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Archive for the ‘Dignity’ Category

25schiavo_184

As news of the untimely death of Brother Paul O’Donnell spreads, there will be many remembrances by those who knew him well. Perhaps none more than Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo. Brother Paul distinguished himself, and the Church, by being the constant companion and supporter of the Schindler family as their severely brain damaged daughter, Terri, was relentlessly hounded to her death by starvation and dehydration by her husband, Michael, whose promises of therapy for his bride changed over time.

As Michael convinced the courts that Terri didn’t want to live as she was, her family begged for custody of her if her husband didn’t want the responsibility for her care. It was a landmark case in the United States, and the family spokesman was their humble, gentle friend, Brother Paul (pictured here in a New York Times photo from the story of eleventh hour appeals in the seventh day of her dehydration and starving). The photo tells the story of the man’s life.

He was the reflection of Jesus. There in that photo, arm around a grief-stricken mother. There in that photo with husband and wife. There in that photo, the strength, the promise, the living witness:

Emmanuel: God with us.

We are often presented with situations, albeit far less dramatic, where we are called to be Emmanuel. The Last Judgement in Matthew 25, and the Acceptable Fast in Isaiah 58 connect the same ethos in Old and New Testament. It all boils down to, in two words,

BEING THERE.

When the bottom falls out of people’s lives, we are called to be there. Pro-life is far more than being anti-abortion, and Br. Paul showed us pro-life activism, Gospel activism on the other end of the life spectrum. Our maternity homes and pregnancy centers demonstrate the commitment to life at both the beginning and the middle of the spectrum, by providing all of those things mentioned in Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25:

Food. Clothing. Shelter. Support. Visitation. Education.

BEING THERE.

In the late 1980’s, then-Mayor Ed Koch of New York City addressed the homeless epidemic by declaring that homelessness would vanish if every church, synagogue and mosque in America adopted two homeless families and mentored them to wholeness. He was right.

BEING THERE.

Brother Paul leaves for us a simple challenge. When a photo is taken of those around us in their time of need, real need, will we be in it? When the crisis has passed, will we have been there? Will people see our own passing from this world and say of us, “Emmanuel?”

Brother Paul was there when being there counted the most. He was fearless and indefatigable, all the way to the end of Terri’s life, and then with the family until the end of his own.

Emmanuel.

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cogdis

In the latest school shooting, President Obama sums up what many of us believe. From the NY Daily News:

It was the 74th shooting at an American school since the December 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School — and the 37th just this year, according to a tally by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America…

“This is not acceptable, this is not normal,” he said in a Tumblr chat. “We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens and it happens now once a week and it’s a one-day story.”
Gun violence in America, Obama said, is “off the charts.”

“There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this,” he said. “This is becoming the norm and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me . . . If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.”

While some people think mental illness is the problem, Obama said, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.” The problem, Obama said, is the availability of guns and “this country has to do a lot of soul searching.”

They really are going by in a blur, all of these school shootings. But blaming the guns misses the mark by a mile.

WHY are these shootings taking place, and WHY now?

We have tighter restrictions on gun purchase and ownership than in any time in America. There is a seeming proportionality between restrictions and violence, but even that cannot explain the motives. Where motive is concerned, there is no one, single, prognosticator. It is rather akin to looking at a painting and taking it all in at once. The components defy logical analysis of themselves and only function in a unified and organic wholeness with one another.

Obama is too myopically focussed on the gun to see the coarsening to life that he himself has championed his whole adult life. He fails to see the 57 million babies torn apart in abortion.

He fails to see the overwhelming majority (~80%) of post-abortive mothers with psychological sequelae.

He fails to see an African American community decimated by 15 million missing members from abortion.

He fails to see the victims of his health legislation who have lost their physicians and their health policies and consequently their cancer therapies.

He fails to see violent video games that are virtual training academies for the real-life violence in our schools.

He fails to see a medical community increasingly lazy and given to passive and active euthanasia.

He fails to see his own failures at stemming the tide of illegal drugs.

He fails to see his Hollywood pals and their culpability in producing a river of filth.

He fails to see the effects of pornography on the devaluation of both men and women.

He fails to see his role in destroying the economic girders that produce jobs, which give young people hope and purpose.

He fails to see how rampant teenage promiscuity factors into young people regarding one another more as objects that exist solely for one’s personal pleasure than as peers to be cherished, and cheerleads Planned Parenthood as they prey upon our children.

He fails to see the abdication of parental responsibility in raising children and overseeing their progress in school.

He fails to see that he presides over a nation that has lost everything:

Standing in the world.

Prosperity.

Sense of mission and purpose.

And worst of all, the very thing he campaigned to restore… HOPE.

So myopically focussed on the guns in this portrait of modern America is our president, that he sees nothing else. The proximal and distal causes all collapse into one dimension with him. Such a man is incapable of leadership, and as we have seen since the beginning, can only blame everyone else for the difficulties over which he presides.

But blaming Obama is as myopic as the president’s vision.

We have brought all of this upon ourselves. We live in a constitutional republic: limited powers to government with elected officials. We have been too narcissistic and hedonistic to care about the destruction wrought by these men and women who come from us, and are a reflection of us. We have lived lives, as a people, that are out of control and have raised children in a coarsened and calloused environment of our own making.

We did this, collectively.

The gun is an afterthought.

The only difference between the victims of Columbine, Sandy Hook, the other school shootings, and the 57 million butchered babies is that these children in school were wanted children.

That’s how to spell “Calloused” and “Hedonistic”.

That’s the America Obama can’t see.

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terrischiavo-273x275

Every now and then the biomedical community and the legal system are presented with the opportunity to rediscover our collective humanity through the lens of animal rights and animal cruelty. More often than not that lens has insufficient power to correct their distorted perception of human dignity. Having just passed the ninth anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death by starvation and dehydration, word comes today of the starvation and dehydration death of Roxy the dog, a boxer in England, who died at the hands of his solicitor-in-training owner, Katy Gammon.

Ms. Gammon has been in the employ of a law firm specializing in……

Medical Negligence.

It seems that Ms. Gammon retained Roxy who originally belonged to a boyfriend after the relationship ended. The dog was kept locked in the kitchen because it wasn’t housebroken. All was well until Gammon began staying with her mother a few blocks away and stopped coming to feed the dog after she injured her knee. A window into the collective soul from MailOnline:

Bristol Magistrates’ Court had previously heard that Gammon had confined the dog by tying a rope to the kitchen door handle and fixing it to a hook in the hall.

Roxy had frantically clawed at the door, leaving fragments on the floor, as she tried to escape before her death, which would have taken around six days…

Asked if she had deliberately locked her in the kitchen and left her to die, Gammon replied: ‘Yes, basically.’

The article continues with a description of what Roxy’s death was probably like. At this juncture it is worth noting that humans and dogs have very similar anatomy and physiology, and that dog experimentation has often been the last step before human trials of new medicines and medical treatments, because of our shared similarities. More from the article:

A vet said the pet would have taken up to six days to die gradually and painfully, becoming blind and falling into a coma before passing away…

‘A number of items had desperately been pulled out of cupboards. We believe this was a desperate attempt at searching for food or water.

‘Roxy suffered a slow, painful death which could have been prevented.’

And so it goes with human beings who are deprived of food and hydration as a means of hastening death. It is a slow and agonizing demise, as Roxy’s story indicates. Often the patient is unresponsive, but as the parent of any teenager knows, lack of responsiveness does not indicate a lack of sensory reception, or internal processing. Terri Schiavo was perhaps the most publicized case of the Roxys of our species.

However, shared physiology is where our paths diverge. Lower animals now possess greater dignity (from the Latin, meaning “standing”) in western jurisprudence than human beings. Consider the words of the sentencing magistrate as Gammon received 18 weeks in jail, and a lifetime ban on owning pets, for her crime:

Sentencing, magistrate Rod Mayall said: ‘You have shown limited remorse. You failed to behave as any normal person would have. This is the most serious case of animal cruelty encountered in these courts.’

And here is where the magistrate misses the mark by a mile. Humans are also animals. Additionally, we are a higher order animal, capable of at least as much pain (physical state) as a dog, and perhaps even more suffering (a psychological state). If this is the worst case of animal cruelty he has seen before the court, then it is because humans have lost their standing in the very courts they have created. Gammon has been sentenced to jail and a lifetime ban from owning pets so that she may never again be in a position to practice such barbarism. That’s a good thing.

However human beings who, on a daily basis, pull members of their own species apart, limb-by-limb, in the womb, and who similarly starve and dehydrate members of our own species to death do so with government-issued licenses and are considered practitioners in good standing.

The outrage in all of this isn’t that Gammon was punished for her crime against Roxy, it’s that the deaths of the Terri Schiavo’s among us aren’t considered criminal at all. It is that our legislators and judges do not, “behave as any normal person would have,” protecting humans with the same ferocity as they would if the subject in consideration were a dog.

The greatest tragedy of all is that humans have a long way to go before we enjoy equal dignity, equal standing with our pets in a court of law.

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gay-parade-7

Fox News reports that Cardinal Dolan, in an interview with David Gregory of Meet the Press, claims that the Church was “outmarketed” on the issue of gay marriage. From the report:

Asked why the church is losing the argument on gay marriage, Dolan responded, “Well, I think maybe we’ve been outmarketed sometimes. We’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay.”

He said the church supports “traditional marriage and is not “anti-anybody,” adding, “When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle.”

Without knowing it, Cardinal Dolan has identified the core of the problem. Our leadership, with few exceptions, have adopted the superficiality of branding and marketing as a cheap substitute for the grittiness and tenacity of evangelization. Worse still, while we have abandoned evangelization and hewing to the hard line of the Gospel, it is the other side who have been engaged in the grit and tenacity of evangelization.

That’s right. The other side has been engaged in three decades of evangelization, while the majority of our priests and bishops have endeavored to be “non confrontational” and “nonjudgemental”.

The results speak for themselves.

While the Church has been entirely kicked out of the public schools, with students being disciplined for wearing shirts bearing the word, “Christmas”, the other side has succeeded in getting complete acceptance in schools with gay/straight alliances, comprehensive sex education, and now state laws permitting transexual and transgender students permission to use whatever bathrooms they please.

That’s not marketing. That’s evangelization.

Our leaders have stood by, largely mute, while we have been kicked out of the public square by a vocal minority who have moved in to occupy the ground formerly held by the Church. That all begs the question as to how such a coup could have happened.

In truth, more than 85% of married Catholics ignore the Magisterium when it comes to the right use of sex in marriage and the use of contraception.

58% 67% of Catholics approve of gay marriage.

To say that those numbers are the result of marketing is to suggest that the Gospel has roots shallower than grass. And on that matter, Pope Francis has spoken loud and clear.

Many priests reacted with scorn to the challenge by Francis that they and their bishops get out of the rectory and go out among the people in a bold new way. Francis sees clearly that the Church is dwindling in influence because the people don’t know who they are. They have lost sight of their great dignity while so very many of our clergy refuse to engage the culture for fear of alienating people or seeming judgmental. That timidity is often defended as the cardinal virtue of Prudence.

It isn’t.

It’s cowardice, pure and simple.

A great definition of Prudence from New Advent:

One of the four cardinal virtues… A fuller description and one more serviceable is this: an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is not, and how to come at the one and avoid the other. It is to be observed that prudence, whilst possessing in some sort an empire over all the moral virtues, itself aims to perfect not the will but the intellect in its practical decisions. Its function is to point out which course of action is to be taken in any round of concrete circumstances. It indicates which, here and now, is the golden mean wherein the essence of all virtue lies. It has nothing to do with directly willing the good it discerns. That is done by the particular moral virtue within whose province it falls. Prudence, therefore, has a directive capacity with regard to the other virtues. It lights the way and measures the arena for their exercise. The insight it confers makes one distinguish successfully between their mere semblance and their reality. It must preside over the eliciting of all acts proper to any one of them at least if they be taken in their formal sense. Thus, without prudence bravery becomes foolhardiness; mercy sinks into weakness, and temperance into fanaticism.

No mention in there of marketing. In fact, when gay marriage passed in New York State, Cardinal Dolan was quoted in the NY Daily News as saying:

Cardinal Dolan revealed for the first time that the Catholic Church was caught flat-footed on last year’s gay marriage vote in New York — insisting it was “burned” by Senate Republicans who claimed it didn’t have a prayer.

“We got burned last year when we were told the redefinition of marriage didn’t have much of a chance — and of course it did,” Dolan told the Daily News as he prepared for Monday’s annual Albany lobbying trip.

“Our Senate leaders, we highly appreciated them being with us all along,” he explained. “When they kind of assured us it didn’t have much of a chance — not that we let up, but we probably would have been much more vigorous and even more physically present if we knew there was a chance.”

Perhaps. But activism built on an unevangelized church is like building a house on a foundation of sand. The truth is that a solidly evangelized Church would be much more resistant to the evangelists from the culture of death. As Chesterton observed, the man who stands for nothing will fall for anything. And that’s what has happened. A people who have been abandoned by their shepherds are being torn apart by the wolves. Now a chief shepherd chalks that up to “marketing”.

It was earlier this year that Cardinal Dolan, as the head of the USCCB, failed to lead any opposition to the Boy Scouts of America opening the doors to gay members. The silence from the Church leadership was deafening. The closest we came to any clerical position was a priest who claimed to be a member of the national Catholic Committee on scouting who debated me on FaceBook.

The priest claimed that the Church could not oppose such a move, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that no youth be barred from youth ministry because of their sexual orientation. While that is true, BSA is not a church ministry, but a national institution. The Church also failed to take the long view of the situation.

In accepting openly gay youth who will become Eagle Scouts, how can the organization then reject the same Eagle Scout as an adult leader when he turns 18? Yet the Church, while rightly not barring gay youth from ministry, will reject that openly homosexual young man when he applies to the seminary, or for a teaching position in a Catholic school. So, the Boy Scouts were hung out to dry.

That wasn’t a “marketing” issue either.

The truth is that there are a fair number of gay clergy. There are an even greater number who do not stand with the Church on abortion, contraception, or the right use of sex in marriage. So, these issues never get preached or taught, or when they do, it is the Magisterium that gets pilloried.

It wasn’t a marketing issue that has led to the disintegration of Western Civilization.

In the wake of Vatican II our seminaries descended into chaos at every level, with some earning the moniker of “pink palace,” so notorious were they for their homosexual subcultures. Many of those seminarians were ordained. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the Papacy he undertook an Apostolic Visitation of our seminaries to address this problem, among others.

Today we see the fruits of that chaos from the 60’s and 70’s, even the 80’s. We see the fruits of nonevangelization on our part and the fruits of the other side’s evangelization.

They have a positive view of themselves, of their lifestyle, and of their contribution to society. They preach that vision in season and out of season with a singularity of focus that resembles the singularity and tenacity of St. Paul the Apostle. They push and push and push. Then they push some more. They go into the schools, and businesses, and the public square. They preach in churches and synagogues, and in civic associations. They boldly challenge any who stand in their way, and took singular aim at Cardinal O’Connor, even going so far as desecrating the Eucharist in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Perhaps we could learn a lesson in evangelization from the other side, clergy and laity alike.

We weren’t outmarketed.

We were outevangelized.

That’s our great failure and our great shame.

On this First Sunday of Advent we ought to take stock of these failures, do penance, and begin the long, gritty work of a new evangelization.

Commentary on the HHS part of the interview here.

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Unilever’s Blockbuster Pro-life Ad

When was the last time an industrial giant made a pro-lifer stand up and cheer? I did tonight when I saw Unilever’s new 4 1/2 minute film encouraging expectant parents to bring their children into the world, and introducing their new program for green production and sustainability. The film itself is the most hopeful secular production I’ve seen in decades.

The film, Why Bring A Child Into This World?, helps to roll out Project Sunlight. Give them a visit and see what it’s all about.

Upon quick examination I didn’t see anything objectionable. Closer examination may reveal areas where pro-lifers feel there could be improvement. If so, let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

We have a film that is taking on many parents’ fears and saying that there is every reason to bring their children into the world.

Two thumbs up for Unilever!!

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All Saints Day: Learning Love

All-Saints

In homeschooling our children, I have never given them a grade for their religious studies. When asked why, my response is simple:

When we die, the grade is either Pass, Fail, or Incomplete. No letters. No numbers.

Today we celebrate those who passed- the saints. Tomorrow, we pray for those who got incompletes, the holy souls in purgatory who are completing their preparation for the Beatific Vision. There are countless millions of saints in heaven and souls in purgatory. Not all of the saints get a named feast day, only a very few. Most have not been formally canonized by the Church in that rigorous process that declares one’s life worthy of emulation. Not to take away from the great pantheon of named saints, but there are others.

Today, I think of my grandparents who led lives of heroic virtue amidst the grinding poverty of the Great Depression. I recall the stories told over and over in my youth. Mom’s mother feeding the kids oatmeal for dinner and having a small steak for my grandfather when he came home from a sixteen hour day of work. How he refused to eat that steak without dividing it equally among the five children and Nana, with Nana pleading that a grown man needed his strength. He wouldn’t hear of it.

I think of Dad’s mother giving them each a penny for the poor box in church on Sunday, “for the poor kids,” as they trod to mass with holes in their shoes and a simple potato for dinner.

There were the stories of neighbors pitching in and helping neighbors. There were the Sisters of St. Joseph who would pick out the kids who were obviously malnourished (like my dad and his brother) and ask them at lunch time to bring the sisters’ laundry to the cleaners. When they returned, there were always a few place settings with untouched lunch waiting, along with the face-saving, “Some of the sisters are sick today, and it would be a sin to waste food. Could you help us by eating some?”

There was crusty old Msgr. Cherry, the pastor, who always seemed to have vouchers for new shoes at the shoe store. A gruff old goat with a heart of gold.

There are the two priests who were like fathers to me, Fr. Luke McCann and Fr. Jack McGuire who have gone home to the Lord within these past two years, for whom I still cannot find adequate words to write anything that can encompass their greatness and all that they have done to form me.

And they all had their flaws, their weaknesses, their sins.

And still they are saints today, all of them having died sealed in the sacraments.

So what have I learned from the stories, and from the things I have witnessed first-hand? The great common denominator among all of the saints is this:

Love.

Period.

All of scripture and theology, all of the liberal arts, bioethics, philosophy, point us toward the acquisition and the mastery of this one virtue that is indispensable for eternal life. Fyodor Dostoyevsky gets it exactly right in The Brothers Karamazov:

Brothers, love is a teacher, but a hard one to obtain: learning to love is hard and we pay dearly for it. It takes hard work and a long apprenticeship, for it is not just for a moment that we must learn to love, but forever.

When I think of the everyday saints I have known, they were all characterized by the hard work of which Dostoyevsky speaks; and they did indeed pay dearly for it. Learning to love is not easy, and often messy. Dying to self can exact a toll on one’s peace of heart and mind, and soul. Even the saints portrayed in the icons had their moments.

That’s easy to lose sight of in our own journey. The icons show us the finished products as the artist envisions the beatific vision unfolding, not the dark days and foul moods, the doubts and fears, the moments when we try to snatch a little time or something just for ourselves. We do pay dearly for the experience of learning to love. I suspect, though, that the alabaster saints in church were no different.

So, who is today for?

Certainly the named saints, but also the plain, ordinary folk who lived and loved, stumbled and got up again and again, perfecting themselves within the crucible of family life lived quite often in the vice-grip of poverty. Today is their day.

It’s also ours. It’s our chance to praise God for the witness of the saints, for their great example to us, for their lives among us. We ask their intercession for those of us in the crucible who are learning to love, a little more each day. And as we make our way, daily, we must never lose sight of Dostoyevsky’s great admonition:

…for it is not just for a moment that we must learn to love, but forever.

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OctoberRosebud

Increasingly, I understand why it is that old people begin to welcome death as a friend.

News today from across the pond in The Telegraph of a young Somali girl who was smuggled into Great Britain for the purpose of harvesting her organs. From the story:

The unnamed girl was brought to the UK from Somalia with the intention of removing her organs and selling them on to those desperate for a transplant.

Child protection charities warned that the case was unlikely to be an isolated incident as traffickers were likely to have smuggled a group of children into the country.

The case emerged in a government report which showed that the number of human trafficking victims in the UK has risen by more than 50 per cent last year and reached record levels.
A total of 371 children were exploited, with the majority of them being used as slaves or sexually abused. They included 95 children from Vietnam, 67 from Nigeria and 25 from China. Others hailed from Romania and Bangladesh.

The figures also detail how 20 British girls have been victims of human trafficking. It comes after a series of court cases in which British girls were raped and exploited by gangs of Asian men.
Child protection charities warned last night that criminal gangs were attempting to exploit the demand for organ transplants in Britain.

Bharti Patel, the chief executive of Ecpat UK, the child protection charity, said: “Traffickers are exploiting the demand for organs and the vulnerability of children. It’s unlikely that a trafficker is going to take this risk and bring just one child into the UK. It is likely there was a group.”

According to the World Health Organisation as many as 7,000 kidneys are illegally obtained by traffickers each year around the world.

While there is a black market for organs such as hearts, lungs and livers, kidneys are the most sought after organs because one can be removed from a patient without any ill effects.
The process involves a number of people including the recruiter who identifies the victim, the person who arranges their transport, the medical professionals who perform the operation and the salesman who trades the organ.

The government’s report also found that there has been a rise in the number of adults trafficked to the UK, with the number of women rising by 12 per cent to 786 and the number of men by almost a third to 400. They include growing numbers of British men are being exploited for “paving or ground works” in this country or abroad.

Read the rest.

I don’t know what to say about this. I think its speaks for itself. I’m simply beyond words.

I understand old people more, and more.

Maranatha!

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