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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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Pro-life students ask Trump to defund Planned Parenthood

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 18:40

Washington D.C., Nov 28, 2018 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Students for Life has urged U.S. President Donald Trump to defund Planned Parenthood, and encouraged pro-life advocates to ask the administration to do so.

The pro-life organization issued a letter to President Trump Nov. 27 signed by the Kristan Hawkins, president for Students for Life of America.

In the message, Hawkins thanks Trump for pro-life measures he has undertaken, and invites him to pursue five steps to defund Planned Parenthood.

The letter challenged the president to keep his “promises and defund Planned Parenthood across the board, redirecting those resources to places and programs that actually serve the medical needs of women and their families.”

The five steps called the administration to refuse to sign any budget that does not defund abortion providers; to formalize the Protect Life rule for Title X regulations; to appoint pro-life judges; to stop funding fetal tissue research that pays for parts of aborted infants; and to sever the abortion providers’ connection to sex education.

The letter highlights the last stance, stating that Planned Parenthood uses sex education to fuel its own marketing schemes, “to instruct teens to buy their products and engage in behaviors they endorse, and then selling abortions to those same students when their advice and products fail.”

Hawkins emphasized Planned Parenthood’s role in providing abortion, noting the organization falsely promotes itself as a major supporter for women’s healthcare. She said the group’s marketing department has publicized that abortion is not its number one seller. This is not true, she said.

Comparing Planned Parenthood to other community health centers, Hawkins said Planned Parenthood provides fewer services, is inefficient in its spending, and serves millions fewer patients.

She said Planned Parenthood receives more than $500 million a year from federal funding. This money should be distributed to programs and places which better serve women, she said.

Students for Life gave directions for citizens to help promote this cause as well. The organization urged people to tweet to President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and to call the White House switchboard.

At the end of her letter, Hawkins challenges Trump to focus funding on more pro-life health services, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers and Pregnancy Resource Centers.

“Please support serving the needs of mothers and their children, born and preborn, by ensuring that the places receiving federal dollars treat everyone as a patient deserving of life. Planned Parenthood must be defunded so that we can better service women and their preborn children’s lives.”

Why do Central Americans join ‘migrant caravans?’

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 14:41

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 28, 2018 / 12:41 pm (CNA).- Controversial “caravans” of Central American migrants have made headlines in recent weeks, and a quagmire at the U.S. southern border remains unresolved.

As policymakers and migrants consider their next steps, some have asked why migrants leave Central America to make a dangerous journey with an uncertain outcome.

Rick Jones, senior adviser on Migration and Public Policy for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Latin America, pointed to “three main reasons: violence, climate change and the lack of opportunities” in their countries of origin.

The first “migrant caravan” of 2018 left Oct. 13 from San Pedro Sula in Honduras. By the time they reached Mexico City in early November, they numbered more than 5,600 people. Other caravans followed in their steps.

“El Salvador and Honduras are among the five most violent countries in the world. In San Pedro Sula, for example, the homicide rate is 100 per 100,000 inhabitants,” Jones said.

For comparison, Jones said that in Los Angeles, “the homicide rate is 6 per 100,000 inhabitants.

“The difference in the levels of violence is overwhelming.”

Regarding climate change, Jones noted that “most rural people  in Central America plant corn and beans which require a certain level of rainfall. If there's too much water, they lose [their crop],  if there's no rain they lose [their crop]. And in Honduras, in the last five years they have had four years of drought, and this year 2018 they had drought followed by flooding. The people lost everything.”

“Finally, the people don't have many options for work. Most people in El Salvador, for example, work  ‘off the books’ and make two or three dollars a day. That's not enough to meet basic needs.”

Jones said that the migrants “suffer along the way” to the United States. “They walk between eight and nine hours a day and their feet blister, their shoes have holes in them. At this point, many are sick, with respiratory infections and even pneumonia due to the low temperatures in northern Mexico.”

“We're working with some sisters who are caring for them, but that's not enough,” he said.

Jones said that CRS works in Central America with rural people, business owners, and young people looking for employment. Programs look to improve circumstances before people feel the need to migrate toward an uncertain future.

“We have a program called ‘Young Builders’ where we help young people get jobs. And we've placed about 15,000 young people in jobs throughout the last ten years. But it's a drop in the ocean.  
There's more than a million youths who aren't studying or working.”

They also help rural people “have real alternatives to planting corn and beans.”

“In El Salvador we're supporting the reintroduction of the production of cocoa and that's generating income, and helps to better manage the water and the issue of the land,” he said.

With these kind of projects, he said, people can hope to earn income and an improve the quality of their lives within their native countries.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

District attorney searches Houston archdiocese

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 12:11

Houston, Texas, Nov 28, 2018 / 10:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Investigators have executed a search warrant on the chancery offices of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. A search warrant obtained by the district attorney’s office for Montgomery County was served Wednesday morning by officers from the Texas Rangers and Conroe Police Department.

According to local media reports, the district attorney’s office is seeking documents related to the case of Fr. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, who was arrested by Conroe police in September on four charges of indecency to children.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was unavailable to comment on the search, or to clarify whether it was limited to the case of La Rosa-Lopez.

The district attorney’s office has already conducted searches at two churches where La Rosa-Lopez had been previously assigned – St. John Fisher in Richmond and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe – as well as the Shalom Treatment Center in Splendora, where La Rosa-Lopez was sent for evaluation and treatment in the early 2000s.

While stationed at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez was accused in 2001 of kissing and inappropriately touching a 16 year-old girl. Following consideration of the allegation by both civil authorities and the archdiocesan review board in 2003, La Rosa-Lopez was allowed to return to ministry in 2004.

On Aug. 10, 2018, a 36-year-old man alleged to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston that Fr. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez sexually abused him from 1998-2001, when he was a high school student and La Rosa-Lopez was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish.

The archdiocese said in a statement following La Rosa-Lopez’s arrest Sept. 11 that it had immediately reported the man's allegation to Child Protective Services.

In October, a third individual came forward with allegations that La Rosa-Lopez had sexually abused him on several occasions during the mid-1990s. According to reports, a lawyer for the third accuser said that the family of the alleged victim had reported La Rosa-Lopez at the time.

La Rosa-Lopez is currently released on bail and scheduled to return to court in January.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has found himself at the forefront of the American hierarchy’s response to the sexual abuse crisis. He chaired the U.S. bishops’ conference general assembly in early November, during which he announced that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops had instructed them to delay voting on a proposed code of episcopal conduct or on the creation of an independent commission for investigating allegations of misconduct against bishops.

Last week, DiNardo was the subject of a television report claiming he had knowingly left two priests in active ministry despite “credible accusations” of abuse having been made against them. Cardinal DiNardo denied that either case was “credible.”

 

CDC report says abortion rates continue to fall

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 11:44

Washington D.C., Nov 28, 2018 / 09:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that abortion rates in 2015 reached their lowest level in 10 years, although limitations in data collection make it difficult to assess actual abortion numbers in the U.S.

The CDC has monitored the number of women who seek a legal abortion since 1969, and relies on voluntary reporting of abortion statistics from the areas being studied. The CDC’s analysis covered the years 2006-2015.

The analysis found a range of abortion rates in 2015 across different areas of the U.S. - from 2.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years in South Dakota, to 23.1 abortions per 1,000 women in New York.

A total of 638,169 abortions for 2015 were reported to CDC, leading to a ratio of 188 abortions per 1,000 live births. This is compared to over 1.4 million abortions in 1990.

The data suggested a decrease in the number of abortions among women 15-44 by 26 percent, and an overall decrease in the number of abortions per 1,000 live births by 19 percent, compared to 2006.

The majority of women who had abortions in 2015 were in their 20s. Nearly 60 percent of those who had abortions in 2015 were women who had given birth before, and nearly half had had abortions before.

The analysis notably does not include data on the number of abortions performed during 2006–2015 in the states of California, Maryland, and New Hampshire. The report notes its own limitations, stating that these three states “did not provide CDC data on a consistent annual basis.”  

“During the period covered by this report, the total annual number of abortions reported to CDC was 68%–71% of the number recorded by the [Planned Parenthood-aligned] Guttmacher Institute through a national census of abortion providers,” the report reads.

California is the most populous state in the U.S. and has almost no laws restricting abortion.

Tennessee diocese seeks to exhume remains of pastor on path to sainthood

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 05:37

Knoxville, Tenn., Nov 28, 2018 / 03:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Knoxville is seeking to unearth the remains of a Tennessee pastor whose canonization cause is currently open.

Servant of God Father Patrick Ryan was a diocesan priest who cared for the sick in Chattanooga, Tennessee, passing away at 33 years old from yellow fever.

The diocese is seeking permission to transfer the priest’s remains from Mt. Olivet Cemetery to the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.

A petition was filed earlier this month to ask a judge for permission to exhume the remains.

Nell Southerland, assistant attorney for Hamilton County, said the request will likely go unopposed but is unsure if Tennessee law gives judges the power to allow for exhumation without the permission of a known relative, the Times Free Press reported.

The diocese must confirm that Ryan was a real person and not a “pious legend.” However, there is strong evidence pointing to the priest’s existence, like letters between clergymen and newspaper clippings.

In the 1800s, the Ryan family immigrated to New York from County Tipperary, Ireland, where the surname Ryan is popular. According to the Times Free Press, this made it difficult to determine which Patrick Ryan was the priest, noting there are 25 identical names recorded.  

Ryan studied the priesthood at St. Vincent’s College in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In 1869, he was ordained in Nashville. Later, he was sent to Chattanooga, where he opened the town’s oldest private school.

Having passed away in 1878, the priest was originally buried among his flock per his request. In 1886, he was transferred to Olivet Cemetery during a horse and buggy procession.

Fr. David Carter, Knoxville canon lawyer and pastor of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, said Ryan had offered his life to heroically serve people suffering from the yellow fever epidemic during the 19th century.

“Patrick Ryan was the pastor of the Catholic church here, and when the yellow fever came to town, instead of fleeing, he heroically administered to the people knowing its dangers,” he said, according to the Times Free Press.

At the U.S. bishops’ General Assembly in Baltimore in 2016, Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville highlighted the Servant of God’s work.

“Even though it happened many years ago, Father Ryan’s work administering to the sick exemplifies charity and selflessness and remind us of how we should serve others.”

Free Catholic school tuition offered to kids displaced by Camp Fire

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 20:52

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 27, 2018 / 06:52 pm (CNA).- After 17 days of scorching more than 150,000 acres in northern California, the Camp Fire - one of the states deadliest and most destructive wildfires on record - has finally been contained.

The fire killed at least 88 people, but that number is expected to rise as nearly 300 people are still unaccounted for. It destroyed some 14,000 residencies and left the town of Paradise, in Butte County, essentially non-existent.

Paradise sits in the northern part of the Diocese of Sacramento. Before the fire was even fully contained, the department of schools for the diocese announced that it would be offering free tuition at its Catholic schools for any Butte County students displaced by the wildfire.

“Paradise it not that small of a city. It has - or had - nearly 30,000 inhabitants, so the fire left around 4,000 school kids displaced, without any schools to go back to,” Lincoln Snyder, executive director of schools for the Diocese of Sacramento, told CNA.

About 90 percent of Paradise is completely burned, and “what remains probably isn’t going to be usable for a long time,” he said.

After meeting with the school board and Bishop Jaime Soto, the diocese announced last week that any open spots in diocesan Catholic schools would be offered to displaced Camp Fire students at no cost to the families. Seats are available for students in preschool through high school.

Normally, tuition for a single student for the remainder of this school year would be about $5,000-$6,000. The free tuition is being funded through a diocesan fundraiser for displaced students, and will cover all school expenses including uniforms, backpacks, field trip money, hot lunches, and any other school-related costs.

“We are heartbroken over the devastation the Camp Fire has caused, and the number of families it has left displaced in its wake. We understand that it may be a long time before students can return to their schools and classrooms in the city of Paradise, and we would like to help by opening up our schools to Butte County students, grades Preschool – 12, who have been displaced by the fires,” Snyder said in a press release announcing the offer.

“Many families have lost nearly everything in this fire, and being back in a school can be a major stabilizing force in a child’s life. Some classes in some of our schools could accommodate more students, and we have thus decided to open those seats to affected families who find themselves near those schools,” he said.

“Though our schools are funded by tuition, we will enroll displaced Butte County students at no cost to the family for the remainder of the academic year.”

So far, Snyder told CNA that they have already been able to enroll several displaced students in Catholic schools, and that the diocese can accommodate dozens or even hundreds of displaced students, though the number of open seats per school varies.

“We’ve had several students apply and we’re making good on the offer, and we’re excited to be able to offer these open spots to the students who’ve been displaced,” he said.

Funds are being collected through a page on the diocesan website. The appeal for the campaign states that while the exact need is difficult to predict at the moment, the funds collected will go to helping these new students, as well as the students already in area Catholic schools who have lost their homes in the fire.

Chinese scientists, officials denounce gene-editing of embryos

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 19:21

Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2018 / 05:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Chinese scientist’s claim to have created a gene-edited baby has been met with an outpouring of condemnation, with critics voicing alarm at what they described as a disregard for biomedical ethics.

Approximately 120 scientists released a letter condemning the research, Reuters reported. The Chinese-language letter called the gene manipulation a “Pandora’s box,” warning, “The biomedical ethics review for this so-called research exists in name only. Conducting direct human experiments can only be described as crazy.”

Earlier this week, Chinese researcher He Jiankui claimed that he had altered embryos for seven couples, resulting in one twin pregnancy so far. There is no independent confirmation of this claim, the Associated Press noted.

He says his goal was to edit embryos to give them the ability to resist HIV infection, by disabling the CCR5 gene, which allows HIV to enter a cell.

Shenzhen's Southern University of Science and Technology of China, where He is an associate professor, said in a statement that the researcher had not made the school aware of the gene editing he was doing.

According to Business Insider, the university said He had been on unpaid leave since this February and was not expected to return until January 2021. It is not clear why he had been placed on unpaid leave.

The university said that the use of genetic editing technology in human embryo research constitutes a serious violation of academic ethics. It announced that it would be conducting an investigation into He’s work.

He says he used a technology known as CRISPR to edit sections of the human genome, performing the procedure on embryonic humans. The technology, which selectively “snips” and trims areas of the genome and replaces it with strands of desired DNA, has previously been used on adult humans and other species. CRISPR technology has only recently been used to treat deadly diseases in adults, and limited experiments have been performed on animals.

Catholic bioethics experts have warned that while gene editing may sometimes be morally acceptable, it poses numerous ethical challenges that must be addressed in order to ensure its legitimacy.

Chinese officials and scientific organizations also issued harsh condemnations of the reported gene editing.

The Chinese Society for Stem Cell Research and China’s Genetics Society released a joint statement saying He’s experimentation posed “tremendous safety risks for the research subjects” and violated “the consensus reached by the international science community,” Reuters reported.

Xinhua’s official news agency also rejected the experimentation, stressing that ethical standards must not be ignored in scientific research.

The Shenzhen government medical ethics committee is reportedly investigating the matter.

Court motions filed as atheist group sues for churches to file tax returns

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a motion to intervene after lawyers from the Freedom from Religion Foundation sued the IRS, arguing that churches should not be exempt from having to file tax returns and other forms with the IRS.

Currently, churches and religious institutions in the United States are tax exempt and do not have to file these forms.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation lawsuit, Nonbelief Relief v. Kautter, was filed with the District Court for the District of Columbia in October on behalf of Nonbelief Relief, Inc., which describes itself as “a humanitarian agency for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and their supporters.” David Kautter, the acting commissioner of the IRS, was named as respondent to the suit.

The suit argues that allowing churches to be exempt from filing tax returns is a violation of the Establishment Clause, as it “results in obligations imposed on secular non-profits, including [Nonbelief Relief], that are not imposed on churches.”

On Monday, Nov. 26, attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom filed a motion to intervene on behalf of New Macedonia Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. The motion argues that the church would be greatly affected if it were forced to file tax returns, saying such a requirement would be “costly, time-consuming, and intrusive.”

The ADF argues that requiring churches like New Macedonia Baptist Church to file various IRS forms would take time, money, and energy away from other aspects of the church’s ministry in the community, including worship services, a food pantry, and youth outreach programs. Additionally, they argue, the forms would make potentially sensitive information, such as ministerial salaries and church donors, publicly available.

If the lawsuit were to be successful and the church refused to file forms with the IRS, it would lose its tax-exempt status and result in a “devastating” loss of income, the ADF said.

ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley criticized “activist groups with an axe to grind against religion,” and said that suits of this kind would themselves violate the First Amendment by unnecessarily entangling the government with religion.

“Requiring churches to file tax returns with the IRS places too much power—and too much sensitive information about church operations and finances—in the hands of the government. That’s why the First Amendment legitimately blocks any requirement that churches file such returns.”

The Supreme Court has consistently sided with churches on questions of government involvement in their operations. In the 1819 Supreme Court decision McCulloch v. Maryland, the court warned that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” Since that ruling, the court has often ruled to keep government interference in religious institutions to a minimum.

Catholics in Tennessee, Virginia pray as their bishops face surgery

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 16:00

Arlington, Va., Nov 27, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Catholics in the Dioceses of Arlington, Virginia, and Knoxville, Tennessee, are praying for their bishops as they face serious health challenges.

 

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, VA, is recovering after a scheduled surgery for prostate cancer on Nov. 27. Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville announced in a press release Monday that he will be undergoing a heart catheterization procedure “sometime in December” that will require him to spend at least one night in the hospital.

 

Burbidge was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the fall, the diocese told CNA.

 

“Those entrusted with his medical care expect a full recovery,” diocesan communications manager Angela Pellerano told CNA, who added that the surgery went “well.” This recovery will include two weeks of no activity, followed by another four to six weeks of limited activity.

 

Burbidge’s last public appearance prior to his surgery was celebrating Mass on Thanksgiving. On Sunday, news of his surgery was announced throughout the diocese, and the faithful were asked to keep their bishop in their prayers.

 

Bishop Burbidge became the fourth bishop of the Arlington diocese in 2016. Previously, he was the head of the Diocese of Raleigh.

 

Bishop Stika’s heart issue was discovered during a routine checkup, the Knoxville diocese said in a statement. After the procedure in December, doctors will then decide what further treatment may be required, but they are “hopeful” that the stent will solve the problem.

 

“It is best that we found this issue now, rather than later,” Bishop Stika said.

 

“It’s good to know that my guardian angels are always working out with me.”

 

In 2004, Stika underwent a multiple bypass surgery. Five years later, in 2009, he suffered a minor heart attack and, though briefly hospitalized, made a full recovery.

 

Stika said that he intends to be back on the altar before Christmas and that he expects his recovery to be very quick. In the meantime, he has requested prayers for himself and his doctors leading up to his procedure, which will likely happen around Dec. 13.

U.S. Catholics respond to use of tear gas at the border

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 14:00

Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Catholic groups have reacted to the use of tear gas at the U.S. - Mexico border Sunday, calling the situation “sad,” and expressing concern about the instability of the situation at the border.

 

The comments came in response to an incident Nov. 25, in which U.S. Customs and Border Patrol deployed tear gas against a crowd at the San Ysidro border crossing near Tijuana, Mexico.

 

The incident, which closed the port of entry, involved migrants from the so-called “migrant caravan” from Central America, many of whom have expressed a desire for asylum status in the United States. Some members of the caravan, which has been in Tijuana for the past several days, attempted to enter the U.S. in a large group, resulting in a confrontation with Mexican law enforcement.

 

U.S. border officials said that officers had rocks and other objects thrown at them from the crowd. In response, the border was closed for several hours and tear gas was used to break up the group.

 

The use of tear gas is not permitted by international law in situations of war, but is permitted for law-enforcement use.

 

“We are sad that such force has been used,” said Bill Canny, the executive director of the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services, in a statement provided to EWTN.

 

“The reports of better cooperation between Mexico and the US are encouraging as this is an important border issue for both countries. We are of course most interested in the well-being of those fleeing violence, persecution, and severe economic deprivation, and expect our laws and international laws vis a vis asylum seekers and migrants will be respected,” he added.

 

Canny’s sentiment was echoed by Lawrence E. Couch, the director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

 

In a statement, Couch said the use of tear gas on the caravan represented a “sharp escalation” of the immigration crisis.

 

“When we start to tear gas women and children, we know we have gone down the wrong road,” said Couch, calling it “our duty and moral imperative to protect and welcome our brothers and sisters.”

 

Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, defended on Sunday the agency’s response. In a statement released on Twitter, McAleen said that the situation was “extremely dangerous” and involved over 1,000 members of the caravan.

 

“(Sunday)’s incident involved large groups of migrants ignoring and overwhelming Mexican law enforcement, then attempting to enter the United States through vehicle lanes at San Ysidro and El Chaparral, and then through breaches in the international border fence between ports of entry,” said McAleenan.

 

Some members of the group assaulted agents and officers, he said. Four agents were hit with rocks thrown by members of the crowd, but none were seriously injured due to protective gear.

 

While the use of tear gas Sunday attracted strong media coverage and reaction, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has deployed the measure multiple times in recent years. Between the years 2012 and 2016, tear gas was used 79 times along the border.

Pope names Texas auxiliary to lead Diocese of Monterey

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 10:00

Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2018 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has chosen Bishop Daniel Elias Garcia as the new Bishop of Monterey, California. The diocese of Monterey has been without a bishop since the death of Bishop Richard Garcia in July.

The announcement was made Tuesday, Nov. 27, and released by both the Vatican press office and the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Daniel Garcia has served as auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Austin since his consecration on March 3, 2015. He was the first auxiliary bishop in the history of the diocese.

A native of Texas, Garcia was born in the city of Cameron in 1960. After earning his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Divinity degrees from St. Mary’s Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, he was ordained to the priesthood for the diocese of Austin in 1988. He received a Master of Arts in Liturgical Studies from the Saint John’s School of Theology in 2007.

Garcia spent several years in parochial ministry in Austin, serving in the parishes of St. Catherine of Siena, Cristo Rey, St. Louis, and St. Vincent de Paul. He also spent three years in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, in Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

In the Diocese of Austin, Garcia has held numerous administrative assignments including serving as a member of the Priests' Personnel Board, the College of Consultors, and the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. He has also been both a member and later chairman of the Presbyteral Council.

Garcia is a current member of the U.S. bishops’ conference’s committees on communications and divine worship, and is the chairman of the subcommittee on Spanish language worship. He is also a consultant to the USCCB’s subcommittee on Hispanic affairs.

The Diocese of Monterey covers an area of 21,916 square miles and is home to more than 200,000 Catholics, some 20 percent of the total population. Upon his installation, Garcia will become the fifth bishop of Monterey.  

Claim of creating genetically-edited babies prompts ethics dispute

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 05:23

Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2018 / 03:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Chinese scientist says he has created the first genetically edited babies, a claim that has led members of the scientific community to raise serious ethical concerns.

Chinese researcher He Jiankui claims that he altered embryos for seven couples, resulting in one twin pregnancy so far. There is no independent confirmation of this claim, the Associated Press noted.

He says his goal was to edit embryos to give them the ability to resist HIV infection, by disabling the CCR5 gene, which allows HIV to enter a cell.

The researcher says he used a technology known as CRISPR to edit sections of the human genome, performing the procedure on embryonic humans. The technology, which selectively “snips” and trims areas of the genome and replaces it with strands of desired DNA, has previously been used on adult humans and other species. CRISPR technology has only recently been used to treat deadly diseases in adults, and limited experiments have been performed on animals.

Scientists have been divided in their response to the claims, with some praising the goal of eliminating HIV and others warning that such human experimentation is risky and unethical.

Dr. Kiran Musunuru, an expert on gene editing at the University of Pennsylvania, called the reported procedure “an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible,” according to the Associated Press.

Musunuru noted that if the procedure successfully disabled the CCR5 gene, it would leave the individual at increased risk of other medical complications, including contracting West Nile virus and dying from the flu.

Critics have also questioned whether participants fully understood what they were agreeing to, and have noted that He did not give official notice of his work until long after he had begun.  

He, however, said he told participants that the procedure was experimental and carried risks. He said he would provide insurance for the children created through the project. The researcher said he believes the technology can help families, and that it is his duty to develop the technology and then let society decide what to do with it.

Early last year, CNA spoke to John DiCamillo, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, about the ethics surrounding CRISPR technology in general. He stressed that Catholics do not need to automatically consider all gene editing to be problematic, but “need to be attentive to where the dangers are.”

Gene editing may be morally legitimate, DiCamillo said, when used for “a directly therapeutic purpose for a particular patient in question, and if we’re sure we’re going to limit whatever changes to this person.” He pointed to gene therapy trials for disorders such as sickle cell disease and cancer that show promise for treating difficult disorders.

Editing sperm, eggs, or early embryos, however, presents serious concerns, he said. Manipulating sperm and ova requires removing them from a person’s body; if conception is achieved with these cells, it is nearly always through in vitro methods. This practice of in vitro fertilization is held by the Church to be ethically unacceptable because it dissociates procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act.

In addition, for research on embryos to be ethical, therapies should be ordered to treating and benefitting “that particular embryo, not just for garnering scientific knowledge or seeing what’s going to happen,” DiCamillo said. He condemned policies that see destruction of embryonic persons as a back-up if research does not go as planned, as well as current U.S. policies that require destruction of human embryos as standard procedure.

Another potential problem is editing genes for non-medical reasons, for example to enhance vision or intelligence.

“There’s any number of things that we could do to change the qualities of human beings themselves and make them, in a sense, super-humans … this is something that would also be an ethical problem on the horizon,” he warned.

Since the technology is so new, patients or their descendants could experience a range of “unintended, perhaps harmful, side effects that can now be transmitted, inherited by other individuals down the line,” DiCamillo said. An embryo who experiences gene modification – such as those the Chinese researcher He claims to have altered – could also carry and pass on edited genes.

Last summer, researchers in Oregon announced that they had successfully altered genes in a human embryo for the first time in the United States.

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, warned at the time that the experiment was contrary to the dignity of the human person.

“Very young humans have been created in vitro and treated not as ends, but as mere means or research fodder to achieve particular investigative goals,” he said.

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