Sweet Baby James

I’m totally confused about the “Sacred Heart Miracle” story (Culture of Life, June 3 issue). Where did his new heart come from?
For eight years in the ’90s, I attended theology classes for the laity taught by Father John Hardon. He taught us that we could never donate one of our vital organs because they would have to be harvested before we died; because once we died, they would be of no value. He also said that as long as our heart is beating we are alive and that “brain dead” is not dead. I have also heard the same thing from a talk by Dr. Paul Byrne, who is a neonatologist.
Has science recently found a way to restart a heart after a person has died? Please — I believe you need to let us all know how this miracle happened.

Marge Trabbic
Bowling Green, Ohio

Teaching on Transplants

Regarding your story of the baby boy’s heart transplant (“Sacred Heart Miracle,” June 3 issue), the report glosses over much of the real story with the line: “There was a heart available.”
The report does not address the Church’s concern with the moral acceptability of the method of removing certain vital unpaired organs, such as the heart.
The Church has consistently taught that these organs can be removed only from deceased donors; however, in practice, these organs are frequently removed from patients who have been determined “brain dead” by an ever-changing set of criteria but nonetheless exhibit signs of life: breathing, albeit with the assistance of a mechanical ventilator, still having a measurable pulse and blood pressure.
A person with none of these signs would be a poor candidate to donate organs due to the metabolic derangements that accompany death and render organs nonfunctional. A patient deemed “brain dead” may nonetheless require anesthesia to suppress movement and physiologic reaction to surgical removal of these organs.
As Blessed John Paul II stated in an address to the Transplantation Society, vital organs can be removed only from someone who is certainly dead. It is not clear that the recipient’s family knew the method of determination of the death of the donor. In such cases, it is customary to trust the advice of one’s doctor, making Catholic physicians responsible for understanding the moral criteria pertinent to organ harvesting and transplantation.
It is a terrible choice to make: if a procedure can save the life of someone’s child only by hastening the death of another. As a mother and a physician, I am grateful to Catholic media when it is able to foster a discussion of these issues.

Mary Andrews, MD
Bethesda, Maryland

Editor’s note: Register correspondent Lisa Socarras reports that the parents knew that the heart donor had already died prior to the organ’s removal and subsequent transplant into their child.

Ignoring the Church

Regarding “Scores of Lawsuits Seek Protection of Religious Liberty” (June 3 issue):
On May 21, 43 Catholic organizations filed suit against the Obama administration challenging the federal government’s contraception mandate, which strips Catholic entities of their religious liberty by forcing Catholics to violate Church teachings.
ABC and NBC, while broadcasting the evening news, demonstrated just how contemptuous they are of the Catholic Church by not reporting on it.
CBS, on the other hand, gave it all of a 19-second mention. It’s the Pope’s butler that necessitated an in-depth report.
CBS, just like the White House, either failed to do their homework, or chose to deliberately distort the truth, or maybe they just didn’t get it. Each classified the suit as being a contraception issue — when contraception has nothing to do with it.
On May 27, when Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, he explained the lawsuit this way:
“This whole lawsuit is not about contraception; it’s about religious freedom. Embedded in the mandate is a radical new definition of what constitutes a religious community, what constitutes a religious ministry — brand-new, never before applied at the federal level. That is what we are arguing about: The lawsuit says we have every right to serve in this community that we have served for decades. The new definition, which, by the way, is law, says you’re not really religious if you serve people other than your own and if you hire people other than your own. That wipes out all the things we have been doing to contribute to the common good for decades upon decades. Our schools, our health-care services, our Catholic Charities — even our parish soup kitchens and pantries — all that is wiped out.”
The notion that the Obama administration has softened its position on the contraception rule by including an exemption for religious organizations, stating that insurers and not religious-affiliated organizations will be the ones to offer contraceptive coverage, doesn’t solve the religious problem, since many of the Catholic institutions are self-insured — they are the insurer; therefore, the administration has made no accommodation.

Louise F. Massa
Havertown, Pennsylvania

Strong Marriages Wanted

Pertinent to “Obama Formally Backs Same-Sex ‘Marriage’” (May 10, NCRegister.com):
Recently, President Obama publicly announced his support for same-sex “marriage.” But not wanting to paint himself into a corner, his announcement was to “support” the decision; that is, if the individual states legislate the matter.
Surely, he is aware that the majority of states have already spoken on this subject and have rejected the concept. To serve his immediate political purposes, Amendment X (on states’ rights) was employed. This administration rarely before acknowledged states’ rights.
Persons of good will have or have had friends with same-sex attraction who are highly regarded, unmindful of their sexual orientation. Disagreement with the lifestyle cannot deny earned esteem — as Christians or as friends, we can do no less.
Covenants between God and humans, as written in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Catechism and by the Church Fathers, contain condemnation of the practice of homosexuality — not homosexual inclination, but the practice of homosexuality.
Opponents of same-sex “marriage” are often classified as bigots. Such classification would thus include Protestant clergy and laity of different denominations, Catholic clergy and laity and writers of the holy Scriptures — and throw into this mix of bigots Pope Benedict XVI and Rev. Billy Graham.
The majority of states reject the concept of same-sex “marriage.” Should all of the citizens who voted to reject it be considered bigots?
Due to abortion and contraceptive use, the U.S. birth rate is barely hovering above replacement value. From a practical point of view, this is critical in the administration of any government that depends on a reliable workforce to continue funding government programs.
Needed are traditional marriages to increase birth rates, preferably children born within a committed relationship known as husband and wife.
Same-sex “marriages” cannot achieve this goal.

Mabel Ryan
Ocala, Florida

Polyamory Is Next

Regarding “Obama Formally Backs Same-Sex ‘Marriage’” (May 10, NCRegister.com):
The president’s political acceptance of “gay marriage” to amass Hollywood campaign cash may herald the opening of a matrimonial Pandora’s box by pressuring groups to further broaden and redefine marriage to its eventual diminishment and irrelevance, rending any purposeful import into our societal fabric.
Can homosexual “marriage” be the gateway relationship to other unions in the future? Efforts by the Unitarian Church and others to infiltrate that “gateway” are illustrative.
But first a definition: Polyamory is a secular form of polygamy distinct from the religious patriarchal form found in fundamentalist Mormon communities.
In association with the Unitarian Church, the organization Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA) was established in 1999. UUPA’s “noble” purpose, as stated on its website, “is for Unitarian universalism to become the first poly-welcoming mainstream religious denomination.” Harlan White, a physician and leading UUPA activist, audaciously notes that “American polyamorists are growing in number,” with some Unitarian ministers already performing “joining ceremonies” for polyamorous families.
According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, “many of the students and faculty at the Unitarians’ key West Coast seminary, Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, see the polyamory movement as a threat to the struggle for same-sex marriage.”
The perception here is that progressing too swiftly to legitimize polyamory could validate the slippery-slope argument opposing same-sex “marriage.”
Following the full legalization of “gay marriage” in the Netherlands, it took barely four years for the first polyamory test case to materialize there.
With America possessing a well-structured and superior polyamory movement spearheaded by an effectively organized bisexual-rights faction, it may take even less time, should “gay marriage” be affirmed nationally.
In jurisprudence, the oft-mentioned and much maligned slippery-slope reasoning often employed against redefining marriage achieves firm legal ground. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia notes that “the same legal arguments being applied to homosexuals as a class could be applied to polygamists [et. al by extension].” He further adds that “… unless, of course, polygamists for some reason have fewer constitutional rights than homosexuals.”
If we single out one or more objectionable minorities on the quest to “gay marriage,” the First Amendment becomes little more than hype, and we become little more than hypocrites. When Pandora unleashed her ills upon the world, the only item remaining in her box was “hope.” A hope for us is that the Supreme Court be endowed with wisdom, sequestered from political contrivance, to uphold marriage to a man and a woman exclusively.

Tony Favero
Half Moon Bay, California