Jesuit USA Newsletter

August 17, 2001

In This Issue

As NIH Builds Registry of Stem-cell Lines, Ethicist Urges Caution

As researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continued to put together a complete listing of all stem-cell lines that meet specific criteria outlined by President Bush, Fr Kevin T FitzGerald SJ urged Catholics to consider justice issues along with the pro-life implications of the research.

For example, he said, some supporters of the research are claiming that "hundreds of millions are going to be cured."

"Well, I want to see the list," he said. "How many of those who could be cured have access to health care? How many are in the Third World? Poor people are not going to have access to this."

Fr FitzGerald, recently appointed to the Dr Lauler chair in Catholic health care ethics at Georgetown University's Center for Clinical Bioethics, noted that 900,000 children around the world die each year of measles, despite the fact that there is a vaccine.

"Our health care system is ethically indefensible," he said, urging Catholics to look at the question of "who's going to benefit from all these promises and who's going to be left behind?"

A researcher in cancer genetics who does not perform stem-cell research, Fr FitzGerald said some scientists seem to want to "run ahead with these human experiments" when proper research has yet to be performed on animal subjects.

Another major ethical concern--and one he said is linked to the rush to human experimentation--is the question of who owns stem-cell lines. The first researcher to develop a useful product from stem cells "will get a chunk of whatever that brings in," he said. "So everyone wants to be first."

Before any government-funded embryonic stem-cell research can begin, NIH must publish its registry of stem-cell lines that fit the criteria outlined by Bush: research must use stem-cell lines obtained with informed consent of the donors, from excess embryos created for in vitro fertilization rather than for research purposes, and without any financial inducement to the donors. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]


JRS Holds Peace Workshops in Tanzania

JRS Radio Kwizera reports that refugees and Tanzanians in Ngara district hailed a series of recent workshops on peace education as a step in the right direction towards harmonious co-existence between the two communities. The workshops, organized by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and UNESCO and conducted by Deacon Elias Omondi SJ, a Jesuit scholastic based in Nairobi, started in June.

Omondi conducted sessions with leaders from the refugee camps and from the villages surrounding Lukole 'A' refugee camp in Ngara district. This was the first time many of the leaders from the refugee and Tanzanian communities met face to face, and they suggested more meetings be organized to address common problems.

Omondi, who is former Radio Kwizera project director, has held similar peace workshops in other places, among them Somalia. "From what I've seen here, I think there should be a good follow-up of the workshops," he said. [Source: JRS Dispatches]


Jesuit says Vatican has Nothing to Hide in WWII Archives

Fr Peter Gumpel SJ, a historian involved in Pope Pius XII's cause for beatification, said the Vatican has nothing to hide in its archives regarding the pope's conduct during World War II.

He criticized members of the Catholic-Jewish historical commission and Jewish leaders who complained that a thorough study of the pope's conduct could not be made without access to the archives.

The priest made his statement, which he was asked to write by a Vatican official, July 26 after members of the commission announced they were suspending their work.

The Jesuit, who is the Vatican-appointed rapporteur of Pope Pius's cause, said that while the idea of establishing a historical commission was "laudable," from the beginning "some -- not all -- members on the Jewish side publicly spread the suspicion that the Holy See was trying to hide documents which, in their judgment, would be compromising."

Fr Gumpel said Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, the Vatican archivist, personally explained to the scholars that material from Pope Pius's pontificate -- "more than 3 million pages" -- had not yet been cataloged and therefore could not be consulted.

"Every scholar naturally knows that no archive can be consulted if the documents are not cataloged and classified," he said.

Yet, Fr Gumpel said, "the recent, hateful attacks on the Holy See have affirmed that the Holy See does not intend to open the archives."

"This is resoundingly untrue," he said. The historians were told that as soon as the cataloging is complete, the archives will be opened to scholars.

Although the archives are not open, the Vatican appointed a group of Jesuit scholars to go through the material and publish papers and documents related to World War II and the Holocaust.

The Catholic and Jewish scholars were appointed to study the resulting 11 volumes of material.

Fr Gumpel said that if the scholars had read the 11 volumes carefully, they would have seen that Pope Pius "made every possible effort to save as many lives as possible, without any distinction." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronially]


Indian Social Institute Director Finishes Term

"Christians should work as part of a larger community to fight social injustice," said Fr Ambrose Pinto SJ, who is completing his three-year term as Executive Director of the Indian Social Institute (ISI) in New Delhi.

The Jesuit-managed institute works in a network with some 5,000 voluntary organizations and universities for the socio-cultural rights of the poor and minorities, especially dalits, tribals, women, fisherfolk, and forest workers. ISI expresses solidarity with them through research, advocacy, and networking.

The Institute has won credibility with its opposition to Indian nuclear policy and to Hindu nationalist ideology, which Fr Pinto feels is in political and intellectual decline.

He invites the Church not just to react defensively when its own interests are directly attacked by extremists, but to learn to analyze problems at their roots, to cooperate with progressive forces in civil society, and to speak with one voice.

The fact that the Church is a minority institution is no reason to isolate itself. As the people of God, the Church is called "to mix with others in larger society for the nation's concerns, and our institutions must identify with other communities and together work against all kinds of exploitation," said Fr Pinto. [Source: Headlines]


Remembrance of Things Past


From the Editors

JesuitUSA News is a service of Company Magazine. In addition to the print edition, almost all of the items in Company Magazine can be viewed via the World Wide Web at Any correspondence concerning this mailing list should be sent to the editor at [email protected] . The newsletter is available to all Jesuits, to those who work with them, or to those who are simply interested in what they are doing. Tell your friends; the price is right! If you are requesting addition to the list, please include your real name as well as your email address. If you are changing your address, please include YOUR NAME as well as both the NEW and the OLD email addresses.

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