednesday March 24, 2010.

The “fight against abortion is the fight for family,” the cardinal said.

Archbishop warns of second Holocaust: CEN 2.12.10 p 8. February 20, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that abortion, euthanasia, terrorism, and racial, religious and ethnic persecution have the potential to create a second holocaust in Europe, in a statement marking National Holocaust Day.

“Hope without memory is like memory without hope,” Dr. Rowan Williams said on Jan 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, citing an aphorism of Sir Elie Wiesel.

Weisel was knighted in 2006 as a “public sign of the importance of the living memory that survivors of the Holocaust are for present day humanity. Our 2010 commemoration of the Holocaust has at its heart the survivors of the Shoah, the unique human beings who are the primary source for our continued attention, our understanding and our need to continue to work at the lessons in a world that seems not yet to have learned them,” Dr. Williams said.

The Holocaust generation was passing away, he said, with only 5000 Jewish and other survivors of the camps alive today. “But tragically there are also many hundreds of thousands of people in this and other countries who are survivors of the many other genocidal events of the 20th and 21st centuries, including those atrocities that have taken place, like the Holocaust, on European soil,” he said.

Dr Williams urged Anglicans to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, while also keeping watch for those “signs at home and abroad of those attitudes in ourselves and in others which were the harbingers of the Holocaust. These include the dehumanising rhetoric which seeks to separate ‘us’ from ‘them’ and then to project all that is negative on to the other, on to ‘them’.”

We also need to guard against “every expression of ungenerous feeling towards people in need,” such as “refugees and asylum seekers,” Dr. Williams said, while being alert to the “signs of a casual attitude to the value of human lives, whether by acts of terrorism or more subtly, in relation to disability, or the beginning or end of life.”

He urged the world not to forget the sufferings of the victims of the Holocaust.

“Will their legacy be a world in which such things no longer happen because we and our children have learned the lessons and acted on them? Or will their generation, with all its suffering, its tenacity and its offering of hope pass from us like a nightmare best forgotten?” he asked.

US Church backs abortion funding: CEN 12.18.09 p 5. December 28, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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The Episcopal Church has endorsed a letter to members of the United States Senate endorsing taxpayer funding of abortions.

On Dec 4, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice released a letter endorsed by the Episcopal Church, Catholics for Choice and other liberal religious groups expressing their opposition to an amendment to the health care reform bill before Congress that would remove abortion funding from the proposed legislation.

“We believe that it is our social and moral obligation to ensure access to high quality comprehensive health care services at every stage in an individual’s life,” the RCRC letter said, noting that “affordable and accessible care for all” was “necessary for the well-being of all people in our nation.”

Abortion was an essential element of this health care, the letter said. The RCRC claimed the “House-passed version of health reform includes language that imposes significant new restrictions on access to abortion services. This provision would result in women losing health coverage they currently have, an unfortunate contradiction to the basic guiding principle of health care reform.”

Providing abortion coverage in the bill was “a moral imperative” and the “selective withdrawal of critical health coverage from women is both a violation of this imperative and a betrayal of the public good.”

The RCRC claimed the current bill was “abortion neutral” and prohibited “federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services, while still allowing women the option to use their own private funds to pay for abortion care.” However, this claim cannot be substantiated by the language of the bill, Republicans and pro-life Democrats in the Senate have charged, rejecting claims it was “neutral.”

Neva Rae Fox, a spokesman for the Episcopal Church, denied the letter called for public funding of abortions, saying it “simply asks that the Senate maintain current language on abortion, which takes a neutral position.”

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations endorsed the letter on behalf of the whole church “based on longstanding policies of the Church,” she said.

The interim director of the Government Relations office, Alexander Baumgarten said the church stance on abortion, which allowed it to commit the church to the RCRC’s letter, was based on a 1982 General Convention resolution which stated the church “expresses its unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [on abortion] and to act upon them.”

Georgette Forney, president of Anglicans for Life, told The Church of England Newspaper the “only honest sentence” in the RCRC letter was the affirmation of “our social and moral obligation to ensure access to health care at every stage of a person’s life. Sadly their definition of life doesn’t include human beings in the womb.”

She challenged the accuracy of the RCRC’s claims, saying the letter “misrepresent many facts including falsely stating the House bill would limit women’s access to abortion and cause them to lose existing insurance coverage for abortion. “

“If the RCRC and the denominations they represent really cared about women and their health, they would be working in partnership with pregnancy resource centers, where volunteers provide real choices for women facing unexpected pregnancies,” Ms. Forney said, “instead the RCRC members endorse using our tax dollars pay abortion clinics to harm women and kill their babies.”

“Abortion is not health care and is not good for women’s health,” she said.

Abortion guidelines ordered to be withdrawn: CEN 12.04.09 p 7. December 10, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A High Court Judge in Belfast has ordered the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to withdraw its medical guidelines on abortion, saying the government rules were misleading.

On Nov 30, Lord Justice Girvan found that while the government’s guidance was correct in parts, it misled doctors and medical staff on questions of counselling and conscientious objection.

Abortion guidelines ordered to be withdrawn

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland and is permitted only in cases where the life or long-term mental well-being of the mother is at risk.

Government guidance issued earlier this year stated that non-judgmental non-directive counseling should be available to women before, during and after termination of pregnancy. Lord Girvan said this statement was unclear and could lead to counselling practices currently forbidden by law, such as recommending travel to other parts of the UK for an abortion.

The court said that while medical staff had the right to refuse to take part in an abortion procedure, the language of the government guidelines was unclear.

A spokesman for the Lord Chief Justice’s office said: “Lord Justice Girvan concluded that, having regard to those aspects of the Guidance dealing with counselling and with conscientious objection which fail to give fully clear and accurate guidance, the court should order that the Guidance be withdrawn with a view to it being reconsidered by the Department taking account of the contents of his judgment.”

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which brought the case to court, welcomed the decision. Liam Gibson, of SPUC Northern Ireland, said: “We are very pleased that the court has highlighted some of the problems with the health department’s abortion guidance.

“Abortion is not health care,” he said. “In Northern Ireland it is a criminal offence. It is simply extraordinary that a government department should have issued guidance on criminal legislation and not have once mentioned the victim of the crime.

“The law in Northern Ireland protects both women and children and new guidance must reflect that,” Mr Gibson said.

America rocked over doctor’s church murder: CEN 6.05.09 p 6. June 6, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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Church leaders have denounced the murder of one of the United States’ leading abortionists, calling the May 30 shooting of Dr. George Tiller a senseless act of violence.

One of only a handful of physicians in the United States that would perform late term abortions—Dr. Tiller claimed to have aborted over 60,000 “fetuses over 24 weeks”—the controversial physician was shot and killed by a lone gunmen in the foyer of a Lutheran church in Wichita, Kansas during Sunday services. A man has been detained by the police and is helping them with their inquiries.

US President Barack Obama released a statement within hours of the shooting, saying he was “shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”

On June 2 Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stated she also was “horrified” to learn of the murder, which was “made even more painful for occurring in a place of worship and sanctuary.” She offered her condolences to Dr. Tiller’s family and added that she prayed “pray for those who believe that violence is ever the answer to disputes or differences, that they, too, may be healed.”

The Episcopal Bishop of Kansas and a number of Wichita clergy joined the presiding bishop in denouncing the murder. On June 1 Bishop Dean Wolfe and 12 of his clergy denounced “this terrible act because violence precludes relationship – and to move out of relationship is where sin flourishes.”

“Where can we go if murder is a solution,” they asked. “There is no hope, and there is no discussion if all ends in violence and fear.” The Kansas clergy urged all sides in the contentious abortion debate in the United State to keep talking “even in the midst of differing views. We feel assured that we can disagree without resorting to acts of violence.”

Episcopal pro-abortion activists held a vigil at Boston’s St. Paul’s Cathedral “celebrating” the life and work of Dr. Tiller. The Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, Dr. Katherine Ragsdale told reporters before the Monday service “this is about the loss of a man who was a saint and a martyr.”

Conservative Christian leaders and pro-life activists were quick to denounce the murder. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the US’s largest anti-abortion pressure group denounced the murder and offered its condolences to Dr. Tiller’s family.

The NRLC “unequivocally condemns any such acts of violence regardless of motivation,” Executive Director David O’Steen said on May 31. “The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life. The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal.”

The “consensus” of traditional church teaching held that Christians must work within the structures of the state to “persuade governing authorities concerning what is good, right, just, and honoring to God. Those who operate outside of this consensus and perform acts of violence are rightly understood to arrogate authority to themselves in a way that violates not only the laws of men but the law of God,” Southern Baptist leader Dr. Albert Mohler said.

“Civil disobedience may be justified so long as the Christian is willing to suffer at the hands of the governing authorities, but is not justified if the citizen employs violence against the state or against other citizens,” he said.

Bishop opposes Greens on Euthanasia: CEN 5.27.09 p 6. June 2, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Bishop of Tasmania has called upon the state parliament to reject a voluntary euthanasia bill tabled by the Green Party, saying only God, not man or the state had the right to take life.

On May 27 the leader of the Tasmanian Green Party Nick McKim tabled the Dying With Dignity Bill before the state parliament permitting assisted suicide.

Mr. McKim claimed that a privately commissioned poll found that 78 percent of Tasmanians endorsed assisted suicide or euthanasia, and that his bill contained safeguards to prevent the abuse of the law including a psychiatric evaluation of the person seeking to die, a second medical opinion verifying a life limiting condition, and residency in Tasmania for at least 12 months.

However, Bishop John Harrower urged legislators to reject the bill. “Going down the pathway of euthanasia is literally a way to death, not to life for our society – and it will bring great harm to Tasmania,” he told the local media.

Political leaders have given their members a free vote on the issue, which is expected to come up for debate in August. In 1995, the Northern Territory of Australia legalized euthanasia, passing the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. Four people took their lives under the provisions of the Act, but in 1997 Australia’s Federal Parliament overturned the legislation. Euthanasia remains a criminal offence in Australia.

TEC school employs abortion activist: CEN 4.03.09 p 8. April 8, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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A pro-abortion activist has been named the dean of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Massachusetts. On March 30 the school’s board of trustees announced that the Rev. Katharine Ragsdale would assume the post of president and dean on July 1.

Since 1996 Dr. Ragsdale has served as vicar of St David’s Episcopal Church in Pepperell, Mass, and for the past four years has served as executive director of the Political Research Associates, a leftist think tank whose mission is to build a more just and inclusive world by exposing programs from the Christian Right “that undermine human rights.”

An openly gay priest, Dr. Ragsdale is best known however for her championing of abortion rights, serving for 17 years on the board of the Religions Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC)—a political lobbying group that campaigns for an unfettered access to abortion. During her eight year tenure as chairwoman of the RCRC, Dr. Ragsdale doubled the size of the organization’s budget and staff.

In a 2007 sermon posted on her website, Dr. Ragsdale stated she believed “abortion was a blessing” and abortionists were “engaged in holy work.” Abortion for reasons of health, finance and convenience were moral choices, she argued.

“When a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing,” she said.

Dr. Ragsdale closed her sermon with the statement “These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.”

The Episcopal Church holds contradictory positions on abortion. In January 2006 the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council approved the Episcopal Church’s membership in the RCRC. At the 2006 General Convention the Diocese of Tennessee introduced a resolution seeking to rescind the church’s membership. However the resolution was withdrawn before a vote was taken.

While the RCRC works for abortion rights in any and all circumstances, the Episcopal Church historically taught that moral discernment, on matters related to abortion, was essential, with the church’s formal position stated by the 1994 General Convention stated “We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.”

Since the 2006 affiliation with the RCRC a number of dioceses have individually disassociated themselves from the Executive Council’s decision to join the political lobbying group.

Considered the most liberal of the Episcopal Church’s theological college, EDS was founded in 1974 following the merger of the Philadelphia Divinity School and Episcopal Theological Seminary, and in recent years has faced mounting financial deficits. Leaders at the seminary have welcomed Dr. Ragsdale’s fundraising and professional experience.

The acting dean of EDS, Angela Bauer-Levesque, welcomed the selection of Dr. Ragsdale. “Her commitments, energy and clarity, combined with her astute analysis, her collaborative style, and her experience in fund raising will make EDS more boldly live out its purpose of educating lay and ordained leaders for the church and the world, dedicated to work for justice, foster diversity and seek constructive change,” she said.

New Zealand churches reject embryo sex selection: CEN 10.06.08 October 6, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper, Presbyterian/Church of Scotland.
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A government Bioethics Council’s recommendation that New Zealand relax its ban on allowing parents to select the gender of their children through prenatal testing has drawn sharp opposition from the country’s Protestant Churches.

In June, the state Bioethics Council released a report stating that when embryos are created outside the womb, parents should be permitted to select the sex of the baby. However, this practice poses major ethical dilemmas, the Interchurch Bioethics Council (ICBC) said, and should be forbidden.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper

New Zealand churches reject embryo sex selection

Row over Ulster abortions: CEN 5.23.08 p 4. May 23, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Politics.
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Ulster’s abortion laws should be written by the Northern Ireland Assembly and not Westminster, the leaders of Northern Ireland’s four main churches said last week.

In a May 16 letter to members of Parliament, the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr. Alan Harper, Cardinal Seán Brady, and the leaders of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches asked MPs to “take account of the Northern Ireland political parties, and indeed of the people of Northern Ireland, by voting against any amendments concerning abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.”

Writing in reference to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill presently before Parliament, the four church leaders said it was important that the government “respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and allow locally elected MLAs to take the lead on this issue.”

Last October, a cross party group of MPs stated they would seek to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Ulster. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the law does not apply.

Islington South MP Emily Thornberry (Labour) said she hoped the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act “would be an opportunity to look again at it and give people the right they think they already have, that is the right to abortion on demand.” Oxford West and Abingdon MP Evan Harris (Lib-Dem) said it was “disgraceful” that there was not equal access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland. “It’s time that situation changed. There must be a vote in parliament,” he said.

However, Unionists and Nationalists, as well as Church leaders are opposed to the extension of the law to Ulster. The four church leaders noted the Northern Ireland minister had agreed that the Assembly was the “best forum for discussion” of abortion laws in Ulster. They urged all members of Parliament to “ensure that any future changes to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland are solely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

Scottish bishop backs hybrid embryo research: CEN 5.02.08 p 6. May 4, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Politics, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney has backed the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, saying hybrid-embryo research was a medical last hope for those suffering from a number of “wickedly crippling diseases.”

Writing in The Scotsman, Bishop Robert Gillies argued that as “much as I may not like the thought of hybrid embryo research, God has enabled us to have so much insight into the workings of His creation then perhaps that is the way we must go to help those most in need of a Christian loving response.”

“It seems that if health and wellbeing is to come to sufferers, then the best option for them will come through stem-cell, including hybrid-embryo, research, given the current absence of any alternative,” the Scottish Episcopal bishop argued.

He took exception to the comments made by Cardinal Keith O’Brien last month that the creation of animal-human embryos was “monstrous” and of “Frankenstein proportion.” While acknowledging the Cardinal’s belief that such research was immoral, “his view is not the only view that can be legitimately given from within a Christian perspective,” Bishop Gillies said.

“If health and well-being is to come” to those suffering from debilitating diseases such as Huntington’s Chorea or Muscular Dystrophy “then the best option for them will come through stem cell, including hybrid embryo, research given the current absence of any alternative,” the bishop wrote on April 9.

However, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Paisley, Msg. Philip Tartaglia disputed Bishop Gillies argument of medical necessity, writing to Members of Parliament on April 10 that “the scientific community already knows that, contrary to what the Prime Minister has asserted, research on human embryos is not required to have access to human stem cells as the basis of therapy for serious medical conditions.”

We “do not need this embryo-destructive research either from an ethical or a scientific-medical point of view,” the Catholic prelate said.

German Churches divide over stem cell plans: CEN 4.14.08 April 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, EKD, Health/HIV-AIDS, Politics, Roman Catholic Church.
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GERMANY’S Churches have divided over government plans to ease restrictions on stem cell research, with the head of the Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (EKD), Germany’s Protestant church backing the move, while the Roman Catholic Church’s bishops have been sharply opposed to any change in the law.

On April 11, by a vote of 346-228 the lower house of the Bundestag passed a law permitting scientists to import and use for experimentation stem cells created before May 1, 2007. In 2002, the Bundestag banned the production of embryonic cells from pre-existing stem cell lines and forbade experimentation on lines created after Jan. 1, 2002.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

German churches divided over stem cell plans

Spain’s Catholic leaders ‘reject’ Zapatero: CEN 2.01.08 February 1, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Politics, Roman Catholic Church.
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Spain’s Roman Catholic bishops have urged the country to reject the Socialist Party (PSOE) government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the March 9 general elections.

While not singling out the PSOE by name, the Jan 31 bishops’ statement said “not all the parties and manifestos are equally compatible with the faith and Christian life,” nor do all “provide the objectives and values that Christians must promote in public life.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence.

Spain's Catholic leaders 'reject' Zapatero

Views differ on abortion rulings: CEN 1.25.08 January 25, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Judaism.
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Religious leaders of the Jewish and Muslim world have released contradictory rulings on the morality of abortion.

Last month the Chief Rabbinate of Israel held that under Jewish law abortion was a sin, while the grand council of the al-Azhar in Cairo ruled that under Islamic law a woman who had become pregnant through rape must have an abortion.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Views differ on abortion rulings

Abortion changes attacked by doctors: CEN 1.04.08 p 3 January 7, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) has charged the Department of Health with introducing a “stealth” agenda liberalizing abortion regulations that would eventually allow home abortions.

In a Dec 5 statement CMF, the country’s largest coalition of Christian doctors, said the Health Secretary had circumvented Parliament’s review of the abortion laws by authorizing abortions in “non-traditional” settings.

In June, the BMA rejected calls for nurses and midwives to be permitted to perform abortions, however earlier this month the Department of Health recommended allowing nurses and midwives be allowed to perform abortions.

“We support the BMA’s concern about safety issues concerning who performs abortions and where’, said the CMF’s general secretary Dr. Peter Saunders, “but we go further and ask what the Department of Health’s real agenda is here? We suspect this is just one further step to home abortion.”

“These proposals, misleadingly couched in the language of ‘choice’ and ‘conducive environments’, are intended to normalise a medical procedure where one life is intentionally ended,” Dr. Saunders said. “This will have the result of further trivialising abortion at a time when the vast majority of people feel something must be done to reduce Britain’s already astronomical abortion rate.”

The CMF argued that permitting GP’s to perform abortions in their offices would undermine trust in the medical profession. “If GP surgeries are eventually licensed for carrying out abortions, what is that saying about family medicine? What confusion will this create in the minds of patients when their ‘family doctor’ is treating illness in one consulting room and ending life in another?” he asked.

Abortion ‘should not be criminal’: CEN 12.21.07 p 6. December 22, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Diocese of Melbourne has backed the legalization of abortion. In a submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission made by an all-women panel appointed by Archbishop Philip Freier, the diocese stated public acceptance of abortion “indicates that a change in the law is timely.”While abortion “is a serious moral issue” it should not “remain a matter for criminal law,” the diocese said.

Melbourne’s submission was one of 40 from church, medical and community groups to the Reform Commission reviewing state abortion laws. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s submission opposed the decriminalization of abortion, but urged further resources be directed towards the support of women with problematic pregnancies.

There were “no specific biblical texts addressing therapeutic or induced
Abortion” the diocesan panel said, and explained that “the Bible is a collection of texts written in a world without our modern medical practices and so does not speak specifically to the ease and safety with which a pregnancy may be terminated today.”

It rejected the “absolutist position” that life begins at conception and the “pro-choice perspective” that held that women were free to “do what they like with their own bodies.” The diocese stated “that while the embryo/foetus is fully human from the time of conception, it accrues moral significance and value as it develops.”

Thus while the “destruction even of an early embryo is of moral significance, we believe the moral significance increases with the age and development of the foetus.”

The abortion of a foetus at 28 weeks was “more serious” than at 10 weeks, they said, but added there should not be “a legislated absolutist end-point after which an abortion could not proceed.”

Writing to his diocese on Dec 10, Dr. Freier said Melbourne did “not have a definitive viewpoint on abortion” and as a whole the Anglican Church “has predominantly been silent about abortion.”

The diocesan panel which prepared the report was currently engaged in preparing a paper outlining on the “Pastoral and Liturgical Guidelines on Abortion, which is expected to be made available to churches in 2008,” he said.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Pro-Lifers Question New Zealand Church: CEN 12.07.07 p 6. December 9, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Pro-life groups in New Zealand have castigated the Anglican Church for not taking a stand against abortion.

Right to Life New Zealand wrote to the New Zealand bishops on Sept 15 asking them to speak out against abortion. In December 1977 New Zealand passed the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act permitting abortion. In the 30 years since the Act was passed, over 350,000 abortions have been performed in New Zealand.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church anger of Japan euthanasia guidelines: CEN 11.09.07 p 8. November 12, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Nippon Sei Ko Kai.
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Church leaders have denounced guidelines adopted by the Japanese Association of Acute Medicine (JAAM) that allows doctors to euthanize terminally ill patients.The Oct 15 policy paper allows doctors to stop life prolonging treatments of the terminally ill, if the patient has stated in writing they do not wish to receive such treatment and their family endorses the decision.

If the family cannot decide or if the cannot be found, the decision should be left up to a team of medical professionals, JAAM said.

Critics charge the new guidelines are being driven by fears of government prosecution, rather than medical ethics. Japanese law is silent on euthanasia, with the state tending not to prosecute cases of “mercy killing” when done with the family’s permission. However, in 2005 a Yokohama doctor was jailed for three years for giving a comatose man a lethal injection.

On Oct 27 the Japanese newspaper the Ashai Shimbun reported that JAAM began compiling the guidelines after police questioned a doctor at Imizu City Hospital in Toyama Prefecture who had removed artificial respirators from seven terminal-cancer patients between 2000 and 2005.

The Rev. Masakatsu Seki, professor emeritus of Christian life ethics at St. Paul’s University in Tokyo, told Ecumenical News International the guidelines violated medical ethics.

“The logic is that if they follow the process towards halting measures for prolonging lives according to this [report], they will be justified and won’t be sued for illegal acts and that they have supported death with dignity as a mercy killing,”, the Anglican priest said.

Parliamentary Abortion Report Sparks a Storm of Protest: CEN 11.02.07 p 1. November 6, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper.
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The article below was a joint production of a number of CEN writers. I was but one contributor. GC

THE PUBLICATION this week of the report by Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee into abortion has caused a storm of protest. And two of the members of the Committee, Dr Bob Spinks and Nadine Dorries – both Conservative MPs-published a minority report refuting the main report, calling it ‘shameful’ and its conclusions ‘laughable’.

In its report the Committee argues against reducing the upper time limit for abortions from 24 weeks. They also call for the removal of the need for two doctors to approve requested abortion and suggested that nurses and midwives, with suitable training and professional guidance, be allowed to carry out early abortions.

The report states that while survival rates at 24 weeks (the current upper limit for abortion) and over have improved since 1990, survival rates (viability) below that gestational point have not.

But the report has sparked a storm of criticism with pro-life groups claiming that their views were sidelined, or dismissed as not being scientific.

Speaking on behalf of the All Party Pro-Life Group, Jim Dobbin (Labour), said: “We deplore the way in which the Science & Technology Committee’s inquiry has purported to take into account the scientific evidence and yet has at the same time ignored key scientific developments which are crucial to the abortion debate.

“Abortion is an ethical and social issue as well as a scientific one. The imbalance of witnesses also skewed the outcome of the evidence presented. We believe there is a clear scientific case to be made to reduce the upper limit for social abortions from 24 weeks.”

He also criticised the proposal to allow nurses to sign off on abortions, claiming that this would put women’s health in danger. The report from the Science and Technology Committee will now go to Ministers and will provide the backdrop for a Parliamentary battle as the Human Tissue and Embryology Bill, due to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, will allow the issue of abortion to be revisited.

Mr Dobbin said the All Party Pro-Life Group would be tabling amendments to reduce the upper time limit for abortions in the UK to the EU average of 13 weeks.

And many of those called as witnesses to the inquiry have voiced concerns that their views were marginalized. A spokesman for the Christian Medical Fellowship complained that the committee only asked for evidence in June, with a deadline of September 2.

And they were concerned that the Committee declared they would not look at the ‘ethical or moral issues associated with abortion time limits.’ Nevertheless, half a dozen of their members made personal submissions, only to find that they had to declare their membership of the CMF.

The fear was that this may discredit their scientific evidence as the CMF has an anti-abortion stance.

The CMF has claimed that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) misled the Committee because it offered one-sided testimony about the issue.

Before the committee the RCOG stated that a foetus cannot feel pain earlier than 24 weeks. But that was contradicted by work carried out by American academic Prof KJ Anand.

“For the RCOG to report the studies of researchers who share their position, whilst ignoring research published by other leading researchers with contrary views, is at the very least misleading,” CMF general secretary Dr Peter Saunders said, urging the RCOG to amend its testimony to Parliament.

Lambeth Petition Launched: CEN 9.21.07 p 7. September 23, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Lambeth 2008.
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Anglicans for Life has begun a Communion-wide petition drive to gather 100,000 signatures to present to the bishops attending the 2008 Lambeth Conference affirming the “sacredness of every life, born and unborn.”

The Pittsburgh-based church pressure group, with branches across the US, UK and in Africa stated on Sept 12 that it “is time for the Anglican Communion to take a stand concerning the dignity of life.”

“We need our Archbishops and Bishops to state unequivocally what the Anglican Communion believes regarding life, abortion and euthanasia,” Anglicans for Life president Georgette Forney said.

Its analysis of Lambeth Conference resolutions adopted since 1930 found the church had “consistently upheld the biblical view of the sanctity of life and expressed concern about abortion, but it has never officially declared itself to be ‘pro’ life.”

Anglicans for Life argued that it was “incumbent on all Anglicans to call for the Church to defend biblical life principles instead of capitulating to the growing cultural acceptance of killing the vulnerable, elderly and unborn.”

The pressure group will collect signatures through March 2008 and will present the petition to the bishops at Lambeth along with model resolutions supporting the rights of the “unborn.”

Bishop Quits Amnesty in Abortion Row: CEN 8.24.07 p 2 August 24, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Roman Catholic Bishop of East Anglia Michael Evans has quit Amnesty International [AI] over the international rights group’s decision to back abortion.

In a statement posted on his diocese’s website Bishop Evans said it would be “very difficult” for observant Roman Catholics to remain members of AI.

On Aug 17 AI’s general meeting “affirmed the organization’s policy on selected aspects of abortion — to support the decriminalization of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion, and to defend women’s access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger.”

A member of Amnesty International since 1976, Bishop Evans served as a member of the British Section Council of AI for two years, helped coordinated campaigns for the release of Soviet dissidents, and chaired the British Section’s Religious Bodies Liaison Panel. He also wrote the latest Amnesty prayer for their ‘Protect the Human’ campaign.

“This regrettable decision will almost certainly divide Amnesty’s membership and thereby undermine its vital work,” he said

Bishop Evans stated there was “no human right to access to abortion, and Amnesty should not involve itself even in such extreme cases. Amnesty opposes torture and the death penalty under all circumstances, however dire the situation; the same should be true for Amnesty’s mandate to ‘Protect the Human’ — before as well as after birth.”

“To allow for the use of torture in just one extreme situation, e.g. a terrorist threat, would compromise Amnesty’s absolute rejection of torture. To support access to abortion, even in dire situations compromises Amnesty’s mandate to ‘Protect the Human’,” he argued.

“Our proper indignation regarding pervasive violence against women should not cloud our judgment about our duty to protect the most vulnerable and defenseless form of human life,” Bishop Evans said.

Anger over female infanticide in India: CEN 8.15.07 August 16, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India.
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CHRISTIAN women’s groups have expressed outrage over a rising tide of female infanticide in India, following the discovery of two mass graves of aborted foetuses.

This is a dangerous situation and, if it continues, there will be the extinction of female children,” said Sabitha Swaraj, president of the All India Council of Christian Women on July 26 following the discovery of the mass graves.

The preference for male children has lead to a gender imbalance in the population of India. A study published in 2006 in the Lancet found that in 2001 showed that for every 1,000 male babies born in India, there were just 933 girls.

Anger over female infanticide in India

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Vatican Tells Catholics to Withdraw Support for Amnesty International: CEN 6.19.07 June 24, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England Newspaper, NGOs, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Vatican has urged Roman Catholics to withdraw support from Amnesty International [AI] due to the international human rights advocacy group’s support for abortion.”By pushing for the decriminalisation of abortion as part of their platform, Amnesty International has disqualified itself as a defender of human rights,” Cardinal Renato Martin, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told an American Roman Catholic newspaper last week. Vatican tells Catholics to withdraw support for Amnesty

Read it all at Religious Intelligence/The Church of England Newspaper

Executive Council Affirms Church’s Membership in Abortion Rights Group: TLC 1.20.06 January 20, 2006

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Afghanistan, Executive Council, Living Church.
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The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has approved the Church’s membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), an organization whose literature states its “primary role is educating the public to make clear that abortion can be a moral, ethical, and religiously responsible decision.”

The vote during the Jan. 9-12 meeting held in Des Moines, Iowa, came upon a recommendation from the Executive Council’s Committee on National Concerns. John Vanderstar, an Executive Council member from the Diocese of Washington who proposed the resolution, said it was intended to clarify the Church’s relationship to the organization.

Read it all in The Living Church.

Florida Bishops Speak out Concerning Terry Schiavo: TLC 3.29.05 March 29, 2005

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Central Florida, Living Church, Southeast Florida.
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As Terry Schiavo was clinging to life in a Pinellas Park hospice, two Florida bishops have written to their dioceses offering moral guidance and presenting questions about ethics and the law at the end of life.

In an Easter pastoral to the Diocese of Southeast Florida, the Rt. Rev. Leo Frade wrote Floridians were “challenged by the reality of death in the suffering of a family facing the death of their spouse, daughter and sister. Terri Schiavo is our neighbor, a fellow-Floridian, and our sister in Christ.”

Recounting the medical and legal rationale that led to the court-ordered withdrawal of food and water from Mrs. Schiavo, Bishop Frade expressed his sympathies, writing he had “encountered such a tragic and painful moment myself, at the deathbed of my comatose mother, when my sister and I were forced to decide whether to continue care or to accept our mother’s condition as irreparable.”

Christians, he wrote, must hold firm to the “belief in the sanctity of each human life as a cherished creation of God, but we must reject an attitude that disregards the inevitability of physical death. Our Easter faith assures us that the death of the body is not the end of life.”

Endorsing the decisions of the 1991 General Convention on euthanasia (AO93), he rejected the practice as being contrary to Christian teaching, but noted “there is a difference between allowing a terminally ill person to die of natural causes, even by withholding or withdrawing of heroic and extraordinary life-sustaining treatments, and the initiating of actions that will cause someone’s death. I believe that allowing death to take its course is morally appropriate when death is inevitable and will obviously be the natural outcome.”

Bishop Frade criticized the intervention of the United States Congress in the Schiavo case, saying, “the family should be the proper context for decision-making in this type of determination, and that the government should not intrude in even a surrogate role.”

The courts and not the legislature, he argued was the “proper vehicle” to safeguard individual rights as “the intrusion by politicians is extremely inappropriate.”

Bishop Frade urged the clergy to encourage their parishioners “to provide for advance written directives concerning medical treatment and durable powers of attorney, setting forth medical declarations that make known a person’s wishes concerning the continuation or withholding or removing of life sustaining systems.”

In a letter to his clergy written on Good Friday, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe wrote that he had been criticized for not having commented previously on this current American tragedy. “I have been damned and threatened with hell-fire,” he wrote, “because I have not spoken out on behalf of ‘saving Terri’s life.’”

Noting “the vast majority of Americans say they would not want their lives prolonged if they faced the circumstances Terri faces,” Bishop Howe, a past president and chairman of the board of NOEL, the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life, stated “my sympathies are overwhelmingly on the side of life — for the very young, the very old, and those who at every stage of life cannot defend themselves.”

The courts, he wrote, “have declined to intervene or command the reinsertion of her feeding tube. This is not because of an ethical consideration on their parts but because of legal considerations.”

“Terri’s gift to this nation could be,” Bishop Howe wrote, “that we explore in the fullest detail the numerous ethical and legal questions that her case, and thousands of cases like it, raise.”

Noting his unease with the roll of Mrs. Schiavo’s husband and the conflict within her family, Bishop Howe asked, “how do we decide who makes life-and- death decisions for a deeply disabled person? If there is the kind of ambiguity we see in Terri’s case, shouldn’t we always come down on the side of life?”

Absent a living will, how do we determine a person’s wishes regarding end-of-life issues?” Bishop Howe asked. And “if the decision becomes not to sustain (artificially) life, how do we best ensure that death will be as painless as possible?”

The 1998 Lambeth Conference addressed several of the issues raised by the Schiavo affair. Conference Resolution 1.14 defined “euthanasia” as “the act by which one person intentionally causes or assists in causing the death of another who is terminally or seriously ill in order to end the other’s pain and suffering.”

“Euthanasia”, the bishops noted, “is neither compatible with the Christian faith nor should be permitted in civil litigation.”

In subsection D of the resolution they wrote the conference “distinguishes between euthanasia and withholding, withdrawing, declining, terminating excessive medical treatment and intervention, all of which may be consistent with Christian faith in enabling a person to die with dignity. When a person is in a permanent vegetative state, to sustain him or her with artificial nutrition and hydration may be seen as constituting medical intervention.”

In a bow to the rapid increases in medical knowledge the bishops chose not to define what a “permanent vegetative state” was.

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Church of England Continues to Oppose Euthanasia: TLC 3.28.05 March 28, 2005

Posted by geoconger in Abortion/Euthanasia/Biotechnology, Church of England, Living Church.
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Easter weekend for Episcopalians was saturated with secular news reports on Terri Schiavo and related right-to-die issues. Meanwhile in Great Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury said recently that the Church remains unequivocally opposed to euthanasia and cannot support “right to die” legislation before Parliament.

Writing in the Times of London on Jan. 20, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams stated there was no “right to die.” Euthanasia implies “that life at a certain level of suffering or incapacity could no longer be lived in relation to God,” a proposition the Church rejects, for the “worth of human life,” he stated, “cannot be mortgaged to how any individual feels.”

Archbishop Williams’ comments came four days after remarks made by Prof. Robin Gill of the University of Kent. Speaking before a parliamentary committee hearing on assisted dying for the terminally ill, Canon Gill, an ethicist and advisor to Archbishop Williams, said the state should not prosecute those who facilitate suicide.

“There is a very strong compassionate case for voluntary euthanasia,” Canon Gill told one British newspaper, adding that in some cases “there is an overwhelming case for it.”

Dr. Williams rejected this argument, writing, “Euthanasia is best defined as the initiating of a process whose explicit primary aim is to end life. It is not the same as continuing a medical process whose long-term effect may reduce the span of life, nor is it the same as embarking on a treatment that offers short-term relief at the cost of possibly accelerating overall decline.”

Suicide is not merely a private affair, Archbishop Williams stated. We live “in relation — to others and to a society. At the simplest level, what often most shocks and grieves people who have been close to a suicide is the feeling that someone who has killed himself did not know what he really meant to his friends or family, did not know that he was loved and valued.”

Archbishop Williams endorsed palliative care and “the right to be spared avoidable pain,” but cautioned, “once that has mutated into a right to expect assistance in dying, the responsibility of others is involved, as is the whole question of what society is saying about life and its possible meanings.”

The 1998 Lambeth Conference noted that withholding excessive medical treatment when there is no “reasonable prospect of recovery” was consistent with Christian principles, a position also shared by the Standing Committee on National Concerns report to the 73rd General Convention in 2000 which rejected euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, saying “suicide is never a private self-regarding act.”

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