Archive for May, 2010

I must confess that I devour books by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He has a style of writing that leaves me feeling as though I have just been on a weekend retreat.

In recent comments to the Roman Rota (The Supreme Court of the Church), the Pope spoke of the role truth plays in relationship to love and the indissolubility of marriage:

“Without truth, charity (love) slides into sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily. This is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth.”

Sex and marriage are not our own inventions, toys, or roles. We don’t each have our own rules that we make up as we go along. The truth of the matter is that God has a wise design for His creation, and yes, there are plenty of rules that are a part of that wise design to protect the holiness of marriage and marital union.

For our own sake, our love is most authentic when it is an expression of God’s eternal truths and not a grotesque sentimentalist shadow.

St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “In the end, three things remain: Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love.”

The authentic Love of which both St. Paul and Pope Benedict speak begins with Faith. Lived faith. Practiced faith.

That faith then fills us with Hope, without which couples have no basis for facing an uncertain future together. And as Paul tells us, our Hope will not leave us disappointed.

That’s because Faith and Hope are the soil in which Love grows and comes to fruition, blessing us with its fruits of fidelity and belonging, of simultaneously defining ourselves by giving and receiving the gift of self. Love enables us to know ourselves and to perfect ourselves through daily acts of faith and hope, which are the driving force behind devotion.

And these acts of devotion, of love, drive out all fear, as St. Paul tells us.

Of course, none of this is possible without the truth of which Pope Benedict speaks. That truth is this:

We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and for a purpose. That purpose is nothing less than eternal life with Him, after learning to love here on our Pilgrimage far from Home. He has given us the tools to learn love, our sex and sexuality being a large part of that.

Recognition of our complementarity in marriage is the key to mutual submission, which is an icon into the radical self-donation between the Father and the Son. In our radical self-donation, we generate and nurture new life, which is the iconic window into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, as the radical reciprocity between Father and Son generates the Holy Spirit.

We come to know ourselves in relation to God by imitating the inner life of God, the life of the Trinity.

That is the great truth and dignity of or love. That is the foundational reality of a culture of life and a civilization of Love. That is what our efforts in the pro-life movement must ultimately have as their goal, nothing less than a civilization of Love.

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This is my third article this week regarding this issue. It won’t be the last. This afternoon I received a rebuttal from a Pediatric Cardiologist, Dr. Judith Becker. It is presented here with my rebuttal. Your thoughts???

Judith Becker MD
I am a pediatric cardiologist whose expertise is in fetal diagnosis and care. In this capacity I see patients with pulmonary hypertension far more frequently than my colleagues. I also see other complications of pregnancy as a direct result of my work. I have 3 times in my 20 years of practice seen patients turn up in an emergency room in pulmonary hypertensive crisis without having known they had significant pulmonary hypertension prior to that time. Two of those patients never left the hospital but rather died over days to weeks in out ICU. A patient in that condition may or may not be easy to transfer elsewhere, depending on how much support she needed. There are experimental medications for pulmonary hypertension (including viagra and similar pulmonary vasodilators) but these therapies have a spotty performance record and it would not be known for months whether they had done enough to improve the patients condition significantly. Pregnancy effects the heart in these mothers in two ways. First it puts an increased volume load on the heart which if already failing can push it over the edge. Then in the process of straining, the right heart can acutely fail with this disease leading to sudden death.

The upshot of all this is:
1 – Yes, the mother could have arrived at the hospital for the first time in poor condition, could have required stabilization and may have been too sick to move.
2 – An abortion early in the pregnancy of a patient like this is far safer than taking a wait and see
3 – To deny this mother lifesaving medical care at the time of the admission denied her access to long term therapies that might save her life. Also without her survival, the fetus could not survive so on the logic of not killing the fetus, we condemn both to death or murder, if you like. We also deny the previously delivered children of this mother the care of that mother in the future.
As a physician, this is an ethically untenable position. We take an oath when we complete our training to do no harm…..In a terrible situation like the one being discussed therefore it is far better to save the mother than lose both the mother and the child.

Judith Becker MD
Dr. Becker,

Thank you for your thoughtful and edifying note. In conversations that I have had with other physicians regarding this matter, they have conceded that while it is possible for the mother to have suddenly gone into a severe state of pulmonary hypertension, the likelihood is pretty remote. Your experience of only three such cases over twenty years in your field of expertise would seem to support your colleagues’ contentions of such being a rare occurrence, and thus not the likely scenario in this case.

In the cases which you have cited, did the patients who died have an abortion?

In terms of the oath you take as a physician, how you understand that oath and are prepared to live that oath should be a consideration before applying for privileges at a Catholic hospital where competing visions of bioethics are likely to collide.

I take specific issue with contention number two in your comment:

“An abortion early in the pregnancy of a patient like this is far safer than taking a wait and see attitude.”

Perhaps. But this a priori standard is in direct contravention to Catholic bioethics and moral norms in such circumstances. You state a willingness to forgo both standard and experimental treatment in favor of what you deem the safest approach for the mother. Other of your colleagues would beg to differ with you on this approach to the management of both patient’s lives.

I cannot begin to tell you of how many women I have encountered, who were told that abortion was the safest route for the mother, that the child didn’t stand a chance, and who would rather have died than have their child die by their own hand, only to have given birth to a perfectly healthy child.

Perhaps this case was different. Perhaps it was as severe as some have suggested (though with HIPAA law I don’t see where the details would have originated).

In the end, like it or not, agree with it or not, Catholic hospitals are run in accordance with Catholic moral norms. It is the responsibility of the administration to articulate these norms with crystal clarity and leave it to patients and medical professionals to determine if they wish to pursue institutional affiliation in light of the restraints imposed by those moral norms.

All too often, Nuns and laypeople have treated Catholic hospitals as personal prelatures. Bishop Olmsted has spoken with the clarity that was lacking in Sr. McBride. It’s unfair to shoot the messenger.

Gerard M. Nadal, Ph.D.
Read the second post dealing with Sr. McCabe’s administrative failure HERE.

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Well, this was only a matter of time. An NPR article questions the justice and integrity of Phoenix Bishop Olmsted in declaring that Sister Margaret McBride incurred automatic excommunication when she gave her approval for an abortion in an 11-week pregnant 27 year-old woman with pulmonary hypertension judged to be near death. The article questions the excommunication of a nun trying to save a life, while pedophile priests incur no such penalty.

Good question for a canon law seminar or a social justice seminar, worthy of great consideration. However, in this case, and in all others dealing with excommunication, it is a dangerous and illogical conflation.

A child was killed in a Catholic hospital. The moral dimensions surrounding that decision stand on their own merits and do not rely on the merits of unrelated human rights violations. The line of argumentation in the NPR article that suggests as much illustrates a dangerous conflation of issues and ignorance of morality and justice.

There is no doubt that the sexual abuse of children is truly horrifying, whether by a Priest, a parent, a school teacher, scout leader, or any other person betraying a position of authority and trust. Whether or not that abuse merits excommunication is an argument that I would love to see vetted by moral theologians and canon lawyers.

Suppose it were an offense that merited excommunication? Further suppose that pedophile Priests incurred the penalty. Excommunication is a penalty intended as a medicinal remedy. Readmittance to the Church is made through confession to a Bishop (unless he delegates that authority to his Priests). Even if all of that were already operative, it would have no bearing on the intrinsic merits or demerits of the case in Phoenix.

Further, the Pope is the one with the authority to promulgate canon law. The NPR piece deceptively leads one to the erroneous conclusion that Bishop Olmsted, or any other Bishop, has discretion in excommunicating pedophiles, when in fact he doesn’t. Bishops can only adjudicate as much as Church law allows them to adjudicate, and I have not heard of Bishop Olmsted being implicated in cover-ups of pedophiles.

Yet this will be the new narrative when going after other abuses, “But what about the pedophiles…?” The pedophiles are now being dealt with decisively.

So let’s return to matters at hand.

Regarding Sr. McBride, the issue here is not medical, but administrative.

The Catholic Church has clear guidelines in moral theology and bioethics about what is, and is not permissible. A Catholic hospital’s administration is responsible for communicating those boundaries to the attending physicians, who are then responsible for respecting those limits, and communicating them to their patients.

This woman didn’t go from totally healthy to needing an abortion overnight. In going for her prenatal care, the physician no doubt was treating her for the hypertension, and should have communicated that the pregnancy could exacerbate the condition, presenting the dilemma of abortion v. danger of maternal mortality prior to viability at 25 weeks. Further, the physician should have communicated to the parents that if the condition did deteriorate, presenting at St. Joseph’s would preclude abortion as a therapeutic option.

In the time it took to go to St. Joseph’s and wait for a round of medical/ethical consults, the couple could have gone to another hospital in a city of 1.5 million, with a metro area of 4.5 million.

It isn’t hard to see that there was a breakdown in the communication of clear limits regarding abortion. Someone needed to be held to account for that breakdown. Sister McBride’s decision could not be left standing as a precedent for the future in a Roman Catholic Hospital.

There are plenty of other hospitals where this is an acceptable procedure. The clear communication of these limits by the administration and OB/GYN’s on staff would direct patient management in cases like this toward facilities offering the abortion option, if that is an option that the couple wishes to hold in reserve.

That said, this was a case tailor made for more Bishop bashing by abortion’s apologists who would love nothing more than to see Catholic hospitals forced through law, or bad administrative precedent, into performing abortions. Bishop Olmsted is to be commended for his moral clarity.

{HT: Jill Stanek}

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Prophets are usually derided as madmen, and I’m sure that I’ll come in for a pounding on this one in some quarters. Research into the etiology autism’s explosion is accelerating. Molecular biologists are looking for genetic markers that can explain what’s at the root of this dilemma. Having written on this before (see here), I stated that God is giving us a second chance at getting it right after what we have done with Down Syndrome babies, 93% of whom are aborted.

The numbers don’t look good for autism, and an abortion holocaust is brewing for them as well, one that is going to dwarf the Down Syndrome holocaust in comparison. The numbers are staggering. Consider first the graph below showing the rise in autism since 1992 (fightingautism.org).Click on the image to enlarge.

Facts and Stats (From the Autism Society of America)

1 percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder.1
Prevalence is estimated at 1 in 110 births.2
1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.3
Fastest-growing developmental disability; 1,148% growth rate.4
10 – 17 % annual growth.5
$60 billion annual cost.6
60% of costs are in adult services.7
Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.8
In 10 years, the annual cost will be $200-400 billion.9
1 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom have an autism spectrum disorder.10
The cost of autism over the lifespan is 3.2 million dollars per person.11
2003, 2006 Copyright the Autism Society. All rights reserved.

1. Pediatrics, October 5, 2009, based on a National Children’s Health Survey done with 78,000 parents in 2007.
2. “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006.” Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbitity and Mortality Weekly Report, 18 December 2009.
3. Based on the autism prevalence rate of 1 in 150 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007) and 2000 U.S. Census figure of 280 million Americans.
4. “Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Changes in the California Caseload, An Update June 1987 June 20007.” Cavagnaro, Andre T., California Health and Human Services Agency. State of California 2003 survey of developmental disabilities.
5. Autism Society estimate based on 2003 US state educational data.
6. Autism Society estimates based on UK study by Jarbrink K, Knapp M, 2001, London School of Economics: “The economic impact on autism in Britain,” 5 (1): 7-22.
7. Autism Society estimate.
8. Autism Society estimate, using Government Accounting Office Report on Autism 2007.
9. Autism Society estimate.
10. Autism Spectrum Disorders in adults living in households throughout England,” Report from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007, a survey carried out for the United Kingdom NHS Information Centre for health and social care.
11. Arch Pediatric Adolesc Med. 2007;161:343-34.

Focus on the current and projected costs. We simply can not afford $400 BILLION per year. We’re drowning now at $60 BILLION per year in costs. The money simply is not there now, let alone seven times that number within a decade. School systems are groaning under the financial weight of providing the services necessary to rescue these children from the most devastating dimensions of this insidious disorder in communication and social skills. Property taxes, which support the school systems, are spiraling upward beyond most people’s limits.

Something has to give.

Prediction: Within ten years we will have some reliable genetic markers identified. With genetic markers comes genetic testing. With genetic testing comes abortion. Imagine adding to the current rate of abortion 1 out of every 110 children born today. 1 out of every 70 boys.

This isn’t a matter of “IF”. This is simply a matter of “WHEN”.

We are not helpless here. We can do something about this, as much has changed since society started the genocide against Down Syndrome babies. Thirty years ago, there was still a large stigma attached to mental retardation, and not much advancement in the treatment and education of those with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. Combined with a paucity of services, the horrors that emerged from investigative reports of institutions housing these people certainly exacerbated the feelings of helplessness, dread, and guilt in the parents of these children and young adults.

Just as feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are the cardinal symptoms of suicide, these are the same forces behind abortion.

Great strides have been made in treating autism. Joseph was diagnosed with autism at age five with an age equivalent of 2.1 years in speech. The IQ tests were catastrophic. That was seven years ago. Today, after intense therapy (which includes a home environment where the therapy has become a part of the household’s fabric) Joseph presents as a somewhat shy and awkward child who is at or above average intellectually and academically, with vastly improved and ever-improving verbal and social skills.

It’s been a long, but love-filled road toward making Joseph a functional member of society.

However parents of all special needs children, not just autistic children, are seeing desperately needed resources dry up in many school districts as the numbers climb into the stratosphere. We need to change the entire paradigm by which we get our children treated. We have less than ten years to get this paradigm in place before genetic markers and genetic testing come online. The key is to have our houses of worship become the nucleus for services, for mentoring of parents with newly diagnosed children by more seasoned parents, for pro-bono parent workshops given by lawyers and therapists.

The clock is ticking. We need to get a whole new reality in place, and quickly. We need to have the alternative up and working well before the genetics catches up with us.

In Part II, the blueprint for an easily workable, sustainable, and authentically pro-life program.

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My Colleague at HeadlineBistro and bother Knight of Columbus, Marc Nadeau, writes about the growing pro-life movement among our family in Canada. This is truly exciting stuff. Read on...

Last Thursday, a crowd of more than 10,000 – the majority of which were young people – gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to express their stand for the culture of life. According to many observers, this year’s National March for Life was the biggest to date.

Two days later, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, a packed room in a Quebec City hotel awaited different speakers, among whom was Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the leading spokesperson for the gospel of life in the Canadian Catholic hierarchy.

Addressing subjects like abortion, euthanasia, the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, family issues and the civilization of love – just to name a few – the archbishop of Quebec City called upon Catholics, along with men and women of good faith, to intensify their mobilization and actions for the culture of life, which is also the culture of respect for the unborn, the elderly and women.

Read the rest here.

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My article in today’s HeadlineBistro:

Thirteen years after her death, the enemies of Mother Teresa are hard at work trying to suppress the celebration of her life and legacy as we approach the 100th anniversary of her birth this August. Earlier this year there was an attempt to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from issuing a commemorative stamp, written about here.

In the latest round, Anthony Malkin, the owner of the Empire State Building, has refused a request by the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue to light the building in blue and white, the colors of Mother Teresa’s order, on August 26 in honor of the centennial of her birth. This is remarkable, given that last September the Empire State Building lighting authority draped the iconic New York landmark in red and yellow, the colors of the Chinese flag, in honor of the sixtieth anniversary of Mao’s Communist Revolution.

Donohue responded:

“Mother Teresa received 124 awards, including Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Freedom… She built hundreds of orphanages, hospitals, hospices, health clinics, homeless shelters, youth shelters and soup kitchens all over the world … Not surprisingly, she was voted the most admired woman in the world three years in a row in the mid-1990s. But she is not good enough to be honored by the Empire State Building.”

A dictator credited with killing 77 million people, whose legacy inspired China’s notorious one-child policy and the sex-selective abortions of hundreds of millions of babies, as well as infanticide claiming millions more, has his movement granted tribute by the Empire State Building. A Roman Catholic nun whose life has done so much more to promote life, to give nurture and succor to hundreds of millions, whose legions of sisters have cared for the poorest among us and afforded them a death with dignity, somehow merits the back of Malkin’s hand. This, on the day that the United States Post Office is issuing a stamp to commemorate that life well lived.

Why? Why this opposition to celebrating the life of one of the twentieth century’s most notable women? The answer goes far beyond a mere caddish and petulant desire to deny a dead religious sister a moment of remembrance. No, this is mendacity. This is a high-stakes war against all that Mother Teresa stood for and all that she continues to accomplish through her millions of disciples.

This is the face of raw malevolence.

Had Mother Teresa stuck to her ministry of hospice, she would be meeting no opposition this year. However, she crossed the red line into the arena of abortion and proclaiming human dignity across the spectrum, from womb to grave. She has touched more than just a nerve. She landed a nuclear warhead with devastating accuracy right in the middle of the enemy’s camp when she addressed the feel-goodism of people who assuage their consciences by winking at abortion in the West and lauding Mother Teresa’s work in India:

“Many people are concerned with children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today – abortion which brings people to such blindness.”

Worse still for her detractors, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is on the fast track for canonization as a saint, as is her good friend and close ally, Pope John Paul the Great. It is impossible to think of one without thinking of the other. Together they laid the foundation for building a culture of life and a civilization of love at the threshold of the 21st century. It’s all right there, in Magisterial documents and in Mother Teresa’s extended network of sisters and disciples.

It was the words and deeds of these two giants that helped sustain me through my scientific training and inspired in me a desire to use my knowledge and skills to join in their vision of a world where science serves humanity, rather than enslaving us all. They are my heroic icons as I contemplate the terrible track that science and medicine are on, having abandoned even the pretext of an ethic and morality of manipulation. But there is hope.

Increasing numbers of scientists and physicians are becoming increasingly more vocal about reining in the excesses, and taking a fresh look at what Mother Teresa and John Paul have had to say. Hence those who would deny the celebration of her 100th birthday this year.

The enemies of life may be putting on a brave face, but they are running scared; in proof whereof, they have resorted to beating on a deceased nun. Not very glamorous, Mr. Malkin.

For those wishing to join the petition to light up the Empire State Building in Mother Teresa’s honor, click here.

Read the Updates Here and Here

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In the case of the latae sententiae excommunication (automatic excommunication by one’s formal participation) of Sister Margaret McBride, administrator at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Phoenix Arizona, who approved the abortion of an 11-week baby because the mother was suffering from the often fatal condition in pregnancy of Pulmonary Hypertension (PHT), we simply do not know all of the facts to hold a rational discussion.

So I propose that we do just that as the antidote to the vitriol that has swept the web these past few days: Hold a rational discussion.

What we do know is this: An 11-week pregnant woman suffering from pulmonary hypertension was deemed in need of an abortion to keep the developing pregnancy from killing her. It’s a serious matter. The abnormally high pressure in the narrowed arteries of the lung make the heart work harder at pumping blood. The prognosis is usually poor, but there are several medications available to treat the condition.

We know nothing beyond that. How critical was this woman was remains open to speculation. Whether or not the doctors tried to treat her medically is also unknown.

An attorney once told me that bad cases make bad law. This is such a case in the realm of Catholic bioethics.

All of that said, we do have enough information to sketch out a plausible series of steps that a Catholic hospital administrator might consider for future related cases.

First, the abortion is not akin to pressing a reset button for the pulmonary hypertension. There is no immediate (in minutes) rebound to pre-pregnancy physiologic status.

Next, assuming that this was not a patient presenting for the first time in the pregnancy, and doing so with hours to live, then the case is not so emergent as to warrant the abortion being performed in a Catholic hospital, especially in a large city such as Phoenix, AZ, with a metro population of 4.5 million. St. Joseph’s is far from being the only act in town, or even within a ten minute drive.

As suggested by a very good friend who is Evangelical Protestant and socially Catholic, who is also an OB Nurse, the medical staff following the mother in a Catholic hospital need to stress that their goal is to try and save both the mother’s and the baby’s lives. Therapy will be targeted to keeping the PHT manageable with a view of delivering the baby via C-section at the earliest opportunity (~25 weeks), if at all possible. If the parents are that risk averse, then they need to be informed that they cannot be aided at the Catholic hospital in aborting the child.

The outcomes are always least complicated when the limits are set down with clarity from the outset.

The limit here is that Catholic moral teaching is perfectly clear: the ends never justify the means, no matter how good or noble the ends. We must employ just means toward just ends. The direct, intentional killing of a baby is always immoral and impermissible. This differs from procedures such as hysterectomy in a newly pregnant woman discovered to have advanced uterine cancer, or a tubal pregnancy where the diseased or damaged organ is immediately life-threatening and must be removed. In such cases, the mother would die before the baby became viable AND the death of the child was an UNINTENDED consequence of the intended good, which is the removal of the diseased organ. That is the Principle of Double-Effect. In attempting a morally good action, the objective evil done is unintended.

Intent matters.

Bishop Olmsted is being pilloried for being uncharitable toward Sister Margaret in his upholding Catholic moral teaching. Perhaps the bishop knows more than most. Sister Margaret’s history on these issues is an unknown at this point.

Bishop Olmsted’s actions represent a departure from the very patient and measured responses by the Bishops to Catholics publicly breaking with the Church on this issue, especially Catholic politicians. Something is behind that departure.

In the end, this is just a very bad and probably unnecessary case that could in all likelihood have been avoided. There is no shortage of hospitals in the city of Phoenix. With St. Joseph’s firm “NO” to abortion as an option, this woman’s husband/family could have arranged immediate transport to a neighboring hospital to procure the abortion.

Beating on the Bishop for holding the line is convenient. In fairness, it has been the Catholic Bishops who stood in the breech for years, rallying the growing pro-life movement around them. For that reason alone, I’m inclined to err on the side of defending Bishop Olmsted in this matter. It’s not clear how firm or early on, or whether the limits were articulated at all regarding abortion.

With current confidentiality practices, we’ll never know.

UPDATE 5/18/10: Erin Manning is perhaps one of the most gifted Catholic observers of contemporary culture and writers whom I have ever encountered. Erin took me to the woodshed, in her very loving way, over a part of this post. Her points were well made and well received. They are a portion of her post on this topic, made on her Blog, “And Sometimes Tea”. Erin’s comments are reprinted here:

“I do have one minor quibble with Gerard; I think we need to stay away from the framework which suggests that because this happened in a place with plenty of secular hospitals willing to perform an abortion there was no need for the Catholic hospital to to so–because the flip side of this will come back to haunt Catholics, if under government health care Catholic hospitals in poor rural areas are coerced into performing “emergency” abortions. We can’t ignore the peril of suggesting that simply because other willing executioners of this child existed the Catholic hospital was off the hook, so to speak; the Catholic hospital had an opportunity to lead the way by providing care for both the mother and the baby, and it failed utterly to do any such thing.

“That said, I am sadly not surprised that a Catholic religious sister would apparently see no contradiction between her faith and vows on the one hand, and the slaughter of an innocent human being in utero on the other. There is, alas, no shortage of feminist nuns who completely lack any understanding or acceptance of the Gospel of Life, and are all too willing to adopt the “pregnancy-as-oppression” framework their secular counterparts push at every opportunity. I wonder whether the bishop, or any other responsible party, has inquired into whether the hospital in question routinely dispenses contraception, including the abortifacient variety; so many so-called “Catholic” hospitals do this, oblivious to the sin and scandal of it.”

Read the two follow-up articles HERE and HERE.

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The comments on the Growing Fatherlessness post have been an occasion of deep, deep thought for me, and prayer for one commenter in particular, New Divorcee. I learned several years ago to simply shut up and listen, actively listen to women when they speak as they have here.

This is a topic that deserves more than a drive-by posting, and so I return with the greatest respect for the women who have offered searing insight and commentary, because I believe their voices ought not be buried in that thread. A few quotations from the thread (which really should be read in its entirety for ALL of the women who posted) and a few thoughts of my own in response.

Mary Catherine responding to New Divorcee:

“What I can’t see is how to break the cycle. He can’t provide what he doesn’t know and what he isn’t mentally well enough to offer. I can’t be the father that he should be and I can’t give him the skills to do it, I can only be the mother that I am. I just don’t see where the healthy substitute father figures are supposed to come from, and there sure don’t seem to be enough of them available.”

Yup. These men can’t give what they don’t have. We learn to be mothers because our biology really does help us along.
But men have it much tougher and maybe that’s why the example of a living breathing at-home father is so very important.

And of course the media message is that fathers are useless dumb-asses whom women can do without anyway.

Donna responding to Gerard Nadal:

“What feminism has destroyed is mutual respect, which starts with an understanding and acceptance of the fact that men and women are very different creatures.”

Indeed we are very different creatures.

However, Gerard, there is more to “mutual respect” than that. It’s treating your spouse – regardless of the gender difference, and regardless of their financial contribution – as your equal. Conservatives, including my father, will never own up to the fact that the caste system at home was a driving force of feminism. I grew up in a home where my stay-at-home mom was nothing more than an indentured servant. My father made ALL of the decisions, regardless of my mother’s wishes. If she asked for help with the children, she was told, “That’s YOUR job.” That is the short version of what she endured. And she is one of MANY who endured the same. It wasn’t a picnic for us children, either. We would have been better off without my father.

So much for the Biblical quotes (Ephesians, et al) about cherishing one’s wife. Nice concept. Realistic? Not so much. (My parents were Catholic, for what it’s worth.)

Geek Lady:

I will confess myself disappointed and distressed by the continual focus, in homily and the prayer life of the Church, on vocations to the priesthood and religious life while the vocation of marriage and the foundation of a stable society just crumbles around us.

(I’ve been saying the same for years, Geek Lady.)

Getting to the roots of the alienation that produces these rates of fatherlessness:

I heartily agree with Donna on the need to treat one’s spouse as an equal. However, radical feminism’s conceptualization of equality is that of identicalness; that which we are not, nor shall we ever be.

The equality so sorely lacking is one of establishing an authentic communion of persons through the acknowledgement of our complementary differences which are to be celebrated and not held in derision. Along this line of thought, Geek Lady has written a brilliant commentary in the rest of her comment on the loss of women’s unique contributions to family and home life post-World War II, which set the stage for radical feminism.

New Divorcee, barring the specifics of her husband’s emotional difficulties, makes the prescient observations:

“I just don’t see where the healthy substitute father figures are supposed to come from, and there sure don’t seem to be enough of them available.”

Mary Catherine rightly responds that the men cannot give what they haven’t got.

If I may suggest to young men, it is our wives who are the font of life in marriage.

Young men are testosterone-fueled and pretty untamed in their perceptions of love and sexuality. Pornography has only catered to their adolescent expectations of what sexual union is all about. Not only is the porn devoid of love and commitment, but the acts themselves bear little resemblance to the sexual expression of love and devotion. They are devoid of all tenderness and affection.

My counsel to young men is that we men can only learn the language of conjugal love from our wives, in the context of a lifetime commitment. If we are to forge the bonds of intimacy necessary for a lifetime of commitment, we must enter into the inner sanctum of women’s being with reverence, much as one enters a house of worship.

It is there that men learn to “settle down”, because it is there that we encounter the civilizing influence of women’s very nature, which is love. Men who don’t do this do not develop meaningful and lasting sex-lives with their spouses. They fail in the expressions of intimacy in all other areas of the marriage as well.

In marriages marked by reverence, men learn to slow down, to appreciate beauty, to learn the language of communion from our wives, or we never learn it at all. If we fail to establish communion with our spouses, we fail at the next step, which is fatherhood beyond the biological act of reproduction. It takes tenderness as well as strength to be a good father.

The commitment to our children ought to flow freely from the commitment to our wives. We learn much of that nurture from our wives if we’re wise enough to open ourselves to it.

Of course, with every pre-marital sex buddy, we diminish the fundamental capacity to enter with reverence into women’s inner sanctum. We learn to avoid that encounter during the sowing of wild oats, as the consequences are simply too messy and unsustainable for a lifestyle of casual sex.

So to answer New Divorcee’s question, we break the cycle by being very honest with our children about the language of conjugal love and how it is learned. In so doing, we reveal to our young the great dignity of women and their civilizing influence, without which marriages and society crumble, as duly noted by Geek Lady.

And yes, we need to let our sons know that they will be perfected as men in marriage only if they learn to make that encounter with women on women’s turf, in women’s inner sanctum.

Those who reject God’s wise design in a lifestyle of promiscuity make their path so much more difficult than the process of mutual submission is, and learn to scoff bitterly at scriptural injunctions to do so.

The perversion of promiscuity is the very perversion of mutual submission.

My generation has raised this to an art form.

In the end, the epidemic of fatherlessness is the expression of despair that mutual submission could ever be a reality, that the authentic communion of persons is nothing more than an abstract theological construct.

Whether we have come to these truths through a lifetime of faithful obedience to God, or have learned through the painful consequences of past infidelity to God, we need to break the cycle by witnessing to the great dignity of women’s civilizing influence, as well as the great power and dignity of male sexuality perfected by women’s love.

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Watching this video, I have become convinced of reincarnation. Margaret Sanger has returned.

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Growing Fatherlessness

A recent Pew Research Center Report on the rise in children being born to single mothers is sobering, to put it mildly. From the report:

Another notable change during this period was the rise in births to unmarried women. In 2008, a record 41% of births in the United States were to unmarried women, up from 28% in 1990. The share of births that are non-marital is highest for black women (72%), followed by Hispanics (53%), whites (29%) and Asians (17%), but the increase over the past two decades has been greatest for whites—the share rose 69%.

The rest of the report may be seen here.

Lest one think that these numbers are without consequence, the impact on a fatherless child’s life is all-too-often devastating. Consider the breakdown of fatherlessness by race from the pew report in light of these percentages of the American prison population in the graph below.

These numbers are being hailed in some quarters as representative of women’s strength and accomplishment. In truth, they represent the implosion of marriage and family as the numbers represent the number of women who have given up on family and marriage, choosing to go the single route. None suspects that her child will suffer for want of a father. The numbers suggest that those hopes may be whistling past the graveyard:

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all God`s Children.)
49 percent of all child abuse cases are committed by single mothers.)Joan Ditson and Sharon Shay, “A Study of Child Abuse in Lansing, Michigan,” Child Abuse and Neglect, 8 (1984) )
70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)
In 1988, a study of preschool children admitted to New Orleans hospitals as psychiatric patients over a 34-month period found that nearly 80 percent came from fatherless homes.(Jack Block, et al. “Parental Functioning and the Home Environment in Families of Divorce,” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27 (1988) )
Even controlling for variations across groups in parent education, race and other child and family factors, 18- to 22-year-olds from disrupted families were twice as likely to have poor relationships with their mothers and fathers, to show high levels of emotional distress or problem behavior, [and] to have received psychological help.(Nicholas Zill, Donna Morrison, and Mary Jo Coiro, “Long Term Effects of Parental Divorce on Parent-Child Relationships, Adjustment and Achievement in Young Adulthood.” Journal of Family Psychology 7 (1993).)

And those are just a few of the statistics from an appalling list found here.

A mother’s love is simply not enough. Children need a mother and a father. Men and women bring very different skill sets and perspectives to the table. Fathers nurture in a different way than mothers do, as we tend to have a different style of disciplining that comes with masculinity. That masculine presence is essential in reining in teenage excess and keeping the wolves at bay who would tear our children apart.

Fatherless children are easier marks.

This is the consequence of radical feminism which has shredded our families. Look at advertisements on TV, or listen on the radio. Better than 90% of the time if one party is buffoonish or clueless, it is the male. Look at sitcoms. Almost without exception men are portrayed as weak, stupid, gay, and clueless. Of course when men are not portrayed in these ways on TV and in movies, they are usually portrayed as testosterone-fueled homicidal, sex-crazed maniacs.

Within families where divorce rates have hovered around 50% for forty years, two full generations, the damage has been done. When not glued to mass media portraying men horribly, over half of our children, those missing a father as the counter-balance to that message about men, hear an endless litany from embittered mothers of the inadequacies and sins of men.

Is it any wonder that women are deciding in increasing numbers to forego husbands?

In the end, this is all about despair. Increasing numbers of men and women living without hope: in themselves or each other. But the data don’t lie, and tell the reason why God, throughout scripture, has identified Himself so strongly with the plight of widows, the fatherless, and orphans.

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Bill Reel and My Life

Last week the Catholic Community lost a jewel. William Reel was a New York journalist for all of his adult life. He worked for the NY Daily News in varied capacities, most notably for a column that highlighted the lives of ordinary people doing the extraordinary. He did the same for The Tablet, the newspaper of the Brooklyn diocese. I was among his most avid readers.

Bill lost a long battle with cancer at age 71.

In the 1970’s and 80’s, Bill wrote a series of articles telling of a crusading priest Father Bruce Ritter, OFM and his war against the sex industry that was swallowing teens literally by the busload. He told of the bookish priest at Manhattan College who was challenged in 1968 by a student to put his money where his mouth was, as Fr. Ritter was preaching a sermon on doing service. So the priest with a doctorate in Medieval Theology left the comfortable confines of a great college (that I would be a visiting professor at 39 years later) and began a ministry of availability to the poor that would mushroom in 20 years to a child shelter and service agency with centers in seven cities and an annual budget of $90 Million.

Bill Reel was central to that growth and the many children’s lives saved as a result.

Because of Bill Reel’s articles, I contacted Fr. Ritter who invited me for a visit that would lead to my working at Covenant House on staff for seven years. At the beginning of my time at Covenant House I met a dynamic and humble staff member by the name of Chris Bell, who was leaving to start a group home for unwed mothers, named Good Counsel Home, under the direction of Fr. Benedict Groeschel who would later teach me in the seminary and give me invaluable spiritual direction.

One of Bill Reel’s greatest columns was of Chris Bell and Good Counsel Homes. Singer Frank Sinatra read the article and sent a check for $10,000 to help Chris get off the ground. (Good Counsel runs several homes and is in constant need of people’s prayerful and financial support).

When a close friend in college called to tell me that her Episcopalian pastor was found murdered, I went to be with her for the funeral. Outside of the church, there was Bill Reel. I introduced myself and told him of how his stories of Covenant House motivated me to join the staff. We talked for a while of that and many other issues of the day. He was keen to know what I thought of my experiences at Covenant House and where I saw my life as heading. He asked what I knew of the murdered priest, specifically asking about his priesthood and charitable deeds. He asked others, and then wrote a beautiful column, never mentioning the scandal and salacious circumstances associated with the murder.

Bill was a class act.

A few years later I ran into Bill again when I was in the seminary and he was there as part of a media workshop. To my astonishment, he walked up to me, greeted me by name, remembered when and how we met, and asked for my friend by name. He was as self-effacing as he was brilliant and kind.

We met at other events through the years, through mutual friends. Never did I hear an unkind word about Bill. In New York City, in New York Journalism, that’s quite a testimony.

Bill Reel’s life as a journalist, as a Catholic, was exemplary. When Fr. Ritter became embroiled in a sex and money scandal that brought him down (and almost brought Covenant House with him), no one person could have claimed greater right to having been betrayed than the man who helped put him on the map, Bill Reel. Yet Bill did not join in on the media feeding frenzy that ensued. He simply would not pile on.

Bill sought the nobility and sanctity that dwells within each of us, the non-celebrities. It was that goodness which he drew out into the light. He showed the sainthood of the common man, and ennobled us all in so doing. Moreover, he taught me to do the same. He helped set my life on its current path, and seemed to figure prominently in the lives of many around me. He was a good and decent man who spent his life and talents celebrating the goodness and decency of ordinary people all around us.

In the darkness and cynicism that has become journalism, he was a guiding light, a beacon of hope. Now that light has been joined to God’s eternal light. Though I’ll miss that light, I thank God for the way it has shone in my life and the lives of many whom I know. I marvel at how the tangent lines of our lives touch each other’s and effect such powerful changes for so brief an encounter. Such were the tangent lines of Bill Reel’s life and mine.

Thanks Bill and enjoy Heaven. You earned your halo.

{For a great sample of Bill’s style, click here and enjoy.}

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A favorite of mine from first grade (1966) and now being read by my first grade daughter, this classic by P.D. Eastman tells the story of a bird who hatches when its mother is away, and of the search for its mother. The bird queries several animals and machines before being reunited with and introduced to its mother in the end.

It’s a whimsical story of a baby’s innocence, silly really. As I child I knew that one could only have one mommy. As I grew and learned of adoption, divorce, widowhood and remarriage, I learned that one could have more than one mother, step or otherwise, in sequence. Still, the thought that a child could not know its own mother, or have more than one are the impossibilities that drive the trajectory of the story line. Who knew that those impossibilities would become commonalities.

Today’s New York Post tells the story of a woman who was mistakenly implanted with another couple’s embryo at an IVF clinic. Read the story here.

The story is harrowing on several levels. It reopens for me the question that was the topic of my senior thesis in college, the year of the first surrogate baby:

What defines motherhood?

Certainly the origins of the zygote are a compelling case. But the baby becomes literally the flesh and blood of the woman in whose womb it grew. Its rhythms in sync with hers. It’s collective consciousness at birth all shaped by the in utero experience. What is natural and soothing is the sound of the birth mother’s voice, heartbeat, etc.

I honestly do not know who the mother is here. I tend toward the one in whom the baby grew, as that is the only ‘natural’ dimension of procreation in the whole sick and twisted process of bringing the child into the world through artificial means.

Your thoughts folks?

At least in the less complicated world of my childhood, there was a simple, natural, and happy ending to the book. What a terrible waste that this rupture consumes so much time and energy from the scientific and medical communities, when our time and talents could be and should be used for advancing humanity, rather than inventing new nomenclature and new laws for a new hybrid race of humans.

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Aztec Revisited

Repost in light of the impending opening of PP’s monster center in Texas this month.

Their shapes are familiar to us. Four-sided stepped pyramids rising up out of the jungles and plains of the ancient Aztec Empire, the sites of blood sacrifice meant to appease the angry gods who were nothing more than an externalized expression of humanity’s worst fears and most primal impulses. These are the sites where the blood of innocents flowed freely in a ruinous cycle of anxiety, appeasement, and despair; where the insatiable maw of human weakness and the demonic was fed the lives of innocents, especially the virgins.

It was a society ripe for Christian evangelization. These people grasped the essence of blood sacrifice as atonement for sin. They no doubt rejoiced in the truth, that the one true God of the universe offered Himself as a final blood sacrifice for all of humanity’s sins. For the Aztecs, liberation from their blood-soaked past was indeed Good News. So it has been for their descendants for centuries.

Today, just north of the ancient Aztec Empire, a new stepped temple, six stories tall and offering 75,000 square feet of space is being completed in Houston Texas. It is a Planned Parenthood mega-abortion center, the largest in the world outside of China, strategically located at the point where four minority neighborhoods intersect. Three of these neighborhoods are 85% Hispanic and one is 80% Black American. Coincidence? Hardly. Close to 80% of Planned Parenthood facilities are located in inner-city neighborhoods among the very people Margaret Sanger and her fellow travelers in the Eugenics movement targeted almost a century ago.

Indeed, African-Americans comprise almost 12% of the population, but have 37% of the abortions. This is not an accident. It is the result of a fracturing of Christian Civilization, and the resulting descent into a pre-Christian demonic madness.

The ancients could be forgiven a certain ignorance that came with scientific illiteracy regarding meteorology. Looking at their arid land, they knew well their fate if the skies withheld their life-giving waters. Ignorant of God, they fashioned gods who resembled the traits they found most socially desirable amongst themselves that they would inculcate into their children. They then ascribed those traits to animals and carved them into totem poles. When the ancients worshipped the totem poles, they were doing nothing more than worshipping and externalized version of their own collective socially desirable traits.

In essence, they were worshipping themselves.

Today totem worship is rampant in Western civilization. Materialism and radicalized autonomy are the greatest goods and the prime reasons cited by abortion proponents for sacrificing our young. Our materialism and radicalized autonomy have created an arid spiritual landscape in too many lives and communities, as such autonomy is the antithesis of faithful submission to the loving will of God.

Once again the demonic preys upon our fears and whispers to us its requirement to be worshipped with blood sacrifice, with a newly instituted priestly class doing the demonic’s bidding.

Our attempts to stanch the bloodshed through legislative efforts is a good, but ultimately lagging indicator of lived faith in society. Education in how abortion harms women physically, psychologically and spiritually; evangelization that restores people to their lost dignity, and the refocussing of priorities that follow are what is needed most. Just laws will necessarily ensue.

It was the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ that ended human sacrifice all over the world. Here in the best garden of the world we have seen that faith badly corroded and its appalling consequences.

It isn’t enough to be anti-abortion. We must quench the arid American soil with the healing, life-giving waters of Baptism in a new evangelization. Then, those fears which drive so many to consume their offspring as the price of peace will be swallowed up in faith that a loving Father will take care of all our needs.

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I’m republishing an article by Actress Raquel Welch. A very hopeful sign. Thanks to Deena Stephens for sending it along.

(CNN) — Margaret Sanger opened the first American family-planning clinic in 1916, and nothing would be the same again. Since then the growing proliferation of birth control methods has had an awesome effect on both sexes and led to a sea change in moral values.

And as I’ve grown older over the past five decades — from 1960 to 2010 — and lived through this revolutionary period in female sexuality, I’ve seen how it has altered American society — for better or worse.

On the upside, by the early 60’s The Pill had made it easier for a woman to choose to delay having children until after she established herself in a career. Nonetheless, for young women of childbearing age (I was one of them) there was a need for some careful soul searching — and consideration about the long-range effects of oral contraceptives — before addressing this very personal decision. It was a decision I too would have to face when I discovered I was pregnant at age 19.

Even though I was married to the baby’s father, Jim Welch, I wasn’t prepared for this development. It meant I would have to put my career ambitions on hold. But “the choice” was not mine alone to make. I had always wanted to have Jim’s babies, but wasn’t at all sure how he would react. At the time, we were 19-year-old newlyweds, struggling to make ends meet. But he was unflinching in his desire to keep our baby and his positive, upbeat attitude about the whole prospect turned everything around. I have always loved Jim for how he responded in that moment.

During my pregnancy, I came to realize that this process was not about me. I was just a spectator to the metamorphosis that was happening inside my womb so that another life could be born. It came down to an act of self-sacrifice, especially for me, as a woman. But both of us were fully involved, not just for that moment, but for the rest of our lives. And it’s scary. You may think you can skirt around the issue and dodge the decision, but I’ve never known anyone who could. Jim and I had two beautiful children who’ve been an ongoing blessing to both of us.

Later, I would strike out on my own, with my little ones, as a single mother to pursue a career in the movies. It was far from ideal, but my children didn’t impede my progress. They grounded me in reality and forced me into an early maturity. I should add that having two babies didn’t destroy my figure.

But if I’d had a different attitude about sex, conception and responsibility, things would have been very different.

One significant, and enduring, effect of The Pill on female sexual attitudes during the 60’s, was: “Now we can have sex anytime we want, without the consequences. Hallelujah, let’s party!”

It remains this way. These days, nobody seems able to “keep it in their pants” or honor a commitment! Raising the question: Is marriage still a viable option? I’m ashamed to admit that I myself have been married four times, and yet I still feel that it is the cornerstone of civilization, an essential institution that stabilizes society, provides a sanctuary for children and saves us from anarchy.

In stark contrast, a lack of sexual inhibitions, or as some call it, “sexual freedom,” has taken the caution and discernment out of choosing a sexual partner, which used to be the equivalent of choosing a life partner. Without a commitment, the trust and loyalty between couples of childbearing age is missing, and obviously leads to incidents of infidelity. No one seems immune.

As a result of the example set by their elders, by the 1990s teenage sexual promiscuity — or hooking up — with multiple partners had become a common occurrence. Many of my friends who were parents of teenagers sat in stunned silence several years ago when it came to light that oral sex had become a popular practice among adolescent girls in middle schools across the country.

The 13-year-old daughter of one such friend freely admitted to performing fellatio on several boys at school on a regular basis. “Aw come on, Mom. It’s no big deal. Everyone is doing it,” she said. Apparently, since it’s not the act of intercourse, kids don’t count it as sex. Can any sane person fail to make a judgment call about that?

Seriously, folks, if an aging sex symbol like me starts waving the red flag of caution over how low moral standards have plummeted, you know it’s gotta be pretty bad. In fact, it’s precisely because of the sexy image I’ve had that it’s important for me to speak up and say: Come on girls! Time to pull up our socks! We’re capable of so much better.

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