Bishops and Experts Huddle to Study Bioethics

Catholic Leaders Quietly Gather in Texas for Workshop

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DALLAS, Texas, FEB. 9, 2001 ( For 18 years, many Catholic Church leaders from around the world have been slipping quietly into the Dallas area for a week to wrestle with the moral implications of medical issues, the Dallas Morning News said.

This year´s meeting starts Tuesday in Las Colinas and is not on any official Church calendar, the Dallas newspaper noted Thursday, and the bishops and cardinals don´t plan to make any pronouncements.

But the week ­- spent studying scientific and medical advances and questioning experts -­ is critical to shaping Catholic ethical teaching, the bishops say.

«This is a private time for the bishops to listen and study about serious matters in faith and science,» said Susan Jordan, spokeswoman for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in suburban Boston, Massachusetts, told the newspaper.

The center, which organized the workshop, has barred all media from the three-day event at the Omni Mandalay Hotel. The meeting is so confidential that organizers won´t identify the names of the 150 to 200 bishops, cardinals and speakers invited to grapple with bioethics issues such as human genome mapping and stem cell research.

«They meet here and then they go away, and we rarely know what happens,» said Bronson Havard, editor of the Texas Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Dallas.

Four cardinals are slated to attend, according to a list obtained by the Dallas Morning News: Archbishop Bernard Law of Boston, Archbishop Francis George of Chicago, retired Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, D.C., and retired Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Church leaders will listen to a panel of moral and medical experts address the workshop theme: «What Is Man, O Lord: The Human Person in a Biotech Age.» Among the speakers expected are:

• Dr. William W. May, a moral theologian at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C. He has written extensively about sexuality and the sanctity of human life.

• Dr. Luke Gormally of the Linacre Center for Healthcare Ethics in London. The center promotes Catholic teaching on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and genetic engineering.

• Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, a scholar and women´s historian, who has written extensively about race.

• Dr. John Optiz, a specialist in pediatric medical genetics at Primary Children´s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dr. Thomas Shannon, a Catholic bioethicist from Worcester, Massachusetts, said the speakers, as well as the organizers of the workshop, are in line with the Church´s magisterium on moral issues.

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