whyte-kidney 4244-adj-webFather Michael G. Whyte, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in West Simsbury, sits beside parishioner Margaret Domashinski in the parish rectory 10 weeks after surgery Sept. 9, when Mrs. Domashinski donated a kidney to save her pastor’s life. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

WEST SIMSBURY – A parishioner walks up to her pastor and says, “I want to give you my kidney.”
Pastor smiles and says, “Okay.”

Don’t expect a punch line. It’s no joke.

Father Michael G. Whyte arrived at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in 2007 and has been pastor there since 2008.  A type 1 diabetic, he began experiencing extreme tiredness and nausea at about that time, signs of kidney failure due to the diabetes. Doctors gave him three choices: go on dialysis and live five or six more years; do nothing and die within six months; or get a kidney transplant and – if it’s from a live donor – live 20 to 25 years.

20141121cm01588 webA poster announcing the pope's raffle is seen next to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 21. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Like many Catholic parishes, the Vatican has turned to a raffle to raise money; the difference is, though, the prizes are items originally given as gifts to Pope Francis.

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Auxiliary Bishop Christi A. Macaluso presided over the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for the Permanent Diaconate on Nov. 20 in the chapel of St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield.

20141117cm01483 webPope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 16. The following day, Pope Francis confirmed he will visit Philadelphia in September. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he would attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September, making it the first confirmed stop on what is expected to be a more extensive papal visit to North America.

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Up above the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea, Saint Peter's Church shines as the beacon to the Holy Land from the old port city of Jaffa. Peter's vision of the clean and unclean took place here at the house of Simon the tanner. Jaffa (Joppa in biblical times) was also the departure port for the prophet Jonah's encounter with the whale.Bob Mullen/The Catholic Photographer, a member of the Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish in Hartford and a regular contributor to The Catholic Transcript, visited Israel Nov. 4-11 and shared the sites through these photographs. The Israel Ministry of Tourism and El Al Israel Airlines arranged the “Catholic Highlights of Israel” tour primarily for writers, editors and photographers for Catholic media. The photos marked "Photo of the Day" are available for download for free. They will be highlighted periodically.

20101119cnsbr03533 webBishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., addresses the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during its annual fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 15, 2010. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) WASHINGTON – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) will be taken up in parishes nationwide on Nov. 22-23, the weekend before Thanksgiving. Echoing the teaching of Pope Francis, the collection focuses on the theme: “CCHD: Working on the Margins.”

“In the United States, many Americans continue to face the effects of a stagnant economy, debilitating unemployment, a dehumanizing cycle of poverty, and growing civic disenfranchisement,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

20141105cnsbr6821 webYoung people take selfies with Pope Francis as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The world's bishops are called to be servants and shepherds who use their position to care for people and the faith, not to seek power and boost their pride, Pope Francis said.

The church has no place for men with a "worldly mentality" who are seeking a career, he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square Nov. 5.

"It's sad when you see a man who seeks this office and who does so much to get there and when he makes it, he doesn't serve, but struts like a peacock, living only for his own vanity," the pope said.

AlbertusProf SMSstudents-webBiology Professor Patricia Compagnone Post demonstrates materials for working with DNA to students from St. Mary School in Branford on Oct. 22 at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.

BRANFORD – St. Mary School’s seventh and eighth graders are learning science and math from Albertus Magnus College faculty now as part of a new partnership.

The partnership is designed to improve the St. Mary students’ competitiveness in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields of study. The school’s STEM program aims to provide students with a dynamic, engaging series of educational experiences based on an innovative, in-depth and hands-on approach to science.

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Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell blesses a garden in the second floor waiting area of the St. Francis/Mount Sinai Regional Cancer Center in Hartford Nov. 1.

The garden is in memory of Nina Griswold Giorgio, a friend of St. Francis Care and a member of the St. Francis Auxiliary, who died of cancer in March.

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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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10:00 AM
St. Michael Parish Center, Waterbury, Waterbury, United States
Knights of Columbus from several councils in greater Waterbury will distribute coats to children from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 28 at its “Coats for Kids” drive at St. Michael’s Parish [...]
Date :  November 28, 2014
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09:00 AM
St. Gregory CCD Center, Bristol, Bristol, United States
The annual St. Gregory Christmas Craft Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 29-30 at the CCD Center, located at 1043 Stafford Ave. The fair will feature over 40 crafters/vendors, an [...]
12:00 AM
St. Mary School, Milford
St. Mary School will sell freshly cut Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery pieces from 5:30-9 p.m. Monday [...]
Date :  November 29, 2014
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09:00 AM
St. Gregory CCD Center, Bristol, Bristol, United States
The annual St. Gregory Christmas Craft Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 29-30 at the CCD Center, located at 1043 Stafford Ave. The fair will feature over 40 crafters/vendors, an [...]
09:30 AM
Polish National Home, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The Polish Cultural Club of Greater Hartford will hold its annual Szopka Festival from 9:30 [...]
12:00 AM
St. Mary School, Milford
St. Mary School will sell freshly cut Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery pieces from 5:30-9 p.m. Monday [...]
Date :  November 30, 2014

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