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Archive for August, 2010

Today the Church celebrates the life of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor, as in Doctor of the Church. He was certainly no doctor of biology, though the pro-abortion folks love to celebrate his primitive understanding of embryology as somehow an indication that the Church has not always condemned abortion as it does today.

Pro-aborts claim Augustine questioned when the developing human became animated with life, and thus, when ensoulment occurred. The quotes below suggest otherwise. At no time did he ever countenance contraception or abortion. Rather, he condemned both, as the following excerpts attest:

Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born.

-De Nube et Concupiscentia 1.17 (15)

On the undeveloped fetus:

Hence in the first place arises a question about abortive conceptions, which have indeed been born in the mother’s womb, but not so born that they could be born again. For if we shall decide that these are to rise again, we cannot object to any conclusion that may be drawn in regard to those which are fully formed. Now who is there that is not rather disposed to think that unformed abortions perish, like seeds that have never fructified? But who will dare to deny, though he may not dare to affirm, that at the resurrection every defect in the form shall be supplied, and that thus the perfection which time would have brought shall not be wanting, any more than the blemishes which time did bring shall be present: so that the nature shall neither want anything suitable and in harmony with it that length of days would have added, nor be debased by the presence of anything of an opposite kind that length of days has added; but that what is not yet complete shall be completed, just as what has been injured shall be renewed.

-Enchiridion 23.85.4

On therapeutic abortion:

And therefore the following question may be very carefully inquired into and discussed by learned men, though I do not know whether it is in man’s power to resolve it: At what time the infant begins to live in the womb: whether life exists in a latent form before it manifests itself in the motions of the living being. To deny that the young who are cut out limb by limb from the womb, lest if they were left there dead the mother should die too, have never been alive, seems too audacious. Now, from the time that a man begins to live, from that time it is possible for him to die. And if he die, wheresoever death may overtake him, I cannot discover on what principle he can be denied an interest in the resurrection of the dead.

-Enchiridion 23.86

Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, “I do not see that which you say must be believed.”

- Sermon 126, line 12

If Augustine questions the formation of the early aborted baby with this line, which is a favorite of pro-aborts:

Now who is there that is not rather disposed to think that unformed abortions perish, like seeds that have never fructified?

But Augustine makes no doubt about the human identity and status of those unfructified seeds in the very next sentence:

“But who will dare to deny, though he may not dare to affirm, that at the resurrection every defect in the form shall be supplied, and that thus the perfection which time would have brought shall not be wanting… but that what is not yet complete shall be completed, just as what has been injured shall be renewed.”

This is a critical point for pro-life apologists. Augustine demolishes the modern abortion apologia by positing the human essence at the very earliest stages of development, clearly indicating that these human beings will not only be present on the last day, but that their bodily resurrection will be manifest in complete developmental form. It didn’t matter to Augustine whether or not the embryo is just a clump of cells. It is human, fully human if it is to appear at the resurrection of the dead.

Apart from engaging in a bald-faced lie, the pro-aborts also show the illogic of their approach in trying to impute to Augustine a primitive understanding of developmental biology and concomitant lack of human attribution to that entity. If on the one hand the argument goes that spiritual matters are a function of biological knowledge (As they falsely impute to Augustine), then they have destroyed themselves in the modern era. The field of developmental biology has spoken decisively of the human identity and status of the embryo from the moment of conception. By their logic, it follows that the embryo indeed has a soul.

Reaching back to a period of perceived uncertitude as a rationale for abortion is an absurdity when placed alongside the modern certitude of the embryo’s human identity and status.

Priests for Life has compiled a lengthy list of early Church condemnations of abortion, beginning in the First Century. The list makes it clear that the Church has condemned abortion consistently from its very founding.

Augustine was simply one in a long line of Bishops to do so.

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My Column in today’s Headline Bistro.

The FDA’s recent approval of Ella (Ulipristal acetate) as an emergency contraceptive is an action so fraught with lies and incomplete research, that it beggars the imagination. It is a tissue of lies built upon a foundation of lies. Let’s begin with the foundational lies and work our way up.

Ella is marketed as an emergency contraceptive because it can inhibit ovulation for up to five days. It also acts to prevent the implantation of the embryo and destroys the maternal component of the placenta (more on that later). So how is this not considered an abortifacient by the FDA?

The answer lies in the redefinition of both pregnancy and conception.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has for over 25 years accepted a redefinition of both pregnancy and conception as starting at implantation of the embryo, rather than at the fertilization of the egg by sperm. That’s earth-shattering in its effect. The activist attorneys who lobby ACOG saw these drugs coming and worked to get the new definitions put in place well in advance.

The definitions are also tied to the in vitro fertilization industry. Fertilization used to take place solely within the woman’s fallopian tubes, so that conception and pregnancy were respectively both an event and a condition that were simultaneous. When fertilization occurs in a Petri dish, the mother has neither conceived, nor is she pregnant. It was absurd to discard these traditional definitions for those whose pregnancies begin in the natural manner, but then logic is neither the aim, nor the concern of the pro-abortion lobby. Apparently neither is ethics or truthfulness.

Ella, as will now be seen, works as an abortifacient – even under the revised and tortured definitions of conception and pregnancy. In order to understand how it works, we must consider for a moment the processes with which it interferes.

During a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen stimulates the lining of the uterus to grow and prepare for the implantation of the embryo. At mid-cycle the follicle of cells surrounding the egg in the ovary will rupture and release the egg into the fallopian tube. That follicle of cells becomes a structure called the corpus luteum, which produces the hormone progesterone. Progesterone travels to the uterine lining, binds to it and maintains the structural integrity of the uterine lining throughout the pregnancy, if one happens to occur.

If no baby is conceived, the corpus luteum dies at about 28 days. No corpus luteum, no progesterone. With no progesterone, the uterine lining (endometrium) breaks down and a new cycle begins. If, however, the woman does conceive, the corpus luteum will live for approximately 10 weeks (the first trimester), after which time it will die and the baby will take over its own housekeeping.

Ella acts in three ways to kill an embryonic human being.

First, Ella blocks the progesterone receptors on the surface of endometrial cells in the uterine lining. This is analogous to jamming a piece of metal into the lock on one’s front door. It prevents the key from being inserted and unlocking the door. By blocking the “keyhole” for progesterone (the key), progesterone cannot initiate the complex of events necessary for sustained development and maintenance of the uterine lining. This mimics the onset of a menstrual period with the breakdown of the endometrial lining of the uterus, leaving nowhere for the embryo to implant.

That’s considered “contraceptive” by ACOG and FDA because conception is now defined as implantation. However, the next two steps are abortifacient mechanisms under anybody’s definition.

The second way that Ella works to kill an embryonic human is that it inhibits the ability of the cells of the corpus luteum to produce progesterone, thus mimicking the death of the corpus luteum. Without the progesterone made by the corpus luteum in the first ten weeks of pregnancy, the placenta dies and the baby is starved of oxygen and nutrients. Hence, Ella is effective far beyond the five-day window being touted by FDA.

The third mechanism of action for Ella is that it blocks the progesterone receptors in the endometrial stromal tissue, directly killing the mother’s portion of the placenta. These last two mechanisms are the exact manner in which RU-486 works.

Thus we see that Ella simultaneously blocks the production of progesterone and blocks it from binding to its receptors in the uterine lining, producing a miscarriage. This can happen at any time in the pregnancy. It also acts to destroy the endometrium before the embryo reaches it for implantation.

If this level of outright lying and obfuscation is profoundly disturbing, the safety standards that were deliberately ignored and the clinical trials never performed on the road to approval are nothing less than scandalous. In Part II, the story of how Ella was shepherded past the safety standards in product development, clinical trials and FDA approval.

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There are none so qualified to speak about what goes on in an abortion ‘clinic’ than those who have performed the abortions. We pray for this doctor, for the layers of healing she will undergo as time goes on–and we thank her for her courageous witness to the truth.

HT: Irene van der Wende

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Happy Birthday Mother Teresa!

It seems an odd occasion to engage the spiritual bleakness described by Mother in her personal correspondence. The two portraits of Mother Teresa, one the familiar sister who was motivated by love of God, and the other that looked inward for God and saw only darkness are opposite sides of the sainthood coin.

Certainly the following statements are jaw-droppers:

“I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

“Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love — the word — it brings nothing.”

“In my soul, I can’t tell you how dark it is, how painful, how terrible — I feel like refusing God.”

“Jesus has a very special love for you, [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

Many have sought to use these, and many similar self-disclosures by Mother to suggest that she was a pious fraud. Many good, faithful Catholics have been shaken by these reports. What do they mean? Were there two Mother Teresas or a well-integrated woman of faith?

Beyond a doubt, the latter.

I know something of Mother’s struggle with faith. In the 1980’s when I worked at Covenant House in Times Square, it was one of New York’s little Calcuttas. The violence done to children’s souls by the sex industry, by the adults of their families and of society whose most sacred charge was their safety and well-being, simply beggared the imagination. The longevity of most workers was two years, so searing was the reality we dealt with daily. I managed to make seven years, having had three major burnout events and not a few crises of faith.

So I understand the blackness that settles into the soul when we decide to go toe-to-toe with Satan. I sometimes experience it in my pro-life advocacy, what Saint John of the Cross called “The Dark Night of the Soul”.

Don’t we all at some point?

But Mother’s was deep and enduring. Her cries were no different, no more an occasion of scandal than Jesus calling out to the Father on the Cross as He quoted Psalm 22:

“1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.

4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.

5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8 “He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Still the question remains: Why did Mother not see the face of God when she looked inward? The answer is remarkably simple. She saw that face in the millions of destitute, desperately poor and forgotten in the slums of Calcutta. She saw that face in the BILLIONS of babies aborted worldwide in the 20th Century. She perfected for us the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 25:

34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

The blackness within was God’s greatest gift to Mother Teresa. He meant it when He said that He identified with the poor and the least. This identification is so strong that God came to earth and told us the exact set of criteria by which we shall be judged. It may well be that God forced Mother’s vision outward, not just for herself, but for the benefit of the world.

The Church has had no shortage of saints whose prayer led them into ecstasies. Great stuff if you’re a monastic, but hardly practical for the layperson. Mother led us forward and revealed to us the path to sanctity for the common man and woman. She gave us the means to work at our salvation, consistent with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25.

Most importantly, she never lost faith. She never refused God or walked away. She never ceased praying. There is a lesson in that for all of us, especially in the pro-life movement.

The greatest of all Catholic theologians, Saint Thomas Aquinas was elevated to Doctor of the Church, so profound and prolific was he. One day while saying Mass he had a vision of Heaven. Because of that vision he described his writings as “so much straw” and he never wrote again.

For her fidelity, for her selflessness, for her faith in that long Dark Night of the Soul, Mother now enjoys that beatific vision that so moved Thomas Aquinas. Her struggles teach us more about fidelity than all of her works combined.

Happy Birthday in Heaven Mother!

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When is a snub not a snub?

When it’s the function of a depraved mind.

For those who do not live in New York, the Empire State Building is an extension of every native New Yorker’s soul. It’s as much a part of our identity as Yankee Stadium, Central Park, The Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island and Nathan’s Hot Dogs. When the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were built in the 1970’s, they eclipsed the Grand Old Lady on 34th Street in size, but not in beauty, grandeur, or style. The iconic tower remained first in our hearts. So it was only proper that when we New Yorkers wished to honor people, it has been the Empire State Building that has been lit in the appropriate colors. The top of that building is New York’s megaphone to the world.

This blog has written twice, here and here, of manager Anthony Malkin’s refusal to honor Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s 100th birthday by lighting our spire in blue and white, the colors of the order she founded.

Yes, it’s OUR spire! Malkin has lost sight of that. The honors granted in lighting the Empire State Building have always reflected what we New Yorkers collectively value. In inimitable New York bold and brash, we shout who we are to all the world from the top of the most famous skyscraper in history.

Until recently.

The incredibly shrinking Malkin has forgotten that and co-opted the lighting to reflect his personal predilections; like lighting the tower in red and yellow in honor of Mao’s Chinese Communist Revolution (in which Mao murdered 77 million of his own people). Tiny Tony’s rationale for denying honors for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mother Teresa is that he will not recognize religious or political leaders.

Fair enough.

So last September’s red and yellow wasn’t recognition of Mao. It was the honoring of a revolution that wiped out 77 million humans, wiped out China’s intellectuals, instituted brutal slave labor for its citizens, instituted the one-child policy that has led to the selective abortions of hundreds of millions of baby girls and left an equal number of young men with no prospects for marriage. It wasn’t Mao who was honored. It was his brigades and their deadly work that were recognized.

Its a good thing Tiny Tony has cleared that up for us.

So why not light the building tomorrow tonight in blue and white? Not for Mother, but for her brigades of sisters who work to restore the human dignity shredded by the likes of Mao’s brigades? Tiny Tony has revealed through his building’s lighting department exactly the sort of man he is, exactly the sort of things he values. The words “warped” and “twisted” come to mind.

Sadly, the lighting of the Empire State Building no longer speaks for New Yorkers. It has become the plaything of a nasty iconoclast who values barbarity over decency and love.

Tomorrow night Tonight, look not to the Grande Dame of 34th Street, whose shame is as large as her visage. Look rather to the homes of New Yorkers who are being encouraged to display blue and white lights in our windows, and if your means allow, perhaps make a small donation to a food pantry or crisis pregnancy center in Mother’s honor.

New Yorker’s hearts are large, and we’ll yet demonstrate the best of what we value by honoring Mother with countless little acts performed with great love.

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Now What?

So, the day has arrived!

There’s something about our fascination with round numbers and the import we assign to them, numbers like…. 50. Numerically, it’s no big deal, really. It comes after 49 and before 51. But we love our round numbers and stop at them to catch our breath and survey the terrain upon which we trod. We look back from whence we came with perfect 20/20 hindsight and see dimly through the mist that is ever before us. So I’ll stop for a moment and do just that.

50 is less an occasion of angst for me than a cause of wonder and rejoicing (except for the 50,000 mile check-up with all of the doctors coming up).

This blog has certainly catalogued the disastrous course of self-destruction that we are on as a civilization and outlined some of the remedial steps necessary. It will continue to do so going into the future. I won’t wax elegiac over the world of my youth and how life was simpler then. It was. And it wasn’t.

JFK, Vietnam, Watergate, Race Riots, assassinations, Jonestown, Roe v. Wade… The list is endless. It was anything but placid.

I tend not to sit and look back very often, because I find myself laughing and grimacing by turns at how every one of my best laid plans has NEVER come to pass in the way I intended it to.

I plan, God laughs.

Looking back though, I can see how the many tributaries of my life have all converged at the pro-life juncture. It is without a doubt that I have been led here to this point. Seminary, College, graduate school, teaching, social services work, retreat ministry, campus ministry all have illuminated and informed a different aspect of the anthropological picture now being torn asunder by some pretty bad people.

Looking back at the Civil Rights Movement, who could have imagined that contraception and abortion would have been used to such tremendous effect in tearing apart the Black family, Black Community in ways that the KKK would have envied?

Looking back, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan made the prediction.

Looking back to 1968, Pope Paul VI predicted with deadly accuracy what would become of women and society with the adoption of contraception.

Looking back, Pope John Paul The Great predicted as much as Pope Paul, but then laid out the roadmap for us to reclaim our tattered human dignity in his stunning pontificate that lasted for 26 years. It’s all right there.

Looking back over the scientific literature of the past 50 years we see that the scientific and medical communities both show the disastrous effects of abortion and contraception. Many would love to come forward in support of the literature, but fear the loss of grant funding in retribution for so doing.

And that for me is the way forward. It is all but impossible to “play the game” in science and witness to life. So I decided not to play, to step out in faith and just start witnessing to the truth of science by linking to it in my posts, in my public speaking. I’m not hiding out.

God has stopped laughing at my plans. I’m where He has led me.

The way forward? I’m not making any more plans. He’ll lead.

His Grace is sufficient for me.

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Every Day A Cana

Tonight as we were sitting with the children and showing them our wedding album and discussing the events of 18 years ago today, we came to the picture that was never taken, the one I’m so sorry was missed, the one of the angel sent to remind Regina and me of our mission as a married couple. The angle’s name was Dottie, and she was a familiar fixture in the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

She was homeless, and as is so often the case, weathered and aged beyond her years. How she came to be there at Saint Vincent Ferrer in New York, I cannot say–save for the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Regina and I put a great deal into the Mass: the music, the musicians, the readings, the three priests and deacon who were so close to us, our family and friends’ participation. We spent more time on the Mass than the rest of the day’s events, by far. It was glorious.

Then after Mass, as we were halfway down that very long aisle, past most of our family and friends, it happened.

Dottie appeared out of nowhere, directly in front of us.

She grabbed my arm and told me how beautiful Regina looked, how beautiful we looked, how happy she was for us both, how our wedding was the most beautiful she ever attended. Then she inclined forward to kiss me. And so we did. In a long intimate moment in the aisle she kept assuring us that we had God’s very special blessing and that we would have a good marriage. Regina and I took it in stride, and actually enjoyed the warmth and spontaneity of the moment. After working with homeless youth for seven years, it was as natural as walking.

Then, a friend leaned out and ushered her into the pew with him, and we were off to the steps for photos. Dottie stayed out front, waving at us in the limo. I never saw her again.

Eighteen years have presented us with a great many challenges. Making two into one has had its better moments, and some we’d rather forget. But just as Jesus came to the rescue at Cana, He has made us new many times over, each time perfecting in us some element of ourselves that needed the covenantal love of marriage and its attendant graces in order to grow.

With our son’s autism came a whole new dimension of vocation as a married couple. Though Regina as a pediatric nurse, and I in ministry to the homeless worked at our pro-life convictions, Joseph’s autism would open entirely new vistas in working within the movement to rebuild a Culture of Life and a Civilization of Love. The plight of the handicapped, the abortions of 93% of all Down Syndrome children have become very personal. It has seasoned us both for dedicating our marriage to furthering the Gospel of Life, for advocating for the poor and the least among us.

Dottie’s apparition in the aisle was no mere fluke. It was a prophetic call to a young newly married couple. The beauty of the radiant bride that gently received the loving wishes of the weathered old woman without a home; uninvited, yet warmly and lovingly received. It has become the metaphor for our marriage, replete with the many who laughed with scorn at the moment–missing its import and beauty.

I think of Dottie whenever we take out the wedding album. I’ll never forget her face, her voice, that moment in the aisle. She was the first to greet us as a newly married couple, to kiss me and wish her blessings on us. She was elevated, as Jesus promised:

“The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The window imprint left by a Mourning Dove. Priscilla Bradley,Project FeederWatch© Cornell Lab of Ornithology

As we approach Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s 100th birthday next week, it would seem that Anthony Malkin of the Empire State Building has finally come around to using the lighting of his building in recognition of those he deems the poor and the least among us. He will be joining the owners of other New York City buildings in dimming their lights this Fall to aid migratory birds in preventing their deaths in the thousands from building strikes.

Yesterday’s New York Post carries the story. It seems some 90,000 birds die in NYC annually from being blinded by the night lights. It’s a red letter day for birds in New York.

Considering the fact that Mother Teresa spoke passionately for the tens of millions of our own species who are murdered annually through world-wide abortion, for the tens of millions of our own species who go hungry, filthy, homeless annually, not lighting the building to honor Mother while showing such tender concern for our feathered friends seems a strange set of priorities indeed.

Perhaps if it were known that Mother was a card-carrying member of the Audubon Society, a passionate ornithologist…

Can there be any doubt about Anthony Malkin’s war against Mother Teresa in light of this latest development, of his tortured set of priorities? Birds? BIRDS??

Mother was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, The Congressional Medal of Freedom, and the highest honors from every civilized nation on the planet for her work on behalf of the least loved humans among us. The religious order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity has over 4,500 sisters active in over 133 countries on every continent. Well-deserved honors that speak as much about Mother’s heroic life’s work as they do about what we most value.

A different time, and not so long ago.

More here and Here.

Mr. Malkin is off to an inauspicious start in his quest for honorable standing in the medal count. At a minimum, he’ll have to surpass John James Audubon, which means doing more than turning out the lights. But honestly Mr. Malkin, beating on a dead nun is not the way to get there or to be favorably remembered.

Blue and White on the 26th, Mr. Malkin.

Blue and White.

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Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into Heaven. Sidestepping the issue of whether Mary actually died, this day is one of the divisive issues between Catholics and Protestants. There is much wisdom in the Church’s veneration of Mary, and much in Mary’s life of perfect obedience to the will of God for all pro-lifers to ponder.

Beginning at the end, why would God spare Mary from bodily corruption in the grave? Consider this vision of John the Apostle in Revelation 11:19 ff.

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery…”


The text goes on to reveal the birth of Jesus, Satan’s attempts to destroy Him (through Herod’s slaughter of the innocents) and Mary’s flight into Egypt. In two verses, back-to-back John discusses the Ark of the Covenant. Mary is that Ark of the New Covenant. Just as the first Ark housed the word of God, Mary’s yes meant that for nine months she contained within herself and nurtured The Word, who IS God. Her assent began the final chapter in God’s plan for our salvation, and the dignity of women would be forever changed.

Bearing in mind that Jesus was as St. Paul tells us, “a man like us in all things, but sin”, it’s worth contemplating that the perfection of His human nature required Mary to be the best of teachers in raising Him, by word and by example. Her assent to be the mother of the Messiah was one more act of obedience in a lifetime of perfect obedience to God’s will, and continued to the foot of the cross and beyond.

Though Jesus felt His time to reveal Himself had not yet come, he acquiesced to Mary at the wedding feast in Cana and performed his first miracle; the Creator in obedience to His mother. As my nine year old daughter presciently observed, “Even God has to obey His mother.”

Mary Revealing the Christ Child Within Her.

Mary was preserved from corruption, not merely for allowing her body to be used in the birth of the Messiah, but because Mary never sinned. Jesus couldn’t sin because His divine nature would not permit it. Mary wouldn’t sin because she loved God with every fiber of her being. The only human to achieve human perfection was a woman.

For that achievement, for her role in salvation history, God preserved the Ark of the New Covenant. He did so not only for Mary, but as a sign of promise to us, the foreshadowing of the Resurrection on the Last Day.

How easy it could have been for Mary to say no using all of the modern day rationale used for abortion. She was single, a teen, poor, could lose her betrothed, faced certain ridicule as impure… But her selfless “Yes”, her sorrows that would come with that yes meant salvation for the world.

With close to 2 Billion abortions worldwide since 1960, how many poor teens and other young mothers facing ridicule and enormous self-sacrifice said no, and in so doing have deprived the world of the scientists and physicians who would have discovered cures for diseases such as cancer, HIV, malaria, etc. How many leaders have been aborted who would have prevented wars and brought greater justice and equanimity to their people? How many Priests, Deacons, Religious, Ministers, Rabbis will we never know? The list of thwarted good is endless.

Mary is the archetype for authentic feminism. Not even God refused her request at a wedding. She was powerful precisely because of her submission. She was strong and brave, standing at the foot of the cross when 10 Apostles fled in terror. She was gathered with the Apostles on Pentecost and received the Holy Spirit with them. She lived among them until her day of Assumption, not as a guest or a ward, but as their Mother, with all that goes with that role.

So today we honor Mary for the good and graces that flow through our lives because of her lifetime of saying yes to God’s perfect plan. We look within ourselves at the pridefulness that keeps us from being all that God wants us to be, and we take renewed strength from those graces that flow from Mary’s life, through her Son, and are brought to perfection in us through His Holy Spirit.

It’s a great day.

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My article in today’s Headline Bistro

In a recent New York Times editorial, Nicholas Kristof writes fawningly over the increasing use of the anti-ulcer prostaglandin drug misoprostol – both in combination with the abortifacient RU-486, and increasingly on its own – as the new wonder pill that is revolutionizing obstetrics.

Yet Kristof’s piece entirely glosses over the dangers inherent in the use of these drugs singularly, and in combination. As usual for pro-abortion apologists, the truth matters less than the agenda.

The two drugs have very different functions. RU-486 is the drug used to actually kill the baby. Misoprostol has a side effect of stimulating powerful uterine contractions and is used off-label for that purpose 48 hours after administration of RU-486 in order to facilitate the expulsion of the dead child. In nations that outlaw abortion, misoprostol is being increasingly used as the sole abortifacient. The efficacy of this drug when used by itself has been shown to be as low as 30%, requiring surgical abortion to complete the destruction of the child. When used in conjunction with RU-486, the efficacy rises to 90-96%, as opposed to 80-85% when RU-486 is used alone.

In nations that outlaw abortion, babies who survive the attempt with misoprostol (again, widely available for its intended use as an anti-ulcer medication) have been shown to suffer from a variety of birth defects, which include limb defect, meningocoele, meningomyelocele, anencephaly, encephalocoele, and facial paralysis. Kristof’s rosy analysis glosses over these well-established defects noted in the literature dating back to 1998 with two articles. The first appeared in the prestigious British journal, The Lancet (May 30, 1998 issue), and the next followed in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), on June 25, 1998.

The reported incidence of birth defects for misoprostol is 1%, a percentage widely touted by the abortion lobby, but these numbers are in all likelihood very low. The only nations where misoprostol is used alone are those that outlaw abortion. There is powerful incentive for women with deformed babies to refrain from reporting their attempted abortion.

So is Kristof simply misinformed, or is he spinning the issue? A simple Google search turns up several scientific articles, such as the above-mentioned, which tell the truth. These are the most reputable journals in science and medicine. At the close of the NEJM article the authors conclude, “Administration of misoprostol during pregnancy should be strongly discouraged, given the drug’s low efficacy and its likelihood of causing fetal malformation.”

How could Kristof have missed the word “likelihood”?

Even if the drug produced malformation 1% of the time, considering the pressure for abortion in third world countries, that implies a staggering number of affected children each year. For every million women with failed misoprostol abortions annually, that would mean 10,000 deformed babies.

These are numbers that exceed by far the total number of deformed babies worldwide in the late 1950s to the early 1960s in mothers who took thalidomide. The total number of “thalidomide babies” is estimated to be between 10,000 to 20,000. Were this any other drug having this effect, in these numbers, the FDA would bury it. So why is misoprostol not being taken off the market as was thalidomide?

First, misoprostol’s use as an abortion drug is an off-label use. It is not the purpose for which the drug is intended. Second, thalidomide was taken as an antiemetic to aid mothers with morning sickness. It interfered with the development of “wanted” babies. Third, the deformed babies born to women who attempt abortion lack full standing in the popular consensus. These are the unwanted, the end-products of a choice that was biologically thwarted. These children represent an ethical stumbling block.

Kristof boxes himself in through the perverted logic of abortion. How does one simultaneously support abortion and show care and concern for the effects of abortifacients on the child marked for death? The developmental anomalies are induced during that first trimester window when the child has no standing with pro-abortion apologists as a person. The only answer is to ignore the pharmacologic reality and spin like mad. When cornered on the birth defects, the solution will be to argue for “safe, legal abortions.” However, the science continues to demonstrate that “legal” only changes juridical reality, but not biological reality. Abortions will never be safe for women.

In two weeks, we celebrate the 100th birthday of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, one of the most courageous and consistent advocates of the unborn. We have in her a powerful advocate before God. As we approach the centennial of her birth, it is a good time to reflect on her life, her grit and determination, and to draw renewed strength from her unyielding example. She and Pope John Paul the Great were my inspirations during the long days and nights in the lab during graduate school and were the beacons of light that showed me the way forward in utilizing the gifts and education God entrusted to me.

Each of us can refute the Kristofs of the world. The scientific evidence is there in abundance. We simply need to heed the fatherly advice of John Paul – “be not afraid” – and Mother’s exhortation to “do little things with great love.”

Collectively, we shall prevail.

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From the St. Louis Review:

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is launching a new ministry to reach out to men affected by abortion.

Project Joseph will provide free, confidential professional counseling, spiritual direction and retreats for men who either have been directly involved in an abortion experience, or affected by a loved one’s previous abortion experience. The first daylong retreat will take place in St. Louis next month.

Project Joseph is being coordinated by the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate, in cooperation with the permanent deacons of the archdiocese.

Read the rest here.

This is absolutely wonderful news! What the healing ministries such as Lumina, Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard, and others have done for post-abortive women, I believe Project Joseph will do for men. There is a whole story not yet told about men that is soon to be revealed through project Joseph, and that is the tender hearts of men. I’ve known many men who panicked when their girlfriends became pregnant and lived to regret, deeply regret, pushing them into abortion. They eat their hearts out and suffer mostly in silence.

For men and women both, guilt and shame borne in silence begins to leak out sideways through failed relationships, drugs, alcohol, depression, violence, and often, suicide. These healing ministries are vital to men and women in helping them with a framework for mourning the death of their children, for mourning lost motherhood and fatherhood, for coming home to God and accepting His love, mercy, and forgiveness. They open the way to reclaiming lost and battered dignity, and help people to LIVE, fully live life for the first time in a long time.

The loss of a baby is only the first of many, many losses for the parents. May God, through the intercession of the Holy Family-Jesus, Mary and Joseph, abundantly bless this new ministry and all who call upon Him through it. And may its success spread like wildfire!

UPDATE: Many thanks to Theresa Bonopartis of Lumina for reminding me that Lumina has been reaching out to men with programming for three years, and to Martha Shuping, M.D. for reminding me that Rachel’s Vineyard has been ministering to men as well for some time now. Dr. Shuping’s book, The Four Steps to Healing (A must read!) is listed on the side bar under “Essential Books”. Lumina (along with the other healing ministries) is listed on the side bar “Healing Post-Abortion”. Please see both of their comments below, for more info. I think that I’ll now have two panels in the side bar for Healing Post-Abortion– one for women and one for men. How wonderful that men’s resources have grown that much. Many thanks to Dr. Shuping and to Theresa Bonopartis for your life’s dedication to healing post-abortive women and men.

UPDATE #2: Speaking today with the folks at Project Joseph, they tell me that the retreats are based upon the Entering Caanan model developed by Theresa Bonopartis and the Sisters of Life Community. Way to go Theresa!
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.H/T Deacon Greg Kandra

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Bravo Kelsey Hazzard and the folks at Secular Pro-Life for this great jab at the pro-choice euphemisms. Kelsey is running a great organization while being in law school full time. If anyone is looking to sponsor a great group of people doing pro-life work, I know Kelsey would be personally very grateful.

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Between the Bookends: Pro-Life on Porn

Last week I had the pleasure to meet pro-life columnist and colleague from the Center for Morality in Public Life, Catherine Palmer. I admire the fresh perspective Catherine brings to the issues and consider her latest article in Ethika Politika to be a provocative addition to the pro-life movement. Here’s Catherine:

Between the Bookends: Pro-Life on Porn
by Catherine Palmer

I’ve been thinking for some time now that pornography is an issue that ought to be addressed within the pro-life community. But I wasn’t sure why. On the surface, it appears that beginning and end of life issues are what we need to be talking about; and, certainly, they are. But if being comprehensively pro-life means supporting life at every stage — from conception to natural death — it seems there’s an awful lot of life between those two bookends that we need to be concerned about. How are we defending the equally massive dignity of people who are 4, or 12, or 31, or 67?

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest predators of the middle-aged person’s dignity is the porn industry. Pornography, though a seemingly “private” issue, actually has tremendous public ramifications. It contributes exceptionally to the overall diminishing of human dignity that we see reflected in our movies, our books, our TV shows, our radio stations, and even our laws. It is poisonous to marriages, toxic to families, and detrimental to society. And it is becoming more rampant and widespread every year.

Senator Sam Brownback has gathered some staggering statistics on the issue. He found that 72 million people visit Internet porn sites each year. One in five children, ages 10 to 17, has received a sexual solicitation online. Nine out of ten children, ages 8 to 16 with Internet access, have visited porn sites, usually while working on homework. The founder of the Center for Online Addiction reports that 65% of people who visit their site do so due to marital problems caused by cyber pornography[1]. And 2.5 billion emails every day are pornographic in nature[2].

If one doubts that porn’s ramifications seep into all aspects of society, perhaps he should consider a study by Dr. Mary Anne Layden, Co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Layden reports that:

70% of hits on Internet sex sites occur between 9 and 5 on business computers. Research also indicates, and my clinical experience supports, that 40% of sex addicts will lose their spouse, 58% will suffer financial losses, and 27% to 40% will lose their job or profession.[3]

If we really think porn has no adverse influence on our lives, we are sorely kidding ourselves.

But Layden’s statistics, in particular, struck me for another reason. Remember, she found that the vast majority of all porn viewing happens between 9 and 5 on business computers. This immediately confirmed what I — and likely most of us — would imagine to be true: namely, that people seek to ogle porn in private.

But why the secrecy? Aren’t 72 million other people looking at it, too? Is there really a need for the shame and embarrassment?

No woman ever stepped off a Planned Parenthood table excited to proclaim to the world that she has just had an abortion. And no pornography user ever comes home to his wife and kids ready to share the news that he spent the last 2 hours looking at airbrushed pictures of naked women.

Why?

Because we have a natural human capacity — call it a conscience — to know the difference between right and wrong. And try as we might to convince ourselves otherwise, we know that like procuring an abortion, using pornography is not a behavior to be proud of.

So we begin to try to make ourselves feel better. More specifically, we begin to justify. In the same way that a mother dehumanizes the fetus to justify killing him, the porn user dehumanizes the model to justify lusting after her (or him).

The mere concept of dehumanization ought to be enough to make us shudder, as this has been the radical idea responsible for the tragedies of Nazi Germany, for lynching in the South, and for the Rwandan Genocide.

Whenever a certain group of people is dubbed with a less-than-human status, they are made vulnerable to attack and destruction. This is as true in 2010 for the porn star and the fetus in America as it was in 1935 for the Jew in Germany or in 1955 for the Black in Tennessee. At their core, these issues — all human rights abuses — are intrinsically and intricately linked to the dignity of the human person, and for that reason ought to be the pro-lifer’s business.

If we do not make efforts to purge America of pornography, more than our jobs, our finances, and even our marriages will be at risk; our very dignity will be threatened.

Dehumanization anywhere is a peril to human dignity everywhere. As feminist Catharine MacKinnon put it:

When pornography is […] normal, a whole population of men is primed to dehumanize women and to enjoy inflicting assault sexually […] Pornography is the perfect preparation — motivator and instruction manual in one — for […] sexual atrocities.

I’m afraid sexual atrocities — momentous as they are on their own — are not all we have to worry about if pornography continues to batter the people between the bookends.

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Today one man, one homosexual judge, has decided for a nation that the people of a state do not have the right to conserve ancient societal institutions such as marriage. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative, passed by the voters in 2008, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Doubtless a river of ink will be spilled over this ruling and its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The questions, the searing questions for Christians are these: What was actually at stake? What, if anything, was lost today?

Was it the name of marriage, its definition, or its fundamental lived reality?

Certainly the definition of what constitutes marriage was dealt a deadly blow in one judicial ruling. But then, the very identity of marriage has been suffering death by a thousand cuts for decades. Marriage was always understood to reserve certain goods for heterosexual couples who promised their lives to one another in sacred oath.

Sexual activity, the procreating of children, adoption, rights of inheritance, rights of visitation, joint ownerships and contracts, joint rental leases, tax benefits, spousal coverage on insurance, have all been goods of marriage. One by one, each has been given away over the past few decades to cohabiting couples, both heterosexual and homosexual/lesbian.

Gays and lesbians may adopt children, whom society has decided do not need both a mother and a father for optimal healthy development.

Sodomy laws have been struck down.

Cohabitation outside of marriage is the norm.

Same-sex partners may share health benefits and have full hospital visitation rights.

Same-sex partners may cosign leases and mortgages.

Same-sex couples have domestic partnerships, quasi-marriage.

The list goes on and on. One by one the goods reserved to marriage have been given away without a firestorm of protest. The result is that gays and lesbians now have marriage in everything but name only. If we have not formally redefined marriage up to this point, we have done so operationally. Anger over Vaughn’s decision, while understandable, is a little like closing the barn door after the horses have gone.

Assuming the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Vaughn and restores the right of the people to define marriage, this will be a very small victory for marriage. No-fault divorce has done more to destroy marriage than all of the gay weddings times a thousand. We heterosexuals have been poor custodians of God’s great institution. Assuming a Supreme Court victory for traditionalists, what then?

Do we then turn our sights on cheap and easy divorces? Do we dare attempt to reclaim the goods of marriage and reserve them to heterosexual married couples only? Are we ready for that series of battles?

Or do we simply claim victory in a semantic skirmish and concede the war?

We have become too comfortable for far too long. Perhaps we dared not oppose the systematic surrender of marriage’s goods because of guilt over our rampant use of porn, rampant rates of adultery and divorce. Perhaps we were too busy with other pursuits, material acquisition and easy living, to man the barricades.

In his first homily as Pope, Benedict XVI reminded the Church that we were not made for comfort, but for greatness. Our collective shrug at the systematic looting of marriage’s goods points to our need to heed the Holy Father’s call to reorient ourselves toward greatness, and not a moment too soon.

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“All evil begins with a lie. If we can identify the lie, we succeed in unmasking the evil” Great homiletic wisdom from the late Msgr. William Smith, moral theologian and priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Following on those words were these: “All social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering.” In two sentences, Msgr. Smith has provided for us the key to identifying the false gods and decoding the lexicon of the Culture of Death. This lexicon is most easily decoded by considering the polar opposite definition of that which is held up to us by the opposition as virtue.

Most of societal reengineering has occurred in the area of sexual morality and family life. In the past few years the very definition of the family has come under withering assault by the homosexual and lesbian communities with a pitched battle that has ensued. We are assured that gay and lesbian partnerships and families are not motivated by anything other than love and that children raised in such homes are not subject to any distortions in their psychological or faith formation. We are told that gay marriages are no different than heterosexual marriages, and can be just as healthy, and that heterosexuals need to practice the virtues of tolerance, openness, and inclusivity.

Children who are either adopted into, or born into such arrangements are taught implicitly that either a mother or a father is not essential to the wellbeing of children, that they are optional, that a second mother or father is a suitable replacement. Implicit in such a statement resides the evidence of the war against the opposite sex from those with same-sex attraction. It also denies the mountain of social scientific literature that consistently indicates the absolute necessity of a mother and a father in a stable marriage for children’s optimal development.

Gay and lesbian partnerships/marriages also open the floodgates to the perversion of sexual morality and the utilization of the immoral and unethical practices of surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization. Such grotesque manipulations of human sexuality mock the very nature of conjugal union in marriage as designed by the Creator, along with the denigration of motherhood or fatherhood, depending on which parental role is being deemed not essential.

Here the false virtues come into sharp relief. Openness in this context is the false virtue, being the diametric opposite of fidelity. If we are open to the concept that each person is free to define morality for him or herself, then we absolve ourselves of our divine mandate through Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and Holy Orders to be faithful witnesses to the gospels and to be a sign of contradiction in the world. We also simultaneously obliterate the need for bioethics, thereby descending into the morass of moral anarchy where each person is his or her own source of moral norms.

The tolerance demanded by the gay and lesbian communities is the deadliest of the false virtues. The very word conjures minimalistic visages. Who aspires to being tolerated? Love, respect and discernment are the virtues that oppose tolerance.

Because we are called to embrace God’s wise design for His creation, we are necessarily called to discern that which opposes what God has revealed in His plan. We are called to witness that plan in both word and deed. We are called to love and respect all persons as children of God, but also to engage in fraternal correction using the revealed Word (2 Timothy 3:16). True love demands that we not tolerate sin in our midst, much less condone it.

Fidelity and love call us to acknowledge the limits laid down by God for all of humanity, the goods contained within those limits and the perils that await those who seek to live beyond those limits. This necessarily implies that we cannot be tolerant of every lifestyle, be open to every redefinition of morality, or include within our moral boundaries those behaviors that God forbids.

The opposition is very skilled in the rhetoric of presenting false virtue as authentic civic virtue, with far too many Christians having been cowed into silence. The result has been the lightning disintegration of society, beginning with conjugal fidelity and leading to divorce, abortion, rampant sexually transmitted diseases, the scourge of AIDS, and a majority of Americans now eschewing marriage altogether.

In Part II, science as the new Ba’al.

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