Friday, November 30, 2007

Spe Salvi

The Holy Father has issued today his promised letter SPE SALVI - SAVED BY HOPE
It’s a wonderful document and here is a beautiful example he gives in the introduction:

The example of a saint of our time can to some degree help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time. I am thinking of the African Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II. She was born around 1869-she herself did not know the precise date-in Darfur in Sudan.

At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life.

Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced. Here, after the terrifying "masters" who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of "master"-in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name "paron" for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave.

Now, however, she heard that there is a "paron" above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her-that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme "Paron", before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her "at the Father's right hand".

Now she had "hope" -no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: "I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me-I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good." Through the knowledge of this hope she was "redeemed", no longer a slave, but a free child of God.

She understood what Paul meant when he reminded the Ephesians that previously they were without hope and without God in the world-without hope because without God. Hence, when she was about to be taken back to Sudan, Bakhita refused; she did not wish to be separated again from her "Paron". On 9 January 1890, she was baptized and confirmed and received her first Holy Communion from the hands of the Patriarch of Venice.

On 8 December 1896, in Verona, she took her vows in the Congregation of the Canossian Sisters and from that time onwards, besides her work in the sacristy and in the porter's lodge at the convent, she made several journeys round Italy in order to promote the missions: the liberation that she had received through her encounter with the God of Jesus Christ, she felt she had to extend, it had to be handed on to others, to the greatest possible number of people. The hope born in her which had "redeemed" her she could not keep to herself; this hope had to reach many, to reach everybody.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Abortion's Third Party

The first US conference to focus on the effects of abortion on men concluded today at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.

I remember at our San Fancisco Walk for Life where men had signs expressing regret for lost fatherhood. The conference focused on this theme.

Vickie Thorn, the executive director of NOPARH and founder of Project Rachel for post-abortive women observed:

"The model to help men with post-abortion healing has to be different than for women.”

She said that grieving men can't be forgotten, "After all, it takes two parents.
Men have a different way of dealing with these issues. While with women, the emphasis is on talking and crying, men have different ways to deal with their grief. "

"There is grief for the child but many times it focuses more on the loss within himself, that he didn't make the transition into fatherhood."

The two-day conference, featured experts, including therapists, from a variety of backgrounds and countries, speaking about men's healing process after abortion; abortion's effects on men's spirituality; fatherhood and abortion; and why men who have been involved in abortion come for help.

Henry Hyde Died Today

God bless him! He was a champion pro-life politician. Pray for his soul.

Choosing not to seek re-electiion last year, he had been chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2001 and served as the lead House manager during Clinton's impeachment trial.

He sponsored the Hyde Amendment, which withdrew federal funding for abortions since its first passage in 1976.

Earlier in November, Hyde was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Promoting legal murder

The Oakland City Council will meet next week and consider passing an “8 foot bubble ordinance.”

If the law passes, and it probably will in this liberal land of ours, there will be this latest effort to protect abortion services.

This law, among other things, will:

Ensure safe and unimpeded access to reproductive health care facilities …
Within 100 feet of the entrance, will prohibit approaching within eight feet any person or motor vehicle seeking to enter the facility, without the consent of the person or vehicle occupant, for the purpose of interfering, harassing, injuring, or intimidating the person or vehicle occupant.

The new ordinance will stifle the efforts of pro-life groups from presenting information verbally or otherwise to anyone near the abortion facility under penalty of jail for a year and/or a $2,000 fine.

This is a diabolic effort to stop anyone from deterring a person entering the clinic for a proposed abortion. It impinges on our freedom and right to disseminate valuable information that saves lives.

Visit the November 27 issue: of "California Catholic Daily" for the list of council members who should be contacted to protest this violation of freedom of expression.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Eucharistic Key

Our Salesian Superior General, Pascual Chavez, has written a masterful letter on the Eucharist. I would like to quote one short passage of his lengthy document which echoes the “Theology of the Body” of Pope John Paul II.

“The human being is called to fulfill himself in love and this in the form of self-giving, implies the total giving of the body. The usual form this self-giving takes is in the 'language” of sex.' In this the body is the protagonist, although there is always the hidden danger that this does not imply the total giving of the person. In this case it would become a lie, given that of its nature it is self-giving, that is, exclusive and total. Sexual donation however is not the only way of giving one’s body as an expression of love. In Jesus we find the eucharistic self-giving as the most profound expression of love, since here the body is the sign and instrument of the donation of the person, the true protagonist of love. In addition it is not limited in its extent; it is ‘for all.’ Jesus does not live his love and the donation of himself in a ‘sexual key’, he lives it in a Eucharistic key.

"Thus for consecrated persons, the special way in which we are living to the full our love and the consequent self- giving implies that we abstain from giving or body and our affection to one single person, so as to give ourselves totally to everyone. Without doubt, here too, we can run a parallel risk to that of sexual giving. There it is possible to give one’s body without giving oneself. Here it is possible for there to be false giving of oneself without that total giving of one’s body, without that :”using up and wearing out” also physically, that is the genuine and essential expression of a love lived in a Eucharist key.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Flowers of Our Age

This week our Salesian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sponsored "La Luce Dei Bambini” (The Light of the Children) concert in Paul VI Hall marking the U.N. Universal Children's Day.The concert raised money to provide the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital in Rome with a specialized digital angiograph machine, valued at almost three million dollars.

Words of the Papal Secretary of State were on the program: “To whom will we entrust our future? What world does even just one child deserve? Something very profound is at stake, that is, how do we understand, in the final analysis, human beings: as an unlimited egoism or as a bestowed freedom that calls to a communion of love and the liberty of sharing.

And even though the “culture of egoism” advances, the cardinal wrote, “there exists also those who welcome children joyfully, blessing heaven and smiling at each gift of God. There are those who also open their heart and welcome children marked by pain and handicaps and become a family to them: These are the deeds of this time, they are the flowers of our age."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to all...

and may God watch over our men and women overseas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Told you so...

Childish, we know, but since before the passage of Proposition 71 in California we have been beating the drum for adult and cord blood stem-cells, which have been curing people right and left, and opposing immoral embryonic stem-cell research, which has yet to cure a single person.

Well, over the last few days, it seems the scientific establishment has finally decided that adult stem-cells are the way to go. One great opponent of embryonic stem-cell research, Mr. Wesley Smith, has a comprehensive article on the subject today. And he reminds us that it is President George W. Bush who has held the line against embryonic stem cell research by limiting funding, as best he could, in the face of enormous opposition:

"But what really got under “the scientists” skin was the clarion moral message sent by the president: It is wrong to treat nascent human life as a mere natural resource to be sown, reaped, and consumed."

God Bless President Bush, and all who helped in this battle. And may God continue to guide our good scientists, who are achieving such wondrous results using ethical methods!

UPDATE: Wesley Smith is covering the developments extensively on his blog "Secondhand Smoke" And Joseph Bottom over at First Things speculates on the how the hype that surrounded embryonic stem-cells from the very beginning, right up until now, in the face of all the scientific evidence to the contrary, was nothing more than a justification for abortion:

"I have long suspected that science, in the context of the editorial page of the New York Times, was simply a stalking-horse for something else. In fact, for two something-elses: a chance to discredit America’s religious believers and an opportunity to put yet another hedge around the legalization of abortion. After all, if our very health depends on the death of embryos, and we live in a culture that routinely destroys early human life in the laboratory, no grounds could exist for objecting to abortion."


Monday, November 19, 2007

Clarity from Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St.Paul was both applauded and criticized when he wrote an article last week that clearly stated Church teaching on homosexuality. His article was provoked by an attempted address by homosexualist activists in one of his parishes. Among other things, he said:

"Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin. They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest."

We can hear the cries of "homophobia" and "exclusion" already. But the Archbishop is applying the same standard that applies to any and all sinners. People with agendas accuse the Church of "excluding" same-sex attracted people, but the real exclusion comes when, out of political correctness, we ignore their sins. They are then being excluded from the experience that is universal among Catholics in all times and places: the struggle for conversion.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

Adult Stem-Cell, etc. etc. etc.........

Great news just keep on coming. From MSNBC:

"WICHITA, Kansas, Nov. 16, 2007 - A Wichita doctor has found that adult stem cells can be harvested from a woman's menstrual fluid and developed into nine different types of human tissue...Dr. Meng of the Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning International made the discovery. His findings show the adult stem cells harvested from the fluid can be developed into tissues such as heart, lung, liver, bone, and others.

"If there is a part of the heart that is damaged, that is dead, you can inject some of the stem cell, which will repair the damaged part," Dr. Xialong Meng, researcher, said. "Then you have whole new heart again."

Remind us again why California voters spent $3billion+ for immoral human-life destroying embryonic stem-cell research that has yet to produce a single cure while adult stems-cells are curing people left and right.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Adult Stem-Cell Update

When California taxpayers were suckered into shelling out $3billion+ for Proposition 71, they were told it would place the state at the forefront of the "Stem-Cell Revolution." Well, apparently not.

This week Professor Ian Wilmut, who created Dolly the cloned sheep, shocked the scientific world by his decision to abandon cloning, and instead concentrate on new techniques where stem-cells are created from human skin cells. It should be noted that Professor Wilmot has no ethical objection to using embryonic stem-cells--he just thinks there are better ways to reach the goal.

The Guardian reports: "The news will come as a blow to scientists who believe that the use of embryos to create stem cells is the best way to develop treatments for serious medical conditions such as stroke, heart disease and Parkinson's disease.Unlike current stem cell research, the new method does not require the use of human embryos, which has caused controversy in the past decade. Full details of the new technique have not yet been unveiled but Wilmut described it as "extremely exciting and astonishing."

This is a big story, and has also been covered by the Telegraph, The Associated Press, and the BBC, among others.

Update: And the satirical site Scrappleface has fun with the story: Dolly Dad Dumps Cloning, Doesn't Discourage Democrats

“There’s no reason to give up on the search for miracles,” said Rep. Pelosi, “Now is the time to redouble our efforts to increase the value of human life by spurring a vibrant after-market for embryonic byproducts. America should lead the world in this growth industry.”

h/t "Regular Guy"

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fr. Frank Pavone on "Faithful Citizenship"

Fr. Frank Pavone of "Priests for Life" comments on the Bishops' document on "Faithful Citizenship."

The full document can be found here.

Be Not Afraid!

Years ago, Fr. John Courtney Murray said we should not worry so much about anti-Christian books and movies and instead start promoting serious pro-Christian books and movies. And, thanks be to God, let's look at what our young people are producing!

We've had "The Passion of the Christ," we have "Bella" and now, from "Grassroots Films" the producers of the award winning "Fishers of Men," we have "The Human Experience."

Play the trailer below . . .

...then go to visit Thomas Peters at American Papist who has a fine long post on this subject.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cardinal O'Malley at the conference...

American Papist reports:

O'Malley uses "scandal" to describe Catholics voting for pro-choice politicians, while Lori suggests jumping through hoops

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, saying the Democratic Party has been persistently hostile to opponents of abortion rights, asserted yesterday that the support of many Catholics for Democratic candidates "borders on scandal."

Good Bishops are...

. . . popping up everywhere!

(Joseph) Kurtz, who was installed as the Archdiocese of Louisville's leader in August, stood and knelt while facing the EMW Women's Surgical Center at Second and Market streets for nearly 1½ hours. He spoke only when he gave a blessing that ended the gathering.

"There was a great sense, I believe, of civility and yet the courage to speak out on the convictions on behalf of the sanctity of life," Kurtz said afterward.

Read the whole thing.

h/t Quintero at LA Catholic

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More from the Conference...

Salvation? Souls? Now you're talking!

From Amy Wellborn:

"I have work to do, so I shouldn’t have really clicked on EWTN’s live feed of the USCCB. Because I did, and instead of the boring stuff I expected to hear, I catch Bishop Aquila of Fargo exhorting the body, in the discussion on the Faithful Citizenship document to replace language referring to “spiritual well-being” with “salvation”. Why? He says simply because it is the language of the Church and when one chooses intrinsic evil, such a choice does impact the state of one’s soul."

Archbishop Chaput Gets Down to it (II)

John Allen: What do you think it (a ‘proportionate reason’ [to vote for a pro-choice candidate]? ) means?

Archbishop Chaput: As you know, I have written a book [on faith and politics], and in it I write that it means a reason we could confidently explain to the Lord Jesus and the victims of abortion when we meet them at the end of our lives, and we will meet them.

The entire interview can be read here.

h/t Curt Jester.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blessed Ceferino, Pray for Us

Last Sunday the Pope, after leading the midday Angelus in St. Peter's Square, greeted the pilgrims from Argentina and the Salesians present at the audience. He spoke of the beatification ceremony of Ceferino Namuncura’ which was to take place a short time later in Argentina by the Pope's secretary of state, Salesian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Blessed Ceferino (1886-1905) was a student of the Salesian Society in Argentina, and a Mapuche. The Mapuche are the indigenous inhabitants of southern and central Chile and southern Argentina. His father was chief of the tribe.

Benedict XVI said: "We give thanks to the Lord for the extraordinary testimony of this young 19-year-old student, who, inspired by his devotion for the Eucharist and love for Christ, wanted to be a Salesian and a priest to show his fellow Mapuche the path to heaven."

"It is the first time that a beatification is done, not in a great city, but in a small village, though it is great for this crowd of Ceferino's friends," Cardinal Bertone said in the homily. This ceremony "means remembering and appreciating the deepest and oldest traditions of the Mapuche people, brave and indomitable…let it help us to discover the fruitfulness of the Gospel that never destroys authentic values found in a culture, but rather assumes them, purifying and perfecting them."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Shepherd's Voice, Indeed.

If you look at the "Always Worth a Visit" links on the right of this blog, you will see the name of His Excellency Raymond Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis.

Here's another example of the good Archbishop shepherding his flock.

Uncle Di says "Archbishop Burke makes it clear that he cannot fail to speak out, because his silence would be dereliction of his duty as spiritual leader."

It's really that simple.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

True Religion

Here are some notes from the writing of Card Ratzinger and Benedict XVI:

If a religion teaches a way of life that is not righteous, it cannot be a true religion. Only when man has lost sight of the ability to know what is good and what is true, then all offers of salvation become the same. If we do not have any standards of right living, then all religions are the same.

If the standards for right living are relativized, man remains trapped inside religions. Again, this demonstrates that religious relativism is founded on philosophical relativism. Cardinal Ratzinger points out that St. Paul (Romans 2:14ff) does not say that non-Christians will be saved by following their religion, but by following natural religion.

We have to always bear in mind that also the reverse influence is true as well: Religious pluralism in turn produces philosophical relativism. In fact, Benedict XVI reminded us that "The convergence of differences must not convey an impression of surrendering to that relativism which denies the meaning of truth itself and the possibility of attaining it."

If it is possible to criticize religions starting from the reasons of man, then it must also be possible to criticize them starting from the reasons of man in society, that is from a public religion. Then it becomes clear that not all religions are equally respectful of the good of man in society. It is also clear that the political power that seeks to organize society according to reason not only cannot relate to all religions in the same way, but should also cherish its obligations to the true religion. Of course, if the political power is based on the relativistic democracy, it will not feel any obligation in this regard.

Relativism, in fact, can only express a procedural public reason. When the truth is replaced by the decision of the majority, culture is set against truth. The relativistic presumption leads to the tearing up of people's spiritual roots and the destruction of the network of social relationships

Friday, November 9, 2007

Are We Ready?

Here are some of the things that Karl Keating (Catholic Answers) has to say about our coming attractions:

If ever there were a time when America needed our now-famous Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics . . . that time is now.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the 2008 elections could determine the moral fate of our entire nation. Think about it: The fight for the U.S. Supreme Court—and the fate of Roe v. Wade—is up for grabs. That is, whoever gets to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice will also be deciding whether or not the Court overturns that shameful case which has resulted in the murder of 45 million children.

Right now, the Court is split right down the middle, and the next president will pick the justice that decides whether Roe remains the law of the land. What’s more, the homosexual “marriage” movement is charging full speed ahead, with more and more states ready to legalize this abomination.

The embryonic stem cell research industry is also moving boldly ahead—despite the fact that adult stem cells are much more beneficial than the fashionable (and still unproven) embryonic stem cell therapies. Likewise, the human cloning crowd is making rapid advances by using deceptive terminology to get human cloning legalized . . . as well as funded by your tax dollars.

Don’t think the euthanasia movement has disappeared, either. If its proponents get their way, thousands of elderly, disabled, and hospitalized citizens in this country could be put to death. Compassionately, of course.

Key Moral Issues for Catholics
“Five non-negotiables” . . . • Abortion • Euthanasia • Embryonic Stem Cell Research • Human Cloning • Homosexual “Marriage”

These are the most critical moral issues of our time. They represent everything that’s wrong in America (and the world) today—because they’re the key tenets of the “culture of death” versus the “Gospel of Life.”

If we lose on these issues, we lose everything. The problem is, they’re all being decided right now in the political arena—by people who have no clue what they’re voting on or how their vote will affect the future of our country.

That’s particularly true for the average Catholic in the United States. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Catholics are the most wrong-headed voters in America.” They typically vote for candidates who oppose Catholic teaching on the five non-negotiables. Often it’s because those candidates belong to a particular party that Catholics vote for out of habit. Or, more and more, the candidates themselves are Catholic—but their voting records and their political stances fly in the face of Catholic moral teaching.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fr. Euteneuer gets it...

We've probably all heard of the showboating proclamation by Fr. Tom Brennan, SJ, on November 4. Fr. Brennan used the occasion of Mass to "come out" to his parishioners about his homosexuality. In response, Fr. Tom Euteneuer penned this open letter. Some excerpts are below, but be sure to read the whole thing.

"Dear Father Brennan,

Faithful Catholics are so accustomed to being scandalized by Jesuit priests and universities these days that your public announcement of your same sex attraction during the Mass last Sunday does not really surprise any of us....

First of all, Holy Mass is not a forum for your self-expression. You chose the sacred liturgy and the pulpit, reserved for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as the launching pad for your personal testament to homosexuality, when by your own admission this was hardly a secret to anyone....

When even a celibate priest chooses to go public about his homosexual identity as an expression of "diversity" or "pride," the faithful are rightfully confused and scandalized. Not only do you owe them an apology, you owe them a better example of priesthood. They deserve a priest who is clear about the Church's teaching on homosexual acts and who teaches it unambiguously. They need a priest who personally witnesses the same teaching without feeling the need to make statements about himself or inserting ideology into the Gospel. If you do not clearly witness the Church's teaching about your own vocation, how can you teach others to be faithful to theirs?"

Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us, pray for your sons!

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

On the Other Hand....

New Jersey VOTERS showed some sense. They decisively turned down "Public Question 2" which would have allocated $450 million in taxpayer dollars for unproven and immoral embryonic stem-cell research, which has yet to show a single cure, while adult & cord-blood stem cells have already treated 73 serious medical conditions. Ring a bell, California voters?

Congratulations to "New Jersey Right to Life" for this victory, which was won despite the fact that Governor Jon Corzine poured $200,000 of his own money toward supporting the bond issue. (By the way, don't buy into the argument it was all about money. The voters did approve $200 million in bonds for "open space.")

Not a Simple Pill reports: the state of New Jersey has enacted a law requiring pharmacists to dispense abortifacient pills, even if doing so violates their consciences.

Father Thomas Euteneuer, the president of Human Life International, countered: "When a state rejects the protection of individual consciences, that state loses its soul."

Meantime the San Jose Mercury-News has advised its slightly more than 230,000 daily subscribers to ignore the Holy Father’s recent exhortation that pharmacists be allowed to follow their consciences when it comes to dispensing drugs that induce abortion or are used for euthanasia.

Sad so say: The sponsor of the New Jersey Bill, Senator Joseph Vitale, did not know, or did not care to relate. what research is showing: “the morning-after- pill puts women at risk of cardiac arrest, internal bleeding and other dangers to life.

Not only is the fetus being murdered, the woman herself is in grave danger. Russian roulette seems to be a close companion of RU486.

Abortion kills. The pill can kill the mother, too.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Adult/Cord Blood Stem-Cell Update

Stem cells used for severe skin disease

The UPI reports: "MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. medical researchers have performed the first systemic therapy to treat a severe genetic skin disease. (A systemic therapy is one that treats the entire body, not a localized area)

"University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital physicians reported performing the first bone marrow and cord blood transplant to treat recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, or RDEB."

The patient suffering from this disease is an 18 month old boy. The article describes RDEB:

"Children with the disease lack a protein that anchors skin to the body, resulting in fragile skin that sloughs off with little movement or friction. The 18-month-old boy who was transplanted has the most severe form of RDEB, which also causes skin to slough off on the inside of the body and is nearly always fatal."

Researchers from the University of Minnesoata and Columbia University have already corrected this disease in a mouse, using bone marrow.

"They then determined which human adult stem cells would give rise to the development of type VII collagen -- the protein RDEB victims lack.The boy received both umbilical cord blood and bone marrow from a perfectly matched sibling. Doctors anticipate being able to judge whether the treatment was successful by early next year."

Pray God the treatment works! and God bless our wonderful doctors/scientists who are doing so much in an ethically and morally sound way.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fishers of Men....Wow!!

Some of you may have already seen the fantastic 18-minute video called "Fishers of Men," that is part of a vocations effort by the USCCB.

I hadn't seen it until today. It practically brought me to tears.

Go here for some information about the video.

H/T Ironic Catholic

Posted by Gibbons

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Archbishop Chaput Gets Down to it...

...and challenges us to do the same.

The following are excerpts from his October 26 address at St. John's University Law School in New York City.

"People often say we're living at a "post-Christian" moment. That's supposed to describe the fact that Western nations have abandoned or greatly downplayed their Christian heritage in recent decades. But our "post-Christian" moment actually looks a lot like the pre-Christian moment. The signs of our times in the developed nations -- morally, intellectually, spiritually and even demographically -- are uncomfortably similar to the signs in the world at the time of the Incarnation....

(Baylor University scholar Rodney) Stark shows that one of the key areas in which Christians rejected the culture around them was marriage and the family. From the start, to be a Christian meant believing that sex and marriage were sacred. From the start, to be a Christian meant rejecting abortion, infanticide, birth control, divorce, homosexual activity and marital infidelity -- all those things widely practiced by their Roman neighbors...

The early Church had no debates over politicians and communion. There wasn't any need. No persons who tolerated or promoted abortion would have dared to approach the Eucharistic table, let alone dared to call themselves true Christians. "

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ethical Blind Spots

Here is an article which will make you realize how easily we can be fooled by the "authorities" in our lives. It was written by Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, published in the Arlington Catholic Herald, and the Catholic Educators Resource Center, forwarded to me by a dear friend.

When I traveled to Auschwitz a few years ago, one question played over and over in my mind: did they know?

Did the German people know what was happening in this camp near their own border, in their own occupied territories? With the trains coming and going year after year, with the long lines of prisoners and the billowing smokestacks, did they just turn a blind eye to the atrocities? Had they become desensitized to the point that they could no longer see the carefully choreographed death operations nearby?

Some concentration camps, like the one in Dachau, were set in comfortable suburbs right inside Germany itself and the townsfolk could stroll past them during their daily routine. The grass in those suburbs continued to grow as green as anywhere else, young people got married, babies were born, men went to work and life went on.

Walking through a place like Dachau or Auschwitz, one wonders: could it ever happen again? Could a similar scenario play out today in middle-class America? Most would instinctively say "no" — after all, we live in a more enlightened time and culture. A more perceptive eye, however, can discern troubling parallels. Nowhere are these parallels more evident than in the bioethical issues of our day. Our society, in fact, faces virtually the same temptation that Germany did: the temptation to normalize certain well-scripted death operations in the midst of polite society.

If we look within our own culture and within our own time, we will see that suction machines have replaced smokestacks, and that fertility clinics and women's health centers have replaced the barbed wire. Unborn humans and embryonic children are now dispatched with the same desensitized ease as camp inhabitants once were, and never a word is mentioned in respectable society. Our great universities, which need to serve as a moral voice, remain mute or even foster such evil, as does the press, and few dare mention the pall of death that quietly permeates the air.

We need look no further than the Planned Parenthood clinics which are dotted across our country. Future generations are likely to be appalled by the statistics: nearly 2 million deaths per year. They are sure to wonder about a people that ended the lives of their own children at the rate of 1 every 23 seconds through elective abortion. They are sure to ask, "how could they?" and, "did they know?"We need look no further than the fertility clinics present in every major American city. Future generations are sure to be scandalized by the numbers: in vitro fertilization making hundreds of thousands of embryonic humans, to be chilled in liquid nitrogen and turned into, in the words of one commentator, "kidsicles." They are sure to deplore the many other human embryos treated as objects, discarded as medical waste, poured down the sink or experimented upon and strip-mined for their embryonic stem cells.

There is a certain banality about evil. It doesn't necessarily present itself in a monstrous or dramatic way. It can take the shape of simple conformity to what everyone else is doing, to what the leadership says is right, to what the neighbors are doing. The gradual encroachment of evil in our lives can be something we might not even notice because we are not paying attention; it can be something barely on the periphery of our consciousness.

The majority of those who collaborated with some of history's most terrible crimes and falsehoods need not be cast as inhuman monsters; instead, they were often like us. They were capable of giving and receiving sympathy and love; they could have beautiful feelings and noble ideals; heroism, loyalty, family and culture could all co-exist with almost unbelievable evil.During the Nazi years, there often were no momentous decisions to be made for or against evil. People were concerned with their daily affairs, and on that level, Nazism seemed good: it seemed to bring prosperity, it made things work, it allowed people to feel good about themselves and their country.

The moral issues — the ones that we now see as having been central — were carefully avoided.When the full horror of Nazism was revealed at the end of the war, the German people responded, "we didn't know." When a local townsperson was asked whether he knew what was going on in the camp, he gave a more complete answer. "Yes, we knew something was up, but we didn't talk about it, we didn't want to know too much."

Primo Levi, a writer and a survivor of Auschwitz, described the German ethical blind spot this way:"In spite of the varied possibilities for information, most Germans didn't know because they didn't want to know. Because, indeed they wanted not to know. … Those who knew did not talk; those who did not know did not ask questions; those who did ask questions received no answers. In this way the typical German citizen won and defended his ignorance, which seemed to him sufficient justification of his adherence to Nazism. Shutting his mouth, his eyes and his ears, he built for himself the illusion of not knowing, hence not being an accomplice to the things taking place in front of his door."

Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that what pained him the most was the silence of the good. Albert Einstein, who fled Germany when Hitler came to power, articulated the same sentiment in an interview for Time magazine on Dec. 23, 1940. He stressed that sometimes it was only the Church and religion that could challenge the status quo as evil made inroads into a society:"Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany I looked for the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom. But they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I had never any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom."

The courageous, even daring question we must ask is, "what is our own response to the evil around us?"

Fr. Pacholczyk earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, Mass., and serves as the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

New Saints

This week marked the beatification of 498 Spanish martyrs, victims of religious persecution in the 1930s. It “is a testament of their virtue and faith, not a political statement,” said Father Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, secretary-general of the Spanish bishops' conference and director of the conference's office for saints' causes.

Of the newly beatified, 63 were members of the Salesian Society. The Salesian Superior General, Fr. Pascual Chavez, remarked with “profound gratitude to God and fraternal joy, we celebrate the beatification, so long desired, of the martyrs from the former Spanish provinces of Betica and Celtica. Their colleagues from the Tarragona province were beatified six years ago. They remind us that faithfulness to God can require a supreme act of love, to give up one’s life for one’s friend, and assures us that even in this trial God is faithful to those who love him to the end.”

On Monday, October 29, in St. Peter’s Basilica, there was a Mass of Thanksgiving.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, secretary of state, presided at the Mass, along with numerous Spanish bishops, and priests and superiors from the orders and congregations of the new blesseds.

Cardinal Bertone recalled the message given by the martyrs: “Through their own example,” he said, “they left us a will and testament that at times we are afraid to open. But if we are attentive, their lives speak to us of faith, of strength, of generous courage, of burning love, in the face of a culture that is trying to isolate or diminish the moral and human.”