Archive for July, 2012

A response to the many queries I’ve been receiving about this topic:

The technological genie is out of the bottle.

We live in the age of Molecular Biology, where diagnostics (including those for Down Syndrome) are becoming much more accurate, sensitive, and inexpensive. It’s a blessed thing to behold.

That may come as a surprise statement to many, but the truth of the matter is that diagnostic testing for Down Syndrome has great potential for good, especially the newer blood tests that can detect Down Syndrome earlier.

First, letting parents know much earlier takes from the more eugenic Ob/Gyn’s the leverage that comes with the more traditional (and later) amniocentesis. Women often receive those tests results within days to a couple of weeks of the legal limit for having an abortion. It doesn’t give the woman time to emotionally digest the diagnosis, leaving her vulnerable to coercive pressure from genetic counselors, doctors and family.

Next, the earlier blood tests allow more time for women to sit with their decision, and to seek out and receive alternative advice without the deadline for abortion looming large on the horizon. Contrary to arguments that say the abortion rate will skyrocket with such testing, as early term abortions are easier to have, one need only consider that research from Harvard University shows that 93% of all Ds babies diagnosed are being aborted; so there’s little margin for any skyrocketing of abortions.

The glass is half-full here.

By itself, the technology is morally neutral. This technology can alert an Obstetrician to the need for more sonograms and the need for bringing onboard a perinatologist. Some Ds babies have anomalies that require immediate surgical intervention at birth. Early diagnostics can help to determine whether the birth should be vaginal or C-section, and whether or not a surgical team needs to be on standby.

Early diagnostics can help the parents emotionally come to terms with the reality of their child’s needs, and the unanticipated trajectory those needs will put the parents’ lives onto; all of which is critical for bonding.

Receiving a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is akin to the same reception of a diagnosis of autism. It’s like a small, tactical nuclear warhead exploding amidst the landscape of joyful reveries about our children and our hope for their futures. I was devastated by all of Joseph’s diagnoses, and would never want to repeat that experience.

Knowing the devastation that often comes with such diagnoses is key to helping parents through that difficult time, and the earlier the diagnosis, the more time we have to help them.

With so much potential good that can come from this technology (and so little room for matters to get worse), it is unwise, even counterproductive to fight against it. Science has actually given us a buffer zone.

We need to exploit it.

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Here in the bluest of blue cities on the political map we have a mayor who has taxed cigarettes into the stratosphere (~$12 per pack) because he wants people to live healthier.

The same mayor trampled the rights of business owners to create smoke-free restaurants and bars.

The same mayor decided that trans fats were so bad for us that they needed to be outlawed, making it a crime for any eating establishment to sell trans fats in New York City.

This same mayor is so concerned that New Yorkers are fat that he issued another of his famous edicts requiring that all restaurants, from 5-star establishments to fast food places and Dunkin’ Donuts test their foods for the caloric content and then publish the calories on the menu. Never mind that under his tenure (where he seized control of the schools) literacy levels have plummeted so badly that only those educated before his tenure can read those menus.

Still not enough, old Granny Bloomberg has decided that any soda (er, pop for those outside of NYC) over 16 ounces should be outlawed. The mayor has stated that one may purchase as many sodas as one wishes, but that limiting the size of the beverage is meant to make people think about what they’re doing.

Now old Granny B. is going after moms with newborns. From FoxNews:

The nanny state is going after moms.

Mayor Bloomberg is pushing hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breast-feed.

Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation.

Under the city Health Department’s voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded tchotchkes like lanyards and mugs, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

While breast-feeding activists applaud the move, bottle-feeding moms are bristling at the latest lactation lecture.

“If they put pressure on me, I would get annoyed,” said Lynn Sidnam, a Staten Island mother of two formula-fed girls, ages 4 months and 9 years. “It’s for me to choose.”

Under Latch On NYC, new mothers who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals will keep infant formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications.

With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead.

My wife, a NICU/PICU nurse tells me that hospitals have had initiatives going for some time to encourage breastfeeding. As all of our children were breastfed, I’m sold on its benefits over formula, but that’s not the issue here.

Whatever happened to “Choice?”

Specifically, “My body, my choice!”

Bloomberg’s actions could easily be written off as the obsessive eccentricities of a daffy billionaire who is squandering political capital on needless battles over personal liberties issues while his city plunges further into educational, financial, and criminal disarray, especially in a summer that has seen the murder rate soar. But this would be a mistaken assessment.

The truth is that Bloomberg’s actions comport with the broader agenda of his political party as the nation hurtles toward nationalized health care, complete with rationing systems set in place.

If we add to that a new eugenics movement that makes the eugenics of the early 20th century pale in comparison (because our eugenics employs legalized abortion), the dimensions of the storm upon us begin to come into sharp relief. For example, a few weeks ago, the Democrats in Washington defeated legislation intended to outlaw sex-selective abortions, and 93% of Down Syndrome babies diagnosed in utero are aborted.

A government that is broke, $15 TRILLION in debt and responsible for paying the medical bills, will certainly dictate every aspect of our daily lives as it rations care.

A few months back I had dinner with my friend, Reggie Littlejohn who began and runs the great organization, Women’s Rights Without Fronteirs, dedicated to ending the one child policy, forced abortions and forced sterilizations in China. At dinner, I asked Reggie to help me understand how and why it could be in the best interest of the government of China to maintain and enforce such policies, especially in light of their desire to be an economic superpower. Reggie’s answer was a cause for great concern in light of Granny B. and company.

“If the government can control your body, your fertility, they can control every aspect of your life. It’s a tool of totalitarian control.”

I couldn’t help but remember those words as I read of Bloomberg’s newest mechanism of control. Voluntary on the part of hospitals, for now, but coercive for patients. These same democrats who would apply coercive pressure on mothers to have their babies continue to feed from their bodies post-partum are the same democrats who support killing the child for doing the same while in utero, if that’s the mother’s desire.

So the lesson here is that the only bodily autonomy that is absolutely sacrosanct is an act of autonomy that kills the baby. And my fellow New Yorkers sit still as the legal precedents stripping us of our bodily autonomy continue to mount.

In the not-too-distant future we may well see women being coerced into eugenic abortions by a government unwilling to pay the bills for anything less than a perfectly healthy baby, which is probably why the Democrats couldn’t even get behind legislation aimed at preventing little girls from being aborted for simply being little girls. It would be an unwelcome precedent and a future encumbrance.

If there is any ray of light in all of this, it’s that the Democrats have finally given up on the mantra, “My body, my choice!”

It always did ring hollow.

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Mississippi is down to its last abortion mill, and if it closes we’ll have the first state in the Union without an abortion mill in the forty years since Roe. That’s quite an accomplishment, and the people of Mississippi and the many pro-life groups from around the nation who have made that happen are to be congratulated.

It takes quite a bit of education, activism, and prayer to make a Mississippi happen. In a state with a large African American population, that is an especially welcome reprieve from the kind of eugenic decimation of African Americans so prevalent here in New York City, where fully 60% of all African American pregnancies end in abortion.

In fact, the abortions in New York State are an atrocity across the board. A review of New York State’s Vital Statistics from 2000-2009 shows that we have aborted 1,206,652** babies statewide. That number is three times greater than the number of citizens by which the state population grew. Get the whole story here.

Here in New York City, we have over 80K abortions per year. In certain neighborhoods there are several abortion clinics on one street! The disparity with Mississippi is glaring and begs the answer to several questions, all centered on “Why?”.

Why has Mississippi had such success and New York remained the abortion capital of the nation? Are the people here really so cold and calloused? Do we hold our lives cheaper that those in Mississippi?

The short answer is, no.

Compared to other quarters in the nation, we don’t have a large and effective pro-life movement in New York. Those who are involved are a hearty and extraordinarily devoted band, and the slaughter would undoubtedly be worse but for their complete and self-less devotion. However, as the numbers bear out, it just isn’t enough. We need much, much more here in New York to begin to make a dent in these numbers.

This is Planned Parenthood’s epicenter, and NARAL’s last redoubt. New York City is ripe for a massive and coordinated pro-life awareness campaign. The National Black Pro-Life Coalition came here in January 2011 and helped to start up pro-life ministries in Black neighborhoods.

We need more. We need Freedom Summers in our communities of color. 79% of all abortions in NYC are black/hispanic. We need the coordinated efforts of all of our churches, and yes, we are pro-life missionary territory.

We need missionaries from Mississippi and other regions of the country to come here and live among us.

We need the consolidation of Catholic physicians and nurses in NYC, as NYC no longer has a single Catholic hospital left. There is a good effort underway to get this done, but we need more.

We need Catholic OB/Gyn’s willing to come here and open practices like Dr. John Bruchalski’s Divine Mercy Care.

We need good, solid, pro-life medical conferences here in NYC, and lots of them.

We need more billboard campaigns, and plenty of them.

We need more Pregnancy Centers.

We need people with money willing to underwrite all of this.

In fact, the list can go on and on, so great is the need here in New York. We rejoice with Mississippi and our brothers and sisters in states where the killing has slowed to a trickle. But while we rejoice, it is impossible to turn a blind eye to the killing fields of New York, and equally impossible to miss the great opportunity before us.

Saving more than 80,000 lives per year will require ten times the human and financial resources that we currently have in the field. It will require the building of a formidable and identifiable pro-life, Hippocratic medical community. It will require a recalibration of people’s spiritual lives and the priorities of the government and its citizens.

Now that matters are well in hand in Mississippi, who will join us here in New York?

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This today from LifeSiteNews:

CHICAGO, July 26, 2012, (Operation Rescue)—New documents released in the Tonya Reaves tragedy reveal a timeline leading to her death that clearly shows Planned Parenthood delayed summoning emergency care for the dying woman for five-and-a-half hours after a severely botched abortion.

At 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Reaves received a second-trimester dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion at Planned Parenthood, located at 18 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago.

Tonya Reaves, 24, died after Planned Parenthood’s care.
After the abortion, Reaves suffered bleeding. The bleeding continued at Planned Parenthood for five-and-a-half hours before a Fire Department ambulance finally took her to Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 4:30 p.m. according to a report from Steve Miller of the CBS news affiliate WBBM.

“It is clear that Planned Parenthood botched the procedure that resulted in uncontrolled bleeding then failed to treat the hemorrhage while Reaves was at their clinic, allowing her to bleed for over five hours before finally calling for help. There can be no doubt that this delay contributed to her death,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue and Pro-Life Nation. “The injury and the untreated hemorrhage happened at Planned Parenthood, and they are solely responsible for it.”

Once at the hospital, it appears the emergency room staff had to start from scratch to figure out the extent of Reaves’ injuries.

While I’ve not been privy to these documents, the report by Operation Rescue indicates that a young woman contracted Planned Parenthood to perform a second trimester abortion and died later that day.

A few things stand out.

First, if true, a 5 1/2 hour delay for a woman hemorrhaging is beyond comprehension. When this woman was finally sent to the hospital, she was sent to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which according to their website is a Level 1 Trauma Center.

That’s significant.

From Wiki:

Level I
A Level I Trauma Center provides the highest level of surgical care to trauma patients. Being treated at a Level I Trauma Center increases a seriously injured patient’s chances of survival by an estimated 20 to 25 percent.[12] It has a full range of specialists and equipment available 24 hours a day[13] and admits a minimum required annual volume of severely injured patients. A Level I trauma center is required to have a certain number of surgeons, emergency physicians and anesthesiologists on duty 24 hours a day at the hospital, an education program, and preventive and outreach programs. Key elements include 24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons and prompt availability of care in varying specialties—such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, plastic surgery (plastic surgeons often take calls for hand injuries), anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, oral and maxillofacial surgery (trained to treat injuries of the facial skin, muscles, bones), and critical care—which are needed to adequately respond and care for various forms of trauma that a patient may suffer. Additionally, a Level I center has a program of research, is a leader in trauma education and injury prevention, and is a referral resource for communities in nearby regions.[14]

Level 1 trauma centers in big cities such as Chicago have for years been saving the lives of people pulled from horrific car wrecks and shootings by assault weapons which devastate the internal organs. Yet this hospital, the only hospital in Illinois named to the U.S. News and World Report National Honor Roll, with its Level 1 trauma center could not save this young woman from Planned Parenthood.

More from the LifeSite article:

According to Dr. James C. Anderson, M.D., in his 30 years of experience as an emergency room physician, abortion clinics never informed him about their patients’ conditions.

“I have always had to evaluate the situation, come to my own conclusions, and initiate what I thought was appropriate treatment. This definitely created some time delays that were not in the patient’s best interest,” stated Dr. Anderson. “These delays can have life-threatening implications when dealing with hemorrhage or infection.”

In Tonya’s case, that delay proved fatal.

At 5:30 p.m., doctors performed an ultrasound, which revealed the abortion was incomplete, something solely the responsibility of the Planned Parenthood abortionist.

Reaves was then given a second D&E abortion procedure, but that apparently did not solve the problems and pain Reaves was experiencing.

A second ultrasound revealed a perforation in Reaves’ uterus.

Reaves was returned to the operating room at 10:12 p.m. for additional surgery, where “an uncontrollable bleed was discovered.” At 11:20 p.m., Reaves was pronounced dead.

Read the rest here.

The story as recounted in LifeSite is nauseating. That a Level 1 trauma center in Chicago was powerless to save this young woman is chilling.

It’s understandable that women die in well-equipped hospitals during routine childbirth. Gynecologic traumas do suddenly arise, but when they do, they arise in well-equipped hospitals and not clinics that attempt to treat those traumas for 5 1/2 hours.

In the cold and brutal calculus of war, generals know well that they need to sacrifice a part of their forces in order to gain ultimate victory in the field. It’s no different in the cold and brutal calculus of the abortion war. That’s why we never hear much about the Tonya Reaves’s whose deaths, if they even get mentioned on the evening news are never pursued and quickly forgotten.

It’s just that way in war.

But Tonya Reaves was somebody’s daughter, niece, friend. She was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her, and one of those young women of color whom Planned Parenthood targets with over 75% of their outreach. Perhaps we’ll never know what drove this young mother to seek the death of her well-developed baby, or whether she knew just how well developed her baby truly was.

What is known is this: By the time Planned Parenthood was finished with her not even the best trauma center in town could save her. It may well be infrequent, but that’s cold comfort to Tonya’s family.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

May she rest in peace. Amen.

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on Joseph’s progress in Boy Scouting, almost a year. We just returned from a week at summer camp where I ran a program for new scouts and Joseph was on his own, earning five merit badges of his choosing, four of which had significant prerequisites that took months to complete.

This summer’s haul included: Emergency Preparedness (required for Eagle), Reptile and Amphibian Study, Insect Study, Space Exploration, and Pulp and Paper.

Among the prerequisite assignments were the observation of a reptile or amphibian pet for a minimum of thirty days. Joseph thought it quite a bargain that his two long-tailed grass lizards and one anole cost less than $20 in total (Habitat: $167, weekly supply of crickets $8, but who’s counting….) I must say that his observations of the little beasts and his notes were worthy of a 19th Century naturalist, as were his notes and painstaking photographs of over 20 insect species in the wild.

After having built his own model rocket at camp and successfully launched it (quite high), Joseph has announced a new hobby–model rocketry. But we still have the grass lizards and the anole to contend with. I’m thinking of slipping them into one of the rockets and launching them into orbit…

Adding to all of that, Joseph qualified as a full swimmer this year, and with that status, had the ability to go boating on his own. With that has come something every parent hopes for and fears: an appetite for independence. I barely saw Joseph at all as we headed in our own directions, but I heard from everyone how much he came out of his shell last week. More importantly, I had boys asking me his whereabouts so they could challenge him to any one of several games or activities.

At summer camp, Joseph sat with his scoutmaster and shared that he feels ready to assume a leadership position in the troop (now at 63 boys with 13 more on the way from Cub Scouts in March). His scoutmaster agreed and told him to plan to attend the Leadership Training weekend in September. By December he’ll reach the rank of Star, and by next September, the rank of Life Scout (one away from Eagle). All by age 14.

While all of that is cause for gladness, there’s more. Recently a boy with Asperger’s joined the Troop. He’s a month younger than Joseph. Joseph has taken him under his wing and made this boy feel completely at home. When a discussion about Asperger’s and ADD arose among some of the new boys, Joseph shared very matter-of-factly his own experiences with autism and ADD (I let Joseph know about his diagnoses this year).

The real beauty of the Boy Scouts is how completely accommodating these boys are. It’s just not an issue to them, nor to the men who lead the troop. In another troop in my community, a boy with a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that will likely claim him before his twentieth birthday wanted to become a scout, and joined. His troop organized a series of car washes in order to raise the money to buy him a specialized wheelchair that would enable him to go camping with the troop.

As we sink further and further into the morass of a resurgent eugenics movement it is people such as these young men and their leaders who are a bright, shining star in the encroaching darkness. For parents who fear for their prenatally diagnosed children, there is a need for a message of hope. For Regina and me, it has come from an organization whose oath begins with three simple, powerful words:

“On my honor…”

For Joseph, the road to full participation has been paved smooth in no small measure by these boys and young men. He continues to grow, to thrive, to flourish.

It was a good week in ways he’ll never realize, but most importantly of all…

It was fun!

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Life happens.

It’s been a rather eventful year on the homefront, with accidents and illnesses, some life-threatening, consuming my attention. Blessedly, all is well and normal again. Starting today, Coming Home resumes its mission of bringing the truth of science to light, scientific truths that bolster every dimension of the pro-life cause.

Much has been published in my absence, so there’s much to digest. First up, though, is some light and uplifting fare, Joseph’s progress through scouting and trend with boys on the autism spectrum. That follows in the next post.

It’s good to be back.

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The web has been filled with breathless accounts of Father Frank Pavone’s great victory over his bishop in Amarillo. Lifesitenews recently reported on the situation with characteristic balance:

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has not been suspended, said the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy in May, but his bishop has the right to assign him duties outside his pro-life ministry, according to the Diocese of Amarillo.

Amarillo Bishop Patrick Zurek reported that the Vatican body granted at least a partial victory for the Priests for Life leader, who had petitioned Rome for clarification after Zurek announced that he had “suspended” Fr. Pavone last September.

According to the diocese, the Vatican clarified that Pavone was not canonically suspended, and remains a priest in good standing. However, the statement from the Vatican also apparently re-asserted Zurek’s authority to appoint Pavone chaplain of a religious community in Amarillo.

“In its decree of May 18, 2012, the Congregation for the Clergy has sustained Father Frank A. Pavone’s appeal of his suspension from ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo and his appointment from me on October 4, 2011, as Chaplain of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in Channing, Texas. Father Pavone is to continue his ministry as chaplain until further notice,” said Zurek in a June 20 statement.

“As a gesture of good will, I will grant permission to him in individual cases, based upon their merits, to participate in pro-life events with the provision that he and I must be in agreement beforehand as to his role and function,” the bishop stated. “All other matters are outside the purview of this statement.”

In its own statement, Priests for Life (PFL) lauded the Vatican statement that “Father Pavone is not now nor has ever been suspended.” However, like Zurek’s statement, the ministry’s words indicated that the affair had yet to be resolved, and that PFL would continue to seek enough freedom to pursue pro-life ministry.

Read the rest here.

So, the Congregation’s decision has simply clarified the situation as it has existed all along. Bishop Zurek has the right to assign Father Pavone anywhere he, in his discretion as Bishop, deems appropriate. Father Pavone was suspended from his ability to perform his public duties as head of Priests for Life, but was never suspended from his priestly faculties in his home diocese of Amarillo, a point made by his diocese early on.

Bishop Zurek has made it clear that Father Pavone’s pro-life activities and appearances outside of the diocese remain subject to his approval.

Judging from the vile commentary on the web by pro-lifers, commentary aimed at Bishop Zurek and the rest of the U.S. Bishops, this victory is for pro-lifers a Pyrrhic victory at best. Such commentary is not only short-sighted, it is blurry as well. It fails to grasp where we are in the abortion battle, and the larger battle regarding religious liberty. It is divisive, to say the least, and will come back to haunt us in the not-too-distant future.

If, as many opine, the bishops have been largely absent from the field in the battle against abortion, this sad episode involving Father Pavone has done nothing but to further estrange the activist wing of the movement from the bishops. From the outset I wrote that this was a private matter of accountability of a priest to his bishop and that everyone needed to give these two men the time and face-saving space they needed to resolve matters.

In truth, one couldn’t blame the bishops for resolving to steer clear of pro-life activists, especially in light of some of the hit pieces that were produced and distributed on the web. If Bishop Zurek, or any bishop, hears concerns raised about one of his priests and that priest’s stewardship of large sums of money, he is obligated to investigate to his satisfaction. If such investigation is simply used to persecute a priest, Rome has Canon laws, Congregations, and Courts to see that justice is done.

Priests in turn have a duty to be not only obedient, but respectful to their Bishops. That duty flows from the solemn vows of respect and obedience that they registered in Heaven on their ordination day.

Father Pavone and I are about the same age. Realistically, we will not see the end of abortion in our lifetime, and anyone who believes otherwise must be reading some other world’s newspapers.

The truth of the matter is that abortion is growing, not diminishing. Chemical abortions are on the rise everywhere.

The truth is that abortion and sterilization are a part of our national healthcare.

The truth is that billionaires such as Bill and Melinda Gates support population control, which continues to spread worldwide.

The truth is that euthanasia is on the rise around the world, with physician-assisted suicide gaining in every corner.

The truth is that in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood continue to rise in popularity and spread across the globe.

The truth is that we live in an age of eugenics which eclipses the eugenics of the mid-twentieth century.

The truth is that religious freedom of Christians and tolerance of Christianity are in decline globally, including on our college campuses and in our government. We are living in an age of red martyrdom which eclipses that of the first three centuries of the Church in size and numbers.

The truth is that marriage has collapsed in every developed nation on the planet, and is actively being redefined.

Now, more than ever, we need our bishops and clergy to stand with us on ALL of these issues. It isn’t just the Church which is in peril. Western Civilization has imploded and a new Dark Age encroaches. Perhaps not everyone can see this yet because we live in the last well-lit corner of the world, though that light is going out rapidly.

What happened in Amarillo served nobody well. It was a circus, and one which Father Pavone advised against. The measure of one’s Catholicism is not the degree of one’s pro-life activism, but as Paul instructs us in 1 Thess. 5, regarding the bishops:

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Not only will we not see the end of abortion anytime soon, we will see the end of our religious freedom as we’ve known it as well unless we unite as one Church. That didn’t happen in Amarillo, as many of Father Pavone’s supporters, against his advice and stated wishes, engaged in a orgy of frustration and even outright hatred for the bishops. There are a great many other assaults on human freedom and dignity apart from abortion, most of which are equally deadly. We need the bishops with us on those issues, too.

It’s time for the bishop-bashers within the Church to cease and desist. Seeing the Amarillo circus, no bishop in his right mind would want to risk that show arriving on his doorstep. Anger is one of the seven deadly sins, and the fractious, alienating rage at the bishops may well cost countless lives when all is said and done.

Father Pavone is a good man and a good priest who has done what few before him have had the courage to do. He won’t be the last. Like the Exodus generation in the desert, I don’t think he, or any of us, will live to see the promised land. We’re now fighting this war without any of the pillars of Western Civilization as supports, and with increasingly diminishing Constitutional protections.

We’re in this for the long haul, and we won’t get there without our bishops. What will get us there is a mature Catholicism characterized by Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians 2,000 years ago.

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July 4, 2012


Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC

Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”

Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.

We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.

Most of us know today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew. What we should, or should not, render unto Caesar shapes much of our daily discourse as citizens. But I want to focus on the other and more important point Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading: the things we should render unto God.

When the Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus, he responds by asking for a coin. Examining it he says, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When his enemies say “Caesar’s,” he tells them to render it to Caesar. In other words, that which bears the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.

The key word in Christ’s answer is “image,” or in the Greek, eikon. Our modern meaning of “image” is weaker than the original Greek meaning. We tend to think of an image as something symbolic, like a painting or sketch. The Greek understanding includes that sense but goes further. In the New Testament, the “image” of something shares in the nature of the thing itself.

This has consequences for our own lives because we’re made in the image of God. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word, eikon, is used in Genesis when describing the creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” says God (Gen 1:26). The implication is clear. To be made in the image of God is more than a pious slogan. It’s a statement of fact. Every one of us shares — in a limited but real way — in the nature of God himself. When we follow Jesus Christ, we grow in conformity to that image.

Once we understand this, the impact of Christ’s response to his enemies becomes clear. Jesus isn’t being clever. He’s not offering a political commentary. He’s making a claim on every human being. He’s saying, “render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image” — in other words, you and me. All of us.

And that raises some unsettling questions: What do you and I, and all of us, really render to God in our personal lives? If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way we speak and act?

Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ’s message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we’re in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.

But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here. The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing – at least nothing permanent and important – belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us, “Indeed religion” — the RSV version says “godliness” – “with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.” True freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy. True freedom can walk away from anything — wealth, honor, fame, pleasure. Even power. It fears neither the state, nor death itself.

Who is the most free person at anything? It’s the person who masters her art. A pianist is most free who — having mastered her instrument according to the rules that govern it and the rules of music, and having disciplined and honed her skills — can now play anything she wants.

The same holds true for our lives. We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan. When we do this, when we choose to live according to God’s intention for us, we are then — and only then — truly free.

This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering and adversity.

This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty – religious or otherwise.

I say this for two reasons. Here’s the first reason. Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.

Here’s the second reason. The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and strength?

Today, July 4, we celebrate the birth of a novus ordo seclorum – a “new order of the ages,” the American Era. God has blessed our nation with resources, power, beauty and the rule of law. We have so much to be grateful for. But these are gifts. They can be misused. They can be lost. In coming years, we’ll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country. This is why the Fortnight for Freedom has been so very important.

And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.

God’s words in today’s first reading are a caution we ignore at our own expense. “Son of man,” God says to Ezekiel and to all of us, “I have appointed you as a sentinel. If I say to the wicked, ‘you will surely die’ – and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them . . . I will hold you responsible for their blood.”

Here’s what that means for each of us: We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task. But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now. We need to “speak out,” not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.

When we leave this Mass today, we need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God — generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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A week ago the German Court in the city of Cologne ruled illegal all male circumcisions whose recipients are not old enough to give their personal consent. This from Reuters:

The court in the western city of Cologne handed down the decision on Tuesday in the case of a doctor prosecuted for circumcising a four-year-old Muslim boy who had to be treated two days later for post-operative bleeding.

It ruled involuntary religious circumcision should be made illegal because it could inflict serious bodily harm on people who had not consented to it.

However the ruling, which applies only to the Cologne area, said boys who consciously decided to be circumcised could have the operation. No age restriction was given, or any more specific details.

The doctor, who was prosecuted after the hospital doctor who treated the boy for bleeding called police, was acquitted as there was no law banning religious circumcision at the time.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany called the ruling an “unprecedented and dramatic intrusion” of the right to religious freedom and an “outrageous and insensitive” act.

“Circumcision for young boys is a solid component of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for millennia. This religious right is respected in every country around the world,” President Dieter Graumann said in a statement.


The Central Council of Muslims in Germany called the sentence a “blatant and inadmissible interference” in the rights of parents.

“Freedom of religion is highly valued in our constitution and cannot be the play-thing of a one-dimensional case law which, furthermore, consolidates existing prejudices and stereotypes,” it said in a statement.

According to the court ruling, “the fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighs the fundamental rights of the parents”.

“The child’s body is permanently and irreparably changed by the circumcision. This change runs counter to the interests of the child, who can decide his religious affiliation himself later in life,” it said.

Read the rest here.

That last quote from the court bears repeating:

“The child’s body is permanently and irreparably changed by the circumcision. This change runs counter to the interests of the child, who can decide his religious affiliation himself later in life.”

The courts would have Jews and Muslims raise their children free from the formative traditions and ethos that characterize their specific ethical and moral formation until adulthood. Are Christians next?

It simply beggars the imagination that a German Court would have issued such an anti-semitic decree. Their protestations about health run counter to a mountain of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicate otherwise. For the Germans who would use pseudoscience to advance their malignant anti-semitism, here are some quotes from the CDC fact sheet on male circumcision:

Male Circumcision and Risk for HIV Transmission

Several types of research have documented that male circumcision significantly reduces the risk of HIV acquisition by men during penile-vaginal sex.

Biologic Plausibility

Compared with the dry external skin surface, the inner mucosa of the foreskin has less keratinization (deposition of fibrous protein), a higher density of target cells for HIV infection (Langerhans cells), and is more susceptible to HIV infection than other penile tissue in laboratory studies [2]. The foreskin may also have greater susceptibility to traumatic epithelial disruptions (tears) during intercourse, providing a portal of entry for pathogens, including HIV [3]. In addition, the microenvironment in the preputial sac between the unretracted foreskin and the glans penis may be conducive to viral survival [1]. Finally, the higher rates of sexually transmitted genital ulcerative disease, such as syphilis, observed in uncircumcised men may also increase susceptibility to HIV infection [4].

International Observational Studies

A systematic review and meta-analysis that focused on male circumcision and heterosexual transmission of HIV in Africa was published in 2000 [5]. It included 19 cross-sectional studies, 5 case-control studies, 3 cohort studies, and 1 partner study. A substantial protective effect of male circumcision on risk for HIV infection was noted, along with a reduced risk for genital ulcer disease. After adjustment for confounding factors in the population-based studies, the relative risk for HIV infection was 44% lower in circumcised men. The strongest association was seen in men at high risk, such as patients at sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics, for whom the adjusted relative risk was 71% lower for circumcised men.

Another review that included stringent assessment of 10 potential confounding factors and was stratified by study type or study population was published in 2003 [6]. Most of the studies were from Africa. Of the 35 observational studies in the review, the 16 in the general population had inconsistent results. The one large prospective cohort study in this group showed a significant protective effect: the odds of infection were 42% lower for circumcised men [7]. The remaining 19 studies were conducted in populations at high risk. These studies found a consistent, substantial protective effect, which increased with adjustment for confounding. Four of these were cohort studies: all demonstrated a protective effect, with two being statistically significant.

There’s much more at the link.

Perhaps the German High Court will rule in this case. Meanwhile, the assault on religion continues unabated. In Germany, the Courts played a central role in advancing the Nazi eugenics program which was so vital in desensitizing the people when it came time to give the “final solution to the problem of the Jewish question.” In light of the German court’s deadly legacy, it behooves German justice to police their own.

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The Holy Hours and prayers have all been said, the letters written to legislators, the blogs have been written, the teach-ins have played themselves out, and the church bells have all been rung.

Now What?

Where do we go from here, and will our bishops continue to lead us along the way? These are the questions on many lips today, and in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, the space between now and election day is potentially some of the deadliest political battle-ground ever in American history. Hanging in the balance is nothing less than how this nation will be constituted moving forward.

These are consequential times and the laity of the Catholic and other faithful Christian churches have to contemplate what government control of healthcare will mean for biomedical ethics and the very character of our healthcare system if Obamacare is not consigned to oblivion in November. We need to consider exactly what is at stake.

The healthcare system as we know it, the process of scientific and therapeutic discovery, the development of new pharmaceutical agents will all slow tremendously as the government takes control. That’s because the government will suck the profit incentive out of the system in an effort to control costs. That’s what socialist systems do.

Profit is not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all. “Big Pharma” has been villified to the point of absurdity by people who don’t understand the workings of discovery, or pension plans. One of the most profitable sectors in the economy has been the biotech industry, and anyone with a private or government pension plan has seen it grow in no small measure because of the pension plan’s investments in these corporations.

On average, companies have less than ten years from the time a drug comes to market to recoup the research and development costs over the first ten years of the patent, before the patent expires and the drug goes into generics. By way of example, for new antibiotics the cost of R&D approaches $1 billion from the time the compound is discovered in the lab until the drug clears all three levels of FDA clinical trials. Investors (anyone with a pension plan) want their money back ASAP, not twenty years from now. And people who have spent four years in college, ten years in a Ph.D. program, at least three years in post-doctoral training rightly demand six-figure salaries as compensation for almost twenty years of their adult lives spent in training.

It takes a small army of such highly skilled researchers to advance the discoveries. Their just compensation is also an issue of social justice. Their discoveries and resultant profits do not feed the insatiable maws of a handful of fat cat executives in silk top hats, as is often caricaturized. Those discoveries ultimately extend and improve all of our lives (either when the drug is new and expensive, or in a few short years when it goes into generic production), and the profits sustain our retirees in their old age.

Europe had a thriving pharmaceutical industry before they adopted socialized medicine. Once the government became the single-largest purchaser of pharmaceutics they set the prices they were willing to pay so absurdly low that they collapsed the industry in Europe.

Hillary Clinton did the same thing to the vaccine wing of our pharmaceutical industry when Bill Clinton was president. The only portion of her nationalized healthcare that became policy was the children’s vaccine initiative. It was a noble attempt to vaccinate every child in America.

At the outset there were over thirty manufacturers of vaccines in the U.S. After the government became the single-largest purchaser of vaccines, they set the price and collapsed the industry. By the time of the anthrax scares post-9/11, there were less than seven manufacturers left, and the U.S. is now forced to purchase most of our vaccines abroad.

Then comes news last week that the Supreme Court struck down the provision in Obamacare that would have widened the medicaid involvement—–which was the precise population used to justify this entire mess in the first place. Now we are left with the worst of two worlds, the uninsured still being uninsured, and the government co-opting and destroying the very system they claimed they wanted for the uninsured.


It only goes to substantiate for Americans the experiences of other nations under socialized medicine. To be sure there are the apologists in Europe and Canada who will tout the superiority of their systems. What they do not tout is the radical eugenics and euthanasia that have seized these nations and which have become a permanent part of the landscape. It’s easy to boast of the superiority of one’s system when the very sickest among us don’t factor into the equation at all.

This is our choice come November. To my fellow Catholics at the conclusion of this fortnight, we have our work cut out for us. Either we rise up as the muscular Church we once were, or we consign ourselves to the status of paper tiger for at least a generation to come.

We stake all on the November elections.

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