crs lauralton webAntoinette (Toni) Iadarola, president of Lauralton Hall in Milford, holds an award presented to the school by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on Feb. 26. From left are Soha Menassa, who spoke to students about the work of CRS in Lebanon; Peggy Jean Craig from CRS; Dr. Iadarola; and Maria Isabel Barboza, CRS relationship manager in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

MILFORD – Calling the refugee crisis in Syria the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II, Soha Menassa, project manager for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Lebanon, explained how CRS is responding to the mounting needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

20150305cnsbr8397 pope webPope Francis greets elderly woman as he arrives for weekly audience in 2014 in St. Peter's Square at Vatican. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The most serious ailment the aged face and the greatest injustice they suffer is abandonment, Pope Francis said.

facs stpats webCindi Bigelow, president and CEO of Fairfield-based Bigelow Tea, speaks at the annual Archbishop’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in Hartford March 17. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

HARTFORD – More than 900 people attended the annual Archbishop’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast at the Connecticut Convention Center March 17, making Catholic education possible for many students who otherwise could not afford it, according to organizers of the event.

Hospice MP web

NEW HAVEN – Legislative proposals to allow doctors to prescribe fatal prescriptions to people diagnosed with a terminal illness are not seen as a good option by Connecticut adults, according to a new Knights of Columbus-Marist poll.

20150218cm01806 webPope Francis gives ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ROME (CNS) -- Lent is a journey of purification and penance, a movement that should bring one tearfully back to the loving arms of the merciful Father, Pope Francis said at an Ash Wednesday Mass that began with a procession on Rome's Aventine Hill.

stpats mass 4317 web

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair poses with key figures from the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday at St. Mary Church in New Haven, where the archbishop celebrated Mass before marching in the parade.

20150217cm01766 webCoptic Christian women attend a Feb. 17 service in Cairo for the Egyptians said to have been beheaded in Libya. (CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis called for prayers for the Egyptian Christians beheaded by Islamic State militants in Libya and asked that God recognize these men killed for their faith.

Robert.Curis.New.Headshot2Robert F. Curis

WEST HAVEN – Notre Dame High School in West Haven has named Mr. Robert F. Curis its next president. He will assume his responsibilities on July 1.

20150213cnsto0043 web This architectural rendering shows how the Museum of the Bible planned for Washington will look. (CNS photo/courtesy Smith Group JJR)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On a gray and overcast morning in Washington, just a short walk from Capitol Hill, construction work began on a museum intended to promote engagement, education and discussion of the Bible.

Archbishop's Desk

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Dr. Haas responds:

Dr. Paul Byrne, a valiant pro-life physician, opposes current Catholic teaching on the moral legitimacy of determining death using cardiopulmonary or neurological criteria. He objects specifically to the use of neurological criteria for determining death prior to the extraction of vital organs for transplantation. Dr. Byrne insists that a body with a brain that is dead but with a heart which is kept beating artificially is a live person. However, this is the very question being debated. Are we dealing with a corpse or a living person?

Traditionally, persons were declared dead by a physician when they stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating. When blood and oxygen no longer reached the brain, then that organ would die along with the other organs in the body, and the death of the person was certain. But now bodies can be placed on mechanical support so that oxygenated blood is artificially forced through the bodies keeping certain organs alive even though the brain is dead.

The laws in every one of our 50 states accept that death can be determined using either cardio-pulmonary or neurological signs. The American Academy of Neurology has accepted the legitimacy of neurological criteria for determining death and issued updated tests in 2010. The neurological signs can be more difficult to determine than the ceasing of breathing and a heartbeat, but they are a more certain sign that death has occurred. If tests determine that there is no blood flow and no electrical activity in the brain, and if certain tests on the body also indicate no brain activity, then the person can be declared dead.

Dr. Byrne rejects the legitimacy of these tests and maintains that if the brain is dead and the heart is kept beating with mechanical support, the person is alive. So Dr. Byrne then applies every papal statement against killing the innocent to the removal of organs from people who have been declared dead using these neurological signs. Yet this is an unwarranted application of papal teaching since Blessed John Paul II himself accepted the legitimacy of neurological criteria for determining death. Therefore, when the Pope denounced the killing of the innocent, he was not talking about organ transplantation from those who had been declared dead using neurological criteria because he did not consider the donors to be alive! In his encyclical The Gospel of Life, John Paul II even encouraged organ donation.

There is one steadfast rule which holds in both Catholic and secular medical fields, and it is the "dead donor rule" – organs cannot be taken from a donor until there is moral certitude that the donor is dead. This moral certitude can be established using either cardio-pulmonary or neurological criteria, according to the Church and contemporary medicine.

Dr. Byrne points out that a number of criteria for brain death have been developed since the so-called Harvard criteria of 1968. This, however, is a good thing since the criteria have been ever more rigorously formulated to determine that the donor is indeed dead.

Where can a Catholic turn to find guidance as to whether it is morally legitimate to donate an organ after "brain death" or to receive an organ from someone declared dead using neurological criteria? Catholics of course receive moral guidance from the Magisterium. And there has never been a single statement from any pope or any Vatican dicastery which has rejected the moral legitimacy of using the neurological criterion.

In fact, an essay by Dr. Byrne against neurological criteria was submitted a number of years ago to Pope John Paul II by Dr. Theodore Steinman, a transplant physician at Harvard. Dr. Steinman received the following response from Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, who at the time was the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life: "The Secretary of State of His Holiness . . . has asked me to respond to your letter of April 7, 2001. In it you express your perplexity and conscientious concern after reading the article that appeared in the periodical Catholic World Report (March 2001) entitled ‘Are Organ Transplants Ever Morally Licit’? I can confirm that this article does not reflect the official doctrine of the Church. The Church’s thinking continues to be what was expressed in the Holy Father’s discourse of August 29, 2000. . . . I would like to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the Holy Father both for the confidence and appreciation you expressed for his Magisterium, and for your commitment in the service of patients. In the Holy Father’s name, I am pleased to extend to you his apostolic blessing as a sign of the Lord’s accompaniment in the comforting task you carry out for patients and their families in the delicate area of surgery."

This is hardly a statement from the Vatican equating organ donation with "euthanasia" or the illicit taking of innocent life as Dr. Byrne argues. What Blessed John Paul II said in the Address referenced by Cardinal Sgreccia is the following: "It is a well-known fact that for some time certain scientific approaches to ascertaining death have shifted from cardio-respiratory signs to the so-called ‘neurological criterion’. . . Here it can be said that [this] criterion . . . does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology. Therefore, a health care worker professionally responsible for ascertaining death can use these criteria in each individual case as the basis for arriving at that degree of assurance in ethical judgment which moral teaching describes as ‘moral certainty.’"

This has not been the teaching only of Pope John Paul II. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1985, 1989 and again in 2008 accepted the legitimacy of the neurological criterion for determining death. So did the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care to Health Workers 1995 in its 1995 Charter for Health Care Workers. The Charter was reviewed prior to publication by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of which Cardinal Ratzinger was the head. The Charter states: "In order that a person be considered a corpse, it is enough that cerebral death of the donor be ascertained." This is also the position of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Catholic Bioethics Center at the Sacred Heart University in Rome, and the International Federation of Bioethics Institutes of Personalist Inspiration (FIBIP) founded by Cardinal Elio Sgreccia.

This teaching of the Church is of course not an irreformable, dogmatic teaching that a Catholic must accept in order to be saved! However, if faithful Catholics want to look to the Church for moral guidance, they should know that the Church allows organ donation after a person has been declared dead using neurological criteria.

Dr. Paul Byrne is a tireless pro-life warrior who has no obligation to accept current Church teaching with respect to the transplantation of vital organs. But faithful Catholics ought to know that his views do not reflect the current moral teachings of the Church on the subject.

John M. Haas, Ph.D., S.T.L., is president of The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

Events Calendar

March 2015
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05:30 PM
Grand Oak Villa, Oakville, CT, Watertown, United States
The St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Waterbury will commemorate its 37-year record of continual service to the poor of Greater Waterbury with a banquet beginning at 5:30 p.m. March 26 at the Grand Oak [...]
05:30 PM
St. Peter/St. Francis School, Torrington, Torrington, United States
St. Peter/St. Francis School will have open houses in March, April and May. The times and dates are 5:30-7 p.m. March 26, 9-11 a.m. April 22 and 5:30-7 p.m. May 12. Parents may visit [...]
07:00 PM
St. Rita School, Hamden CT, Hamden, United States
St. Rita School in Hamden will present the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at 7 p.m. March 26, 7 p.m. March 27; and at 1 and 7 p.m. March 28.. Tickets cost [...]
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s end, the Knights of Columbus Museum is sponsoring an historical exhibition and lecture series. The exhibit, [...]
Date :  March 26, 2015
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07:00 PM
St. Rita School, Hamden CT, Hamden, United States
St. Rita School in Hamden will present the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at 7 p.m. March 26, 7 p.m. March 27; and at 1 and 7 p.m. March 28.. Tickets cost [...]
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s end, the Knights of Columbus Museum is sponsoring an historical exhibition and lecture series. The exhibit, [...]
Date :  March 27, 2015
28
01:00 PM
St. Rita School, Hamden CT, Hamden, United States
St. Rita School in Hamden will present the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at 7 p.m. March 26, 7 p.m. March 27; and at 1 and 7 p.m. March 28.. Tickets cost [...]
05:00 PM
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden, CT, Hamden, United States
Sacred Heart Academy is sponsoring a $10,000 cash raffle as part of its annual signature fund-raising event, a live and silent auction, taking place at 5 p.m. March 28. Tickets for the cash [...]
07:00 PM
St. Rita School, Hamden CT, Hamden, United States
St. Rita School in Hamden will present the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” at 7 p.m. March 26, 7 p.m. March 27; and at 1 and 7 p.m. March 28.. Tickets cost [...]
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s end, the Knights of Columbus Museum is sponsoring an historical exhibition and lecture series. The exhibit, [...]
Date :  March 28, 2015
29
07:00 PM
St. Ann Church, Bristol CT, Bristol, United States
A tenebrae service, or service of lights, will take place at 7 p.m. on Palm Sunday, March 29, at St. Ann Church, 215 West St., Bristol. This service will include hymns, music by a contemporary [...]
12:00 AM
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s end, the Knights of Columbus Museum is sponsoring an historical exhibition and lecture series. The exhibit, [...]
Date :  March 29, 2015
30
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s end, the Knights of Columbus Museum is sponsoring an historical exhibition and lecture series. The exhibit, [...]
Date :  March 30, 2015
31
09:00 AM
St. Mary School, Milford, Milford, United States
St. Mary School in Milford will have an open house from 9-11 a.m. March 31. Teachers, staff and parents of current and former students will be on hand and students will provide tours. [...]
11:00 AM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford , Hartford, United States
During the Chrism Mass on March 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will bless the oils to be used in the upcoming year during the sacraments of [...]
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War’s end, the Knights of Columbus Museum is sponsoring an historical exhibition and lecture series. The exhibit, [...]
Date :  March 31, 2015

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