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CHRISTMASTIDE DOUBLE ISSUE
WITH BENEDICT XVI MERYL STREEP JAMES MACMILLAN WILLIAM ODDIE GEORGE WEIGEL AND MANY OTHERS
December 192008£2.40 (Republic of Ireland €3.60)
Vatican fears that cloning could enslave humanity
THEVATICAN has criticised the manipulation and destruction of early human life in the most severe condemnation ever issued by the Catholic Church on the brave new world of biotechnology. An instruction published on the orders of Pope Benedict XVI upholds the teaching of the Church that every human life deserves respect at every stage of its existence. The instruction, Dignitatis Personae (“The Dignity of the Person”), represents the most trenchant criticism of biotechnological techniques ever issued. But it makes clear that the Church supports technologies and research that result in healing rather than harming human life. The document urges “courageous opposition to all those practices which result in grave and unjust discrimination against unborn human beings”. It explicitly denounces such new practices as destructive experimentation on human embryos and animal-human hybrids as “morally and ethically unacceptable”. It says human cloning is “gravely injurious to human dignity” and risks dragging humanity into “biological slavery”. It says pre-implanta
tion diagnosis of embryos to avoid genetic defects or to create “designer babies” reflects a “shameful and utterly reprehensible ... eugenic mentality”. In vitro fertilisation is gravely wrong, says the document, because of the high number of embryos created and destroyed to attain a single birth. It says the practice implies a “blithe acceptance” of an “enormous number of abortions”. The 32-page document insists that the use of morningafter pill falls “within the sin of abortion” because it prevents fertilised ova, or zygotes, from implanting into their mothers’ wombs. “The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception –and therefore from the same moment his or her rights as a person must be recognised, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life,” it says. “Methods which do not cause serious harm to the subject from whom the stem cells are taken are to be considered licit,” it adds. “Research initiatives involving the use of adult stem cells, since they do not present ethical problems, should be encouraged and supported.”
The instruction expands existing teachings included in Donum Vitae of 1987 and Evangelium Vitae of 1995, and addresses new bioethical questions. Prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the document condemns many practices legalised under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in the autumn. Britain is now the only country in the world where animal-human hybrid embryos can be created for destructive research. In 2005 Tony Blair, then Prime Minster, announced that he wanted to make Britain the biotechnological capital of the world and he and Gordon Brown authorised the investment of more than £100 million in embryonic stem-cell research. But not a single therapy has been developed from the research on embryos while work undertaken in other countries on adult stem cells has produced nearly 80 therapies with a further 350 clinical trials under way. Last month Claudio Castillo became the first person in the world to receive a whole transplant organ grown from her own stem cells to repair her windpipe. Continued on Page 3
Cardinal wishes readers a Happy Christmas
‘The coming of our Saviour into this world means that we are never without hope,’ says the Cardinal
BYCARDINALCORMAC MURPHY -O ʼ CONNOR
ATTHE present time I know that a large number of people feel burdened with financial and other difficulties and it is important that we remember them in our prayers. However, during this season of Christmas we should not forget that God has come near to us in Jesus Christ, our “Emmanuel”, bringing hope and joy into our world. No matter how many
difficult problems we face we should not forget that the coming of our Saviour into this world means that we are never without hope. Earlier this year I visited Zimbabwe, a nation that has suffered a great deal in recent years and a place that some might consider to be a country without hope. However, when I was there, despite the many difficulties facing that country, I was struck by the tremendous faith and hope of so many of the people I met,
among them a religious sister who has worked for over 20 years with people living with HIV and Aids. Her tireless work for those less fortunate than herself brought the love of God into the lives of all of the people she met. I pray that all of you will experience joy and hope this Christmas. May I wish all of the readers of The Catholic Herald a blessed and happy Christmas and my good wishes for the year ahead.
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James MacMillan on the sound of Christmas
Meryl Streep’s acting challenge
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Theologians delay decision on Newman’s Cause until next year
THEANNOUNCEMENT of Cardinal John Henry Newman’s beatification, expected this month, is now likely to be made next year. Peter Jennings, the spokesman for the Newman Cause, said the postulators were waiting for the seven theologians to meet in order to validate the inexplicable cure of an American man as a miracle. The cure was validated by doctors in April and has
been with the theologians ever since. They asked for more time in November to consider the miracle. Mr Jennings said he was not the slightest bit concerned about the beatification process not moving forward. He said: “There is no problem with the miracle, to my knowledge. We will hear from the theologians as soon as they give a decision. These things take a long time.” Mgr Roderick Strange, the head of the Beda Seminary in
Rome, who has written a book on Newman, said that the beatification, if and when it went ahead, could be both a challenge and a boon for the ecumenical movement. He said: “The challenge would be if the beatification were handled insensitively, in a triumphalistic way, and the opportunity lies in the way Newman handled key issues of authority, doctrine and devotion on the Virgin Mary, the place of the laity in the Church. Most importantly,
when he came to disagree with his Anglican friends on issues and converted to Catholicism, they remained friends and trust was sustained.” Mgr Strange said that he thought the beatification process was on its way but would take time, because of the vast body of work that Cardinal Newman had produced in his lifetime. He said he believed that no one comparable to Cardinal Newman in the modern world had been examined in this way.
Pope: no one knows when world will end
Archbishop defends humanity of unborn
AS THE ECONOMY disintegrates further, the weather patterns appear to be getting increasingly destructive and the world is hit by terrorist attacks, it can sometimes feel as though the end of the world is nigh. Advent readings, which speak of the end times and the Apocalypse, can help compound that feeling.
But Pope Benedict XVI, quoting St Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, has warned Catholics against alarmism about the end of the world, saying that “nearness to God” in last Sunday’s antiphon referred to love “not a question of space and time”. Pope Benedict said that St Paul “writing to the Christians of Philippi, is obviously thinking about Christ’s return, and he invites them to rejoice because this return is certain”. He said that no one can know the moment of the Lord’s return.
UNBORNCHILDREN must be regarded fully as members of the human family, the leader of the world’s Anglicans has said. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said Christians should show reverence to “human beings in every condition, at every stage of existence”. “God chose to show
himself to us in a complete human life, telling us that every stage in human existence, from conception to maturity and even death, was in principle capable of telling us something about God,” the archbishop said in his Christmas message to the Anglican Communion. “Christmas is a good time to think again about our attitudes to children,” he said.
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This young girl’s face was burned when extremists torched her village in Orissa, eastern India.
They attacked her because she is a Christian.
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