While most Americans frantically pursued the good things of life in the weeks preceding Christmas, scientists and doctors made headlines by preserving life and unlocking its most elusive secrets.

In South Africa’s Groote Schuur Hospital, where a surgical team headed by Dr. Christian N. Barnard had been anticipating the breakthrough for weeks, surgeons performed the first transplant of a human heart in history. In an operation lasting nearly five hours, the heart of Miss Denise Darvall, an accident victim, was implanted in the chest of grocer Louis Washkansky, 55-year-old victim of progressive heart failure. But eighteen days later Washkansky died, and a study of the causes was begun.

In Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center a similar operation was performed three days later on a 19-day-old boy, who died inexplicably after only 6½ hours. As an interesting sidelight to the story, journalists learned that the donor of the heart, an arencephalic child who lived only a few days, was the grandchild of Carl McIntire, well-known radio preacher. (McIntire commented perceptively on the theological implications of the transplant: “The fundamental Christian glories in all modern scientific advances,” for these unfold “the design and the wisdom of the Creator.”)

Exciting as these developments were, the best was yet to come. The same week brought news that scientists in Palo Alto, California, had manufactured from inert laboratory chemicals the active, inner core of a virus. Since the virus material DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) was able to perform as a virus—reproducing itself by invading living cells and altering their normal functions to produce viruses—scientists rightly hailed the experiment as the creation of a “primitive form of life.”

By implementing the natural ring-shaped DNA molecule as a template, or pattern, on which to build their molecule, researchers headed by Stanford professor Dr. Arthur Kornberg first formed a complementary chain of natural material; this they joined into a ring by adding a polynucleotid enzyme. The new strand was now identical with the molecule that would have been produced naturally in an infected cell, except at one point. Kornberg had substituted a heavier chemical, bromouracil, for the thymine that would have been formed in nature. The alteration made no difference biologically, but it altered the weight. Hence, the natural DNA could be separated from the man-made substance by means of a centrifuge.

At this point the scientists paused to test the properties of the man-made viruses by injecting them into cultures of living cells. The new rings reproduced themselves by giving rise to viruses just like the natural virus.

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So far the experiment had produced synthetic rings that were complementary to, but not identical with, the natural DNA material. Kornberg now repeated the process using the artificial DNA as his template. The final experiment produced a new set of artificial rings, this time identical in every detail with the DNA rings that occur in nature. These rings also proved infectious and gave rise to viruses indistinguishable from the natural virus Phi X 174. The total experiment meant that man had used inert chemicals to fashion the fundamental stuff of life.

In the wake of the achievement some qualifications seemed called for, and Kornberg was among the first to give them. Shortly after news of the experiment had been released to the world, he expressed reservations about saying that he and his team have created “life” in a test tube. So did his assistant Dr. Mehran Goulian: “Different people mean different things by life; if you grant a virus is alive or that naked DNA is alive, then this was a creation of life.” He was alluding to the fact that though viruses are able to multiply, they do so only by infecting living cells whose reproductive capacities they divert for their own ends.

Birth-Control Pangs

While scientists around the world were investigating the frontiers of life last month (story above), the Roman Catholic Church was limping behind on birth control—though not without progress. In Rome, two groups urged modifications of the church’s traditional postures prohibiting any but natural means of contraception. Vatican sources reported the recommendation as the substance of a report to the Pope by the new commission of “super periti.” An independent group of forty Italian bishops voiced a similar recommendation.

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Professor John T. Noonan, a consultant to Pope Paul’s original commission, revealed his belief that a change in Roman Catholic rules is imminent. Taken with the other announcements, Noonan’s remarks increased speculation that the Pope would soon speak to the problem.

It is also a question whether scientists have created life or merely copied a normal reproductive process. The Stanford experiment was certainly not a creation of life ex nihilo, the way in which the subject was debated a century ago by Pasteur, Pouchet, and Huxley. Nor was it conducted entirely independently of life, for natural DNA was used as the template upon which the synthetic material was fashioned. At the same time the Stanford achievement was, if not the actual manufacture of life, at least the most significant step to date.

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For scientists themselves, the greatest excitement comes from the medical rather than the metaphysical implications of Kornberg’s experiment. But metaphysics is important nonetheless. If one virus can be duplicated, so can others. And if the DNA molecule can be modified at will, genes can presumably be modified also. Thus the Stanford experiment foreshadows, on the one hand, a gradual victory over genetic diseases as well as control of certain kinds of cancer. On the other hand, it also points to the possibility of manipulation of the birth processes for totalitarian ends.

As recently as 1933, Anglican theologian E. W. Barnes contended that “the mystery of life is unsolved and probably unsolvable.” Today physical solutions to the problems of life are just around the corner. But the ethical problems live on. Without ethical controls, manipulation of heart transplants could verge on homicide. And the creation of test-tube life will yield results for evil as well as good. The use of such achievements will depend very little on the scientists and doctors. It will depend on churchmen, politicians, and other national leaders, as well as on the moral tone and ethical commitments of mankind.


Young King Constantine’s flight to Rome after his unsuccessful bid to oust the ruling junta in Greece left hanging the role of the monarch as “protector” of Orthodoxy there. Archbishop Ieronymos pled for national unity after swearing in the junta’s stand-in for the king.

Observers watched for effects upon religious freedom. Something of a crackdown on non-Orthodox activity came after the junta’s April take-over but many restrictions were later eased.

The Rev. Spiros Zodhiates, president of the American Mission to Greeks, has been a staunch defender of the new government. He says that “all religious groups, including the minorities, enjoy as much freedom today as they ever did, if not more.”

Zodhiates notes that there are “some isolated exceptions” but blames them on previous governments.

From Thessalonica, Religious News Service reported in December that two Jehovah’s Witness women were arrested for trying to prevent the Greek Orthodox baptism of a child of one of the women. In Tripolis, a Seventh-day Adventist was said to have appealed a four-month prison sentence on charges that he was proselytizing in the town square.

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Assailing draft evaders who use pacifism as a mask for cowardice, Pope Paul VI called on “all men of good will” to celebrate a worldwide Day of Peace January 1 and every New Year’s Day thereafter. World Council of Churches leaders in Geneva responded by stressing man’s right to freedom of conscience: “… men of conscience differ as to the rightness of methods to be followed and the obligations they should accept.”

Neither statement mentioned Viet Nam. But preoccupation with that perplexing problem was clearly implied. Lack of consensus in the world religious community is driving wedges:

One hundred and one American missionaries in the Philippines signed a resolution supporting U. S. policy in Viet Nam and criticizing twenty-three dovish colleagues who had urged the United States to cease hostilities. Another 100 missionaries were non-committal. The hawkish group—mostly from evangelical faith missions—expressed impatience with the United States for not escalating bombings of North Viet Nam. The dovish missionaries are largely in ecumenical and conciliar groups.

Meanwhile, in the States, Union Theological Seminary in New York squared off against Selective Service Director Lewis B. Hershey’s hardline policy on draft-law violators and draft protest-leading clergymen. In an unprecedented move, the Union faculty rapped Hershey for using the draft “as a punitive measure against students exercising … freedoms of speech and assembly.”

As of last month, at least five clergymen had been reclassified 1-A delinquent because they turned in their draft cards. Some thirty Boston-area students were believed to have been reclassified after participating in a church antidraft demonstration. Hershey promised more draft-obstruction prosecutions, already at an all-time high of 1,306 in the past year.

In other Viet Nam flak, New Zealand and Japan Baptists, the International Council of Pax Christi (a Roman Catholic student movement), the American Friends Service Committee, U. S. Catholic magazine, Seminarians for Peace in ’68, an informal Lutheran Laity Conference in Chicago, and Harvard Divinity School student leaders all attacked U. S. policy or called for an immediate end to the war.

But New Jersey Episcopal leaders and Washington, D. C., Baptists (American and Southern) voiced strong support for the Johnson Viet Nam policy.

The Seminarians for Peace group, which has attracted students from thirty schools, wants to elect a U. S. president who “offers a constructive and humane solution to the conflict in Viet Nam.” An advisory council includes Yale Divinity School Professor Emeritus Kenneth Scott Latourette and Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, a Roman Catholic presidential hopeful.

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The World Council of Churches and Caritas, the international Roman Catholic relief agency, plan to send $85,000 in medical equipment to the Red Cross in North Viet Nam, according to the Catholic Peace Fellowship. Caritas stresses that it sends only equipment, not money, because it has no supervision over its use in the North.

The CPF has been campaigning to get Catholics to aid war victims in the North by giving to Caritas, rather than Catholic Relief Services, the agency of the U. S. hierarchy. After a report in Ave Maria that official church aid was going to Hanoi, Bishop Edward Swanstrom said that no direct aid has been sent but that the bishops’ relief money goes to the Pope, who may have channeled it to Caritas.

Catholic liberals have also attacked the bishops’ aid to members of the South Vietnamese army and their families. Swanstrom has replied that this is not aid to the American war effort but aid to needy persons.

Previous reports that Caritas would build a $1.5 million hospital in North Viet Nam were incorrect, though the agency’s aid to various hospitals there may eventually total $400,000.


A paramount question before whites and blacks today is whether to press for integration or to develop separate, segregated power structures. In Charlotte, North Carolina, an interracial group of fifteen ministers last month mounted a campaign to increase the state’s Negro political power through the Carolina Ford Fellowship in Action. Spokesmen vowed CFFA would pressure mayors and the governor to hire Negroes and said it would boycott firms that won’t cooperate.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, former Black Muslim Albert B. Cleage, Jr.—unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate against George Romney in 1963 and pastor of Central United Church of Christ—proclaimed Negroes “will go it alone.”

Cleage took Negro parents to task for “failing black children” during a recent racial incident in Detroit. “You should have been down there breaking windows,” he scolded.

Joining Cleage’s church last month was Episcopal urban-work director Nathan Wright of the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey. Wright, who will retain Episcopal membership, organized the first National Black Power Conference last summer (see August 18, 1967, issue, page 43).

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Expressing a moderate position, seventy-five American Baptists of both races met in Green Lake, Wisconsin, last month to “hammer out a strategy for … a color-blind society.” Mt. Zion Baptist Church pastor Samuel McKinney of Seattle urged white churches to “join in affirming the legitimacy of the black power movement.” In another form of black power, conference Chairman James Holloway later became the first Negro president of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.

Many conscientious white churchmen who have attempted to work with Negroes are stunned now to find their efforts rejected. Another Green Lake speaker, Milwaukee NAACP President Walter B. Hoard, outlined new tactics for the youth commandos in Milwaukee’s downtown business district during Christmas week.

Speaking of the commandos and their marches to dramatize Father James Groppi’s drive for open housing, Hoard said “a lot of people apparently are afraid of them. We hope to take advantage of that.” The marches were expected to discourage downtown shopping. Negroes and their white supporters were urged not to buy Christmas gifts from stores owned by white persons (few are not).

Although the Milwaukee city council last month voted a limited open-housing ordinance identical to Wisconsin’s law, Groppi termed the action “tokenism” and “crumbs.” The militant white priest said demonstrations—which had been held for 107 consecutive days by the time the measure passed—will continue.

The only Negro alderman, Mrs. Vel Phillips, voted against it and rebuked the council: “Thanks for nothing—you are very much too late with very much too little.”


The Episcopal Church Executive Council wants the National Council of Churches to forget a proposed policy statement urging consumer boycotts against businesses that practice racial discrimination, and to favor instead “constructive” programs to use church money to aid equal opportunity.

An official said four-fifths of the $2 million Episcopal urban crisis fund will go “directly into the hands of the poor.” Some $8,000 of it was given to Washington, D. C., activist Julius Hobson to help pay legal costs in his successful suit to end de facto school segregation and the “track system.” But the local bishop and others protested to headquarters because city Episcopalians weren’t consulted about the grant.


Everything is rising these days: miniskirts, death, and taxes. And a lot of the death is homicide, according to last month’s Uniform Crime Report issued by the FBI.

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Hemlines and taxes can only go so far, but crime seems to lack a limit. Among the most startling statistics for the first nine months of 1967 is a 27 per cent increase in robbery over the parallel period of last year, and a 16 per cent increase in murder. Overall, crime increased 16 per cent. Bank robbery increased at a rate four times the general average.

Some of the gains are explained by population increase, but only a small proportion. Since 1960, U. S. crime has soared nearly nine times as fast as population, with no sign of a downward trend.


Protestant seminary enrollment, on the slide since the late 1950s, shows a marked upswing this year. The 142 members of the American Association of Theological Schools report an increase of 927 students over 1966–67, for a total of 24, 817. In the face of the overall increase of nearly 4 per cent, enrollment at seminaries of three major denominations declined: Anglican Church of Canada, United Church of Canada, and Lutheran Church in America. Harvard was the only major independent seminary with a decrease.

The AATS said there is a continuing decrease this year in the percentage of students in the basic B.D. program for the regular ministry, coupled with a marked 10 per cent increase in students at the master’s and doctor’s levels.

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