Thursday, May 31, 2007

CNN story on abortion

This one isn't easy to watch, but it is enlightening.

You get:
  • heartache
  • anger
  • sadness
  • grieving
  • pain
  • regret
  • remorse
  • more
In one short little video on abortion. Should it be any different?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Catholic Politicians and Abortion

So, the Pope said that he agreed that Catholic politicians who support abortion laws are excommunicated. Then a Vatican official makes the statement a little "easier" on those same politicians. So, what is the verdict?

Well, this is a question of Canon Law. So, here are a couple of canon lawyers views on the situation:

Edward Peters - my canon law prof has quite a few posts on this issue, including his latest which is a response to the following article by Robert Miller.

Read to your hearts content on the issue...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Movie on Abortion

The recent buzz at Cannes Film Festival was about a movie that showed a woman's search for an abortion in Eastern Europe when abortion was illegal.

Of course they wouldn't make a movie with a sympathetic treatment of the pro-life movement. But, rather one with a clear message that abortion should be legal, because the "back-alley" abortions happen.

It is an argument worth examining. I am taking this information from "Why Can't We Love Them Both" Chapter 27 by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke

ILLEGAL ABORTIONS

Will dangerous back-alley abortions return if abortions are forbidden?

To answer this, first we must look back to what the actual situation was prior to legalization. Two questions are relevant:

1) How many illegal abortions were there?

2) How many women died from illegal abortions? The head of one of the major pro-abortion organizations in the U.S. said: "In 1972 there were 1,000,000 illegal abortions and 5,000 to 10,000 women died from them." True? Or False?

How many illegal abortions were there?

No one knows. Why? For the obvious reason that illegal abortions are not reported. No one reports the illegal actions that they have done. In this case neither the abortionist nor the woman report the deed. Because of this, there are no records. There are no statistics, no numbers anywhere to report. No one knows! Therefore, if anyone tells you that there were X numbers of illegal abortions somewhere in a certain time, they are guessing. The pro-abortion leader may guess 1,000,000. Your pro-life spokesman may guess 100,000, but both are guessing.

No clues?

There is only one reported figure that can lead us to some degree of accurate estimate of the numbers of illegal abortions and that is the number of women who died from illegal abortions.

Many nations report only one figure for women who die. They clump together women’s deaths from spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), legally induced abortion and illegally induced abortion. Such statistics are no help. The United States, since the 1940s, has reported such deaths separately, so we know the number of deaths from illegal abortions. Good! Now if we knew how many illegal abortions it took to cause one death, we could easily calculate the total number of illegal abortions. The problem is, no one has the slightest idea how many it took, and so we’re back to where we started from.

How many women died?

Let’s look. The following chart was used on the floor of the US Senate during the tumultuous debate on abortion in 1981. It was compiled from official U.S. statistics and was not challenged by the pro-abortion forces.

Why the early sharp drop?

Largely because Penicillin became available. Note that after Penicillin became available to control infections, the number of deaths stabilized during the 1950s at about 250/year. e.g. 1956 = 250 Note that by 1966, with abortion still illegal in all states, the number of deaths had dropped steadily to half that number. 1966 = 120

Why the drop after 1960?

chapter27_1.gif (9078 bytes)

The reasons were new and better antibiotics, better surgery and the establishment of intensive care units in hospitals. This was in the face of a rising population. Between 1967 and 1970 sixteen states legalized abortion. In most it was limited, only for rape, incest and severe fetal handicap (life of mother was legal in all states). There were two big exceptions — California in 1967, and New York in 1970 allowed abortion on demand. Now look at the chart carefully.

This legalization reduced the deaths?

In these two large states, legalization should have substituted "safe" for unsafe abortions. It should have saved many women’s lives. Actually there was no sharp drop in the number of women dying. Let’s look further. By the year before the U.S. Supreme Court decision which allowed legal abortion on demand in all fifty states, the death rate for illegal abortions had fallen to: 1972 = 39 (With 25 additional deaths that year due to legal abortions.) Now abortion was legal in 50 states. Now back alley abortions should have been eliminated with their alleged toll of maternal deaths.

In 1973 there should have been a really sharp drop in women dying. The chart, however, shows that there was no such drop. The line didn’t even blip. The previous rate of decline actually slowed, to flatten out in the late 70s and 80s. According to the U.S. vital statistics, as anyone can see, legalization of abortion did not save almost any women’s lives.

But we’ve been told the opposite.

Correct, but let’s recap: Pro abortionists claim that in 1972, the year before the Supreme Court legalized abortion, there were 1,000,000 illegal abortions and 5,000 to 10,000 women died.

Actually only 39 women died — less than one per state per year.

But they can’t have it both ways.

- Either there were not many illegal abortions

or

- Illegal abortions were all extremely safe.

Since we assume that all illegal abortions were not extremely safe, it seems obvious that THERE WERE NOT MANY ILLEGAL ABORTIONS One other comparison is relevant here. The pro-abortion claim was 1,000,000 illegal abortions in 1972. But with abortions legal without restriction in all states, the total reported for all of 1973 was about 750,000. This climbed to 1,500,000 by 1979 and plateaued there.

But why then have I heard time and again that between 5,000 and 10,000 women died annually from illegal abortions?

Those were the figures publicized. Another comment about them is the statement from Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a co-founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) — a man who once ran the largest abortion facility in the Western world and is now pro-life. He stated: "How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL, we generally emphasized the frame of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, [italics added] and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful [Nathanson’s italics] figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible." B. Nathanson, Aborting America, Doubleday, 1979, p. 193

Then, actually how many illegal abortions were there?

One study quoted in the U.S. Senate debate was authored by Dr. T. Hilgers from Creighton University, who estimated the figure probably was at or somewhere near 100,000 abortions annually in the U.S. prior to legalization.

But were illegal abortion deaths reported accurately? Before legalization?

Almost certainly they were! Back then it was a felony to do an abortion. When a woman was seriously injured by an abortion, she went to another doctor for care. The abortionist was nowhere to be seen. The new doctor tried to save her life, but she died anyway. Was this new, ethical physician going to deliberately falsify the death certificate (which was felony itself), to protect the abortionist? Not likely! Therefore, prior to legalization, deaths from illegal abortion were seldom covered up.

Are deaths from legal abortions reported accurately? Since legalization?

No, they frequently are not. As an example, let us use the State of Maryland in the year of 1991. There were four women who died in Maryland from induced abortions that year. None of the four were reported to the Federal Center for Disease Control. It receives its information from examination of death certificates. But, just for instance, one of the Maryland deaths above was listed as — "Cause of death = therapeutic misadventure." There is substantial evidence to suggest that the CDC does not report all the abortion-related deaths reported to it (see Chapter 21). But, even if it did operate honestly, the CDC only has the information to work with that is given to it. There are many deaths that are never reported to it.

Why is this?

One reason is that, prior to legalization, a second doctor almost always was the one who tried to save her life. In today’s age, however, it can be the same doctor. Since this abortionist does not want to have a reputation for having mothers die from his work, he or she has strong motivation to list some other cause of death. Since abortion is no longer a crime, this can be done with relative impunity. Another reason has to do with a substantial bias in reporting by the staff at the Center for Disease Control. As exhaustively documented by Mark Crutcher’s book, Lime 5, the CDC seems to have had an ongoing unspoken policy of under-reporting and minimizing induced abortion mortality and morbidity and maximizing that of full term pregnancy M. Crutcher, Lime 5, Pub. by Life Dynamics, Inc., Denton, TX

It is the opinion of all pro-life leaders in the United States that an accurate estimate of women dying from induced abortions is many times the number that is actually reported.

Then there is a difference between illegal abortions and back alley abortions?

Yes! Doctors who did illegal abortions would let a woman in the back door, take her money, and do the abortion. Today, the same abortionist lets her in the front door, takes her money, and does the abortion in the same way. Abortions from untrained "butchers" are increasingly rare and would be in the future.

But isn’t abortion safer than childbirth?

Pro-abortion people commonly say that it is. "Maternal mortality" is listed as deaths of women per 100,000 pregnancies. This figure has been commonly listed as eleven, compared to deaths from induced abortion, which are listed as one or two. Therefore, they say abortion is seven times safer. Not so! Maternal mortality, in recent years, has dropped to seven, not eleven.

But more important is the fact that, included in maternal mortality, are all deaths from induced abortions and ectopic pregnancies. Included also in maternal mortality are all women who die while pregnant from almost any cause that is in any way related to pregnancy. Different states require longer or shorter lengths of post-partum time, but, typically, maternal mortality also includes any related death within one year after delivery.

Maternal mortality also includes deaths from caesarean section. To compare comparable risks, one would have to compare the risk of being pregnant in the first three months with the risk of having an abortion within the first three months. When compared in this fashion, abortion is many times more dangerous. Actually, it is probable that induced abortion is more dangerous than carrying a baby to term. Maternal Mortality Surveillance ’79-’86, Center for Disease Control, M&M Weekly report July ’91, Vol. 40, No. SS-1

How about further proof?

Let’s look at the late 1950s. Those were the supposed bad old days. All abortions were illegal, and illegal abortionists were alleged to be busy. In the July 1960 edition of The American Journal of Public Health, there was an article by Dr. Mary Calderone, founder of SIECUS and medical director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She stated:

"90% of illegal abortions are being done by physicians. Call them what you will, abortionists or anything else, they are still physicians, trained as such; . . . They must do a pretty good job if the death rate is as low as it is . . . Abortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is in the main no longer dangerous, because it is being done well by physicians."

But what about coat hanger abortions?

Your authors have lectured nationwide on abortion on an average of one city a week for almost three decades. We frequently ask the audience to provide documented proof of a self-induced coat hanger abortion. In all this time no one has given us a single case. It may well be — there never were any coat hanger abortions.

I’ve heard of large numbers of women dying from illegal abortions in other countries.

On June 18, 1989, CNN World Report, in an hour-long documentary, stated that in Brazil there are 6 million illegal abortions each year and 400,000 women die. But the U.N. Demographic Yearbook of 1988 lists only 40,000 women, age 15-44, dying each year of all causes. Pop. Research Inst. Review, Jan. 1991, p. 12

In Portugal the claimed figure was 2,000 deaths. The actual number of deaths of females between the ages of 15-46 was 2,106 in the same year from all natural causes, accidents and illness. There were only 97 listed in the "complications of pregnancy" of which 12 were due to abortion, including spontaneous and induced, legal and illegal. Portuguese Anuario Estatistico, Tables 11, 16, 111 221

In Italy, the claimed figure before their abortion referendum was 20,000. In the age group 15-45, there were actually only 11,500 female deaths from all causes. Primum Non Nocere, vol. IV, no. 1, 1983

In Germany the claim was that 15,000 women died annually. In fact, only 13,000 women of reproductive age died annually in West Germany, and less than 100 died of complications of abortion, legal and illegal. Kurchoff, Deutches Arzteblatt, vol. 69, no. 27, Oct. 26, 1972

At the United Nations Habitat meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1996, the following "fact" was given wide publicity: The UNICEF suddenly claimed that 585,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and birth.

The pro-life NGO’s for the family immediately answered, "This is wild. According to the U.N. Demographic Year Book for 1990, the total known maternal deaths worldwide for 1986 and 1987 numbered 11,924 (around 6,000 per year). This figure encompasses countries covering 35% of the world’s population." U.N. Conference, Istanbul, June 1996

I’d still worry that if you forbid abortion, it will just go back to back-alley butchery and lots of mothers dying.

We’ve had an example of an entire nation in recent years. It was Poland. Under Communist rule in the ’80s, there were consistently over 100,000 abortions registered each year as compared to about 600,000 births. With the establishment of some self-government in 1990, with both the Church and doctors discouraging abortion, the numbers fell to 59,400.

Let’s list the 1990 figures and then look ahead to 1994, the second year after abortion was forbidden except for danger to the life or health of the mother, rape and fetal handicap.


1990 1994
Total abortions 59,417 782
Women’s deaths connected with pregnancy 90 57
Miscarriages 59,454 49,970
Cases of infanticide 31 17
Births 546,000 482,000

During this time the number of registered abortions declined to 176th of what it had been, and there was not a single death due to illegal abortion. All of these figures are exactly opposite of what International Planned Parenthood people in Poland predicted when the restrictive law was passed

Friday, May 25, 2007

Catholics and Western Civilization

Recently an atheist gave the New York diocese $22.5 million.

Why?

Because "Let's face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization"

and "It was a chance for a very modest amount of money to get kids out of a lousy school system and into a good school system"

Who says that believers can't learn from atheists? I wish a lot of Catholics realized that the Catholic Church built Western Civilization...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Archbishop Chaput on Young Adults, Peace and Common Good

This is fabulous stuff from Archbishop Chaput from Denver. It is probably the best I have ever read/heard addressed to the current generation of college students. He is a very good writer and has great content in his presentations, but this is one of the best I have ever read from him. I highly recommend you take a few minutes from your day and read the entire transcript. But, if you feel like you can't do it, then at least read a few quotes I selected below.
As college students, you’re already young adults. In a few years you’ll have jobs and families. Some of you will be doctors, teachers, or business leaders. Some of you will go into politics or the military. Many of you will have children. And all of you will be responsible.

What I mean by “responsible” is this. St. Paul tells us: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 14:20). You’re about to inherit the most powerful nation in history. Each of you has the talent, goodwill, and energy to use that power well.

But the problem is that much of American culture right now is built on an adolescent fiction. The fiction is that life is all about you as an individual—your ideas, your appetites, and your needs. Believe me: It isn’t. The main interest big companies have in your wants and mine is how to turn them into a profit. Part of being an adult is the ability to separate marketing from reality; hype from fact. The fact is, the world is a big and complicated place. It doesn’t care about your appetites. It has too many of its own needs, and it won’t leave you alone.

God made you for a purpose. The world needs the gifts he gave you. Adulthood brings power. Power brings responsibility. And the meaning of your life will hinge on a simple, basic choice. Will you engage the world with your heart and brains and faith, and work to make it a better place—not just for yourself and the people you love but also for people you don’t even know whose survival depends on your service to the common good? Or will you wrap yourself in a blanket of noise and toys and consumer junk, and stay a child?

God gave you a free will. How you use that gift is your choice—but it’s a choice you won’t be able to avoid. And that choice has consequences.

Wow, good stuff. It continues:

Here’s my point. People who take the question of human truth, freedom and meaning seriously will never remain silent about it. They can’t. They’ll always act on what they believe, even at the cost of their reputations and lives. That’s the way it should be. Religious faith is always personal, but it’s never private. It always has social consequences, or it isn’t real. And this is why any definition of “tolerance” that tries to turn religious faith into a private idiosyncrasy, or a set of personal opinions that we can have at home but that we need to be quiet about in public, is doomed to fail.

The mentality of suspicion toward religion is becoming its own form of intolerance. I have seen a kind of secular intolerance develop in our own country over the past two decades. The modern secular view of the world assumes that religion is superstitious and false; that it creates division and conflict; and that real freedom can only be ensured by keeping God out of the public square.

But if we remove God from public discourse, we also remove the only authority higher than political authority, and the only authority that guarantees the sanctity of the individual. If the twentieth century taught us anything, it’s that modern states tend to eat their own people, and the only thing stopping this is a resistance based in the human spirit but anchored in a higher authority—which almost always means religious witness.

You know, there’s a reason why “spirituality” is so popular in the United States today and religion is so criticized. Private spirituality can be quite satisfying. But it can also become a designer experience. In fact, the word spirituality can mean just about anything a person wants it to mean. It’s private, it’s personal, and, ultimately, it doesn’t place any more demands on the individual than what he or she wants.

Religion is a very different creature. The word religion comes from the Latin word religare—to bind. Religious believers bind themselves to a set of beliefs. They submit themselves to a community of faith with shared convictions and hopes. A community of believers has a common history. It also has a shared purpose and future that are much bigger than any political authority. And that has implications. Individuals pose no threat to any state. They can be lied to, bullied, arrested, or killed. But communities of faith do pose a threat. Religious witness does have power, and communities of faith are much harder to silence or kill.

This is why active religious faith has always been so distrusted and feared by every one of the big modern ideologies—whether it’s Marxism, or fascism, or the cult of selfishness and comfortable atheism that we see in Europe and the United States today. What we believe about God shapes what we believe about the human person. And what we believe about the human person has consequences—social, economic, and political consequences.

Of course, the issue of religious tolerance isn’t simply a question of religion’s relationship with the state. It can also be a matter of different religious communities competing for the same souls in the same space. That creates a different set of problems. At their best, religious believers will understand that they have an obligation to treat people of other faiths, or no faith, with justice and charity. The same God created both the faithful and unbelievers, and the same God guarantees the rights and dignity of both. But at their worst, believers have seen unbelievers or different believers as enemies who need to be punished.

More...

As Catholics we have a duty to treat all people, regardless of their beliefs, with justice, charity, mercy, prudence, patience, and understanding. We’re not asked to “tolerate” them but to love them, which is a much more demanding task. Obviously, tolerance is an important democratic working principle. Most of the time, it’s a good and vital thing. But tolerating lies about the nature of the human person is a sin. Tolerating grave evil in a society is an equally grave evil. And using “tolerance” as an excuse for not living and witnessing Jesus Christ in our private lives and in our public actions is not an act of civility. It’s a form of cowardice.

Remember that courage is also a true Christian virtue. The Epistle of James tells us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (1:22). James also says that “faith without works is dead” (2:20). And Jesus himself tells us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19). Jesus didn’t say, “unless you’re in college” or “unless you’re an American.” He said, “make disciples of all nations,” and he was talking to you and me. Right now, in our time.

How can this command from Christ himself fit in with ideas like interreligious dialogue and interfaith peace? Catholics who really study, understand, and love their faith believe the following things.

First, every human person has an inviolable dignity and inalienable rights as a child of God made in his image. No other person or outside power has the authority to violate those rights.

Second, we should sincerely respect every element of truth and beauty embodied in other religious communities. We have an obvious family bond with other Christians and a special reverence for the Jewish people as our elder brothers in the faith. We should also seek to build mutual respect with Muslims, who claim their own descent from Abraham. But our goodwill should extend to every sincere expression of humanity’s search for God, including especially the great religious traditions of the East, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Third—and we should never, ever try to diminish this fact—while all religions have some elements of truth, all religions are not equal. Only Jesus Christ is Lord. Only Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one is saved except through him—even if other people don’t know or accept him by name. No other way to the Father exists, except through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, only the Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ in its fullness, and therefore the Catholic Church teaches with his authority.

Fifth, the Church has the duty to preach Jesus Christ and propose the truth of God’s revelation. But she can’t coerce anyone to believe the truth without violating the rights of the individual person and betraying the message of the gospel. In other words, every person is free to accept or reject the message of salvation.

Sixth and finally, every person has a right to freedom of conscience and the serious duty to follow his or her conscience. But conscience never develops in a vacuum. Conscience is never just an exercise of personal opinion or preference. Every person has the obligation to form his or her conscience in the light of God’s truth. And for all men and women, in every age and every culture, the truth about God and the human person is taught in a complete way only by the Catholic faith.

The choices we make about our religious beliefs matter not just in this world but also in the next. God created us for heaven, but we arrive there by living the witness of his love right here and now. We have a duty to pursue the truth, to live it and preach it to others. And that means we need to respect the beliefs and greatness of other people and work with them to build a more humane world in every legitimate way we can. But we can never allow that to stop us from witnessing and advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ with every breath we take. The only guarantee of real human freedom is God, and the truest path to God is through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Then he lowers the bomb...

In Europe, Pope Benedict XVI has warned of a growing culture of self-apostasy and cynicism that robs “human nature [of] its inherent value-oriented and idealistic dimensions” and denies Christians “the right to intervene in public debates.”

And even in the United States, where we take the Christian and Enlightenment roots of our freedoms for granted, the climate is changing. America is a country that could not have been imagined by her founders without an understanding of God and man shaped deeply by the Christian faith.

But if you read the New York Times and other major newspapers, and listen to some of our academic, scientific, or political leaders, you’d never know that. And if you take a stroll through your local video store later today, you’ll find literally dozens of movies that cast religious believers in general—and Catholics in particular—as fools or hypocrites or worse.

Now, if this kind of cheap, pop-culture bigotry doesn’t make you want to defend and push back for your faith, maybe you need to take an honest look at how Catholic you really want to be. This isn’t a time for tepid or half-hearted believers. If you claim to be Catholic, if you claim to be a person of religious faith, then you need to live it all the way.

Religious intolerance is a kind of blasphemy because it shows contempt for a person’s deepest search for meaning. And sooner or later, for most people, that search leads to God. The right to worship God, and the right to practice, preach, and teach what we believe without harassment—these rights are fundamental to the human person. They’re part of the foundation of human dignity. We can never protect those rights by kicking God out of our public institutions, or banning him from our civic vocabulary. Democracy depends on the free, respectful, and nonviolent competition of ideas, and even God has a right—in fact he has the primary right—to be heard in that discussion.

If you want to serve the common good and build a better future, you’ll never do it by hiding your faith in the closet. You’ll never do it by being Catholic in private and something else in public. History is made by people with convictions, and the courage and passion to live those convictions. The path to interfaith peace and religious understanding demands that we live our faith more deeply and authentically, not less.

The more truly we love the Church and live our Catholic faith with joy, charity, justice, mercy—and the courage to demand that other people, in other religious traditions, should do the same—then the more the God of love will become present in our midst. And he alone is the real path to peace.

Amazing. Just amazing.
I hope he doesn't mind me stealing this...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another Evangelical Philosopher Comes Home

I wrote recently about Frank Beckwith's return to the faith of his childhood. He is a well-known Evangelical, who decided to return to the Catholic Church. He is a professor at Baylor.

Well, just down I-35 it looks like another Philosopher at UT is following him. Robert Koons will be received into full communion very soon. His post on the decision can be found on the blog, Right Reason.

Maybe it is time we got an Aggie Philosopher home! :-)

Emilio Dies

I wrote last month about Emilio Gonzalez and Bishop Aymond's statement about his situation.

Well, unfortunately, little Emilio has died. Please keep him in your prayers.

CNS has a story on it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It is official

St. Mary's is letting the cat out of the bag. Big News.

Abortion Story

A student sent me a great real-life story about how we can fight abortion, by listening to the will of God, even when it is scary and hard.

Before you read about it, I would like to remind you that abortion is not a Democrat/Republican issue. It is a life issue. There are pro-life democrats and pro-abortion republicans.

That being said, give this a read.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chimera!

I don't think we are on the scientific slippery slope any more. We have definitely fallen right into the muck.

Now, there is an attempt to make animal/human embryos for research. This chimera is disgusting and is absolutely immoral. We need to rise up and fight this kind of "research".

The Vatican isn't happy about it either.

Time to blow the horn and get to the spiritual battle on this one.

Beckwith again

More on the Beckwith story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bam! Hammer hits nail on head!

This is good stuff from Fr. Jonathan who writes for Fox News. I especially like this part:

The prevailing culture on most college campuses looks a bit like MTV. It’s the world of hooking up, one-night stands, beer funnels and the search for the perfect group of friends. For some, and for a time, this satisfies. And when it doesn’t…? Well, most bounce back. They grow and mature.

But as we’ve seen, some don’t. For whatever reason, there are an increasing number of young people who are missing the internal mechanisms to deal rationally with life’s pains. Of these sad cases we usually don’t hear much at all. Even in their pain, they manage to hold things together. They keep up appearances. They struggle on. And all the time they wonder why they are so different. They wonder why life is losing meaning. Eventually, they look for an out.

Of course, this bleak scenario of meaninglessness isn’t just a college thing; it’s a human thing. What’s gone wrong and what’s the answer?

This I know for sure: better security, more laws and revamped structures are not going to get to the heart of the problem.

The only way to deal with the heart is on a one-to-one basis. The work begins in the home and it continues in every human contact that follows — at work, school and the local gym.

The good news is all of us can make a difference. Are we aware of the suffering around us? Are we willing to reach beyond our comfort level and be love for the loveless? If we have found why life is worth living, are we willing to share that good news with others?

That sounds like a national conversation worth having.

Pope Benedict in Brazil cont.

Here is more from PBXVI in Brazil:

Speaking at the opening session of the Bishop's of Latin America's Conference:

Yet before we consider what is entailed by the realism of our faith in the God who became man, we must explore the question more deeply: how can we truly know Christ so as to be able to follow him and live with him, so as to find life in him and to communicate that life to others, to society and to the world? First and foremost, Christ makes his person, his life and his teaching known to us through the word of God. At the beginning of this new phase that the missionary Church of Latin America and the Caribbean is preparing to enter, starting with this Fifth General Conference in Aparecida, an indispensable pre-condition is profound knowledge of the word of God.

To achieve this, we must train people to read and meditate on the word of God: this must become their staple diet, so that, through their own experience, the faithful will see that the words of Jesus are spirit and life (cf. Jn 6:63). Otherwise, how could they proclaim a message whose content and spirit they do not know thoroughly? We must build our missionary commitment and the whole of our lives on the rock of the word of God. For this reason, I encourage the Bishops to strive to make it known.

An important way of introducing the People of God to the mystery of Christ is through catechesis. Here, the message of Christ is transmitted in a simple and substantial form. It is therefore necessary to intensify the catechesis and the faith formation not only of children but also of young people and adults. Mature reflection on faith is a light for the path of life and a source of strength for witnessing to Christ. Most valuable tools with which to achieve this are the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its abridged version, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In this area, we must not limit ourselves solely to homilies, lectures, Bible courses or theology courses, but we must have recourse also to the communications media: press, radio and television, websites, forums and many other methods for effectively communicating the message of Christ to a large number of people.

He then continues the theme of evangelization:

The disciple, founded in this way upon the rock of God’s word, feels driven to bring the Good News of salvation to his brothers and sisters. Discipleship and mission are like the two sides of a single coin: when the disciple is in love with Christ, he cannot stop proclaiming to the world that only in him do we find salvation (cf. Acts 4:12). In effect, the disciple knows that without Christ there is no light, no hope, no love, no future.

He then speaks about young people:
In Latin America the majority of the population is made up of young people. In this regard, we must remind them that their vocation is to be Christ’s friends, his disciples. Young people are not afraid of sacrifice, but of a meaningless life. They are sensitive to Christ’s call inviting them to follow him. They can respond to that call as priests, as consecrated men and women, or as fathers and mothers of families, totally dedicated to serving their brothers and sisters with all their time and capacity for dedication: with their whole lives. Young people must treat life as a continual discovery, never allowing themselves to be ensnared by current fashions or mentalities, but proceeding with a profound curiosity over the meaning of life and the mystery of God, the Creator and Father, and his Son, our Redeemer, within the human family. They must also commit themselves to a constant renewal of the world in the light of the Gospel. More still, they must oppose the facile illusions of instant happiness and the deceptive paradise offered by drugs, pleasure, and alcohol, and they must oppose every form of violence.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Pope Speaks

Well, it has been said many times, but when the Pope speaks, we should listen. In Brazil he has spoken about Church renewal, catechesis, evangelization, poverty, young people and more. Here are some quotes that stood out:

From his meeting with youth/young adults:
To understand what is good, we need help, which the Church offers us on many occasions, especially through catechesis. Jesus himself shows what is good for us by giving us the first element in his catechesis: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). He begins with the knowledge that the young man has surely already acquired from his family and from the synagogue: he knows the commandments. These lead to life, which means that they guarantee our authenticity. They are the great signs which lead us along the right path. Whoever keeps the commandments is on the way that leads to God.

It is not enough, however, simply to know them. Witness is even more important than knowledge; or rather, it is applied knowledge. The commandments are not imposed upon us from without; they do not diminish our freedom. On the contrary: they are strong internal incentives leading us to act in a certain way. At the heart of them we find both grace and nature, which do not allow us to stay still. We must walk. We are motivated to do something in order fulfil our potential. To find fulfilment through action is, in reality, to become real. To a large extent, from the time of our youth, we are whatever we want to be. We are, so to speak, the work of our own hands.

It gets even better:

But as I gaze at you young people here present—you who radiate so much joy and enthusiasm—I see you as Christ sees you: with a gaze of love and trust, in the certainty that you have found the true way. You are the youth of the Church. I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd. Be apostles of youth. Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they may feel truly loved, accepted, able to realize their full potential. May they too may discover the sure ways of the commandments, and, by following them, come to God.

You can be the builders of a new society if you seek to put into practice a conduct inspired by universal moral values, but also a personal commitment to a vitally important human and spiritual formation. Men and women who are ill-prepared for the real challenges presented by a correct interpretation of the Christian life in their own surroundings will easily fall prey to all the assaults of materialism and secularism, which are more and more active at all levels.

Be men and women who are free and responsible; make the family a centre that radiates peace and joy; be promoters of life, from its beginning to its natural end; protect the elderly, since they deserve respect and admiration for the good they have done. The Pope also expects young people to seek to sanctify their work, carrying it out with technical skill and diligence, so as to contribute to the progress of all their brothers and sisters, and to shed the light of the Word upon all human activities (cf. Lumen Gentium, 36). But above all, the Pope wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling their duties towards the State: respecting its laws; not allowing themselves to be swept along by hatred and violence; seeking to be an example of Christian conduct in their professional and social milieu, distinguishing themselves by the integrity of their social and professional relationships. They should remember that excessive ambition for wealth and power leads to corruption of oneself and others; there are no valid motives that would justify attempting to impose one’s own worldly aspirations—economic or political—through fraud and deceit.

He continues:

My appeal to you today, young people present at this gathering, is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity.

You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. On the contrary: you are that young man now; you are that young man in the Church and in humanity today. You are his young face. The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community. Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured.

Now, to the Bishops of Latin America he said:

Dear brothers and sisters! This is the priceless treasure that is so abundant in Latin America, this is her most precious inheritance: faith in the God who is Love, who has shown us his face in Jesus Christ. You believe in the God who is Love: this is your strength, which overcomes the world, the joy that nothing and no one can ever take from you, the peace that Christ won for you by his Cross! This is the faith that has made America the “Continent of Hope.” Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system: faith in the God who is Love—who took flesh, died and rose in Jesus Christ—is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until today, as attested by the ranks of Saints and Beati whom the Spirit has raised up throughout the Continent. Pope John Paul II called you to a new evangelization, and you accepted his commission with your customary generosity and commitment. I now confirm it with you, and in the words of this Fifth Conference I say to you: be faithful disciples, so as to be courageous and effective missionaries.
I will post some more quotes tomorrow, which are just as sweet...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Copy Machine

We got a new copier yesterday. After we got through doing cartwheels and somersaults in rejoicing, Sarah wrote the following:

Ode to the Copier

Oh my dearest Copier
You could not make me grumpier

I will not miss your fickleness
your constant crash or jammed up mess

I will not miss your unreliability
your bi-weekly breakdown and incivility

We kicked and screamed and ranted and raved
We even made a tombstone grave (well, Marcel and I did)

We rallied and gathered and signed a petition
And daydreamed about your joyful destruction (preferably off the roof)

But I must say as you depart
You (sort of) have a place in my heart

You made us laugh . . . well, after we cried
You united us . . . well, as we conspired

And taught us patience . . . well, after we sighed
Okay, on second thought I think I lied . . .

You are fried

And fired

God-bye

By Sarah Hayes

I think I had a little tear just run down my face...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pope and Catholic Politicians

The Pope had an interesting take on the stance of Catholic politicians.

While flying to Brazil he was asked whether he supported the Mexican Bishops who had said that Catholic politicians who want to legalize abortion in that country are excommunicated. He said:

They did nothing new, nothing arbitrary or surprising,they simply announced to the public what is stipulated by the law of the Church.
The full article and a little bit of longer explanation can be found on the Catholic World News website. Reuters also is carrying it.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Kenya, Poverty and Love

I have a friend, Amy, from grad school who recently took a trip to Kenya. She sent me the following reflection and gave permission for me to share with everyone. Inspirational, challenging moving and sad are words that came to mind.

Africa is very dark at night and also very loud. When my friend Cathy and I arrived at night I was struck by how few lights there are on the road. Nairobi is just not very electrified. No streetlights to lead you; we just drove into darkness. On my first night at the orphanage, I awoke at 4 am to a man yelling into a loudspeaker. I suddenly had a flashback to the movie Hotel Rwanda, where the rebels called others to arms on the loudspeakers. Yikes! It turned out that it was simply a Christian preacher who was preaching. The preacher continued for many nights, other nights there was a cacophony of dogs, drums and music.

Bu this is really a story about the orphanage. The orphanage run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart (nuns, founded in Malta). It is located in Kibera Satellite area of Nairobi. See this website for some pictures and if you saw the movie the Constant Gardener – it was filmed here. It is one of Africa’s largest slums. Driving into that area was mind boggling. If you can imagine the sensory overload as you see goats, dogs, pedestrians, bikers, men pulling carts, donkeys all darting into the heavily potholed orange dirt road. Not easy on the driver. It seemed to me chaos, mayhem, and extremely impoverished. And yet one short turn off the road and down about ¼ mile you come to the orphanage with gray concrete walls and razor wire atop. I felt a real sense of peace stepping into confines of the orphanage. There everything is orderly, peaceful just the sounds of children playing. I came to realize over time how important it was for orphanage to have the order it had. The orphan’s lives were so troubled that what they needed was order, consistency, dependability, and faith, hope and love. The sisters provided this.

There were 51 girls. (About 5 were off at secondary boarding school – girls about 15-18 years old. It is the custom to send the children to boarding school at this age, and a good reason is that sending 16 year old girls to walk a few miles to school in the slums is an easy way for them to get taken advantage of or possibly drawn into prostitution.) The sisters ran a kindergarten – ages 3-6 on premises to earn a little money for the orphanage. They also took in a few poor children. I say poor, and here it means super-poor: living in a tin roof one room shack with no water and dirt floors. For this you have to pay a slumlord $10 a month rent. One of the sisters had typhoid because the sewage problem is so bad it taints the water.

When we first arrived we met the kindergarten boys and girls. It seemed to me they were all sick. One boy I recall had yellow eyes among other apparent maladies. Well, rather than grasp him into my arms and give him an embrace – I drew away and washed my hands with Purel. I found out that I was not the Mother Teresa I thought I was. I was disappointed in my reaction. We met the girls when they came home from school. Wow they were excited to see us! They were fascinated with our skin and hair. They would constantly stroke our hair and examine our arms. My freckles, veins (which show through my pale skin) and fascinated them as did hairy arms.

This was a trip of many humiliations. I didn’t know what they would want us to do there. But what they asked of us I was terribly inept at: mending, cooking, peeling (no peelers), washing clothes by hand, and teaching kindergarten songs, making Play-do figures etc. Didn’t ANYONE want to know about Excel spreadsheets? Anyone for a hot stock pick? (It would make for a funny movie scene: the big city girls stride in with no practical knowledge of running a household and basic domestic tasks and are asked nonchalantly to do them and their attempts are quite comical – humiliating!) The worst day was when my friend Cathy was not there and the girls were at school, I remember getting disturbed by the physical labor, social problems, poverty and but really a feeling of alienation.

The girls were so sweet and with them I always felt at home. It is hard to believe they come from such horrible circumstances and yet they are really kind. About 95% of them had their parent’s die from AIDS. Some of them had lived on the streets, been molested by relatives, or mistreated by other institutions. Many of the girls were sibling groups. There were two 4 month old babies that had been abandoned. They appeared fairly healthy although one was just skin and bones when found, having been thrown away.

Their lives were very ordered. They returned from school around 3pm and washed clothes. At 4 they ate porridge and relaxed a few minutes then it was time for preparing food, mostly peeling chopping large quantities of vegetables. Then at 5 they had a shower and continue with chopping. At 6:30 they have prayer and singing Christian songs. At 7 they do schoolwork and then eat and go to bed. Saturday mornings everything is cleaned at washed – all by hand with minimal cleansers. Sunday is mass and some leisure time – we took walks in the neighborhood. I think they can watch 1 video a week. I wondered why the kids were so good? I suppose they had the luxury of not being spoiled or overly influenced by toxic media and bratty friends. They were very respectful, disciplined, not cynical, seemed to have a lively, educated faith, and were very grateful. I thought if only our American teenagers could learn from them! Oh and they loved music and were great dancers. They liked to sing The Sound of Music songs which was very endearing. The most rewarding part was when I helped the girls with their studies or peeling or when they constantly held your hand at mass.

The sisters were completely inspiring models of Christian charity. Staying with them was also very eye opening. They were mostly fairly young Kenyans. There were about seven staying at the house on the grounds of the orphanage. They had different jobs such as catechists, social workers, and teachers. Only one was totally focused on the orphanage. They lived an upper class life for that neighborhood: electricity, running water and even a clothes dryer they rarely used due to electricity cost. They maintained a nice, simple and orderly house and prayed about 2 hours or so a day. One day I think I had just heard one too many sad Kenyan stories (this one about how one sister worked with street children – the many who literally live on the streets) and I realized how peaceful the sisters were about their work. They just kept pressing on and not getting down about the circumstances. They were quite cheerful. They looked after themselves as caregivers spiritually and physically. My MBA side might have said why don’t you lessen your prayer and spend more time tutoring the kids – but I knew that type of thinking is a common American error. The sisters were fun and when we cleaned up after meals I recalled my own childhood with five sisters – not too different. There are a lot of vocations in Africa and I saw it as a result of their humility. They had a willingness to be generous with their lives which we are more afraid of in the US. The sisters showed how rewarding it is to be a sister even on earth, in contrast to the many unhappy women I know.

There was a Catholic Church next door to the orphanage, St. Jude. They had wonderful respectful services if a bit long, with great singing with awesome Kenyan music. I felt like the Christianity was the best thing going for the future of Kenya. Beyond the truth of the Jesus Christ that I believe in, it also taught needed virtues that will help Kenyans fight AIDS and some other tribal practices that are self defeating. It was very reassuring to me the girls were getting a strong Christian upbringing with frequent prayer, bible reading and church services.

We did some other things like visit the sick in the neighborhood. We also came across a Rwandan refugee school near the orphanage where we spoke with one of the teachers. These were Hutus who had been in Kenya for years now. I asked them if they could go back since it appeared quiet in Rwanda now. The teacher looked at me solemnly and said: “There is peace but no justice”. Apparently there are still citizen arrests being made and not a lot of evidence required. (I refer you to an excellent book: Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza.)

A few words about AIDS. Yes, it’s horrific! Kenya’s life expectancy is only 48! Down from 58 or so before AIDS. None of the orphan girls were HIV positive at this orphanage (they are at another one the sisters run). About 10% of the Kenyan population has AIDS but I read this is finally declining. This only occurs when people refrain from sex. As had been shown, the condom only agenda did nothing to reduce AIDS rates (condom effectiveness against transmission is said to be 85-90%).

One of my last days there the boy with the yellow eyes saw me from far away. He ran like a linebacker pushing aside several people to jump into my arms. Yes he had become my little buddy during my kindergarten working hours. I threw away the Purel after I got sick anyway (a minor cold). The alienation and humiliation became a lesson on Christ suffering during the Passion. (Yes we know it was terrible physically, but what about the emotional alienation Christ suffered, when your so called friends turn you in and deny you.) I cried when I left the orphanage and said goodbye to all the people who touched my heart there.

I will be raising money for the orphans. Let me know if you have any ideas about how to do this: sponsoring orphans, a party, a bike ride, going on the radio, making presentations, a website. I know people don’t like to send money to Africa – because so much of it is wasted or becomes counterproductive and why bother when the problems seem insurmountable. Believe me I try to be careful when I give money: I don’t believe in a lot of welfare as it does perpetuate problems and surely many millions of aid money only went to line government official’s pockets. But in this case, there is no loss to overhead, the money goes to the most dedicated and loving helpers that are giving the most vulnerable and needy girls a chance at life. Yes, there are big problems in Africa that are daunting. Like the sisters demonstrated it’s probably not best to judge your actions by absolute numbers and spreadsheets – it’s not business. Its just one person at a time.

The Daughters of the Sacred Heart have one small house in the US in Dallas with 4 sisters. Donations can be sent to Daughters of the Sacred Heart, c/o OLPH, 7625 Cortland Ave, Dallas, TX 75235

Kwaheri,
Amy

Pope Asks For Prayers

Pope Benedict XVI is making his first visit to the Americas since being made Pope. He will be visiting Brazil to open the fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean.

To say that there are some big issues in the Church of Latin America is an understatement:
  • Poverty is rampant
  • Dictatorships flourish
  • Drug lords and guerrillas still have much sway
  • Culture of oppression
  • The Church's failure to evangelize and sometimes complacency
  • The influx of Pentecostals and Fundamentalists and the Church's fear of them
  • Radical Liberation theology still has a lot of influence in parts of the Church
  • Corruption
  • The mix of political policy and Church doctrine
  • The current agenda of legalizing abortion
  • governments' failure to open themselves up to the global economy
  • etc.
In light of this and more, the Pope asks for and needs our prayers.

God guide him on his journey to Brazil.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Prayer For Finals

Here is another prayer for you students taking finals. It is from St. Thomas Aquinas and is what one of my graduate school profs would have us pray before everyone of his classes:
Grant, O merciful God, that I may
ardently desire,
prudently examine,
truthfully acknowledge,
and perfectly accomplish
what is pleasing to You,
for the praise and glory of Your Name. Amen.
Sometime soon I will post my profs comments on this prayer and how it is a "masterpiece of theological composition".

Coming Back to the Church

There have been hundreds of Protestant pastors who have become Catholic in the last 15 years or so, many of whom have been high-profiled in the denominations they left. Well, apparently another one has come back to the Church. I say back, because he was raised Catholic and then left. He has now been gone to Confession and is back in full communion with the Catholic Church. His name is Frank Beckwith and he is currently the head of the Evangelical Theological Society, an influential group in Evangelical circles.

This has of course caused great consternation with some, such as James White, who has cried foul, while making the charge that the Catholic Church continues to distort the truth of the Gospel and is merely caught up in "emotions".

Hardly. I haven't met a serious theologian or pastor yet that made the decision to convert merely because of emotions. It came down to a discernment of the truth that they saw in the Catholic Church.

Jimmy Akin broke this story and I am glad that he did.

For more on Protestant pastors becoming Catholic, you can check out the Coming Home Network's website.

If you do go to James White's site, then remember that it is woeful in representing the Catholic position on most everything. It is full of straw-men arguments waiting to be knocked over by him.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Communion To the Sick

Q - I saw someone get a consecrated host from the tabernacle one day and put it in a little gold box of some kind. I am guessing that they were taking it to a sick person. What is going on here?

A
- Thanks for the question! You are correct in assuming that someone was taking the Eucharist to someone who is sick or homebound. Frequently, priests, deacons and even lay extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion will access the tabernacle to get the Eucharist to take to the sick. The little "gold box" you saw is called a pyx.

The Church understands that there are some people who cannot attend Mass due to their physical condition and we certainly don't want to deprive them of the graces they receive in the Eucharist.

Here is what the document entitled "Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass" in paragraph 20 says on the subject:

The Eucharist for Communion outside a church is to be carried in a pyx or other covered vessel; the vesture of the minister and the manner of carrying the Eucharist should be appropriate and in accord with local circumstances.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Catholic Presidential Candidates

There is a big difference in policy from our Catholic politicians running for president.

Senator Chris Dodd is a Democrat from Conn. who was quoted as saying that "faith has had a huge influence" on him.

On the other side of the policy divide is Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas. He says that "faith is a big part of the decision-making process".

Two things they agree upon is that the state has a right to use the death penalty (which is not against Church teaching on the subject - see here for more about that) and that there needs to be a better dialogue in political circles.

For a full story on the two men and their differences they have, CNS has a good article on them.