DECEMBER 13, 2004





Vatican says immorality increases spread of AIDS
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Marking World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), the Vatican blamed an “immuno-deficiency of moral and spiritual values” for spreading the disease and urged chastity, fidelity, education and cheaper drugs to control it.

“HIV/AIDS is one of the most devastating epidemics of our times,” Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastorate of Health, said. He quoted Pope John Paul II as saying that AIDS is a “pathology of the spirit,” and that its spread can be prevented by “teaching respect for the sacred values of life” and “the correct practice of sexuality.”

He also decried prejudice against victims of HIV/AIDS and urged lower prices for anti-retroviral medicines to treat them. Twenty-six percent of the centers that care for HIV/AIDS victims worldwide are operated by the Catholic Church.

France legalizes passive euthanasia
PARIS (RNS) – France’s National Assembly overwhelming adopted legislation Nov. 30 legalizing passive euthanasia. But the bill falls far short of more daring right-to-die laws elsewhere in Europe.

The French legislation allows doctors to withhold life-sustaining medicines from terminally ill patients under narrowly defined circumstances. It falls short of laws passed in Belgium and the Netherlands, which legalize active euthanasia, or in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal. While definitions vary from country to country, passive euthanasia is generally seen as the hastening of death by altering some form of support and allowing the patient to die.

Dutch debate law for euthanasia of newborns
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) – A hospital in the Netherlands – the first nation to permit euthanasia – recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures and reporting them to the government.

The Groningen Academic Hospital said it carried out four such mercy killings in 2003, and reported all cases to government prosecutors – but there have been no legal proceedings taken against them. Child euthanasia remains illegal everywhere. Experts say doctors outside of Holland do not report cases for fear of prosecution.

The announcement last month by the hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize practicing euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives.

In August, for instance, the main Dutch doctors’ association KNMB urged the Health Ministry to create an independent board to review euthanasia cases for terminally ill people “with no free will,” including children, the severely mentally retarded, and people left in an irreversible coma after an accident.

Cardinal criticizes Brazilian government

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) – Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, now retired as archbishop of Sao Paulo, recently criticized President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government, calling it “too slow” to promote agrarian reform and improve workers’ salaries.

“The worker has a salary of hunger,” Cardinal Arns said. Arns also said he was disappointed by a lack of progress with Silva’s “Zero Hunger” program, which seeks to eradicate hunger among the estimated 54 million Brazilians who live on a dollar a day or less. Silva, a former metal worker elected in 2002, gained global fame with campaign promises to alleviate poverty.

Pope urges day of prayer for more priests in U.S.
VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Expressing concern over the falling number of candidates for the priesthood in the United States, Pope John Paul II has urged the U.S. Church to establish “a national day of prayer for priestly vocations.”

The 84-year-old pontiff addressed American bishops who were making the periodic visit to the Vatican required of all bishops. He urged the bishops to respond to the crisis with “insistent prayer” and a “program of vocational promotion which branches out to every aspect of ecclesial life.”

Swiss voters approve stem cell research law
GENEVA (AP) – Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a new law Nov. 28 permitting research on stem cells, rejecting a repeal initiative by an alliance of conservative Christian, left-wing and green groups.

The law, passed by the Swiss government last December, still sets stricter limits than in some places in Europe, allowing the use only of embryonic stems cells left over from in-vitro fertilization.

The government said the law will permit Switzerland, which has major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, to take part in research to use stem cells to treat incurable diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

The opposition alliance of Roman Catholic, Protestant and other groups said removing stem cells from embryos up to 7 days old amounts to killing people even though the so-called supernumerary embryos are destined to die anyway. “Every member of the human species is entitled to human dignity,” said a statement from the group.

Vatican supports Hong Kong on democracy
HONG KONG (AP) – The Vatican supports Hong Kong’s roman Catholic leader in his demand for full democracy in the Chinese territory. Bishop Joseph Zen said that the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, supports the role the local diocese plays in the people’s fight for greater political rights.

Bishop Zen, a vocal critic of the Beijing and Hong Kong governments, has repeatedly pledged his support for full democracy.

Candles, incense may be health hazards
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (RNS) – Candles and incense burned during church services release potentially carcinogenic particles that could cause lung cancer, according to Dutch researchers who published their findings in the December issue of the European Respiratory Journal.

“The exposures are worrisome, not so much for the occasional churchgoer but priests, choirs and other people working in churches (who) may have significant exposure,” Theo de Kok, author of the Maastricht University study, said.

Scientists found the air inside Maastricht’s Basilica of Our Lady exceeded standards set by the European Union as healthy. After nine hours of candle-burning in small chapels, the level of fine particulate matter increased five-fold. In the main basilica, a simulated service with incense increased pollution four-fold.

By comparison, an average traffic intersection had only about one-twelfth the same level of pollution as the basilica after the use of incense.

Pro-life bill praised by bishops’ official
WASHINGTON – Cathy Cleaver Ruse, director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, praised the recent passage of a federal spending bill that included protection against discrimination for hospitals and health care providers who decline to provide, pay for, or refer for abortions.

Under previous law “health care entities,” such as individual physicians and training programs, had been protected from having to perform or provide abortion.
The new conscience protection amendment extends similar protection to hospitals, health plans, nurses and other health care participants. “This amendment simply clarifies what should be obvious,” Ruse said. “Legal protection for ‘health care entities’ should include the full range of participants who provide health care – no one who provides health care should be forced to participate in abortion.”

Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.