Pro-life messages get more visible

Angelina Esteban, a parishioner at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Church in Royal Oaks, Mich., holds a sign during the March for Life rally on the National Mall Jan. 22 in Washington. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Angelina Esteban, a parishioner at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Church in Royal Oaks, Mich., holds a sign during the March for Life rally on the National Mall Jan. 22 in Washington. (CNS/Bob Roller)

People across the country marked the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion with speeches, prayers, rallies and marches. Others took their message to the all-popular medium of advertisement. Newspapers in Washington ran an advertisement urging people to support programs to help pregnant women and new mothers. Project Rachel, a program which provides post-abortion counseling, ran an advertisement on Washington’s Metro subway trains.

And in Chicago, a 30-second television ad ran not on the Jan. 22 anniversary but on Inauguration Day, tying a not so subtle pro-life message to the new president. The ad, sponsored by the group, displays an ultrasound of a baby and text which refers to a child who will be abandoned by his father and raised by a single mother but will become the first African-American president. Then it shows an image of President Obama along with the words: “Life: Imagine the Potential.”

FDA OKs human trials for therapies with embryonic stem cells

This morning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first human clinical trials using embryonic stem cells. The trials will be conducted by the Geron Corp. on humans suffering from paraplegia. The stem cells are those approved for use by President George W. Bush in 2001.

CNS will have a report on this next week. In the meantime, CNN has a story on the FDA announcement and an interview with company executives about the trials.

Catholic church leaders have spoken extensively about the ethics of using embryonic stem cells. Most recently Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote Jan. 19 to President Barack Obama discussing this and other health-related issues. Read the letter here.

In December, the Vatican issued a 32-page document, “Dignitatis Personae” (“The Dignity of a Person”) in which it warned of of the ethical dilemmas posed by new developments in stem cell research. Read the CNS story here.

Origins subscribers can see the entire Vatican document and related texts by logging into their subscriptions.

Vatican-US relations in the age of Obama

Though only days into President Barack Obama’s administration, Italian columnist and author Massimo Franco speculated about what relations might look like between the Vatican and Obama as well as the U.S. Catholic Church and Obama.

CNS Rome Bureau Chief John Thavis offered his analysis in this week’s Vatican Letter, writing that the Vatican will highlight the similarities between the church and the Obama agenda, such as diplomacy and social justice, while “downplaying difference on moral questions like abortion.”

Franco agreed, saying “we are going to see a honeymoon period” which will become more clear as time goes on.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of U.S.-Vatican relations, he spoke last night in Washington about his book, “Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the United States — Two Centuries of Alliance and Conflict.”

Franco said the Vatican, in its diplomatic role, must highlight similarities because, well, that’s what diplomats do.

And the U.S. bishops, he said, probably for the time being will be silent on such controversial issues as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research for fear of ostracizing Catholics who voted for Obama. It’s important to keep the flock together.

But as time goes on, the U.S. bishops might take a more vocal role, leaving the diplomatic niceties to the Vatican.

What about Joe Biden, the first Catholic vice president?  Well, said Franco, the U.S. bishops and the Vatican actually prefer a non-Catholic with an agenda more in line with the church than a pro-choice Catholic in such a public role.