World Media Watch

Cardinal Pell Calls for Stem-Cell Research Ban

THE AGE, Sept. 21 — Australian Cardinal George Pell warned that the destruction of embryos for science has created “a class of human life which is statutorily expendable,” the Australian website reported.

In his statement to a government inquiry into laws covering cloning and the use of embryos for research, Australia's most senior Catholic leader said the scientific justification for using embryos had diminished since the laws were passed in 2002.

Under the existing laws, scientists can use embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization for research, including the creation of embryonic stem cell lines. Their rationale is that the embryos would be destroyed anyway.

Cardinal Pell, who addressed the National Press Club in Canberra Sept. 21, called for a ban on all research that involves destroying embryos or, at least, no extension to the laws. He said access to spare embryos for the past two years had not “led to a significant advance in knowledge.”

China Takes Action Over Forced Abortions

BBC NEWS, Sept. 20 — Several Chinese health workers have reportedly been arrested or fired over claims that they forced people to have abortions or sterilizations, BBC News reported.

China's state-owned media said the abuses had come to light in Linyi city in the eastern province of Shandong. Time magazine said last week that some 7,000 people had been sterilized against their will in Shandong.

“Some persons concerned in a few counties and townships of Linyi did commit practices that violated law and infringed upon legitimate rights and interests of citizens while conducting family planning work,” a statement China's National Population and Family Planning Commission said.

Chen Guangcheng, an activist who has championed the rights of couples that have complained of forced abortion or sterilization, told Reuters the authorities had forced couples who had two children to undergo sterilization, while women expecting a third child were forced to undergo abortions.

According to an earlier published report, China recorded more abortions than births in 2004.

Brazil's Promises After Nun's Killing Prove Hollow

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 23 — Seven months after Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Dorothy Stang was shot to death, the conflicts over land ownership that led to her killing not only remain unresolved but are intensifying, The Times reported.

The Brazilian government's own land-reform agency complains of being handcuffed and short of money and personnel, and local Catholic Church leaders contend that even the investigation into Sister Dorothy's case have failed to apprehend several of those involved.

“Everything continues as if nothing had happened,” said Bishop Erwin Krautler of the Xingu, as this region straddling the Trans-Amazon Highway is known.

Gabriel Domingos do Nascimento, a leader of the local peasants’ union, asked that the Brazilian army be more assertive in going after the hired guns who since the 1980s have killed more than a dozen priests, nuns and community leaders, and driven scores of peasant families off the small plots of land they have carved from the jungle.

“It's been like this for 30 years, and we can't stand it any more,” he told The Times. “We're desperate. Even with the army here, the land invasions and the deforestation continue.””

Public Funding of Stem-Cell Research Criticized

EURACTIV.COM, Sept. 23 — A group of 73 Members of Parliament are asking the European Commission not to use European Union taxpayers’ money to fund research on human embryo and embryonic stem cells, and to exclude this research area from the government's new legislation program, the Belgium-based news service reported.

In a statement, the representatives noted that, as some countries ban stem-cell research, it is wrong that public money from those countries is used to fund the research in others. They proposed to leave this type of research to the member states and national funding.

Great Britain and Belgium allow for the creation of human embryos for the procurement of embryonic stem cells. Austria, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland and the Slovak Republic have prohibited procurement of stem cells from embryos, whereas France, Germany and Italy allow the import of new stem-cell lines, but not their creation.