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Wisconsin KC's support bishops in taking action against sale, use of fetal body parts Print
Guest column
Thursday, Oct. 01, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
Ronald Faust

In support of the bishops of Wisconsin: As Knights of Columbus we cannot be part of what Pope Francis has called the "complicit silence" of many who hear of atrocities and do nothing. We must act.

I invite you to consider that those same words apply completely and directly to the brutalization of women and children by Planned Parenthood. The intentional, vicious murder of innocents in the womb is an atrocity. That it is followed by the callous selling of their body parts should shock our culture into action.

We can't be silent

Government officials and legislature should feel overwhelmingly compelled to take quick and decisive action in light of this. Yet with the complicit silence of the secular media, many -- even some who call themselves Catholic -- continue to support the grisly practice of violently killing the innocent.

We will not be complicit with silence. We have acted and we will continue to act. We will also speak. And we encourage each and every one of you to use your God-given voice to speak out as well.

What bishops have said

Through the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, our bishops have spoken. This is what they have said:

"The Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the state's Catholic bishops, strongly supports Assembly Bill 305, which would prohibit the sale and use of fetal body parts derived from an unborn child whose life is terminated by an induced abortion.

"The two pillars of Catholic social teaching that support every position we take are 1) that human life is sacred and 2) that human life is social.

"However, these are not simply religious principles. Rather, as the Founders asserted in the Declaration of Independence, these are self-evident truths. Life is sacred not because it is a choice made for us by others, but because it is an endowment from the Creator. And because all of us are connected by our common humanity and all of us are created equal, when the rights of one are trampled, the rights of all are threatened. That is why the Founders asserted that government exists to secure these rights.

"The practice of selling human tissue, especially when it is procured by the willful destruction of a developing human life, is an assault on both those principles. This practice is wrong not only because it violates the teaching of various religious traditions, but also because it rejects the values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence itself.

"Human life is not a commodity to be bought and sold or otherwise diminished for the gain of others. A civilized society treats every human being as an end, not as a means to an end. A human being must never be seen as a collection of spare body parts. The sale of fetal tissue and organs is one more example of what Pope Francis has called the 'throwaway culture, which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.'

"Research involving the use of human tissue and organs offers exciting possibilities for the prevention and treatment of diseases and disabilities. We all long for the day when cancer, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's can be cured or prevented entirely. But the manner in which this research is conducted is as important as the cure. Medical progress must always be accompanied by moral progress. Medical progress must always be measured in light of its impact on the human person.

"As the bishops wrote in their 2008 pastoral letter, Serving All and Sacrificing None: Ethical Stem Cell Research:

"'[R]aising moral concerns is essential for genuine scientific progress. Consider the infamous biomedical case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Even after penicillin was discovered in 1947, medical researchers working for the U.S. Public Health Service in Tuskegee, Ala., deliberately withheld the drug from infected African-American men -- impoverished and mostly illiterate -- without their consent, so that they could study the full progression of the disease. Today, no one would dispute that ethical standards were sorely lacking in the Tuskegee Study and that true scientific progress can be made only when those standards are securely in place.'

"The Catholic Church firmly believes that medical progress can be made without selling human body parts as if they were mere commodities. Today when medical experimentation on animals is falling out of favor with the general public and with many in the scientific community, we need to insist that scientists find other ways to cure diseases without sacrificing human lives. We are confident that if the sale of aborted fetal body parts is prohibited, human ingenuity will find other, moral means of conquering diseases. The many cures made possible by the use of adult stem cells is proof of this.

"Finally, we are very concerned that the trade in fetal body parts depends on providing false or misleading information to young and vulnerable women about what will happen to their aborted children. How many of these women are truly consenting to what has become a lucrative trade? We see parallels here with the practice of harvesting adult organs from the poor in developing countries for the benefit of wealthier persons in the developed world. We must not allow this to continue."

Affirm ethical scientific progress

I would like to close with another quote from the bishops' stem cell pastoral letter:

"Many scientists are people of deep faith and moral conviction. They recognize that faith and science, far from being mutually exclusive, in fact complement one another. Instead of asking, 'Will we be religious, or will we be scientific?' they ask, 'How can our scientific research best serve humanity? How can we best respect our human subjects in our research?'

"AB 305 affirms the dignity of the most vulnerable human life, both mother and child. It affirms ethical scientific progress. We strongly urge you to support it."

Once again, I join Past Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant in decrying the lack of moral clarity in our country today evidenced by the unwillingness of so many to confront this epic and so clearly evident evil.

What we can do

What can we do? First, each of us can pick up the phone and make sure our representatives know that we fully support our good bishops in this. Next, let us further respond by inviting every Catholic man to join our ranks. We are 36,000 strong in Wisconsin, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know we should be 136,000 strong, especially in times like these.

Lastly, in this extremely important work, let us not forget our brothers who have already joined our order. Take on the responsibility to reach out to them with a personal contact at least twice every year, once on their birthday and once on the anniversary of their becoming a brother Knight. Each and every man who joins our order is important to us.

Every human life has infinite value. Our actions need to bear witness to that fact if we are to have integrity when we invite new men to join us.

Vivat Jesus!

Be not afraid to go to Joseph!

Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, pray for us.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, pray for us.


Ronald Faust is the State Deputy, Wisconsin State Council Knights of Columbus. He lives in Cross Plains.