State-Ordered Shots

Relevant to “Texas Showdown” (Feb. 18):

The Virginia Legislature has now become the first state governing body to pass a bill requiring mandatory human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations for young girls. As a Catholic mother and a Catholic physician, I have been following this issue closely since the vaccine was first approved last summer. I think we should be very clear that Catholic and other Christian groups do not oppose the vaccine per se. It is an ethically produced vaccine with the potential for valuable medical benefits.

Rather, the opposition is to the state mandate of the vaccine.

This vaccine will prevent infection with the four subtypes of HPV that cause 99% of all cervical cancer. It will not prevent infection with the subtypes of HPV that cause venereal warts. It does not prevent all cervical cancer. It does not remove the need for regular pap smears. It does not prevent any other sexually transmitted diseases. It does not prevent pregnancy. Therefore, the only difference between a woman who has been vaccinated and a woman who has not been vaccinated is that the vaccinated woman has a greater chance of her pap smear being normal.

There is a precedent for vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease since many states require vaccination against Hepatitis B.

This virus is transmitted via blood and bodily fluids. It could pose a risk to school staff, students or first responders if they were incidentally exposed to a student’s blood. Unless the school lesson plans have gotten way out of hand, there is no risk for the incidental transmission of HPV at school.

I find it interesting that the people of Planned Parenthood, who jealously guard a woman’s right to an abortion as a private medical decision between a woman and her doctor, do not afford parents this same right to make a medical decision for their daughters.

Denise J. Hunnell, M.D.

Fairfax Station, Virginia

Liberal Leanings?

I picked up a copy of the Register at our church today after Mass. I recognize that, in comparison to other Catholic papers of similar type, the Register tends to be more liberal in stance. I read it sometimes, nonetheless. Some of your articles I have found helpful and informative.

Tonight, I found myself cutting out a little section on “Rosary Basics” (Feb. 18). I thought this might be helpful to our 10-year-old son who likes to pray the family Rosary, but is having still a bit of difficulty with remembering what to pray on specific beads. It also included the Hail, Holy Queen and the prayer to recite at the close of the Rosary. I thought he could pin this up in his study area as an aid to learning.

Then I noticed that the Creed was nowhere to be found in the instructions.

I’m writing you because I’ve noticed of late a trend toward questioning points contained in the Creed. It was expressly omitted from teaching the children in our Parish School of Religion class where I taught third grade last year. In our adult religious-education course at our parish, we were instructed that parts of the Creed were non-essential. We were shocked.

The magisterium teaches or transmits to the Catholic faithful things necessary to believe and teach our children. The Apostle’s Creed is one of them.

I believe this omission in the Register is not accidental. Your argument to me might be that one doesn’t always have to recite the Creed at the start of the Rosary. I submit that this piece in the Register is a very subtle device to re-teach certain Catholic practices, having a more liberal Catholic agenda in mind.

There was no excuse for such a vital omission of something that, in itself, expresses the fullness of our orthodox Catholic faith.

Paula Traverzo

Derby, Kansas

Editor’s note: In explaining how to say the Rosary, we followed Pope John Paul II’s suggestion in his Apostolic Letter on the Year of the Rosary. The Vatican reiterated his suggestions on its website, which also teaches the Rosary without the Creed. To see it, click on any mystery at

Humbling Science

Your outstanding report “House Champions ‘Kill Bill’ Despite New Findings” (Jan. 21) recorded yet another breakthrough for non-embryonic stem cells, thanks to the finding of stem cells in amniotic fluid.

Researchers have been able to generate tissue for every bodily organ they have tried from amniotic stem cells. These cells, in contrast to embryonic stem cells, are plentiful and readily available at birth. There are some 4 million births in the United States each year and it is estimated that only 100,000 pregnancies would be needed to provide genetic matches for 99% of the population. If they ever treat anyone, embryonic stem-cells will require human cloning to treat a large number of people. Autologous and pregnancy-related stem cells do not. 

Another recent stem cell advance that has received little attention is the knowledge that a mother transmits stem cells through the placenta to her unborn baby to help the baby overcome Type 1 Diabetes. These specialized cells are selectively transmitted only to unborn babies with T1D. This is a truly amazing finding because it requires a very sophisticated, selective communication between the bodies of the mother and her baby.

This finding opens a whole new area for research with many questions to be answered. How can this knowledge be used to treat disease? Does the transmission of stem cells occur in the case of other diseases? Can the mother ingest drugs to treat and prevent fetal problems? Does the baby send stem cells to treat the mother’s ailments? Since mother and baby have different DNA, why doesn’t the baby’s body reject the mother’s stem cells?

What we know about God’s marvelous, intricate and beautiful design for our procreation and development — including conception, gestation, birth, growth and maturity — is profoundly humbling.

John Naughton

Silver Spring, Maryland

Aggressively Regressive

Your article on genetic testing for defective children, “Unfit to Live?” (Feb. 25), shows that society is moving toward the “Brave New World” envisioned by Aldous Huxley back in the 1930s. We are regressing to the pagan cultures of ancient Rome and Sparta, where citizens were judged only by their utility to the state or tribe.

All forms of genetic engineering — euthanasia, abortion, cloning and “designer babies” — are essentially applications of animal-breeding methods and Darwinian-selection theories to human societies in a quest for perfection and utility.

Abortion and euthanasia are the two faces of this quest: They simply erase from life whatever life is deemed unfit or inconvenient. Throughout the 1930s and the war years, when eugenic movements were endemic in the Western democracies also, Popes Pius XI and Pius XII persistently condemned utilitarian theories of human life. This idea, that only those viewed as productive or useful can live, is implicit in all forms of eugenics. Pius XII forcibly denounced these theories and the killing of “life unworthy of life,” those whom the Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler called “useless eaters.”

The only real alternative to those theories, which have always been with us in one guise or another, is charity and brotherly love, the love of God and neighbor: the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Matt Terranova

Hackensack, New Jersey

To Be Prepared, Be Faithful

I read with interest your Feb. 25 report about the Canadian medical group’s proposal to recommend prenatal genetic screening so “women and their families will have time to prepare, collect information, and to receive balanced health counseling” (“Unfit to Live?”).

When I was pregnant with my second son in 1985, I discussed amniocentesis with my physician, as I had had a younger brother born with Down syndrome. I, too, thought it would be best to prepare even though I would never consider an abortion. The doctor’s advice: “Unless you would have an abortion, don’t have the test. There is a risk of miscarriage.”

My son was a so-called “10” when born. However, he developed serious psychiatric symptoms later in life.

The bottom line: The best family preparation is remaining faithful. One never knows the future with any certainty. Let God’s will be done; it will be done regardless.

Patricia Hershwitzky

Las Vegas


The United States has brought Afghanistan its first abortion clinic — but has not done the same in Iraq, as we erroneously stated in our March 11 editorial “No Deal, Rudy.” The misstatement appears in print but has been corrected at

Also: In the photo caption accompanying “An Augustinian Masterpiece in the Malay Archipelago” (Travel, March 4), we misidentified the contents of the glass case pictured at San Augustin Church and Museum in The Philippines. The photo shows not the sarcophagus described in the article (which contains the earthly remains of the conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi), but rather a linen-shrouded statue of Jesus on a slab in the borrowed tomb, pre-Resurrection.

Finally, in “St. Odd? The Catholics Who Love Dean Koontz” (March 11), we incorrectly identified bioethicist Wesley Smith as a Catholic.

We regret the errors.

— Editor