March 20, 2009

Be Our Guest / Dr. Hans Geisler

Drawing a line in the sand when it comes to our beliefs as people of faith

In his editorial published in the March 6 issue of The Criterion, Daniel Conway succinctly outlined the priorities for the new administration in Washington as seen by our country’s bishops under the leadership of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that our new administration consigned this letter, containing these priorities, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the proverbial “round file.”

Indeed, in light of the appointments made to various departments, such as the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, and in light of the executive orders which have been issued by President Barack Obama during his first 50 days in office—plus the priority placed on the passage of legislation, such as the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), in one form or another, by some congressmen, congresswomen and senators during this congressional year—one wonders whether anyone in Washington, D.C., ever read the bishops’ letter.

We now have a man, second in command at the Department of Justice, who defended Internet pornography and was one of the chief lawyers helping Playboy when lawsuits were brought against them because of the pornographic material they sell under the pretext of free speech.

In our newspapers, we read that the administration is intending to revoke the “conscience protection” mandated during the last days of the previous administration.

The loss of this “conscience” protection would force health care workers of all kinds, from physicians to pharmacists, and all health care facilities to either perform abortions, refer patients to abortion

practitioners and facilities, and administer contraceptive advice even if such activity flies in the face of these health care workers and entities’ moral and ethical beliefs.

Indeed, it is conceivable since President Obama on March 9 mandated federal assistance for embryonic stem-cell research that the scientists who receive federal funds now for the research that they conduct on adult stem cells would have to participate in the killing of 5-day-old embryos for the purpose of extracting their embryonic stem cells, or lose any federal funds which these researchers presently use to further their adult stem-cell research.

The major irony associated with the president’s executive order is that more and more human diseases and injuries, all the time, are responding to the use of adult stem cell treatments and that embryonic stem-cell research, besides necessarily resulting in the death of human embryos, has never led to even one slightly positive result in human therapy is fraught with difficulties during the attempted growth of the embryonic cells and has many other difficulties besides its clear immoral implications.

The American bishops have drawn a clear line in the sand. It is apparent that the majority of our bishops are not going to buckle under the weight of the continuous assault on human dignity now in vogue in our Capitol.

They have stated clearly that the human person is made in the image of God, and that this holds true from the moment of conception until the occurrence of natural death.

It is up to us who sit in the pews on Sunday morning and, hopefully, many other mornings and evenings of the week, to back our bishops and show that we, as Roman Catholic Christians, will not abrogate our deeply held moral beliefs for the momentary gain of public approval.

As witnessed by Catholic men and women from the time of the first martyr, St. Stephen, to the present-day martyrs everywhere, we need to love all men, no matter whether they agree with us or not, but we cannot, indeed, for the sake of our immortal souls, dare not back down and succumb to those who would lead us down the path which leads to the culture of death.

(Dr. Hans Geisler is a retired gynecologist-oncologist and member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. He is certified in health care ethics by the National Catholic Bioethics Center.)

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