Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"'Fatherless' Will NOT Leave You Orphaned!" (Review submitted to Amazon.com on 9/15/09)

"Before I'd even started reading this book, I thumbed through the back pages at Mr. Gail's fabulous bibliography. I was delighted to see a number of works and/or authors with which I am very familiar:
* Archbishop Chaput's 'Render unto Caesar'
* Dr. Chris Kahlenborn's 'Breast Cancer : Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill'
* Bogomir Kuhar, Pharm.D. - executive director of Pharmacists for Life
* William E. May, Ph.D.
* Leslie Woodcock Tentler's 'Catholics and Contraception: An American History'
* George Weigel's 'Witness to Hope'
* Christopher West (He has written and spoken extensively about Pope John Paul II's 'The Theology of the Body.' An updated translation of the late Holy Father's teaching has been released as 'Man and Woman He Created Them.')

"'Fatherless' is the tale of three Catholic families from a suburban Philadelphia parish, who turn to Father John Sweeney for spiritual guidance. While they do not use this terminology, they are each struggling with how to live out their 'universal call to holiness.' Though the novel's set in the first decade of the magnificent pontificate of John Paul the Great, Father Sweeney is initially unable to respond to his parishioners with the wisdom of spiritual treasures, such as Veritatis Splendor or Christifideles Laici. He tries to offer a 'Catholicism Lite,' when what is needed is the Truth which will set them free! We assume that he has failed to challenge himself and his congregation with such 'hard sayings,' as the evils of
* contraception,
* divorce/remarriage (without annullment),
* exploitation of workers,
* failing to bring the Truth into the political sphere,
* failing to treat nutrition/hydration as ordinary care,
* IVF,
* missing Sunday Mass,
* misuse of our sexuality (outside or inside marriage), and
* receiving Holy Communion outside the state of grace.

"I would like to offer a teenie, tiny, minor criticism about a Church history, which is offered by 'Father McManus' toward the latter part of this masterpiece. I think that this section would have been better served by using Thomas Woods, Ph.D.'s 'How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization' as its primary reference (Though it is a difficult work, Eamon Duffy's 'The Stripping Of The Altars' raises enormous questions about our assumptions about pre-Reformation Catholicism.).

"Without question, this was one of the best books which I have EVER read!!!"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"The Shack" & "Dignitas Personae"

When we met on August 25th, we gave each other "reading assignments." Thanks very much for recommending that I read "The Shack." How are things coming with “Dignitas Personae”?

As the author of the Shack tells us, "Something in the hearts of most human beings simply cannot abide pain inflicted on the innocent, especially children....Even in...a world of relative morality, causing harm to a child is still considered absolutely wrong." Amen!!! While I found some of the Shack's “theology” to be askew, I could not agree more about there being a near universal condemnation of hurting children. I believe that this near univeral condemnation confirms the existence of a "natural law," directing us toward true human fulfillment. After the close of WW II, Eleanor Roosevelt championed the U.N.’s passage of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, based upon that very natural law!

I'm eager to learn your thoughts about the Vatican's Dignitas Personae. Pope Benedict XVI recently presented a copy to President Obama; it's NOT a sectarian document. It utilizes the natural law and is directed to all people of good will. Its heavy reliance on the natural sciences negates the weak argumentation that the moment when life begins is a “religious” question - unknowable and sectarian. The natural sciences leave no question as to human life starting at fertlization/conception.

Dignitas Personae screams that each human being is owed uncompromising respect, and that all of us must stand with the weak and powerless against exploitation. Since you have identified yourself as my brother Catholic, I want to know whether you and our brother Patrick will be switching courses. Will your office insist on health care reform which EXPLICITLY safeguards human life from the moment of fertilization/ conception and protects the conscience rights of health care workers and institutions?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Coming to the aid of our Mexican brothers & sisters

Nearly 1600 years ago, Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland, to meet a "people who still practiced human sacrifice, who warred with each other constantly and who were renowned as the great slave traders of the day" (Anita McSorley, The Saint Patrick You Never Knew, St. Anthony Messenger, March 1997). With the introduction of Christianity and its respect for human life, Patrick facilitated a dramatic decline in war, a decline in murder, and an end to the slave trade. In subsequent centuries, I believe Saint Patrick's respect for human life has continued to inspire heroism. In an odd moment of 1998 Hollywood brilliance, Tom Berenger starred in One Man's Hero, which is based on the factual account of a group of Catholic immigrants in the American army, who switched sides during the Mexican-American War (In 2003, a group of 29 U.S. bishops petitioned Hollywood to get this film re-released.). To a very large extent, it appears that this group of Catholic immigrants - primarily Irish - was responding to anti-Catholicism and inhumane treatment of Mexican people (In the novel, Saint Patrick's Battalion, James Alexander Thom provides additional background to understand the motives of those who went to Mexico's defense.).

Whether or not you agree with the actions undertaken by Catholic immigrants a century & a half ago, it is clear that the Mexican people are again under attack. Cloaked in a language of benevolence, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) has opened an assault on tiny human lives, on women, and on the culture:
  • "When lawmakers in Mexico City voted in April 2007 to legalize abortion in all circumstances within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy,....The historic decision meant for the first time millions of women in and around Mexico City had access to abortion services at public hospitals free of charge....
  • "By the time the court released its ruling in August 2008 that abortion would remain legal in the city, more than 12,000 abortion-related services had been provided—a number that indicates the impressive speed at which the public institutions were able to implement abortion services....
  • "The dedicated work of MEXFAM, an IPPF/WHR Member Association for the past 42 years, complemented the ongoing public sector efforts....On May 10th, 2007, they [MEXFAM's board of directors] voted unanimously to offer abortion services at three of their clinics in Mexico City....
  • "In 2009, the organization will continue to advocate for initiatives to expand and protect legal access to abortion in some Mexican states."
In spite of Mexican poverty, this new assault against tiny Mexican lives, Mexican women, and Mexican culture is incredibly well financed. IPPF/WHR ACKNOWLEDGES $54,255,478 in assets and providing $7,590,116 worth of abortions in 2008.

As fellow Catholics, I believe that we need to help counteract the well-healed assault against tiny Mexican lives, Mexican women, and the Mexican culture. Like much of our own nation, Mexico needs to be re-evangelized. I believe that we need to couple our prayer and support of Church initiatives with the support of groups which simultaneoulsy address human needs and respect Mexico's Catholic culture.

I've just heard that Bucks County's My Father's Vineyard, Inc (P.O. Box 267, Yardley, PA 19067) has begun working with a priest from Cuautepec, Mexico (a region of Mexico City), to address some of his people's basic needs. A Mexican eye doctor has begun providing pertinent information (eg., pupil measurements) to a New Jersey optician, Tom Vazzano. With Tom's time being donated, they are readying 101 pairs of eyeglasses for Cuautepec children and adults - each of which will cost only $25. We are sending our first $25 check to My Father's Vineyard, to cover one pair of eyeglasses and to honor Saint Patrick's Battalion.

Robert Schindler, Champion of Catholic Medical Ethics, RIP

Yesterday, Bucks County was honored by the return of the Schindler family, for the funeral of their great patriarch. Bob Schindler and his family suffered greatly, in defense of their beloved Terri Schindler Schiavo and the sanctity of human life, defended by Catholic medical ethics....

In 1995, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers had released its' Charter for Health Care Workers. As per that document,
  • "The administration of food and liquids, even artificially, is part of the normal treatment always due to the patient when this is not burdensome for him: their undue suspension could be real and properly so-called euthanasia."

In 1999, Pennsylvania's Catholic Bishops published a revision of their Nutrition and Hydration: Moral Considerations:

  • "in almost every instance there is an obligation to continue supplying nutrition and hydration to the unconscious patient....If the patient decides to refuse ordinary treatment,...there remains at least the duty to attempt to persuade the patient otherwise or, failing that, for the physician to remove himself from the case so as not to be guilty of complicity in suicide."
Despite such earlier statements (particularly the one from the Vatican), it appears that MISINTERPRETATION of one sentence from the USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 4th ed.") fostered confusion about Church teaching, during the agonized suffering of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, her parents, and her siblings:
  • "The USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities' report...points out the necessary distinctions between questions already resolved by the magisterium and those requiring further reflection, as, for example, the morality of withdrawing medically assisted hydration and nutrition from a person who is in the condition that is recognized by physicians as the 'persistent vegetative state' (PVS)"

In 2004, Pope John Paul II gave an Address to Participants in the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advance & Ethical Dilemna." Many of us share the Schindler's belief that the late Holy Father DIRECTLY addressed Terri's situation & then prevalent confusion:

  • "The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.), and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed. He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery....the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act....The evaluation of probabilities, founded on waning hopes for recovery when the vegetative state is prolonged beyond a year, cannot ethically justify the cessation or interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration. Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal"
At that time, Philadelphia's John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology, Msgr. Kevin McMahon, was quoted by Our Sunday Visitor: "It was only a misinterpretation...that allowed people to imagine that they could withdraw nutrition and hydration from people in a PVS, and I think that the grounds on which they created that doubt and based the argument that it was okay to do so have been removed by the Pope." Richard Doerflinger, chair of the aforementioned USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities said: With the Pope's statement, the Church's teaching authority has rejected each aspect of the theory that opposes assisted feeding for patients in a PVS."

Especially after the Holy Father's 2004 statement, I am at a loss to understand how there could ANY remaining confusion with regard to nutrition and hydration (aka, food and water) being ordinary and OBLIGATORY TREATMENT. Still, the Vatican provided "Responses to Certain Questions of the USCCB Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration in 2007:
  • "The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented....
  • "A patient in a 'permanent vegetative state' is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means."
In addition to the USCCB's 2001 Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 4th ed."(ERDs), Catholic medical ethics must certainly incorporate more recent Vatican teaching, such as the
At this time, the ERDs have NOT yet been updated to incorporate the above Vatican teachings.

Particularly in memory of former residents Terri Schiavo and Bob Schindler, I pray that the Bucks County Catholic community will be vigilant in advocating for authentic Catholic health care.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

re: "Should Couples Get Bishop's Permission to Separate?" (Our Sunday Visitor, 5/24/09)

In the above article, Emily Stimpson asks a provocative question: "If divorce is, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, 'a 'grave offense against the moral law,' why isn't the Church doing more to stop it?" According to the article, Canons 1151-1155 and Canons 1692-1696 are interpreted in some places as meaning that permission of the bishop is ordinarily & explicitly required for spouses to separate....

  • "Art. 2.
    Can. 1151 Spouses have the duty and right to preserve conjugal living unless a legitimate cause excuses them.
    Can. 1152 §1. Although it is earnestly recommended that a spouse, moved by Christian charity and concerned for the good of the family, not refuse forgiveness to an adulterous partner and not disrupt conjugal life, nevertheless, if the spouse did not condone the fault of the other expressly or tacitly, the spouse has the right to sever conjugal living unless the spouse consented to the adultery, gave cause for it, or also committed adultery.
    §2. Tacit condonation exists if the innocent spouse has had marital relations voluntarily with the other spouse after having become certain of the adultery. It is presumed, moreover, if the spouse observed conjugal living for six months and did not make recourse to the ecclesiastical or civil authority.
    §3. If the innocent spouse has severed conjugal living voluntarily, the spouse is to introduce a cause for separation within six months to the competent ecclesiastical authority which, after having investigated all the circumstances, is to consider carefully whether the innocent spouse can be moved to forgive the fault and not to prolong the separation permanently.
    Can. 1153 §1. If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too diYcult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay.
    §2. In all cases, when the cause for the separation ceases, conjugal living must be restored unless ecclesiastical authority has established otherwise.
    Can. 1154 After the separation of the spouses has taken place, the adequate support and education of the children must always be suitably provided.
    Can. 1155 The innocent spouse laudably can readmit the other spouse to conjugal life; in this case the innocent spouse renounces the right to separate" <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P45.HTM>.

    Can. 1692 §1. Unless other provision is legitimately made in particular places, a decree of the diocesan bishop or a judicial sentence can decide the personal separation of baptized spouses according to the norm of the following canons.
    §2. Where an ecclesiastical decision has no civil effects or if a civil sentence is not contrary to divine law, the bishop of the diocese of the residence of the spouses, after having weighed the special circumstances, can grant permission to approach the civil forum.
    §3. If a case concerns only the merely civil effects of marriage, the judge, after having observed the prescript of §2, is to try to defer the case to the civil forum from the start.
    Can. 1693 §1. Unless a party or the promoter of justice requests the ordinary contentious process, the oral contentious process is to be used.
    §2. If the ordinary contentious process has been used and an appeal is proposed, the tribunal of second grade, observing what is required, is to proceed according to the norm of can. 1682, §2.
    Can. 1694 The prescripts of can. 1673 are to be observed in what pertains to the competence of the tribunal.
    Can. 1695 Before accepting the case and whenever there is hope of a favorable outcome, the judge is to use pastoral means to reconcile the spouses and persuade them to restore conjugal living.
    Can. 1696 Cases concerning the separation of spouses also pertain to the public good; therefore the promoter of justice must always take part in them according to the norm of can. 1433"

Stimpson also makes reference to an unsettling March 2009 letter, which has been sent to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts:

  • "We find the local church has a policy to make virtually no mention of the canon laws for separation of spouses (1151-1155, 1692-1696). The faithful are commonly taught that the church has no objection to divorce, only remarriage without annulment....
  • "The Catechism states that divorce is [a] plague on society, is immoral & a grave offense against nature, & is only allowable in certain circumstance citing canon law....
  • "It appears that following canon 1692, and seeking the local ordinary's permission before approaching the civil divorce court, would save marriages and prevent immoral separation and scandal" <www.marysadvocates.org/eventsnews/romanreplies/romanreplies2009.html>

According to Stimpson, Canons 1151-1155 and 1692-1696 "set the terms for when and how Catholic spouses can separate from one another. Essentially, they say that before a husband or wife heads to the divorce court, they first need to head to their bishop....In some countries, such as Nigeria, those canons remain in force." While apparently agreeing that the Canons call for a bishop's permission to separate, noted Canon lawyer Edward Peters - for EXTREMELY unclear reasons - seems reticent about this being applied in the United States. But, aren't we talking about the UNIVERSAL Code of Canon Law?

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"


Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

Book & Film Reviews, pt 1

Book & Film Reviews, pt 2

Blog Archive

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And yup, that's me!
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12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010