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Viewpoint: Don’t let tax dollars fund human-animal embryonic research

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In his 19th century novel, “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” H.G. Wells tells a chilling story about a doctor on a Pacific island who performs horrific experiments to craft animals into human beings.

While Dr. Moreau’s world might be far-fetched for now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federally funded medical research agency, wants to start funding research on human-animal chimeras that could move us in that direction. Read more »

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Morality and ethics must guide medical research, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Moral and ethical concerns must guide medical research so it will always be at the service of protecting human life and dignity, Pope Francis said.

In that way, education and research can strive “to serve higher values, such as solidarity, generosity, magnanimity, sharing of knowledge, respect for human life, and fraternal and selfless love,” he said April 29, during an audience with people taking part in a conference on adult stem cell research.

Pope Francis greets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden after both spoke at a conference on adult stem cell research at the Vatican April 29. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis greets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden after both spoke at a conference on adult stem cell research at the Vatican April 29. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Research, whether in academia or industry,” he said, “requires unwavering attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human life and the dignity of the person.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance and had addressed the conference with a 29-minute speech on the need to invest in prevention, access and affordability in the fight against cancer.

The conference looked at current and experimental techniques in using adult stem cells to fight disease, specifically rare illnesses afflicting children. The April 28-30 conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture; its foundation, STOQ, which is an acronym for Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest; and the Stem for Life Foundation, a nonprofit offshoot of the for-profit Caladrius cell-therapy company.

Speaking to participants gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, the pope highlighted the conference’s emphasis on top-notch medical know-how without overlooking the “ethical, anthropological, social and cultural questions, as well as the complex problem of access to care for those afflicted by rare conditions.”

People struck by rare diseases “are often not given sufficient attention because investing in them is not expected to produce substantial economic returns,” the pope said.

The pope repeated his call against “an economy of exclusion and inequality that victimizes people when the mechanism of profit prevails over the value of human life.”

“This is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization of empathy” so that resources will be dedicated to finding cures and people will be allowed access to treatment, he said.

“We know that we cannot always find fast cures to complex illnesses, but we can be prompt in caring for these people, who often feel abandoned and ignored,” he said. People must be sensitive to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs, social standing or cultural background, he said.

In his speech, delivered before the pope arrived, Biden spoke about the attention and comfort he felt when the pope met him and his family privately during the papal visit to the United States in September.

Biden lost his 46-year-old son, Beau, to brain cancer in May 2015. The vice president said that during the private meeting in an airplane hangar in Philadelphia, the pope’s words, prayers and presence “provided us with more comfort than even he, I think, will ever understand.”

Biden, a parishioner at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church in Greeneville, Del., said his family, like many others around the world, have seen “how faith can turn loss into hope, and hope into action.”

“The Holy Father has given hope to so many people, of all faiths, in every part of the world, with his strong words and humble ways,” he said.

Biden spoke about the U.S. administration’s “Moonshot,” an initiative he leads and which is aimed at eliminating cancer through prevention, including from environmental causes, and greater access to healthcare and affordable treatment. “The best medicine and treatment can’t belong only to the privileged and the powerful. It has to belong to everyone,” he said.

“Cancer is a constant emergency,” Biden said, as it causes the deaths of 3,000 people a day in the United States.

He urged researchers and scientists to share and publish data and discoveries “immediately,” and not hide it for years behind “paywalls.”

 

 

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Synod bishops discussing ‘graduality’ in sexual and medical ethics

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Catholic News Service VATICAN — In their discussions of sexual and medical ethics, participants at the Synod of Bishops on the family are giving emphasis to the concept of “graduality,” as a way of thinking about morality that allows for human imperfection without compromising ideals. In an address to the assembly on its first working day, Oct. 6, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, said that “Humanae Vitae,” the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church’s prohibition of artificial birth control, “needs to be considered in light of the law of graduality.” He suggested that it was unrealistic to expect immediate acceptance of the widely flouted teaching.

Cardinals Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, leave the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 7. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinals Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, leave the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 7. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The cardinal quoted “Familiaris Consortio,” a 1981 apostolic exhortation by St. John Paul II on the role of the Christian family in the world that was inspired by the last synod on the family in 1980. According to St. John Paul, each person is a historical being who “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good in stages of growth.” Several bishops referred to graduality in their remarks during an afternoon session dedicated to the theme of “God’s plan for marriage and the family.” “Despite serious flaws that we always identify in Western culture, we also have to discern and to declare what the steppingstones are for Christian wisdom,” one bishop said, according to Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, an assistant to the Holy See Press Office, who did not identify the bishop in accordance with synod rules. Discussing the church’s attitude toward “irregular” relationships, such as those of civilly married or cohabitating Catholic couples, another bishop drew an analogy with the Catholic understanding of other Christian churches. While the church is said to subsist fully only in the Catholic Church, other Christian communities are believed to possess important elements for sanctification. By the same token, “there is a full and ideal vision of the Christian family, but there are absolutely valid and important elements even of sanctification and of true love that may be present even when one does not fully realize this ideal,” the bishop said, as paraphrased by the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who also spoke at the Oct. 6 session, told reporters the next day that the “law of graduality” is a “law of pastoral moral theology which permits people, all of us, to take one step at a time in our search for holiness in our lives.” The cardinal, who attended the 1980 synod as a priest assisting a participating bishop, recalled that St. John Paul II had made an important point on the subject at the conclusion of the synod. “He said, yes, there is a law of graduality, but it should not be confused with a graduality of the law,” Cardinal Nichols said. “He was saying the vision, the teaching of the church is consistent and is offered to everybody. So it’s not as if there’s one law at this time in your life and another law later in your life, but there is a pathway on which we’ll walk.” Another synod father, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, told reporters Oct. 6 that the idea of graduality could help the church develop a new way of speaking about sexuality. “We cannot have always 100 percent, and I would say good and bad, that’s not so easy to make the difference,” the cardinal said in English. “There is a development, a way, in the biography or in a relationship and so on.” Cardinal Marx, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, also said that the “great majority” of German bishops support German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s controversial proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, even if they have not obtained annulments of their first, sacramental marriages. “I think it is very important to see that we have ways or that there is a graduality also in the way to the sacrament,” Cardinal Marx said.

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