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Father Emmanuel Ihemedu, pastor of St. Justin Parish in Hartford, speaks at the Interreligious Harvest Festival held at the parish on Oct. 19.

The event, to which local Catholic and non-Catholic congregations were invited, included guest choirs, musical performances, liturgical dancers and praise worship. Fresh fruits, vegetables, chrysanthemums, baked goods and take-out Caribbean food were sold. (Photo by Lenora Sumsky)

stmary stem-webMaggie Cody, a fifth grader at St. Mary School in Milford,generates some energy with pedal power recently as part of her school’s annual all-day STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.

20131018nw1496 webPope Pius XII holds flowers as he greets people on his 80th birthday, March 2, 1956, in this frame from a film in the Vatican Film Library. (CNS photo/ Paul Haring)

CROMWELL – “Pius XII was the greatest hero of World War II. He saved more Jews than Roosevelt, Churchill and all the rest of them combined.”

That is the assessment of Gary Krupp, founder and president of Pave the Way Foundation, an organization dedicated to inter-religious dialogue, harmony and tolerance. Mr. Krupp will present the foundation’s groundbreaking research at the 2014 Pope John Paul II Bioethics Lecture on Nov. 13 at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.

anniv-mass 3925-adj-webBarbara and Wallace Miramant, members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Meriden, pose with Archbishop Leonard P. Blair after the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass Oct. 19 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hartford.

HARTFORD – For Charles and Deanna Comparetto, it’s never too late to start over. He is 92, she is 76, and they’ve been married just one year.

They are one of 210 couples who attended the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph on Oct. 19. Another 53 couples had registered but were unable to attend. All of them received a marriage anniversary certificate signed by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, principal celebrant.

20141009cnsbr6593 webMavis and Ron Pirola of Sydney, auditors at the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, leave the morning session of the synod at the Vatican Oct. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In official reports of the closed-door talks at the Synod of Bishops on the family, an emerging theme has been the call for a new kind of language more appropriate for pastoral care today.

"Language appeared many, many times," Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the briefer for English-speaking journalists, told reporters Oct.7, the assembly's second working day. "There's a great desire that our language has to change in order to meet the very complex situations" the church faces.

scc-chirp-30-anniv 01133-1-webAttendees gather at a reception celebrating 30 years of Small Christian Communities in the Archdiocese of Hartford on Oct. 8 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. (Photo by Anton Miranda)

BLOOMFIELD – Small Christian Communities were first formed in the Archdiocese of Hartford 30 years ago under the leadership of the late Archbishop John Whealon. The program has flourished to the point that a combined dinner and anniversary celebration was held to celebrate their achievements.

An estimated 200 people turned out at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary on Oct. 8 for that celebration. After a dinner, a program brought attendees up to date on a newer initiative that’s beginning to take root in a few Connecticut churches. It’s called Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP), or “chirp.”

fr benedict groeschel 2008-1-webFather Benedict Groeschel speaks during a Respect Life Mass in 2008 at Holy Apostles Parish in South Meriden. (Photo by Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer)

TOTOWA, N.J. (CNS) -- Father Benedict J. Groeschel, who was a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a leading pro-life figure and popular author, retreat master and preacher, died Oct. 3 at St. Joseph's Home for the elderly in Totowa after a long illness. He was 81.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of Father Benedict. He was an example to us all," said Father John Paul Ouellette, who is also a Franciscan friar and the order's community servant.

"His fidelity and service to the church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come," he said in a statement released Oct. 4 by the order's community office in the Bronx, New York.

A wake was planned for Oct. 8 at St. Adalbert's Church in the Bronx, with a wake to be held Oct. 9, followed by an evening vigil, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.

facs-col-bkfst singPA103195 webStudents from St. Gabriel School in Milford sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the annual Archbishop’s Columbus Day Breakfast on Oct. 10 at Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

NEW HAVEN – The eighth annual Archbishop’s Columbus Day Breakfast set a record for the number of attendees and level of funds raised for scholarships to 13 area Catholic elementary schools.

It took place Oct. 10 at Anthony’s Ocean View restaurant.

20140305cnsbr4466 webSister Jean Dwyan laughs Jan. 13 with Martah Spurgeon in the hallway of the St. Louis Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which serves about 100 people. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

DENVER (CNS) -- The federal government is pursuing its case against the Little Sisters of the Poor in an attempt to get the religious order to comply with newly issued interim rules regarding the Department of Health and Human Services' contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

The government filed a brief Sept. 8 in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, where the Little Sisters of the Poor run a home for the aged. Other plaintiffs in the case include Southern Nazarene University in Denver and Reaching Souls International, an Oklahoma nonprofit.

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

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12:00 AM
St. Anthony Parish, prospect, Prospect, United States
St. Anthony Parish in Prospect will again operate its Pumpkin Patch during the month October. It will be open Oct. 4-31, and all proceeds will support the parish's HOPE Ministry, which assists local [...]
12:00 AM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
Holy Family Retreat Center will present "From Control to Compassion," a weekend retreat for men and women with Father Michael Crosby, Oct 31-Nov 2. It wil explore the causes and consequences [...]
Date :  October 31, 2014

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