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B3-thomas2

60 Minutes.

That’s all it will take. 60 minutes.

In one hour’s time, a documentary film maker can assemble a case so damning, so overwhelming against Planned Parenthood that it is doubtful the giant could survive. Over the past several years there have been several damning undercover sting operations and other revelations about this organization and its members. The problem is that the revelations have been too spaced apart, and the momentary outrage has not been sustainable. This time the trafficking in human body parts has touched a nerve, and just as in the physiology of how nerves fire, the stimulus has to be sufficiently large and sustained.

Here, now, the totality of the case for any interested film maker.

Center for Medical Progress Videos

The Center for Medical Progress, which at this writing is in the midst of revealing its videos of Planned Parenthood discussing aborted baby parts for sale, has a page archiving the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood discussing the altering of abortion techniques to maximize organ and tissue yield, as well as discussing pricing for said parts. That site is here.

Live Action Videos

Lila Rose and Live Action have produced several sting operations over the years that demonstrate a culture of what has been described as criminal negligence where child safety is concerned.

Covering Child Sex Trafficking. In Live Action’s words:

“Investigations found seven Planned Parenthood clinics in four different states were willing to aid and abet the sex-trafficking of minor girls by supplying confidential birth control, STD testing, and secret abortions to underage girls and their traffickers.” The seven videos may be seen here.

Child Sexual Abuse Coverup. In Live Action’s words:

“Investigations found eight Planned Parenthood clinics in five different states were willing to cover-up sexual abuse, disregarding mandatory suspected statutory rape reporting laws. Clinics also provided instructions on how to circumvent parental consent laws.” The eight videos may be seen here.

Gendercide: The systematic killing of girls. In Live Action’s words:

“Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen estimated that as early as 1990, approximately 100 million women were demographically missing worldwide due to sex-selection abortion, female infanticide, and other such practices. Current estimates now put that number at 200 million missing women and girls globally.

“U.S. Census data and national vital statistics show that indeed, sex-selection is a growing problem in America. Americans are employing sex-selection techniques in their reproductive decisions. A review of census and birth records by Professor Jason Abrevaya of the University of Texas showed that Americans have sex-selected thousands of baby girls.” The five videos of Planned Parenthood willing to selectively abort girls may be seen here.

Deliberate Medical Misinformation. In Live Action’s words:

“In a multi-state undercover investigation Live Action documented Planned Parenthood’s use of unscientific and fabricated medical information to convince women to have abortions. A series of hidden camera videos shot in clinics across the United States reveals the exploitative tactics abortionists and clinicians employ to conceal the truth about abortion from women who most need honest and accurate information. Leading embryologists have denounced Planned Parenthood’s conduct caught on tape as ‘erroneous and scientifically absurd.’ ” The videos may be seen here.

False Mammogram Claims by Planned Parenthood. In Live Action’s words:

“A series of undercover phone calls reveals that contrary to the claims of Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and other supporters of the nation’s largest abortion chain, the organization does not provide mammograms for women.

“In the tapes, a Live Action actor calls 30 Planned Parenthood clinics in 27 different states, inquiring about mammograms at Planned Parenthood. Every Planned Parenthood, without exception, tells her she will have to go elsewhere for a mammogram, and many clinics admit that no Planned Parenthood clinics provide this breast cancer screening procedure. “We don’t provide those services whatsoever,” admits a staffer at Planned Parenthood of Arizona. Planned Parenthood’s Comprehensive Health Center clinic in Overland Park, KS explains to the caller, ‘We actually don’t have a, um, mammogram machine, at our clinics.'” The video of the calls may be seen here.

Taking Donations Specifically Earmarked for Aborting Black Babies. Live action offers the following transcript of one of several Planned Parenthoods willing to accept money earmarked for aborting a black baby:

Idaho Representative: Autumn Kersey, Director of Development

Idaho Donor: The abortion—I can give money specifically for a black baby, that would be the purpose?

PP Rep: Absolutely. If you wanted to designate that your gift be used to help an African-American woman in need, then we would certainly make sure that the gift was earmarked for that purpose.

Idaho Donor: Great, because I really faced trouble with affirmative action, and I don’t want my kids to be disadvantaged against black kids. I just had a baby; I want to put it in his name.

PP Rep: Yes, absolutely.

Idaho Donor: And we don’t, you know we just think, the less black kids out there the better.

PP Rep: Understandable, understandable.

Idaho Donor: Right. I want to protect my son, so he can get into college

PP Rep: Alright. Excuse my hesitation, this is the first time I’ve had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I’m excited, and want to make sure I don’t leave anything out.

The videos may be seen here.

Planned Parenthood Lying About Botched Abortions. In Live Action’s words:

“Live Action investigators called Planned Parenthood abortion clinics with recent cases of medical emergencies and botched abortions in 7 different states asking if Planned Parenthood’s abortion practice was safe and if women had ever been hurt at the clinics. Not a single Planned Parenthood abortion clinic acknowledged the recent injuries of women.” Listen to the calls here.

For a blog post I’ve written that details how Planned Parenthood has explicitly stated in publications that they seek to remove parental rights as a barrier to children seeking their services, read here. See page 23.

Then There is Planned Parenthood’s advice to children on their right to NOT disclose an HIV status to sex partners, and the right to have sex while drinking and doing drugs:

“You have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose your HIV status.”

“There are many reasons that people do not share their HIV status. They may not want people to know they are living with HIV because of stigma and discrimination within their community. They may worry that people will find out something else they have kept secret, like they are using injecting drugs, having sex outside of a marriage or having sex with people of the same gender. People in long-term relationships who find out they are living with HIV sometimes fear that their partner will react violently or end the relationship.”

“Some people have sex when they have been drinking alcohol or using drugs. This is your choice.”

Get it all here.

So, whence cometh such vile filth and corruption? Certainly no documentary on Planned Parenthood could be considered complete without a good treatment of its beloved founder, Margaret Sanger, whose name is attached to the organization’s annual award. A number of articles dealing with the eugenic princess and her targeting of blacks in her infamous, “Negro Project.”:

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here

And then there is this little gem in another Planned Parenthood publication, a stated goal:

REMOVAL OF PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT OR SPOUSAL CONSENT LAWS THAT PREVENT YOUNG PEOPLE FROM SEEKING SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES.

Lest anyone doubt how young Planned Parenthood’s target audience is, try TEN YEARS OLD!! Get the documents here.

The time has come to assemble all of this material in a fast-paced, hard-hitting documentary about these people. Seen in context, it is all overwhelming, and 99% of the American people do not have this overarching perspective.

This article assembles all of the key data. Now who will produce the film that will show the undercover videos, play the undercover audio, and show who is really waging war on women and children in this nation? Now is the time, while CMP has captured the nation’s attention and sparked a revulsion.

Our women and children deserve better than Planned Parenthood.

412px-Rood_in_Church_of_St._Vincent_Ferrer_(NYC) Dinner started off well enough, that is, until Jesus announced that one of the Apostles was about to betray Him. It set off a flurry of questions. “Could it be me Lord?” And we all know who left dinner early, who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and who hanged himself in despair. It didn’t get any better when Jesus told Peter that before the night was through, he would Deny Him three times. It went from bad to worse when the Apostles, overcome with grief, fell asleep on Jesus repeatedly, and that, it turns out, was only the beginning.

There is much in tonight’s narrative that bears on the state of the Church in America today, much worth pondering. That Judas sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, and used one of the most intimate expressions of love and affection as the signal for identifying him in the dimness of night is chilling. Credit Peter for brandishing a sword and slicing off the ear of one in Judas’ entourage. It was the Apostolic high water mark for the night. It would all unravel for the Apostles from that point on.Having been rebuked on the use of force, Peter would go on to deny Jesus three times, and all but John would head for the tall grass.

Only John followed his Master to the foot of the cross.

Meditating on these past events this week, and watching the drama of religious liberties play out on the national stage this week, it has become evident that Church today resembles the Church at 5 AM on Good Friday. It is a church at low ebb, with the successors of the Apostles as mute and bewildered as the men they succeed were when the gates of Hell were unleashed on the world, when all of the goodness that had gone on for the past  three years seemed to be swallowed up in a demonic cataclysm.

With religious freedom under threat from Big Gay, the Governors of Indiana and Arkansas sought to pass state laws that guarantee the same religious liberties as the federal law sponsored by Teddy Kennedy and Chuck Schumer, and signed into law by Bill Clinton. The demons in and through the media howled with rage and threatened boycotts of these states, which led the champions of religious freedom to…

wait for it…

…declare principled religious and moral objections to being forced into participating in gay/lesbian weddings a form of discrimination.

Allow that to sink in for a moment. The staunchest defenders of religious liberty not only went into retreat, but did Big Gay’s bidding for them by calling for laws that declare Judaeo-Christian moral norms a form of unjust discrimination.

Peter slicing off the ears of his fellow Apostles.

And the silence from our bishops has been deafening, especially when contrasted with a Cardinal leading a St. Patrick’s Day parade with a gay contingent who were out and proud, leading them smiling and waving right past the front doors of his Cathedral. It is the same silence that did not see the bishops unify against gay marriage in the several states, or speak out against the Boy Scouts of America leadership ignore the 67% of leaders polled nationally who opposed permitting openly gay scouts, and on, and on.

We see one brave bishop in San Francisco holding the line on Catholic teacher contracts and behavior. Archbishop Cordileone as John at the foot of the cross.

Meanwhile, the plight of so many Catholic business owners is that of Peter at the fire on Holy Thursday night, being sniffed out as “One of his followers,” taunted into denying Him. Credit those businesses who have not denied him and been handed their own crosses as a consequence.

Weep for the bishops who have locked themselves away in fear of the crowd, who have abandoned their sheep at the darkest hour.

Perhaps it’s time for the faithful to rally to these business owners’ sides, to counter boycotts with support, to become the new Pauline community, of whom it was said, “See those Christians, how they love one another.”

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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.

advent-wreath1

1 A.M. on Christmas morning, burning the Advent wreath down all night, and listening to Advent/Christmas music. It has always been the most peaceful night of the year.

New Life.

Not His, but ours.

It’s somewhat different this year. Something Cardinal Dolan said last Sunday at Mass: Here in New York as we approach Christmas, it feels more like we are moving toward Good Friday. It’s been a terrible week here, feeling much as it did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Officers Liu and Ramos have yet to be buried, and yet there is a peace, a stillness tonight that has not existed since the horrific events of last Saturday. The promise of what this night is all about has taken away some of death’s sting.

It has been a year of renewed fears for us as a people. A newer, more virulent strain of radical Islam has targeted our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, and threatens us worldwide. Racial tensions have been stoked by malignant men, and have culminated in the assassinations of police officers, with promises of more to come. In the midst of it all comes this gentle night, this one day where we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. So for one night, one day, we take refuge and respite from the gathering storm.

We pray for peace, gentle peace, to take root once more in our midst. We ask God to give us peace, and ask what we must do.

At every turn in the scriptures the answer has always been the same.

We must do justice.

We must love mercy.

We must walk humbly with our God.

It’s not necessarily that we deserve the ill that befalls us as a people when we do not do what God requires. It’s rather that we weaken ourselves as a people when we ignore the predation on the weakest among us, a predation that has grown steadily for almost half a century. And then the tiger eats us. All of scripture tells us that God identifies with the poor and the least among us, which is why He chose to be born in a stable.

In this nation we are closing in on sixty million babies slaughtered (and to think that Herod is considered a villain for far less). In the black communities up in arms, they have visited more destruction upon themselves than any other demographic. There are approximately 42 million blacks in America today, and approximately 20 million who have never lived to see the light of day. That’s 1/3 of what ought to be the current population of blacks, or, one dead baby for every two living blacks.

Of course there is anger, there is rage. Add to that 73% of black children who have no father in their life. It’s so vast that it becomes one giant haze of rage. The death of dreams, of hope, of one’s issue. And it’s not much better in other quarters.

Now add to the mix that it has become acceptable to debate the ethics of infanticide under the euphemism of post-birth abortion.

Do we even recognize ourselves anymore?

Yet we pray for peace and scorn those with the poor taste to set these injustices ever before our eyes.

There is rage tonight in the black community. To be clear, it would be patronizing to portray this community as the victims of Planned Parenthood, of forces beyond their control. They certainly are targeted, but they (and we) have it within to withstand evil (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have the law of God written in our hearts, as Paul said.

Perhaps it is time to ask if over this past half-century we have placed more emphasis on being a prosperous people than a just people. We as a people are the most generous on the planet, yes. But generosity isn’t the sum total of justice. Defending the defenseless takes us a great deal further. Generosity isn’t enough. It begins with ending the slaughter of the innocents, with working to untangle this tangled ball, and doing it in a way that is respectful, and not patronizing or imperious.

It begins with praying for the only two things I’ve learned to ask of God: Courage and Wisdom

So, perhaps as this terrible year draws to a close, we might meditate on Isaiah 58 as we pray for God to bless us with that peace and security so absent for so many among us:

1
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Proclaim to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.a
2
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the judgment of their God;
They ask of me just judgments,
they desire to draw near to God.
3
“Why do we fast, but you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, but you take no note?”
See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.b
4
See, you fast only to quarrel and fight
and to strike with a wicked fist!
Do not fast as you do today
to make your voice heard on high!
5
Is this the manner of fasting I would choose,
a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed,
and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?c
AUTHENTIC FASTING THAT LEADS TO BLESSING*
6
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?d
7
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?e
8
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the accusing finger, and malicious speech;f
10
If you lavish your food on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness,
and your gloom shall become like midday;
11
Then the LORD will guide you always
and satisfy your thirst in parched places,
will give strength to your bones
And you shall be like a watered garden,
like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.g
12
Your people shall rebuild the ancient ruins;
the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined dwellings.”h
AUTHENTIC SABBATH OBSERVANCE THAT LEADS TO BLESSING*
13
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
the LORD’s holy day glorious;
If you glorify it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs—
14
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A Blessed, a Peaceful, and a Merry Christmas.

photo-jjoconnor-21

News comes today from the Religion News Service that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose oversight of Priests for Life’s finances was welcomed by Father Pavone several months ago, has turned sour, leading Cardinal Dolan to express the same exasperation as several of Father Pavone’s previous bishops. From RNS:

NEW YORK (RNS) In the latest clash between the Catholic hierarchy and one of the church’s leading anti-abortion crusaders, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan accused the Rev. Frank Pavone of continuing to stonewall on financial reforms, and Dolan said he is cutting ties with his group, Priests for Life.

In a Nov. 20 letter to other U.S. bishops, Dolan said he did not know if the Vatican would now step in to take action against the New York-based priest, who for years has angered various bishops by rejecting oversight of the organization by church authorities and for refusing to sort out his group’s troubled finances.

“My requests of Father Pavone were clear and simple: one, that Priests for Life undergo a forensic audit; two, that a new, independent board be established to provide oversight and accountability,” Dolan wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Catholic World News.

cardinal1

“Although Father Pavone initially assured me of his support, he did not cooperate. Frequent requests that he do so went unheeded. I finally asked him to comply by October 1st. He did not,” Dolan wrote.

Dolan, who had been asked by the Vatican to help Pavone restructure Priests for Life, said in the letter that he has informed Rome that “I am unable to fulfill their mandate, and want nothing further to do with the organization.”

The cardinal said he had “no idea” what the Vatican intends to do now.

In a statement emailed to Religion News Service on Monday (Dec. 15), the Staten Island-based Priests for Life rebuffed Dolan’s criticisms, contending that the group has had “clean” audits for 15 years and saying the dispute is, in fact, “about control.”

That last statement from PFL is regrettable, and one that I fear may signal a return to the smear campaign deployed against Bishop Zurek by several of Father Pavone’s supporters a few years ago. Is it really all about control? So far the bishop’s complaints have never progressed beyond the issue of accounting and accountability, so the charge about control really comes off as a smokescreen tactic to many faithful Catholics who are every bit as pro-life as the staff at PFL.

CardinalDolan

In the last go-round on this issue, several supporters of Father Pavone mercilessly smeared Bishop Zurek as wanting to ruin Father Pavone, to wreck his ministry, of being a pawn of Satan. As many are not Catholic, it was easy to chalk much of that invective up to ignorance of the very nature of a bishop and his sacred office, of the respect and obedience due him from every Catholic, but especially from priests who register sacred vows of respect and obedience at their ordinations. What was appalling was the silence from PFL in the face of this merciless pillorying of Bishop Zurek.

At the time, Bishop Zurek indicated the nature of the problem, as retold by RNS:

In 2011, Zurek denounced Pavone’s “incorrigible defiance of my legitimate authority as his bishop” and suspended his ministry. It then emerged that Priests for Life had been badly mismanaged, running an unsustainable $1.4 million deficit and failing to make key tax filings or allow proper financial oversight and safeguards.

Pavone moved back to New York, saying he had the Vatican’s support and that he would not be cowed by any bishop. Then earlier this year, he and Zurek said they reached a settlement in their standoff and the problems seemed on their way to a resolution.

But that apparently wasn’t the case, and Pavone’s fate now seems to rest with Rome.

Bishop_Tx

So what will it be now? Will the narrative be that Cardinal Dolan really isn’t all that pro-life? That gay-loving prelate who welcomed a gay contingent into the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York! On a few occasions when I have thought Cardinal Dolan erred badly, I wrote about it. But I didn’t smear him. I didn’t impugn his motives. I didn’t encourage a rebellion against him. I encouraged him to look to the examples of his predecessors in office. And all of that raises what is really at issue here.

What does it mean to be a faithful son of the Church?

At its core it means fidelity to the Magisterium and to one’s bishop. This fidelity is required of laity as well as clerics and finds its scriptural roots in 1 Thessalonians 5: 11-13

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you,and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

In this chapter, PFL needs to strike a new tone. They need to put the “Priest” back in Priests for Life. How Catholic or priestly is it to set one’s supporters against a string of bishops? That new tone begins with respect and obedience towards one’s bishop. If the accounting is all in order, then we should get to that point. It would then become abundantly clear if “control” is at issue. That said, Bishop Zurek’s assertion three years ago bears mention again.

As Father Pavone’s Bishop, Patrick Zurek bears moral responsibility for the stewardship of PFL’s finances if there is mismanagement by one of his priests of the $10 Million annual budget, and Bishop Zurek will answer to God for whether or not he exercised his sacred office with prudence and diligence.

bishop-zurek-of-amarillo-texas

What is certain from the published record is that there has been a fractious relationship between Father Pavone and several of his bishops through the years. Equally objective are the horrendous characterizations of these bishops by many of Father Pavone’s supporters. Also equally certain is the fact that no amount of anti-abortion crusading and success can justify these grotesque allegations against the bishops. Even if Bishop Zurek were a bishop who ranked pro-life ministry at the bottom of his list of priorities, this much is also certain:

Every priest serves at the pleasure of his bishop, and his bishop owes him no explanation for changing that priest’s assignment.

Who knows what other news might be in the wings? Regardless, this time around, PFL needs to change tack and get off the smear campaign. It’s a losing strategy with faithful Catholics who ask the simple question:

What would Padre Pio do?

2010-07-31-Duluth-tall-ships-104

Ninety-eight years ago, Edgar Lee Masters penned his famous Spoon River Anthology, a towering work of poetry set in the graveyard of mythical Spoon River. It is a small town whose deceased residents speak frankly from beyond the grave about the gritty reality of what was their life on earth. The most haunting and instructive of these for me as a young college student was that of George Gray:

I HAVE studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

As they have so many times in my life, these words came back as I read this week of yet another academic group calling for infanticide’s new euphemism: Post-birth abortion.

Read the article here. This also follows an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics two years ago, giving cold rationalization for murdering newborns. And that was atop Princeton’s Peter Singer who has advocated this for years.

Every argument is being offered around the world for infanticide in the case of terminal conditions, and even genetic conditions such as Down syndrome. The arguments are the same “quality of life” arguments used to justify abortion. Realizing that infanticide could never sell, as such, the proponents now claim that a newborn is closer developmentally to a fetus than to an adult. What the proponents gloss over is the human identity of the one they seek to murder in cold blood.

Yes, being handed devastating diagnoses for one’s child is enough to make one’s blood run cold. When Regina and I were told that Joseph might well need a group home one day, my faith in myself as a father was put to the test. It was shattering to hear one of the world’s leading authorities say these words. In that moment I had only two things left to me:

The certain knowledge of Regina’s steadfastness and of God’s steadfast providence.

Today that boy stands ready to become an Eagle Scout in two months at the age of fifteen. I don’t think I could have seen that or believed it possible eleven years ago, and therein lies the great trap for so many parents facing the eventual counsel to engage in, “what’s best for the child,” as infanticide takes hold. It is nothing less than love being inverted.

A little more than a century before Masters penned his poem, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his daughter Patsy, where he advised,

Every human being must be viewed according to what it is good for. For not one of us, no, not one, is perfect. And were we to love none who had imperfection, this world would be a desert for our love.

Jefferson grasped that our love only takes root in the soil of human imperfection in others. Far from merely affirming what we find desirable and admirable in others, love complements and completes others. It is a balm for their wounds and a fortress for their weaknesses and fears. It is safe refuge, a place to safely grow.

Jefferson grasped that love, true love, is sacrificial in nature and has nothing to offer humans who might be perfect. Imagine a world that was a desert for our love.

Arid and lifeless.

That is not so much the world that might be, but the world as it is in large swaths of what was once western civilization. The intolerance of imperfection, the disillusionment of our life’s goals being suddenly derailed by the acute and chronic needs of a child or elderly parent, all run hard against our thirst for meaning, but fear of sacrifice and its cost. We are doing something wrong as a people, as a Church, for such fear to rule. In a season of hope, we need to search within for some hard answers to the question of how it is that we have come to this, and what we must do to offer hope and vision to those stumbling around in the darkness.

Could it be that alienation from God precipitates the alienation of love, true love from people’s lives? Is that it?

Masters grasped it, I think. I would only add that the meaning of which Masters speaks is wrought by Jefferson’s love:

To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

I think that somewhere in there is the way out for a civilization in free-fall.

12EF0B0F000005DC-2838705-image-2_1416275092957

In our long stride toward the inevitable designer babies, the first manipulation has been the noble goal of creating babies free of the mitochondrial diseases carried by their mothers. This series will examine the issue rather thoroughly in four basic segments:

1. The basic cell biology involved.
2. The problem of defective mitochondria.
3. The technique involving three-parent embryo creation.
4. The current state of the ethics debate among governmental bodies here and in the United Kingdom.

Cell Biology

In order to understand the fullness of the debate, we need to understand some very basic facts about cells. Every human cell contains specialized compartments called Organelles (meaning, Little Organs). Just as the human body has organs for specialized function (heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, brain, liver, kidneys, etc.) so too every cell has little organs for specialized function:

Ribosomes make protein.
Nucleus houses the Chromosomal DNA.
Lysosomes do recycling of worn out parts.
Golgi Bodies modify and ship proteins to appropriate destinations
Endoplasmic Reticula make lipids and are sites of protein synthesis.

and then come the Mitochondria.

The mitochondria are frequently referred to as the powerhouse of the cell, because they take in by-products of glucose and extract large amounts of energy for use by the cell. It takes a great deal of energy for cells to function properly, and the mitochondrion is the place where that happens. That having been said, it is one of the gross oversimplifications in biological education to leave it at energy production and move on where the mitochondrion is concerned. In fact, there are two scientific journals devoted entirely to mitochondrial research that immediately come to mind: Mitochondrion, and Mitochondrial Research. Suffice it to say that the scope of the mitochondrion and its effects on human physiology are broad and complicated.

For purposes of understanding three-parent embryo creation it helps to know the following. It is thought in evolutionary biology that at one time the mitochondrion was a free-standing, free-living cell that became incorporated into larger cells, with the result being a marriage that worked for both. It’s called the Endosymbiont Theory. Mitochondria replicate themselves within cells, so when cells divide, each new cell gets an appropriate number of mitochondria. In this way, the mitochondria act somewhat as independent organisms would. Along the way, most of the mitochondrion’s 3,000 genes ended up being transferred to the cell nucleus. The following description comes from the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation website. I have found them to be an excellent clearinghouse of information with writing that is very easy for the scientific layperson to follow:

The conventional teaching in biology and medicine is that mitochondria function only as “energy factories” for the cell. This over-simplification is a mistake which has slowed our progress toward understanding the biology underlying mitochondrial disease. It takes about 3000 genes to make a mitochondrion. Mitochondrial DNA encodes just 37 of these genes; the remaining genes are encoded in the cell nucleus and the resultant proteins are transported to the mitochondria. Only about 3% of the genes necessary to make a mitochondrion (100 of the 3000) are allocated for making ATP. More than 95% (2900 of 3000) are involved with other functions tied to the specialized duties of the differentiated cell in which it resides. These duties change as we develop from embryo to adult, and our tissues grow, mature, and adapt to the postnatal environment. These other, non-ATP-related functions are intimately involved with most of the major metabolic pathways used by a cell to build, break down, and recycle its molecular building blocks. Cells cannot even make the RNA and DNA they need to grow and function without mitochondria. The building blocks of RNA and DNA are purines and pyrimidines. Mitochondria contain the rate-limiting enzymes for pyrimidine biosynthesis (dihydroorotate dehydrogenase) and heme synthesis (d-amino levulinic acid synthetase) required to make hemoglobin [Note by G.N.: This is the molecule that binds oxygen in every red blood cell]. In the liver, mitochondria are specialized to detoxify ammonia in the urea cycle. Mitochondria are also required for cholesterol metabolism, for estrogen and testosterone synthesis, for neurotransmitter metabolism, and for free radical production and detoxification. They do all this in addition to breaking down (oxidizing) the fat, protein, and carbohydrates we eat and drink.

Do visit their website for specific information on the range of mitochondrial diseases.

Now, without frightening off the non-scientist or non-medical person, the above quote cracks the door ajar ever so slightly to allow a glimpse of the complexities involved at the biological level. Adding further, there needs to be coordination between the genes encoded on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the mitochondrial genes encoded on the DNA in the nucleus of the cell (nDNA). To date, there are still too many unknowns in the cell biology and the pathophysiology at the cellular level (That’s why the journals devoted to mitochondrial research are going strong, and will be for years to come.). We don’t know all of the coordinated function between mtDNA and nDNA within a given individual, and what other factors there may be (as yet unknown) that govern such function. In other words, are all mitochondrial defects solely attributable to mitochondrial genes (mt DNA and nDNA), or are there other genetic/biochemical defects in the individual at play here? It matters when someone wishes to take the mitochondria from an egg cell, leaving the nDNA intact, and introducing mitochondria from another individual. It matters because the issues are not always so simple as mutations in genes.

Indeed there are other factors around the major genetic factors, and these are known as epigenetic factors. Epigenetics looks at factors involved in the regulation of genes, and when they get turned on and off. Adding still further to the complexity, there may be epigenetic factors in the nDNA that are unknown and alter the epigenetics of the mtDNA., and all of these factors in one kind of cell may well influence mitochondrial function in distant types of cells within the body.

Confused and bewildered yet?

That’s the point. We don’t know what we don’t know, and in mitochondrial disease there is quite a bit that we don’t know. It will be fertile ground for research for decades to come, and that points toward the abomination of three-parent embryo creation in human beings as a vast and unregulated medical experiment. In the next post (Nov. 20, 2014), we’ll look at several mitochondrial diseases and consider what we do know of their etiology, and what we suspect we don’t yet know. Then in the third post we’ll consider the technique involving three-parent embryo creation and consider the ethical dimensions involved.
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Photo Credit: Photo Via http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2838705/Three-parent-babies-unsafe-warns-scientist-Adviser-issue-says-unresolved-safety-concerns-years-testing-required.html

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