Media Watch

Irish Issue Health Alert Over Church Incense

INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS, Aug. 22 — Funerals can be bad for your health — if you're an altar boy, that is.

So says Irish government minister Dr. Jim McDaid, who recently issued a warning about breathing incense.

“It makes me cringe when I see that huge cloud of smoke rising right up into the child's face, particularly given the delicate nature of a child's lungs and the level of irritation it must cause,” McDaid said. He noted that carbon, contained in the smoke, is a carcinogen.

But he denied that he wished to see incense banned from funerals; instead, the Web site Independent Catholic News reported, he appealed to priests to give their acolytes safety instructions, warning them to hold the thurible so the smoke does not billow in their faces.

Russia Offers Some Protection to Unborn

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Aug. 24 — For the first time in almost 50 years, the Russian government has begun to address the use of abortion as a standard means of birth control, The New York Times reported.

While still allowing abortion on demand for the first 12 weeks of embryonic life, new laws impose some restrictions on the procedure after that.

The Times called the legal change “the first stirrings of a wider debate here over the morality of abortion, as well as the effect abortions are having on women's health and on the demographic future of Russia.” The country has one of the highest abortion rates in the world.

Previously, women could abort unborn children who were from 12 to 22 weeks old by citing any of 13 “social indicators,” which included everything from divorce to poor housing.

Henceforth, there will be only four such exemptions offered: “rape, imprisonment, the death or severe disability of the husband or a court ruling stripping a woman of her parental rights.”

Test-Tube Babies, Courtesy of the Queen

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (U.K.), Aug. 26 — Twenty-five years after the birth in Great Britain of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in vitro fertilization might now be subsidized by the British taxpayer, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The London daily reported on new guidelines proposed by the British National Institute of Clinical Excellence that women aged 23-39 should be eligible for in vitro fertilization treatment courtesy of Britain's National Health Service if they have been unable to conceive for the previous three years.

Some doctors, noting that 1 in 6 couples in the United Kingdom experience some fertility difficulty, warned that the annual cost of publicly funded in vitro fertilization could reach approximately $157 million.

The recommendations could encourage more of them to try the expensive procedure. The paper noted that “more than 8,000 IVF babies were born in 2000-2001 and IVF now accounts for about 1% of all live births in Britain.”

The Church condemns the making of babies in this laboratory procedure because it divorces the life-giving and love-giving dimensions of marital intercourse and separates a child from his parents at the moment of conception.

It also creates large numbers of “surplus” human embryos, which often are stored indefinitely or destroyed.