Supreme Court ends dispute over status of priest, nuns

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, September 24, 2017: The Supreme Court of India has ruled that Catholic priests and religious are not in a “professional engagement” for profit but a way of life, ending a long-drawn legal dispute over their status in the country.

The Sept. 15 verdict of country’s top court ended a clash that began in 2004 when a Catholic priest and two nuns were not allowed to enroll in the Kerala unit of the Bar Council of India. The priest and nuns said that a religious vocation cannot be equated to a profession while the Bar Council of India said its rules do not permit people in other professions to practice law.

The Kerala High Court in 2006 ruled in favor of the priest and nuns.

The Bar Council of India appealed to the Supreme Court of India and cited rules that those gainfully engaged in any trade, business or profession cannot be enrolled as lawyers. It said priests and nuns cannot become lawyers as they are already “professed” members of another profession and get paid by the church.

“The core issue was interpretation of the word profession,” said Sister Mary Scaria, a Supreme Court lawyer. The court clarified that the profession of a religious “has nothing to do with professional engagement,” she told ucanews.com on Sept. 18.

Supreme Court lawyer M.P. Raju, a Catholic, who appeared on behalf of the priest and two nuns told ucanews that the relevance of the verdict can be judged “only when you consider the impact of Supreme Court admitting the appeal.”

If the Supreme Court had admitted the plea, no Catholic priest and nun could be allowed to practice law in any court of India, Raju said.

The Supreme Court said a blanket ban on priests and religious cannot stand, but that the bar council can examine each individual case to see if an applicant is gainfully engaged in any other profession.

The Supreme Court agreed with the High Court that priests and nuns are not paid a salary from the church but “live on a subsistence (allowance) or maintenance.”

Claretian Father Johny Kattupurayil, who helps coordinates lawyer priests and nuns in India under the National Lawyers Forum, estimated India has some 1,000 men and women religious who are qualified lawyers.

“But, only a quarter of that number must be practicing in courts, and most of them engaged in helping out poor people who have no money to pay for lawyers,” he said.

– ucan

How to pray when prayer seems unremarkable

September 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

As a small child, I remember saying my nighttime prayers with my mom each night before I went to bed. When I became a little older, the words became more personal. Yet, for years, I would end each prayer with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. For the longest time, my prayer life sounded more like a one-sided telephone conversation. Thank you God for today…thank you for my family…Thank you for…etc. I might throw in some confessions. I would then pray for other people’s needs. My prayer life was rote and ritualistic for years.

Then I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and the thought of praying continually seemed exhausting. I realized I must be missing something in my prayer life.

Jesus and prayer

Prayer was vital to Jesus’ ministry while he was on earth. The Gospels show how Jesus prioritized prayer throughout his ministry. He prayed before making important decisions and before many miracles (Mark 7:32-37; Luke 5:16, 6:12-13, John 6:11, 11:41-42). He utilized prayer to understand the will of the Father Jesus also prayed to God in thanksgiving as well as on behalf of others (Mark 8:6; Matthew 19:13).

1. Learn to retreat to prayer.

Luke 5:16 states that Jesus would withdraw to lonely places to pray. This shows intentionality to reconnect with the Father after the crowds had come to witness his miracles and teaching. We often lead busy lives. When we take time to meet with God and be still, we can hear what he is trying to tell us. The location may be in a coffee house, your back porch, or maybe in your shower. The importance is that you take away the distractions and regularly commune with the Lord.

2. Express your heart to God.

One of the most beautiful expressions of Jesus’ heart is found in John 17, the night of his arrest. In his prayer, he speaks the truth of the Father back to the Father. He then takes time to pray for his disciples as well as future believers. Even throughout his petition, most of his prayer is a declaration of God’s promises. During Jesus’ largest crisis on earth, his mind was on God’s faithfulness. I have found keeping a prayer journal helpful to help me better communicate to God exactly what I am feeling. We see examples of written prayers to God in Scripture through the prayers of King David.

3. Confess our sin to God.

King David is known to be a man after God’s own heart. His prayers recorded in Psalms express his intimate relationship. Part of this intimacy comes from his ability to confess his wrongdoings. The New Testament teaches about the importance of confessing our sins before God (1 John 1:9). It brings us humbly before God’s throne of grace and allows him to receive us back into proper fellowship. Try to allow God to search your heart daily or even in quiet moments throughout the day. Learning to confess our sins as soon as we feel convicted of them helps us stay in fellowship with God.

4. Forgive your offenders.

One of the few saying of Jesus on the cross was his petition to the Father to forgive those who while they were persecuting him (Luke 23:34). They had not asked for forgiveness, yet he extended it through prayer. To deepen our own relationship with the Father, forgiveness of others is necessary (Matthew 6:14-15).

5. Surrender your heart to God’s will.

The Gospel of John records Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his prayer, Jesus requests that if it is possible for the cup to be taken from him, then let it be, but may God’s will be done. Through this prayer, we see Jesus surrender his will into the Father’s hand. He petitions three times, showing persistence in his request. Jesus sweats droplets of blood which is an indication of extreme stress. Yet, at the end of the night, Jesus rises and submits to his fate. Because Jesus knew the heart of the Father, he could surrender to God’s will for his life (John 10:30). When we spend time with God, we develop our relationship with him and understand that his plan for our lives is greater than the plan we have for ourselves.

6. Meditate on God’s word in prayer.

The psalmist in Psalm 1 reveals the importance of meditating on God’s word both day and night. This reflection helped the writer refrain from temptation and live in a way that was pleasing to God. In our prayer life, when we reflect on God’s word, it enables us to remember his promises and his truth. This truth will set us free in times of doubt and temptation (John 8:32).

7. Commit yourself to God with unwavering trust.

With Jesus’ final breaths, He expressed his unwavering trust in the Father’s care. His cry was not of surrender and defeat, but rather a testimony of his abiding commitment to completing God’s will for his life on earth. Our prayers should reflect that same level of commitment and trust. When we spend time alone with God, expressing our true heart to him, surrendering our lives to his plan, confessing our sin, forgiving others, and meditating on his word, it allows us to grow in our love relationship with the Lord. This growth becomes noticeable to the world because we are forever changed.

– cross walk

Is the world really ending? Author breaks down Revelation, Last book in the Bible

September 24, 2017 by  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

U.S., September 22, 2017: Author Jeff Kinley believes that there’s a lot of confusion and apprehension when it comes to the study of the end times — and considering the strange pop culture buzz — complete with people making odd claims about when the Apocalypse will definitively unfold — the cautiousness and fear is understandable.

But Kinley, who spoke with “The Billy Hallowell Podcast” days before Sept. 23 “prophecy” headlines began to rage, also offered up some cautions for those who might completely ignore eschatology (the study of the end times).

“I think most people sort of view Revelation and prophesy sort of in the ‘Sci-Fi’ category of theologies. It’s kind of one of those things where you can talk about when you make a movie about it but hey, is it really real?” Kinley said. “Then the other thing … is that there’s a lot of confusion, there’s a lot of white noise out there concerning prophesy and the end times.”

That white noise, he said, often comes in the form of sensationalism and speculation. As a result, some people either avoid the topic entirely or assume that, for whatever reason, it’s “above their pay grade.”

But Kinley, who recently released the book, The End of America? Bible Prophecy and a Country in Crisis, said that prophetic texts are just as much a part of the Bible as any other scripture, chapter or book that people hold dear.

“The way I see it is, Revelation is in the Bible, just as much as Psalms and Proverbs and Colossians. It was there for us to know and to read and understand,” he said. “In fact, God promises a blessing to those who read the book of Revelation. I think it’s one of those things that’s sort of been hidden, but needs to be brought to light, especially in light of the times at which we live.”

Kinley also tackled one of the questions that frequently comes up among those who study the Bible and, in particular, eschatology: How far are we from the biblical end of days? To illustrate his response, the author offered up a fascinating analogy.

“It’s like when you’re in the grocery store and you hear Christmas music playing and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, you know that something’s going on. It may not be Christmas yet. It may be Christmas Eve and you don’t know it, but when you hear Christmas music playing, you know that Christmas is coming,” he said. “I think what we’re hearing is the music of Bible prophesy playing across the world and there’s so many specific things that are being put into place.”

While these elements aren’t quite there yet, Kinley said they are “being put into place.”

Kinley also said that he’s not sure how close we are to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, though he pointed back to his analogy to make a point worth considering: “When you hear the music playing, you’re probably getting pretty close.

Despite his views on the dire state of American culture, Kinley said it’s possible to turn the situation around.

“I’m not sure that America as the country will or will not be saved in the end, but I do know that American’s can be saved,” he said. “That’s really our call is to rise up and to make this our finest hour as believers because we may well indeed be in those last hours.”

– christian post

Chinese priest gets jail time for theft, supporters say he was framed

September 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Hong Kong, September 21, 2017: Supporters of a government approved priest in northeast China who was sentenced to 18-months jail for stealing money from a church-run retirement home say he was framed because of his evangelization work.

Father Fei Jisheng from Liaoning Diocese in northeast China was sentenced by a court in the city of Gaizhou along with layman He Xianmin who was given one year probation.

Both men have been ordered to compensate the Catholic Church in Gaizhou with 121,200 yuan (US$18,435) believed to be the amount of charity money that the court said they stole.

A source close to Father Fei told ucanews.com that local Catholics and clergy believe the priest and the layman where framed by security officials.

They say Father Fei ran a successful evangelization program called the Apostolic Class that was not approved by the government and that is why he was targeted by the state. The program started in 2007 and spread across China. It is particularly active in northeastern Liaoning and Hebei provinces.

The source said Bishop Pei Junmin of Liaoning tried communicating with the provincial religious affairs bureau and the United Front Work Department over the case but had little success with both official bodies.

“The two departments pushed the case back and forth each other, talking evasively and denying they have any knowledge about the case,” said the source.

The priest’s case was deemed sensitive by the authorities and no details have been allowed to be made public. Father Fei was not allowed to see friends or family while he was detained.

Father Fei’s family were not able to attend any of his three court hearings which were held behind closed doors.

The priest’s situation was closely followed by local Catholics and clergy. At one of the hearings they were in close proximity to the well-guarded court in support of Father Fei.

“The Catholics had been standing quietly at a place far from the court building to pray and recite the rosary for the priest,” said the source.

Police officers arrested Father Fei while he was visiting a nun’s convent in Fushun city in Liaoning on Oct. 18, 2016.

Father Fei was abducted briefly by authorities in November 2015 for unclear reasons. On June 6, 2016, he was also detained with four others who made cross-border evangelization work outside his own diocese, something also not allowed under law. He was released a month later.

– ucan

UN to investigate genocide in Iraq

September 24, 2017 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Iraq, September 22, 2017: On Thursday the UN Security Council unanimously agreed to set up an investigation to collect evidence of crimes against humanity and possible genocide committed by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. Crucially, the Security Council resolution (2379) includes crimes “motivated by religious or ethnic grounds.” Whilst it does not specifically name any ethnic or religious group, it has been widely recognised that Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims have been specifically targeted, with US Secretary of State John Kerry last year specifically referring to this as “genocide.”

Whilst the investigation is limited to the actions of IS in Iraq, it is nonetheless enormously significant, not least because it allows investigators to collect evidence of crimes against humanity and genocide committed against members of any religious or ethnic group.

It had been feared that Russia and China would veto any such resolution in case it led to other resolutions scrutinising their own human rights record. It is therefore a major feat of diplomacy that this resolution has been passed unanimously. Agreement appears to have been reached on the basis that the evidence collected would be used to try those responsible under international law, but in the Iraqi national courts, rather than the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This resolution has been a long time coming and no one should doubt the difficulties that have had to be overcome to reach this point. When Barnabas Fund met with the Foreign Office minister in February we presented her with a list of possible options for achieving a genocide investigation and asked if the UK government had a preferred option; the response was that the UK was trying all options! We had ourselves some months earlier written to the ICC’s chief prosecutor asking her to consider initiating a proprio motu investigation of crimes against humanity and possible genocide committed against Christians in Iraq and Syria.

We therefore warmly welcome the passing of this resolution. However, this is just the start. Evidence must now be gathered and justice achieved for the victims of IS in Iraq. But let us remember that it is not just in Iraq but also in Syria and the broader region where IS have specifically targeted Christians. Nor is it just IS’s victims, but also victims of other jihadists that we must continue to seek justice for.

– barnabas persecution update

Bibles and church contents burned in Karnataka attack

September 24, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india, Persecution

Karnataka, September 22,2017: A Church in the Chitradurga district of Karnataka was broken into and all the items inside the Church set ablaze including sacred sacraments and Bibles by some unidentified miscreants just before midnight of 17 September.

The burnt Bibles and literatures

“Around midnight some people came and informed me that my Church is set on fire from inside,” said Pastor Vaddar Nagaraja, 38, who leads the Shalom Assembly of God, located in village B G Kere, Molakalmuru Taluk of the district.

“On reaching the spot, I found out that all the items inside the Church were gathered at various corners and set on fire intentionally. By the time I reached, everything had turned to ashes,” said a traumatized Pastor Vaddar Nagaraja in an interview with Global Christian News.

All the furniture, Bibles, literature and valuables worth one lakh six thousand Rupees (1630 USD) were burnt.

“An Amplifier, a home theatre, 24 chairs, 3 music and PA systems, a DVD player, 4 mikes, 40 Bibles, 150 DVD cassettes, sacred sacraments used for distributing Holy Communion, all the ceiling fans and valuable paintings lied in heaps of rubble on the floor,” said Nagaraja.

There were no CCTV cameras fitted inside or outside the Church he informed.

“We never felt the need of the cameras as we have a very cordial relationship with all the people in the neighborhood and I have been running this Church for the past three years in this locality and never faced a problem,” said Nagaraja.

Nagaraja church met originally by n his own home until he built the church building with the support of Assemblies of God Churches.

150 people are regular members of this Church.

A First Information Report was registered by Nagaraja in the local police station on 18 September.

“The police have provided security to the Church during the nights since then but no arrests have taken place,” said Nagaraja.

Hinduism is the majority religion in state of Karnataka with 84.00 per cent of followers. Islam is second most popular religion in state of Karnataka with approximately 12.92 per cent following it. In Karnataka state, Christianity is followed by 1.87 per cent, Jainism by 0.72 per cent, Sikhism by 0.05 per cent and Buddhism by 0.05 per cent. Around 0.02 per cent stated ‘Other Religion’, approximately 0.27 per cent stated ‘No Particular Religion’.

– global christian news

Church vandalised and cross desecrated in Faridabad

September 24, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Haryana, September 15, 2017: A Church was completely vandalized and a cross desecrated by a mob of Hindu extremists earlier this month in the Indian state of Haryana.

Pastor KG Matthews, 63, was conducting a morning service in one of the two churches he is responsible for in the Rehoboth Fellowship Church in the Nehru colony of Faridabad, when he received news of the attack on Sunday 3 September. On reaching his church he found it badly damaged.

He said, “About 40 members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS – a Hindu right-wing organization] broke into my Church, which was locked and damaged the entire property of the Church including chairs, tables, benches, musical instruments besides breaking the main door and the door of another room inside the Church. “They broke the cross made from cement which was engraved above the door post of the Church and applied cow-dung on the desecrated cross”, said Pastor K. G. Mathew in an interview with Global Christian News.

“As I was conducting service elsewhere, nobody was in this Church at the time of the attack thus no one got injured,” said Pastor Mathews. Mathews was born in the southern Indian state of Kerala and moved to North India 42 years ago and since then has been ministering in the locality. He has been running this Church for the past 15 years.

“I have been running a school for the underprivileged children of drug addicts who live in the surrounding slums,” said Mathew. Mathew reached the police post to complain about the attack, where he found another Pastor Abraham Thomas, who was brought in by the RSS mob.

“I came to know in the police station that the same Hindu mob had also vandalised my Church. The police initially were not willing to hear my complaint, they heard the allegation levied on us by the Hindu extremists and then came to visit my Church. After the police, themselves witnessed the wanton destruction caused by the extremists, they realised the truth in my statements,” said Mathews.

The Police offered police-protection to the Rehoboth Fellowship Church for their Sunday services and “two constables were sent to guard my Church during the worship service last Sunday (10 Sep)”. No action has been reported to have taken place against the Hindu extremists.

– global christian news

67 churches marked wrongly in Mumbai development plan, say activists

September 24, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Maharashtra, September 24, 2017: When the proposed development plan (DP) was released last year, the Archdiocese of Bombay raised objections to the status of 90 churches in Mumbai, saying they had been wrongly marked.

However, when the civic body released its modifications to the plan on its website on September 8, Godfrey Pimenta, trustee of Watchdog Foundation, found that only 28 changes had been made. Now, only 23 of these religious places have been marked. As many as 34 have not even found a mention in the DP.

“The authorities have not carried out a proper inspection, despite our objections. I plan to file a public interest litigation in the high court regarding this soon,” he said.

Authorities of St Francis Xavier’s church, Vile Parle, had objected to the church being marked as a primary school in the proposed development plan (DP) a year ago. They said the authorities assured them that their request would be taken into consideration. “We received an acknowledgment letter after we presented our objection to the planning committee. They said the situation would be rectified. However, we haven’t received an update yet,” said Fr Savio D’Souza, parish priest.

The church was marked as an orphanage in proposed DP 2015, then marked as a school in the proposed DP 2016 and has been marked to an orphanage yet. This is because it shares its compound with Shishu Bhawan, which is run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, and Xavier’s High School and Junior College.

The discrepancies are not limited to just one church — Our Lady of Perpetual Succor at Chembur has been marked as St Anthony Church after the modification.

Officials associated with the DP told HT that as the plan has not yet been finalised, there was scope for the government to examine these objections and make changes. “The DP is not a tourist map. Places marked in it are based on utility. When it comes to religious places, the committee takes a call on it depending on whether they are a part of our heritage list,” said an official.

– hindustan times

Do your social media posts “Bear False Witness?”

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

If you’ve been on any social media platform for more than a few minutes, I can almost guarantee you’ve seen it. The floods of tweets and posts attacking one person, shaming and bashing and speaking ill of them because of something they said (or didn’t say), did (or didn’t do). Joel Osteen, Jen Hatmaker, other pastors who have made public mistakes, politicians who make controversial decisions– we readily share opinions and make comments about not only the actions of others, but their very character, too. Many of the people posting would even consider themselves Christians, and often many of them proclaim so proudly in their profiles.

Yet here we see messages broadcast loudly online that seem to go against the very nature of Christ himself…

We see the likes and retweets stack up, and we feel justified that our words were worth saying… but what if they weren’t?

“What we post on social media can take on a life of its own,” Gaye Clark writes for The Gospel Coalition. “The matter feels urgent, so we hastily type rebuttals. Veiled as zeal for truth, we run to our computers and phones to adjust error and admonish the man who got it all wrong. …But was it true? Did it honor the Lord?”

This is the crucial question in today’s culture.

Just because we have these platforms and this access to audiences who will affirm us doesn’t mean we should use them as tools to shame others, yet we so often stumble into doing so.

When folks on Twitter were outraged about Joel Osteen supposedly not opening his church as a place of refuge during the hurricane in Houston, many didn’t even know the full, true story. The shaming spread like wildfire even though the facts had not been known or considered.

Clark addresses in her article that we often post things online that we assume to be true but instead turn out to be false. We do so thinking we are rebuking them, wanting them to do better or do more or follow Scripture more carefully, but, like Clark writes, “this goal often seems lost when we log on to our computer. On social media, public rebuke can seek to shake or discredit.”

What ends up happening is less of a healthy rebuke and more of a harmful attack.

“Technology makes it easy to lose sight of the image-bearer we’re addressing,” Clark writes. It would be wise for us all to keep this at the forefront of our minds as we craft posts to share with our followers: every human being on this earth bears the image of God. When we speak ill of them, we are, in essence, attempting to tarnish that image. What we rarely realize is we often tarnish our own in the process.

So, what’s the best course of action here? What do we do when we feel strongly about the way someone is handling a situation (or not handling it) or we feel compelled to comment and share our opinions of a person or a scenario?

“When possible,” Clark writes, “we ought to confront one another in person. It helps to look them in the eye when we speak of their heart.”

It’s far too easy to hide behind computer screens and keyboards, typing out things we would never dare to say with our words to someone’s face. Keeping in mind that they are an image bearer of God and a human being with a beating, feeling heart just like our own will help us as we discern what is best to say or not to say.

But what about the people who we don’t have direct access to? What about the megachurch pastors and the politicians and the spiritual leaders who we so badly want to rebuke and respond to? We can’t sit down for coffee with those people, and we can’t quite confront them in person… so then what are we to do?

Maybe the best advice there is to stay silent.

“The next time a post or tweet tempts you to reply with a snarky comeback, or take to your own platform to write a powerful rebuttal because the truth is too important to wait, consider our brother James’s words: ‘Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God’ (James 1:19-20),” writes Clark.

The advice, although challenging, is wise. May we choose to use our words wisely and follow the old “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” rule more. May we be more discerning of what is edifying and encouraging to say, and what might instead be hurtful, harmful, harsh, or even hateful. May we choose to rebuke in ways that are intentional with the ones with whom we have close and personal relationships, and may we extend more grace to everyone we come in contact with, online and off.

Today, try tweeting a little less and loving a little more. Let’s be Christians who give God glory with our words and give others grace through them, too.

– cross walk

Bioethics expert says ‘de-valuing’ human beings is 21st century malady

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under lead story, newsletter-lead

Rome, September 18, 2017: In the early 21st century, the list of bioethical conundrums facing humanity is almost infinitely long. Just because we can whip up new human lives in a petri dish, should we? Just because we can extend life almost indefinitely, should we? Just because we can alter a new life’s genetic code to give it certain perceived enhancements, should we?

According to one of the Church’s leading experts on bioethics, underlying those specific challenges is “a much bigger and broader problem”: Human beings are being “de-personalized” – which is a phenomenon, he says, Catholicism is uniquely equipped to address.

Dr. John Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the largest educational and advocacy group on bioethics in the Catholic world, headquartered in Philadelphia, offered a specific example.

“You have a man in New York who needs a kidney. His physician contacts a supplier in Israel and he goes to his man in the Philippines, who goes into the slums of Manila and finds a healthy, strapping young man, and pays him $1,500 for his kidney with little follow-up medical care,” Haas said.

“The kidney is flown to South Africa, and the man from New York flies to South Africa and he’s got a brand-new kidney. Meanwhile, the guy who gave up the kidney is sent back into the slums with money which very quickly evaporates.

“We’re actually preying on other human beings, and using them to benefit those who are wealthy and powerful,” Haas said.

Haas recently spoke to Crux about challenges arising in the field of bioethics, including the recent Charlie Gard case in the UK, and the Catholic purchase on those issues. The following are excerpts from that conversation.

Haas: We’re fundamentally a think tank. We were established back in 1972, a long time ago, by the Catholic Hospital Association, to be an educational resource to address ethical questions arising from medicine and the life sciences. Basically, that was it.

Over the years, we’ve grown and developed. We’re probably the largest bioethical institute in the Catholic world. We have seven doctoral level bioethicists working for us, and we’re the largest Catholic publisher in the area of bioethics. We provide a consultation service, with over 2,000 consultations in the course of a year … I don’t know anybody out there who comes close to that.

On those consultations, are you talking about hospitals that call you up, doctors who call you up, dioceses that are facing a thorny issue, or what?

It’s all of the above. We have a hotline, where we can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Those are usually individual questions. We also get a lot of institutional questions. For instance, if a Catholic health care system is going to collaborate with a non-Catholic system, they come to us so they can collaborate together to achieve some common good without contributing to what we would consider immoral activity in the non-Catholic system. That sounds simple, but …

It doesn’t sound simple at all! I can only imagine how complicated that has to be.

We work through hundreds of pages of legal documents to make sure that happens properly. Those aren’t calls that come in at 2:00 a.m.

Probably most of the personal and clinical questions we get have to do with end-of-life care. I’d say that probably the next largest area has to do with infertility, how couples might be able to overcome their inability to have a child. From there on, it’s the whole range of issues that might arise in a person’s life.

So a couple might call you up and say, ‘Hey, we’re desperate to have a child, but we want to do this in a way that’s consistent with Church teaching.’ You sort of take them by the hand and walk them through it?

Yes, absolutely. As I mentioned, we’re also the largest publisher in the area of bioethics, so we have a wealth of material we can send out to people. But we’re there to help people, to discuss it with them personally, because some of these issues are very complex and hard to understand, so we really want to be available to the people who need it.

Talk about your educational efforts.

One of the most important things we do is a workshop we hold every other year, to which we invite all the bishops of Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central America and the Caribbean. We do it in Dallas, Texas, and they attend workshops and reflect on bioethical issues they have to face in their pastoral role as bishops.

How many bishops normally show up?

The last one in February, we had 140 bishops. It’s the largest gathering of bishops apart from their annual meeting. Most of the bishops in the country also have diocesan memberships in the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

We also have a health care educational program for practitioners. The bishops actually came to us and said, ‘We’re concerned because the moral teachings of the Church are not being uniformly applied throughout the country, within all the various health care systems,’ so they asked us to develop a health care educational program.

One recent bioethics drama pivoted on the Charlie Gard case in the UK, an infant with a rare genetic disorder whose parents wanted to seek experimental treatment but who were overruled by a British court. What’s the main take-away from the case seen through Catholic eyes?

This was a child who was dying, frankly, from a genetic disorder. The child could not have been saved. The hospital in England wanted to withdraw life support from that child, and the parents opposed it vigorously.

These kinds of bioethical questions are also culturally contextualized and conditioned, because in England, if a conflict arises between a health care institution and a patient, or the patient’s proxy, it goes to the courts. That’s what happened, and so you had some judge making the decisions about the kind of care that Charlie Gard, the baby, should receive or should not receive. That wouldn’t happen in the United States. Here, it falls primarily to the patient or the proxy, in this case the parents, to make those decisions. If there’s a conflict between the hospital’s wishes and the patient’s, deference is always given to the patient. So, there’s a different cultural situation between these two countries.

The Catholic Church has developed a very, very rich moral tradition to address these kinds of questions. The Church realizes that our ultimate destiny is to be with God forever in Heaven, and we have a limited finite life here. A lot of people have the mistaken belief that the Catholic Church teaches that you have to do everything possible to keep somebody alive as long as possible, which is not true at all. The Catholic Church says that if a medical treatment is not going to offer a reasonable benefit without an excessive burden, the patient is not obliged to take on that treatment. It’s no longer morally obligatory. It’s optional, they can do it, but they’re not obliged.

In the case of Charlie Gard, it would have been legitimate to stop the interventions, according to Catholic teaching. However, also according to Catholic teaching, the decision should have rested with the patient or his proxies, in this case the parents since the child was incapable of making his own decisions.

You’re an adviser to both the U.S. bishops and the Vatican. If both groups were in a room together and asked you, ‘What are two or three emerging bioethical questions that ought to be on our radar screens right now?’, what’s your answer?

That’s a little difficult, but the issue fundamentally isn’t these individual crises or challenges, but a much bigger and broader problem which the Church is manifestly equipped to address. That is, we live in a society in which human beings are being de-personalized. They’re no longer being treated as human beings. They no longer have ineffable value.

As a result, the weak and the vulnerable are becoming the mines from which the wealthy and the powerful draw their own benefit.

For example, there’s a flourishing international trade in living human organs. You have a man in New York who needs a kidney, his physician contacts a supplier in Israel, he goes to his man in the Philippines, he goes into the slums of Manila and finds a healthy strapping young man, pays him $1500 for his kidney with little follow-up medical care. The kidney is flown to South Africa, and the man from New York flies to South Africa and he’s got a brand-new kidney. Meanwhile, the guy who gave up the kidney is sent back into the slums with money which very quickly evaporates.

We’re actually preying on other human beings, and using them to benefit those who are wealthy and powerful.

We have all kinds of proposals for thawing frozen embryos, which are left over from in-vitro fertilization procedures, procedures used to overcome infertility. Human beings are engendered in a petri dish by putting the gametes, the sex cells, in a petri dish, and embryos are engendered. Some are implanted in the woman, in the hope they will ‘take,’ and the rest are left over and frozen. We have hundreds of thousands of embryos in suspended animation, in liquid nitrogen, which again is a de-valuing of the human person. There are many who call for the thawing of these embryos so they can be disaggregated and used for research. In fact, many embryos are being engendered, human beings are being brought into existence, so scientists can do research on them and then discard them when they’re finished.

So, it’s really this de-valuing of the human person that’s the biggest problem, and gives rise to these individual problems. No one is better equipped to address that broad social and cultural issue than the Catholic Church. We’re so fortunate to have the rich moral tradition of the Church, which gives us tools to work through these problems.

– crux now

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