Wednesday, October 31, 2007

St. Joseph

An article in the Wall Street Journal about the superstitious practice of burying St. Joseph statues in order to sell a house, reminded me of one of my favorite blog posts of all time. So, I am sharing it once again.

While there is nothing wrong with a real devotional prayer to ask for St. Joseph's intercession, burying a statue has superstition written all over it.

Modesty Is Not a Dirty Word

Modesty. Forgotten in many ways in our culture today. Why should we worry about modesty?

For these reasons:
  • It isn't because we are prudes, but rather because we see the body as a reflection of the Divine.
  • Because it protects others from sinful thoughts.
  • It is better to teach modesty than have your kids dress up in playboy Halloween costumes or buy Victoria Secret dolls.
  • Because every over-sexed society in history has fallen, and rapidly, after it bought sex as the mantra of the day.
  • Because sex is for worship of God - not just pleasure.
  • It helps to redeem our true worth and self-esteem, which is based in who we are - humans created in God's image and likeness, not objects.

So, dress up today - have fun - be modest.

Prayer Request

From an email sent by the Catholic Campus Ministry Association:

Please keep in your prayers the students, families and friends of the six students from the University of South Carolina, and the one student from Clemson University, who were killed in a fire at a vacation home in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. on Sunday, October 28. The full story may be found on the ABC News website, http://abcnews.go.com/US/WireStory?id=3794898&page=1.

University of South Carolina’s Catholic Chaplain and campus minister, Fr. Tim Lijewski, asks for your continued prayers and support for all who have been touched by the loss of these students. He appreciates the support he is receiving from those on campus, as well as from various Chaplains from the Carolina Chaplains Association who are on hand to assist the students, survivors and families affected by the tragedy.

Please keep Fr. Tim and fellow campus minister, Zach Dorsch, and their entire campus ministry community in your prayers, as they continue to work with their students and with the survivors and their families. Also pray for Fr. Emmanuel Andinam at the St. Andrew Catholic Student Center at Clemson University and their entire community.

Pray always for peace and safety on all of our college and university campuses across the country.

Avoid UNICEF this Halloween

Some children go trick or treating for donations to UNICEF. I would encourage you not to support this program. UNICEF is known for supporting abortion.

Read more here.

Also - All Saints day is tomorrow. All Souls Friday.
*All you saints pray for us.
*God bless the souls in purgatory.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

One-legged Salsa

Amazing.

Abortion Doulas

Dawn Eden sent me this article. Apparently there is a new movement to have Doulas accompany women into the abortion clinics in order to:
simply wants to hold her hand, distract her, make her laugh or explain the procedure to her. But it's also about more than just helping a woman survive that one procedure, it's also about trying to mediate the impact it has on the rest of her reproductive life.
So, a doula can be there to help deliver a baby or be there to assist the mother in destroying her baby.

A few other tidbits of rhetoric repeated in the article:
  • Abortion is messy and complicated, therefore we can't make any "judgment" on whether it is right or wrong.
  • It is all about "reproductive rights". That language confuses me. The women have a right to reproduce - I agree. But, killing the resulting offspring from exercising that right is not a right in and of itself. Once a human is created (read "reproduced") then they have their own set of rights, namely the right to life. If theyreally supported reproductive rights, then such groups would be against abortions - especially forced abortions in countries such as China.
  • Removing the "stigma" of abortion is one of the stated goals. The stigmas comes from the intrinsic evil in the act of abortion. Not because we don't feel for women. Of course they think that by mentioning the exceptions (rape, incest, etc.) that clears the way for continuing adding evil upon evil.
Dawn Eden remarks on the article also:
Among the issues raised:

-- the targeting of abortion "doulas" to Latina women
-- the discomfort among doulas of having their "pro-life" (as one doula calls it) profession turned towards aiding and abetting abortions
-- the suggestion that women would be helped by "visualizing" their abortions in the same way that women who give birth are helped by visualizing their child going down the birth canal
-- the insinuation that doulas could convince women that abortion will not affect their fertility
-- the reluctance of some abortion advocates to promote a program that would suggest some women are not 100% happy with their abortion experience
-- the acknowledgement that women are often conscious or semiconscious during their abortions (this is ascribed to the women's "choice" -- no mention of the fact that abortion clinics often avoid general anesthesia in order to save money)
-- the references to women's "complicated" feelings on abortion (are these the same women who are so certain about the rightness their decision that they would be insulted by the offer of an ultrasound?)

Links to Article

Here is a list of sites and News Agencies that are linking to the article about abortion. Please let me know if you know of others:

Catholic News Agency (original article)
Mark Shea
EWTN
LifeNews (does some of their own editting on it)
Big Blue Wave
NCRegister's Blog Watch
Generations For Life
Lunch Break
Illinois Right To Life
Amy Welborn

Other blogs who linked to the story while it was just on the blog:
Curt Jester
Ignatius' Press Insight Scoop
Happy Catholic
lifesite (link no longer active)
Dyspeptic Mutterings
Darwin Catholic
The New Sexual Revolution
Kyrie Eleison
40 Days For Life Houston

"Overly Orthodox"

Not sure what the phrase "overly orthodox" means, but it is what is used in a new book on evangelization to describe a certain cross-cut of the Church. Unfortunately, if an author dismisses those who strive to be orthodox Catholics in a book about evangelizing young adults, the aforementioned author just lost his balance on writing a book for that audience. Speak to them, not down to them.

Certainly young adults can seem to go too far in emphasizing certain areas of the faith to the detriment of others. But, it is not for a lack of zeal, faith or love. But, rather it seems that the young adults haven't properly discerned how to handle certain situations.

For example, many young people (I have been known to do the same in my younger years) get very excited about apologetics and then try to use it to beat up others with great arguments for the faith. But, they do so out of a passion for Christ and a mis-placed understanding of sharing the faith. They don't need to be told that they are wrong for wanting to spread the Gospel, rather they need to be guided in how to be more effective witnesses to Christ's truth in the Church.

It seems that anyone who would condemn young adults for being "overly orthodox" (and them dismiss them because of it), doesn't have a very good sense of what it means to be a young adult in the Catholic Church today, nor how to reach them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Most Incredible Football Play Ever

The title above is not an exaggeration.

Statistician Refutes Planned Parenthood Report

Here is an article I wrote about the Planned Parenthood report and the misrepresentations within, it is being carried by the Catholic News Agency.
Statistician refutes Planned Parenthood report
By Marcel LeJeune

.- In a report issued on October 11, 2007 by the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) and the World Health Organization (WHO), researchers emphasized the numbers of “unsafe abortions” in developing countries that do not have restrictive abortion policies. The researchers concluded that in order to achieve more “safe abortions”, governmental policies should continue to be loosened to provide access to them. However, statistician Keith Schumann explains that Planned Parenthood and the World Health Organization use weak or non-existent data to support a conclusion that cannot be found in the numbers.

These findings are consistent with reports from Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, who accused abortion legalization advocates of "deliberately exaggerating the magnitude of the problem in order to create a 'health crisis' to justify legalizing abortion-on-demand” as reported by CNA in early October.

Dr. Keith Schumann, a Ph.D. statistician from College Station, Texas, examined the research reported in the study and found several problems behind the numbers that Guttmacher and the WHO released. Dr. Schumann said, “I cannot make any conclusion on the accuracy or precision of the numbers they report. There are numerous assumptions made in their methodology that can severely sway the final outcome. In other words, the numbers in the report contain such potentially large margins of error and so many problems with the underlying data that were cobbled together that few, if any, conclusions can accurately be made.”

Dr. Schumann was unable to recreate the results of the report based on the information that he examined. The data is pulled from multiple sources and in some cases, guesses made by the researchers. Schumann called the assumptions built upon the data “troubling” and it seemed the data itself was said to be “pulled from the air” in some cases.

Some of the more telling numbers reported by the Guttmacher Institute included a 100% “safe abortion” rate for parts of Asia that include China and North Korea. Therefore, even forced abortions, by the totalitarian governments of these Communist countries, fall under the definition of “safe abortions”. Also, the data used in several parts of the world was very limited and in other locations and/or dates non-existent. Therefore, the researchers “corrected” the data to show what they called “under-reporting”. This included an average correction inflation of 140% per country, including correction inflation for Bangladesh of 300%. For countries where abortions are illegal, the total number of abortions was estimated, then inflated, and then all of these were considered unsafe.

The problems with the report were not reflected in a statement given by Dr. Sharon Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO. She stated that the first step in making abortion safer was to ensure that the procedure was done by capable persons in good conditions. In addressing the policies of countries that restrict abortion, Camp states, “It’s high time for policymakers worldwide to renew their commitment to women’s health by addressing these crucial issues”.

When asked what he might conclude about the methodology used in this report, Dr. Schumann concluded that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to get accurate numbers, “We can’t even get an accurate number of abortions locally, aside from what Planned Parenthood self-reports. I don’t understand how we can then get accurate numbers from a worldwide perspective.”

I don't have the resources to be able to do it, but I hope that someone who does have the resources could investigate this further. The story needs to be told.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Quick Hits.

*Much of Italy has been moved by a teen who shows what sacrificial love is about.

*ALL has a new map shows every Planned Parenthood center and has info on scheduled protests.

*Christian filmmakers explore Disney's anti-family trend.

*Finally, the Pope said this today:

Indeed martyrdom is a “realistic possibility” for every believer who lives his or her faith coherently. But in addition to the giving one’s life as a result of an act of violence there is also the “silent” gift in “everyday life” made by those who dedicate themselves to the poor, i.e. those who give an “important witness in the secularised societies of our times.”

The Pope addressed the issue before a crowd of some 50,000 who had gathered in Saint Peter for the recitation of the Angelus, including a large number of Spaniards with unfurled flags who had previously taken part in the beatification ceremony presided in Saint Peter’s Square by Card José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

“The contemporaneous inclusion of such a large number of martyrs to the list of the Blessed,” said the Pope, “shows that the supreme witness of blood is not an exception reserved only to a few individuals, but is a realistic possibility for the entire Christian people. We are in fact talking about men and women who vary in terms of age, vocation and social background but who paid with their life their faithfulness to Christ and the Church. The words by Saint Paul that echo in this Sunday’s liturgy are fitting: “For I am already being poured out like a libation,” aid Timothy, “and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith (2 Tim, 4: 6-7).”

“The month of October, which is dedicated in particular to the missionary action, thus ends on the luminous witness of the Spanish martyrs,” Benedict XVI stressed. “Their example bears witness to the fact that the Baptism commits Christians to participate with courage to expand the Kingdom of God, going as far as sacrificing their very lives. Not everyone is called to violent martyrdom,” the Pope added. But “there is also a bloodless ‘martyrdom,’ which is no less significant, like that of Celina Chludzińska Borzęcka, wife and mother, widow and nun who was beatified yesterday in Rome. She is the silent and heroic witness of so many Christians who live the Gospel without compromises, performing their duties, generously devoting themselves to serve the poor. Their everyday martyrdom is a very important witness in the secularised societies of our times. It is the peaceful battle of love that every Christian—like Paul—must indefatigably fight.” At the end, “the race to spread the Gospel commits us till death,” said the Pope.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wow, just wow.

California's new law:
Terms like "mom and dad" and "husband and wife" cannot be used in California textbooks because they suggest that heterosexuality is the norm. And under the new law, teachers and students who oppose same-sex "marriage" or who express disapproval of cross-dressing or sex-change operations could face disciplinary measures.

Friday Fun - The Clash

The "real" lyrics to the Clash's song "Rock The Casbah" make a little more sense than this version.

Evangelizing Culture

From an article on a presentation the Pope gave to University students today:

Benedict XVI told the students that in our time it is more pressing than ever to consider the "new problems" of our modern age in the light of Christian revelation and to present truth "in a manner adapted to various cultures.” To accomplish this, the Pope said, “the need is felt for a new evangelization, and which needs masters of faith and appropriately-trained heralds and witnesses of the Gospel."

"The time you spend in Rome can and must serve to prepare you to undertake ... the task that awaits you in the various fields of apostolic activity,” the Holy Father said.

“In our own time, the Church's evangelizing mission requires, not only that the Gospel message be spread everywhere, but that it penetrate deeply into the way people think, into their criteria of judgment and their behavior. In a word," he concluded, "all the culture of modern man must be permeated by the Gospel."

The Pope also reminded the students that Rome is a city "rich in historical memories, in masterpieces of art and culture, and above all in eloquent Christian testimony.” He counseled them to let this Christian culture form them so that they will be prepared to give witness to the Gospel.

40 Days Blog

Check out the 40 Days for Life blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Embrace.

I think many of us have had this experience at some point. We are standing in Mass. It is time for the sign of peace. We are near someone we only sort of know. I mean, they aren’t strangers, but they aren’t buddies either.

Do you shake or do you hug?

Sometimes you go in for the hug and they flick out the hand for a shake. Sometimes you go in for a shake and they fling open their arms for a hug. What is a girl (or guy) to do?

It can be an awkward moment. You can end up with a handshake like hug (where you shake and lean in) or you find yourself in a hug-like handshake (where you shake, but you rest your other “extra” flailing arm on their shoulder pretending that is where it was headed all along.) Awkward.

(Stick with me. This reflection has nothing to do with postures in Mass or being socially clumsy.)

Our God loves us. He has been telling me this everyday for quite some time now. Over and over and over.

As children we hear these words often: “God loves you.” We put these three words on little smiley faced stickers we pass out at Sunday school. We learn it in simple rhyming songs (“Jesus loves me this I know . . .”). But as adults it can be the hardest three words to accept and believe!

It seems so very un-believable that after all we’ve done and how far we’ve wandered that He could still love us. But He does.

God loves us. God loves me. God loves you.

Let him.

I have this mental image of myself sometimes. God comes to me eager and longing to love me, to embrace me. He runs to me with arms open (picture the father in the prodigal son story) and He is dying (literally, He did that on the cross!) to love me . . . and I flick out my hand for an awkward, distanced, formal handshake.

Perhaps I am lazy (a good embrace requires more effort), ashamed (of what I’ve done or how far I’ve wandered), or timid (because His love transforms and change is scary). Whatever my reason, one too many times, I have chosen the handshake over the embrace.

Not anymore. I’m ready (and eager, though still slightly timid) to embrace and receive God’s love.

Whether we hug or shake to wish our neighbor the sign of peace is not my concern here.

But the next time (and that moment would be right now . . . and now . . .and again now . . . ) that God wants to embrace us, fling open your arms wide. And let Him.

Bella - Another thought

Note: I haven't seen the movie and am not the kind of person to go out of my way to see any movie (e.g., taking a bus to another city). A movie is a movie.

For a completely different point of view on Bella, read a critical review here.
FYI - Barbara Nicolosi is one of the few faithful Catholics who is very actively working in Hollywood to make good entertainment. So, read with that in mind.

I am sure I will rent it once it comes out on DVD - but I just don't get the fuss. I agree with the following quote below from her post. The rest of her review is just that her review.
Should all of us Christians be throwing ourselves on the ground in front of a movie just because the filmmakers are Christians? Should we support a project that is ambiguous about the right to choose, simply because the filmmakers meant to make a pro-life film? Does wanting to make a great Catholic pro-life film equate with actually making one?
Good questions. Thoughts?

Blog Discovery

There are many good Catholic blogs out there. I don't link to all of them. Here are a few I will need to add soon:

Cadaver Synod

Q - What do you make of the Cadaver Synod? Decisions like this certainly raise doubts on Pope elections and having the wrong people at the head of the Church.

A - Thanks for the question. I have to admit, you stumped me with this one. I had to do some research. Apparently, it is quite a story that I missed somehow. Pope Formosus' dead body put on trial by Pope Stephen VI. There is quite a bit to the story, but ultimately what happens is that one pope says the previous pope's decision wasn't valid and this happens through several papacies. Some use this to then question the validity of all Church teaching.

Distinctions in cases like this are very important. First of all, Popes can be scoundrels as well, and we have had some pretty bad popes. But, this has absolutely no effect on the office of the Pope nor on the teaching of the Church. In fact, no Pope has ever taught any doctrine infallibly, that has then been changed by another Pope, council, etc. With the number of scoundrels the Church has had, this is a remarkable record.

Do I think there could have been better Popes at certain times? Certainly. But, God has a mysterious way of bringing good out of evil.

For more on this story, click here.

Re-thinking The Megachurch Model

Amy Welborn has a very interesting post on the Willow Creek Church model and how it has been an experiment that hasn't worked very well, by the founder's own admission. For those who may not be familiar with Willow Creek, it is one of the mother-churches to many evangelical mega-churches.

The conclusions reached about how their ministry is very interesting considering many Catholics very much like the model of how they do ministry. I highly recommend reading her post.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

*An ad with a "homosexual baby" in Italy is causing quite a stir.

*Atheists in Toledo, Spain will hold an "art" exhibit with pornographic images of Jesus, Mary and the Saints. On top of it all, it is in an old Church.

*Mass. Senate has introduced a "bubble bill" that would limit protesters to 35 feet from an abortion facility.

*A historian has tried to debunk the miracle of St. Padre Pio's stigmata.

*Portuguese Government seeks to force doctors to perform abortions.

More attempts to stir up emotions and avoid reasoned discussion on these issues.

On the other hand:

*Bella looks to be a big hit.

*An official responds to the UN claim that the Church is to blame for AIDS in Latin America and uses sound arguments to do so.

*An inter-religious summit on faith, which includes representatives of all major religions, issues a statement saying that "violence is blasphemy".

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

George Weigel Presentation Now Up

You can listen to Weigel's presentation he made here at Texas A&M when St. Mary's Catholic Center brought him in to speak. It is entitled "Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church" (it is in MP3 format and streaming).
Enjoy.

Satire

Joe from Chesterton and Friends sent me a great satirical article from the Onion. Check it out - "Lethel Injection Ban Leads To Rise In Back-Alley Lethal Injections".

Pope Quote

Great stuff from the Pope today on Catechesis. This builds upon Paul VI's statement that you must be a witness before a teacher.

From the article.
Those who teach the faith “cannot run the risk of appearing like a type of clown who is playing a part; rather he must be like the beloved disciple who rested his head on the Master’s heart and learned therein how to think, speak and act”. Because “at the end of it all a true disciple is he who announces the Gospel in a credible and effective way”, in short “authentic witness”, as was the case with Saint Ambrose.

Religion in European Schools

The Swedish government is now banning all religion in schools, except when part of the curriculum (translation - government approved and sanitized). They are also urging Britain to do the same as a protection against fundamentalism that might turn into terrorism. Of course, this is the usual nonsense and fear of the Divine. But, this quote caught my attention:
Commenting in the far left Guardian newspaper, British columnist Andrew Brown said the British government should follow suit and force Britain’s Jewish, Muslim and Catholic independent schools to treat religion as though it were not true under the guise of addressing the threat of terrorism.

Brown wrote that although the willingness of Anglican schools "by and large, to teach religion as if it were not true” makes them no threat to the state, he implied that Jewish and Catholic schools are an equal threat as those fundamentalist Islamic institutions that have been identified by British police as nuturing violent extremism.

While “no one supposes that society is threatened by a terrorist movement nurtured in [Church of England] primary schools,” he said the British government might be well advised to follow the Swedish example and force Jewish, Muslim and Catholic schools to adopt similar position.

Brown wrote, “Demanding that Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic schools stop teaching their own religions as if they were true, which is essentially the Swedish position, looks an impossible task for a British government. But I think it might also be a necessary one. It is certainly the only way to discover whether the parents of such schools really want the ‘ethos’ or the pseudo-factual beliefs and what exactly it is that the people who fund them think they are buying with their money.”
Now, I don't think that the British are at the point where they would infringe on the freedom of religion in this way. But, just seeing it proposed is quite telling.

It reminds me of what Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote. I highly recommend you read the entire thing:

There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church - which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics "adore statues"; because the "put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God"; because they say "indulgence is a permission to commit sin"; because the Pope "is a Fascist"; because the "Church is the defender of Capitalism." If the Church taught or believed any one of these things it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.

If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world.

Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and of never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because He called Himself The Truth. Look for the Church which is rejected by the world as Our Lord was rejected by men. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its Voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. But only that which is Divine can be infinitely hated and infinitely loved. Therefore the Church is Divine.

If then, the hatred of the Church is founded on erroneous beliefs, it follows that basic need of the day is instruction. Love depends on knowledge for we cannot aspire nor desire the unknown. Our great country is filled with what might be called marginal Christians, i.e., those who live on the fringe of religion and who are descendants of Christian living parents, but who now are Christians in only in name. They retain a few of its ideals out of indolence and force of habit….within a short time they must take sides; they must either gather with Christ or they must scatter; they must either by with Him or against Him; they must either be on the cross as other Christs, or under it as other executioners. Which way will these marginal Christians tend? The answer depends upon those who have the faith….Only this much is certain. Being human and having hearts they want more than class struggle and economics; they want Life, they want Truth, and the want Love. In a word, they want Christ. (from the preface to Radio Replies)

Amen.
Amen.
Amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Have a Vocation?

Funny.


Tip O' The Hat to Catholic Dads.

Prayers for SoCal

Please say extra prayers for those suffering from the fires near San Diego.

Condoms, AIDS and Catholics

Once again, the Catholic Church is being berated for opposition of condoms. This time, it is for the spread of AIDS in the Latin America. The people who believe condoms save lives are truly fooling themselves and this quote says it all:
In Latin America the use of condoms has been demonized, but if they were used in every relation I guarantee the epidemic would be resolved in the region
Really? Just like in Africa? The only country that has had any real success at battling AIDS in poor countries it Uganda. They did it by emphasizing fidelity and abstinence. Of course, most people who oppose such things believe humans cannot control themselves and will have sex regardless of the consequences. So, we should throw condoms at the problem.

All this does is create a false sense of security. Condoms don't fix the problem as the UN official claims, they make it worse. It is like throwing gas on the fire. Tell me what is wrong with this message.
-tell people that they should wait to have sex until marriage.
-tell them about the risks of AIDS and other diseases.
-tell them that if you have sex there is always a chance of getting pregnant.
-tell them they will suffer emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and physically.
-then tell them that they can't control themselves and give them condoms.

The fact is that if everyone would be faithful to their spouse and abstain until marriage we would wipe out all STDs in two generations.
We know that condoms fail frequently (12-15% of the time). We also have some studies that show that actively promoting the use of condoms can in fact increase sexual activity outside of marriage. If this is the case, then there is a chance that promoting condoms may actually increase the infection rate (see John RICHENS et al., “Condoms and seat belts: the parallels and lessons”, The Lancet , (no 355; January 29 th , 2000 , pp. 400-403).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Quick Hits

While I was gone a lot happened. So, quick sound bites on some of the happenings:

*Archbishop Dinardo of Galveston-Houston will be made a cardinal. Finally some recognition of the continued vibrancy and growth of Catholicism in the USA's South.

*A new "youtube for Catholics" is up - www.lovetobecatholic.com

*The USCCB will have a new document giving guidance to Catholics going to the voting booth. By the overview it sounds very well done.

*The Pope has completed his second encyclical, this one on the virtue of Hope. I am guessing faith is next?

*Louisiana has a new pro-life Catholic governor. Pray for him, that isn't an easy state to lead.

*Pope Benedict says it isn't time for a Vatican III.

*Apparently 500,000 Anglicans may soon come back into communion with Rome. They have formally submitted a proposal to the Vatican to do just that.

*The Associated Press is running a series of investigative reports on the sexual abuse crisis in public schools. They are facing an uphill battle - fighting the teachers' unions, administrative cover-ups and more. This will make the Catholic scandal pale in comparison. Though I do not mean to down-play the horrible scandal the Catholic Church still is dealing with - it isn't even close in numbers. Pray for reform in our schools and culture. We will never be free of such things, but we can work to better protect our children in every area.

*I am sure you have heard of it already, but many say you should see Bella.

*JK Rowling talks about Christian imagery in the Harry Potter series.

*A picture in Poland caused quite a stir for some who said it looked like JPII appearing in the fire. I don't buy it.

*Our own Bishop Aymond is not happy with St. Edward's choice of Fr. Curran as a guest lecturer.

Guttmacher Stats

I am back and it looks like I brought the fall weather to Texas with me.
My first post back will be about something I find extremely interesting.

Recently, the Guttmacher Institute (a research wing of Planned Parenthood), released a study with some stats I thought sounded fishy (read the summary report here) Of course the media just spit the press release out as fact. Some of the statements include:
  • 48% of all abortions worldwide were unsafe
  • more than 97% of all unsafe abortions were in developing countries
  • There were 31 abortions for every 100 livebirths worldwide in 2003
The interpretation they give of the numbers then said:
Overall abortion rates are similar in the developing and developed world, but unsafe abortion is concentrated in developing countries. Ensuring that the need for contraception is met and that all abortions are safe will reduce maternal mortality substantially and protect maternal health.
I wanted to really get behind the numbers, so I asked a friend, who is a Ph.D. statistician to look at the numbers with a critical eye. Here is what he sent me:
This is like stitching a quilt from fish nets. Here is the main data that you need to know: The primary author works for and the article is published by the Guttmacher Institute. The Institute is named after an Ob/Gyn and former president of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Alan Guttmacher. Nearly a quarter of the citations for this article are from a division of the Guttmacher Institute.

Aside from that, here is what I see (note that I defer to their definitions):

-If an abortion takes place in a polity where induced abortion is illegal (or severely restricted), it is deemed as unsafe, even if done so by trained providers. Here is a noteworthy quote: "Moreover, illegal procedures are harmful even when they do not lead to these consequences [death or hospitalization], because they require women to take actions in violation of the law and often without the knowledge or support of their partners or family."

-If complications arise from an abortion in areas where it is restricted, they are no doubt due to unsafe abortion procedures, so most post-abortion complication records are categorized as unsafe.

-The data for 2003 is actually an amalgam of several years' worth of data. Trend estimates for 2003 were used when appropriate. If there was no information for 2003, a value from a previous year's estimate was used in its place.

-The researchers "corrected" some data for under-reporting. The correction inflation was usually about 140%. The US correction factor was 105%; Bangladesh was 300%. Therefore, for countries where abortions are illegal, the total number of abortions was estimated, then inflated, and then all of these were considered unsafe.

-Consequently, nearly all of the abortions in Africa and Latin America, which make up nearly a quarter of the total number of worldwide abortions, were deemed unsafe.

-If less than 50,000 of the abortions were considered safe in a particular region, then all of the abortions in that region were considered unsafe. Curiously enough, Southern Africa nudged up to 100,000 safe abortions, thereby keeping Africa from being listed as 100% unsafe.

-100% of the abortions in the region including China and North Korea are safe (implying forced=induced & safe).

-100% of the abortions in Northern and Western Europe and North America were safe.

-Oddly enough, when you estimate and then inflate the number of abortions in regions where they are illegal and unreported, you arrive at the fact that the incidence of abortions is no higher for polities that have unrestrictive abortion policies.

-No margins of error were reported for these estimates, even when survey data was utilized.

-Based on the information presented in this article, there is no way to reproduce the statistics; there is a tremendous amount of rounding error and the underlying raw data is essential unavailable given the "corrections."

-I found an estimated 260 million live births in the world in 2003 based on numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau International Data Base (rather than the 205 million used as a basis for the results of this study). Assuming that number is correct and the number of worldwide induced abortions for that year estimated by this group is also correct, then the upper threshold for the worldwide number of abortions is not 20% but 14%. This does not factor in miscarriages, spontaneous abortions, and still births.
This should be shared - please feel free to use and send to whomever you like.

Thanks Keith. You get a big Tip o' the Hat.

Baby Pics

I have been hounded for baby pics for a week...here you go!

(feet Left to Right) Kyra, Dominic, Olivia, Anna, Elise.


Elise holding Anna's finger.


Olivia holding Elise.


Dominic with Elise.


Kyra reading Elise one of her first books.


Elise helps me take a nap. FYI - There is nothing like having a baby fall asleep on your chest.


Anna helps Kristy hold Elise.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another lesson from Gabe.

The other night I realized I had an oil leak. I had just had my oil changed at a place in Austin while I was visiting my brother and they did not do something correctly. I was not going to drive two hours to have them fix the problem. This left me either fixing it myself, or taking it to someone new (who I assumed would charge me something for their trouble.)

So at midnight I was in my pajamas with a flashlight underneath my truck. I could see where the leak was coming from, but couldn't fix the problem.

I was frustrated. Car maintenance is one of my least favorite tasks in life. Because I know nothing about cars, I am left to rely on others. And I tend not to like relying on others. I am a do it myself-er.

But being a do it myself-er sometimes reeks havoc on my relationship with God.

He says, “Come to me” (Matthew 11:28) “Cast your cares on me” (Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7)and I (not rudely, but fearfully) say “Will you actually be there?” “Will you really help me?” “Can I really trust you?” It seems safer to struggle alone than to “come” and to “cast”.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago how I met a special young man named Gabe on a youth retreat who taught me a lesson about trust. He also taught me a lesson about humility.

On the retreat we had booklets with places to write our thoughts down in regards to the reflection questions. Gabe is not timid or self-conscious. When writing in his journal he’d sometimes ask us (the small group members) how to spell things.

He knew that he did not know. He wanted to know. So he asked. Humility.

Gabe is aware of (and has accepted that) he needs others. And he humbly relies on them for help. It is beautiful. It is humbling.

Today if we find ourselves struggling alone - trying to fix something, heal something, change something in our lives – may we swallow our pride, reach out to others, and humbly ask for help.

Thanks Gabe for the lesson in humility.

By the way, the guy at the auto shop in town didn't charge me anything. He simply fixed the problem. That too was humbling.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Learn as you go

I am not an athletic individual. I can throw and hit a softball fairly well. I can bowl better than most, but that is about it. So it is no surprise that I don’t like to learn or play new sports in front of others. Why embarrass myself like that?

Years ago I went snow tubing for the first time. Despite the ease with which one slides down the hill (no steering, no balancing required) I still had to get up the nerve. The tricky part was riding your tube to the top of the hill. (Don’t laugh, it was tricky.)

There was a thick rope attached to a pulley that ran from the bottom to the top of the hill. You slid your tube under the rope, laid on top of your tube, and grabbed onto the rope. It sounds simple enough.

But the tricky part was that the rope was constantly moving, so once you put your tube under, you had to jump (literally throw your body on top of the tube so the rope was between the tube and you) and grab at the same time.

I stood by and watched friend after friend execute this seemingly easy task. But knowing how uncoordinated I am, I could not picture myself doing it correctly (without embarrassment).

I even asked a friend how to do it. He slid (the tube), jumped, grabbed (the rope) and shouted back at me as he floated up the hill, “Like that.”

“Yeah, right,” I thought to myself.

I finally did it. It was awkward. I think I jumped a little late and the tube was further up so I had to hang on real tight to the rope. But I did it. And I made it safely to the top of the hill.

You can’t learn a sport by simply watching. You must try it and practice it. You must feel for yourself the weight of the bat, the fit of the glove, the grip on the ball before you can successfully execute the skill. You can watch the pros, hear the pointers, but until you try it yourself it is pointless. You must learn as you go.

God is teaching me lately that trust is another one of those skills you must learn as you go. I cannot simply stand far off and say, “God I want to trust you” or “Help me to trust you.” I cannot just read books on trust or prayers on trust. I must try it for myself. I must do it.

I may do it poorly. I may do is slowly. I may do it fearfully. But I must do it.

I must entrust my dreams to God and see how he is faithful. I must trust my fears to God and see how he dispels them. I must surrender my time to God and see how he fulfills it. And the trust will grow. I will learn (by doing) to trust.

So whatever thing you are struggling to trust God with today, stop standing at the bottom of the hill watching others jump on.

Try it for yourself. Learn as you go. Trust.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Stop listening to your fears." - St. Paul of the Cross

If there is one skill I learned growing up, it was to ignore my brother's pestering. Perhaps the most oft spoken phrase from my mother's mouth was, "Sarah, honey, just ignore him and he'll leave you alone."

If you grew up with a sibling (especially one close in age) you know what I'm talking about.

You draw the imaginary line down the back seat of the car so he'll stay on his side and you'll stay on your side only for him to inch closer and closer to the "line".

Your mother orders, "Don't touch your sister!" and so his finger hovers a centimeter from your arm like a mosquito ready to bite. You can't "tell on him" because technically he isn't touching you, but he is for sure torturing you.

Then your mother says again, “Sarah, honey, just ignore him and he’ll leave you alone.”

So I learned (as best I could) to ignore him. And you know what? He left me alone. (Well, that may have had more to do with maturity and time, but still, he stopped!)

I recently came across a quote from St. Paul of the Cross:

“Stop listening to your fears. God is your guide and your Father, Teacher and Spouse. Abandon yourself into the divine bosom of His most holy good pleasure. Keep up your spiritual exercises and be faithful in prayer.”

That first line struck me: “Stop listening to your fears.”

How often do I listen to my fears! I entertain them, let them occupy my thoughts. I let them pester me, inch closer to the “line”, and hover about me ready to bite.

What would happen if I stopped listening to them, if I ignored them?

Please don’t misunderstand. I do believe there is value in facing our fears and figuring out where they are coming from (what is their root). This brings healing. But I also see the value in simply ignoring them, in not listening to them. Why listen to them when I could listen to the loving voice of the Father or the truth of Christ or the wisdom of the Holy Spirit? Surely that is more productive!

So today may you begin “ignoring” your fears. Stop listening to them. Spend time in prayer listening to the Lord who loves you and provides for you. His is a much stronger and gentler voice. Let it chase away the fears.

P.S. In defense of my brother, we get along quite well today despite all the pestering and ignoring that went on during childhood.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's A Girl!

Elise Gabrielle LeJeune
19"
6 lbs.
All it took was one push.

Everyone is doing well, but Kristy has to change blood thinners and isn't completely in the "all clear" just yet.

Thanks for the continued prayers. Elise's brother and three sisters are thrilled to meet her.

I will post pics soon.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Prayer Request

My wife is being induced on Monday to give birth to our fifth child and fourth daughter. Please pray for her. This pregnancy has been very hard and both it and the birth are considered high-risk.

Of course, my blogging next week will be sporadic - so hopefully Sarah will be doing some as well.

Peace.

Friday Fun - Notre Dame bashing

I can't help but post it...but just remember it is a joke. :-)




tip o' the hat to Mark Shea.

Muslims Reach Out To Christian Leaders

138 Muslim leaders wrote an unprecedented and very important letter to Christian leaders, the Pope is at the top of the list, to ask for a dialogue about differences.

Pray for success of this initiative. At least the Muslims are taking the first step, I fully expect this to be accepted quickly and warmly by all the Christian leaders the letter is addressed to.

Here are a few of the first sites with this story. Expect tons more on this soon.
Economist
London Times
BBC

Archbishop Niederauer Apologizes

Archbishop Niederauer apologized for giving the "sisters of perpetual indulgence" communion. I won't presume to know his heart and I hope that all will join me in forgiving him and moving on from this incident. Tip o' The Hat to the reader who emailed and Ignatius Insight for the scoop. You can read the apology at the link above.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Circumcision?

Q - What is the Catholic view on circumcision?

A - Thanks for the question. The official view of the Catholic Church on male circumcision is basically one of middle ground. While some older Church documents spoke against it, they were saying it was not to ever be done as a religious rite or practice. It certainly isn't required, because the Mosaic law that governed circumcision of males a sign of the covenant with God has passed away through Christ. But, it certainly isn't prohibited (for social or medical reasons) as some may claim.

For the most part it is done as a societal, not religious, practice in the USA. But, there is a growing movement against it. Some see it as unnecessary mutilation. But, the Church has never taught this, the persons who advocate this position are doing so on inference from Church documents.

Now, there are some doctors who recommend it in certain medical cases, as is the case with a boy in my family. In this case, there is a good medical reason to circumcise. Otherwise, it is the prudential decision of the parents that would govern if it should be done. Some parents do it for social reasons and this has not been condemned by the Church either.

Interestingly enough this subject does cause quite a stir of emotions for some people. I would say that this is a matter of conscience until the Church (or undisputed scientific evidence) answer the question one way or the other. So, we should not try to bind anothers' conscience in this area.

As long as it is not for a religious purpose - this is an decision of prudence.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. - Gal 5:6

Science

Sometimes science plays God (cloning humans to use their parts, etc.).

But, sometimes science is just really cool. Try this one - physicists have started to teleport at the subatomic level and think that teleportation on a larger scale is just a matter of time. Cool!

Beam me up Scotty.

Cardinal Pell on the "Donald Duck Heresy"

Cardinal Pell of Australia has come out of his corner swinging. Not known to shy away from making statements that cut to the heart of the matter he said the following about Catholics who reject the Church's teachings on abortion, contraception, etc.:
Too many Donald Ducks produce the feel-good society which works to remove personal guilt, anything that would make people feel uncomfortable so that complacent self-satisfaction becomes a virtue; confession is replaced by therapy and self-reproach by self-discovery.
Read the article here. His book ought to be an interesting read.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Catholic Spirit Column #2

Here is my latest column (pdf format) from the Catholic Spirit entitled "The Simple, Yet Complex, Definition of Evangelization".

Running the Race

From Zenit:
When sports are pursued in the right spirit and with respect for dignity they can help promote the development of the person, Benedict XVI said.

The Holy Father explained this on Saturday when he received the Austrian National Alpine Ski Team in audience.

He explained: "Sports can help man to see his own capacities as talents and his life as a gift of God.

"Even when sports are pursued at high levels it is necessary to preserve the interior harmony between body and spirit, not reducing sports to a mere seeking after results."

The Pope invited his guests to be "messengers in the world of this winter sport so loved by the Austrian people."
Tip o' The Hat to the reader who begged me to post this. :-P.
He also asked for this:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
-1 Cor 9: 24-29

TX Bishops on Amnesty International

Texas Bishops Respond to Amnesty International

We, the Bishops of Texas are instructing all parish and diocesan staff and other Catholic organizations to no longer support financially nor through publicity, nor participate in joint projects or events sponsored by the organization known as Amnesty International. This instruction is based on Amnesty International's decision to limit its human rights agenda by promoting abortion as a way to curb violence against women, especially women in developing countries. In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members, many of whom are Catholics, and others who defend the rights of unborn children and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights. Our assessment is that Amnesty International is now violating its original mission to protect human rights worldwide and has lost its moral credibility.

While no human rights organization should turn away from the suffering that women face daily in the form of sexual violence, it should not prioritize a mother's life above that of her unborn child. It is better to advocate advancing her educational and economic standing in society and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against her and her child. Abortion is an act of violence against both the child and its mother. Any organization truly committed to women's rights must put itself in solidarity with women and their unborn children.

Discontinuing participation with Amnesty International does not mean the Catholic Church in Texas will cease to protect human life and promote human dignity in all circumstances. We will continue to oppose the use of the death penalty, unjust incarceration and the crushing effects of dehumanizing poverty in our state. We will continue to stand with refugees, migrants, and other oppressed peoples. But, we will seek to do so in authentic ways, working most closely with organizations who do not oppose the fundamental right to life from conception until natural death.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, stated that individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support for Amnesty International if it continues with this new policy, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, Amnesty International has betrayed its mission. This statement has been supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We, therefore, call upon Amnesty International to act in accord with its noblest principles, reconsider its error, and reverse its policy on abortion. Until then, parishes, diocesan staffs, and other Catholic organizations should no longer work with Amnesty International. We also encourage the lay faithful to examine their consciences and prayerfully consider their personal involvement with Amnesty International.

For more information, visit www.TXcatholic.org.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cardinal George on the Church

This interview (pdf format) of Cardinal George by John Allen is very well done. It gives great insights to his thoughts on the Church in the USA. He is most likely the next President of the USCCB, which means he is going to soon be the "face" of the Catholic Church in the US. I highly recommend it.

Also, don't forget to read Sarah's reflection and please give her feedback on her writings, if you like them, so we can get her to write more. Thanks.

A lesson from Gabe.

This weekend I helped on a friend’s high school youth retreat. I was blessed to have a young man named Gabe in my small group. Gabe has some disabilities , but was a most amazing, humble, eager participant.

Sunday morning we all hiked out to a Marian grotto in the woods to pray the rosary. The landscape was beautiful, but the terrain a bit rocky in places. Gabe’s dad was also helping with the retreat and as we were about to hike back to camp he asked me, “Will you keep an eye on Gabe and make sure he gets back to camp?”

“Sure,” I replied.

As we gathered to leave I simply stood next to Gabe and as we began to walk I fell in step just slightly behind him to the right. I thought of striking up conversation, but Gabe was quite the hiker (I had to scurry at times to keep up). So I simply kept pace behind him, enjoyed the beautiful, peaceful surroundings, and “kept an eye on him” as his dad had asked.

Sometimes his paced quickened and so I quickened mine. When we came to low hanging branches, I watched as he spotted them and stepped out of the way. There was one area where you have to step from rock to rock over a small ditch and Gabe did not miss a beat. Nevertheless I was there behind him only a step away should he need something.

And then it hit me.

I always long for God to walk before me. I want to confidently place my foot in his steps and clearly see him leading me in the path ahead. But sometimes he does not seem present. It seems as if I’m traipsing through the rocky hill country alone. What if I stumble? What if I get lost? What if I should need something? I feel rather alone.

But God is keeping an eye on me. And on you too.

Sometimes God walks “behind”. It is there He is best able to “keep an eye on us”. We are still within earshot. He can reach out and grab us if need be. But it allows us to grow in confidence and trust (something I'm learning a lot about lately). We have to lift our heads up and see where we are going. We have to think and react and interact with the world around us. We learn to trust that God is with us, ready to help. And we grow.

If today you are feeling alone, as if you’re hiking life’s journey solo, rest assured that God has his eye on you.

"Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me . . . Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?" Psalm 139

Thank you Gabe for the lesson in trust.

Emmanuel! God is truly with us!

Lenten Fast

Q - Here's a question for you that I haven't been able to find an answer for anywhere: I've always broken my Lenten fast on Easter Sunday , but if Lent officially ends on Holy Thursday, does that mean that our Lenten fasting should end then? Thanks for your help.

A - It is up to you, but part of getting the most out of lent and Easter is to make sure that we are trying to really enter into the celebration of the mystery of Christ's passion, death and resurrection. So, it is probably best if you continue your fast through the triduum (Holy Thur, Good Fri, Holy Sat) and then you can truly make Easter a feast.

Remember though that this is merely a guideline, because a personal fast is not regulated by the Church. So, your conscience and your spiritual director/confessor would be the best guide for you. Follow the rules laid out by the Church and then do as you will.

Creating Life

When humans play God, bad things can happen.
We need to watch this carefully.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pope Says to Evangelize

At the Sunday Angelus, the Pope told young adults the following:
I congratulate you, dear friends, because you have brought the proclamation of God’s love to the streets and to some hospitals and schools of the city,

The missionary experience is part of Christian formation and it is important for adolescents and young people to be able to live it personally.

Continue to witness to the Gospel every day and commit yourselves generously in the next missionary initiatives.
As Pope Paul VI said, the Church "exists in order to evangelize." If we don't do it, who will?

Friday, October 5, 2007

NCBC Weighs In On Conn. Bishops' Decision

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a very well-respected group, has issued a statement about the Conn. Bishops' decision to allow Plan B without an ovulation test. Interesting read.

Previous Posts on this issue can be found here, here, here, and here.

Friday Fun



Tenor F.Tenelli sings "Ingemisco" from Verdi's "Requiem" (a funeral Mass).

Text(English)
I groan as a guilty one,
and my face blushes with guilt;
spare the supplicant, O God.

You, who absolved Mary Magdalen,
and heard the prayer of the thief,
have given me hope, as well.

My prayers are not worthy,
but show mercy, O benevolent one,
lest I burn forever in fire.

Give me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
placing me on your right hand.

"The View" goes nuts again

The daytime show "The View", which I am proud to say I have never seen more than 1 minute of, has a long and shallow history of bashing the Catholic Church. They did it again this week. This time, I think I lost a few braincells reading the transcript of the conversation. They don't get a single thing correct about the Church. Sad, but this is what happened to generations of Catholics.

Read the transcript here on Jimmy Akin's blog.

More on the Conn. Bishops

This story alleges that the Catholic Health Association is giving misleading and bad information to the public and that the Conn. Bishops have also used this false information. If true, this is troublesome.

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar started as a religious order and grew into a military power. They are the focus of many conspiracy theories (think Dan Brown). Now the Vatican will be releasing documents that tell about the history of the Templars suppression by the Vatican. This is certainly not the end of the conspiracy theories and will no doubt lead to a number of articles, TV specials and new books looking to make a buck on these silly theories.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Goofy

Goofy - yes. But, if you sit through the first few minutes, it gets very funny.


Tip 'o the hat to Mark Shea.

Don't criticize the preaching

Both the priest and the parishioner have taken this too far.

Tip o' the hat to the reader who emailed me.

Big Mac vs 10 Commandments

Name the 10 commandments.

Now, name the ingredients in a Big Mac.

Which one did you get more of? Well, if you got more of the Big Mac than the 10 Commandments, then you are not alone. A new survey reveals that more people know the 7 ingredients to a Big Mac than the 10 Commandments.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bishop Lori On Plan B

Bishop Lori offers some words on the Conn. Bishops' allowing Plan B in Catholic Hospitals on his blog.
A Perspective on “Plan B”

Plan B, an issue previously discussed in this blog (“Sad State of the Constitution State”, April 24th—see “Archive”) is back in the news. Many of you posted comments about those media reports, so I’d like to offer a number of clarifications and some additional perspective.

Last spring, the Connecticut Bishops worked hard to defeat the so-called “Plan B” legislation. It’s not that the Church opposes administering Plan B to victims of rape; these women have suffered a gravely unjust assault. Last year, nearly 75 rape victims were treated in the four Connecticut Catholic hospitals; no one was denied Plan B as the result of the Catholic hospital protocols which required both a pregnancy test and an ovulation test prior to the administration of that drug.

What’s really at issue here is how much testing is appropriate to ensure that Plan B does not induce the chemical abortion of a fertilized ovum. There is uncertainty about how Plan B works. Its effect is to prevent fertilization of the ovum. Some believe, however, that in rare instances Plan B can render the lining of the uterus inhospitable to the fertilized ovum which must implant in it in order to survive and grow; many other experts dispute this. For their part, the Bishops of Connecticut felt it was best not only to administer the standard FDA-approved pregnancy test, but also an ovulation test. However, this course of action was only a prudential judgment, not a matter of settled Church teaching and practice. Other bishops and moral theologians hold that a pregnancy test alone suffices. Indeed, the Church does not teach that it is intrinsically evil to administer Plan B without first giving an ovulation test or that those who do so are committing an abortion.

Unfortunately, Connecticut Legislature decided last spring to settle the question of whether both tests are necessary, instead of letting the Church do so in her own way. The Governor signed into law a measure that forbids health care professionals from using the results of an ovulation test in treating a rape victim. We bishops, as well as health care professionals, continue to believe this law is seriously flawed and should be changed. You should also know that we carefully explored with very competent experts the possibility of challenging the law. Unfortunately, such a challenge would most likely not succeed. Failure of the hospitals to comply would put them and their staffs at risk.

In the course of this discussion, every possible option was discussed at length with medical-moral experts faithful to the Church’s teaching, with legal experts especially in the area of constitutional law, and with hospital personnel. “Reluctant compliance” emerged as the only viable option. In permitting Catholic hospitals to comply with this law, neither our teaching nor our principles have changed. We have only altered the prudential judgment we previously made; this was done for the good of our Catholic hospitals and those they serve.

At the same time, we remain open to new developments in medical science which hopefully will bring greater clarity to this matter. Above all, we continue to pray for the healing of those who are victims of sexual assault.

Now because this is a field of "prudential judgment", we are free to discuss whether the right judgment was made. Some critical reflections about this statement can be read here, here and here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Marriage and Divorce

Q - I was married in the Catholic Church. (I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, but I feel as though I know almost literally nothing about the faith.) Since then I left the church, was divorced and remarried - several times. Knowing what I now know, I honestly feel that I was not capable of entering into the sacrament of marriage due to any number of impediments (acute alcoholism and intention not to have children just two of the most egregious). Now, I desperately want to return to the Church. I am attending Mass, of course, but what little information I've been able to find has left me confused and desperate. I certainly realize that I can not partake in the Holy Eucharist, but I'm also told that I can't go to confession. This scares me and fills me with despair. Is there anything I can do? Any answer, guidance, direction, you can send my way would be so appreciated.

A - Thanks for the question! Peace be with you.

The best advice I can give you is to go and talk to the priest at the parish you attend. It seems to me that if the case is as you describe, (i.e., alcoholism, intent not to procreate, etc.) then the application for a declaration of nullity of the marriage (annulment) seems to have proper grounds for application, that is, if your first spouse is still alive (if your first spouse has died, then you would seek a convalidation of your current marriage – if currently married, but would not need to apply for an annulment).

Please do not despair though. While Catholics are bound by the laws of the Church, God isn’t. In other words, while you cannot receive the Sacraments while in an invalid marriage, there is no reason to despair about God’s mercy and love for you – he has already started to call you home and your response is a wonderful sign of God’s grace working in your life. If you are not in an invalid marriage currently, then all you have to do is go to confession with your priest. Although you can still go through the process of applying for a declaration of nullity if you seek to be married in the future or if you just want to resolve the situation.

I would recommend that you start the process of obtaining the declaration of nullity with hope and faith that this is God’s will for you, if you so choose.

I will keep you in my prayers. Don’t be scared about talking to your priest about this situation. He can help you find the hope you are looking for.

40 Days of Momentum

Look what fruit Aggieland is sharing with the rest of our country. From the California Catholic Daily:
We’re praying at Planned Parenthood at 29th and B Streets. St. Stephen's took the Wednesday shift and St. Joseph's in Auburn took Thursday. The parking lot of PP is well lit, and as an odd answer to our prayers, PP has hired a nighttime security guard, further insuring our protection throughout the night.

A young man named Hank who works at PP approached me today for the very first time. He began by saying, "I'm curious about something... Are you guys really going to be out here for 40 days? I said, "Yes." He continued incredulously, "...you mean all day and all night?" I answered "Yes" again. He responded, "Wow! That's amazing!" I told him how seriously we felt about this and he said, "Yeah, I know, I've been reading through the 40 Days web site."

He came closer and I took his hand, introducing myself. I told him we cared about him and he said, "Yeah, I know you do," looking me directly in the eye. His lunch break was about up, so he left to return to his job. Please keep Hank in your prayers.

At home, I received a long-distance phone call and a young woman's voice began, "Is this the 40 Days for Life hotline number?" Then, with great anger in her voice, she spoke for several minutes with this theme: "I'm a Christian, but I don't know how you people can judge women who are going in for abortions. You don't know anything about them! How dare you!”

This gave me an opening to tell my story, explaining that I had not always been pro-life, but actually helped my best friend obtain an abortion over twenty years ago, because that is what I thought a "best friend" would do. My friend has suffered tremendously, and I am very regretful for not helping her and her baby.

The woman’s anger gave way to sobbing as she described the "choice" she felt forced to make several years ago. "If someone had only helped me... I was so desperate," and "If I had only known how much it would hurt me, every day of my life, I wouldn't have done it". After about 20 minutes of conversation, she was very receptive to my suggestion that she contact Rachel's Vineyard Post-abortion Healing ministry.
PRAISE GOD!

Canceling Christmas - starting already

Apparently a school district in IL. has decided to cancel the "Christmas Celebrations" so as not to "offend Muslims". This is ridiculous, but not because it will offend Muslims - it won't. It is offensive that some believe that celebrating Christmas is offensive to others.

I am not offended by a celebration of Ramadan and very few Muslims are offended by Christmas, Easter, etc.

This is political correctness run amok.

Monday, October 1, 2007

George Weigel Quote

"The Aggie Catholic campus ministry is one of the most heartening and impressive things I've seen in American Catholicism in decades. This is exactly what Vatican II imagined: a Church engaging and transforming culture and society through a deeper encounter with Christ. Good bull."
Couldn't have said it better.