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Archive for March, 2010

UPDATE 4/1/10: The events of the week (three funerals) have conspired against my finishing a post on chapter three. With the Triduum upon us, I’m caught up in liturgy and reflecting on my own wretchedness. Let’s call it a week and I’ll post this next Tuesday. Thank you for your gracious indulgence. For the rest of the Triduum, I’ll be posting the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours. God Bless.

Begging everyone’s gracious indulgence, I’ve been running between three funerals and wakes in two days, and will post the review of chapter 3 tomorrow afternoon, when I have time to finish my review of this very detailed and thoughtful chapter.

In the interim, please say a prayer for the repose of four beautiful souls who returned home in the last week:
.
.
Maria Fabrizio
Leon Miller
Kenneth Fanizzi
William Damroth II

Each has made this world a more beautiful place by their lives and movements among us.

See you all tomorrow.

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To Pull the Plug?

I attended a bioethics conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio this past weekend. The theme centered on end of life decisions and care. Much was mentioned about when it is appropriate to discontinue food and water by removing the feeding tube.

Dr. Patrick Lee, Director of the Institute for Bioethics at Franciscan assembled a stellar group of ethicists to deal with these issues. Good speakers provoke good thought and even better conversation/debate, which was all in good supply as well. One observation came to me during much of the discussion on case studies.

It seems that we’ve crossed clearly onto euthanasia’s turf. The Terry Sciavo case was illustrative of far more than the issue of patients making statements about how they would prefer to live. Of course none of us would want to live with significant deficits in function. That’s easy to say NOW. Many of the physicians in attendance spoke of how that sentiment changes when patients mourn their loss of function and begin to adjust to their new reality.

The conditions for which people seek the removal of feeding tubes are most often not associated with the futile attempt at extending life whose imminent end is obvious.

People are now seeking to remove sustenance for conditions that are not at all life-threatening, and not even so much a burden for the patient as they are for the family who would be expected to be the care-givers.

Thus, we seek the death of loved ones increasingly that we may avoid our own existential suffering in adjusting to new and chronic realities not foreseen.

Michael Sciavo wanted to cut the ties that bound him to his wife in order to carry on with the woman who had become his common-law wife in-waiting and the mother of his children. At the malpractice trial, Michael swore that the money in a settlement would be used for Terry’s rehab. Once the judgement was made and the cash was in hand, Michael ‘suddenly remembered’ that Terry would not have wanted to live that way. A fact conveniently forgotten at trial.

It’s understandable that people simply cannot fathom a life upended for themselves or their loved ones. We fear the unknown. We fear our lack of capacity to care long term for disability. We legitimately ache for the disabled family member. Death, however, is not the answer to our fears.

Support groups and services abound for every condition under the sun. The great challenge is to learn a different way of living, of being in the world that lifts up the impaired, and strengthens struggling family who must not be mere witnesses, but active care-givers as well.

How do we do it?

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The Illuminating Power of Praise

Essential to the spiritual life of Catholics is the need to praise God in our distress. Praise and adoration are what we need to do before we engage in supplication. It is tempting in difficult times to rush into pleading our heart’s desire. But praise and thanksgiving give us a necessary perspective for our petitions. They help us to see all that is good in our lives, and how God is the source of it all.

In so doing, praise and thanksgiving are restorative in our distress. In counting all of the good, the bad seems less capable of overwhelming us, and our faith in a loving Father’s providence is sustained and renewed.

Today is a perfect day for praise and thanksgiving in light of the potentially devastating passage of legislation this weekend that threatens life on both ends of the spectrum as never before. We may begin by focusing not on those pro-life legislators who turned and walked away, but on those who stood strong, and what that means for us going forward. We praise God for the resoluteness of men and women who stood most especially with the unborn and with the redeeming character of our nation.

We look at this past weekend and see how the American landscape has crystallized. In this, I am reminded of the verdict scene in the Spencer Tracy classic, Judgment at Nuremberg, when Tracy as the presiding judge states:

“But this trial has shown that under a national crisis ordinary, even able and extraordinary men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them. Men sterilized because of political belief. A mockery made of friendship and faith. The murder of children.

“How easily it can happen.

“There are those in our own country, too, who today speak of the protection of country, of survival. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way.

“The answer to that is: Survival as what? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult.

“Before the people of the world let it now be noted that here in our decision, this is what we stand for:

“Justice…truth… and the value of a single human being.”

Indeed, this is where we stand, though not enough of us. Not yet. This Culture of Death has been a long time in the making, and will take more than a few legislative or judicial fiats to turn around. It’s going to take the rebuilding of a Christian civilization of love, based upon an authentic Christian anthropology.

It’s going to take people grasping their intrinsic worth. That makes each of us today an evangelist. That alone is cause for great rejoicing, as each of us is called forth to do the work of building a civilization of love. At least now we know who has stood strong when standing for life and love was most difficult.

Make no mistake, a battle has been lost, but Jesus assures us through His death and resurrection that the war’s outcome has already been determined. And so today we need to lift our heads and hearts in praise.

We give praise for a very sophisticated pro-life movement.

We give praise for the growing numbers of scientists and physicians who are coming forward and using their expertise to tell the truth of what science and medicine have to say about life.

We give praise for an internet that came into maturity just when an unfiltered medium for our message was most needed.

We give praise for the fifty percent of 300,000+ Marchers for Life this year who are under the age of twenty-five.

We give praise for the growing bonds of fraternity between religious denominations uniting around our common humanity after centuries of hostility and suspicion.

We give praise for the technologies such as ultrasound, which have given us an unprecedented view and participation in the wonder of our own development, and for those who employ this technology at crisis pregnancy centers, which save ninety percent of their babies from slaughter.

We give praise for post-abortive healing ministries such as Lumina and Rachel’s Vineyard that are restoring post-abortive women and men to wholeness in mind, body and spirit.

We give praise for the increasing generosity of benefactors who sustain all of these ministries and activist organizations.

We give praise for over one thousand pro-life bloggers who advance the conversation, unite the movement’s efforts and support one another in their prayers.

We give praise for sidewalk counselors and organizations whose mission is to shut down abortuaries.

We give praise for being alive in this time, in this nation, called to this task.

Most of all we give praise for God’s Love, without which we can do nothing, and with which we cannot be defeated. There is little more that we need ask.

He has given us all we need to carry on this great work to which we are called.

Rolling up our sleeves, we move forward.

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The Catholic News Service Feb. 25, reports:

“In a vote of 132-126, members of Parliament passed the law removing all restrictions on abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy and extending legal abortion to 22 weeks of gestation if the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus shows signs of serious malformations.”

In discussing why the King will not be sanctioned by the bishops, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino of Madrid, conference general secretary stated:

“‘That his majesty the king must sanction this law with his signature is a unique situation. No other citizen would encounter this,’ and so ‘general principles’ cannot be applied.”

Is this really so? Why the imperative, “must sanction this law”, which he eventually did? It seems we’ve been down this road before.

In the early 1960’s Yale Psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted his infamous experiment where ordinary people, upon the insistence of an authority figure in gray lab coat, delivered what they thought were electric shocks in excess of 450 volts to another participant in the experiment for giving incorrect answers to questions. Unbeknownst to the subjects, the other person howling in agony and begging for mercy was a paid actor. Milgram summarized the experiment in his 1974 article, “The Perils of Obedience” writing:

“The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”

Indeed. No greater argument could be made for the Magisterium.

There comes a time in the lives of individuals and of nations when one must stand on the rock-solid Thomistic principle that no person is morally obliged to obey an unjust law. In the case of kings and presidents it is all the more certain that none is obliged to sign into law legislation which consigns innocent human beings to their deaths.

Were King Juan Carlos to refuse his signature, what would have happened? Certainly a crisis of state. But if the King’s role is nothing more than a rubber stamp, there seems to be little dignity in being King. Such a mentality mocks the Spanish Constitution’s description of the Monarch’s role as the personification and embodiment of the Spanish nation.

Liberalizing abortion law is ignoble, and tears at the dignity of both the Crown and the Spanish nation’s soul. It is surrender to narcissism, which is the base alloy of all evil.

The shame of the King in signing this new law into existence is only exceeded by the Spanish Bishops, who seem to value the present system of government more than they do the soul of their nation, or the lives of millions of Spanish babies who will meet with a gruesome ending. For them there is no excuse. As spiritual fathers, as Apostolic successors, theirs is the job of exhorting men and women to holiness, and not that of constitutional apologists.

The Spanish Bishops understand the truth of personhood being intrinsic to all humans from conception, personhood being a moral status entitling the individual to the full protection of the law. In that light, the only sound advice for King Juan Carlos was to refuse his endorsement and force the issue, or abdicate with honor, which would force the issue. In either of these two actions, the King could have claimed that he was acting in accord with the Constitutional description of his role as the personification of the Spanish nation, recalling his people to their dignity.

In speaking as they have, absolving the King by proclaiming that the King’s hands are bound, the Spanish Bishops have guided the hand that signed this abhorrent law; and in so doing have crawled away. In this, it is they who have abdicated their thrones, the Cathedras, from which all future exhortations to holiness will ring hollow. In this they are not altogether different from the English Bishops who went along with their King in the 1500’s. The Church in England never recovered.

Beyond their betrayal of the Spanish people, the Spanish Bishops have betrayed their Pope, as Benedict’s papacy has been characterized by his efforts to save Europe from the corrosive, faith-draining influences of socialism, and narcissistic materialism. For Catholic Spain to do what they have done sounds the death knell for European Catholicism.

We are witnessing the passing of the torch to the Southern Hemisphere, which is now entrusted with carrying the light of faith into the Third Millennium of Christianity. While Europe holds no right of preeminence within the Body of Christ, it is nonetheless imperative that her Bishops be supported in prayer at this critical hour in the history of the European Church and the Civilization she has built through two millennia of faith.

Perhaps it’s time for an African Pope.

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Black Bart writes in the Washington Post his rationale.

Let’s focus on Black Bart’s statement here:

“Throughout history, executive orders have carried the full force and effect of law and have served as an important means of implementing public policy. Perhaps the most famous executive order was the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. More recently, in 2007, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13435, restricting embryonic stem-cell research. This executive order protected the sanctity of life and was “applauded” and “welcomed” by pro-life advocates. That these same people would now claim that President Obama’s executive order maintaining the sanctity of life is not worth the paper it is written on is disingenuous at best.”

This is representative of the theme running through his article. Black Bart isn’t trying to deceive us so much as he is trying to deceive himself. The two executive orders quoted differ from the one he sought, and gained, in that they did not attempt to nullify existing law-a process Constitutionally reserved to the legislature and the courts.

In the case of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln recognized that an executive order could NOT override the Constitution by freeing slaves in states of the Union, such as Maryland and Kentucky, as these were Constitutionally guaranteed rights. However, in his Constitutional capacity of Commander-in-Chief he reasoned that the Confederate States, having seceded, had no claim upon the U.S. Constitution, and therefore no rights. The EP only freed slaves of the Confederacy as a means of depriving the CSA of their labor base.

Therefore, Stupak gets it badly wrong on the EP as an executive order.

In the stem cell ban, President Bush was blazing new territory, and was ahead of the Congress on this issue. There was no Congressional law being abrogated, no Constitutional right being abrogated. Bush wasn’t addressing the legality of ESC research, but only what the Federal Government was willing to pay for.

Again, Stupak gets it badly wrong.

Black Bart voted in favor of Hillary Clinton’s initiative to broaden American-sponsored abortion in third world nations. He voted twice to block bills that would defund Planned Parenthood.

He came to this issue with blood all over his hands. He announced last November that he would vote for Obama’s bill with or without anti-abortion language. In so doing, he signaled Obama that there was no real principled opposition to the final vote. In our hearts, we were desperate for someone, ANYONE, to block this legislation, in part because of its sponsorship of abortion. We hoped and prayed that even one with blood on his hands would possibly come to his senses.

We were wrong.

We were wrong to vest so much faith in such a man (though not wrong to hope).

What did we learn? We learned that there is no such thing as a pro-life block in the Democrat Party worth courting or cultivating. They simply used our time and dissipated our energies. Raw power is all they know, or respect. They need to experience the raw power of the electorate come November.

The Republicans are only marginally better. However, they will in all likelihood be given another chance at power. If they blow it this time, they’ll be in the wilderness for a very long time.

Black Bart has betrayed us all, especially his Catholic roots. Worst of all, he betrayed himself.

I pray that this man lives a VERY long life, well into his nineties, to see and loathe the evil that he has helped to unleash, and which was his to stop. When he finally meets Jesus, I pray for him the mercy that he has denied for countless babies who will be slaughtered because of this man’s votes.

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Repost: I’m attending a bioethics conference this weekend. Will post later tonight on topics covered.

Discovery

“At the heart of science lies discovery which involves a change in worldview. Discovery in science is possible only in societies which accord their citizens the freedom to pursue the truth where it may lead and which therefore have respect for different paths to that truth.”

-John Polanyi, Canadian Nobel Laureate (Chemistry);
Commencement Address, McGill University,
Montreal, Canada, June 1990

In two perfect sentences, Polanyi throws abundant light on the difficulties surrounding scholarship that support the realities of the Culture of Life. There seems to be scientific data that supports both sides. How can this be? It depends on one’s understanding of how science is done, and the scientific culture in which it is done.

For most, their last formal encounter with science took place in high school, or a course in college, where the Scientific Method was taught as the only acceptable standard for discerning truth in the scientific community. As is the case with so many disciplines, that’s what one learns on the front end. For the workaday truth, one needs to stick around awhile.

The scientific community is made up of humans, not machines. We’re just as given to petty (and not-so-petty) jealousies, lust for power and glory, lust for fame and fortune as anyone else. We’re just as given to back-biting and back-stabbing as anyone else. We’re just as given to distorting the truth to fit our pre-conceived ideas as anyone else.

That’s a problem, a very big problem for a community whose training and skills make us best suited for distilling and discerning nature’s secrets.

It’s why we have codes of ethics. As the President’s Council on Bioethics said (quoted a few posts down):

“we are unable to imagine ourselves as people who could take a morally disastrous next step. We are neither wise enough nor good enough to live without clear limits.”

Still, even amongst the most ethical scientists, schools of thought on a given topic emerge and orthodoxies arise. People have much riding on those orthodoxies: grant money, publishable papers (which get more grant money), tenure, promotion, esteem, chairmanships on national boards and committees, etc. Such lucre clouds the objectivity of some of the most ethical amongst us, and often unwittingly gives rise to soft tyranny.

The history of science is fraught with tragic figures who challenged the prevailing orthodoxies of their day and were ostracized, dying broken and in obscurity only to be vindicated in death. One such figure is Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss, whose name should be spoken reverently by all pro-lifers. From the Semmelweis Society International

“Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (July 1, 1818 – August 13, 1865), also Ignác Semmelweis (born Semmelweis Ignác Fülöp), was a Hungarian physician called the “saviour of mothers” who discovered, by 1847, that the incidence of puerperal fever, also known as childbed fever could be drastically cut by use of hand washing standards in obstetrical clinics.

“While employed as assistant to the professor of the maternity clinic at the Vienna General Hospital in Austria in 1847, Semmelweis introduced hand washing with chlorinated lime solutions for interns who had performed autopsies. This immediately reduced the incidence of fatal puerperal fever from about 10 percent (range 5–30 percent) to about 1–2 percent. At the time, diseases were attributed to many different and unrelated causes. Each case was considered unique, just like a human person is unique.

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis

“”Semmelweis’ hypothesis, that there was only one cause, that all that mattered was cleanliness, was extreme at the time, and was largely ignored, rejected or ridiculed. He was dismissed from the hospital and harassed by the medical community in Vienna, which eventually forced him to move to Budapest.

“Semmelweis was outraged by the indifference of the medical profession and began writing open and increasingly angry letters to prominent European obstetricians, at times denouncing them as irresponsible murderers. His contemporaries, including his wife, believed he was losing his mind and he was in 1865 committed to an asylum (mental institution). Semmelweis died there only 14 days later, possibly after being severely beaten by guards.

“Semmelweis’ practice only earned widespread acceptance years after his death, when Louis Pasteur developed the germ theory of disease which offered a theoretical explanation for Semmelweis’ findings. Semmelweis is considered a pioneer of antiseptic procedures.”

Had his peers not been wedded to their pet hypotheses and been open to new ideas and hard data, how many women and children might have been saved? How much sooner might the germ theory of disease been established? We now know that Puerperal Fever is a type of ‘strep’ infection, caused by Streptococcus pyogenes.

Ideas have consequences, as does their rejection. In Part II, we’ll consider the specific application of the current rejection of Post-abortion Syndrome in the face of mounting data to the contrary.

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Black Bart, Black Knight

Bart Stupak is a member of the Knights of Columbus. So am I, a Fourth Degree member and the Pro-life Chairman of my Council. For those who don’t know, the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic laymen’s organization with 1.8 million members worldwide. Our Degrees first through fourth respectively center on the lessons of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism, respectively.

We are especially attuned to being family and pro-life centered in our activities. We have a program that helps to purchase sonogram equipment for crisis pregnancy centers. Our Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson has written two stunning books in the area of rebuilding a Civilization of Love.

We work hard at fundraising and supporting a variety of life-affirming charitable organizations, such as crisis pregnancy centers, and our more well-known sponsorship of the Special Olympics.

Enter the Black Knights. Men such as freshman NY Congressman Michael McMahon, also a Knight of Columbus who is proudly pro-abortion.

Add to his ignoble company the newest Black Knight, Bart Stupak. There is much talk about the pressures brought to bear on Black Bart as a possible explanation for why he might have folded. Such well-intentioned and charitable assessments miss the fact that Black Bart has voted in the past for funding Planned Parenthood. He also stated months ago that he would vote for this legislation even if his amendment failed. I blogged on this a few days ago. Read it here. Also, one may watch the video here.

Black Bart didn’t come at this process with clean hands. He also came with a heart not in the fight and a mind made up that come what may, he would sell out the babies. What kind of foolishness is it to announce that if Obama didn’t accept the amendment, it wouldn’t matter anyway? How in Heaven’s name does that leverage the situation?

It was political theater of the absurd from the beginning.

The Black Knights understand what we Knights do for life. By his treachery, Black Bart has wiped out any gains that we have made, and sets back our efforts in the future, as government-funded abortion always creates a spike in abortion rates.

By their treachery in voting to set up an international office under the Sate Department to promote international abortions, the Black Knights McMahon and Stupak have condemned untold millions more to their deaths.

By voting against measures to restrict federal dollars in the hundreds of millions to Planned Parenthood, they have helped to strengthen the largest abortion provider in the US.

These men are a disgrace to our Order, Black Knights who ought to be shunned by their brothers who labor ceaselessly for the unborn. Their black hearts have created this rupture. This wasn’t a matter of private sin or personal weakness. This was evil intent. Black Bart winked at Obama months ago. Had he acted like a man, a true Catholic and bother Knight, we would be living in a different nation today.

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