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“Life is Difficult.”

With those three opening words of profound truth, M. Scott Peck began a self-help revolution in his classic, The Road Less Traveled. It is really a provocative opening line for a book, a statement of the incredibly obvious, and yet a revelation. As one of the central institutions of civilization marriage, too, is difficult. It is life in microcosm, and yet it is the paradigm for civilization itself. Therefore, it should not come as a great surprise to note the parallel realities of a civilization in decline in proportion to the failure rate of that civilization’s marriages.

For decades now, the divorce rate in the United States has hovered at fifty percent.

Life is difficult.

Having known far too many couples who have divorced, having walked the road with them before, during, and after, Peck’s words come as an understatement. In truth life can be brutal, demoralizing, and even dehumanizing. Outside of war and famine, nowhere do these experiences come into such sharp relief as in the experience of a failed marriage. At its completion, people are left broken, often ruined financially, devastated psychologically, and often relieved that the ordeal is finally over.

Being somewhat jaded by these realities, it takes quite a bit to penetrate the shell of cynicism that comes with being a New Yorker. That happened this week when I learned of the increasing popularity of divorce parties that often come with anti-wedding cakes showing either a dead bride or groom, a bride or groom dragging the other out to the trash, or a bride or groom shoving their spouse off the cake. Google “Divorce cakes” to see the macabre celebration of love’s tragic death.

Fox News had an article on the trend. From the article:

Duff Goldman, chef and owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore and Charm City Cakes West in Los Angeles, said he has been creating divorce cakes for a decade, with one or so orders a month nowadays.

“We’re thrilled to put a positive spin on what can be a difficult and stressful time for people,” said Duff, whose custom cakes were featured on the Food Network reality show “Ace of Cakes” from 2006 to 2011.

O’Malley’s first big divorce client popped up two years ago. She’s the one who hosted the $25,000 bash at a fancy venue, complete with a cocktail reception, sit-down dinner, toasts and an eight-piece band. She wore white, though not her wedding gown.

“We set up a chapel-looking area and her father walked down the aisle by himself to take her back, instead of give her away,” said O’Malley, who has handled several divorce parties since.

The bridesmaid who caught the woman’s bouquet eight years prior threw one back to her, he said. Wedding gifts were photographed, placed in silver frames and given to gifters in attendance.

“This is something you don’t have to regret, like the wedding,” O’Malley said. “It’s something without any shame.”

Shame is not the issue here, nor should it be. Divorce, and the death of love are brutal. Shame is anticlimactic in context. Rather, the party seems to take the death of something far greater than the individuals and turns its burial into a cause for celebration. So what is being celebrated? To answer that, one needs to delve into the realm of the cognitive and affective on the wedding day itself. There are the love songs that are played, songs that speak of longing, and waiting, and fulfillment. Boyce Avenue’s cover of Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years captures this about as well as any.

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall?
But watching you stand alone,
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow.

One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

One step closer
One step closer

[Chorus:]
I have died every day waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Quite beautiful, both the lyrics and melody. Moreso, quite a powerful declaration of love, of devotion, of permanence.

It’s against this affective backdrop that vows are made, that promises and expectations are declared before family, friends, and the church assembled. I can think of no more affirming moment in my life, affirmation of all that I am, than when Regina pledged her love and fidelity to me until the day one of us dies. She was (and remains) a beautiful, brilliant, and holy woman who could have had any man she wanted, and yet she chose me and put it all on the line before God and man. The emotional impact of that reality can not be understated, because it sets the table for either great good, or great harm.

Apart from sexual infidelity, which is the only kind envisioned when the word, “infidelity,” is mentioned, there are a thousand other infidelities that creep into a marriage along the way. The vows made on the wedding day are not just for sexual fidelity. Sex is never mentioned explicitly. Our vows were,

“I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

Of course sex is a part of that being, “true to you.” But the reality is that there is so much more in daily life that is a part of being true, of loving and honoring the other. It is primarily in the daily acts of being true that marriages prosper, or wither. Establishing common goals, respecting differences, being slow to anger and quick to forgive have much to do with being true to the other.

The vows point to learning sacrificial love, which grows out of the seed of romantic love, and takes a lifetime to perfect as it is learned in layers. As Dostoyevsky reminds us 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.”

There is a raw and powerful beauty in that kind of love, and a correspondingly raw and powerful bitterness when it doesn’t take root.

Before we began homeschooling the children, Regina would find herself talking with the other mothers in the school yard at morning drop-off. The women would take turns bashing and belittling their husbands, and when they came to Regina in the circle, she would have nothing to contribute, not because I don’t give her heartburn with regularity, but because she loves and respects me in spite of the heartburn. The thought of trashing me was abhorrent to her, and she quickly found herself on the outs with that crowd, many of whom are now divorced.

Knowing many of them, one could see the creeping progression of the illness in their marriages. The tipping point comes when disappointments lead to unforgiveness and loss of respect. It’s seldom sudden, almost always imperceptible, and spiritually toxic. When the ink is finally dry on the divorce, both parties are often psychologically and spiritually exhausted.

After such a journey, no party can bring closure. The wound is too deep. The promise of love has given way to the other feeling better off without their spouse.

It is anti-love, which may be necessary in many cases. But anti-love should never beget celebrations. It should remind us of what Peck did almost forty years ago, and prompt us to address that reality constructively:

Life is difficult.

APTOPIX Italy Pope Epiphany

The most recent dust-up regarding Pope Francis occurred when I posted some scalding commentary regarding a LifeSite News article that reported on Pope Francis concelebrating mass with a 93 year-old dissident, gay rights activist priest, and the Pope’s kissing that priest’s hands. Lifesite accurately depicted the problematic issues surrounding the ancient cleric:

Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Domus Santa Martha and then presented the pontiff with gifts of a wooden chalice and paten and a copy of his most recent book, “Dear Don Michele – questions to an inconvenient priest”.

In a previous book, Don Michele wrote, “homosexual love is a gift from (God) no less than heterosexual.” He also disparaged the idea of homosexual couples not having sex.

Francis closed the meeting by kissing the priest’s hand, a gesture that the far-left newspaper L’immediato called one “revealing the humility of a great man to another of the same stature.” De Paolis described the unusual papal gesture himself in a post to his Facebook page, saying that he asked Francis for an audience with the priest’s other organization, the Community of Emmaus: “Is that possible?”

He said that the pope replied, “Anything is possible. Talk to Cardinal Maradiaga and he shall prepare everything.”

“And then (unbelievably) he kissed my hand! I hugged him and wept,” de Paolis concluded.

The gesture has made something of a sensation in Italian media and ‘blogs since de Paolis is a well-known figure in Italy as a leading clerical apologist for the homosexualist ideology. He ostensibly met with Francis in his capacity as the founder of Emmaus Community in the southern Italian city of Foggia that assists the poor and those suffering from AIDS.

The article then included the following:

LifeSiteNews asked Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi for clarification as to the nature of the encounter but received no reply by press time.

On FB, I linked the Lifesite article with the following criticism from me:

Some other award winning and sensational headlines from years gone by:

Jesus Dines with Prostitutes

Galilean Rabbi Allows Woman with 12-year Hemorrhage to Touch Him.

Jesus at it Again, This Time Dines with Tax Collector.

Nazorean has Feet Washed by Whore’s Tears, Dried by Her Hair

Whore-Loving Rabbi Demands Jews Eat His Flesh, Drink His Blood as Admission Price for Heaven.

Dregs of Society will Inherit Heaven, When Will He End the Madness?

Rabbi Claims to be Doctor for the Sick, Ends Stoning of Adulteress. Is He Encouraging Sin?

Rabbi has it Backward. Conversion FIRST, Then Acceptance.

Sorry, but I’m beginning to see a heartlessness and self-righteousness in conservative and orthodox circles that is unnerving. As Father Groeschel once told me, “The sins against sex are the most humiliating, but the sins against charity are the most damning.”

This sparked something of an uproar, so much so that Lifesite printed a clarification of their position, and one of the editors called and had an extensive conversation with me. (I’ve been a contributing blogger for a few years). The conversation was frank, civilized, and gentlemanly. While it did much to clear the air, there is a larger, lingering issue that needs to be addressed by pro-life and orthodox Catholics; A question, really.

Who do we say Francis is?

Since his election, Francis has brought a style that has provided ample grist for the pro-life mill. Many have feared, openly and scandalously, that he is about to break with established church teaching on moral norms. And at every turn they have been proven wrong. He famously stated that one need not discuss the issues of abortion and homosexuality all the time, which sent most pro-life leaders into the stratosphere.

And for good cause.

Increasingly, we see the marriage between the gay rights movement and the culture of death through their support of in vitro fertilization and related technologies, the support for abortion, gay marriage, and the general support of left-leaning politicians. Western civilization’s implosion is accelerating and being catalyzed by these very issues.

Or is it?

Perhaps Francis sees these issues not as cause, but as effect. Perhaps Francis sees the breakdown as beginning in other areas and these latter issues are the final manifestation of a spiritual rot that has been progressing below the surface for quite some time. How can one know, or be sure? Is Francis a closet heretic and apostate, as some fear, or maverick pastor who is resorting to the audacious in order to snap people out of their torpor? How can one know?

In pursuit of this answer, and also in attending to several family matters (mostly good stuff), I have taken a self-imposed break from blogging, from the need to report, to comment, to publish with great regularity. The sabbatical has been both productive and refreshing. It has also confirmed for me some concerns regarding Francis. So, here it is.

I said this a year ago, and it is as true now, as it was then:

He. Is. Peter.

That’s who I say Francis is. He is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and that dread reality ought to make people pause before they publish news articles that call his character, morality, and motives into question. The thought that a deadline for publication should trump waiting for a reply from the Vatican spokesman where the reputation of the pope hangs in the balance suggests that perhaps we have crossed a line over here in the right wing. It suggests that we have established ourselves as a shadow College of Cardinals, advising our pope in print and tearing into him when he dares to march to his own drum.

If our Jesuit, hand-kissing, iconoclastic pope has aroused our ire, perhaps it is because he is shattering our icons of ourselves. Perhaps this pope sees that abortion and homosexuality are rooted in other serious ills that need also to be addressed, and that attacking root causes clears up a great deal of downstream issues like homosexuality and abortion.

Perhaps Jorge Bergolio brings with him to the Chair of Peter a perspective that we in the Northern Hemisphere simply do not grasp. The very people whom he grew up with, cherished and valued, ministered to in their poverty are largely our illegal aliens in the United States- a people resented here, even despised. So, when Bergolio/Francis speaks of the need to make these people a priority, and not speak all the time of abortion and homosexuality, he speaks from a perspective that runs up hard against the conservative, Republican/ Tea Party politics that animate so many of us in the pro-life movement and the orthodox wing of the church. It is difficult to separate the integration of our politics and faith, especially when the two dovetail so nicely on the life issues.

Still, Francis is calling us to espouse some of that espoused by our political opponents here in North America, and that means breaking the mold and entering the dangerous waters of consensus politics, of becoming odd bedfellows with the political lepers of the left.

Francis sees where the disintegration, the alienation takes place. It’s in the heart. That is most evident in those who castigated him for concelebrating with a brother priest who was never disciplined by Popes John Paul II or Benedict, and neither by Cardinals Ratzinger or Burke when they headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I suspect that all of these very “imprudent” actions on Francis’ part are reaching many homosexuals and lesbians at the core of their woundedness, and suggesting to them that they are not the lepers in the church that secular media have suggested that they are. What comes of this revolutionary pastoral approach remains to be seen.

Until then, Francis IS Peter. His choice was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he is in need of our prayers. Moreso, we need to pray for ourselves, for the gifts of wisdom and courage, vision and strength, and above all, humility.

image

Through the years I have been asked to review a good many books on topics from microbiology, to evolution, biomedical ethics, spirituality, and even the life of Cardinal Newman. It’s always a privilege to do so, to be a part of the birthing of an author’s dream, to help bring forward an idea, a perspective, or message that will have great consequence in the lives of readers. Earlier this year I was asked to do just that for a series of children’s books released a week ago by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing, a series that every parent of a young child can and should support. What was different was that I was approached directly by the author, Mike Lane, and the author is my friend.

This is a story that just doesn’t happen to new authors, and has happened to the most deserving married couple I’ve ever known. It involves a first-time author, whose work is just the sort that we parents dream of our children reading, that has been picked up by Scholastic Books, and recommended by the Junior Library Guild months before its release date.

Pure magic.

I met Mike Lane in college when he began dating my friend, Donna, who has always been to me the personification of goodness itself. Having met a man of equal character, Donna and Mike were married before long and settled into building a life together. As I came to know Mike, I learned that he had a passion for doing magic. He would perform for anyone, anytime, anywhere. As the years rolled by, Mike’s passion grew into a show that he would do for children’s parties, and finally, sell-out dinner theater. People cannot get enough of “Magician Mike Lane.”

It’s good, clean fun. Nothing dark, or brooding, or frightening, or edgy. It’s old school, “How’d he do that?” kind of magic. It starts with fun and leaves you wanting more by the time it’s over. Adults are returned to the innocence of childhood as the cynical accretions of time are stripped away, and the primordial experience of wonder grabs hold once again. There’s good reason why people cannot get enough of Mike’s magic.

One day, a few years ago, Mike shared with me a longstanding dream that had been brewing beneath the surface, and was now bubbling over with the irresistibility of an idea that could no longer be ignored. Mike had a desire to write a children’s book, and he shared the storyline with me. As he spoke, he actually had several really good ideas, all involving children as characters, friendship, magic, and the central theme of believing in oneself. Through a fortuitous series of events, Mike had the opportunity to pitch his ideas at Feiwel and Friends after several rejections from other publishers (“Great stuff, but nobody knows you…”).

This time, things would be different. Gathered in that room was a team of sharp publishers who knew the goodness of the story, and more importantly, saw the goodness of the man before them. As he performed his magic for them, and spoke of his idea, a series of books was born. They tell the story of Mike Weiss, a fidgety fourth-grader who can’t seem to get it together. (It bore an uncanny resemblance to myself in school.) From the opening of book one of The Magic Shop, The Vanishing Coin:

“Nine-year-old Mike Weiss slumped in a hard chair outside the principal’s office, Fourth grade was supposed to be a fresh start, but he was right back where he always was. Every year since kindergarten, at least once a week. In trouble.

“He wasn’t a bad kid. He wasn’t mean. He didn’t hurt anyone. He just couldn’t sit still. Sometimes he did things without meaning to…”

The story tells of a supportive (and not punitive) teacher and principal, kindly secretary in the principal’s office, loving parents, and Mike’s new friend, Nora, who accepts him as he is and complements his personality. It involves a bully, Mike’s nemesis, and tells of how Mike and Nora discover a magic shop, whose keeper takes Mike under his wing and begins a mentoring relationship. Throughout, the reader is entertained by Mike’s ups and downs in school, cheers him on as he finally finds mastery in something nobody else can do, bedeviling his nemesis by showing strength and proficiency in an area where the bully cannot top him, and soars to new heights with Nora as the wind beneath his wings. The theme throughout is the simple, powerful admonition: Believe!

Throughout the well-illustrated book the readers are given a peek into The Book of Secrets, as they are shown several of the magic tricks performed by Mike Weiss. That’s part of the genius in this series. By teaching the protagonist’s tricks, which are easily mastered, the reader joins the author and Mike Weiss in the shared experience of bringing wonder to family and friends. And that’s just the first book in a series that develops the story and teaches new magic, new life lessons.

To know Mike Lane is to know the secret of what is rapidly developing into a runaway success. He is a profoundly good, loving, and decent husband and father, with a wife who is his equal in every way. The story of the protagonist is really Mike Lane’s. The goodness, fidelity, encouragement, and gentle wisdom of Nora is Mike’s wife, Donna. The author and his work are one.

At the rollout in Barnes and Noble on Staten Island three weeks ago, Mike sat with co-author, Kate Egan, (A professional author and editor with monumental credentials) and signed books for 4 ½ hours, with a line stretching around the store that never abated (wait time: 1 ½ hours). It was a George Bailey moment as the community turned out in droves for our beloved, “Magician Mike Lane.” Sales approached nearly 600 books, and Mike’s signing was the second largest in the history of the store. As advance word spread to the schools and bookstores where Mike went the following week on a national tour, the stores were chagrined when they had no books for signing, as the local schools snapped them up for their children in advance of Mike’s appearances.

It’s a pleasure to take a break from the heaviness of bioethics and promote something for our children’s character formation that harkens back to the goodness and simplicity we parents and grandparents remember from our own childhoods.

It’s a comfort to know that there are publishers who see the goodness for which we all clamor and are proud to present it.

It’s refreshing to see a team that approaches children with an appeal to all that is good, and wholesome, and decent in human character and doesn’t adulterate it with an edgy agenda.

Most of all, it has been my blessing to know since college the love and friendship of Mike and Donna, to see them raise their children up to their high standard of goodness and kindness, and to see this book series open a window for countless children to share in the fruits of Mike and Donna’s wisdom and goodness. A father’s simple, yet powerful admonition to a generation of children in a culture often hostile to them:

Believe!

The books are available here.

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.

desk

Wesley J. Smith has a disturbing article dealing with Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu’s proposal to screen human embryos for intelligence. Smith quotes Savulescu:

A common objection is that being smarter does not make your life better. In this study, researchers were concerned with those with an IQ between 70-85. Below 70 is classified as intellectual disability but an IQ of 70 to 75 is similar to mild intellectual disability.

Even for individuals with an IQ between 75 and 90 there are still significant disadvantages. Job opportunities tend to be the least desirable and least financially rewarding, requiring significant oversight…Individuals with this lower level of intelligence are at significant risk of living in poverty (16%), being a chronic welfare dependent (17%) and are much more likely to drop out of school (35%) compared to individuals with average intelligence.

Studies show that there is also an increased risk of incarceration and being murdered.

Read it all.

When it comes to eugenics, there is simply no end to the killing until a just people rises up and either kills or incarcerates the practitioners, as was the case with Nazi Germany. When forced sterilizations weren’t enough, there were detention camps, which gave way to concentration camps where people were shot and buried. When that proved too slow and cumbersome to effect the eugenic goal, gas chambers were built, with exhaust fumes from tanks pumped in. When that proved still too slow, larger chambers using cyanide gas were built, and ovens to cremate the remains.

Eugenics has a malignant mania that increases with demonic furor the further in one goes. When we go from preventing birth to active killing, a point of no return is reached and the killing can only be brought to an end by brute force. Consider Savulescu’s argument.

He begins with screening embryos for genetic signposts pointing to potential cognitive capacity. He justifies the killing by pointing to undesirable outcomes such as poverty, welfare dependence and dropping out of school, ignoring that the risks are all very low. Poverty, welfare dependence, and being a school dropout are reason enough in Savulescu’s cramped worldview to kill those who might end up there. By that logic, why should we tolerate those who do end up there? Ought we not have camps for such “human weeds,” as Margaret Sanger called them? And what happens when we tire of supporting the camps?

There are certain cardinal virtues that go with being a Ph.D. My life’s mentor, Father Luke McCann, Ph.D., once told me that those cardinal virtues are contained in the three little letters of the title:

Prudence.

Humility.

Decorum.

I would submit that Savulescu and his fellow travelers are bereft of all three. They are also bereft of the very intelligence they stake such a claim to possessing, as intelligence goes beyond capacity for factual recall, but involves the capacity for problem solving. Advanced intelligence goes beyond mere problem solving and involves the capacity for vision guided by empathy and moral principle. Ph.D.’s are not awarded our degrees for merely taking classes and passing tests. We are awarded the degree for making novel discoveries, for advancing the knowledge within our field of endeavor. In other words, one must demonstrate vision and match the vision with corresponding accomplishment. So where does Savulescu and his cohort get it wrong?

PRUDENCE

Their vision becomes constricted and they lose perspective on life. Intellect for its own sake becomes the pursuit, and they can’t tolerate the aboriginals spoiling their view of an idealized landscape. It becomes easier to kill the marginalized than to create systems that incorporate them more fully into society. How academia has fallen.

There have been several movements in psychology and medicine to give more humane treatment to the “insane.” Forward thinking physicians tried “Moral Therapy” as it was known, where patients were no longer locked in asylums that resembled dungeons. Instead, they were housed in the country and visited regularly by the physician who would bring a small cake, or other gift. In the 1970’s, the warehousing of the mentally retarded ended, and the Group Home movement began, a modern reincarnation of moral therapy. To society’s surprise we learned that “retards” could actually be taught and gainfully employed. So successful has this been that the terms “mentally retarded” and “retard” are uttered today only by boors. People enhanced with an extra chromosome are now graduating from college!

The community of parents with children who have autism are similarly on the march. Marginalization only happens when ignorance and fear trump reason and compassion.

HUMILITY

The jobs that exist on the margins are only marginal to pompous, effete academics. A closer look reveals the central importance of the work that the lowest-paid workers perform. Taking deliveries and stocking shelves in stores is vital work for those who do not produce their own food. So too for cashiers and maintenance workers, cleaning crews, and kitchen staff. They are the unsung and thankless jobs that make civilization civilized. When Martin Luther King Jr. called for blacks to stay at home and not go to work, whites got a good taste of how indispensable those they disdained truly are.

The rarefied air of universities often induces a case of intellectual and spiritual anoxia in those who never darken the chapel door. Savulescus are the result.

DECORUM

Savulescu above all should know that doctors are not free, but constrained. There are simply some groups that one never, ever goes after. If the privileges of the faculty club are the perks for years spent in advanced study and intellectual pursuits, then the unspoken rule is that one NEVER goes after others of unequal academic accomplishment because of their unequal accomplishment. This is especially true for those of unequal capability. There was a time when Savulescu would have been shunned by the academic community for doing so.

One of my professors in graduate school once told me that the Ph.D. is no big deal. “It’s a union card, Gerry. Nothing more. If you want to do this work, you need the union card. The big deal is your publication list at your retirement party.” How very true. It isn’t the degree, but what one does with it that counts.

Oxford now has some soul-searching to do. Do they tolerate a Savulescu in their midst under the soiled banner of “Academic Freedom?” Do they show him the door? If we are to salvage a crumbling western civilization, then the formation of our young in universities and colleges will need to be done by Ph.D.’s who understand and live the three cardinal virtues of academics:

Prudence, Humility, Decorum.

Absent brute military force, that’s the only non-violent response to eugenics.

caduceus

This letter is addressed to every physician, scientist, and genetic counselor who believes in a eugenic agenda that targets the unborn specifically because of diagnosed genetic anomalies. It asks a series of penetrating questions that invite thoughtful response, and are not meant to be rhetorical.

The first question is: WHO?

Who taught you in medical school or graduate school that we doctors of science and medicine are the custodians of the human gene pool? Who was it that told you it was your job to keep that pool “clean?” They are serious questions, as I never encountered this philosophy, let alone mandate, in my premed studies at Columbia University, grad studies at St. John’s University, or post-doctoral studies at the City University of New York. Neither in the Ivies, Catholic, or Public universities did I ever encounter this mandate that has seized hold in our hospitals. Whence comes this thinking?

In my undergraduate studies in the 70’s and 80’s liberal arts professors taught extensively about the corruption of the Third Reich, and the eugenic agenda in Hitler’s camps. What we were never taught was that this agenda predated Hitler and arose within the medical community of the 1920’s in Germany. Regardless, the properly educated man or woman in American universities in the 70’s and 80’s was taught that eugenics was repugnant, Master Race and all of that stuff… It leads to the next question:

HOW?

How have we progressed from that understanding to where we are today? How is it that we have come to view genetic anomalies as so terrifyingly painful that those who bear them are deemed “incompatible with life,” which is strikingly similar to Hitler’s, “Life unworthy of Life?” On what basis do you make such an assessment, especially in the case of Down Syndrome? Is this rooted in firsthand clinical experience? It can’t be, as these children and adults are some of the most beautiful and happy individuals among us. How is it that we celebrate “diversity’ with near-fanaticism in society while we shoot for genetic homogeneity with similar near-fanaticism? That of course leads to the question:

WHAT?

What is it that you believe you have been entrusted with that leads to this neo-eugenics? When I went to graduate school, we were entrusted with great knowledge of biology across the spectrum of life, and in my course of studies, great knowledge of human and microbial physiology. We were entrusted with the knowledge and training in molecular biology, techniques so powerful that they have equal ability to destroy life on earth as well as advance the cause for life on earth. What we did not receive enough of was training in ethics, and not the sort of algorithm flow chart-based policy crap devoid of any training in metaphysics and human anthropology. I received all of that in undergrad, thank God. It was expected of us that we would use this great knowledge and power only for good, but therein lies the problem.

How do we define the good? Who defines the good? What is the good?

It’s easy for those of us who were obviously born with all of the genetic capability to earn doctorates to look down upon the disenfranchised with disdain. It comes from an insecurity within that says, “I can’t imagine living like that,” which is precisely the soil in which a eugenic mentality takes root. A little guilt added in to spice up the toxic brew, and here we are. But ask yourself this question.

If you rise above the genetics and epigenetics and consider the quality of life to which you appeal in your headlong pursuit of stamping out the unfit, what training do you have in anthropology, psychology, sociology, comparative religion, transcultural psychology, aesthetics, philosophy? How well did you apply yourself to these studies when you were in pre-med, or were these the B.S. courses you needed to endure on the way to medical or graduate school?

I would submit that most physicians and scientists I have met who are pro-choice are severely deficient in these areas, and as such cannot render an informed opinion as regards quality of life, and only speak from their very narrow and cramped worldview.

The new colonialism.

Of course, this all begs the further question:

When?

When was it that we stopped looking for cures and enhanced therapies, and started taking the cheap way out? When did death and non-existence become the answer, rather than healing and wholeness? When did we receive a mandate to kill every baby we could in order to aid the patient in avoidance of suffering?

I would submit that the answers reside in the radicalization of the liberal arts over the past thirty years, and in the watering down of the college curriculum in that time. It’s a formation issue, from my perspective, one that has left many of our finest and brightest physicians and scientists impoverished and without the necessary spiritual and intellectual protections against the power of our biotechnology to twist and distort its practitioners.

Do you disagree?

I’m open to feedback and answers to the questions

line-in-the-sand

News today from Joan Frawley Desmond in the National Catholic Register that Nancy Pelosi will be honored with Planned Parenthood’s highest honor, the Sanger Award. From the article:

SAN FRANCISCO — On March 27, Planned Parenthood will bestow its highest honor on Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., minority leader in the House of Representatives and a self-identifying Catholic. The Margaret Sanger Award, named for the organization’s founder, who was a known proponent of eugenics, will recognize Pelosi for her legacy of “excellence and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement.”

Desmond chose the right word for the award. It is a “legacy” recognition. The recipients are often feted for their lifetime achievement in advancing the agenda set forth by Margaret Sanger. Desmond also wastes no time in the article in getting down to brass tacks:

“Abortion and Catholicism never go together. When a national leader, such as Speaker Pelosi, conflates the two, it, unfortunately, can lead other Catholics — who believe there is no issue with pro-abortion beliefs and the practice of their Catholic faith — to miss the opportunity to reconcile their views with Church teaching,” Scot Landry, the director of Catholic Voices USA, told the Register.

“That is sad, a tremendous scandal in our Church and a disservice to all those who follow her example.”

In 2013, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who heads the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, stated in a published interview that Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law “must be applied” to determine whether Pelosi should receive the Eucharist.

“This is a person who, obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic,” said Cardinal Burke.

Read it all.

Cardinal Burke was quite correct, but back here in the States his admonition seems to have gone unheeded.

No More.

Planned Parenthood has changed the game with this recognition, and in a way that goes far beyond just Pelosi. This is about all of Pelosi’s fellow travelers from the Church: Biden, the Cuomo’s, the Kennedy’s, etc. They play as a team, and they have been winning as a team for generations with over 57 million dead babies to their credit. Add to that Obamacare and its malignancy, the HHS mandate, loss of religious freedom, advancing the culture of death in our schools… Why shouldn’t Planned Parenthood applaud such a malignant record? There is no way this could have been achieved without the Catholic squad on the Democrat team. Catholics such as the late “Lion of the Senate,” Teddy Kennedy, and Speaker of the House Pelosi have made Cecile Richards’ organization wealthy, powerful, and deadly. The reception of this award cannot go unaddressed by the Church. It is the final, defiant finger in the eye to the bishops.

These Catholic leaders have been at war with the Church, with God, and with humanity for generations. Apart from a few lions through the years, the meek and timid response of the bishops in the face of the rising tide of the blood of innocents has been scandalous in itself. I have been told by some that the concern is a loss of our tax-exempt status. If the bishops can’t see that looming on the horizon anyway, then they are blind, indeed. The only hope to save that status, and the souls of countless Catholics is to rouse themselves at this turn of events.

We are beyond conversation about reception of the Eucharist at this point. The question is why we cannot acknowledge that legislators who vote specifically for abortion funding (not general budgets containing abortion funding) but specific legislation for protecting, funding, and facilitating abortion are formal cooperators in abortion, and as such have already incurred automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication as such? On the consequences of this there can be no more doubt or debate. None of the Catholics in the party of death have defended the Church against the Obama administration’s war on religion. They are all in, all the way.

We have nothing to lose that we have not already lost, or will lose soon enough. That said, what is most frightfully at stake is the very moral authority of the bishops themselves. Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion Catholic legislators are celebrating a lifetime of malignant success in the middle of Lent. The time has come for the bishops to recognize that milestone with a pronouncement of their own, one that is long overdue.

We lift them up in prayer as we witness this mockery of all that is sacred.

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