Sunday, March 31, 2013

On the Road to Easter with Pope Francis



Excerpts from All the Audiences, Homilies, Letters, Messages, and Speeches of the New Holy Father, up until Easter Sunday

 
  • "We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.... When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: 'Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.' When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness....When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.  My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward" (14 March 2013: Holy Mass with the Cardinal electors). 
 
  • "From every corner of the earth fervent prayers have been offered up by the Christian people for the new Pope, and my first encounter with the thronging crowd in Saint Peter’s Square was deeply moving....My thoughts turn with great affection and profound gratitude to my venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI, who enriched and invigorated the Church during the years of his Pontificate by his teaching, his goodness, his leadership, his faith, his humility and his meekness. All this remains as a spiritual patrimony for us all. The Petrine ministry, lived with total dedication, found in him a wise and humble exponent, his gaze always firmly on Christ, the risen Christ, present and alive in the Eucharist. We will always accompany him with fervent prayers, with constant remembrance, with undying and affectionate gratitude. We feel that Benedict XVI has kindled a flame deep within our hearts: a flame that will continue to burn because it will be fed by his prayers, which continue to sustain the Church on her spiritual and missionary path....The Paraclete creates all the differences among the Churches, almost as if he were an Apostle of Babel. But on the other hand, it is he who creates unity from these differences, not in 'equality', but in harmony....Let us never yield to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day; let us not yield to pessimism or discouragement: let us be quite certain that the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church, with his powerful breath, the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization, so as to bring to Gospel to the uttermost ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it responds to the profound need of human life, proclaiming convincingly that Christ is the one Saviour of the whole man and of all men....I entrust my ministry and your ministry to the powerful intercession of Mary, our Mother, Mother of the Church" (Audience with the College of Cardinals (15 March 2013)).
 
  • "I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith.... Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Successor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre....Your work calls for careful preparation, sensitivity and experience, like so many other professions, but it also demands a particular concern for what is true, good and beautiful.....That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation....How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!....people were joking with me. 'But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…' And someone else said to me: 'No, no: your name should be Clement'. 'But why?' 'Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!'....I commend you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, and with cordial good wishes for you and your families, each of your families. I cordially impart to all of you my blessing" (Audience with the media representatives (16 March 2013)).
 
  • "I warmly thank you for this sign of esteem and closeness. I reciprocate with pleasure, while I ask the Lord to enlighten and accompany all Jesuits so that — faithful to the charism they have received and in the footsteps of the saints of our beloved Order — with their pastoral action, and above all with the witness of a life dedicated without reserve to serving the Church, Bride of Christ — they may be a Gospel leaven in the world, tirelessly seeking the glory of God and the good of souls.  With these sentiments I ask all the Jesuits to pray for me and to commend me to the loving protection of the Virgin Mary, our Mother in heaven. As a pledge of abundant divine graces, with special affection I impart the Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all those who collaborate with the Society of Jesus in their activities, so that they may benefit from its good works and share in its spirituality" (Letter to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus (16 March 2013)). 
 
  • "I think we too are the people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think – and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy....It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must!....The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace" (17 March 2013: Holy Mass in the Parish of St. Anna in the Vatican). 
 
  • "This is beautiful and important for us Christians: to meet on Sundays, to greet each other, to speak to each other as we are doing now, in the square. A square which, thanks to the media, has global dimensions.  On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel presents to us the episode of the adulterous woman (cf. Jn 8:1-11), whom Jesus saves from being condemned to death. Jesus' attitude is striking: we do not hear words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversion....He never tires of forgiving, but at times we get tired of asking for forgiveness.  Let us never tire, let us never tire! He is the loving Father who always pardons, who has that heart of mercy for us all. And let us too learn to be merciful to everyone. Let us invoke the intercession of Our Lady who held in her arms the Mercy of God made man.  Let us now all pray the Angelus together" (Angelus, 17 March 2013). 
 
 
  • "I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph....In the Gospel we heard that 'Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife' (Mt 1:24)....In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!  The vocation of being a 'protector', however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us....In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, 'hoping against hope, believed' (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope!....
    To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!" (19 March 2013: Mass for the inauguration of the Pontificate)
  • "It is a source of particular joy for me to meet today with you, the delegates of the Orthodox Churches, of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and of the Ecclesial Communities of the West. I thank you for taking part in the celebration which marked the beginning of my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter.  Yesterday morning, during Holy Mass, through you I felt the spiritual presence of the communities which you represent. In this expression of faith, it seemed that we were experiencing all the more urgently the prayer for unity between believers in Christ and at the same time seeing prefigured in some way its full realization, which depends on God’s plan and our own faithful cooperation.  I begin my apostolic ministry during this year which my venerable predecessor Benedict XVI, with truly inspired intuition, proclaimed for the Catholic Church as a Year of Faith. With this initiative, which I wish to continue and which I trust will prove a stimulus for our common journey of faith, he wanted to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council by proposing a sort of pilgrimage towards what all Christians consider essential: the personal, transforming encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died and rose for our salvation. The core message of the Council is found precisely in the desire to proclaim this perennially valid treasure of faith to the men and women of our time....The more we are faithful to his will, in our thoughts, words and actions, the more we will progress, really and substantially, towards unity....in continuity with my predecessors, it is my firm intention to pursue the path of ecumenical dialogue, and I thank the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity for the help that it continues to provide, in my name, in the service of this most noble cause....And now I turn to you, the distinguished representatives of the Jewish people, to whom we are linked by a most special spiritual bond....I thank you for your presence and I trust that, with the help of the Most High, we can make greater progress in that fraternal dialogue which the Council wished to encourage (cf. ibid.) and which has indeed taken place, bearing no little fruit, especially in recent decades.  I also greet and cordially thank all of you, dear friends who are followers of other religious traditions; first Muslims, who worship God as one, living and merciful, and invoke him in prayer, and all of you. I greatly appreciate your presence: in it, I see a tangible sign of a will to grow in mutual esteem and in cooperation for the common good of humanity.....The Church is likewise conscious of the responsibility which all of us have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love and protect....before all else we need to keep alive in our world the thirst for the absolute, and to counter the dominance of a one-dimensional vision of the human person, a vision which reduces human beings to what they produce and to what they consume: this is one of the most insidious temptations of our time.  We know how much violence has resulted in recent times from the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we are aware of the importance of witnessing in our societies to that primordial openness to transcendence which lies deep within the human heart. In this, we also sense our closeness to all those men and women who, although not identifying themselves as followers of any religious tradition, are nonetheless searching for truth, goodness and beauty, the truth, goodness and beauty of God. They are our valued allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in safeguarding and caring for creation" (Audience with Representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and of the Different Religions (20 March 2013)).
 
  • "It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires....there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world!....But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the 'tyranny of relativism', which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth!....It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam.... And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.  Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment" (To the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See (22 March 2013)).
 
  • "Today in this Square, there are many young people: for twenty-eight years Palm Sunday has been World Youth Day!....Young people must say to the world: to follow Christ is good; to go with Christ is good; the message of Christ is good; emerging from ourselves, to the ends of the earth and of existence, to take Jesus there, is good! Three points, then: joy, Cross, young people" (24 March 2013: Palm Sunday - 28th World Youth Day). 
 
  • "At the end of this celebration, we invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that she may accompany us during Holy Week. May she, who followed her Son with faith all the way to Calvary, help us to walk behind him, carrying his Cross with serenity and love, so as to attain the joy of Easter.  May Our Lady of Sorrows support especially those who are experiencing difficult situations. My thoughts turn to the people afflicted with tuberculosis, as today is the World Day against this disease. To Mary I entrust especially you, dear young people, and your path towards Rio de Janeiro" (Angelus, 24 March 2013, Palm Sunday). 
 
  • "I am pleased to welcome you to my first general audience. With deep gratitude and veneration I am taking up the 'witness' from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI. After Easter we will resume the catechesis on the Year of Faith. Today I would like to focus a little on Holy Week. With Palm Sunday we began this week - the center of the whole liturgical year - in which we accompany Jesus in His Passion, Death and Resurrection....

    "Living Holy Week following Jesus not only with the emotions of the heart; living Holy Week following Jesus means learning how to come out of ourselves - as I said on Sunday - to reach out to others, to go to the outskirts of existence, to be the first to move towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, consolation and help. There is so much need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!

    "Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but of love and of self-giving that brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following, accompanying Christ, remaining with Him requires....Stepping outside of ourselves, of a tired and routine way of living the faith, of the temptation to withdraw into pre-established patterns that end up closing our horizon to the creative action of God. God stepped outside of Himself to come among us, He pitched His tent among us to bring the mercy of God that saves and gives hope. Even if we want to follow Him and stay with Him, we must not be content to remain in the enclosure of the ninety-nine sheep, we have to 'step outside', to search for the lost sheep together with Him, the one furthest away. Remember well: stepping outside of ourselves, like Jesus, like God has stepped outside of Himself in Jesus and Jesus stepped outside of Himself for all of us....

    "Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconsistent presence at Sunday Mass, a random act of charity, but we lack this courage to 'step outside' to bring Christ. We are a bit like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, of self-giving, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, undermines the sense of security that he had built up, his idea of ​​the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses Peter with perhaps one of the strongest words of the Gospel: 'Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do'(Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks with mercy: our merciful Father. God thinks like a father who awaits the return of his child and goes to meet him, sees him come when he is still far away ... What does this mean? That each and every day he went out to see if his son was coming home. This is our merciful Father. It is the sign that he was waiting for him from the terrace of his house; God thinks like the Samaritan that does not approach the victim to commiserate with him, or look the other way, but to rescue him without asking for anything in return, without asking if he was Jew, if he was pagan, a Samaritan, rich or poor: he does not ask anything. He does not ask these things, he asks for nothing. He goes to his aid: This is how God thinks. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save his sheep.

    "Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gifts us to open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes - what a pity, so many parishes are closed! - in our parishes, movements, associations, and to 'step outside' towards others, to draw close to them so we can bring the light and joy of our faith. Always step outside yourself! And with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we put our hands, our feet, our hearts, but then it is God who guides them and makes all our actions fruitful" (General Audience, 27 March 2013).
 
  • "A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed: this is a clear proof. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with 'unction', they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives....People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: 'Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem', 'Bless me Father', 'Pray for me' – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into a prayer of supplication, the supplication of the People of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it....We need to 'go out', then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the 'outskirts' where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord....the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets" (28 March 2013: Chrism Mass).
 
  • "Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: 'Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?'. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us" (28 March 2013: Mass of the Lord's Supper). 
 
  • "I do not wish to add too many words. One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. Let us remember this: God judges us by loving us. If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns, he only loves and saves....the word of the Cross is also the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us. Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did....We now continue this Via Crucis in our daily lives. Let us walk together along the Way of the Cross and let us do so carrying in our hearts this word of love and forgiveness. Let us go forward waiting for the Resurrection of Jesus, who loves us so much. He is all love!" (Way of the Cross at the Colosseum (29 March 2013)
 
  • "I join all of you gathered before the Holy Shroud, and I thank the Lord who, through modern technology, offers us this possibility.  Even if it takes place in this way, we do not merely 'look', but rather we venerate by a prayerful gaze.  I would go further: we are in fact looked upon upon ourselves....How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified?  It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth....Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this look, which is directed not to our eyes but to our heart....By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world to free us from its power.  This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty.  It is as if it let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to say: have faith, do not lose hope; the power of the love of God, the power of the Risen One overcomes all things.  So, looking upon the Man of the Shroud, I make my own the prayer which Saint Francis of Assisi prayed before the Crucifix: Most High, glorious God,
    enlighten the shadows of my heart,
    and grant me a right faith, a certain hope and perfect charity,
    sense and understanding, Lord,
    so that I may accomplish your holy and true command.  Amen" (Ostension of the Holy Shroud - Video Message of His Holiness Pope Francis (Holy Saturday, 30 March 2013)). 
 
  • "something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions....Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives!....there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him....let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen' (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind....And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead?....Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life!....To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives" (30 March 2013: Easter Vigil).





Friday, March 29, 2013

Ciervo v. McIlhinney

Thank you for forwarding your March 28th op-ed, one day after the Courier Times printed: "Ciervo May Challenge McIlhinney Over Liquor."  As I understand your thoughts and Mr. Ciervo's thoughts on privatization of liquor sales, I am more inclined to agree with your own.  Be assured, however, that this agreement would NEVER lead to my voting for you....

While you identify yourself as a Roman Catholic, Senator, it is no accident that you have been repeatedly endorsed by Planned Parenthood, while they have villified Mr. Ciervo.  Planned Parenthood's 2010 celebration of your most recent victory and denunciation of Ciervo is very telling:

  • "We've relied on you time and time again to help us defeat dangerous anti-choice candidates running for office – like State House candidates Robert Ciervo (Bucks County)... – and we succeeded. We also protected 42 of our pro-choice endorsed candidates"
On this Good Friday, I pray that all Catholics will recommit themselves to working tirelessly for those candidates who will support the most vulnerable human beings.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Deprivation of Food & Water: "someone has made the decision that your time is up. And it wasn't God"

In yesterday's Bucks County Courier Times, a self-identified non-religious individual asked us to imagine ourselves incapacitated and our resultant vulnerability to abuse:
    "Imagine that you are lying on a bed in a sterile room....You are relatively lucid but you cannot move or say a word....you want the administration of excessive drugs to stop, you want another chance to fight for your life....someone has made the decision that your time is up. And it wasn't God....

    "If only they would afford you nutrients and hydration intravenously to help you sustain life a little longer but you hear them say 'we don't do that here'....

    "I fail to understand how such a decision to terminate another's life can be misconstrued as the Will of God....My hands are tied as I am a once-removed relative and have no say although, God knows, I tried. My dear loved one lives on in my heart forever and always and some day, face to face, we will discuss what was horribly and unethically wrong with this picture" (Angels of mercy ... or death?).



In reading the above, I was so reminded of Terri Schiavo. Easter Sunday, March 31st, will mark the eighth anniversary of Terri's death by deprivation of food and water.  In the midst of theological confusion hampering intervention to save Terri's life, Blessed John Paul II proclaimed:
  • "I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering."  
The late Holy Father's clear guidance was subsequently incorporated into Directive 58 of the U.S. Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services[ERDs].  As per Directive 24 of those same ERDs
  • "In compliance with federal law, a Catholic health care institution will make available to patients information about their rights, under the laws of their state, to make an advance directive for their medical treatment. The institution, however, will not honor an advance directive that is contrary to Catholic teaching. If the advance directive conflicts with Catholic teaching, an explanation should be provided as to why the directive cannot be honored."  

Though the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is home to both the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Catholic Medical Association, one need not have advanced theological degrees to spot gaping chasms between Catholic medical ethics and situations in our "Catholic" hospitals.  For example,
properly specify
  1. Catholic teaching with regard to nutrition and hydration, and
  2. that health care services cannot honor advance directives (e.g., non-specific directives to forego nutrition and hydration) opposed to Catholic teaching (cf., Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Charter for Health Care Workers, 1995; Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemnas", 3/20/04; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration, 8/1/07; USCCB, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th ed), 11/17/09).
If our "Catholic" hospitals are not honoring these directives, how can Catholic laity be expected to be aware of them?

We can best honor the memory of Terri Schiavo by reminding everyone of the need to follow ERD Directives 58 and 24.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Honor Terri Schiavo by Following Directives 58 & 24

Over the years, Our Sunday Visitor has brought to light gaping chasms between Catholic medical ethics and situations in "Catholic" hospitals.

Difficult to believe, but March 31st marks the eighth anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death by deprivation of food and water.  In the midst of theological confusion hampering intervention to save Terri's life, Blessed John Paul II proclaimed:  "I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering."  The late Holy Father's clear guidance was subsequently incorporated into Directive 58 of the U.S. Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services [ERDs].

As per Directive 24 of those same ERDs, "In compliance with federal law, a Catholic health care institution will make available to patients information about their rights, under the laws of their state, to make an advance directive for their medical treatment. The institution, however, will not honor an advance directive that is contrary to Catholic teaching. If the advance directive conflicts with Catholic teaching, an explanation should be provided as to why the directive cannot be honored."  

Looking at pertinent materials from local Catholic hospitals, it is my experience that they do NOT properly specify

  1. Catholic teaching with regard to nutrition and hydration, and
  2. that health care services cannot honor advance directives (e.g., non-specific directives to forego nutrition and hydration) opposed to Catholic teaching.
If "Catholic" hospitals are not honoring these directives, how can Catholic laity be expected to be aware of them?

Over the years, Our Sunday Visitor has brought to light gaping chasms between Catholic medical ethics and situations in "Catholic" hospitals.  I hope and pray that you will remind your readers that we can best honor the memory of Terri Schiavo by reminding everyone of the need to follow ERD Directives 58 and 24.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Follow the Money" and Follow the Church

"Follow the Money" and Follow Rome

In our defense of conscience protections, it often seems that we neglect to point out that medicine which is consistent with Catholic ethics happens to be health care par excellence!  In addition, we fail to note how entrenched, vested interests steadfastly oppose us (sometimes in the open and sometimes surreptitiously).  As per my 2/18/13 submission to the Bucks County Courier Times, 
  • "the revised HHS mandate would still force employers to pay for abortifacients/contraceptives and sterilizations....the HHS mandate has nothing to do with sound health care; it thus appears to have everything to do with enriching those who profiteer from abortifacients/ contraceptives and sterilizations....Incorporating fertility awareness and other morally acceptable aid, NaPro Technology is [in addition to helping married couples postpone pregnancy for serious reasons] also far more successful in helping couples achieve pregnancy than IVF - and monumentally less expensive!....The HHS ignores evidence for NaPro Technology but seeks to - in effect - 'bail out' the pharmaceutical industry by forcing employers to finance abortifacients/contraceptives, as well as sterilizations." 

"Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us"

As per Gene Lyons' 3/15/13 op-ed in the Bucks County Courier Times,  "Sometimes the best journalism explains what’s right under our noses. In Steven Brill’s exhaustive Time magazine cover article, 'Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,' it’s the staggeringly expensive, grotesquely inefficient and inhumane way Americans pay for medical care....Obamacare or no Obamacare, ever-increasing prices show few signs of abating....had the law attempted to seriously restrain profiteering hospital chains, pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers..., there’s no way it could have passed."  As per Brill,
     "When you look behind the bills that ...[hospital] patients receive, you see nothing rational - no rhyme or reason - about the costs they faced in a marketplace they enter through no choice of their own. The only constant is the sticker shock for the patients who are asked to pay.

    "Yet those who work in the health care industry and those who argue over health care policy seem inured to the shock. When we debate health care policy, we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?....

    "the American health care market has transformed tax-exempt 'nonprofit' hospitals into the towns' most profitable businesses and largest employers, often presided over by the regions' most richly compensated executives....

    "We may be shocked at the $60 billion price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We spent almost that much last week on health care....

    "The health care industry seems to have the will and the means to keep it that way. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the pharmaceutical and health-care-product industries, combined with organizations representing doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health services and HMOs, have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington....the health-care-industrial complex spends more than three times what the military-industrial complex spends in Washington....

    "[One issue is] medical-malpractice litigation. It's not as much about the verdicts or settlements (or considerable malpractice-insurance premiums) that hospitals and doctors pay as it is about what they do to avoid being sued....

    "thousands of nonprofit institutions have morphed into high-profit, high-profile businesses that have the best of both worlds. They have become entities akin to low-risk, must-have public utilities that nonetheless pay their operators as if they were high-risk entrepreneurs....no regulator caps hospital profits.

    "Yet hospitals are also beloved local charities....

    "Under Internal Revenue Service rules, nonprofits are not prohibited from taking in more money than they spend. They just can't distribute the overage to shareholders - because they don't have any shareholders....

    "60% of the personal bankruptcy filings each year are related to medical bills....

    "Mercy Hospital is owned by an organization under the umbrella of the Catholic Church called Sisters of Mercy. Its mission, as described in its latest filing with the IRS as a tax-exempt charity, is 'to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus by promoting health and wellness.' With a chain of 31 hospitals and 300 clinics across the Midwest, Sisters of Mercy uses a bill-collection firm based in Topeka, Kans., called Berlin-Wheeler Inc. Suits against Mercy patients are on file in courts across Oklahoma listing Berlin-Wheeler as the plaintiff. According to its most recent tax return, the Oklahoma City unit of the Sisters of Mercy hospital chain collected $337 million in revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. It had an operating profit of $34 million. And that was after paying 10 executives more than $300,000 each, including $784,000 to a regional president and $438,000 to the hospital president.

    "That report doesn't cover the executives overseeing the chain, called Mercy Health, of which Mercy in Oklahoma City is a part. The overall chain had $4.28 billion in revenue that year. Its hospital in Springfield, Mo. (pop. 160,660), had $880.7 million in revenue and an operating profit of $319 million, according to its federal filing. The incomes of the parent company's executives appear on other IRS filings covering various interlocking Mercy nonprofit corporate entities. Mercy president and CEO Lynn Britton made $1,930,000, and an executive vice president, Myra Aubuchon, was paid $3.7 million, according to the Mercy filing. In all, seven Mercy Health executives were paid more than $1 million each....charity care actually cost Mercy about three-tenths of 1% of its revenue, or about $13 million out of $4.28 billion (Steven Brill, Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, Time Magazine, 2/27/13)....

 

Speaking of Salaries of Top "Catholic" Hospital Executives, What Is the Situation in Our Own Archdiocese?

As Gene Lyons indicated, we can miss "what’s right under our noses."  In this section, my sources are Compensation for Health System Executives, Philly.com (undated), www.opensecrets.org, www.campaignmoney.com, www.city-data.com and www.newsmeat.com.... 

    Holy Redeemer

    This past year, a proposed merger between a "Catholic" and a secular hospital was applauded by many pro life people, in the naive belief that it would mean the end of abortions by the secular hospital. Displaying a suspect understanding of "cooperation," a 7/29/12 analysis by a National Catholic Bioethics Center staff ethicist almost seemed intended to reassure pro-abortion forces that all might not be lost in collaborations between secular hospitals and Catholic hospitals!  Had pro-abortion forces simply known that Holy Redeemer President Michael B. Laign ($732,494 earnings) contributed to pro-abortion Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, that Chief Medical Office Anthony Colleta ($525,416 earnings) contributed to the late pro-abortion Senator Arlen Specter, and that SVP Michele Urofsky ($387,185 earnings) contributed to pro-abortion former Congressman Jim Greenwood, they might have felt far more comfortable!

    Catholic Health East

    Judith M. Persichilli earns $2,458,985 as Catholic Health East President/CEO.  She "resides in Pennington with her husband, Anthony, and they are currently members of St. James Parish, Pennington" (The Monitor of the Diocese of Trenton, 8/30/11).  No mention was made by the Monitor of Anthony Persichilli's campaign contributions to pro-abortion candidates President Barrack Obama or Congressman Rush Holt.

    St Mary Medical Center President/CEO Greg Wozniak earns $743,547 and has contributed to a campaign by pro-abortion (former) Congressman Patrick Murphy.  While Terri Rivera is only the eighth highest paid administrator ($246,692) at St. Mary's, she seems responsible for its dissemination and implementation of the ERDs. She has also apparently contributed to a campaign by pro-abortion (former) Congressman Patrick Murphy.

    Mercy Health System President/CEO H. Ray Welch, Jr. earns $1,000,036 and has contributed to the campaigns of pro-abortion Congressman Bob Brady and pro-abortion Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.  Mercy Philadelphia CEO Kathryn Conallen has contributed to pro abortion Congressman Chaka Fattah.  Nazareth CEO Christina Fitz-patrick has contributed to pro abortion Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.

What Else Does Steven Brill's Time Magazine Article Say?

    "In 2008, Gregory Demske, an assistant inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, told a Senate committee that 'physicians routinely receive substantial compensation from medical-device companies through stock options, royalty agreements, consulting agreements, research grants and fellowships'....


    "[Some] doctors, Demske noted, had stretched the conflict of interest beyond consulting fees....the nonprofit public-interest-journalism organization ProPublica has smartly organized data on doctor payments on its website. The conflicts have not been eliminated, but they are being aired, albeit on searchable websites rather than through a requirement that doctors disclose them to patients directly....

    "More than $280 billion will be spent this year on prescription drugs in the U.S....

    "Why are the drug profit margins treated as another given that we have to work around to get out of the $750 billion annual overspend, rather than a problem to be solved?....

    "we should embarrass Democrats into stopping their fight against medical-malpractice reform and instead provide safe-harbor defenses for doctors....Trial lawyers who make their bread and butter from civil suits have been the Democrats' biggest financial backer for decades....

    "we could require drug companies to include a prominent, plain-English notice of the gross profit margin on the packaging of each drug, as well as the salary of the parent company's CEO. The same would have to be posted on the company's website. If nothing else, it would be a good test of embarrassment thresholds.

    "the policy experts who put together Obamacare....know what the core problem is - lopsided pricing and outsize profits in a market that doesn't work. Yet there is little in Obamacare that addresses that core issue or jeopardizes the paydays of those thriving in that marketplace....

    "When you follow the money, you see the choices we've made, knowingly or unknowingly.

    "Over the past few decades, we've enriched the labs, drug companies, medical device makers, hospital administrators....we've squeezed the doctors who don't own their own clinics, don't work as drug or device consultants or don't otherwise game a system that is so gameable. And of course, we've squeezed everyone outside the system who gets stuck with the bills.

    "We've created a secure, prosperous island in an economy that is suffering under the weight of the riches those on the island extract.

    "And we've allowed those on the island and their lobbyists and allies to control the debate, diverting us from what Gerard Anderson, a health care economist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says is the obvious and only issue: 'All the prices are too damn high'" (Steven Brill, Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, Time Magazine, 2/27/13).

Conclusion

Entrenched, vested interests are also at the core of scandalous conditions in Philly's "Catholic" hospitals (i.e.., 
  1. the paucity of NFP-only physicians, 
  2. "privileges" for IVF specialists, 
  3. "privileges" for associates of practices involved with "fetal reduction", 
  4. provision of information on "advance directives" which fails to specify that Catholic teaching must be honored - particularly with regard to provision of nutrition and hydration).
Unsuspecting people are misled by the "Catholic" label.  Just a look at political contributions by some of our "Catholic" hospital executives suggests why these scandalous situations should certainly not be surprising, and why many hospitals will merely continue giving lip service to Catholic teaching!    

So shortly before his departure, Benedict XVI provided clear, pertinent guidance: "The diocesan Bishop is obliged, if necessary, to make known to the faithful the fact that the activity of a particular charitable agency is no longer being carried out in conformity with the Church’s teaching, and then to prohibit that agency from using the name 'Catholic.'"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!
(Click Above)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Re: German Bishops “Approve” a Morning-After Pill that Does Not Exist

As per Stephen Mosher of the Population Research Institute, 
  • "According to a new statement by the German Bishops’ Conference, Catholic physicians and hospitals can now prescribe and administer the morning-after pill (MAP) in cases where a woman is a victim of sexual assault as long as it does not cause an abortion.

    "The trouble with this declaration is that the morning-after pill is a known abortifacient....

    "no MAP pill exists, whatever its chemical formula, that does not prevent implantation at least part of the time....

    "We hope the German Bishops’ Conference will reconsider its statement as soon as possible" (German Bishops “Approve” a Morning-After Pill that Does Not Exist).
Kudos to Mr. Mosher!  Bravo!  Yet, there is an unmentioned elephant in the room....


As per the USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,
  • "36. Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum."

The USCCB's Directive 36 appears to have been modeled on the Pennsylvania Catholic Bishops' Guidelines for Catholic Hospitals Treating Victims of Sexual Assault:
  • "appropriate means may be used in treating the rape victim to prevent conception....These guidelines include a sample protocol to use to determine if contraceptive intervention is clinically indicated and which protocol is designed to determine that such intervention would be truly contraceptive, and not abortifacient."
Faithful Catholic physicians have long indicated that it is simply NOT possible to "determine that such intervention would be truly contraceptive, and not abortifacient":
  • In “Breast Cancer : Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill,” Pennsylvania's own Dr. Chris Kahlenborn cited the abortifacient potential of emergency so-called “contraception” and emphatically maintained that ”informed practicing Christian physicians will not give the ‘post-rape pill’ in any circumstances.”
  • In The "Morning After" Pill, John B. Shea, MD, notes that “Catholic hospitals are not free to prescribe or provide anything with abortifacient properties without contradicting their witness . . . this witness given by Catholic hospitals affects not only the patients and caregivers in Catholic institutions, but those in secular institutions, putting pressure on them to violate their consciences or lose their jobs.”
  • As per the Catholic Medical Association, “'emergency contraception' is a misnomer as it does not consistently prevent fertilization....as 'emergency contraception' has the potential to prevent implantation whether given in the pre-ovulatory, ovulatory, or post-ovulatory phase, ...it cannot be ethically employed by a Catholic physician or administered in a Catholic hospital in cases of rape. (A Resolution in favor of prohibiting all ‘emergencycontraception’ in Catholic Hospitals)
It should be noted that there is no protocol comparable to the USCCB's Directive 36 in the Vatican's Charter for Health Care Workers, Statement on the So-Called ‘Morning After Pill’, or Dignitas Personae, or in Pope Benedict XVI’saddress to the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists.  Coupled with the above testimonies from faithful Catholic physicians, the Statement by Connecticut Bishops Regarding Plan B and the National Catholic Bioethics Center's Dignitas Personae on Caring for Victims of Sexual Assault strike me as shocking.

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

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About Me

I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

And yup, that's me!

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

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