Monthly Archives: December 2006

Vatican Official: Disabled babies have the right to exist

In other news, I’m a step closer to "legitimacy"

About a month and a half ago, I discovered Holy Apostles College and Seminary, thanks to a directory of Catholic distance learning that the USCCB established recently. Holy Apostles is regionally accredited. Tuition is only $750 per class (not only far cheaper than most Catholic colleges but cheaper than most state universities). Best of all, they offer online graduate classes in philosophy and theology, leading to an MA in either subject!
The lectures are recordings from Ralph McInerny’s “International Catholic University” series. In January, I’m taking Thomas Aquinas (lecture series by McInerny) and Sexual Ethics (lecture series by Janet Smith). The rest of class is conducted through turning in assignments online and through online threaded discussions.

So, even if I can’t get into a Ph.D. program within the next 2 years, I’ll be able to garner a second and third MA, in philosophy and theology, specifically, building my “street cred” in the fields of ethics and spirituality. And from a practical professional standpoint, as soon as I hit 18 hours (already have 3 hours in graduate Religious Studies), I will be able to teach a second subject beyond English, giving me a better chance of a full-time instructorship at a teaching college.

Canadian Physicans for Life Joins the Crusade against Unethical Vaccines

So while that self-appointed Bioethics “Magisterium” in Philadelphia drags its feet (acknowledging the right of conscientious objection is a great step, but the NCBC still hasn’t taken an active stance, and it has not joined HLI and COG in the FDA push), yet another professional medical group joins the fight against unethical vaccines. Canadian Physicians for Life has now followed the precedent set by the Catholic Medical Association and, of course, the Pontifical Academy for Life.

For those who think vaccine protesting is a fringe of the pro-life movement, or not even a “pro-life issue” (as Kevin Miller has characterized it), here are some highlights of Children of God for
Life’s list of supporters, among numerous smaller organizations, local parishes, local pro-life groups and other religious organizations:

American Association of Pro-Life Pediatricians
American Life League (obviously)
Archdioceses of Chicago and San Antonio (TX)
Arizona Right to Life
Bishops Edward O’Donnell, Robert Vasa (one of my newest heroes), and Thomas
Larkin
Blue Army of Nigeria
Catholic Health Association
CMA (above)
Catholic Physicians Guild of the Philippines
Center for Rights of the Terminally Ill
Center for Pro-Life Studies
Colorado Right to Life
Dioceses of Cheyenne, Lubbock, Peoria, Wichita and Jacksonville
Dr. Janet E. Smith
Florida Catholic Conference
Human Life International
Marist Fathers, Boston Province
Maine Right to Life
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Japan
Missouri Catholic Conference
National association of Catholic Nurses
Passionist Nuns
Pharmacists for Life
Priests for Life
Pro-Life Wisconsin
Pro-Life of South Africa
The Mary Foundation

"Stop. . . . What do you mean by ‘wildness’ and what grounds do you have for not expecting it?"

C. S. Lewis was fully introduced to Socratic Logic by his tutor, W. T. Kirkpatrick (aka “the Great Knock” in Surprised by Joy). When they met the first time, Lewis made a comment about the “wildness” of the scenery, to which Kirkpatrick immediately replied with the above questions.

While the emotional tone of my posts (and more importantly, my comments on some blogs) may seem otherwise, one of my primary goals is to get people to think logically (and to correct any inconsistencies, poor premises, etc., in their thought). Obviously, I’m also into morality and the pursuit of sanctity, but I believe the three go hand-in-hand. When it comes to, say, disputes with other Catholics, I usually get frustrated with their basing their Catholicism on the wrong principles.

If used properly, threaded discussions on blogs, bulletin boards and listservs would be perfect venues for Socratic discussion. However, as they are used, any attempts at Socratic logic usually break down, so it becomes the venue of buzzwords, extremely truncated arguments, and emoting.

However, the interesting thing is, when people are emoting, they usually express what they *really* think. The problem is getting them to understand the connection to what they really think.

How a person can say both, “You should never have had kids” *and* “I love your kids” is mind-boggling.

Thus, I need to learn to be more like “the Great Knock,” simply asking that question that headlines this column.

One of the criticisms Jesus levels against the Pharissees is “straining the gnat but swallowing the camel” (Mt 23:24), making a big deal about the less important aspects of the Law while ignoring what’s most important. It really gets my goat when people who say “live and let live” or “don’t force your morality on others” when it comes to objective moral issues turn around and criticize people for subjective matters like personal style.

A disagreement with someone who is roughly a peer, especially when the criticism is stated constructively, can be discussed constructively. Pride gets in the way when the person making the criticism has absolutely no grounds for making that judgement, yet that is precisely when logic should be coming in full force.

Several examples have come up this weekend, inspiring this post. A busybody old lady in line for a Christmas event started critiquing the way we had our children dressed, then proceeded to adjust their clothes. Then assuming that we must be poor, dumb hicks because a) our children weren’t dressed to her standards, b) I was in a wheelchair and c) we have three out-of-the-womb kids 4 & under, proceeded to tell us how we needed to put Gianna in Head Start.

“Do you know anything about Head Start?” She asked. I felt like saying, “Yes. I know that the only long-term studies of Head Start show that children in Head Start are far more likely to wind up juvenile delinquints than their socioeconomic and racial peers, whereas time spent with parents is the number one deciding factor in a young child’s future success in school. As it happens, we’re homeschooling, and our four-year-old is already working at kindergarten level.”

Instead, I just ignored her, turned to Allie, and started loudly quizzing her on her math, phonics and catechism for a minute or two. When the woman was out of range, we shared our infuriation with her rudeness and presumption.

But that brings up another inconsistency in the Fertility Police. On the one hand, people with big families are accused of using up too many natural resources, but on the other hand, their criticized for living too simply.

Couple/Family A has 10 kids who live in a 3 bedroom house built in 1900, eat very simple meals, operate a family farm, and all the kids wear homemade clothes. They homeschool, saving the gas that would be spent carting the kids to and from school, among other things. They dont’ go shopping regularly, except to buy necessities, and it’s usually one parent that does the shopping with one or two kids. They eat at home. They have friends they socialize with. They have one TV (with a DVD player for _Veggietales_), one computer, and that’s it. The kids read books, play muisical instruments, do art projects and play real games. They are alotted some time for computer games, but they do not have any console machines. They don’t really travel a lot, except to visit extended family, who criticize them for not visiting enough. Dad drives an old 1989 Corolla to work, and they carry the kids around in a beaten-up 15 passenger van.
They’re all happy with their lives and their relationships, and their relationships with God. A couple of the kids grow up to be priests and religious. A couple go into the military. A couple become farmers like their parents. The others get advanced degrees and become successful professionals. One or two daughters get advanced degrees just to give up their careers to be moms. Most of the kids grow up to be active in Church and in community service.

Meanwhile, Couple/Family B has two “perfectly planned” kids. They live in a 3000 square foot house in a gated community. They drive their two perfectly planned kids around in SUVs, travelling to a) school, b) sports and other activities, c) three jobs between the two parents, d) daycare, e) the Mall, f) fast food (with the wrappers that get thrown out), etc. Not to mention mom and dad’s trips to their respective therapists, because they’re both “depressed.” When they are home, the kids spend all their time watching DVDs and playing video games. They have closets full of toys they don’t play with, just as their parents have closets full of clothes, gadgets and exercise equipment they don’t use. Every week, the kids “need” new “stuff” to keep up with the latest fashions. Every year, they go on expensive vacations around the country. The son grows up to be a pothead living with his parents at 30, while the daughter grows up to carry on with a string of punks, having abortions and other trials, until she finally decides she’s a lesbian. The parents lament not having grandchildren but console themselves with their jetsetting retirement. Then they start to wonder, at 60, who will care for them.

One day, at some point when the kids are still young, the two families cross paths. Each couple regards the other with a sort of pity.

Couple A believes very strongly that contraception is intrinsically evil, and is eroding the foundation of our society. However, neither one would say such a thing to Couple B outside the context of an intellectual discussion, and without Couple B bringing it up first. They would take for granted that there are many reasons couples only have two children, and maybe the B’s became naturally infertile after the birth of their daughter.

Meanwhile, the B’s have no problem in walking up to the A’s and saying, “Haven’t you heard of birth control?” or “Are they all yours?” “Well, we only have two children because we believe in protecting the environment. Your children are all wearing such old, worn out clothes. our children have all the latest fashions!”

Kirkpatrick’s question, rephrased, becomes simply, “Who are you to judge?” “What grounds do you have for making that assessment?”

Each couple’s pity is based upon the assumption that the other family must be extremely unhappy. As it happens, Couple A are quite right in their assessment of Family B. In reality, family B are very unhappy, evinced by the parents’ being in counseling and the ultimate fates of the children.
Despite their protestations of helping the environment, the B’s waste a great deal of oil, trees and other natural resources on their pursuit of frivolous things they think will make them “happy,” because they define happiness in terms of material possessions, quick thrills and social status.

On the other hand, Couple B judge Family A according to their own superficial standards, assuming that anyone living without their kind opulence *must* be unhappy. Yet, Family A, by abandoning the quest for happiness through social status and material prosperity in favor of a living relationships with themselves, others and, most importantly, God, have actually found true happiness.

Mary and I get criticized by the “family B’s” in our extended families, as well as people who don’t even rise to Family B’s level of material prosperty, yet still live materialistic lives.

And yet, when we examine our own situations, the things we’re most displeased with are the aspects of our lives where we approximate “Family B.”

Alma Redemptoris Mater

While the “Alma Redemptoris Mater” is not exactly an Advent hymn, it is the Marian antiphon sung after the final Hour (Vespers or Compline) from Advent through to the Presentation of the Lord.

Although, like many ancient prayers, its origins are more complicated than simple authorship, it is often attributed, along with the Salve Regina and other hymns, to Bl. Herman the Cripple, a rather cool Blessed whom I discovered a few months ago.

The first entry I saw on him identified him as a saint, having me temporarily hope that he was the exception to the rule that there are no canonized saints with “birth defects,” as opposed to genetic disorders that manifiested themselves later in life, like St. Alphonsus’s osteoarthritis, contracted illnesses like St. Therese’s TB or disabilities due to injury.

I really identify with him. He was almost completely crippled-more so as he got older, and eventually lost his ability to speak. But in the meantime, he was raised by Benedictines and became one of the greatest scholars of his age, in science, mathematics, languages, poetry, music and other fields. He never left his monastery, but scholars from around Europe would come to consult with him, and he created several scientific and musical inventions.

Just shows what God intends for those whom society would discard, or those to whom, once adults, society would say, “You shouldn’t have children.”

Now, obviously, monks shouldn’t have children, but you know what I mean 🙂

I sent my comments to the FDA

The hymns series

I went to post the hymn the other night–was going to blog “The King Shall Come,” but Blogger was down. I’m not off-track by a couple days. Thankfully, this is the only one of my Advent preparations to be too far off-track.

I woke up Friday morning with the worst skeletal pain I’ve ever had. You know those “1-10” charts at the hospital? I always say they need to have more of a dimensionality to them.

For example, you may have pain that’s a “10” in intensity in one little spot. You may have pain that, in its intensity, is a “10,” but it comes and goes. On the other hand, you may have pain that’s only a “5” in intensity but just doesn’t go away.
So, really, the question should be phrased in three parts: a) how intense/sharp is the pain, b) how long does it last, and c) how far does it spread?

So, in this case, the pain was definitely on the high scale of intensity–I’d say an 8 or 9. But it literally covered every inch of my body from my hips to shoulders and down my left arm. By contrast, my right arm and legs were completely numb (partly as I’d just woken up). I literally could not move. It was definitely the worst skeletal pain I’ve ever had.

I took a prescription pain pill (every time I go to the ER for severe pain, to make sure it’s not an aneurysm, they give me pain pills; since I only take pain pills once every 3-6 months, I usually have a big supply), and even that didn’t alleviate the pain. The pill made me weak and loopy, but the pain came back after an hour, and for another hour I had tears streaming down my face because it was so intense. I finally got to where I couldnt’ take it anymore, and I fell asleep for about 3 hours.

So I didn’t go to work, and I almost missed Immaculate Conception (went to 7:30 Mass with my wife’s parents).

Blogging the response below burnt up all my intellectual energies, so I don’t know when I’ll resume my special Advent series–probably not till Sunday.

OK, here’s a weird situation

On the one hand, it’s an interesting article about the reverse situation where some parents with genetic defects are actually using artificial procedures to choose the “defective” child, which is obviously wrong, since it’s reverse eugenics and it’s still artificial.

However, Mark Shea does not attack the eugenics of it, but rather the desire of disabled people to have children who share their disabilities. So far, two readers agree with him. I already know Jimmy Akin, Kevin Miller and Greg Popcak do. I know most “Catholics in the pews” do, because I know how they’ve treated me all their lives: like I’m a freak, like my health problems inconvenience *them*. After I had my heart surgery, when I’d have some problem or other pop up, dad would ask for prayers, and people would say, “I thought we were through with all that.” Heck, when I was getting married, my brother admitted–as I always knew in my heart–that my siblings always thought of me as a hypochondriac.

Meanwhile, I turn to my fellow “Marfs,” and I get consolation on my day-to-day problems, but find that most of them favor eugenics.

I am so glad I have at least a few people who support me in this, and that several of them are priests, as opposed to laity with advanced degrees who think they’re the arbiters of the Magisterium since they happen to have written popular books, hosted popular TV series or run popular websites. The likes of Akin, Popcak and Shea ought to take a lesson about such hubris from Deal Hudson and Bud MacFarlane.

Just because a person is a good and sincere Catholic who has some good thoughts on certain key issues and generally has a good manner of insight into more ambiguous areas does not make that person a “Guru of Everything.” One of the reasons I love C. S. Lewis is that he is fully willing to admit when a subject is outside his area of expertise, or when he’s just expressing a personal opinion. That is also true of Socrates, St. Paul and St. Teresa of Avila, among others. On of the things that turns me off to St. Thomas Aquinas, as much as I like him, is that he tends to treat every opinion as an expert one, even on the subjects where we know (at least now) that he’s dead wrong.

Take the Immaculate Conception, for example. There is nothing wrong with Aquinas being wrong on this. Obviously, it was not yet dogma when he lived, so he isn’t a heretic. But it *was* something that had happened historically and that many others had solid arguments in favor of, so that makes him *wrong*. of course, one does not have to be infallible to be a doctor of the Church or a saint. But if we look at his arguments *against* the Immaculate Conception, they are based upon several other faulty ideas or arguments.

Today’s “Catholic Gurus” make a very similar mistake–and most of them are big fans of Aquinas, so it’s understandable. They start with a bunch of premises about Catholicism (in this context, the premises are the importance of health and the idea that Original Sin totally corrupted all of nature). Then they build a logical argument *purely* from *those* premises without consideration of other factors–both other logical premises and also what Karl Adam calls the “psychological” element of a theological issue. They are guilty of what Dietrich von Hildebrand calls “incomplete truth,” exaggerating one aspect of Catholic teaching and ignoring any other dimensions to it. At the same time, they are not being fully logical–as it is impossible for any of us to be 100% logical, even Aquinas. Their reasoning is based heavily upon their “bias” as “healthy people.”

I am always struck by the fact that very few, if any, canonized saints had severe birth defects. Most of the Saints regarded as models of disabled people (e.g,. Alphonsus Liguori) had disabilities that came on *later* in life.

There are a couple prominent Blesseds who make the exceptions that prove my point: Margaret of Castillo and Hermanus Contractus (author of “Salve Regina” and one of the greatest scholars of his day, to whom the greatest minds of Europe came for consultation, but he was severely disabled and lived his entire life in a monastery).

Thus, the Church’s entire theology about “corruption of nature” and suffering is based upon the inherent bias of theologians, bishops and saints who are themselves fairly healthy or at least grew up in healthy conditions–people who have no idea what it is to be crippled or ill from the moment of birth.

The person who is born with an obvious “birth defect” has quite a different attitude about his or her condition from the person who develops problems later on or is diagnosed at a later age.

To that extent, I can forgive the “gurus” their ignorance. But their refusal to listen to a contrary voice–from someone who’s actually *experiencing* it–is upsetting.

And it was Mary, my physically “normal” wife, who, when we were first discussing these issues before our engagement, said, “I’d always hoped to have a special needs child.”

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Shifting from Advent hymns whose content applies to other occasions (or vice versa), let’s look at an Advent hymn with a reusable melody.
“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is in the popular 87.87.D metre (the same as, among others, “Ode to Joy,” “Pleading Savior,” “Nettleton,” “Austria“). Thus, it is often sung to the tune “Hyfrydol,” usually identified with “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus,” although its “official” setting is “Stuttgart,” which is really 87.87.

Thus, it’s a good one to select if you want to use a familiar melody with Advent lyrics.

Advent is a time of hope. It’s about realizing the reality of our exile–in its many forms–and praying for God’s deliverance, *knowing* that deliverance will come eventually. But we must be patient, just as humanity waited patiently for Christ to come for tens of thousands of years.

These days, of course, we pray for Christ to deliver His people from the Culture of Death, but that was the same prayer of Israel in Egypt, Israel in Babylon and Judea under the Roman Empire.

Arise from Sleep!

The basis for one of J. S. Bach’s most famous chorale preludes, “Wake, Awake” is a classic Advent hymn, and, like the previous two in our series, is a “multi-use” Advent hymn. Among other things, we used it as the opening hymn for our wedding Mass. Based upon the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, it calls upon the Virgins to awake, for the bridegroom comes and proceeds in the analogy of Christ to the Bridegroom, a crucial analogy in understanding just about everything about Catholicism, including the Church’s teachings on morality and social theory.

Advent Hymn of the Day (or, more specifically, the Day of Wrath

Today’s Advent hymn was written by an early Fransican, Thomas of Celano, who also wrote one of the first biographies of St. Francis of Assisi. It was originally an Advent hymn, since part of Advent is expecting the Second Coming. Later, a few verses were added and it became a funeral hymn, eventually the official Sequence (long song before the Gospel) in the Tridentine liturgy (sequences are almost completely out of use in the Pauline Mass, except for a couple major feasts).
Since the Novus Ordo does not use sequences (except in a few major feasts), the Dies Irae is no longer an “official” part of the funeral Mass. However, it can still be used as a hymn at Masses for funerals, All Souls Day and in the Divine Office, as well as Christ the King and Advent (see also this wikipedia article, to which I contributed).

Anyway, it’s a great hymn. It’s inspired some of the greatest music in western civilization (both in musical settings of its text and works that are based on its standard Gregorian setting). So as you’re preparing to celebrate Christmas, why not remember to “keep Satan in Christmas” and break out your Berlioz, Mozart or Lloyd Webber to remember why we need a Savior.

Some resources for Prayer

For perpetual, online adoration of the Monstrance, go to www.savior.org. Obviously it doesn’t quite “count” as high as being physically in an adoration chapel, but John Paul II ruled that blessings and graces transmitted live via electronic media still transmit graces (those that are recorded do not, apparently, though one would think they’d at least carry the same grace as reading a prayer or spiritual text).

For perpetual adoration of the Tabernacle, with various links to recorded online devotions, go to www.monksofadoration.org.

Lastly, and best of all, I just found this fantastic website that has the Liturgy of the Hours–Lauds, Vespers, Matins and Compline–online in PDF format:
www.ebreviary.com.

Stem Cell Researcher: Stem Cells provide evidence for Genesis against Darwin!

Here’s a different take on the whole issue of stem cell research.

An anonymous stem cell researcher has contributed the column linked above to LifeSite News with the following argument:

1. What makes stem cells so great to scientists is that they are virtually immortal. Scientists even call them “immortal cells.”
2. We all have stem cells our entire lives, except young embryos are composed entirely of stem cells.
3. According to Darwinism, the best genetic traits randomly survive. You would think immortality would be a pretty darn good trait to have, right? If all our cells were stem cells, we would heal and regenerate much more quickly, and we would be virtually immortal.
4. So, from a Darwinist perspect, a human being ought to have evolved at this point that was 100% stem cell. That has not happened.
5. However, Genesis says God created us to be immortal, and we lost that immortality (we devolved, in fact).

That would be in keeping with the fact that we all *have* stem cells but they are extremely limited.

That has some interesting theological implications. The definitive “moment” for Christ was the Resurrection. That set Him apart from all other prophets and moral lawgivers before Him. It was the myrical that Pharoahs’ magicians could never mimic.

Yet what would happen if modern science *did* learn to mimic it? That claim would, of course, supplant the foundational princple of Christianity , which is that only Jesus can raise the dead. As soona s some mad scieentist can offer immortality through science, you will have the era of AntiChrist.

Happy New Year!

In the season of Advent, we reflect on what it was like for those who lived before Christ’s birth: for the human race for the millennia between the Fall and the Nativity; for the nation of Israel; for Mary and Joseph, specifically. We also reflect on our own expectation of Christ’s Return in Glory. In ancient times, a conquering general would pay a return visit to inspect a city that had surrendered in battle, and if it hadn’t turned fully loyal, he would destroy it. Such visits were called parousia.
Thus, in Advent, we reflect on what it was like to have to hope for Christ’s coming at all–thus appreciating our salvation, and we reflect on his Second Coming so that we prepare ourselves lest He come “like a thief in the night.” We also pray that He will, in a spiritual way, come into our society and drive out the Devil.
Meanwhile, Advent gets swallowed up in the secular Christmas season, and while there are many great Advent hymns, they get bypassed for Christmas and winter songs. Let’s reflect on some of them.

First up, from Julia Howe:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners,
so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman,
crush the serpent with His heel,

Since God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him!
be jubilant, my feet;

Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool,
and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Our God is marching on

Pro-life indie movie gets awards but can’t get into theatres

Bella, an independent film produced by some young, Catholic, Hispanic filmmakers, has won an award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and is making the rounds of “private showings,” but it is not being picked up by any mainline distributers because of its pro-life message. Read more above.