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The nation has become gripped with fear, a healthy fear, of the Ebola virus and how easily it might spread out of control in our crowded urban centers. The fear has not yet turned to panic, and one can feel the struggle of our public health personnel as they try mightily to prevent panic and still do what must be done to prevent a full blown outbreak here at home. Naturally, people wonder if the government is telling us the truth about the minimal danger it claims Ebola poses.

So, are we being told the truth about Ebola? Is the government lying to us simply in order to prevent a panic?

It all depends on how one defines terms such as truth and lying. There is the unvarnished truth, therapeutic doses of truth (which contains lying by omission), etc. We do well to stop and consider the full dimensionality of the moment we are in, and consider the historical lessons from the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. Critiques offered here are not political, and indeed there is plenty of bipartisan criticism to go around. We are not in a political moment. We are in an American moment, facing an indiscriminate killer. Sound public policy will require rising above petty politics and sniping, while seriously evaluating current and historic national policies that will drive this crisis one way or the other. We must leave politics behind, as we are at the water’s edge.

Currently we have an administration in Washington that sees no need to restrict air travel from the endemic areas in Africa, has committed 3,000 troops to fight the epidemic in Africa (with no detailed articulation of what that mission might be), and has no articulated plan for how to bring them all back safely.

At this writing, we have in Dallas a Liberian who lied on his immigration papers regarding contact with an infected person at home. He reported to a hospital in Dallas when he felt ill, was misdiagnosed, and sent home with antibiotics. As his illness progressed he called an ambulance, vomited in the parking lot of his complex, and has exposed at least 100 people who are now under surveillance, and many under quarantine. Further, many parents are keeping their children home from school, as some of the exposed are children.

There are no quarantine stations to which people are being sent to wait out the 21 days it can take Ebola to manifest itself. Indeed, some of the people being monitored have attempted to leave their homes. These policies and lapses have the makings of an outbreak of unprecedented magnitude. They can also generate a panic which could cripple the national economy if people begin to lock themselves up at home. So, what to do?

First, we do well to remember some history from the AIDS pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, we were told that this virus could only be contracted through transmission of bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. All true, but incomplete. We were told that there was no evidence that HIV could be transmitted by oral sex, and that was an early, deadly error. Many lesser authorities would extrapolate from this that stomach acid would kill any virus swallowed during oral sex.

“No evidence,” in science does not translate into, “Impossible.” It simply means that there is not a study establishing the behavior as a risk factor. It turns out that the lining of the esophagus contains a great many cells that are a part of the mucosal immune system. They transport viruses and bacteria across to waiting immune system cells, the very cells HIV attacks. So in those early days, in the absence of definitive proscriptions on sexual behavior, and before condoms and dental dams were recommended for use during oral sex, many may well have contracted the virus through that transmission vector.

Then there was the disparity between what the CDC was saying and what the AIDS activist (read homosexual) community was advocating with condom use. This is a key piece of history that shows what happens when political and ideological issues run up hard against scientific truth, and the blind spots in the extant data that well-informed scientific and medical judgement can fill in. The following is from a series I wrote five years ago dealing with the condom issue as it related at the time to AIDS activists excoriating Cardinal O’Connor for not giving church approval for their use in combating HIV. What is striking is the very different posture assumed by the NIH and CDC. From the article:

Certainly Cardinal O’Connor and the Bishops knew all too well the rise in promiscuity following widespread access to the pill in 1968. They knew the CDC data linked here which show the steady rise in STD rates. (Click on “all slides”). Fast-forwarding to today for a moment, Research out of Harvard agrees with the Church that Condoms can make HIV worse in Africa, among other places.

In the mid-80’s, the New York Times, the self-styled ‘paper of record’ carried several articles which cast a long shadow over the absolutist claims of condom safety by AIDS activists.

On August 24, 1987 the Times reported “20% of Condom Batches Fail”.

On May 12, 1988 the Times reported that 33 million condoms had been recalled in 1987 with a failure rate of 4/1000. The paper failed to reconcile those numbers with the 20% failure rate reported in August of the previous year. The paper did report that the 4/1000 was an improvement over the 4.8/1000 rate in 1986. These rates for domestic condoms were better than the 6.5/1000 in 1987 and 7.3/1000 in 1986 for imported condoms.

On August 18, 1987 the Times ran a major article entitled “Condoms: Experts Fear False Sense Of Security”. From the Article:

“MANY health officials have begun to voice concern that the campaign to encourage condom use to curb the spread of AIDS may be misunderstood, creating a false sense of security in people whose behavior continues to put them in danger.

“Experts say condoms should minimize the spread of the AIDS virus among the heterosexual population, especially when used with spermicides containing nonoxynol-9, which has been found to kill the virus in test tubes. The experts say this justifies recent campaigns promoting the devices.

“But they stress that it is unknown just how much protection condoms offer. The officials note that condoms have been widely rejected as a method of birth control because they frequently fail, and say the devices may be no better – in fact, may be worse – at curtailing AIDS. They warn that sexually active men and women should not assume that they are protected simply because they use prophylactics.”

The article is filled with notable quotes from experts, all expressing doubts.

It was an interesting time. Because the spermicide nonoxynol-9 was found to have killed HIV at high concentrations in test tubes, it was added as a lubricant and fail-safe against condom tearing or slipping. In recent years we have learned two devastating truths.

1. Nonoxynol-9 in the low concentration on condoms is ineffective against HIV.

2. Nonoxynol-9 in the low concentration on condoms causes ulcerations in the vaginas of women who use them frequently, such as sex workers. This means that N-9 does not kill the virus when condoms tear, and facilitates infection by compromising the vaginal and rectal epithelia.

Finally, a week after the desecration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by ACT-UP (reported in Part I), the Times reported that The National Women’s Health Network requested the FDA to remove approval for two new condoms:

“A public-interest health group said today that it had petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw marketing clearance for two new types of condoms because neither had been tested for effectiveness in preventing pregnancy or protecting against disease.

“The National Women’s Health Network, a nonprofit group based in Washington, charged that the Federal agency had erred in approving the devices under a legal provision that waives testing requirements if a new device is substantially like one already approved.”

It was an interesting time. Anti-retroviral medications were being hastened to market. New condoms were being hastened to market all in a desperate attempt to throw the entire arsenal at this virus. But desperate measures can have unintended consequences.

In time, what will be most remembered is the stubborn insistence of so many to having sex outside of a life’s commitment to mutual monogamy with ONE individual in the face of a disease that is so devastating.

Where were the AIDS activists when these reports were being published by the Times?

A candid and sober reflection on those early missteps in assessing HIV and its spread, what we thought was safe, and how wrong many of those assurances were should temper and guide our steps with an overabundance of caution with a far deadlier virus that threatens to erupt into a full-blown pandemic.

In part II we’ll consider the missteps being made with Ebola, and how to correct them while there is still time.

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He was a pro-life champion.

He was a great supporter of EWTN and Mother Angelica.

He was a huge booster for Franciscan University.

He was a tireless therapist/spiritual director/advocate for priests in trouble.

He was a lighthouse for fidelity and truth in the faith during the tumultuous 60’s and 70’s.

He was co-founder of Good Counsel Homes.

He was an early and active participant in the Charismatic Renewal.

He was a celebrated author with dozens and dozens of books, tapes, and DVD’s.

He was a co-founder of a reform religious community.

He was a Columbia University educated psychologist.

He was a seminary professor for over 40 years.

He was a spiritual director and sage who was very good to women’s communities.

He was an advisor to bishops from all over the world.

He was an international lecturer.

He was a retreat master without equal.

He walked with Saints John Paul II and Theresa of Calcutta.

He was a television host who boosted countless ministries on his show.

But for all of that, if he could have chosen to be remembered for anything, if any group could lay claim to this man of such broad appeal, he would want to be remembered for this above all things…

He was a good friend to and mighty advocate for the poor and the least among us.

He was a true son of Francis, a true son of the Church.

Father Benedict Groeschel was my professor when I was in the seminary in the late 1980’s. He taught us ascetical theology and gave us spiritual direction on retreat. His classes were in themselves mini-retreats, whose content I have spent a lifetime unpacking. When I left the seminary and told him that I was pursuing biomedical research, and that Columbia University’s post-baccalaureate pre-medical studies was my first step toward the Ph.D. he was delighted that I would be attending his alma mater. I continued to see him every now and then when I hit bumps in the road in the spiritual life. Several years later, when I finished the Ph.D., I drove up to Trinity Retreat House to have lunch with Fr. Benedict and talk about the uncertainties ahead, as well as our son Joseph’s newly diagnosed autism and my deep, deep fears around that whole issue. I was a burnt out mess.

Fr. Benedict came across the room to me with outstretched arms and congratulated me. He then shared that when he finished his doctorate he breathed a sigh of relief because he never had to write another paper again. When he said this I pulled back with an incredulous look, to which he inquired why. I said, “You’re kidding, right?” And he said, “No, why?” I responded that he went on to author 5,000 books! Fr. Benedict just smiled with the knowing twinkle in his eyes. We went in to lunch, and then I spent two hours pouring out my fears for Joseph, my doubts about my capabilities, and how utterly alone I felt, sensing the absence of God.

My old mentor took me through whence I had come spiritually, and then led me through the Dark Night of the Soul. When I was leaving, we exited his room, which opened into his secretary’s office. Fr. Benedict has shelves filled with the books he authored. It was the stock room, in a sense, for the books people purchased online and via mail order. He grabbed a copy of Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones, as well as Spiritual Passages and handed them to me. When I said, “Thanks, but I have them at home,” he said in reply, “Take two more!”

He was truly one of a kind. A session with Fr. Benedict could range from side-splitting laughter to dealing with being on the edge of the abyss. Whenever I saw him, he always asked for Regina, and then each of the children by name. He was gracious, and holy. His brilliance and incisiveness could easily be overpowering, had he not tempered them with his quick wit and self-deprecating humor.

When I began doing pro-life work in earnest, Fr. Benedict was there with wisdom beyond description. He mapped out all of the spiritual pitfalls I faced, and helped me avoid them all.

I could tell a number of other stories about Fr. Benedict, and what he did for elderly priests who needed the guidance and support to take them the rest of the way home, of how he was never too busy, never said no. But we’ll let those stories rest with all of those good men who found their way with Fr. Benedict’s guidance.

What will endure, more than anything, was the one great constant in all of our conversations: Fr. Benedict’s love for the poor and the least, his admonition to me that I never forget them and their needs, that they are the living face of Jesus.

A priest who met popes, walked with saints, advised the bishops and cardinals of the Church, and yet craved time with the lowliest in society, because that’s where he felt closest to his God.

I should feel some sorrow at his passing from us, but I can’t. Though I’ll miss him, I’m overjoyed that he now sees face-to-face the God he could only see tangentially as he walked among us.

Yes, I believe that Fr. Benedict went to Purgatory (as he insisted he would), but only to collect a few souls along the way home.

Thank you, Fr. Benedict Joseph, and please pray for us.

EPierrot-BenY

Wrongful Birth.

It is a legal term rooted in deep narcissism and dressed in the clothing of contract law. Translated, it means some parent didn’t get what they hoped for, or paid for when their child was born. Somebody screwed up and the wrong product was delivered. It’s a form of business and/or medical malpractice.

Wrongful Birth.

The very words reveal the ugly side of human nature, the neurotic side of the human psyche where human fear meets with human failure, and growth becomes a forced issue, and someone has to pay a price for it.

Consider the white lesbian couple in Ohio who ordered sperm from a sperm bank, expecting sperm from a donor with a certain genetic (Caucasian) and personal profile. What they were sent was sperm from a black man, and what resulted was a mixed race baby. Read the story here.

It’s a truly tragic story, and heartbreaking that a child should be born into such poverty of spirit, especially to a lesbian mother who should have learned a thing or two about oppression and survival. Consider the following quotes from the story in Mail Online.

Jennifer Cramblett, 36, claims the mistake has caused her stress and anguish because her family is racist and she lives in a small, all-white Uniontown in northeast Ohio…

Ms Cramblett [sic] she has ‘limited cultural competency relative to African-Americans’ and worries that her daughter Payton will not be accepted in her hometown of Uniontown.

‘Jennifer lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future,’ according to the lawsuit.

Is it understandable that a woman coming from a family she labels “racist” would also claim to have “limited cultural competency” to raise a mixed race child?

No, it isn’t.

In labeling her family as racist, Ms. Cramblett identifies herself as somehow above it all. That is the necessary precondition for self-education in gaining cultural competence in the raising of her mixed race child. But that, too, begs the question. Why does this child need to be singled out as something other? How, exactly, should she be raised compared to potential future siblings who are white? Is that not itself racist? And then there is the matter of living, “each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future.”

Do these lesbians see the world so categorically that they actually think that living, “each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future,” is not something every single parent on the planet experiences?

There’s more:

Even simple tasks have become more complicated because Payton is mixed-race, the lawsuit says.

‘Payton has hair typical of an African American girl. To get a decent cut, Jennifer must travel to a black neighborhood, far from where she lives, where she is obviously different in appearance, and not overtly welcome,’ according to the lawsuit.

Again, note the objectification of blacks by this mother. What does it take beyond a universal smile and common courtesy for people of different ethnicities to develop warm and cordial relationships? So what is this woman getting at?

On the one hand, she doesn’t feel culturally competent, then castigates an entire community of color when she brings the child to a hairdresser who can do the child’s hair some justice. And as for traveling out of one’s way? Heterosexuals do it all the time for their children. It comes with being a parent. God forbid she should turn it into a quality mommy-daughter day out.

The article ends with the mother saying that in a few years when her daughter begins school, she may be the only black child in her class in her small, rural town, and this worries her. An indictment of the entire community. But how small-minded can the community be if she and her lesbian partner live there?

For a mother so ostensibly concerned with her daughter being picked on by racist family, tortured by racist classmates and neighbors, failed culturally by her mother, she has chosen to label the little girl a mistake, a wrongful birth, a human who never should have been. All because of a little extra melanin and some different hair.

For all their talk of tolerance, and openness, and inclusivity, and compassion, it isn’t unreasonable to expect gays and lesbians to put their money where their collective mouth is. One would expect a lesbian couple, of all people, to abhor the notion of “wrongful birth,” claiming a genetic etiology for their own orientation as they do.

Pity the child born to such poverty and bigotry.

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On the day that Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, a companion case, Doe v. Bolton was handed down as well. The Doe case made abortion legal in all nine months of pregnancy. Like Norma McCorvey of the Roe case, Bolton’s name was used without her knowledge or consent. From Lifesite News:

Cano told the Catholic Register, “It’s a nightmare to be connected to a case that I never wanted to be connected to. Doe v. Bolton allows abortion up to the ninth month. This case takes children’s lives.”

“Back in 1970,” Cano begins, “I had a very complicated marriage and had two children in foster care. I was pregnant and wanted to get my babies back from foster care. I was poor, uneducated and ignorant. My life was very unstable. I was in a survival state. I went to Atlanta Legal Aid to get a divorce. Whoever was there to try to help me, I trusted. That’s how I became unknowingly involved with Doe v. Bolton. Never once did I know that we were going to kill babies.

“I can’t understand how a case like this could go to the Supreme Court without anyone knowing or speaking to me to find out if what the attorney was presenting to the court was true. I was so ignorant I didn’t know that there were two cases that legalized abortion.

“I ran away to Oklahoma to keep from having an abortion. They knew I was against abortion. Grady Memorial Hospital said I had gone before a panel of nine doctors and nurses to seek an abortion. I never sought an abortion. The hospital has no records because I never went to the hospital.

“It was only later that I learned that, through Margie Pitt Hames, I had sued Georgia Baptist Hospital to have an abortion.”

The Register asked how she discovered the truth and she replied, “In 1974, I went to Georgia Right to Life to try to find someone to help me. I told them that I was the woman who was involved in the abortion law, but didn’t know what it was about. They sent me to Fayetteville to seek help. On and off over the years, I would come forward, but when you don’t have money or people willing to help, a lot of people think you’re someone off the nut wagon.

“In the 1980s, I talked to an Atlanta Journal and Constitution newspaper reporter. She told me I had to prove who I was. I asked, “How do you do that?” She told me I had to go down to the court to verify that I was the person involved in the case. When I did that, they told me I had to go to the Federal Archives building. When I did that, they gave me this humongous book to look through. I didn’t understand half of it. I was out of my league. There was also a sealed envelope. I wanted to open it, but couldn’t. They told me that I would have to go to the court to have my records unsealed. Someone at the court showed me how to petition the court to unseal the records.

“A week later, Judge Owen Foster called me. He told me, “I don’t normally do this, but think you need a lawyer. We’re going to be hearing your case.” I found an attorney and went down to the court to unseal the records. Margie Pitt Hames didn’t want me to open the records. After unsealing the records I wrote to the Supreme Court. They said that the statute of limitations had passed.”

“They connected my name to a case that I never knew about in the beginning, never participated in, never believed in. I carried a guilt for many, many years. I was just a pawn,” Cano told The Blaze.

Read the rest here.

Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let Perpetual Light shine upon her.
May she rest in Peace, Amen.

Supporting Jill Stanek

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On December 24, 2009 Pro-life nurse/blogger/speaker/activist/apostle, Jill Stanek, gave me the Christmas gift of a lifetime. After having encouraged and even insisted that I start my own blog, Jill promoted it on her own extremely popular blog. See it here.

For those who may not know, Jill was the Ob/Gyn nurse who broke open wide the issue of babies born alive and left to die. Some are from botched abortions, some having severe congenital anomalies. In insisting that this issue come into the light it cost Jill her livelihood as a nurse. If there is anyone more detestable in medicine than a whistleblower, it’s a Christian, pro-life whistleblower. Jill abandoned the peace and economic surety of a solid nursing career to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into the wilderness of the life issues. Like Peter and the other apostles who left their fishermen’s nets to follow Jesus, Jill left it all behind and never looked back.

In that time, Jill jumped into the emerging world of blogging, recognizing the internet as the new town square for the shrinking global village. She has gathered under her roof at Jillstanek.com every activist, physician, scientist, clergy person with a positive program and promoted their work. She has become a hub of news and information. When Twitter emerged, Jill jumped right on board and has used the medium to mount several successful campaigns against the abortion industry.

All during that time, she has crisscrossed the nation and traveled the globe in her apostolic mission to end abortion and restore a culture of life and a civilization of love. Those of us who do so know the toll this takes on our family lives and on our finances. In all of that time Jill has never asked for support for her blog, and following her example neither have I. However, today Jill has posted on her blog a very modest request for support. Read it here. It is the first time in her blog’s eight years that she has done so. If she’s asking, then there is good reason.

I would humbly ask that those reading this consider lending support for Jill’s ongoing and indefatigable work in ending this horrendous scourge of abortion. Click the link to her site, read her request, consider how incredibly modest her request is (compared to many who always ask for as much as you can possibly afford), and then prayerfully consider your response.

I am only one of many, many people with whom Jill Stanek has been completely generous with her time and resources.

It’s reciprocity time.

God Bless.

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John Vianney, Good and Holy Priest
O holy Priest of Ars, you lived in an age of much upheaval, in a time when men turned their backs on God. Your bishop told of a parish to which he wished to send you where there was no love. He assigned you to Ars and said that you would be the Priest who would enable the people to know the love of God. Not only did you draw these people back to God, but your saintly reputation soon spread and many people were converted to a life of holiness. You said that a good Priest, a Priest after Christ’s own heart is the greatest treasure that God can give a parish. Give us such Priests!

O great St. John Vianney, once again we are living in day of upheaval. There is much evil in the word. Obtain for Cardinal Dolan the grace to persevere in his faith and never to despair. May he walk with the Lord and trust in Him all the days of his life. Obtain through your heavenly intercession, for Cardinal Dolan the grace of modeling his life after that of Jesus Christ, that his people will know the love of God. More than ever the people need him to be able to bring the world to Christ.
Pray for Cardinal Dolan and all Priests, O great Priest of Ars.

Novena Prayer: O holy Priest of Ars, St. John Marie Vianney, you loved God and served Him faithfully as His Priest. Now you see God face to face in heaven. You never despaired but persevered in your faith until you died. Remember now the dangers, fears and anxieties that surround Cardinal Dolan and intercede for him in all his needs and troubles especially console him in his most difficult moments, grant him serenity in the midst of crisis, and protect him from evil. O St. John Vianney, I have confidence in your intercession.
Pray for Cardinal Dolan in a special way during this novena.

Amen.

pope

Timothy Cardinal Dolan is my archbishop, an as such he is entitled to my respect and obedience. There have only been a couple of times where I have publicly disagreed with him and written of it. It is not bishop-bashing, but rather the strongly worded disagreement of a faithful and respectful son of the Church. As such, critique must always be balanced by prayer for the Cardinal’s intentions. This novena is that prayer. Please join each night after 8PM EST as we pray for Cardinal Dolan’s intentions. We begin…

St. John Vianney, Lover of Penance and Mortification O holy Priest of Ars, you led a life of detachment from worldly pleasures. Your meals consisted of a boiled potato each day; you slept a few hours each night. But you did all of this so that you would be able to serve God to the best of your ability. Your life was portrayed by the saying: We complain when we suffer. We have much more reason to complain when we do not suffer, since nothing likens us to our Lord as the bearing of His cross.

O great St. John Vianney, in these days when we are surrounded by so many comforts and pleasures, it can be so difficult for us to do penance for our sins and live a life of detachment. I resolve to offer some sacrifice today for the expiation of Cardinal Dolan’s sins and the sins of all mankind. Assist Father in accepting the cross God chooses to send him. May he embrace the life of sacrifice to which Priests are called. May he willingly offer his whole life to God! Obtain for Cardinal Dolan the grace to imitate the life of Christ by the bearing of His cross.

Novena Prayer: O holy Priest of Ars, St. John Marie Vianney, you loved God and served Him faithfully as His Priest. Now you see God face to face in heaven. You never despaired but persevered in your faith until you died. Remember now the dangers, fears and anxieties that surround Cardinal Dolan and intercede for him in all his needs and troubles especially console him in his most difficult moments, grant him serenity in the midst of crisis, and protect him from evil. O St. John Vianney, I have confidence in your intercession.
Pray for Cardinal Dolan in a special way during this novena

Amen.

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