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Archive for August, 2011

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis!!

Always Faithful.

It’s the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps. It also describes all of our military personnel. Today we buried a friend who lived those two powerful words to perfection. At the funeral mass for my friend, Kevin McQuade, his son Sean recounted some of the highlights of his father’s life. Something none of us knew was the fact that Kevin rescued over 1,000 lives in 11 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard. That’s almost 100 lives per year, which is an astounding feat.

He wasn’t fearless. He did his duty in spite of his fear, which is the very definition of courage.

Throughout their marriage and especially throughout the last three years of his life, Kevin’s wife, Anne, was the model of fidelity, and courage, and compassion. In a word, soul. Anne was there for Kevin in every way a wife can possibly be present to her husband: physically, emotionally, spiritually. Anne surrounded Kevin with her love, and did as much, if not more, than all the radiation and chemotherapy to help him live, truly and authentically live.

We look about us at the climbing divorce rate, the declining marriage rate, and we cast about for answers, for something that will reverse the trend, something that will resonate.

Today, as I sat in Church and contemplated their marriage, Billy Joel’s song, “It’s All About Soul” kept crowding in on me, and I realized that I have been blessed to be in the same parish family of so very many women whom this song describes so well, especially Anne and my wife, Regina. There are plenty of Annes and Kevins among us, beautiful people who live beautiful marriages, whose lives are the very models of love and fidelity. We just need to celebrate them more. So the following lyrics and video are for Anne and Regina, for Joyce, Annette, Joannie, Susie, Joanna, Joanne, Sue, Denise, Nancy, Maryanne, Lucielle, Linda, and all the many beautiful wives of the Holy Name men and my brother Knights of Columbus, the women who are the crown jewels in our lives and in our Church.

Semper Fidelis!!

It’s All About Soul

She waits for me at night
She waits for me in silence
She gives me all her tenderness
and takes away my pain

And so far she hasn’t run
though I swear she’s had her moments
She still believes in miracles
while others cry in vain

It’s all about soul
It’s all about faith and a deeper devotion
It’s all about soul
‘Cause under the love is a stronger emotion
She’s got to be strong
‘Cause so many things getting out of control
Should drive her away, so why does she stay?
It’s all about soul

She turns to me sometimes
and she asks me what I’m dreaming
And I realize I must have gone a million miles away
And I ask her how she knew to reach out for me at that moment
And she smiles because it’s understood there are no words to say

It’s all about soul
It’s all about knowing what someone is feeling
The woman’s got soul
The power of love and the power of healing
This life isn’t fair
It’s gonna get dark, it’s gonna get cold
You’ve got to get tough, but that ain’t enough
It’s all about soul

Na na na na na na na
It’s all about soul
Na na na na na na na
Yes it is
Na na na na na na na
It’s all about soul

There are people who have lost
every trace of human kindness
There are many who have fallen
there are some who still survive

And she comes to me at night
and she tells me her desires
And she gives me all the love I need to keep my faith alive

It’s all about soul
It’s all about joy that comes out of sorrow
It’s all about soul
Who’s standing now and who’s standing tomorrow
You’ve got to be hard
As hard as the rock in that old rock’n’roll
But that’s only part, you know in your heart
It’s all about soul

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News last week that the folks at Sesame Street have announced that Bert and Ernie are not gay and will not be getting married. Hot on the heels of the major gay marriage victory in New York State, there were voices from within the gay community pushing for Muppet nuptials.

The idea, quite apart from its obvious pathology, also seemed ill-considered. First, Bert and Ernie always seemed to me to be kids, even when I was a child. They didn’t seem to me at all adult, and I thought that they were brothers. Having shared a bedroom with my two brothers, the arrangement seemed as natural as my own. As St. Paul says, “To the pure of heart, all things are pure.”

Also, do gay men really want a gay-marriage spokesman who spends half the day caressing and singing love songs to his rubber ducky? Come on, guys, really!!!

LifesiteNews has an excellent article on the subject that is well worth the read.

The article mentions some salient points to ponder:

And blogger Alyssa Rosenberg summed up the biggest objection. “I think it’s actively unhelpful to gay and straight men alike,” she said, “to perpetuate the idea that all same-sex roommates, be they puppet or human, must necessarily be a gay couple … Such assumptions narrow the aperture of what we understand as heterosexual masculinity in a really strange way.”

Strange indeed. It teaches the ridiculous and deeply destructive idea that same-sex friendships are necessarily sexual. And that’s the last thing we want to teach our children, because it will spell the end of friendship, particularly friendships between young men.

Yet that is precisely the message that’s communicated over and over. It’s the reason gay apologists want to eroticize Bert and Ernie, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the apostle John, and Achilles and Patroclus from Homer’s Iliad.

Some in our culture are apparently incapable of understanding close friendship without sex. And that flies right in the face of a Christian understanding of friendship.

Actually, this points to the pathology that is part of homosexuality. Homosexuality perpetuates itself through seduction, then corruption. Few, very few men have had active heterosexual dating and sexual lives and then woke up in their twenties realizing that they are gay. It doesn’t work that way. Most have been initiated as young teens, or younger, by an older male.

This is the same pathology that drives groups such as NAMBLA (North-American Man/Boy Love Association), and the group that recently held a conference promoting pedophilia. It is the same pathology that seeks to establish a beachhead amongst the very youngest, those who are 2-4 years of age.

This isn’t about eliminating so-called discrimination. The battle has been won by gays in the courts and in the legislatures of the states where gay marriage is the law of the land. This was an attempt at cultivating children in a developmental stage where sex and sexuality are simply not on the children’s radar screen. It was also an attempt, part of a larger effort in the schools, to precondition children years before these issues will be raised by their parents in an age and developmentally-appropriate context.

Seduction, followed by corruption.

It is refreshing to see that Sesame Street’s decision was brought to us by the letters “N” and “O”.

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As hurricane Irene bears down upon us, Mass was packed at 5 P.M. with those who know that Irene will prevent anyone from going tomorrow. The question on everyone’s lips, as many in my parish were mandatorily evacuated from their homes, was “WHY?”

Why does God permit these things to happen? Why the destruction, the hardship? Why doesn’t He spare us? Father’s answer was not entirely clear or satisfactory to most. Thinking about it on the way home, I came at it from several perspectives.

Droughts are good for killing certain infectious microbes in an area. Forest fires similarly wipe away threats, and renew the face of the earth. Out of the fertilizing ashes of the old, comes new and hardy life. Volcanic eruptions perform similar renewing effects. Hurricanes end droughts and replenish reservoirs for city dwellers. Earthquakes result from the shifting plates of the earth’s crust.

All of these events are a part of the earth’s own life cycle. They help to renew the face of the planet, and in the long run, they actually support life. In the process, however, people die. People are left homeless and without food. They are injured and frightened. These are the issues upper-most in people’s minds.

Earlier today, the following wryly humorous posting began making its way around my FaceBook community:

As Hurricane Irene prepares to batter the East Coast, federal disaster officials have warned that Internet outages could force people to interact with other people for the first time in years. Residents are bracing themselves for the horror of awkward silences & unwanted eye contact. FEMA has advised: “Be prepared. Write down possible topics to talk about in advance. Sports, the weather, etc. Remember, a conversation is basically a series of Facebook updates strung together.”

There is much truth in this.

Perhaps God permits tragedy to call us out of ourselves, to give us the opportunity to escape our insularity and see His face in those of our needy brothers and sisters. I think of 9/11 and its aftermath, of the tsunami of love and support that washed over New Yorkers as nothing I’d ever seen before. The nation and the world dropped all and dropped to their knees in prayer. They gave to the widows and orphans of 9/11 in money and material that simply overwhelmed us.

We are a crusty, hard-bitten lot here in this city. We’re impatient and love to show that impatience with our embarrassingly aggressive driving. Yet, for months afterward, New Yorkers were actually courteous behind the wheel! Even more alarmingly, we were deferential!!! Tragedy slowed us down and allowed us to share in our common humanity.

Sometime around January 2002, the city began to heal from the trauma, as evidenced by the blaring horns and the return to shorter tempers. I have always wondered, though, which was the true healing; the kindness or the blaring horns and aggressive driving?

It tends to refocus the question from this evening and redirect it. The question isn’t why God permits tragedy. He does so to help us regain the best of our humanity.

The real question is why the lesson is so short-lived?

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A few thoughts for a rainy day, as hurricane Irene bears down on us.

People often sneer at the Space Program here in the U.S. and, well-intentioned though they be, they point to the cost as wasteful extravagance. The needs of the poor are often cited as examples of how the money could be better spent.

True, and setting aside for a moment the wasteful spending of the U.S. Government in much of our foreign aid to terrorist states (which dwarfs NASA’s budget), I would like to propose that the poor have benefitted tremendously from our space program over the past half century.

First, The Apostles also opined that a certain woman’s perfumed oil used to anoint Jesus’ feet could have been sold and the money been better spent on the poor.

There were many who probably said the same of those who bankrolled Christopher Columbus’ voyage of exploration.

As I write this, the outer bands of hurricane Irene are upon us and pelting my windows with rain. Our satellites have revolutionized our ability to track storms and target evacuation zones often teeming with the poorest among us. Our satellites have revolutionized our telecommunications systems and brought images of natural disasters into our homes in real time, speeding international response efforts to the victims by orders of magnitude. And there is more.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed cool temperature microlasers to sense the ozone layer of our atmosphere from space. These lasers are now being used as surgical alternatives to balloon angioplasty in coronary artery disease.

The fields of occupational and physical therapy would be at a loss without velcro, which was developed for the space program.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) Technology not only lights computer screens, but is being used in cancer treatment to kill cancer cells.

There are so many more cool technologies, and they can be read here.

As is so often the case, development of technology in one area goes on to have multiple applications in many other areas never envisioned at the time of its development. When God created us, He gave us a command:

“Be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth.”

The development of technology helps us subdue the earth, and when it can’t in the case of hurricanes, it saves countless lives by forewarning those in the path of the storm.

Thank you NASA.

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One Day, Two Saints

I wrote earlier today of the passing into eternity of my friend and 9/11 hero, Kevin McQuade.

I came home tonight to news of another newly minted saint. Baby Emily (name changed), a child born this month with catastrophic developmental anomalies entered into her rest this evening. This is a baby that many in the pro-life movement rallied around when it appeared that the hospital might have been pushing for mom to disconnect life support before the mom was ready.

There is something poignant about baby Emily’s story that I would just like to reflect upon for a moment. In the case of a baby born with catastrophic anomalies, it is important to do research and look for teams that handle the difficulty and seek out second and even third opinions. From what I was able to ascertain, the hospital did this at some point. However, we were able to find a noteworthy team that hadn’t been contacted.

The prognoses were consistent and clear: nothing on earth could be done for this baby.

In such circumstances it is vital, VITAL to bear in mind that there is not one patient, but two, before us. The mother, being postpartum, is also a medical patient. She may be experiencing postpartum depression, exacerbated by the catastrophic circumstances before her. HOW things are handled will determine if the mother lives the next 50 years with second-thoughts and self-loathing, or with a sense of satisfaction that she did all she could for her child.

Over the past few days the baby’s body began to shut down. Her mom was a hero to me, not wanting to quit and working to overturn every stone. I told her of my high esteem for her courage, love, and tenacity. But there comes a point when respirators and other interventions can actually become burdensome to the dying patient, and I explained to mom that the doctors at this point were telling her the truth.

What baby Emily needed now was not mommy the lioness, but just mommy to hold her and comfort her as she finished her brief pilgrimage here among us. I shared this with mom as well.

So, tonight baby Emily died quietly in mommy’s arms, surrounded by a loving family. Her mom emerges from this experience having spent a couple of extra weeks in the NICU than if she had given up on her baby sooner. Perhaps some mothers can process the reality sooner and accept the reality sooner than others.

But Emily’s two extra weeks on the respirator actually aided in buying her mother the time she needed to satisfy herself that indeed there was nothing that could be done. The result? One of the patients went straight to Heaven, and the other went home to live out the rest of her life with a sense of integrity about how she tried to save her baby’s fragile life.

That gets lost in all of the talk about medical economics. However, as the great psychologist Erik Erikson taught us, the end of life is characterized by us evaluating our lives either with a sense of integrity, or despair.

Getting one mother there with integrity?

Priceless.

Please pray for Emily’s family, and for my friend Kevin’s family, who also did it with integrity.

We have two new advocates before the Father tonight.

Many thanks to all of the pro-lifers who helped this family: Alliance Defense Fund, Terri Schiavo Help and Hope Network, Premie Prints, AAPLOG, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Peg Kolm of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and Be Not Afraid.

The family was lifted up by all of that love and support.

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Just shy of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, another American Hero has fallen as a consequence of his exposure at Ground Zero. Kevin McQuade, my friend, brother Knight of Columbus, brother Holy Name Society member, father of two wonderful sons, and a devoted husband succumbed to esophageal cancer today at 8 A.M.

Kevin had been a member of the United States Coast Guard for a number of years before working as a crew member on the Staten Island Ferry. On that terrible day ten years ago, the Ferry carried thousands and thousands of Staten Islanders home to safety. The crew, without respirators, went back again and again to the Manhattan slip just a half-mile from the billowing toxic smoke from the fires that would burn out of control for three MONTHS! The next day, and on subsequent days, Kevin and the others would ferry supplies to Ground Zero, and carry them up.

They were covered in the fine dust and soot that was ubiquitous, and deadly.

Those of us who were molecular biologists knew damned well that these selfless men and women were signing their own death warrants, and we had a pretty good idea of how it would happen. I suspect that many of the 9/11 heros knew as much. It never deterred them. They fought for the privilege of “working the pile”.

Kevin was no different.

Forget every Hollywood stereotype you may have seen about New Yorkers. As a Brooklyn native, and having lived here my entire life, what the nation saw on 9/11 and its aftermath was the heart and soul of this city and her very best citizens.

Kevin typified the average New Yorker. He worked long, hard hours. He married a terrific girl and, with her, raised a family. He loved God and loved his Church. The McQuades were as regular as clockwork in their attendance at Mass, participation in the parish, and patriotic/civic mindedness.

Kevin was a man’s man, and raised two great sons. The oldest, Sean, was supposed to have started Franciscan University this Fall, but couldn’t leave his mom and dad with the end so near. Sean is also a pro-life lion and young man of gentle yet unbending principle, something he picked up from his parents.

During the 9/11 aftermath, Kevin and many other of our heros began “the cough”, that annoying tickle, the irritation that would grow over time. Without any other risk factors for esophageal cancer, Kevin was diagnosed a few years ago and had radical surgery, radiation and chemo, which helped him squeeze out a few more years with his family.

I cannot imagine a world without Kevin McQuade in it. His quiet strength and unfathomable depth of goodness will live on in his sons and in his widow, Anne. However, he leaves behind an unmistakeable imprint on our community, our Church, the Knights of Columbus, and on our hearts.

Having lost friends and college classmates in the Towers on 9/11, Kevin’s untimely passing forth from us bridges the decade since that terrible morning, and makes it all so fresh again for all of us blessed to know him, and who will mourn him gone.

Please pray for Anne and the boys, and for the many other heros and their families who are now struggling with disability and impending death because of their heroic selflessness a decade ago.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let Perpetual Light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, Amen.

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My article in today’s Headline Bistro

Thus far in our series on the thorny issue of embryo adoption, we have looked at some of the broader theological questions as well as considering whether it is true that Rome has closed the door to further discussion. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, have said the matter is still open for discussion, I am comfortable in advancing the argument in favor of embryo adoption.

See Part I here.
See Part II here.

In this installment of the series, we turn our attention to the great dignity of conjugal union between husband and wife, examining its nature, its purpose, and whether embryo adoption violates that union.

The marital embrace between husband and wife must remain open to the fruitfulness that results from unimpeded self-donation on the part of each spouse. This is the procreative dimension of marital sex, which can never be separated from the unitive dimension of sexual expression. This paradigm is no mere human construct, but rooted in our understanding of the Blessed Trinity that was beautifully described by Saint Augustine.

Within the Godhead, the Father gives Himself totally and freely to the Son, who reciprocates totally and freely to the Father, and out of the radical self-donation of love is generated the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the perfect expression of perfect love. That dynamic of the Trinity becomes the paradigm for Sacramental Marriage, which becomes an earthly icon, literally a window into the inner life of the Trinity. The radical self-donation of the spouses makes of them “one” flesh, producing the expression of that oneness, and calling to mind Jesus’ words in John 10:30: “The Father and I are one.”

It also calls to mind this beautiful prayer of Jesus to the Father in John 17:20-26, where He reveals the love between Himself and the Father, and how the unity of His disciples is ultimately bound up in the unity between Jesus and the Father:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

That unity on our part has as its cornerstone marital unity, which in its most organic sense has the conjugal embrace as the sign and symbol of the inner life of the Trinity.

Seen in that context, in vitro fertilization (IVF) shatters that paradigm, separating the unitive and procreative dimensions of human marital sex, and introducing an entire fertility clinic staff into the intimacy of life’s generation that was hitherto the sole province of husband and wife overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, wherein God created the soul. IVF does violence to God’s order for creation, not only in the strict biological sense, but in the spiritual/ontological sense as well. It is not surprising, then, that the adoption of frozen embryos should be seen as a participation in this grave evil.

But it isn’t. It is a restorative, redemptive act. The current opposition comes from the following passage in Dignitas Personae:

“The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman. Procreation which is truly responsible vis-à-vis the child to be born must be the fruit of marriage.”

This statement is a beautiful expression of the heart of the church. The problem is that it has nothing to do with embryo adoption, whatsoever.

As we established in Part II of this series, the Church takes the most cautious approach to the issue of when ensoulment occurs and gives the presumption to the very beginning of human development, stating that is grave evil to even risk murdering a human. The fact is that human procreation, including God’s part in it, is complete at the moment of fertilization.

That fact, including God’s part, does not change in the case of IVF. Though the mother and father commit grave sin in so doing, all of the Church documents quoted in Part II indicate that the soul is presumed present from the very beginning of a human’s life, and that life is to be protected and safeguarded.

Some counter that creation of a human being is not complete during IVF, and that procreation continues during pregnancy. If we are to suggest that procreation is an ongoing process throughout pregnancy, as is suggested by some in the Catholic bioethics community, then we are saying that there is not a complete human being from the moment of fertilization, and in so doing, we make the same argument as Planned Parenthood and the rest of the abortion industry! This is not only bad biology, but even worse theology.

Biologically speaking, the embryo in its single-celled, zygotic stage of development is a whole and complete human organism in form and function for that particular developmental stage. The same may be said for every subsequent stage of development spanning the rest of the individual’s life. One need not look like the adult human, nor have all of the functions of the adult human to be fully human.

Theologically speaking, the Church gives the presumption of ensoulment to have occurred from the very beginning. There is simply no protracted process of “becoming” more and more fully human. We Catholics simply don’t buy that incrementalist argument, which is used to justify abortion. If we adopt the concept of procreation as a protracted process that requires a full, natural pregnancy because we find IVF so offensive, we lead ourselves into biological and theological error, and consequently we lose our foundations in the abortion debate forever.

So, how does embryo adoption fit in to a sacramental marriage, respecting marital rights and obligations? We’ll tackle that in Part IV.

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Time for a family discussion. The personhood debate has been a searing one, and I must confess that I tend to come down on the side of the personhood amendments. Folks have written to me from both sides of the aisle on this one, and I feel somewhat like a dazed and confused fish out of water. I’ll throw out my observations and take my lumps like a big boy. I ask but one favor…

To those disappointed with the bishops, I ask that we stick to the facts and keep the tone civil. They are the Apostolic Successors, and as St. Paul enjoins us, we must love them because of their office. We can fight like hell at the same time, as families will do, but I respect their office and will not permit disrespect here.

So, that said, let me pick a bone with my beloved bishops. I have read their position, that they support personhood in principle, but that prudential judgement makes them pass on backing this legislative movement. The fear is that a personhood amendment might be overturned in the courts, leading to a reaffirmation of Roe, and threatening the extant pro-life legislative victories that were hard-fought and hard won.

I don’t get that reasoning, and sincerely welcome a lawyer to explain the mechanics that would bring about the implosion the bishops fear.

As I see it, a reaffirmation of Roe will last as long as the pro-Roe majority on the Court; a see-saw battle that I expect to rage for decades to come. But how does an affirmation of a law already in force destroy our pro-life legislative victories that have been won while Roe has been the law of the land? How is it that these laws have passed in the shadow of Roe, but placing an exclamation point after Roe would present such an existential threat to us?

I simply don’t see that.

Next is the argument that personhood may not be the best strategy for defeating abortion. Perhaps. But this, I think, is a form of myopia that comes from focusing on the single issue before oneself and not being able to see clearly the other issues beyond that one issue.

Personhood encompasses all of the life spectrum and speaks to the issue of one’s fundamental human identity, dignity, and standing under the law. I think we make a colossal error when we speak of personhood only in terms of abortion. Buck v. Bell has never been overturned to my knowledge, and I don’t think it a stretch to say that we’ll see efforts at some not-too-distant point to forcibly sterilize the mentally handicapped. With autism being diagnosed in 1:112 children and the expense in treating these children bankrupting school districts, sending property taxes through the roof, do the math.

Then there is the rapidly accelerating pace and scope of euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands, among others in Europe. The mentally ill are now being euthanized without their knowledge or consent. It’s getting frightening. How long can we look at these things from the safety of our shores and not be affected? We already have states with physician-assisted suicide, which is how euthanasia gains a toe-hold.

State-run healthcare in Oregon comes with letters to advanced cancer patients denying life-extending drugs and offering physician-assisted suicide instead.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/oregon_health_plan_covers_assisted_suicide_not_drugs_for_cancer_patient/

Abortion. Compulsory sterilization. Euthanasia.

Personhood covers them all. While we dither on the front end of the life spectrum, a wildfire is growing out of control on the other end of the life spectrum.

Pro-life had better mean more than just anti-abortion, and while one needs to pick one’s battles carefully and focus to be effective, the bishops as a body do not have the luxury of myopia.

Finally, the voices that say:

“Not now”
“The time isn’t right”
“Perhaps some day”
“It might be a costly battle”
“We can’t win that fight, so let’s not try”
“There are other priorities”

All sound exactly like the voices of reason that tried to assuage the abolitionists of their righteous determination, and like those who pleaded with ‘Negros’ and ‘Coloreds’ to bear their lack of equality with stoic acceptance during the decades before the Civil Rights Movement. But our Black brothers and sisters taught us well that justice delayed is justice denied.

In the personhood fight, it isn’t just the pre-born babies we’re fighting for, but ourselves, our handicapped, our sick, our elderly.

There seems to be an unhealthy dose of myopia on both sides of this issue. If we aren’t careful, it is a myopia that will prevent us from seeing the chains waiting for us all down the line.

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The Personhood Movement

"...embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons." ~Pope John Paul II

There is a curious divide in the pro-life movement between those who support the various Personhood initiatives, trying to get legal language that recognizes human embryos as human persons. The Catholic bishops have come out against these initiatives, though I haven’t heard a cogent explanation as to why.

Perhaps those more familiar would care to comment on the rationale and then square that with this quote from Pope John Paul II that appears in Dignitas Personae:

“…embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.”

~Pope John Paul II

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My latest article for LifeNews.com

This week, one of the most searing and difficult bioethical cases I have ever encountered was brought to my attention. It involves a premature baby born with serious and substantial developmental anomalies that will in all likelihood cost this little one her life. Before going further with the story, what are most needed at this moment are prayers for Emily (name changed), her mom, and her family. Identifying information has been changed to safeguard the family’s privacy.

Emily was born with over a dozen heart defects, and her trachea and esophagus are joined into one common tube at one point. Because of this defect, the baby can’t eat, as her milk would go into the lungs. She can’t be fed through a tube into the stomach, because any regurgitation would likewise go to the lung. She is on a ventilator with oxygen and receiving morphine, as well as an IV.

When this was called to my attention, I spoke with the mother who was all alone and facing a team of physicians aggressively pushing her to disconnect the baby from life support, telling her that she was making her baby suffer needlessly, that there was no hope for surviving reconstructive surgery. Never mind that morphine attenuates pain and suffering. Second opinions were only sought after the mother’s steadfast refusal to quit on her baby.

I consulted a number of folks who direct organizations in the pro-life movement who could shed light on how to proceed. Legal counsel, medical advice, advocacy, etc., all began to take shape within 24 hours. Researching this defect led to an authoritative team of surgeons who have dealt with this rare condition. They don’t think the baby could survive the surgery. Others have yet to respond.

While things may very well end poorly sooner rather than later, this case along with that of baby Joseph from Canada earlier this year calls out for something new in the pro-life movement.

Read the rest HERE.

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My Article in today’s Headline Bistro.

In Part I of this series I laid out the broad scientific and theological issues inherent in the debate over embryo adoption, which is the legal adoption of leftover embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF), implanted in the adoptive mother’s womb, brought to term, and then raised by that adoptive couple as their own.

It is an issue that has riven the Catholic bioethical community. Whether or not the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s instruction, Dignitas Personae (DP), has ended the debate depends on whom one asks. Pushing out into the deep from Part I of this series, I posit that much of the division around this issue arises from language in DP that is muddled regarding the science and human rights, and spilling over into the very essence of conjugal union.

Recently, Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carabula, the outgoing interim President of Human Life International cited a debate between Professor Janet Smith (pro-embryo adoption), and Father Tad Pacholczyk (against embryo adoption). In his article, Msgr. Barreiro declares that the matter is closed, citing the language of the Church’s document, which states:

The proposal that these embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile couples as a treatment for infertility is not ethically acceptable for the same reasons which make artificial heterologous procreation illicit as well as any form of surrogate motherhood; this practice would also lead to other problems of a medical, psychological and legal nature.

It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of “prenatal adoption.” This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above (19).

Msgr. Barreiro editorializes:

So what this document is stating is that adoption in the womb presents similar problems to those that are found in artificial heterologous procreation and surrogate motherhood. The above-mentioned norms were issued by the CDF with the purpose of putting an end to the long debate between theologians on the question the permissibility of embryo adoption. So this document should put an end to these discussions stating the embryo adoption should not be done.

Msgr. then goes on to state:

Finally it should considered that this instruction’s doctrinal value is clearly described by Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the CDF at the presentation of this document, stating that it participates in the ordinary magisterium of the successor of Peter and as a consequence it should be received by the faithful with the religious assent of their spirit.

Respectfully, Msgr. Barreiro has oversimplified the matter and overlooked a few contrary voices among the bishops here in the U.S. and in Rome. DP was not a document crafted to address embryo adoption, but to deal with the broader issues surrounding reproductive technologies such as IVF. In that light, Archbishop Ferrer’s declaration of the document as binding on the faithful is binding on those matters in the document that are considered settled.

Embryo adoption is not one of those settled issues. Consider the words of Dr. Stephen Napier at the National Catholic Bioethics Center:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “The document raises cautions or problems about these new issues but does not formally make a definitive judgment against them.” Also, the current president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, has said that the issue of embryo adoption was still an open question. If the USCCB and the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life got the interpretation wrong, the Vatican would have corrected them publicly. But there has not been any correction; consequently, the question on embryo adoption remains open.

So where is the language in DP that might leave the door ajar for the Congregation to revisit the issue, adding clarification? Consider:

…John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons” (19).

There seems to be no morally licit solution. Yet, at the same time, John Paul II recognized that these embryos remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons.

These are human beings, declared by the Congregation in its 1974 Declaration on Procured Abortion to be presumed to possess a soul from the moment of fertilization and in need of safeguarding:

• “The tradition of the Church has always held that human life must be protected and favored from the beginning, just as at the various stages of its development” (6).

• “Most recently, the Second Vatican Council, presided over by Paul VI, has most severely condemned abortion: ‘Life must be safeguarded with extreme care from conception; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes’” (7).

• “From a moral point of view this is certain: even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of conception is already a human person, it is objectively a grave sin to dare to risk murder. ‘The one who will be a man is already one’” (13).

• “This declaration expressly leaves aside the question of the moment when the spiritual soul is infused. There is not a unanimous tradition on this point and authors are as yet in disagreement. For some it dates from the first instant; for others it could not at least precede nidation. It is not within the competence of science to decide between these views, because the existence of an immortal soul is not a question in its field. It is a philosophical problem from which our moral affirmation remains independent for two reasons: (1) supposing a belated animation, there is still nothing less than a human life, preparing for and calling for a soul in which the nature received from parents is completed, (2) on the other hand, it suffices that this presence of the soul be probable (and one can never prove the contrary) in order that the taking of life involve accepting the risk of killing a man, not only waiting for, but already in possession of his soul” (Footnote #19).

As no human person has the “right” to be submerged in liquid nitrogen and kept there until succumbing to freezer burn, there must be a moral solution that respects the rights of these babies to continue their development unmolested and nurtured, especially in light of God’s having created for them a soul.

There is, and it resides in the very aspect of conjugal union being appealed to as the impediment to embryo adoption. We’ll examine that argument in Part III.

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Over at Jill Stanek’s blog there is an interesting debate going on over IVF and pregnancy reduction. Catch it here.

A woman named Maria who has had three IVF babies, has been arguing in favor of the procedure, using all of the proabort definitions of when life begins, etc., and took strong exception to my statements from the post linked here. What follows is Maria’s response, and my rejoinder:

Maria:

Dr. Nadal,

Excuse me for my bluntness but I think you are crazy. I am completely aware of what happens during an IVF cycle because I did it TWICE. The fact that you keep calling embryos in its earliest form, before they even get transferred into a human body CHILDREN is ridiculous. Given shots to produce more eggs in my body is not SELFISH on my husbands part. In fact I am grateful for that since I was hardly able to produce any on my own.

And yes I am comparing what happens in a petri-dish to what happens naturally after intercourse because its the same damn thing, except sane people don’t call all these initial embryos that dont result in squat CHILDREN, either inside the womb or out!

Those who have engaged in this need to repent of the evil they have done, to themselves, their marriages, and most of all their children. There’s no sugar-coating this issue. It’s abortion on steroids, practiced by desperate couples who have entirely lost their perspective.

Dr Nadal, I have no need to repent for my 3 living children for having them via IVF. Having IVF to conceive them was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life! How you can refer to anything that happens outside of the female body as “abortion on steroids” is insane.

I originally found Jill Stanek’s website because I admired the courage she had to uncover the horrible live birth abortions that were taking place in the same hospital where I gave birth to my babies. However, seeing as there are a bunch of freaks on this site, I will probably take a peek at her posts now and then, but I will never associate with the weirdo’s on this site who make insane comments such as yours by commenting along with them.

And with that, I am out!

It is interesting to note that nobody ever told Maria to repent for her three children born of IVF.

My Response:

Maria,

LOL!! You aren’t the first person here to call me crazy, and you won’t be the last. That’s the sort of thing that happens when ideological worlds collide. The fireworks can be spectacular!!

Now, on to the reasons why I am crazy.

Calling embryos children. You’ll forgive my colloquial use of children to refer to your embryonic offspring. The colloquial usage is not sloppiness, or insanity on my part, but actually exactly how people use the language. When asked how many children a pregnant mother of four has, she does not respond with,

“Two actual children, one toddler, one infant and one embryo.”

Get real, Maria. A normal woman says,

“Four, and one on the way.”

She may then go on to break down the clan by sex and age. In truth, it is your response that sounds insane. Now, for the next issue regarding sanity.

I’m a scientist, specifically, a biologist. We are the ones who tell you what a living thing is, or is not. The field of embryology clearly teaches that a new human organism, a new human animal with its own genetic identity, its own body, set on its own dynamic developmental trajectory comes into being at the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. There is no such thing as potential or partial life in biology.

Either a thing is its own organism, or it is not. Either it is alive, or it is not. Your embryonic offspring are each a separate and distinct human being. You actually have even less place to hide than the post-abortive trolls here, because you can’t claim bodily autonomy and Roe v Wade’s protections in the killing of your offspring. They weren’t attached to you in the first place.

The fact is, that IVF IS abortion on steroids. You are people’s exhibit A of its callousness and cruelty:

Your offspring are only human beings when YOU say they are, not when science says they are.

Your offspring are merely property to be disposed of as you see fit.

Your offspring are only humans entitled to rights if YOU say they are.

Your body is yours to do with as you please, and not subject to any restrictions imposed by either morality or a well-informed bioethic.

Gee, where have we heard all of that before?

Yes, I do think your husband either terribly naive, or terribly selfish. In our desperation for a child of our own, I was not prepared to go to a fertility clinic and see my wife juiced up with frightening levels of hormones that would have increased her odds of developing cancer down the road. Even if she wanted to, I would not have consented.

There is such a thing as moral and ethical limits, Maria. There is also such a thing as human greed, and no shortage of scientists and physicians who are perfectly willing to cast morality and ethics to the wind as they prey on the desperation of childless (or, in keeping with your nomenclature, shall we say embryoless) couples.

Finally, you say:

“Dr Nadal, I have no need to repent for my 3 living children for having them via IVF.”

You will one day realize that those three children have quite a few dead siblings who never made it out of the lab, and that’s where our paths diverge.

I’m with science, you are not (though you are with technology). From the moment of fertilization a new human being comes into existence. You were evidently okay with killing as many as it took to get to where you are now. I’m not.

This process has less to do with marriage and family, and more to do with hi-tech animal husbandry in marriage (if you’ll excuse the pun).

Does that make me crazy? Perhaps from where you sit it does, but then, deviance distorts the lens of perspective.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that parents resorting to IVF require the same preconditioning (desensitization) as do parents resorting to abortion. Once we do not allow ourselves to be hindered by embarrassed “manners over morals” from enjoining these folks, we see this preconditioning rage to the surface almost instantly.

More to come.
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Photo via N.Y. Times

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Watching medicine succumb to physician-assisted suicide in the western states, Obama’s death panels, insurance companies being forced to pay for contraception, conscience protections for medical professionals being squeezed, pregnancy reductions proceed all the way to killing a twin to produce a singleton, the obscene funding of embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage…

Many ask how it is we got here. It wasn’t by leaps and bounds, but by incrementalism. All along the way, our caution was ridiculed by the other side. “That’s ridiculous! That’ll never happen!” we were told repeatedly. And then, slowly but surely, we arrived to where we are today.

Consider this quote from former Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, Leon Kass, M.D., in Human Cloning and Human Dignity, The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics:

“We should not be self-deceived about our ability to set limits on the exploitation of nascent life. What disturbs us today we quickly or eventually get used to; yesterday’s repugnance gives way to tomorrow’s endorsement. A society that already tolerates the destruction of fetuses in the second and third trimesters will hardly be horrified by embryo and fetus farming (including in animal wombs), if this should turn out to be helpful in the cure of dreaded diseases.

“We realize, of course, that many proponents of cloning-for-biomedical-research will recommend regulations designed to prevent just such abuses (that is, the expansion of research to later-stage cloned embryos and fetuses). Refusing to erect a red light to stop research cloning, they will propose various yellow lights intended to assure ourselves that we are proceeding with caution, limits, or tears. Paradoxically, however, the effect might actually be to encourage us to continue proceeding with new (or more hazardous) avenues of research; for, believing that we are being cautious, we have a good conscience about what we do, and 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.”

It’s time we backed political candidates who espouse clear, red lights.

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Late to this story:

The New York Times published a story last weekend about the practice of what is euphemistically known as ‘reducing’ a pregnancy. It’s the barbaric practice of killing one or more babies in a multiple-birth pregnancy, usually through lethal injection, and leaving the dead sibling(s) with the living until birth.

The practice was initially engaged during IVF when four or more embryos implanted and a certain number were culled in order to produce more robust survivors with the least complications for the mother. As with all depravity, there are no absolute limits, just a series of yellow lights. We now have a debate about reducing pregnancies of twins to what are called ‘singletons’. Listen to one mother in the article and her rationale:

If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner – in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me – and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.

What we glimpse here is the underlying malignancy of IVF, and the reason why we ought not allow our sympathy for the childless to cloud our reason and judgement.

Regina and I both lived the bitter and sorrowful disappointment of not being able to conceive for over four LONG years. We went into our marriage agreeing that, come what may, we would abide the teaching of the Church. We would not do IVF, nor would I see my wife juiced up with ghastly levels of cancer-inducing hormones, all in the name of having a biological keeper.

It was after we stopped trying and agreed to proceed to adoption that our first child was conceived.

That said, the grotesqueness that the desperate swallow in the pursuit of biological progeny is evident in this article. The euphemistic reductions are the most noticeable tip of the iceberg.

In the process of IVF, several eggs are harvested after pumping women full of hormones to stimulate hyper-ovulation. The consent to this by any husband ranges between ignorance to unspeakable selfishness.

Then, the husband is handed a specimen cup and shown a room where he must manually produce a semen sample. At this point, the procreative work is no longer that of husband and wife, but rather that of a team of lab technicians who will facilitate the union of egg and sperm. Husband and wife are relegated to the sidelines as mere observers.

Once the clutch of eggs is fertilized, the embryos are sorted and graded according to ‘viability’. At this point, a cell may be taken from the embryo to test for genetic and potential developmental anomalies. The poorer candidates are thus tossed away, the best implanted, and the rest frozen at -320 degrees F in liquid nitrogen. This process is abortion on steroids.

Thus, the entire process of IVF treats the child as an accessory in the lives of he parents, with little to no regard for that child’s weaker siblings who are simply thrown away, or immersed in liquid nitrogen indefinitely, a process that kills half of all who are frozen. No amount of desperation can ever justify this hideous mockery of God’s wise design. The experience that Regina and I had shows the value of respecting and obeying the Church as a matter of habit, so that when the storms hit, one has a safe refuge.

People may ridicule the Church and the teaching handed down by our celibate bishops, but as this article demonstrates, perhaps it takes a celibate to help the rest of us weather the storms.

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In November, 2010 Coming Home began an award, the Golden Coconut, an award for the coconut pro-abortion apologists who spout the most anti-scientific nonsense in the headlong pursuit of butchering babies.

This award, the first of 2011 goes to a rabid proabort on Jill Stanek’s blog who goes by the moniker “CC”. She used to go by the moniker, “Artemis”, pagan goddess of childbirth, until realizing the absurdity of her moniker in light of her having self-aborted using a turkey baster some forty years ago.

CC continues to rebuff all invitations to contact Jill’s moderator, Carla, who works in post-abortion healing ministry. CC spends thousands of hours arguing for the wholesale slaughter of innocents, and on a thread tonight had this exchange with me:

Dr. Nadal:

“The only rights people ever fight for with such tenacity are always the rights that involve disenfranchising, enslaving, or killing other human beings”

And CC’s award-winning reply:

The right that we fight for is bodily autonomy. Our bodies, our rights. We are not brood sows much as you would like us to be. We reproduce if and when we want and that is such a threat to your patriarchal religious system. So doom us to hell as you do but until Roe is reversed abortion is still the law of the land. We will not be enslaved by your theology. We are not your submissive handmaidens. And BTW, your hell is your belief – not ours.

My reply:

CC,

Brood sow is exactly the identity YOU have adopted for yourself by electing to kill your child, and then glory in it.. It’s called mutilation, which is okay, ethically speaking, for barnyard animals. It isn’t okay for humans.

Brood sow. Think of that every time you look in a mirror. That’s what you have treated yourself as. That’s the source of fetal pigs for labs. You said it better than I ever could have.

You’ve traded your great human maternal dignity for that of a brood sow. And you have wallowed as such ever since. That you defend the right to treat yourself as a brood sow is the most tragic of all self-delusions.

It’s a form of self-hatred.

Human life is a gift for the mother, and an inalienable right for the child. That’s the great difference between human pregnancies and those of brood sows.

Conversely, I think that all of this cogitating on your behavior is starting to conjure the appropriate imagery for you.

Call Carla.

As stated, CC remains recalcitrant, basking in the 40-year afterglow of her self-abortion. She seeks to derail threads with absurdities and nonsequiturs. She has labored long and hard. Through her labors, she has actually brought us to the perfect description of how the abortion industry actually views women, and she has done so in the twisted manner by which evil operates:

By accusing us of that for which they are guilty.

The Golden Coconut comes with a great deal of prayer and fasting for the recipient’s conversion.

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