26 agosto 2010

Unmasking the "Ella" Masquerade

ZE10082511 - 2010-08-25
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-30157?l=english

Blurring the Line Between Contraception and Abortion

By E. Christian Brugger

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- On Aug. 13, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of a new "emergency contraceptive" called "Ella." Its competitor, Plan B, is said to "prevent pregnancy" up to 72 hours (3 days) after intercourse. Ella boasts of 120 hours (5 days) of post-coital effectiveness. The drug is produced by the Paris-based pharmaceutical company HRA Pharma and will be marketed by Watson Pharmaceuticals based out of Morristown, New Jersey. The FDA advisors voted unanimously to approve the drug.

Pro-lifers are no strangers to the euphemistic tactics of abortion activists. But the new depths to which the FDA has sunk with its recent approval will test their patience. The secret that the Ella establishment doesn't want you to know is this: from a pharmacological perspective, Ella is not an emergency contraceptive (EC). It is an abortion drug.

Chemical contraceptives, both long-term and emergency, use a synthetic version of the hormone progestin. Progestin has effects similar to the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for regulating the female menstrual cycle and supporting pregnancy. Progestin (alone, or in combination with estrogen) also can prevent ovulation, which is its primary contraceptive quality. The most common progestin drug in ECs is levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in several familiar brands, such as Plan B, Escapelle, Levonelle, NorLevo, and Next Choice.[1] The FDA refers to Ella as an emergency contraceptive, even comparing it in its literature to levonorgestrel.[2]

But Ella (generic name ulipristal acetate) is not a synthetic progestin that mimics the action of progesterone. The FDA press release states forthrightly that Ella is what is known as a "progesterone antagonist."[3] Unlike progestins, progesterone antagonists block the action of progesterone. The drug binds to the progesterone receptor sites excluding progesterone from binding and hence eliminating its activity. Since progesterone is necessary for promoting and preserving a uterine lining hospitable to a nesting embryo, its suppression results in an environment hostile to embryonic life. The other common progesterone-blocking drug on the market is the abortion pill RU-486 (generic name mifepristone).

The FDA description insists that Ella's mode of action is contraceptive, not abortive. It states flatly: "Ella is not indicated for termination of an existing pregnancy."[4] While it is true that a progesterone antagonist can prevent ovulation, the drug's principal value to the family planning industry is and has been as an abortion drug. Literature going back to the 1980s makes this very clear.[5] Deprived of a nutritive uterine lining, the embryo starves to death. Dress them up as "contraceptives" all you want, progesterone antagonists are abortion drugs.

By "pregnancy," the FDA obviously means to include only the post-implantation period, employing the definition of pregnancy supported by the American College (now "Congress") of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood (ACOG: "A pregnancy is considered to be established only after implantation is complete").[6] A "termination of pregnancy" then does not include killing an embryo before implantation.

Are you starting to see the picture? If the killing is not a "termination of pregnancy," then likely it will not be excluded from federal funding under the Hyde Amendment. Ella, then, unlike RU-486, will evade the federal restrictions on abortion funding.

Moreover, though most provisions of President Barack Obama's health care plan will take years to go into effect, a handful take effect this September. Among them is the requirement that all new private plans (i.e., only those created or changed after Sept. 22, 2010) must cover certain "preventative" care and screenings for women and children. The final rules on what will be considered "preventative" are being written right now, to be unveiled next month. But "family planning services" are already listed among them. If Ella continues to be categorized as an EC, there is a strong likelihood that it will be included under mandatory coverage for preventative services for women.

In other words, federal funds would be allowed to cover Ella abortions, and private insurance plans will be forced to pay for them.[7]

Birth defects

Does Ella cause birth defects in children who survive their mother's ingestion of the drug? We don't know. Remarkably, the FDA while knowing its pharmacological kinship with RU-486, has performed no controlled human studies on the effects of Ella on an implanted embryo and fetus. One of the members of the FDA advisory committee even recommended against controlled studies arguing that pregnancy studies would be "biased" because women who experience negative outcomes are more likely to report than women experiencing no problems.[8] (So much for trusting women to report accurately.)

In animal studies, however, the FDA reported that 100% of confirmed pregnant rats and 50% of pregnant rabbits suffered miscarriage as a result of Ella ingestion.[9] Accordingly, the product labeling seriously cautions women with confirmed pregnancies to avoid the drug. Although no malformations were observed in the newborn rabbits that survived the drug's effects, nobody doubts that Ella would be gravely dangerous to gestating fetuses.

The empirical question of whether or not progestin-based ECs such as Plan-B sometime act as abortifacients is still hotly debated; hence so too is the ethical conversation in Catholic bioethics whether or not they rightly can be used to treat victims of sexual assault.[10] But the evidence of the abortive effects of progesterone antagonist drugs such as Ella is conclusive. The empirical question is settled; and thus so too is the ethical question.


[1] Levonogestrel is also the active ingredient in the Intra-uterine contraceptive Mirena and the contraceptive implants Norplant and Jadelle.

[3] www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm222428.htm

[4] www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022474s000lbl.pdf; see sec. 5.1.

[5] Nieman, et al., "The Progesterone Antagonist RU 486," New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 316, no. 4 (January 22, 1987), 187-191; see also Marie Hilliard, "Ulipristal and Catholic Hospitals," Ethics & Medics, vol. 35, no. 9 (Sept. 2010), p. 2, especially footnotes 13-15.

[6] Quoted in Rachel B. Gold, "The Implications of Defining When a Woman Is Pregnant," The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, vol. 8, no. 2 (May 2005), 8; see also www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/pregnancy/how-pregnancy-happens-4252.htm

[7] I Thank J. Margaret Datiles, Esq, for supplying this information on Ella and President Barack Obama's plan for health care reform.

[8] www.cwfa.org/printerfriendly.asp?id=19109&department=cwa&categoryid=life

[9] www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022474s000lbl.pdf; see sec. 8.1

[10] Those interested in the scholarly conversation among Catholic bioethicists might be interested to read chapter eleven dedicated to the debate in the 2009 Catholic Health Care Ethics Manual, published by the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

* * *

E. Christian Brugger is a Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation and is an associate professor of moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado. He received his Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford in 2000.

24 agosto 2010

The Introduction to Fr. Jean Bernard's Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau

The Introduction to Fr. Jean Bernard's Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau | Robert Royal | Ignatius Insight


This story is both ordinary and extraordinary. It is ordinary because Catholic priests and religious were regularly rounded up and sent to concentration camps in large numbers during the nightmare of Nazism in Europe. It is extraordinary, as all such accounts are, because they give us vivid and unforgettable indications of both the depths of depravity and heights of sanctity to which the human race is capable. Father Jean Bernard offers a straightforward picture of how Good and Evil played out around him in his imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. He takes great pains to be accurate about the ever shifting conditions as he witnessed them personally. His strict regard for truth, even in such circumstances, is itself an implicit rejection of the violence built on lies that the Third Reich inflicted everywhere it could. If there is any truth missing in this moving story, it is Father Bernard's own quiet heroism and holiness, which he is too humble to include, but which we may intuit in his primary ­emphasis on the plight of his fellow inmates.

People who have not looked carefully at the position of the Catholic Church under the Third Reich may be particularly surprised by this story. The Nazis did not want to exterminate all Catholics, but they most ­certainly did want to exterminate all Jews, and they nearly succeeded. So the Shoah cannot and should not be described as if the Nazis did as much harm to Catholics as they did to Jews. Yet it is a fact of ­history that millions of Catholics were murdered in the Nazi camps, and that is something we must never forget.

During and right after World War II, it was commonly ­assumed that Christians as well as Jews suffered a great deal ­under Hitler. Jews were grateful to Catholics and ­others for such assistance as they were able to provide, and especially esteemed Pope Pius XII, who quite probably saved more Jews from the Nazis than any other single person. That was why Golda Meir, one of the founders and later Prime Minister of the newly ­created Jewish state of ­Israel, thanked the pope and honored him among the righteous gentiles: "When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims." Similarly, Moshe Sharett, the second Prime Minister of Israel, remarked after meeting with Pius: "I told him [the Pope] that my first duty was to thank him, and through him the Catholic Church, on behalf of the Jewish public for all they had done in the various countries to rescue Jews. We are deeply grateful to the Catholic Church."

But beginning in the 1960s, following a play entitled The Deputy by the Communist-­inspired revisionist, Rolf Hochuth, there has been a massive attempt to deny these facts and paint the Church as all but a Nazi ­accomplice and Pius as "Hitler's pope."

One of the advantages of a memoir like this is its concrete evidence that the anti-Catholic smears are false. Pius was aware not only of the threats to Jews but the widespread persecution of his own priests by the ­Nazis. Careful study of the records in recent years has even given us some concrete numbers that were not available to the pope at the time. In 1932, for instance, just before the Nazis came to power, there were about twenty-one thousand priests in ­Germany. By the time Nazism was defeated a decade later, more than eight thousand of these men had ­either been threatened, beaten, imprisoned, or killed by the regime. In other words, well over one-third of Germany's priests came into open conflict with the Third Reich. We can be morally certain that the number who, seeing the treatment of their fellows, opposed Nazism in more subtle or quiet ways was even higher.

Father Bernard was not a German. He came from Luxembourg and joined the 2,670 priests who have been documented to have passed through Dachau, some 600 to their death, from Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, and other nations. Priests were sent to every camp that Nazis had created, either because they had expressed dislike for Nazism or because Nazism disliked them. (Bogus charges of financial misdealing or sexual impropriety were often trumped up, but many priests, like Father Bernard, never knew what, exactly, they had been arrested for.) For some reason, however, the Gestapo particularly favored Dachau as a destination for priests and Protestant clergy, perhaps as a way of keeping them together and thereby preventing them from ­"infecting" other prison populations with Christianity.

Because in the end the Nazi hatred of the Church and of what they called "negative" Christianity is a spiritual orientation. Both Hitler and Mussolini shared that spirit, but the Italian convinced the German that a direct attack on the Church had historically always led to failure. The case called for delicacy, tact, indirect and subtle means that would not make anyone a conspicuous Christian martyr, but would eventually result in, as Hitler put it, the chance to "crush the Church like a toad." Anyone who looks over these pages will not encounter Nazi subtlety. Camp administrators preferred the most outrageous brutality. Clever attempts at manipulating public opinion, in Germany and around the world, took place at a much more public level. But what we see here is the brutal and sadistic reality behind the misinformation and propaganda.

We lost a lot of what we knew about this history in the last quarter of the twentieth century. In the 1970s Jewish historians were quite energetic and successful in reminding the world about the Shoah, the attempted genocide of Europe's Jews during World War II. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Catholics and other Christians virtually forgot their own heroic witnesses and even had a hard time in keeping before the eyes of world opinion ongoing persecutions and martyrdoms of Christians by the thousands in places like China, Cuba, Vietnam, and the Soviet Bloc. That was why Pope John Paul II made it a part of the program for the Third Millennium, which was celebrated in 2000 in Rome and around the world, to remember the modern Christian martyrs (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant). As he writes in Tertio Millennio Adveniente, "their witness must not be ­forgotten."

His words continue to hold a lesson for us today. This little book works against one temptation that those of us who have never had a similar experience may never have felt, but which we may become complicit in by a failure of truthfulness on the order of the author's. Anyone who suffers a trauma of this magnitude or who has come upon such horrors will be tempted to turn away. But to do so always has repercussions, not only for our understanding of the past, but for our very lives in the present and the future. As Father Bernard writes, "Wanting to forget would also be a weakness on the part of those who suffered... it would be turning a blind eye to similar events taking place today, in full view, in many other parts of the world... Forgetting would be cowardice on the part of the people against whom all these crimes were committed."

The anti-Christian currents in Nazism and Fascism and Communism did not entirely disappear from our world with the fall of the regimes associated with those ideologies in the twentieth century. They are still among us today in disguised cultural forms that demand our constant vigilance.

This republication of Priestblock 25487 is a valuable reminder of the price of failing to be vigilant both for the Church and for the world, because the persecution of Catholics in the twentieth century is not merely a part of religious ­history. It is an important but widely neglected part of the secular record of our time as well.

19 agosto 2010

Mexican Bishops Protest Same-Sex "Marriage"

Appeal for Rights of Children to a Father and Mother

MEXICO CITY, AUG. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- After two Mexican cardinals were criticized for speaking out against the legalization of same-sex "marriage," the rest of the bishops in that country rose to the defense of free speech.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City, and Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, were accused of "intolerance" for having spoken out against same-sex "marriage" and adoptions by homosexual couples.

In response, the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate published a communiqué Tuesday, stating, "We lament that on expressing these concepts in public opinion, there are those who recriminate and threaten, warning of intolerance, when tolerance is the possibility that we all express our opinion and positions."

In addition to warning about attacks on the liberty of expression, the bishops reiterated their opposition to the process carried out in Mexico to legalize same-sex "marriage" and adoption by homosexual couples.

They asserted that the assembly of the Federal District approved it "hastily, without the necessary consultations of the different social authors and without paying attention to the consensus of the majorities, which disagreed with such unions and especially the adoption of children."

Lawmakers legalized same-sex "marriage" in Mexico City a few months ago. Earlier this month, the Mexican Supreme Court decided that these unions must be recognized in the entire country. On Monday, the court upheld the decision to permit homosexual couples to adopt children.

The decision essentially puts Mexico among the most liberal nations with regard to same-sex "marriage." In July, Argentina became the 10th nation to pass a law allowing same-sex marriage, preceded by the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Iceland. In the United States, same-sex "marriage" is recognized in only five states and Washington, D.C.


The bishops' conference stated that the Supreme Court's decision was carried out "without going to the bottom of the matter."

The conference affirmed its "total disagreement with the ruling."

"We believe that equating these unions with the name of marriage is a lack of respect, both of the very essence of marriage between a woman and a man, expressed in Article 4 of the country's Constitution, as well as of the customs and culture itself that have governed us for centuries," the bishops affirmed.

They continued, "The Church, of which all of us baptized form part, watches over the rights of those who cannot defend themselves, and in this case, the weakest of whom are infants."

The communiqué noted that "the increasing ecological awareness of so many supporters to safeguard the different species by respecting their natural processes must include the human species, the most worthy and aware of its own development."

"Because of this," it added, "in nature itself the Church discovers the dignity of marriage between a man and a woman. This encourages us to promote the dignity of the couple and their offspring appealing to natural and moral values."

The episcopate expressed its "solidarity" and heartfelt support to the cardinals and affirmed that "the moment Mexico is living through requires a lofty debate that unites us and in which all the members of society as a whole resolve the many problems that afflict us."

Finally, the prelates invited the faithful to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe "for the decisions of political leaders and for all children who do not have a voice but do have the right to a family that is for them an example of virtues."

The archbishopric of Guadalajara also published a communiqué, in which it warned that the American Psychological Association has indicated that children who grow up with parents who are in a homosexual relationship have three times as much risk of suffering from depression.

It appealed that the rights of children be respected, noting that they "deserve the best opportunity to be incorporated in society," taking into account that "all currents of psychology in the world acknowledge that a father and a mother are the best environment for them."

"The minors were born from the union of a man and a woman," the communiqué affirmed. "No one has ever been born from the union of two persons of the same sex."

"Hence," it concluded, "their development is intimately linked to their origin, and this is their right, which has now been transgressed by the nation's Supreme Court of Justice."

ZE10081803 - 2010-08-18
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-30086?l=english

09 agosto 2010

Auschwitz and Catholic Jews

Auschwitz and Catholic Jews | Dr. Ralph McInerny | Foreword to Edith Stein and Companions, On the Way to Auschwitz, by Father Paul Hamans | Ignatius Insight


Once, in monasteries, religious houses, and seminaries, the Roman Martyrology was read in the refectory before meals. Each day some of those who had given their lives in witness to the faith were commemorated by name, and often the tortures they underwent were described. Each day's entry ended with a sentence beginning "et alibi aliorum plurimorum sanctorum.... " And elsewhere many other saints. ... This tradition continues in some monasteries.

We may feel sad for all the anonymous martyrs gathered into that commodious final sentence, but that would be a mistake. They are all entered in the Book of Life, and the names of each are known to God. For all that, it is important for us, not for them, that the names and sufferings of some be explicitly known by us. The saints are put before us as models of the Christian life, and martyrs are the ultimate models. We need to know more about some of them.

In this remarkable book, Dr. Paul Hamans, Father Hamans, has undertaken the onerous task of compiling biographies, often accompanied by photographs, of many of the religious and laity who were rounded up from their various convents and monasteries and homes on the same day as Saint Edith Stein, August 2, 1942; most of them were taken to the Amersfoort concentration camp and from there put on trains to Auschwitz, where the majority, soon after their arrival at the camp, were gassed and buried in a common grave between August 9 and September 30, 1942. They were all Catholic Jews, and their arrest was in retaliation for the letter of the Catholic bishops of the Netherlands that was read from the pulpits of all churches on July 26, 1942.

Over the past few years, in striking contrast to contemporary acknowledgments and the magnificent book of Jewish theologian and historian Pinchas Lapide, many authors have accused the Church of silence during the Nazi persecution of the Jews. None of the counterevidence to this shameful thesis has had any effect on the critics. The experience of Jews in the Netherlands, particularly Catholic Jews, is eloquent witness of what could result from public condemnation of the Nazis. The victims whose stories are included in this book were told that they were rounded up in direct retaliation of the condemnation of the Nazi "final solution" by the Dutch bishops.

Elsewhere, as was once acknowledged and celebrated, the Church in many ways, and in many countries, provided the principal help to European Jews. Indeed, the Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII, is credited by Lapide with saving the lives of some 860,000 Jews. These efforts were effective largely because they were not accompanied by noisy public declarations. With the appearance of the mendacious play of Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, in 1963, the tide turned, and a series of progressively more intemperate accusations against the Church and Pius XII began to appear. Some Jews reacted to mention of the non-Jewish victims of the Nazi persecution as if it were in some way an effort to diminish the tragedy that had befallen the Jewish people under the reign of Hitler. There were even objections from some Catholics when Edith Stein was canonized and characterized as a martyr. Their argument was that she was put to death as a Jew, not as a Catholic. And some sad souls objected to acknowledgment of what had happened to Catholic Jews like Edith Stein and her companions. This book is an indirect reply to such criticisms and will speak to all who have ears with which to hear.

That the ultimate sacrifice of the Catholic Jews arrested in the wake of the Dutch bishops' protest should become a cause of controversy is a sad indictment of these last days. But it cannot touch the nobility and holy resignation with which they met their end. Pondering the people commemorated in this book should be an occasion, not for argument, but for edification. Father Hamans has put us in his debt for having taken on the enormous task of making them flesh-and-blood persons for his readers. During the ordeal, one nun wrote to her superior that they had all become numbers to their captors. Lists had been drawn up with diabolical bureaucratic efficiency by the Nazis, which is why the arrests were made so promptly.

Thanks to this book, they are no longer mere numbers. Like those mentioned in the Martyrology, their names have been restored. But, again, the importance of that is largely for us. They would have been content, like perhaps millions of others, with the collective mention of the army of martyrs in the Te Deum Laudamus:

Te martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.

Ralph McInerny
University of Notre Dame
September 2010

Fr. Paul Hamans is a diocesan priest in Roermond, Netherlands, where he teaches Church history at the seminary there. He has a doctorate in history from the University of Augsburg, Germany, and is an expert on the Dutch martyrs of the twentieth century. His other publications include History of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands.