NYS Stem Cell Board to consider tax $ for egg donations

I mentioned last week that the Empire State Stem Cell Board, which gives out tax money for stem cell research, is considering whether public money should be paid to women who have eggs extracted for research purposes.

The board’s Ethics Committee has supported doing so.

The board is expected to take up the matter at a meeting on Thursday morning (10:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) You can watch it HERE.

Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, released this statement today:

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The New York State Stem Cell Board is poised to facilitate the exploitation of low-income women by using taxpayer funds to pay for the retrieval of eggs. This is a grossly unethical, dangerous and exploitative move that treats women’s body parts as commodities. It must be rejected. If the Stem Cell Board itself moves forward with this proposal, then the state Legislature must act to prevent it.

“No other state in the union allows eggs-for-research payments, and for good reason. The Board is considering up to $10,000 per retrieval, which, in the current economic climate, will induce low-income women who are struggling to put food on their table to undergo this painful and dangerous procedure. Such women face serious health risks and loss of fertility. Vulnerable women should not be coerced into risking their health and their lives for speculative science with speculative benefits.

“A compelling case cannot even be made that the medical benefits somehow mitigate the ethical lapse. Scientists are seeking these eggs to clone human embryos, which will be subsequently destroyed for their stem cells. Yet the science of stem cell research is moving in the opposite direction, toward research involving adult stem cells and the reprogramming of ordinary skin cells to act identical to embryonic cells. This type of research bears none of the ethical burdens of embryonic research.

“Payments to women for the extraction of their eggs crosses an ethical line that New Yorkers should not be forced to finance. Regardless of one’s position on embryonic stem cell research, we can all agree that women should not be exploited by researchers, with state approval. The Legislature should step in now to ban payments for eggs.

And away we go…

Yesterday, Gov. David Paterson and Archbishop Timothy Dolan shook hands at St. Patrick’s.

Today, Paterson announced plans to legalize gay marriage in NYS.

Today, the New York State Catholic Conference — which represents Dolan and his fellow bishops –responded with this: “In light of Gov. David Paterson’s introduction today of a bill that would redefine in New York State the historic understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman, the New York State Catholic Conference points again to a statement from the Bishops of New York State from June 2008. The Conference calls on the legislature to defeat this proposal, for which there is no compelling state interest and which will weaken rather than strengthen the institution of marriage, which is so important to a stable society.”

The full statement from June 2008 is HERE.

UPDATE: State Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Democrat and evangelical minister who opposes same-sex marriage, said it was disrespectful of Paterson to introduce the matter the day after Dolan’s installation.

Diaz said: “I think it’s a laugh in the face of the new archbishop. The Jews just finished their holy week. The Catholics just received the new archbishop. The evangelical Christians just celebrated Good Friday and resurrection. He comes out to do this at this time? It’s a challenge the governor is sending to every religious person in New York and the time for us has come for us to accept the challenge.”

UPDATE: A Quinnipiac University poll last week found that given three choices, 41 percent of New Yorkers say gay couples should be allowed to marry legally, while 33 percent say they should be allowed to form civil unions.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, Pool)

How Catholics should vote

I mentioned yesterday that the New York State Catholic Conference had released a statement on how Catholics should vote — “through the lens of our faith.”

Following the theme, St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church in Briarcliff Manor will host a debate Monday evening on…how Catholics should vote.

images.jpegIn one corner you’ll have Paul Baumann (left), editor of the liberal Catholic magazine “Commonweal” and a Barack Obama supporter. In the other, David Carlin (right), a former Democratic majority leader of the Rhode Island Senate, author of “Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?” and a John McCain man.

images1.jpegThey’ll explain their positions at 7:30 p.m. and take questions. Free. Open to all. For info, go to the St. Theresa’s website. Directions are here.

Then on Tuesday at 7 p.m., the Sisters of St. Dominic in Blauvelt will host Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby in Washington, D.C. She will speak about what it means to vote for the “common good.”

Campbell was a key figure in the drafting of a “Common Good Platform,” which was crafted by several Catholic groups with a “social justice” bent as yet another voting guide for Catholics.

Here’s the background on the platform:

When they gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, our nation’s founders sought to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Today, We the People, must do all we can to create a more perfect union focused on the common good. Two thousand Catholics and other people of faith have gathered in over 40 states to develop a Platform for the Common Good that articulates shared principles about building a culture of life, promoting economic justice and peace, establishing foreign policy rooted in global solidarity and caring for God’s creation. The Platform was ratified on July 12 in Philadelphia during the Convention for the Common Good.

‘Not every issue is of equal moral gravity’

The New York State Catholic Conference — the voice of Cardinal Egan and the other bishops of the Empire State — just released a statement on the upcoming election.

tjndc5-5bsnh3apj5g1276w23vq_layout.jpgThe statement — called Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty — urges Catholic New Yorkers to vote and proposes a series of questions that people should ask of political candidates on several subjects: right to life, education, protecting marriage, immigration, health care, protecting the poor, and religious liberty.

The bishops write:

We Catholics are called to look at politics as we are called to look at everything – through the lens of our faith. While we are free to join any political party that we choose or none at all, we must be cautious when we vote not to be guided solely by party loyalty nor by self interest. Rather, we should be guided in evaluating the important issues facing our state and nation by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church.

Many, many times, I’ve heard people ask why the Catholic Church prioritizes abortion over other public policy debates. Here is an answer from the statement:

It is the rare candidate who will agree with the Church on every issue. But as the U.S. Bishops’ recent document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (www.faithfulcitizenship.org <http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/> ) makes clear, not every issue is of equal moral gravity. The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.

The right to life is the right through which all others flow. To the extent candidates reject this fundamental right by supporting an objective evil, such as legal abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research, Catholics should consider them less acceptable for public office. As Faithful Citizenship teaches, “Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil.”

Interestingly, the statement points out that many issues are decided in Albany and not Washington: “Your vote for State Senator and Assembly Member may be as critical as your vote for President of the United States.”

Here is the statement in full:

Every four years, 12 months prior to the presidential election, the Bishops of the United States issue a statement calling Catholics to faithful citizenship. Simply put, faithful citizenship refers to our duty as Catholics to be full participants in the public square in order to make our nation and the world a better and more just place. With this duty comes the responsibility to exercise our right to vote and to be engaged in the political process. This right did not come easily, having been bought with the blood of our forebears and protected through the centuries by our Constitution and the men and women in uniform who defend it. Continue reading

Protestant ministers will rally tomorrow to ‘save marriage’

A couple of hundred Protestant ministers are expected to gather in Albany tomorrow morning to protest Gov. Paterson’s call for New York agencies to recognize gay marriages from other states.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, an evangelical lobbying group, is calling for a huge turnout: “NYCF is looking for a thousand Bible-believing ministers who will not bend, blend or bow! We are looking for ministers willing to mobilize for morality.”

duane.jpgThe rally will start in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building at 10 a.m. (Pictured is the Rev. Duane Motley, NYCF’s founder and executive director.)

NYCF is calling on all ministers to sign a petition to “save marriage in New York state.”

At the top of the group’s agenda is this:

Brethren, we must pray not only for the defeat of this bill, but for the salvation of our opponents. They advance this moral wickedness because they are in rebellion against their Creator and do not have a right relationship with Him. Pray that those on the frontlines would have speech seasoned with grace and hearts that never forget the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).

The New York State Catholic Conference is not taking part in the rally. But the group, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops, is asking Catholics to email Gov. Paterson to express their disapproval.

A prewritten message on the group’s website, which visitors can email to the governor, says:

I am very disappointed by your ill-advised, unilateral decision to recognize out-of-state same-sex “marriages” in New York State. Marriage is the very building block of our society. No interpersonal relationship is more important to a healthy society than marriage. The state has a compelling interest in recognizing and bestowing privileged benefits on marriage, since it is the foundation of a stable society and is the best arrangement for bearing and nurturing children. To arbitrarily redefine it in a way that alters its very essence devalues marriage between one man and one woman, reducing it to simply one more lifestyle choice, instead of the essential engine that drives society. If there are any rights that individual members of society do not enjoy due to the fact that they do not wish to marry members of the opposite sex, let the legislature grant those rights in some other way. As a citizen of this state, and a voter, I strongly urge you to reconsider your action.

Catholic bishops state case vs. gay marriage

Cardinal Egan and NYS’s other Catholic bishops have released a statement on same-sex marriage.

It is a fairly long and passionate letter, released by the NYS Catholic Conference.

tjndc5-5b552ruo6tgx5cu17p4_layout.jpgA section:

The joining of man and woman in the bond of marriage is a constant and visible reminder of God’s goodness and the beauty of the Divine plan for humankind. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ himself raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. And, indeed, all of the world’s great religions rightfully recognize marriage as a holy union of a man and woman.

Numerous theological and religious arguments could be advanced as to why this bill should be rejected. However, this is not simply a matter of theology, and religious values are not the sole source of opposition to this plan.

Marriage always has been, is now and always will be a union of one man and one woman in an enduring bond. This is consistent with biology and natural law, and should be obvious to all, no matter what their religion, or even if they have no religion at all. It is a mutual personal gift between the two that serves the individual couple in many ways, allowing them to grow in love and, through that love, to bring forth children.

Just as importantly, this union also serves the larger society. Marriage provides a stable family structure for the rearing of children and is the ultimate safeguard so that civil society can exist and flourish. That is why civil society through the ages has recognized its duty to foster and respect marriage between a man and a woman.

To be clear, the state’s historic recognition of marriage is based on the biological fact that the physical union of a man and a woman tends to lead to children. Common sense and empirical evidence tell us that children’s welfare is best served in most cases by their being reared in a stable home with their mother and father. This fact has been recognized and intuited by societies for millennia. Encouraging marriage between a man and a woman, therefore, serves the state’s interests, as well-reared children who live with their mother and father are much more likely to grow to be good citizens, thereby, creating wealth, stability and security for the members of the society.

Catholic, evangelical lobbyists reject NYS recognition of outside gay marriages

Neither the NYS Catholic Conference nor the evangelical New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is happy that New York state will now recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.

A May 14 memo from Gov. Patterson tells state agencies to take the big step.

1163e6dbcbc24a4faf63bc36a88a66c8.jpgSen. Majority Leader Joe Bruno (that’s him) said today he was surprised to learn of the policy change.

The NYS Supreme Court has held that gay marriage in NY can only be legalized by the Legislature. But a lower court ruled earlier this year that state law does not stop the recognition of marriages performed elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in that state.

New York State Catholic Conference Executive Director Richard E. Barnes says:

The administrative action by Gov. Paterson compelling all state agencies to recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ performed in other states is an unwelcome bypassing of the state legislature. Unfortunately, this unilateral move without legislative input is not in keeping with Mr. Paterson’s promises upon taking office of a collaborative and bipartisan governing style.

As we have said many times, the definition of marriage pre-dates recorded history. No single politician or court or legislature should attempt to redefine the very building block of our society in a way that alters its entire meaning and purpose. The state has a compelling interest in holding up marriage between one man and one woman as the societal model. What our biblical ancestors knew instinctively holds true today: Marriage between a man and a woman is the best way to assure the stable rearing of children and the flourishing of society. It should not be treated as simply one more lifestyle choice, equal to any other, because it is not.

Homosexual men and women must be treated with dignity by all. In cases where unjust discrimination occurs, it must be remedied. However, just as the state cannot declare a man to be a ‘mother’ or a woman to be a ‘father,’ it can not declare a same-sex union to be a ‘marriage.’ To use a distinctly New York expression, ‘It is what it is.’ ”

A press release sent out this afternoon by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms — which claims to be the state’s only “full-time Christian lobbying organization” — says:

According to the Word of God, marriage is and always will be the union of a man and a woman. Since God created marriage, only He has the authority to change it.

The Governor’s decree is a violation of the New York State Domestic Relations Law, the New York State Constitution, and the Word of God.

NYCF and the thousands of evangelical churches that it represents call on the Legislature to do what it should have done years ago: pass a DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT. Forty-four other states have done so since the Federal Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1996. It is time for the New York State Legislature to awaken and protect marriage before it is too late.

Cardinal Egan will keep a small part in the Spitzer tale

It seems that Cardinal Egan will always be associated — in a completely innocent way — with Gov. Spitzer’s shocking and seedy fall from power and grace.

Just about every report on Spitzer has noted that he was to have a 3 p.m. meeting with the cardinal on Monday, which was abruptly put off and finally canceled.

tjndc5-5j397p1l1wn1ad25kf42_layout.jpgSpitzer and Egan were to have what would have been, you have to believe, a frosty chat. They were going to discuss Spitzer’s legislation that would define, clarify and increase abortion rights in New York state.

The NYS Catholic Conference has been going all out to oppose the measure. And Egan himself sent out a letter to churches on Sunday blasting the leglislation:

The laws of New York State are extremely lenient, permitting the destruction of life in the womb throughout pregnancy. Our State has the highest abortion rate in the nation. This is already a truly tragic situation. Yet, this bill would force us even deeper into the culture of death by allowing non-physicians to destroy innocent life and by rendering abortion virtually immune from any reasonable regulation.

But their Monday meeting was not to be.

And the future of Spitzer’s legislation — all legislation in New York, it seems — is quite unclear at the moment.

It is pretty clear, though, that Egan’s planned meeting with Spitzer will be mentioned for as long as the governor’s fall is recounted.

There is something about the fact that he was about to meet with a religious leader on a moral issue. It’s a small piece of the Spitzer tragedy that will live on.

Catholic bishops take to YouTube

The NYS Catholic Conference has posted a YouTube video opposing legislation advanced by Gov. Spitzer that the group says would make abortion a “fundamental right,” like freedom of speech or religion.

The lengthy, 9-minute-and-change video, featuring Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities of the Catholic Conference, is a new approach for the group, which represents the Catholic bishops of New York state.

Here’s the video:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/vZ6j2srG2iA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]