Yes to Smallpox Vaccines,

No to Fetal Tissue

Thank you for your timely article on the smallpox vaccine ("Government Weighs Producing Anti-Terror Vaccine with Abortion Tissue,” Nov. 25-Dec. 1).

The Catholic Medical Association has in the past expressed its disapproval of the use of aborted fetal tissue and embryonic stem-cell lines to develop vaccines and medical products. Therefore, it is especially disturbing to learn that our government intends to allow this practice once more in the production of the new smallpox vaccine, when moral alternatives are available.

While we agree that protecting U.S. citizens from infectious disease is both good and necessary, we find the intended use of the MRC-5 aborted fetal-cell line to be both utterly immoral and highly unethical, especially since there are other existing, FDA-approved animal-cell substrates available. It is a fact that, after the horrors of the Holocaust, the cell lines developed from the Jewish people who were murdered by the Nazis in Dachau and Auschwitz were subsequently destroyed by the World Health Organization.

I and my fellow physicians are deeply concerned because of the fact that parents are refusing to adequately vaccinate their children because of concerns arising from the use of aborted fetal tissue.

This becomes a special problem, now that there is the threat of bio-terrorism. I would encourage everyone to write Tommy Thompson and urge him to only accept those proposals from the pharmaceutical industry that will not engage in the use of aborted fetal cell lines or from the destruction of human embryos (embryonic stem cell lines).

Why use means that are morally objectionable to a great number of Americans, when moral alternatives are available?

Thank you, also, for providing an address and phone number where people can express their opposition to the government's use of fetal tissue in this way. I would only add Tommy Thompson's name and room number:

The Honorable Tommy Thompson, Department of Health & Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W. Room 615-F Washington, D.C. 20201

ROBERT J SAXER M.D. Fort Walton Beach, Florida

The writer is president of the National Catholic Medical Association

Archbishop Should Reject Merger

Regarding “Hospital Merger Tests Bishops’ New Rules,” Nov. 18–24:

In the case you describe, Archbishop Rembert Weakland has been given a chance to demonstrate he can assert Catholic doctrine in his diocese (Milwaukee). Weakland should not grant a nihil obstat in regards to the proposed partnership sponsored by Columbia Health System and Ascension Health. This partnership would allow tubal ligations and vasectomies to be performed in an independent facility located within Columbia Hospital, which has been run by Ascension Health since Oct. 1. Ethical and Religious Directive 53 clearly states that “[d]irect sterilization of either men or women … is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution ….”

Further, Directive 70 states that “Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as … direct sterilization.” The footnote to that directive also warns that “any cooperation institutionally approved or tolerated in actions which are in themselves, that is, by their very nature and condition, directed to a contraceptive end … is absolutely forbidden” (internal citation omitted).

It strains credulity to see how sterilization performed at an “independent” center located within a hospital carrying Catholic affiliation is not immediate material cooperation proscribed by Directive 70. Archbishop Weakland must refuse to grant a nihil obstat.



Faith on Fulton Street

You may be onto something in your editorial “A Catholic Moment” (Oct. 14-20). In light of recent world events — specifically, the happenings of Sept. 11 — it seemed to me to be a marking point. Just as in a horserace, the gun is shot and the race begins.

I recently visited Ground Zero, first to pay my respects to my former boss’ son and to the many heroes who were killed and who passed over that day. I was never more convinced that they had simply passed over, were alive but in a changed form. Because when I walked up the subway stairs at Fulton Street that day and turned my head to the right (yes, I did see the damage caused by extreme evil), but I also felt the presence of those nearly 5,000 souls.

Unfortunately, there was also the ultimate presence of evil down at Ground Zero — the wreckage overwhelmed me with sadness. Yes, one could have even been annoyed by the vendors and cameras flashing, as if we were all tourists. But the evidence of a “heaven on earth” developing was still apparent. Yes, the smell was nauseating, the atmosphere eerie. But what I found were people conversing with each other — in the streets, on the subways and in the stores. And, in most cases, they were outwardly considerate, friendly and, in many cases, openly affectionate. There was good among the evil.

What I am certain of is that, despite the tragedies of recent weeks, miracles are still occurring. Government and religions are coming together. People are coming together. Individuals are taking stock of their lives and, hopefully, are reconciling with God … because we are indeed united.

For those heroes who were taken from us on Sept. 11, we can be assured that they are in a better place. But for those of us who are here on this earth, it is truly an opportunity to create a “heaven” on earth.

JANE E. MCCARTY Harrison, New York

Recognizing Abortion Trauma

Thank you for your editorial “Good News for Life” (Nov. 18-24), referring to post-abortion syndrome and the amendment requesting the National Institutes of Health to “expand and intensify research and related activities … with respect to post-abortion depression and post-abortion psychosis.”

It is extremely important that the trauma of abortion be made known to the general population and the mental-health professions. Up to this point, there has been no acknowledgment of the profound trauma that follows women and men after abortion. There has been no official diagnosis of post-abortion syndrome in the diagnostic manual, and there does not appear to be any consideration of it in the future.

The fact that women are suffering in large numbers from the act of abortion has been kept under the covers for much too long, and it is encouraging to see that maybe this amendment will have the NIH do some active research in the field. As a therapist dealing with post-abortive women and men, I can personally attest to the huge numbers of people suffering psychological, emotional and spiritual scars years later.

MAUREEN VETTER RUSSELL Rockville Centre, New York

The writer is Project Rachel coordinator for the diocese of Rockville Center.

Defending the Indefensible

Regarding “Fed Ruling Might Kill Suicide Laws,” (Nov. 18-24):

Democrat Hardy Myers, who is Oregon's attorney-general and a member of All Saints Parish, claimed [in Portland's diocesan newspaper] that he had to ignore “personal feelings” (Catholic Sentinel, Nov. 16,) in his attack on a federal law forbidding the use of federally controlled drugs for assisted suicide. But religion is not just another “personal feeling.” Religion is a constitutionally protected right.

Hardy Myers had options. He could have admitted there is no legal basis on which to attack the federal law. He could have stepped aside on the case. Better yet, he could have had the foresight to campaign against the Democratic Party when it supported the pro-assisted-suicide campaign in 1994. He could have changed political parties. But he did none of these things. Instead, he chose to defend an indefensible law.

N. GREGORY HAMILTON, M.D. Portland, Oregon

The writer is the president of Physicians for Compassionate Care.

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