Category Archives: Priests for Life

On Melancholy: the Physiological aspects of depression and bi-polar

Last night, I posted a semi-defense of certain controversial comments made in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide and a general suggestion of how Matt Walsh, Rush Limbaugh, Bryan Kemper and others might have done better.

Part of Matt Walsh’s appeal is that, like the early Limbaugh, he uses sensationalistic packaging to get people’s attention to pieces that are usually very thoughtful. In this case, which backfires horribly because his piece isn’t as thoughtful as he thinks, he emphasized the notion that “Robin Williams didn’t die of a disease; he died of a choice.” At one point, he says, “First, suicide does not claim anyone against their will.”

He anticipates this response a few paragraphs above, but that is precisely the problem. Mental health issues, addiction, etc., reduce or remove culpability. Now, the mentally ill person may remain culpable for what is done while sane, but the question–which none of us can answer in this life–is whether the person who commits suicide truly has control of his or her will.

People like causes. They like to have someone or something to blame, especially if it isn’t themselves. “He was depressed because his career was in the tank” is an easy target versus “He was depressed because he had a genetic condition that made it difficult to control his emotions.” That gets into a mess of problems about free will versus determinism. Then there’s the controversial, “He was post-abortive,” which I want to discuss in a separate post, but while guilt, financial troubles, or frightening medical diagnoses may contribute to mental health issues, we cannot deny that there are physiological components. Matt Walsh is right that there are spiritual components, but wrong to dismiss “chemical imbalances” as modernist mumbo jumbo. Physiological understandings of depressive disorders are nothing new at all.

It is precisely “He was depressed because of XYZ” that is “modernist mumbo jumbo,” originating with Freud’s era.  Back in the old days, instead of “chemical imbalances,” people talked about “humors.” Melancholy is usually associated with depression, though the “melancholic temperament” would be what we now call “bipolar” and possibly include even autism. The melancholic is concerned about the troubles of the world, prone to mood swings, etc. Literature’s most notorious melancholic is perhaps Prince Hamlet from Shakespeare’s eponymous play. Three major movies made of the play within a decade demonstrate different psychological interpretations of the character:

The Zeffirelli/Gibson film (1990) depicts Hamlet as bipolar, mostly manic or “rapid cycling.”  
The Branagh/Branagh (1996) version depicts Hamlet as almost sociopathic (choleric), with the melancholy a complete facade.
The Almereyda/Hawke (2000) version depicts Hamlet as straight-up clinically depressed.  

Either way, all effective writers are natural psychologists and write their characters so well that they can be readily diagnosed (always baffles me that people insist you can’t “diagnose” fictional characters because a particular health problem or mental health issue wasn’t named: people still had problems).  Shakespeare drew from the psychology of his day and also left the character open to interpretation because he was aware of the debates that existed even then.

One of the concerns Walsh, and many others raise in critiquing a biological interpretation of mental health, is the spiritual component.  Fr. John Corapi would compare it to any physical disease: you might have a genetic predisposition to something. Then you add in the component of an actual physical trauma, poor nutrition, etc. Then bacteria come into the wound and infect it.

With mental health, you may have a genetic predisposition to bi-polar, depression, schizophrenia, autism spectrum, etc. You experience traumas that other experience but they hurt you more because of your predispositions. Things that might cause a brief situational depression for anybody are devastating (or, conversely, one thrives in a crisis). Then the demons, like bacteria in a wound, come along and whisper “You’re unworthy.” They infect the emotional wound and refuse to leave.  That certainly needs to be dealt with, and most treatment programs acknowledge it.  

“Madame has moments of melancholy,” says Max in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).  Norma Desmond, also clearly bipolar (mania demonstrated by her literally insane, rambling “script” that she’s been working on for years), has made several attempts on her life, and Max has removed all the doorknobs in the house, as well as all knives and razors (“Madame got the razor from your room, and she cut her wrists!”)

If Robin Williams had shot himself, certain people would be calling for restricting the ability of mentally ill people to own guns. They cite statistics on gun deaths in America, more than half of which are suicides.  It is noteworthy that these same people objected to “politicization” of his death when some pro-lifers pointed to his status as a post-abortive father (post-abortion syndrome contributing to many suicides), or when Rush Limbaugh, ironically or inadvertently “politicized” his death by complaining about the media politicizing it.  Yet the same people would have readily “politicized” it if it had been a gun suicide.

That’s another easy cause, though, that  people look for.  They try to say, “It’s guns,” except when it’s not guns.  Nobody is talking about legal action to restrict ownership of ropes, or belts, or plastic bags, or knives or razors by mentally ill people.  The real issue there is why people must rely on the government for everything. 

A desperate person will find a means.

One last observation under this topic is the question of medication.  Some people will say, “See?  This proves meds don’t work!” or “This proves meds make things worse!”  One of the reasons it’s important to nail down the right diagnosis is that the wrong medicine really can be disastrous.  Someone with bipolar needs to be on bipolar meds, not necessarily anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, which can cause a horrible mania and, in turn, drastic behavior.  

Accurate diagnosis is so very important, as are accurate treatment methods.  

Abortion hurts everyone

Sharon Osbourne and Toni Braxton have both recently spoken out about their pain as post abortive women.

She recounted: “I had an abortion at 17 and it was the worst thing I ever did . . . I went alone. I was terrified. It was full of other young girls, and we were all terrified and looking at each other and nobody was saying a bloody word. I howled my way through it, and it was horrible. I would never recommend it to anyone because it comes back to haunt you. When I tried to have children, I lost three — I think it was because something had happened to my cervix during the abortion.</blockquote<

When Mary was going through the miscarriage, I was very stoic for days. She laid in her parents' bed through the process. Her (adult) brothers thought she was "just sick."

As the "tissue" started coming out, we collected the remains to seek some kind of burial (that's another story).

Shortly after the main body came out, I passed through their living room, where my brother-in-law was watching CNN and some pro-abort sicko was talking, and I just started howling. "What's wrong with John?" He asked.

I ran down the hall and picked up the container that held the remains, and I just screamed for I-don't-know-how-long.

The greatest pain is knowing that your baby died, a human life was created and ended-as all must do-and wondering what happened to that young soul (that's another discussion), not being able to really know him or her at all or know if you ever will.

The second greatest pain is knowing that society says "It's just a blob of tissue. You're grieving for a life that was cut short before most people realized there was one there, and while 1 in 6 pregnancies end by natural miscarriage, the grief is secret.

To protect the so-called "right to choose," we suppress parents' right to grieve. That fundamental principle was the original reason for the "Lewis Crusade," originally intended as an Apostolate, not simply a blog.

Personhood Now.

I still cry sometimes.

“America will not end abortion until America sees abortion”–Fr. Pavone

I’m a Child, Not a Choice

Norma McCorvey is Cool! No one has gone as far for the pro-life cause

I’ve been playing around with Facebook for a couple weeks now, and have accumulated a number of prominent pro-lifers and Catholic apologists among my “facebook friends.” One of these is Norma McCorvey, better known as “Jane Roe.”

As you probably know, Norma McCorvey is the “Jane Roe” behind Roe v. Wade (1973). She gave birth to a child out of wedlock (she apparently wanted an abortion but, due to the length of the court case, the verdict came from the Supreme Court after she gave birth). She says she was used as a tool by the two lawyers, who wanted to challenge Texas’s abortion laws.

Apparently, Norma suffered from gender identity disorder/same sex attraction earlier in her life, and lived with another woman for some time. She was also very active as a Planned Parenthood volunteer for many years, until she realized the pro-life movement was right.

In 1994, she converted to Christianity, being baptized by an Evangelical pro-life activist in a backyard pool. A year later, she adopted full-time pro-life activism. In 1998, she was received into the Catholic Church by Fr. Frank Pavone.

In the 2005 case, McCorvey v. Hill, McCorvey sued to have her own Roe v. Wade overturned on the grounds that a) she was the plaintiff, b) she changed her mind, and c) evidence showed that Roe was wrongly decided and legalized abortion hurts women. I chronicled that case here, and the Supreme Court refused to hear it. This was one of the only attempts in history to directly overturn Roe.

In the 2008 election, McCorvey endorsed the Hon. Mr. Ron Paul, M.D. (R-Texas) for his unwavering pro-life position in the House of Representatives (obvoiusly, some of us take issue with Dr. Paul for his legal positivism, but Antonin Scalia is a legal positivist, too).

Rep. Paul is also one of the few people who’ve taken direct action to try and overturn Roe, as he has on numerous occasions proposed a bill that would, per the Congress’s constitutional authority to regulate federal courts, tell the federal courts that they are no longer permitted to hear cases involving abortion laws, and that abortion laws are to be left up to state governments.

I bring this up, because apparently Ms. McCorvey has been the subject of Internet trolls on Facebook who are questioning her pro-life credentials(!)

She says the conflict is resolved, and it’s tough, given the various methods of Facebook communication, to see where the exact discussion is that she’s been posting about.

But I just wanted to stand up and say that hardly anyone has gone to the extent to overturn Roe v. Wade than “Jane Roe” herself has done, and I dare anyone to show me someone who has offered a direct challenge to Roe the way that Norma McCorvey and Ron Paul have both done. Their actions show the innate folly of the “incrementalist” approach of NRLC–and, if more people had been behind their efforts, there would be no Roe v. Wade today.

A New Beginning

I’m back-if I still have any of my former, humble readership.

Last summer, I was kind of crushed by the whole ALL/NRLC/USCCB debacle. Long story short: the “incrementalism” debate, the main division in the pro-life movement, has finally split the movement down the middle, thanks to the Partial Birth Abortion law and _Carhart II_. Judie Brown at American Life League, Fr. Eutenauer at Human Life International and others who take an absolutist stance on abortion have criticized _Gonzalez v. Carhart_ for basically being a blueprint as to how to ignore the partial birth abortion ban. As I will discuss in a separate post, they have been proven right. Also, the verdict explicitly approves of _Roe v. Wade_ and says that abortion otherwise is OK, which goes against the Natural Law and against Catholic social teaching.

However, the NRLC and the USCCB, pushing the “incrementalist” strategy, support the decision. NRLC excommunicated Colorado Right to Life (the only state branch to support the Campaign for Ethical Vaccines) after CRTL, with Brown, Eutenauer, Charles Rice and others as signatories, called on James Dobson of Focus on the Family (not one of my favorite people, anyway), along with NRLC, USCCB & Priests for Life, to change their positions.

Now, I don’t fault Fr. Pavone and PFL, since they support *everything* (although I fault him for endorsing McCain).

Anyway, I thoroughly argued and researched the matter, confirming the rectitude of ALL’s position. There were some other issues messed up in it, and I made a few mistakes for which I am greatly sorry, but it pretty much crushed my spirit for a while.

Meanwhile, I had a very busy semester, anyway, and barely had time to do much else besides work.

But now, I’m back, and hoping to find a way to make this blog more permanent and reliable, and useful.

One of my ideas in August was to revamp it to focus more on spiritual warfare, and I am going to try again, since we’re starting Lent.

Pontifical Academy for Life on Incrementalism

If you go through the staff and membership of the Pontifical Academy for Life, you will see many names from the USA. Many are people I’ve never heard of. One is John Haas of National Catholic Bioethics Center. One is Dr. Thomas Hilgers of the Paul VI Institute (Creighton Method and NaPro Technology). Down at the bottom, under “Correspondents,” you will see the name of Judie Brown, the executive director of American Life League, who is currently serving a second term in the PAL.

Now, one might respond that the she was on the PAL before the current situation (here’s her EWTN Q&A on the controversial “open letter”), but there are two problems with such a judgement. First, this is not the first time Judie has taken the USCCB or individual bishops to task. Secondly, this particular case is not nearly as direct as those past cases were. The worst they accuse the USCCB or Priests for Life of is being “misled” or “misinformed.”

Anyway, if you look on the PAL membership, you won’t see anyone from NRLC.

Continuing on the series about _Evangelium Vitae_, then (I tried to include this quote in the last post, but the formatting got messed up), let’s hear from the PAL’s document on the fifth anniversary of the encyclical (my emphasis bold):

“We accept the urgency and difficulty of this task, knowing well that Christians are called to be active in the real world of today: uncertain and changing, tempted to sacrifice transcendence to immanence and the supreme values to prosperity, they are also prompted to take refuge in pragmatic and utilitarian conventionalism, rather than to ally themselves with truth and reason. However, our hope is based not only on help from the Lord of life but also on the conviction that the sacred value of human life can be recognized in the natural law alone, written in the human heart, disregard for which is at the root “of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience’ (Evangelium vitae, n. 70).”