By Obianuju Ekeoch, published at Aleteia 

As the West pushes dangerous contraceptive drugs on African women, the author stands up for their dignity.

As I tried to catch up on the latest news on Africa, I stumbled upon the recent joint announcement  of Pfizer Inc. the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) to expand access to Pfizer’s injectable contraceptive, Sayana® Press (medroxyprogesterone acetate), for women in the world’s poorest countries. Some of the targeted countries named for this expansive contraception project include Burkina Faso, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, Uganda and my own country Nigeria.

This announcement was immediately picked up and praised by many news agencies in the western world including BBC News where it was described as, “The one dollar contraceptive set to make family planning easier.”

One cannot help but wonder, “easier” for whom? For Ugandan, Kenyan and Nigerian women? Or for the multi-billionaire Pfizer, Gates and CIFF?

Reading this announcement and the related news articles further, I realized that this project is not a new one — rather its inception can be traced back directly to the extensive contraception fundraising project launched by Melinda Gates two years ago during the Family Planning Summit of 2012.

All of it seems now to be actualized in this cheap contraceptive device targeted towards the poorest women in the world. So by sheer determination and will, these wealthy figures — Pfizer, Gates & CIFF, have succeeded in rolling out in the world of the poor, the $1-per-piece device designed to become the prevalent self-injectable contraception of the developing world — the wonder device that will make it all so easy to sterilize millions of women across my Continent.

They claim that this would be the pathway to development as well as the emancipation and elevation of African women.

They tell us that it will give African women control over their lives.

But I dare to ask them exactly how sterilizing the wombs of the poorest women in the world would give them control over famine, draught, disease and poverty. It absolutely will not make women more educated, or more employable. This extensive contraception project will not provide food or safe drinking water for women who submit to it. It will not make African women happier or more satisfied in their marriages. No. It will only make them sterile at the cheapest rate possible.

This is certainly not what the African women have asked. It is not the miracle that our hearts crave amidst the trials and difficulties of Africa. But yet in a world of shocking cultural imperialism, it is what our “betters” have chosen to unleash upon us.

And what is more insidious is that this product being launched is the self-injectable version of the highly controversial Depo-Provera that has been put into question in the developed world after having been shown in various studies to carry dangerous and even lethal side effects.

In October 2011 the New York Times published an article entitled Contraceptive Used in Africa May Double Risk of H.I.V. This article was based on a cohort study by prestigious medical Research journal The Lancet that clearly stated that “the risk of HIV-1 acquisition doubled with the use of hormonal contraception especially the injectable methods.”

And what is most shocking is that this study was partly sponsored by the Gates Foundation and yet after these findings, they have gone ahead to launch this high-risk product in targeted countries of their choice (Uganda, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and many others) — countries where the women may never be able to raise their voices when the lethal effects set in.

In addition to the HIV-related effects of this product, there is also the doubled risk of breast cancer demonstrated by various studies like the extensive research done by the Fred Hutchingson Cancer Research center in Seattle and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in February 2012, with the research team stating clearly after their studies:

“We found that recent DMPA (Depo-Medroxyprogesterone acetate a.k.a Depo-Provera) use for 12 months or longer was associated with a 2.2-fold increased risk of invasive breast cancer.”

In addition to this publication the team also made a compelling press release following their research.

Furthermore, this same product Depo-Provera has been clearly linked to permanent bone density loss and on this very note, Pfizer has had a staggering number of  prosecutions, class-action law suits and out-of-court settlements all to the tune of millions of dollars.

As a direct result of this, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a compulsory “black-box” warning on this product that reads:

“Use of Depo-subQ Provera 104 or Depo Provera may cause you to lose calcium stored in your bones. The longer you use Depo Provera, the more calcium you are likely to lose. The calcium may not return completely once you stop using Depo Provera. Loss of calcium may cause weak bones that could increase the risk that your bones might break, especially after menopause. It is not known whether your risk of developing osteoporosis may be greater if you are a teenager when you start to use Depo Provera. You should only use Depo Provera long term (more than 2 years) if other methods of birth control are not right for you.”

This product is flawed. It is dangerous. And from all indications it could be lethal.

And in the developed countries, it has been marked as such.

In spite of this glaring reality, that which has been deemed unsuitable and terribly flawed in the land of the rich, has now been brought in to the land of the poor.

As an African woman my heart is racing today as I consider this latest collaborative move by Pfizer, Gates Foundation and CIFF.

I think about the full implications and ramifications of this on my people, my sisters, my aunties and my friends.
I think about the poor women in Africa who will have no means at all of filing class-action lawsuits against these giants from the western world.

I think about our sorely inadequate healthcare systems in Africa that are not in any way equipped to deal with the fallout or onslaught of the medical side effects like breast cancer, osteoporosis (bone density loss) as well as increased HIV infection rates, all associated with this contraceptive product.

I cannot help but think about the thousands of African women who will die as a direct result of this $1 per piece product.
Yes, my heart is racing and my mind is reeling as I try to take it all in.

Simply put, this is racism, it is imperialism and it is a form of colonialism where the poor African women are being treated as subhuman subjects to the wealthy and worldly.

Who will speak up for the women of Africa? Who will lament the crass disregard for their well-being? Who will complain about the cruel disrespect with which they are being treated? Who will shed tears for the irreparable damage that could befall them?

I am only one African woman, but from where I stand I choose today to speak up, to lament, to complain and to shed silent tears for my fellow African women, with the hope that by the end of today, my words and tears may reach and
touch the hearts of people of goodwill around the world who will join me in defending the dignity of the African women.

Obianuju Ekeocha was born and raised in Nigeria. She has a BSc in Microbiology from the University of Nigeria and an MSc in Biomedical Science from the University of East London. She is currently living and working as a Specialist Biomedical Scientist in England. She is a founding member of Culture of Life Africa, an initiative dedicated to the promotion and propagation of the Gospel of Life in Africa through the dissemination of good information, sensitization and education. 

Came across the article below at Roate Caeli. Very much worth your time.

A graph is worth a thousand words

(Click on graph to enlarge)
From the blog of the admirable Father Gary Dickson, who celebrates the traditional Mass every Sunday for Catholics of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle (Northumberland and Durham, Northern England):
Last weekend we read out a Diocesan pastoral letter at all Masses and distributed leaflets outlining future plans for the development of the Diocese. The leaflet makes interesting and indeed, amusing reading in that it speaks of a diocese “founded on an immensely rich Christian heritage that has thrived and flourished over hundreds of years despite the many difficulties it has faced”. Directly beneath these words are two graphs showing the decline in Diocesan priests (from 360 in 1972 to 150 in 2013) and of Mass attendance (from 100,000 in 1980 to 40,000 in 2014).

If the Diocese flourished so well during the Viking Invasions and Reformation Persecutions but has dwindled in the last fifty years, we need to ask “what have we been doing that precipitated this?”. After all, we came through the Viking raids and Reformation in flourishing manner; why have we not overcome the person-centred, subjectivist, relativist ideologies of the1960’s? Probably because the person-centred, subjectivist, relativist ideologies tap into our concupiscence; we are all too keen on self-satisfaction and aggrandisement.

We are given slogans such as ‘a vibrant Church’ but this is obviously untrue: the only thing that has shown itself full to be full of energy is the progression of disintegration. This is not unique to our Diocese and Catholic leaders throughout the Western world need to wake up to the reality of the situation. Some have in fact woken up and are attempting to address the bad liturgy, bad catechises and failure to promote the priesthood that has gone on since the 1960’s, but these are rare men and too often dismissed and isolated by their confrères.

To point to increased lay involvement in diocesan structures, in liturgy and in pastoral care is not to indicate a flourishing Church, but to indicate a Church wherein the folk have been removed from their vocation as the leaven in the world to make up for the falling number of priests. This fall actually resulted from priests handing over so many of their tasks to their people in the mistaken idea that Vatican II’s call to ‘lay mission’ meant ‘lay ministry’, that they diminished the role of the priest (and gave the laity the impression that their vocation as the leaven in society -to which they are called by Christ- was of lesser value than then the cultic and governing role of the priest). Unless we re-affirm the role of the priest and promote the God-given call of the laity as the leaven in society, we will see no flourishing except that of increasing disintegration.

Deanery Reorganisation of Masses…

Linked to the fall in the number of priests active in the Diocese, our Deanery recently worked out a plan wherein every one of our 10 parishes will have one Sunday Mass, since all Masses will be celebrated at a time which allows these Masses to continue should the Deanery only have 3 priests active over a particular weekend (or indeed, long term). The following is proposed for printing in our parish bulletin this coming weekend:

From the First Sunday in Advent (next Sunday) every parish in the Deanery will go to one Mass per parish. This ensures that even if only three priests are active, every parish can retain its Sunday Mass. For some to lose their favourite Mass time is annoying, but we should fit our lives around Mass, not fit Mass around our lives.

Our parish is blest in that, since we alone provide the Old Form of Mass, we will retain two Masses each weekend. I know many would prefer a New Form of Mass on a Sunday morning and would move the Traditional Mass, but we cannot demand that others are pushed out and marginalised to suit us. Further, none of us can claim the right to say that the Form of Mass that was good enough for the saints for 1500 years; good enough for the martyrs to die for, and good enough for our parents, is beneath us. Such haughtiness is not good, especially when it is directed towards the belittling of what the Church regarded as her greatest treasure -and which still has FULL EQUALITY IN CHURCH LAW with the New Form of Mass -and indeed, it has a certain priority in terms of Custom (on which some church laws are based). Let us rejoice that we have options other folk in the deanery do not.

Attitudes hostile to the TLM are not limited to this parish; it seems it is quite widespread, and to arise from a detestation for and fear of the past (a past wherein the Church flourished). Is it not time to regain our humility before God, and our gratefulness that we have any Mass –and priests- at all?  [Source]

Petition to: Gov. Chris Christie

Dear Governor Christie,

I urge you to veto the assisted suicide bill A 2270.

Through this bill vulnerable elders will be put at risk. Every year in New Jersey, it is estimated that out of 1 ½ million people over age 60, there are 175,000 reported and unreported cases of abuse.

Depressed people will be harmed by this bill. Oregonian Michael Freeland, where assisted suicide is legal, easily obtained a lethal prescription for his terminal diagnosis, despite a 43-year history of severe depression, suicide attempts, and paranoia. The prescribing doctor said he didn’t think a psychological consult was “necessary.” Oregon’s statistics for the last four years show that an absurdly low 2% of patients were referred for a psychological evaluation.

Please think about New Jersey residents, elders and disabled people who may be vulnerable and without the sort of support and control assisted suicide proponents take for granted, innocent people who will be impacted by this piece of bad social policy.

A2270 is not safe. Assisted suicide is not safe.

Click on the link below to thank this remarkable man of God (a man I believe will be a future Pope):

https://www.lifesitenews.com/petitions/thank-you-cardinal-burke-for-your-vatican-service

Background:

On Nov. 8, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had removed Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the strongest pro-life and pro-family voices in the Catholic Church, from his position as the prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura. Cardinal Burke has instead been named patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial role.

For the past 6 years, Cardinal Burke has served at the Vatican, after he was called there by Pope Benedict, heading up the highest court of the Catholic Church.

Among Cardinal Burke’s many actions in defense of the truths of life and family has been his courageous stance in support of canon 915, which states that ministers of communion “must” refuse the Eucharist to public and “obstinate” sinners. The cardinal himself has most frequently advocated the use of this canon in the cases of pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

Most recently, he exerted his influence during the Vatican’s Synod on the Family, publicly decrying efforts by some bishops to hijack the synod to push a radical agenda, and steering the Synod towards a more orthodox conclusion.

The transfer of Cardinal Burke from his Vatican post is undoubtedly a loss to the pro-life and pro-family movement, with his role at the Vatican having helped to amplify the cardinal’s prophetic voice.

However, we are confident that the transfer will do little to silence the cardinal, and that we may look forward to years more of close collaboration with and support for the pro-life and pro-family movement.

We offer this petition to give people an opportunity to express their personal thanks to the cardinal. The names and signatures on this petition will be personally hand-delivered to Cardinal Burke in Rome. 

The article below is applicable universally.

Behind the New York Church Closings

By John Burger, published at Aleteia Nov 3, 2014

Father Rutler discusses spiritual realities in light of decision to shutter 55 churches.

Catholics in dozens of parishes in New York City and several other counties that make up the Archdiocese of New York learned the sad news that the church where they have been worshiping will be closing.

As part of a major reorganization, Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced the results of a study aimed at saving badly-needed funds and shifting churches and priests to areas outside the city where the Catholic population is growing.

One well-known midtown Manhattan parish that was spared the axe is Holy Innocents, a traditionally built church that has attracted a large group of traditional Catholics in recent years. It is the only Catholic church in New York City that offers a daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, also known as the Tridentine Mass.

Father George Rutler is administrator of both Holy Innocents and the West Side Church of St. Michael, which also was passed over by the reorganization plan. Father Rutler, author of Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, and other works, spoke with Aleteia Monday about spiritual issues in the background of the archdiocesan reorganization.

Obviously, church/parish closings/mergers are not a new phenomenon, but in your view, what are some of the factors that lead to situations like this?

Among the factors is a decline in Catholic life. One statistic I was given recently is the Catholic population of New York City is just about the same as it was 70 years ago. There’s not a decline in Catholic population; there’s a decline in Catholic life, and there are all kinds of reasons for that.

I think there’s a great deal of dishonesty and denial on the part of some people who engaged in the fantasy that we were entering a new springtime of the faith. The aggiornamento of Vatican II was supposed to bring in tons more people; it did just the opposite. So long as people refuse to admit there were mistakes made a generation ago — in catechesis, liturgy, addressing the real problems of secularism — they’re never going to make any real reform.

We’ve also had a lot of white flight from the city out to the suburbs, and in the northern counties there is a need for new parishes. At the same time, down here, we do have…redundant parishes. Another reason for these closures is that the churches were organized very much for ethnic purposes rather than evangelical purposes. There was a cultural assumption that the Church was a home for immigrants, and that they would belong to parishes not just for the faith but also for, legitimately, social reasons, for community, schools and the like. So in Manhattan we have an old German parish, an Italian parish, [etc.], and they’re in close proximity with each other. And, and that’s no longer needed.

The primary fact is that most Catholics aren’t practicing the faith. Mass attendance in New York is about 12%. You’ve had about a 50% drop since the Second Vatican Council. Nobody will address that. They’ll acknowledge the fact, but they will not address the fact that there were some serious mistakes made in the last generation.

It would make a good study on why New York City, which is so culturally vibrant — sort of tormented and perverse in many ways, but vibrant— has such spiritual lethargy.

The other factor, of course, is the priest shortage. It’s a curiosity that here we are in New York City, the heart of the universe — I say that as a New Yorker — and we have such a low number of priestly vocations. In my last parish, where I was for 12 years, I had nine fellows go on to the seminary.  When some clerics ask “How is it done?” I tell them, and some don’t want to hear it. I think it’s significant now that more young men are going into religious orders rather than the diocesan priesthood. Of course they are distinct kinds of ministries but I think some of them go into religious orders who might have gone into the secular priesthood, because the local scene often seems banal. The religious orders often are more challenging.

What are we not doing that we should be doing to revive Catholic life?

The first thing is to be realistic, to address the real problems in our society, secularity, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. It’s a great danger just to want to be friendly and liked instead of challenging in a prophetic way the errors of  society and caving into them. St. Paul said to Timothy, “Do not be a man-pleaser.” This doesn’t mean going around and hitting people over the heads with bibles, but it does mean being Catholic, right across the board…. We’ve had a secularization of religious life. Women’s religious orders are collapsing, have collapsed. Nothing was done a generation ago to discipline the orders, and to truly reform them. The ones that are growing are the ones who are faithful to their founders’ charisms.

And a primary evangelical tool of the Church is the liturgy, and wherever the liturgy is banal, you will not have vocations. In many places it’s not a problem of heresy, it’s just a matter of sloth. People are just stuck in the 1970s. Young people don’t want to go to a church where there’s a septuagenarian playing very bad Jesuit hymns from the 1960s. But many bishops don’t understand that. The liturgy has become just sort of man-focused. One giveaway is liturgies where the bishop or the priest cannot restrain himself from interjecting his own personality. They were taught to do this: greeting people, telling jokes and then thanking everybody for being there, and at the end asking applause for the choir and the ushers and everybody else. We don’t thank people for keeping the commandments! These are commandments, not propositions.

[The liturgy is] people’s main contact [with the Church], and I would say my vocations more than anything else came from young men’s absorption in the liturgy. And I’m not speaking about being fussy or obscurantist. I think there’s a real problem of reaction from evangelization, a real problem of nostalgia rather than tradition on the part of many people as far as the Extraordinary Form is concerned. But that’s to be expected when people have been denied their authentic Catholic roots. The danger then, of course, is…to become enclosed. Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about the danger of Mass facing the people as a kind of enclosure, whereas when the priest leads the people facing East it’s an opening to the kingdom of God. The priest facing the people becomes a kind of circular community lacking in transcendence. But a lot of people who embrace the Extraordinary Form run that risk too.They become ghettoized. It’s rather significant that in so many cases — I can’t cite numbers — but usually it’s been my experience that where the Extraordinary Form is, usually you have a static group of people, and you don’t have outreach for bringing others in.

So just using the Extraordinary Form is not the solution. What is the solution is understanding that the liturgy is God’s call to the people and the people’s response. Then you get vocations.

Another factor is the preaching, which is abysmal. We need catechetical preaching, where people get the basic doctrine of the faith. People should be leaving church having learned something.

John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

By Drs. Jay Boyd and Paul A. Byrne
Published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review OCTOBER 29, 2014

[This essay is based in part on a sermon given in 2010 by an anonymous priest of the FSSP. See the audio link at the end of this article if you wish to listen that sermon.]

It is likely that most Catholics consider the question of the morality of organ donation to be a settled matter, and to view it as a noble and generous gesture on the part of donors. After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us:

Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons. (§2296)

A quick scan of this short summary of a complicated topic suggests that there’s nothing wrong with organ donation, as long as the donor gives his consent, and is neither killed, nor sustains disabling mutilation in order to take his organs. Thus, many good Catholics, in the authors’ experience, believe that “the Church says organ donation is okay,” and leave it at that.

However, the picture becomes much more complicated when one considers the transplantation of vital, unpaired organs, such as the heart, or whole liver. The CCC tells us that organ donation in these situations is permitted “after death,” but that phrase requires us to understand what death really is. It is only on examining the way in which death is currently declared, that we discover the horrific problems with organ donation.

Our faith tells us that the moment of separation of the soul from the body is the moment of true death (CCC §1005). Since we cannot observe the separation of the soul from the body, we must rely on other, visible means of determining death.

There are a number of indisputable signs that death has occurred. After death, the body does not respond to stimuli, and it shows significant physical changes observable at the microscopic and gross levels of pathology, manifested by absence of functioning, and in structural alteration. These signs are sufficient to indicate that the life-body unity no longer exists. After death, these pathologic changes continue. They cannot be stopped—only slowed or delayed by cooling, embalming, mummifying, salting, etc.

Prior to advances in organ transplantation, the definition of death was simple, direct, and sensible, as indicated in an article from the New England Journal of Medicine (throughout this essay, emphases added): “Before the development of modern critical care, the diagnosis of death was relatively straightforward. Patients were dead when they were cold, blue, and stiff.”1

But these observable signs are not the indications the medical community currently looks for, due to a “redefinition” of death over the last several decades—a redefinition that is due primarily to the fact that “organs from these traditional cadavers (i.e., those bodies that are cold, blue, and stiff, without circulation and respiration) cannot be used for transplantation.”2 In order for organ transplantation to occur in a legitimately moral sense, death would have to be redefined and the law changed.

Traditionally, the cessation of heartbeat and breathing were regarded as the signs of death. Black’s Law Dictionary defined death as: “The cessation of life; the ceasing to exist; defined by physicians as a total stoppage of the circulation of the blood, and a cessation of the animal and vital functions consequent thereon, such as respiration, pulsation, etc.”3This traditional definition of death served an important purpose, even before organ transplants became feasible, though. For instance, some 50 years ago, moral theologian Francis J. Connell, CSSR, was posed a question concerning embalming:

In view of the modern opinion that apparent death (mors apparens) may precede real death (mors vera) by a considerable period of time, what admonition should be given to our people, particularly to Catholic undertakers, as to how soon the process of embalming can be started after a person has apparently breathed his last.4

It may seem to be a leap to a different subject to consider the prerequisites for the commencement of embalming, but there are significant parallel issues here with organ donation, so let’s take a look at Fr. Connell’s answer:

The main principle is this: the process of embalming may not be commenced until it is certain that life is extinct, for undoubtedly, if the person is still alive, the embalming process will directly cause death. Furthermore, mere probability, even very great probability, that death is insured will not justify the beginning of this process, for it is not permissible to do anything which even only probably will directly cause the death of an innocent person.5

Morally, then: a) the process of embalming may not commence, until it is certain that life is extinct; and b) it is not permissible to do anything which even only probably will directly cause the death of an innocent person.

Now, consider the following situation: Suppose an embalmer begins to make an incision on the body of a (supposedly) deceased person, when suddenly the corpse begins twitching and grimacing. In light of the moral principles stated by Fr. Connell, does it seem reasonable to continue the embalming, as scheduled? Or would it be reasonable to conclude that the proper thing to do would be to give the corpse an anesthetic, so the body would stop twitching, and then continue the embalming? Surely, we would have to answer both questions in the negative; it seems beyond doubt, that if the embalmer continues, a living person would be killed.

If we simply substitute a phrase indicating organ donation in the comments by Fr. Connell, it becomes clear that the transplantation of a vital, unpaired organ is, in reality, an immoral act.

To draw the parallel further, suppose an embalmer is asked to perform the procedure on a body in another room; when the embalmer arrives, he sees that the “corpse” is actually breathing with a ventilator. He has a heartbeat with circulation, has wounds that are healing, and is producing urine. In light of those same moral principles, outlined above, should the embalmer agree to proceed with the embalming, as requested? Obviously the answer is “no,” because to do so would be to definitively kill a human being who shows many signs of life. And yet, this is the condition of most organ donors at the moment that the organs are to be removed and transplanted.

In contrast to the definition of a traditional cadaver, currently there are two basic criteria for determining death: a neurological criterion (in the USA: nonfunctioning of the whole brain, including the brain stem; in the UK: nonfunctioning of the brain stem); and a cardiopulmonary criterion (irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions).6

Let’s consider the cardiopulmonary criterion first. For the physical life of a person to continue, the person must take in oxygen, water, and nutrients. Carbon dioxide is exhaled and waste products are passed in urine and stool. Therefore, ventilation and respiration are required; ventilation is simply the movement of air, while respiration is the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, and via circulation in all tissues. Heartbeat, or pulse, is intrinsic to the heart, which has its own nerves that cause heart muscle to contract and stop contracting; the heart beats without impulses from the brain.

If breathing and circulation stop, chest compressions must be initiated quickly, in order for life to continue. Sometimes a ventilator, commonly mislabeled as a respirator, is used. Chest compressions and a ventilator can support respiration in a living person, but not in a cadaver. When such efforts at ventilation and respiration are successful, it is only because the person is living, not dead. In a dead body, air can be forced into the airways and lungs, and elastic recoil might push air out for a few cycles; but then compliance and elastance are lost, and air cannot get in or out. After true death, neither chest compressions, nor a ventilator, can be effective to support ventilation, respiration, and circulation.

Without respiration and circulation, the health of the person deteriorates, and death will occur, unless breathing and circulation are restored quickly. This deterioration is manifest in cessation of vital activities and pathologic changes, such as disintegration, dissolution, lysis, destruction, corruption, decay, and putrefaction of cells and tissues of organs and systems. Thus, the truly dead body cannot be an organ donor, as the vital organs are quickly compromised and begin to deteriorate. On the other hand, a person whose vital organs are functioning, cannot be considered to be truly dead, according to the traditional definition. It is this fact that made it necessary to create a neurological criterion for death—which essentially changes the definition of death.

The history of the “redefinition” of death is rather chilling, when one considers that such redefinitions began evolving as organ transplants became more and more possible and successful. The redefinitions stem from a desire to make use of the organs of someone labeled as “recently deceased,” in order to save the lives of living patients desirous of vital organs as transplants. But as we noted above, a truly deceased person cannot be a suitable organ donor, as his organs no longer have circulation and respiration.

This is where—and why—the neurological definition of death—or “brain death”—comes into play. A patient with heartbeat, respiration, and/or circulation cannot rightly be called a cadaver, a corpse, a dead body. Not coincidentally, prior to true death, patients are sometimes labeled “brain dead” (or sometimes “apparently dead” or “as good as dead”), especially when there is an interest in converting such patients into organ donors. If the label, “probably dead,” or “apparently dead,” (mors apparens) is applied to a potential donor who is not truly dead, he will certainly be truly dead after the beating heart is cut out! As we can see from the Catechism, to take action that will cause death, based on the mere probability that death is about to occur, is a violation of justice.

The medical community, however, continues to struggle with the question of how to “harvest” organs, without appearing to kill the donor in the process. Those who do not hold to a Catholic view of life and/or death seem to view current life-preserving technologies as more of a means for harvesting organs, than for prolonging life. For instance, Crowe and Cohen noted that, in modern times, there are “new problems” associated with defining death:

… in particular, the problem of defining when death has occurred in the age of ventilators and feeding tubes, and how the definition of death (both conceptually, and in practice), shapes the possibility of procuring usable organs from the deceased.

… The reason that the definition of death, and the ethics of organ procurement are so closely linked in the public imagination is that the source of cadaveric organs has always been the newly dead. A newly dead person fulfills two fundamental requirements for being a source of organs. First, he is close enough to the living that his organs have not been so long deprived of oxygen as to become nonfunctional. Second, he is no longer an inviolable subject in the same way: the dead body can be mistreated or wronged, but the dead person cannot experience physical harm.7

As heart transplants, in particular, became more desirable and possible, another problem arose: the law requires that the donor of a vital organ—like a heart—be dead before the organ is removed. This is known as the “dead donor law”; and with a standard definition of cardiac death, heart transplants are not possible. Why? Because the definition requires irreversible stoppage of the heartbeat and accompanying respiration. But, as another author has noted:

It is impossible to transplant a heart successfully after irreversible stoppage: if a heart is restarted, the person from whom it was taken cannot have been dead according to cardiac criteria. Removing organs from a patient whose heart, not only can be restarted, but also has been, or will be, restarted in another body, is ending a life by organ removal.8

Thus, the concept of “brain death” emerged; 40 years ago, an ad hoc committee at Harvard Medical School suggested revising the definition of death in a way that would make some patients with devastating neurologic injury suitable for organ transplantation under the dead donor rule.

… The concept of brain death has served us well, and has been the ethical and legal justification for thousands of life-saving donation and transplantations. Even so, there have been persistent questions about whether patients with massive brain injury, apnea, and loss of brain stem reflexes are really dead.9

This is a striking statement, and one that should give us pause! From the viewpoint of Catholic moral teaching, if there is any question at all, to say nothing of persistentquestions, about whether a patient is really dead, then this is a grave moral problem for the medical community, regarding organ transplantations. The above authors go on to explain why there have been persistent questions about whether or not so-called “brain dead” patients are really dead.

… (W)hen injuries are entirely intracranial, these patients look very much alive. They are warm and pink; they digest and metabolize food; excrete waste; undergo sexual maturation; and can even reproduce. To a casual observer, they look just like patients who are receiving long-term artificial ventilation and are asleep. The arguments about why these patients should be considered dead have never been fully convincing.10

This seems to us to be a reflection of the culture of death philosophy that says life is not worth living, once a certain level of physiological dysfunction is reached; it is this philosophy that leads to the advocacy of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Whereas, respect for life tells us that all life—no matter how close it is to death—is sacred, the culture of death tells us that the life of a person as described above is “not worth living”—that the person would be “better off dead.” In a review of a book called Brain Death, we find the following:

Some persons who reliably defined as brain-dead have clinically significant residual functioning as evidenced by electro-encephalographic activity, unexpected survival, attempts to sit up, reproducible eye-opening in response to pain, head movements in response to stimulation. Most perplexing, children who have been given a diagnosis of brain death continue to grow, and pregnant women have delivered healthy infants up to four months after having been given a diagnosis of brain death.11

These are, indeed, perplexing observations. How is it possible (as noted above) that “brain dead” children can “continue to grow”? The case of Jahi McMath is one of the most recent stories concerning the questionable diagnosis of “brain death.”12 This 13-year-old girl was declared legally dead by hospital staff, after suffering complications from a routine tonsillectomy; since “brain death” is the definition of legal death in California, it was the criterion used to pronounce Jahi’s “death.” Dr. Paul Byrne, who has been at the bedside of Jahi, writes that:

Jahi’s heart is beating 100,000 times a day, a rate similar to most persons on earth. … Jahi’s pulse and blood pressure are normal and strong. Jahi digests her food, puts out urine, and has bowel movements. … Jahi’s temperature is 98 with only a blanket to help keep her warm. Her body metabolism keeps her temperature warm. … The only machine used to treat Jahi is a ventilator to push air into her. Jahi pushes the air out. The ventilator is effective only in a living person. The ventilator does not make Jahi’s heart beat.13 Jahi’s heart has beat naturally without the aid of heart stimulating drugs or a pacemaker more than 15 million times since the Coroner issued a Certificate of Death. What kind of laws do we have?

And yet, doctors have said Jahi McMath is “brain dead,” and Jahi’s mother has had to fight for the legal right to have her daughter receive medical treatment because of this “verdict.”

Similarly, how is it that a woman who has been dead for four months can give birth to a healthy child? Recently, two cases of “brain dead” pregnant women have been in the news. In one case,14 the woman’s husband asked that his wife be kept on life support in order for the child within her to reach a point in his growth where he would survive birth (and this indeed was accomplished, with the result being the birth of a healthy—if premature—baby boy). In the other case,15 the husband fought for the legal right to remove his wife from life support, knowing full well that the baby within her would also die. This, too, was accomplished (resulting in the deaths of both mother and baby), under the label of “brain death” of the mother, but the baby was executed when the ventilator for the mother was stopped.

Finally, how is it, as the article cited above noted, that dead people can make “attempts to sit up”? How is it that dead people can have “reproducible eye opening in response to pain”? How is it that dead people can have “head movements in response to stimulation”? How is it that “some persons reliably have clinically significant residual functioning as evidenced by unexpected survival. …”? Unexpected revival might be a better term in some cases: a 2008 LifeSiteNews.com article provides another example of the non-death of a “brain dead” patient:

A Virginia family was shocked, but relieved, when their mother woke up after doctors said she was dead. Fifty-nine-year-old Mrs. Thomas was being kept breathing artificially, with no detectable brain waves for more than 17 hours. The family were discussing organ donation options for their mother, when she suddenly woke up and started speaking to the nurses.16

Another case occurred is 2009, and was still under investigation in 2013: Doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center (Syracuse, New York) were about to remove organs for transplant from a woman they thought was dead. Then she opened her eyes. She was alive.17

It appears that in some circumstances, the passage of time can reverse the diagnosis of brain death, by virtue of the allegedly dead person coming back to life! But time is not always a commodity granted to these patients; in fact, often, time is taken away from them. A statement from the book review mentioned above notes: “With respect to diagnosis (of death) … the observation period can certainly be shortened if a recipient is waiting, and … a second opinion is not recommended because it may jeopardize harvesting of organs.”18

According to this source, then, the important thing is not whether or not the donor is actually dead, but rather, avoiding anything (such as a second opinion!) which would jeopardize the transplantation of vital organs. Returning to the Truog and Miller article, we find this telling assertion:

The arguments about why these patients should be considered dead, have never been fully convincing. The definition of brain death requires a complete absence of all functions of the brain, yet many of these patients retain essential neurologic functions. … Some have argued that these patients are dead because they are permanently unconscious, which is true, but if this is the justification, then patients in a permanent vegetative state, who breathe spontaneously, should also be diagnosed as dead, a characterization that most regard as implausible. … Others have claimed that brain dead patients are dead because their brain damage has led to the current cessation of the organism as a whole. Yet evidence shows that, if these patients are supported beyond the acute phase of their illness, which is rarely done, they can survive for many years.19

Let us remind ourselves that “traditional cadavers”—those deceased individuals who are cold, blue, and stiff—do not “survive for many years.” In fact, in the case of a traditional cadaver, if it is not embalmed, it must be buried quickly, because it starts to decompose. Decomposition does not occur in a “brain dead” patient.

Truog and Miller come to what they call “the uncomfortable conclusion” that: “… although it may be perfectly ethical to remove vital organs for transplantation from patients who satisfy the diagnostic criterion for brain death, the reason that it is ethical cannot be that we are convinced that they are really dead.”20

Frankly, any informed Catholic should disagree that it is “perfectly ethical” to remove organs from such patients, because, clearly, “brain dead” people are not dead. They arenot traditional cadavers. Once their vital organs are removed, then they become traditional cadavers, and then they will become cold, blue, and stiff. It is the removal of their vital organs that kills them.21

In a 2001 article on organ transplantation, Bishops Fabian W. Bruskewitz and Robert F. Vasa and their coauthors offer a clear statement of the moral unacceptability of removing vital organs from “brain dead” patients.

All men of good will must properly understand, and explicitly follow, the applicable theologic and moral laws. These laws are: no unpaired, vital organ can be morally removed from a living human person; there should be no commercial traffic in human organs; people, especially the young, must fully comprehend that when they agree to be organ donors, they give transplant surgeons a license to terminate their lives.

… People must fully comprehend that when they agree to be organ donors, they give transplant surgeons a license to terminate their lives. When healthy, vital organs are taken in accordance with the legal common practice of medicine, the donor is killed. The donor is treated and prepared for surgery in a way similar to any living patient going to the operating room. After removal of healthy, vital organs, what is left is an empty corpse. Such removal is ethically unacceptable. It is the removal of the organs that changes the living person to a dead one. It is unethical for transplantation surgeons to continue performing such procedures that mutilate a living human body. These procedures treat the donors as if they were artificially sustained biologic entities, rather than human persons, worthy of dignity and respect. The removal of a healthy, unpaired, vital organ, suitable for transplantation, from someone who has been declared legally “brain dead,” but is not truly, biologically dead, is not ethically acceptable. Evil may not be done, that good might come of it.22

On a practical level, we must ask three questions. First of all, what does this mean for those of us who are trying to be faithful soldiers in the Church Militant, and thereby save our immortal souls? In terms of donation, it means that we must not sign any kind of organ donation agreement on the back of our driver’s license or anywhere else. For most people, once the truth is known about organ donation procedures, the definition of “brain death,” and the countless stories of those who have recovered from “brain death,” this is probably a foregone conclusion. Pope John Paul II stated: “Vital organs which occur singly in the body can be removed only after death; that is, from the body of someone who is certainly dead.”23 Pope Benedict XVI, in similar words, taught: “Individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere.”24 Ex cadavere (Latin) means from a stone cold cadaver—dead, truly dead.

Secondly, what does this mean for the potential recipients of transplanted organs? This is a tougher question, at least on the level of human emotions. Even more common than the stories of “brain dead” people returning to life, are the heartbreaking stories of people who need new hearts, or other vital organs, in order to overcome a life-threatening situation. For instance, known to one of the authors of this essay is a family with three children, who have heart problems that will almost certainly result in their early death. Two of the children have received heart transplants already, and the community has offered much emotional and financial support to the family. In such a situation, the pastor who preaches about the immorality of vital organ transplantation is probably taking his own life in his hands, even amongst his own Catholic flock! It is one thing to tell people not to sign organ donation agreements, because this is a rather impersonal statement, and involves only a hypothetical situation in which the potential donor might find himself at some point. However, it is quite another thing to say that a particular individual should not be the recipient of an ill-gotten organ, because in such a scenario, we may personally know the individual, and the situation is no longer hypothetical. And yet, given what we have reviewed here, in terms of the condition of vital organ donors, it is clear that, no matter what our medical condition, and how dire the straits in which we find ourselves (or our loved ones), we may not accept any sort of transplant organ cut out of one of our “brain dead,” or “cardiac dead,” brothers or sisters.

Thirdly, what does our conclusion mean for those in the medical community? It means that no matter what it may cost them personally and professionally, medical professionals must put these sorts of procedures in the same moral category as tubal ligations, abortions, and contraception, inasmuch as evil may not be done, that good may come of it. “Brain dead” organ donor patients are not dead; they are alive. And when healthy, vital organs are taken out of organ donors, in accordance with the common legal practice of medicine in effect today, the donor is killed.

Why has this become such a difficult issue? In part, the answer lies with the culture of death and a watering-down of Catholic teaching. Besides the obvious emotional tug, especially when children are involved, there is a lack of understanding, even among Catholics, of the salvific value of suffering. This is something that appears to be not often preached, and most people seem to believe that whatever their illness might be, the medical profession ought to be able to cure it, or at least prolong the life of the individual, well into adulthood. Because of this way of thinking, many people would not be willing to forego organ transplants, even if they are told that the donor is not truly dead when the organ is taken. Self-preservation is a natural instinct; and fallen human nature gives us a great capacity for justifying our actions in this regard, and for turning a blind eye to the side of a situation that makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Add to this, the culture of death attitude that downplays, or outright denies, the sanctity of life from true conception until true death. The culture of death also twists words to suit its evil purposes, as we have seen endlessly where the issue of abortion is concerned: people are “pro-choice,” rather than “pro-abortion”; we are faced with “the pregnancy,” as opposed to “the fetus,” or “the baby”; “reproductive rights” are touted, rather than the more honest “abortion on demand.” Similarly, the organ transplant “industry” has found words to obscure the real condition of donor patients; they have simply “redefined” death (that is, they have changed the criteria to declare death) to suit their desires. These new “definitions of death” are contortions of the truth. And they’re killing our brothers and sisters!


This essay is based in part on a sermon given in 2010 by an anonymous priest of the FSSP. The audio file is available at romans10seventeen.org/audio-files/20101114-May-We-Donate-Our-Organs.mp3. A transcription of the actual sermon is available atphilotheaonphire.blogspot.com/p/may-we-donate-our-organs-this-ismy-best.html.

  1. Truog, R.D., & Miller, F.G. (Aug. 14, 2008) The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, New England Journal of Medicine. Available atnejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Black’s Law Dictionary, (4th ed.) West Publishing Co., St Paul. MN (1968)  at 488. 
  4. Father Connell Answers Moral Questions, Francis J. Connell and Eugene J. Weitzel, Catholic University of America Press, 1959. 
  5. Ibid.
  6. Crowe, S., & Cohen, E. (2006) Organ Transplantation Policies and Policy Reforms; available at  bioethics.georgetown.edu/pcbe/background/crowepaper.html
  7. Ibid.
  8. Veatch, R.M. (Aug. 14, 2008) Donating Hearts after Cardiac Death Reversing the Irreversible, New England Journal of Medicine, available atnejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0805451
  9. Truog, R.D., & Miller, F.G. (Aug. 14, 2008) The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, New England Journal of Medicine. Available at nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474
  10. Ibid.
  11. The article is a book review by Thomas E. Finucane, MD, available online atnejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200203073461020. The book is Brain Death, edited by Wijdicks, E. F. M., Philadelphia, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001. 
  12. See lifesitenews.com/news/jahi-mcmath-declared-dead-while-on-life-support-released-to-her-family-sund; a good summary of the case is also given aten.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jahi_McMath_case
  13. See renewamerica.com/columns/byrne/140114. Dr. Byrne has written a series of articles about Jahi McMath and the issues surrounding her diagnosis of “brain death”, all available at RenewAmerica. 
  14. lifesitenews.com/she-will-live-on-forever-within-iver-canadian-brain-dead-woman-gives-birth.html
  15. lifesitenews.com/news/marlise-munoz-removed-from-life-support-baby-executed-by-judicial-tyranny-p
  16. lifesitenews.com/news/archive//ldn/2008/may/08052709
  17. syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/07/st_joes_fined_over_dead_patien.html
  18. Book review by Thomas E. Finucane, MD, available online atnejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200203073461020
  19. Truog, R.D., & Miller, F.G. (Aug. 14, 2008) The Dead Donor Rule and Organ Transplantation, New England Journal of Medicine. Available at nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0804474
  20. Ibid.
  21. If vital organs may not morally be removed from “brain dead” people, can anything be cut out of truly dead people, traditional cadavers, or corpses, and used for transplantation? The answer is yes: After death, tissues such corneas, heart valves, bones, connective tissues, may still be useful for transplantation. Note that these are tissues, not organs; they may be taken only after death because excision of some of these tissues would otherwise cause mutilation or death. 
  22. Bruskewitz FW, Vasa RF, Weaver WF, Byrne PA, Nilges RG, and Seifert, J. “Are Organ Transplants Ever Morally Licit?”, Catholic World Report, 2001 Mar;11(3):50-56, available online at lifeguardianfoundation.org/pdfs/catholic_world_report.pdf
  23. Pope John Paul II, address to 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society, August 29, 2000. 
  24. Pope Benedict XVI, Nov 7, 2008. 

RELATED: 

UN “World Survey” seeks women’s equality and development through sterilization, abortion and population control.

The new UN report on women makes for grim reading, if you can decipher it. The reason that you may have trouble doing so is that the report, called the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development 2014: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development, is written in a kind of code. Words and expressions are used that sound reasonable—what could be wrong with “gender equality,” for example?—but which, in the femspeak used by the UN, actually have quite radical and subversive meanings that are lost on the general public.

There is a reason for this linguistic deception. Properly understood, this World Survey—the first published in five years—is nothing less than a battle plan for a deadly assault on life and marriage. If its recommendations were to be fully adopted by UN’s member states and carried out, it would mean the end of families as we know them, and a top-to-bottom restructuring of societies and economies as a whole.

If these revolutionary goals were clearly stated, the public outcry would be deafening, and resistance would grow. So UN bureaucrats disguise their true goals by using code words that only they and other progressives, who are also in the know, can understand.

Let me translate some of the World Survey’s recommendations back into plain, straightforward, unambiguous English, so you can better understand the road down which the UN wants to take us.

“Reproductive health” = Sterilization Campaigns

The phrase “reproductive health,” littered throughout the document, sounds unobjectionable. But it is actually a double deception, since it has nothing to do with reproduction and nothing to do with health. The goal of “reproductive health” programs is actually population control—reducing the birth rate by chemically or surgically disabling as many female reproductive systems as possible. For example, when the report says:

Respect, protect and promote sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, particularly women and girls, across the life cycle;(page 113)

This should be read to mean that women and girls are to encouraged to contracept, sterilize, and abort their children. The reason why this “recommendation” is included in the section “On sustainable development,” is that it is really about limiting population growth.

“Sustainable” = Limit, Restrict

Whenever you read the word sustainable, as in “Sustainable Development” or “Sustainable Population” you should substitute the words “limit” or “restrict.” For example, when the report says:

“Ground sustainable population policies in sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the provision of universally accessible quality sexual and reproductive health services …” (page 114)

It actually means something like, “Population control policies should be based on the promotion of sterilization and abortion.”

“Safe abortion” = Abortion on Demand

Safe abortion sounds more woman-friendly than simply saying abortion. But it is used within the UN system to refer to the legalization of abortion on demand. So when you read:

“Ground sustainable population policies in sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the provision of universally accessible … comprehensive sexuality education and safe abortion;” (page 114)

You should understand this to mean that “Population control policies should be based on cradle-to-grave sex education and the legalization of abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy.”

“Gender Equality” = The End of Marriage

Under this seemingly harmless rubric—who could oppose equality between men and women?—hides a cultural revolution. For the kind of equality that UN bureaucrats have in mind would end the natural complementarity between the sexes that binds husband and wife together. Read the following sentence:

“Recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work between women and men within households, and between households and the state by expanding basic services and infrastructure that are accessible to all;” (page 113)

This really means that the radical feminists at the UN are instructing the nanny state to go into homes of their married citizens and force husbands and wives to do equal amounts of cooking, cleaning, childcare, etc., regardless of their own preferences in the matter.

The notion of radical equality between men and women promoted by UN feminists also leads them to argue that, since men aren’t burdened with childbirth, “equality” demands that women be permitted to have abortions to level the playing field, as it were.

“Sustainable Development” = radical environmentalism/population control

“Sustainable development” is a catchphrase of the radical environmentalists who want to limit economic growth, which they see as harmful to the environment, by limiting population growth and resource use in poor countries. As the Report advocates:

“Protect the commons and prevent the appropriation and exploitation of natural resources by private and public interests, through state oversight and multi-stakeholder regulation; (page 113)

“Promote transitions to sustainable low-carbon, climate-resilient consumption and production patterns while ensuring gender equality.”

These directives mean that land and mineral resources, regardless of the needs of the population, are to be set aside in nature preserves. Energy production and consumption are to be kept low.

And the population, it goes without saying, without access to resources and energy, will remain poor.

“Gender” = ???

Most people think that the word “gender”—which appears in the UN report hundreds of times—is just another word for “sex.” It isn’t. As used by UN progressives, “gender” has nothing to do with fixed categories of male and female. It is not determined by one’s anatomy and chromosomes. Instead, it is solely a matter of personal preference. One is “free” to be whatever “gender” one wants—and or even, chameleon-like, to change from day to day.

There are currently 57 “gender” categories … and counting. (If you thought there are only six—male, female, LGBT—you are behind the times.) Needless to say, this concept of “gender” is tremendously subversive, undermining marriages, families, and even society itself. (The lesbian mayor of Houston is a gender feminist, which is why, in that city, a biological male who is feeling feminine on a certain day can use the ladies’ room.)

One-Child Policy = Forced Abortion

The UN report, which talks incessantly about protecting women’s rights, hypocritically whitewashes China’s brutal one-child policy. That hundreds of millions of women over the past 34 years have been aborted and sterilized, many under duress, goes unmentioned. Instead, we get the following bland paragraph:

“The constitution of China mandates that the government support family planning and that individual couples practice it. The one-child policy, introduced in the late 1970s, has been implemented through a system of economic and social incentives and disincentives, along with free contraceptive services (United Nations, 2002).”(page 87)

This should read: The Chinese Party-State has taken control of the reproductive system of every women in the country, and violates their reproductive rights by controlling childbearing under a state plan, forcibly aborting and sterilizing them if they conceive a child without state permission.

But that would require the UN to acknowledge that abortion is a crime, and this the radical feminists at the UN would never do.

Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits.