Sunday, April 29, 2012

"When Things Get Tough for Clergy, Nuns Suffer Too" (Courier Times, 4/29/12)

Going to 18+ years of Catholic school and growing up in an extended family which included priests, nuns, and religious brothers, I’ve probably known more Catholic clergy and religious than most lay people - be they in my own family, in my parishes, in my schools, and/or in my places of employment. With these familiarities, I am probably less prone to putting clergy and religious "on the shelf" from which it is so easy to fall. I do not view individual clergy or religious as innately more admirable than most - nor do I view the overwhelming majority of them to be the monsters which some in the media would have us believe. I was therefore especially intrigued by Jerry Jonas' most recent article, written with his typical nostalgic flare for the Greater Philadelphia area and beyond:
  • "Throughout the centuries, and even in today’s world, Catholic nuns — those dedicated religious women who have devoted their entire lives to helping others while expecting very little in return — have always been (and still are) treated by many leaders of their church as second-class citizens.... Despite their many hardships, those sisters spent their lives diligently instilling the love of God into us on a daily basis.... While in recent decades many of the seemingly illogical restrictions that nuns endured for so long have been removed, the number of nuns in this country is at an all-time low and still dwindling" (When Things Get Tough for Clergy, Nuns Suffer Too, Courier Times, 4/29/12).
A decade and a half ago, Ann Carey wrote of the atmosphere of "clericalism," during which many women of times past entered religious life (Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities, 1997). Ms. Carey suggested that shameful mistreatment fertilized the soil for subsequent difficulties. Interestingly, she also noted that the most doctrinally sound communities were NOT "still dwindling" in number. Unlike Mr. Jonas, Ms. Carey does not attempt to portray the Vatican's Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious as misogynistic. To the contrary, Ms. Carey describes conditions leading up to the assessment as "brewing for 40 years."  As per the assessment itself:

  •  "The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years....
  • "The current doctrinal Assessment arises out of a sincere concern for the life of faith in some Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It arises as well from a conviction that the work of any conference of major superiors of women Religious can and should be a fruitful means of addressing the contemporary situation and supporting religious life in its most 'radical' sense—that is, in the faith in which it is rooted"

In his article, Mr. Jonas evidences misunderstandings of the Vatican's assessment; I will limit my comments to two areas:

  • "Unbelievably, they [the Vatican] admonished them [the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)] for 'focusing too much on poverty and economic injustice.'"  In our time, the nun most closely associated with topics of "poverty and economic injustice" was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Obviously, the Vatican had no difficulty with Blessed Teresa's concerns about "poverty and economic injustice." In fact, some have criticized the Vatican for supposedly "fast tracking" the recognition of her sainthood! That Nobel Prize winning nun's speech at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast typified how authentic Catholic social teaching absolutely incorporates core truth about human life and family in addressing matters of "poverty and economic injustice." By contrast, I suspect that the Doctrinal Assessment may well have had in mind Sister Carol Keehan, the million-dollar-salaried head of the Catholic Health Association. When Sister defied the bishops on the need for conscience protections and gave a pass to the draconian HHS mandates, she betrayed all Catholics - especially those involved in health care.
  • Mr. Jonas also offered a 1967 out-of-context quote from Rev. Josef Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, evidencing serious misunderstanding of what the Church teaches with regard to conscience and a Catholic's responsibility for forming her/his conscience in line with Church teaching. Defying the Church on hard teachings and the psychological denial of truth are certainly nothing new. Way back in the 16th century, many Catholics - clergy, religious, and laity - were more than willing to accommodate their "consciences" when King Henry VIII tried to pressure the Vatican into granting him an invalid declaration of marital nullity. Few held fast to the defense of marriage and the need to form consciences in line with Church teaching. At the Tower of London, Sir Thomas More announced: "I am the king's good servant, but God's first." The next sound heard was the thud as his head hit the floor, after being separated from his body.

To gain better understanding of the current situation and what the Church actually teaches, I encourage Mr. Jonas and others to read Ann Carey’s Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities and the Doctrinal Assessment itself.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

As of this Monday, April 30, One WTC will Officially be the Tallest Building in the Western Hemisphere

Officially, construction of One World Trade Center began six years ago.  As someone who travels through that site on a daily basis, it sure seem much more recent since discernable work began.  In any case, here's what the site looked like in September '09 and in September '11:

Three quarters of a century ago, one of my father's brothers was part of the army of construction workers who completed the Empire State Building - in just one year!  Backers of the Empire State Building were in  fierce competition with backers of the Chrysler Building (just a few blocks away) - both vying for the distinction of the World's Tallest Building.

Along with absolute pride, Monday will bring a certain bittersweetness, in that NYC - & the USA generally - no longer even comes close to the distinction of being the World's Tallest Building (One World Trade Center is just two or three blocks from the Woolworth Building, which - at one time - held the distinction of being the World's Tallest Building.).  Yet, the rise of One World Trade Center is a magnificent comeback story.

P.S. When I spotted this (just this past month), I could not resist reaching for my cell phone camera.  It shows portopotties being lowered from the top of the construction site....

Monday, April 23, 2012

St. Mary Medical Center - "Bright Spots and Shadows"

Most Rev. John McIntyre
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
Sister Marie Cecilia Irwin
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Monsignor John Marine
Pastor of St Bede the Venerable
Gregory T. Wozniak, President and CEO

St. Mary Medical Center
Terri Rivera, VP, Mission and Community Health
St. Mary Medical Center

Your Excellency, Sister, Monsignor, Mr. Wozniak, and Ms. Rivera,

Though also identified as a member of the St. Mary Medical Center board of directors, Msgr. Michael Picard of Saint Andrew in Newtown has asked to NOT be included in emails....
As per their YouTube posting, I understand the the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia were founded in 1855 by Mother Frances Bachman; they were part of that "army" of priests and religious, who founded countless Catholic hospitals, schools, and social service providers.
It is certainly no secret that we see fewer and fewer Catholic institutions staffed by priests and/or religious. Maintaining Catholic identity, and the commitment to truth which that embodies, certainly challenges all those institutions.  As per the web site of Saint Mary Medical Center, "St. Mary was founded in 1973 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. In 1996, St. Mary Medical Center became an Eastern Region member of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national, non-profit Catholic health-care system. In July 2001, St. Mary transferred to Catholic Health East, a Catholic health-care system with a regional focus."

Bright Spots
In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II talked of "bright spots" and shadows."  It is my understanding that the retail pharmacy at St. Mary Medical Center, the St. Clare Pharmacy, does not deal in any contraceptives or abortifacients.  If my understanding is accurate, that is absolutely outstanding!  I urge St. Mary Medical Center to list the St. Clare Pharmacy with Pharmacists for Life International (PFLI), which maintains a listing of pharmacists or pharmacies which "aver they do not dispense any abortifacient drugs or devices, nor do they refer for the same" (One More Soul also maintains a list of NFP-only pharmacies.):
It is an absolute tragedy that PFLI has only seven listings for the entire United States.  Yes, I said that correctly - seven for the entire United States (While acknowledging such pharmacists / pharmacies to be small in number, there are those who are absolutely intent on denying their religious liberty.).  Several years ago, Divine Mercy Pharmacy in Northern Virginia opened with a policy of complete refusal to deal in any contraceptives and/or abortifacients.  Tragically, that pharmacy had to soon close for lack of business.  It strikes me as disturbing and shameful that some parish bulletins provide advertising space for pharmacies which carry contraceptives and abortifacients - including the notorious Plan BIf a parish in the Archdiocese is providing advertising for a pharmacy - it should only be St. Clare Pharmacy.

On a listing of NFP-only physicians for Pennsylvania, I find only seven NFP-only physicians in the Philadelphia area and only one NFP-only gynecologist in the Philadelphia area.
Eleanor Tiongson MD
Specialty: Family Practice
Phone: (610) 676-7488
Drexel Hill, PA 19026

Lester Ruppersberger DO
Specialty: OB/GYN
Phone: (215) 750-6611
Langhorne, PA 19047

John Lane MD
Specialty: Family Practice
Phone: (215) 752-5433
Penndel, PA 19047

George Isajiw MD
Specialty: Internal Medicine
Phone: (610) 626-4397
Lansdowne, PA 19050

William Williams MD
Specialty: Rheumatology
Phone: (215) 662-4333
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Joseph F Harryhill MD
Specialty: Urology
Phone: (215) 829-3409
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Alfred Mauriello, II MD
Specialty: ENT
Phone: (610) 363-2532
Exton, PA 19341
The only NFP-only physican at any Philadelphia Catholic hospital - is on staff at St. Mary Medical Center.

St. Mary Medical Center claims a "compassionate staff of more than 600 physicians" (About St. Mary Medical Center). Yet the VAST majority of St Mary Medical Center physicians make no claim to have embraced Catholic medical ethics.  So, why is St. Mary Medical Center promoting them?  As per St. Mary Medical Center's "Find a Doctor" physician referral page,
    "Finding the right doctor has never been easier. With more than 600 qualified physicians on staff at St. Mary, one quick call to 215-710-5888 does it all. 


    "Physician Referral Service provides the up-to-the-minute medical information you need about participating physicians, their specialties, office locations, hours, insurance plans accepted, education and credentials, etc.  St Mary Medical Center is a Catholic healthcare facility that strives for the highest ideals of quality care and institutional integrity. St. Mary Medical Center is firmly committed to maintaining fidelity to its Catholic identity by closely conforming to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. 
    "Health Care practitioners at St. Mary Medical Center abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services while providing care at any of the St. Mary Medical Center campuses. Many of these practitioners also provide services outside of St. Mary Medical Center where there is no institutional obligation to practice under the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Patients are encouraged to continue to engage in a dialogue with these practitioners to express their religious and ethical choices regarding their treatment outside of St. Mary Medical Center."
For some practitioners, it is very easy to find out about their "services outside of St. Mary Medical Center" (In fact, St. Mary Medical Center's "Find a Doctor" physician referral page lets you know where to look!).  I have taken a look at those who are involved in care at the beginning of life - not even touching upon those involved with end-of-life care at Catholic hospitals:
(Click to enlarge or see attachment.)

Now, doesn't it seem naive to assume that physicians, whose off site practices are inconsistent with Catholic teaching, temporarily embrace the truth when inside the walls of a Catholic hospital - so much that they do not tell their Catholic hospital patients how to contact them elsewhere? Doesn't this situation seem akin to the fox guarding the hen house? Our Lord told his Apostles: "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves" (Matthew 10: 16). Jesus did NOT counsel gullibility. 

While certain practices by professional at Catholic hospitals may have heretofore been passing under the radar, the draconian HHS mandates call us to heroic defense of Catholic medical ethics: 

    "Direct sterilization and contraception are not health care since they are directly aimed at either impeding or destroying the proper function of a healthy reproductive system. There can be no moral obligation to pay for harmful drugs and procedures which violate the dignity of the human person. This fact would perhaps be more readily grasped if our government demanded employers to provide coverage for direct abortion and euthanasia, as it may yet do [emphasis added]. If we can justify cooperation with direct sterilization and contraception, on what basis would we refuse to cooperate with direct abortion and euthanasia?....

    "The principle of cooperation was never intended as a tool to rationalize the promotion of evil. We must not look for 'loopholes' in Catholic moral teaching to excuse ourselves from the prophetic witness that this moment demands" (
    Cooperation is Not an Option, Msgr Kevin T. McMahon, STD (former John Cardinal Krol Chair in Moral Theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary), Catholic World Report, 4/18/12).

"Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious"

On Friday, April 20, the Bucks County Courier Times published a piece by Rachell Zoll of the Associated Press, concerning the Vatican's Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Excerpts from the Vatican's assessment....
  • "The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years....
  • "The current doctrinal Assessment arises out of a sincere concern for the life of faith in some Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It arises as well from a conviction that the work of any conference of major superiors of women Religious can and should be a fruitful means of addressing the contemporary situation and supporting religious life in its most 'radical' sense—that is, in the faith in which it is rooted....
  • "Addresses given during LCWR annual Assemblies manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal errors....[Cited] as an example [was] specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s address about some Religious 'moving beyond the Church' or even beyond Jesus.  This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life. Such unacceptable positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR....Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life  today. But Pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help....
  • "while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death....issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching....
  • "The Second Vatican Council clearly indicates that an authentic teaching of the Church calls for the religious submission of intellect and will, and is not limited to defined dogmas or ex cathedra statements (cf. Lumen gentium, 25)....
 Among the corrections....
  • "greater emphasis needs to be placed both on the relationship of the LCWR with the Conference of Bishops, and on the need to provide a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church"
  • "The Eucharist & the Liturgy of the Hours will have a place of priority in LCWR events & programs....
  • [There is a need to] "review LCWR links with affiliated organizations, e.g. Network and Resource Center for Religious Life. 
As reported by,
  • “'I’m stunned,' said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network. 'I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,' Sister Campbell said. 'We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.'”
(This thought is NOT original:) Sister Simone Campbell appears to be an excellent candidate for the Captain Louis Renault award for feigned shock (Click the below image).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Lord, when did we see prison, and not minister to your needs?"

Kudos to Our Sunday Visitor for Scott Alessi's excellent Chaplains Play Crucial Role in Lives of the Incarcerated (4/22/12), which called attention to the Religion in Prisons survey (Pew Forum, March 2012). As per Mr. Alessi,
  • "While the Pew survey finds that conversions from one faith to another are fairly common in state prisons, Dominican Sister Susan Van Baalen told OSV that inmates are more likely to drift away from Catholicism simply because there are so few Catholic chaplains. In the Federal Bureau of Prisons, she said, there are only 20 Catholic chaplains but more than 50,000 Catholic prisoners [Emphasis added]....
    "Most often, she said, inmates will gravitate toward other Christian faiths that offer multiple activities, such as frequent Bible studies. The Pew survey indicates that Protestant faiths experience the largest growth in prison due to religious conversion, and they are also most likely to have an overabundance of volunteers.
    "According to Sister Susan, the best way to reverse this trend is to increase the Catholic presence in prison ministry."
  • "Deacon José Treviño agrees that there is a need for more Catholic ministers, particularly those who can speak both English and Spanish."
I trust that you will continue to inform us on this topic, perhaps highlighting the work of Catholic apostolates, such as the Inmate Rehabilitation and Re-Entry Program of Joseph Montone's My Father's Vineyard in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

We have been given an incredible "heads-up," as to the absolutely vital nature of this topic:
    "Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I prison, and you did not care for me....what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Archdiocese of Philadelphia parishes advertising providers of Plan B

Your Excellencies:

I would like to call your attention to additional advertisements in parish bulletins, which are highly inappropriate (See attached.).

The new chart links to 17 additional bulletins, which are readily available on the internet. The chart notes where a parish is advertising for a pharmacy provider of the notorious Plan B, linking to information from the manufacturer of Plan B. Personally, I do not understand how parish advertisements for any provider of contraceptives &/or abortifacients could be justified. Yet, ads for providers of Plan B strike me as particularly egregious. Via the bulletin of St. Peter in West Brandywine, one Plan B provider even brags of being a parishioner!

This new chart also notes that St. Stanislaus in Lansdale has an ad for the East Norriton Women's Health Center. As per its own web site,

It should be noted that the East Norrition Women's Health Center has removed one page from its web site (i.e.,, perhaps making its involvement with sterilization less obvious. Yet Dr Dominick Giuffrida is certified in Essure, which is readily described as "a permanent birth control procedure that works with your body to create a natural barrier to prevent pregnancy." Dr Dominick Giuffrida and Dr Joann Sansone are also associated with Mercy Suburban! In fact, East Norriton brags that

At the very time that we are called to fight against the draconian HHS mandates, some are acting as though they "just don't get it." Inclusion of these sorts of ads sends a message that sterilization, contraceptives, and/or abortifacients are simply "no big deal."


Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Annual DeafFest Encourages Connections with Church" (The Monitor, 4/12/12)

Dear Ms. Bennett,

I fervently hope that this article signals genuine interest on the part of the Diocese of Trenton, in reaching out to its Deaf brothers and sisters.

  1. Recognize that reaching out to our Deaf brothers and sisters requires enormously more than an offer of coffee and doughnuts after Mass. This is a group of people who have long and shamefully been ignored. Tremendous outreach efforts are needed to Deaf people and their families.

  2. Adopt appropriate guidelines for working with sign language interpreters, such as those adopted by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Oftentimes, the simplest courtesies toward interpreters at Masses are ignored, such as speaking at a rate appropriate for sign language interpretation.

  3. While Canon Law does allow for the use of a sign language interpreter in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that certainly doesn't strike me as an adequate substitute for a priest who is fluent in American Sign Language. I hope that I am wrong, but I know of no such priest actively engaged in ministry in New Jersey. Priests need to be trained in American Sign Language.

  4. Provide appropriate assistance to parents for the religious instruction of their Deaf children. Many times, that will even include helping parents to communicate with their children.

  5. Be certain that video material shown at Sunday Masses is text-accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing people.

  6. Promote appropriate catechetical material for Deaf people of all ages, including marriage preparation material and natural family planning instruction.

  7. Acknowledge the tremendous generosity toward the Diocese and the Deaf community, which was bestowed by the late Ellen Everett and the late Kay Cusack (See below.).


P.S. On 4/22/07, the below posting was submitted to the Monitor and the Times of Trenton. As far as I know, it was NEVER published by the Monitor

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Parishes advertising providers of "Plan B" and "cooperation"

Your Excellencies:

I would like to again call to your attention some advertisements in archdiocesan parish bulletins, which are highly inappropriate.

While it is by no means comprehensive, the attached chart links to 47 archdiocesan parish bulletins, which are readily available on the internet. It notes where a parish is advertising for a pharmacy provider of the notorious Plan B, linking to information provider by the manufacturer of Plan B (In doing this research, I also came across two physician advertisements, where the physicians are openly involved with prohibited services. I also came across an ad for a provider of Reiki.).

Personally, I do not see how providing advertising space to any provider of contraceptives and/or abortifacients can be justified. The advertisements for providers of Plan B strike me as the most egregious.

  • "we need to recall briefly the principles assumed in classical moral doctrine with regard to the problem of cooperation in evil, a problem which arises every time that a moral agent perceives the existence of a link between his own acts and a morally evil action carried out by others....

    "The first fundamental distinction to be made is that between formal and material cooperation. Formal cooperation is carried out when the moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, sharing in the latter's evil intention. On the other hand, when a moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, without sharing in the intention, it is a case of material cooperation....

    "Material cooperation can be further divided into categories of immediate -- direct -- and mediate -- indirect -- depending on whether the cooperation is in the execution of the sinful action per se, or whether the agent acts by fulfilling the conditions -- either by providing instruments or products -- which make it possible to commit the immoral act....

    "mediate material cooperation can be either proximate or remote.

    "Formal cooperation is always morally illicit because it represents a form of direct and intentional participation in the sinful action of another person....

    "when immediate material cooperation concerns grave attacks on human life, it is always to be considered illicit, given the precious nature of the value in question....

    "passive -- or negative -- cooperation in evil...refers to the omission of an act of denunciation or impediment of a sinful action carried out by another person, insomuch as there was a moral duty to do that which was omitted....

    "Obviously, every type of formal passive cooperation is to be considered illicit, but even passive material cooperation should generally be avoided" (Bishop Elio Sgreccia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, 7/26/05)

    "71. The possibility of scandal must be considered when applying the principles governing cooperation. Cooperation, which in all other respects is morally licit, may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused. Scandal can sometimes be avoided by an appropriate explanation of what is in fact being done at the health care facility under Catholic auspices. The diocesan bishop has final responsibility for assessing and addressing issues of scandal, considering not only the circumstances in his local diocese but also the regional and national implications of his decision" (USCCB, Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 5th ed.)

At the very time that we are called to fight against the draconian HHS mandates, inclusion of these ads seems to inadvertently send a message that contraceptives and/or abortifacients are "no big deal."


Friday, April 6, 2012

Some thoughts on "cooperation"

"If priests & bishops don't change, very little in the life of the Church can change" (Archbishop Chapt, Holy Thursday 2012)

"Because of our baptism and our confirmation, we all share in the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ. In these sacraments we are all anointed, that is, 'marked' with the sacred oils, which means that we are all set aside, 'consecrated' and 'dedicated' for the work of God.

"In a unique way, priests and bishops are set aside within the believing community when hands are laid upon them, and they are anointed with the sacred chrism at their ordinations. As we acknowledge these distinctions within the Church, the sacred oil is a sign of the sacramental unity of the clergy and lay faithful in the person of the Anointed One, Jesus, the Christ.

"Every Chrism Mass has two important moments. First, we bless the holy oils and the chrism used throughout the coming year in our local Church....

"The second key moment in the Chrism Mass takes place when we who are priests renew our commitment to priestly service....This past year has been a difficult time for the whole Church in Philadelphia, but it has been a uniquely painful Way of the Cross for every priest....

"Conversion and renewal are important for every Christian. But they're crucial for us as priests and bishops, because our vocation calls us to be the spark of God's love in the hearts of his people. If priests and bishops don't change, very little in the life of the Church can change....

"In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told the crowds that the rabbis 'have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.' In our Catholic tradition we see that same rabbinical role as the duty and responsibility of priests. In our communities God has charged us with taking our seat on the chair of Moses. We need to do everything we can to purify ourselves of vanity and fear and fatigue and resentment, and to make ourselves worthy of that responsibility. Our own souls, and the souls of our people, will depend on the fire that should burn in our hearts -- a fire of love for Jesus Christ, for the Church as our mother, and for the people that God places in our care....

"At ordination, God called each of us to a special relationship of friendship with himself and of service to his people. This is the only real privilege of our priesthood. It's the only one we should seek; and the only one we need for a life of fruitfulness and joy....

"We need to give ourselves to God without holding anything back, so that through us, God will create a new life for our local Church, for our people and for ourselves....

"Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega of this world and all worlds, and we need to reclaim him as the Alpha and Omega of our personal lives and of our ministry. He loves us; he has freed us from our sins by his blood; and he has truly made the Church into his Kingdom....

"Jesus said, 'I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled.' The fire Christ meant is the fire of God's love -- the fire of zeal and courage and hope that converts hearts and transforms the world. We need to reclaim the mission God intended for all of us as priests. We begin the future today. So may God grant us the passion to burn up every atom, every trace, every memory of ourselves in a fire of service to God's will and to God's people" (Archbishop Chaput, Holy Thursday, 2012).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Religious Liberty, Blood Transfusions, Cigarettes and Contraception" (National Catholic Register, 3/16/2012)

Just a few more excerpts....

  • "The bishops have framed their objection to the Obama contraception mandate largely as a religious-liberty issue. There is great justice and wisdom to this formulation. On the other hand, it is simply not possible and perhaps unwise to avoid discussing contraception per se....

    "Contraception is bad for women's health, for relationships and for society. The mandate is insisting that Catholic institutions fund baby-killing 'drugs' that prevent no disease, are Group 1 carcinogens and are demonstrably connected to an increase in babies being aborted, babies being born to unwed mothers, and children and mothers living in poverty....

    "Americans are so fixated on sexual license and health care that pleas for the importance of respecting religious liberty (again, now understood as toleration of antiquated, irrational practices) fall on ears not able to understand what is at stake.

    "Americans would object to policies that prevent religious individuals to worship, but we are having a hard time seeing how funding contraception violates religious liberty....

    "I think we must expand the ground of objections to the mandate and make the case against baby-killing contraception, indeed all contraception. We need to explain how it is not only a religious issue, but a health-care issue and a social issue as well....

    "Explaining why contraception is so bad may not be the job of the bishops at this time, but priests and laypeople can certainly use this opportunity.

    "Jews do not argue that eating pork is something no one should do, but Catholics do argue that using contraception is something no one should do; among other reasons, the Church condemns it as against the natural law; it is against the health of women, the health of relationships and the health of society....

    "And is it true that we should force Jehovah's Witness institutions to fund blood transfusions?

    "If we did so, it would be because natural-law arguments demonstrate that blood transfusions are not against objective morality. Jehovah's Witnesses don't argue that they are; rather, they oppose blood transfusions because of an idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture....

    "Rick Santorum is doing an amazing and courageous job of explaining the social consequences of contraception, and others, especially on the Internet, are trying to get the word out about the health consequences. All of us need to do our part with our families, friends and co-workers"(National Catholic Register, 3/16/2012).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mercy Fitzgerald & Mercy Philadelphia

Your Excellency, Sister, & Dr. Heller,

The history of the Mercy Health System is akin to the histories of countless Catholic hospitals, schools, and social service providers, which were founded by the "army" of priests and religious who came to our shores from other countries.
    The Sisters of Mercy were founded in 1831 in Dublin, Ireland by Catherine McAuley, an heiress who used her inheritance to serve the poor, especially women and children....The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Philadelphia in 1861....The Sisters of Mercy founded Misericordia Hospital (now known as Mercy Philadelphia Hospital) in 1918 [Around 1922, my aunt, Catherine "Kitty"...entered the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin. Until her retirement, Sister Mary Madeline, RSM, taught school in England.].... Mercy Health System is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy & Hope Ministries through Catholic Health East, a multi-institutional Catholic health system which is co-sponsored by nine religious organizations" (Mercy Health System web site).

While many institutions founded by heroic priests and religious survive, we see fewer and fewer staffed by priests and/or religious. Maintaining Catholic identity, and the commitment to truth which that embodies, challenges all those institutions. As per the Mercy Health System web site,
    "Our gynecology department has a high compliance for quality assurance and complies with the ethical and religious directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops" (Gynecologic Surgery).
Considering that not a single gynecologist from the entire Mercy Health System is to be found listed among Pennsylvania's NFP-only physicians, that strikes me as a whopper of a claim! Making such a claim amidst an apparent absence of NFP-only physicians begs the question, as to whether Mercy Health System is familiar with Part Four of the ERDs:

    "The Church’s commitment to human dignity inspires an abiding concern for the sanctity of human life from its very beginning, and with the dignity of marriage and of the marriage act by which human life is transmitted. The Church cannot approve medical practices that undermine the biological, psychological, and moral bonds on which the strength of marriage and the family depends.

    "Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life 'from the moment of conception until death.'
    20 The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn and the care of women & their children during and after pregnancy....

    "The Church has the deepest respect for the family, for the marriage covenant, and for the love that binds a married couple together. This includes respect for the marriage act by which husband and wife express their love and cooperate with God in the creation of a new human being....

    "For legitimate reasons of responsible parenthood, married couples may limit the number of their children by natural means. The Church cannot approve contraceptive interventions that 'either in anticipation of the marital act, or in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences, have the purpose, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible.'
    23 Such interventions violate 'the inseparable connection, willed by God . . . between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive and procreative meaning.'24....

    "Because the moral law is rooted in the whole of human nature, human persons, through intelligent reflection on their own spiritual destiny, can discover and cooperate in the plan of the Creator.26


      44. A Catholic health care institution should provide prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal services for mothers and their children in a manner consonant with its mission....

      52. Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instruction both about the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning."

While the Mercy Health System notes that it provides "Natural family planning/preconception planning" among its Women's Health Services, how does it avoid sabotaging its own message with its apparent absence of NFP-only physicians? Call me cynical, but it strikes me as naive (at best) to assume that physicians, whose off site practices are inconsistent with Catholic teaching, temporarily embrace the truth when inside the walls of a Catholic hospital - so much that they do not tell their Catholic hospital patients how to contact them elsewhere? Doesn't this situation seem akin to the fox guarding the hen house? Our Lord told his Apostles: "Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves" (Matthew 10: 16). Jesus did NOT counsel gullibility.

For those of us who have had family members in the Sisters of Mercy, this situation is particularly painful - it is an affront to their memory. I am praying that the Archdiocese, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Mercy Health System will correct this scandalous situation.


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

And yup, that's me!

And yup, that's me!
(from page 1 of the NY Sun, 3/22/04)

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12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010