Catholic Bioethics

Created Male and Female: An Open Letter From Religious Leaders

December 15, 2017

Dear Friends: 

As leaders of various communities of faith throughout the United States, many of us came together in the past to affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. We reiterate that natural marriage continues to be invaluable to American society. 

We come together to join our voices on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one's sex as male or female. 

We acknowledge and affirm that all human beings are created by God and thereby have an inherent dignity. We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good. "God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). 

A person's discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love. 

Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can "change" their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of "first, do no harm." Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it. 

The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation. 

We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person's sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity. 

Sincerely Yours: 

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera 

Bishop of Scranton

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach 
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America 

The Rev. John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church 

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia 
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth 

Most Rev. James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
Chairman USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage 

The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
Bishop, Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic 
Anglican Church in North America 

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod 

Imam Faizal Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of the Washington Area 

Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville 
Chairman USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty 

Archbishop of Pittsburgh 
Orthodox Church in America 

The Rt. Rev. Eric V. Menees

Bishop, San Joaquin 
Anglican Church in North America 

Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, III 
Founder and Director 
Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies 
Church of God in Christ 

Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz, PhD 
Executive Director 
The Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty 

The Rev. Paull Spring 
Bishop Emeritus 
The North American Lutheran Church 

Rev. Tony Suarez 
Executive Vice President 
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference 

Very Rev. Nathanael Symeonides 

Ecumenical Officer 
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 

The Rev. Dr. L. Roy Taylor 
Stated Clerk, General Assembly 
Presbyterian Church in America 

Andrew Walker 

Director of Policy Studies 
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission 

The Rev. Dr. David Wendel 

Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism 
The North American Lutheran Church  

Paul Winter 

The (Saint) Benedict Option

Another interesting book for Lenten reading, sobering but spiritual, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher was published this week. A book in the genre of Archbishop Chaput's book, written from a slightly different perspective but arriving at the same conclusions: we (Christian believers) are in trouble around the world and here in America.

Dreher's thesis is that we have lost the culture war against religion. Just as the barbarians sacked Rome and then St. Augustine's city of Hippo, they have done so again in our age of "liquid modernity, a time when social change occurs so rapidly that no social institutions have time to solidify." Dreher complains we have become a society of strangers, each pursuing our own interests under minimal constraints. Barbarians abandon objective moral standards, refuse to accept any religious or culturally binding narratives except those they choose, repudiate memory of the past and reject history as irrelevant and distance themselves from community and any unchosen or unwanted social obligations.  

Barbarians Enjoying the Culture They Destroy While It Lasts
Capitol One Ad Campaign 2003

Remember the Capital One credit card commercials with hordes of rapacious tribesmen rampaging through cities heedlessly destroying the structures of civilization? "Barbarians are governed only by their will to power, and neither know nor care a thing about what they are annihilating. By that standard, despite our wealth and technological sophistication, we in the modern West are living under barbarism, though we do not recognize it. Our scientists, our judges, our princes, our scholars, and our scribes—they are at work demolishing the faith, the family, gender, even what it means to be human. Our barbarians have exchanged the animal pelts and spears of the past for designer suits and smartphones." The barbarians are not at the gates, they are on the Supreme Court, in our national and state legislatures and our national security agencies in elected and non-elected positions of power. 

Don't think so? Consider how that in less than one generation, "Christian beliefs about the sexual complementarity of marriage are considered to be abominable prejudice—and in a growing number of cases, punishable."

He traces the roots of these losses from the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and  two World Wars. The most dramatic post-war losses here in America were the Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion and then only decades later the right to same-sex marriage. The gleeful, vindictive pursuit by same-sex marriage activists of a few Christian bakers and wedding planners who won't cater same-sex weddings should warn us, that Christian believers are the real targets, not a shortage of bakers and caterers for same-sex weddings.



Supreme Judgement
Lawmakers Unto Ourselves

Dreher laments that the West has "lost the golden thread that binds us to God, Creation, and each other. Unless we find it again, there is no hope of halting our dissolution. Indeed, it is unlikely that the West will see this lifeline for a very long time. It is not looking for it and may no longer have the capability of seeing it. We have been loosed, but we do not know how to bind."

The only thing to do is to become like St. Benedict of old, who preserved ancient wisdom, fostered communities of belief and nurtured the flame of faith until the time was right for the faith to rekindle the world with the love of God.

Guess what? During Lent that looks like pray, fast, give alms. Grandparents and wise elders need to educate their adult children and their grandchildren in the riches of the Faith. Stations of the Cross, Palm Processions, the Veneration of the Cross and the solemn celebrations of the most Holy Days of the Christian year, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil give us the strength to "keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts until the Lord comes," as our parents and godparents were charged during our baptisms. This is as urgent now as it was in the days of the Roman persecution.



American Psychiatric Association Rejects Physician Assisted Suicide

In a major boost to opponents of physician-assisted suicide, the American Psychiatric Association has taken a clear stand:

The American Psychiatric Association, in concert with the American Medical Association’s position on Medical Euthanasia, holds that a psychiatrist should not prescribe or administer any intervention to a non-terminally ill person for the purpose of causing death.

According to BioedgeDr Mark S. Komrad, of the APA ethics committee, says that “So far, no other country that has implemented physician-assisted suicide has been able to constrain its application solely to the terminally ill, eventually including non-terminal patients as legally eligible as well,” says Dr Komrad. “This is when psychiatric patients start to be included.”

This is a perfect example of the slippery slope argument, which far from being theoretical, has already been shown to lead to dangerous broadening of the laws restricting physician assisted suicide.

This is a welcome decision indeed. 

New Jersey Physician Assisted Suicide and Advent ?

Not exactly perfect timing is it?

Once again a physician-assisted suicide bill is being sponsored and voted on in the Jersey legislature. The Diocese of Trenton has assembled some resources which they have asked to be made available to parishioners through social media. 

The most important thing for Catholics to do is become informed about the dangers of physician-assisted suicide and then inform our elected officials of our opposition to what is being called "state sanctioned suicide."

Having worked against and spoken out against physician assisted suicide since the 90's, I've seen the political and social landscape truly shift from those days.

Some arguments against it have become weaker

More states have passed physician-assisted suicide, falsely allaying fears that legalizing assisted dying will open the floodgates of death by medication. The use of the slippery-slope argument against aid in dying has never been too effective even though more evidence has accumulated from the experience of European nations how quickly the initial restrictions placed on the practice are loosened. 

More testimony has been sought from speakers afflicted with illness which has made them consider and then reject assisted dying for themselves. While their personal testimony is poignant, proponents of aid in dying acknowledge, then dismiss it, asserting that the "right" to assisted dying should be offered to those who choose it.  I remember a seminar at which Christopher Reeve's mother speaking with tears in her eyes advocated the unrestricted use of human embryos for medical research, "Don't take away hope." The dramatic YouTube video of the fourteen year old Wisconsin girl who pleaded successfully to be allowed to die was credited with helping pass California's aid in dying legislation. The use of personal testimony is emotionally powerful on either side of the argument. In my view, it should be used sparingly, if at all.

So many more challenges have been brought to any moral absolute with dramatic success under the Obama administration. Gender, biology and choice have been blended into a spectrum. The right of an individual to choose almost anything has been broadened, except the right to object to policies which silence those espousing traditional Christian values.

Some arguments against aid in dying have become even more cogent

Health care has become more controlled by private and government insurers that are becoming reluctant to pay for life-prolonging treatment deemed futile or not cost-effective. This should alarm everyone. While prudent decisions must be made, they shouldn't be made by a board or trustees, or a government bureaucrat. The patient, the family, their physicians and caregivers should also be involved in clinical care decisions and making public policy.

An increasing number of physicians have become comfortable with the idea of offering physician assisted suicide to their patients. Some of them put their obligation to serve their patient's needs and wishes above their own personal judgement or without recourse to any other source of moral or legal obligation. While many physicians feel the intrinsic ethics of medical practice forbid physician assisted dying, some embrace it as part of the obligation they owe to their patients who choose it. Many people no longer fear that doctors can help them to die.

The Church's teaches that extra-ordinary medical care may be refused or discontinued if already begun. This  along with  priority for treating pain, even if the pain medication brings deleterious effects-including hastening death allows for merciful and dignified care near the end of life without recourse to physician-assisted suicide.


Article in The Monitor: Doctors, patients, testify against N.J. bill they call 'state-sanctioned suicide'

"Jesus Is Merciful, but He is Not Stupid"


JULY 29. 2013

On Monday, July 29, in the Chicago Tribune, a group of Catholics published an open letter addressed to me and to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). They accused the Church of turning her back on the poor. This accusation follows a decision by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to include support for “same-sex marriage” as part of their political agenda. The CCHD cannot fund groups that support this goal.

Donors to the CCHD give to this anti-poverty organization with the understanding that their money will be passed on to organizations that respect the teachings of the Catholic faith. Organizations that apply for funds do so agreeing to this condition.

On May 23, the ICIRR board broke faith with its member organizations when it publicly supported so called “same-sex marriage.” For its own political advantage, it introduced a matter extraneous to its own purpose and betrayed its own members, who were not consulted.

The CCHD had no choice but to respect the unilateral decision of the ICIRR board that effectively cut off funding from groups that remain affiliated with ICIRR. Without betraying its donors or the Catholic faith, the Catholic Church’s long-standing work for immigrant groups and for immigration reform remains intact. This record speaks for itself and is well known. It is carried locally by Priests for Justice for Immigrants and by Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, along with very many lay Catholics, in collaboration with the Archdiocesan Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education, led by Elena Segura with my complete support.

It is intellectually and morally dishonest to use the witness of the Church’s concern for the poor as an excuse to attack the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage.  Four weeks ago, Pope Francis wrote: “…marriage should be a stable union of man and woman…this union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgement and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh and are enabled to give birth to a new life.” In other words, when it comes to marriage and family life, men and women are not interchangeable. The whole civilized world knows that.

Those who signed the open letter in the Tribune proclaimed their adherence to the Catholic faith even as they cynically called upon others to reject the Church’s bishops. The Church is no one’s private club; she is the Body of Christ, who tells us he is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Because the signers of the letters are Catholic, they know that in a few years, like each of us, they will stand before this same Christ to give an account of their stewardship. Jesus is merciful, but he is not stupid; he knows the difference between right and wrong. Manipulating both immigrants and the Church for political advantage is wrong.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago

Here is an example of the potential vacuity of asking the "What Would Jesus Do?" question when we already think we have the answer: i.e. show mercy, not care about distinctions, wave away subtlety, forgive and forget, let me do what I want.

The Church has always insisted that we are not adrift in a universe without a moral compass, free to determine right and wrong by opinion polls. It will be instructive to watch as this issue develops. 

New Jersey Right To Life Rally for Religious Freedom in Trenton NJ



The rally starts at noon local time, Saturday October 20, unless otherwise noted.
Signs will be provided.
It is not necessary to RSVP.
Pray the mass at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption at 10:30 in Trenton just before the rally.




Some of the Organizations and Groups forming the Coalition to Stand Up For Religious Freedom

Wow, US Catholic Bishops Fact Check Vice-President Biden

The USCCB today issued a statement correcting the Vice-President's erroneous assertion that Catholic organizations and institutions will not be forced to provide coverage for morally unacceptable drugs and procedures in its healhcare coverage policies.

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12. Full text follows:

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain "religious employers." That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to "Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital," or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional "accommodation" for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as "non-exempt." That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation "to pay for contraception" and "to be a vehicle to get contraception." They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.


Catholics are free to believe the Vice President's debate statement that all is well for Catholic institutions under the mandate from the Obama administration's HHS directive. Nevertheless, the bishops have spoken quickly and forcefully to correct his statement. Smiling, pointing and repeating something to be a fact over and over doesn't necessarily make it true.

Physician Assisted Suicide: The Time Should Never Come

Physician Assisted Suicide : The Time Should Never Come

DPhysician Assisted Suicideemocratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli has introduced the “New Jersey Death with Dignity Act” which if approved would place the following on the NJ ballot:


Do you approve allowing an adult who is able to make health care decisions and has a terminal disease that will cause death within six months to use a prescribed drug to end his life in a humane and dignified way?

The bill authorizes safeguards to ensure that the decision by the individual requesting the life-ending overdose is freely made and the drug is self-administered. While I am sure there are many specifics in the bill to be critiqued by attorneys, the issue of physician-assisted suicide merits discussion on its own moral footing.


The Catholic Church has consistently spoken out against physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and its cousin, euthanasia. The arguments against legalizing PAS range from the secular to the sacred:

1) Physician assisted suicide is a contradiction in terms. Physicians are obliged to cure and ameliorate disease when possible and in the context of hospice care, to always ease suffering. There is an intrinsic code of medical ethics against ending life which cannot be violated, or permitted even with the patient’s request. In our day of individual empowerment, this assertion is not warmly received. Our culture rejects any absolute moral norms. Patient autonomy, one of the cornerstones of medical ethics in this country, can be wrongly taken to mean blindly conforming to the patient’s wishes as long as consent is informed and freely given.

2) Legalized physician assisted suicide is bad public policy. Economic factors weigh heavily on all modern medical decisions and the pressure on the terminally ill to end their lives is not alleviated by simply declaring that physician assisted death is entirely voluntary. Our lives should not be expendable once a physician determines it might only last six more months. The evidence from Washington state that highly educated, white citizens are primarily the ones choosing physician assisted suicide only strengthens the argument that the most vulnerable in society distrust the potential abuse to which it might be put.

3) Having complete control over one’s life is a modern illusion which death itself destroys. The Catholic Church teaches that our lives come from God and we are stewards, but not ultimate masters of our human existence. When physician-assisted suicide was first approved in Oregon, fear of unremitting pain and of being kept alive involuntarily by extraordinary means motivated some to approve its legalization. Hospice care, advance directives and health care proxy have alleviated some of that anxiety. Patient’s requesting physician assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington cite “having control” over their deaths as the primary reason for making the request.


Contact the President, Secretary of HHS and Congress over Conscience Protection Clause

I've assembled a collection of links which might be useful if you plan on contacting government officials to let them know of your displeasure with the recent decision of HHS Secretary Sebelius and President Obama to mandate medical insurance which covers morally objectionable medications and procedures for employees of Catholic institutions.

The USCCB has a link to Congress to advocate for legislation which more fully protects the rights of individuals and institutions from coercion of their consciences.

Support Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

Contact the White House

President Obama's email at the White House

Mailing address:


Contact Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services



The USCCB has a good collection of links and articles about conscience protection at their webpage.

USCCB Conscience Protection Critical

Archbishop Dolan's OpEd in Wall Street Journal

Father Manning's Homily For Respect Life on Jan 21, 2012

Tomorrow is the National Prayer Vigil for Life And the Annual March for Life in Washington And boy do we need them.

Last week, President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius determined that money from the school tuition you pay to Holy Cross And some of the collection monies on Sunday which subsidize our school, be used to provide health care coverage for our employees which includes medications, procedures and counseling that flaunts 2000 years of church tradition.

The Washington double‐speak‐filled‐directive which should anger every person who holds a single religious conviction, conceded that the ruling which forces Church employers to fund the immoral procedures, drugs and counsel would respect our religious sensitivities by giving us one year to comply with the ruling. Only one day before the unprecedented and anti‐Catholic ruling by Obama/Sebelius, listen to the truth proclaimed boldly by Pope Benedict to a group of US Bishops meeting with the pope in the Vatican:

"Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. …it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life."

Swear allegiance to the Roman emperor Or we will cut off your head! Well, at least, close your hospitals, schools and adoption agencies and force you to violate your religious convictions! 

I don’t usually like slogans, but if they make you think…here’s one: The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

Just a slight dip into murky waters of secular media should focus our attention and energize us:

Again and again, we see free speech and open debate stifled whenever the subject of modern marriage comes up in civic discourse. Deviations from the current politically correct definitions are hate speech. (Wisconsin student essay on traditional marriage)

Piers Morgan in an interview with Rick Santorum Responded to Santorum’s traditional Catholic views on marriage and sexuality with the retort: But your views border on bigotry, don’t you think?

The Santorum’s reverent treatment of their deceased newborn’s body many years ago was aubject of mockery by liberal pundits on the Internet and in print.

Google, Coca‐Cola, Apple, The Simpsons - have been around longer than these new secular dogmas on marriage and adoption we are expected to embrace lockstep.

American bigotry toward Catholicism isn’t new or gone. I'm reading Gotham: On The History of New York City From Its Very Beginnings. From the earliest days there were European settlers in North America, Catholics were denied the rights accorded others. On Pope Day, effigies of the Pope and Satan were burned and thrown into the river. Local modern history even until very recently shows the anti-Catholic bias: several local golf and beach clubs were founded primarily for Catholics, who could not easily gain entry into establishment groups. The Knights of Columbus offered Catholic family men life insurance which they could otherwise not obtain. Where was the largest KKK march in the US in 1924? ?  Long Branch. Recall that the KKK not only hates blacks, but Jews and Catholics as well.

The news isn’t all bad though: Last week the US Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of religious groups to set their own qualifications for ministry. A Lutheran church had dismissed one of its religion teachers and the Justice Department brought suit for her reinstatement under the ADA act, alleging discrimination because of disability. The supreme court reaffirmed the right of the church to hire its ministers as it sees fit. 

Archbishop Dolan, president of the USCCB, has criticized the Administration's insurance mandate and will be studying the church’s options.  Pray for Archbishop Dolan. We need bishops with fire in the belly on this issue. 

Let us stay informed: you contribute the donations and pay the tuition and I endorse the checks which would pay for this immoral insurance. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and read, read, read: American History, Church history, regional history, the church teachings on life issues and the moral reasoning behind these teachings, discuss the issues.

Write Congress, Sibelius, Obama. Write the reporters, editors, media outlets when their anti-Catholic bias shows. Then we should vote as if our faith depended on it!

New England Journal of Medicine Hails Catholic Health Association and Leadership Council of Women Religious for Their "Pro-Life" Support of Obama's Health Care Reform

Intrauterine Surgery to save life of baby  Many have written about the damage done by the CHA and the Leadership Council of Women Religious because of their support for the recently passed Health Care reform bill.

Here's a bit more of the fallout: George Annas, JD, MPH a frequent contributor to NEJM, who has criticized restricting a woman's right to abortion, recently authored an article congratulating the CHA and Leadership Council of Women Religious for their support of the Health Care Reform Act without the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to explicitly exlude elective abortions as a health care benefit. Here's the concluding paragraph:

"Perhaps the most conspicuous winners are the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the Catholic women's religious orders, whose members deliver health care in 1200 facilities and organizations nationwide. In mid-March, shortly before the final vote, both groups came out very strongly in favor of the Senate bill without the Stupak-Pitts amendment; the nuns noted that the bill "will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections, and it will make historic new support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it." Amen."

(The cynical co-opting of pro-life language is the responsibility of the nuns group. The cynical use of "Amen" to conclude the less than prayerful opinion piece, is George Annas'. A congratulations from the pro physician-assisted suicide NEJM is only a Catholic merit badge in certain circles. Since Annas does not use the nuns' formal title, I wonder if he is aware that there is another group representing "Catholic religious orders?")

The US Bishops, however, and their legal consultants, concluded that the bill did not adequately protect the individual consciences of those opposed to abortion, nor continue the ban on the use of federal funds for abortions. Here's their statement:

 Health care reform must protect life and conscience, not threaten them. The Senate bill extends abortion coverage, allows federal funds to pay for elective abortions (for example, through a new appropriation for services at Community Health Centers that bypasses the Hyde amendment), and denies adequate conscience protection to individuals and institutions.

The regulations to prevent clever channeling of federal funds to abortion coverage have not yet been written. The bill's provision to allocate federal funds to Community Health Centers (e.g. run by Planned Parenthood) also did not concern CHA or LCWR.

Since the media didn't cover the statement by the "other" nuns leadership council, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, here is their statement:

In a March 15th statement, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president

of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on behalf of the United

States Bishops in opposition to the Senate’s version of the health care legislation

under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of

adequate provision for conscience protection. Recent statements from groups like

Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of

Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on

critical issues of health care reform.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of

Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, finds the provision of

the bill to include expansion of abortion funding and fails to include conscience

protection. We believe the bill needs to include the Hyde Amendment as passed by the House in November.

Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible

judgment. We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.

As Annas confides in his article, "There's no politics like abortion politics." How true. It is unfortunate that some Catholic groups are aligning themselves with those who have no interest whatsoever in limiting abortion or anything that the Church teaches, for a slice of the federal pie. At least Judas didn't keep the money.

The Real Pro-Life Stance - Health Care Reform and Abortion Funding, New England Journal of Medicine

US Bishops to House of Representatives: Fix Flaws or Vote No on Health Care Reform Statement from Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

Statement from Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

Statement from Leadership Conference of Women Religious 

The photo shows life-saving surgery on a baby within its mothers womb.

Archbishop Chaput on the New Health Care Legislation

Clipboard07  The archbishop has some sobering words for the not-so-Catholic Catholic Health Association.

But the actions of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) in providing a deliberate public counter-message to the bishops were both surprising and profoundly disappointing; and also genuinely damaging.  In the crucial final days of debate on health-care legislation, CHA lobbyists worked directly against the efforts of the American bishops in their approach to members of Congress.  The bad law we now likely face, we owe in part to the efforts of the Catholic Health Association and similar “Catholic” organizations. 

Read the Archbishop's entire column here.

Executive Order to Limit Abortion?

Scrolls_000004_0002 Ironic that our president has promised to sign an executive order limiting the scope of the legislation he twisted so many arms, and dangled so many carrots to pass. In viritually the first act of his taking office, he rescinded a previous executive order which forbade the use of federal funds for non-governmental organizations which offered or promoted abortion as a means of population control. President Obama's administration has also made the "morning after" pill available at all US military bases around the world. Many believe that despite its name, it may work not only as a contraceptive, but as an abortifacient as well.

Executive orders come and executive orders go. The US Bishops have issued a statement asking us to remain vigilant that the legislation already passed protects individual consciences and refrains from funding abortions as federal policy.

Archbishop Chaput on the Vocation of Christians in American Public Life

Vocations of Christians in American Public Life

Kennedy-cover   Archbishop Chaput's most recent speech on the role of Catholic faith in American public life traces the unhealthy division between a politician's private moral beliefs and their public voting records to the speech President Kennedy made about his own Catholic faith during his run for the presidency.

In erroneously viewing the history of our republic as purely secular, and reassuring the public that if elected he would not be a Catholic president, (or perhaps even as a president who was truly Catholic,) Kennedy established the principle that politicians should divorce their private moral and religious beliefs from their public advocacy. 

The Archbishop calls Kennedy's landmark speech "sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.  Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s ."

In this far reaching and thoughtful speech, Chaput emphasizes the importance of Catholic witness in public life decrying ecumenism based on polite behavior instead of truth as empty, and a lie.

Look at the short list of issues the Archbishop identified that confront us, and notice how many depend precisely on our beliefs as Catholics:
abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.
Read the entire text of the Archbishop's speech on their diocese's webpage by following the link at the top of this post.

New Study Shows Some Patients in Vegetative State Actually Aware

20070807_blue-brain  Ever since Pope John Paul II and later the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued guidelines which encouraged, then presumed the use of feeding tubes for persons in the vegetative state to be measures of “ordinary care,” neuroscientists have been learning more about impaired states of awareness.

News media coverage of Terri Schiavo’s medical condition was not particularly helpful, especially since many reports confused “coma” with “vegetative state (VS).” It was clear from several videotapes of Terri that she was not in a coma, and that she was awake, but that wasn’t the medical problem. Was she ”awake but not aware,” – that is the true definition of vegetative state.

Medical researchers wondered if some patients who are now classified as being in a vegetative state might actually be conscious (that is aware, not simply awake) but unable to express themselves (due to paralysis, for example).

Dynamic MRI studies measured patterns of brain activity of persons diagnosed as being in the vegetative state after they were asked questions and to imagine specific scenarios. In a way, the scans read minds, even when the person couldn’t respond with externally visible signals. These scans detected willful and predictable brain activity in some patients who were thought incapable of it. Re-examination of some of these patients at the bedside revealed detectable signs of responsiveness to questions – responses which had been missed despite careful examination by experts. Physicians could find no signs of clinical responsiveness in one patient whose scan showed awareness. The only patients in the study who showed any signs of brain scan awareness had suffered traumatic brain injury, not stroke or oxygen deprivation.

The study supports the idea that a small percentage of patients thought to be in VS are actually aware and might be able to communicate if given the means to do so. Awareness may be present with subtle and missed clinical responses, or present without any detectable clinical signs.  Researchers hope that further studies will enable such patients to report whether they are in pain, and perhaps to express their thoughts and influence their environment.

Recent church teaching that even persons in vegetative states should ordinarily receive tube feedings has been controversial. This study supports the idea that a significant number of persons diagnosed as being in the vegetative state are actually minimally conscious. Routine clinical examination fails to detect some of these patients.

It will be interesting to see whether ethicists and clinicians respond to this study with skepticism, indifference, or heightened concern that we are starving some patients who are aware by failing to feed them. On the other hand, I am sure it will occur to someone to ask such persons if they wish the feedings stopped. More information doesn't guarantee more wisdom.

The article from the New England Journal of Medicine is here.

A balanced interpretation of the Papal teachings and those of the CDF by the Catholic ethicist Daniel Sulmasy, MD, OFM is here.

Oppose Same Sex "Marriage" in New Jersey


We just received this from the New Jersey Catholic Conference (the Catholic bishops of New Jersey) via the Office of Life and Justice.


Please forward as widely and as quickly as possible!




Issue:   On Thursday, January 7th, the New Jersey State Senate will vote on whether or not to establish same sex marriage in New Jersey. 

Action is needed NOW to protect marriage as we have always known it – a union of one man and one woman.


ACTION:    Call and/or email your State Senators and tell them that you support preserving marriage as only a union of one man and one woman.  Their support for marriage is critical. 


    Ask our Senators to vote NO on the same sex marriage Bill.  Tell the Senators that persons of same sex orientation have the right to live as they choose but they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone by altering the civil law.


For your convenience, the Capwiz link is provided as

a simplified way to express your message of opposition for S-1967





Anne Conte

NJ Catholic Conference  

149 N. Warren Street

Trenton, NJ 08608

609-989-1120 ext. 20

609-989-1152 (fax)

Hardball, The Factor, The Congressman, The Bishop, The Eucharist

Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island has been making the rounds of television and media outlets explaining why he asked Representative Kennedy  to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. It seems many in the media have sided with Kennedy and are calling the bishop's position inconsisent with other teachings of the church, or an interference with the separation between Church and state.

Mr. O'Reilly, for example, wondered as a "confused" Catholic, why, if the Church is against abortion and capital punishment, the church does not sanction those politicians who are in favor of capital punishment. The bishop explained the intrinsically evil nature of abortion, which can never be right compared to the theoretical necessity for the state to protect itself by the use of capital punishment, which can be permitted in exceptional cases. (John Paul II's strong condemnation of capital punishment in Evangelium vitae is coupled with the reservation of its right by the state in rare, "practically non-existent" cases.) Ths is surely a difficult concept to explain during the typical sound bite, confrontational news program.


Mr.  Matthews seems intent on browbeating Bishop Tobin, first by accusing him of transgressing into politics by his public correction of Congressman Kennedy, and then by being unwilling to define what penalty (presumably legal one) a woman should incur who procures an abortion.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

The Meaning of Scandal

Several of the interviews and discussions conflate the everyday use of the word "scandal," with its technical use in Church law. Scandalous behavior these days would seem to be in the eye of the beholder: Adam Lambert's behavior at the American Music Awards was scandalous enough to get him disinvited from ABC, but made him a hot property for CBS. Scandalous in canon law does not mean something which generates shock or surprise.

According to Archbishop Raymond Burke, "The theological meaning of scandal is to do or omit something which leads others into error or sin. The second meaning is to do or omit something which causes wonderment (admiratio) in others. Denying Holy Communion publicly to the occult sinner involves scandal in the second sense. Giving Holy Communion to the obstinately serious and public sinner involves scandal in the first sense."

Separation Between Church and State 

Whatever the constitutional "separation between church and state" means, it clearly does not mean that politicians ought to have a wall of separation between their moral beliefs and their voting behavior or public advocacy. This theoretical comparmentalization was first announced by John Kennedy, refined by Mario Cuomo and used by politicians ever since to justify voting for intrinsically wrong acts like abortion or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. The latest generation Kennedy has moved beyond privately holding that abortion is wrong, but voting for it anyway; he avows, as a Catholic, the right to have an abortion belongs to every woman. And then implies that the prohibition against abortion is just one among many rules, with which Catholics are free to disagree, even publicly.

Private morals vs. Public votes

What does this supposed separation betweeen moral beliefs and public policy mean? Does it mean my moral beliefs are private, and I will act against them whenever it's politically expedient? Does it mean my moral beliefs are private, and I will suspend them and advocate whatever the majority wants? Which moral beliefs do not have a hold on public voting or advocacy? The moral belief against murder? The moral belief that telling the truth is a virtue? The moral belief that stealing is wrong? The moral belief that each human person is created with equal dignity by God?

No one argues that laws should be passed which specifically protect the Catholic church, or that Catholic politicians should vote to outlaw the consumption of meat on Fridays during Lent. No one argues that a Catholic politician must do whatever his/her bishop or the pope instructs them to do. (This was a fear raised by modern day Know Nothings, if John F. Kennedy was elected. There is no small measure of anti-Catholicism in the conspiracy theories which picture Catholic bishops huddled in Washington writing our nation's laws.) But there can't be a disconnect between the moral beliefs of our politicians and their public actions. And if you choose to call yourself Catholic, there is a presumption that the beliefs of Catholicism infuse your thoughts and inform your moral behavior, even and especially your voting.

Representative Kennedy and Bishop Tobin (continued)

Mon088010 It's hard to know what Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island needs most, a press agent or a catechist. His puzzling public statement yesterday that his bishop banned him from receiving Holy Communion gave the clear impression that the bishop's action was recent and probably in response to Kennedy's position on the Health Care Reform bill now in the Senate.

Kennedy will soon learn he cannot make public statements which misrepresent Church teachings or his bishop's actions without swift and accurate correction. Bishop Tobin confirmed that in a private, written communication in 2007 (!), he asked Kennedy to refrain from taking communion due to his advocacy for abortion rights.

Knowing that the bishop had already privately rebuked Kennedy for his public advocacy of abortion rights, Kennedy's interview of Oct. 22, 2009 is even more off base than it appears on its own:

“I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person--that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured. You mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life saving health care? I thought they were pro-life?” said Kennedy. “If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it’s going to provide health care that are going to keep people alive. So this is an absolute red herring and I don’t think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord and I don’t think it’s productive at all."  Watch the interview

The "Catholic Church" denying health care? In New Jersey in 2003, Catholic hospitals provided over 22 million dollars in unreimbursed Medicaid costs, and 23% of New Jersey's documented charity care ($33 million unreimbursed care). The bishops have spoken out clearly in favor of health care reform, just not health care reform that kills unborn babies. Budget Committee Hearings 2005

By speaking publicly and distorting the US bishops' views, while at the same time not even addressing their chief concern, Kennedy creates a public record that needs correction. It is certain that bishops have had private communication with Catholic politicians in their dioceses regarding the reception of Holy Communion whenever that would give scandal. That Mr. Kennedy has chosen to make Bishop Tobin's communication public was his own choice. That his facts were inaccurate became Bishop Tobin's responsibility to correct. Bishop Tobin and Representative Kennedy had been scheduled to meet privately but this meeting has been postponed. Bishop Tobin has made it clear that his door is always open. It would be good if that meeting took place.




Life-Giving Love In An Age Of Technology

Mon060011 The US Bishops approved a pastoral statement Life Giving Love in An Age of Technology at their November meeting.

The document acknowledges the prevalence (one in six couples are estimated to experience infertility) and suffering brought on by infertility in marriage. It addresses the various technological methods at hand to correct or promote conception and endorses

hormonal treatments and other medications, conventional or laser surgery to repair damaged or blocked fallopian tubes, means for alleviating male infertility factors and other restorative treatments are available. The techniques of natural family planning (NFP) can aalso be used to locate the most fertile time of a woman's cycle in order to maximize the chances of conceiving. These and other methods do not substitute for the married couple's act of loving union; rather, they assist this act in reaching its potential to conceive a new human life.

The bishops articulate no new teaching in the document, but take the opportunity to comment on many of the developing reproductive technologies in an up to date and pastoral document.  They emphasize the importance of the Catholic church's teaching that the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage must not be separated. Because of this stringent and instrinsic moral principle, the bishops reject in-vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogate mothering, human cloning and related procedures.

The pastoral tone of the document is welcome, but footnotes would be helpful for several assertions it makes about scientific facts. Perhaps the final published version will provide them.

Artificial Nutrition and Hydration

Equipment_medical_194224 At their November meeting the US Bishops approved a 5th edition of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. One of the primary reasons for revising the document was to make the use of artificial nutrition and hydration more explicit, especially for patients in the "persistent vegetative state" (PVS) for whom such feeding had been listed as controversial in the previous edition.

While medically assisted nutrition and hydration are not morally obligatory in certain cases, these forms of basic care should in principle be provided to all patients who need them, including patients diagnosed as being in a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS), because even the most severely debilitated and helpless patient retains the full dignity of a human person and must receive ordinary and proportionate care.