Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thanks, Daddy

Thanks, Daddy
Today (March 29) is the fifth anniversary of my father’s death from cancer.  I have received few blessings as wonderful and undeserved as the parents God gave me.  This is a short piece I wrote at the time of his death.

When I was a baby, sometimes Daddy would hug me so hard it seemed like I would break.  But I never did.  I was always safe with Daddy.  Thanks, Daddy.  I love you, too.

Then when I was a little boy Daddy taught me how to ride a bike.  Sometimes I thought I was going to fall.  But I never fell when Daddy was with me.  Thanks, Daddy.  I love you, too.

When I got a little older Daddy taught me how to play ball.  We would throw and catch and hit and laugh.  It never got too dark to play with Daddy.  Thanks, Daddy.  I love you, too.

Sometimes Daddy had to take a trip for work and when he got home it was late at night.  Sometimes he brought me a present and sometimes he didn’t, but he always came to kiss me good night.  Thanks, Daddy.  I love you, too.

When I was a teenager Daddy taught me how to drive.  I think even Daddy got scared then.  But he always knew what to do.  Thanks, Daddy.  I love you, too.

One day it was time for me to go to college.  I was nervous because I’d never been so far from home.  But Daddy said it was going to be all right, and it was.  Thanks, Daddy.  I love you, too.

When I became a man, I got married and had a son of my own.  Sometimes I didn’t know what to do, but I could always trust Daddy’s advice.  Thanks, Daddy.  I love you, too.

Now I can’t see Daddy the way I used to.  I can’t visit him or talk to him on the phone.  But I can find him in my heart.  And I bet he’s praying for me.  Thanks, Daddy.  I still love you, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Does Planned Parenthood Like Obama's Mandate?

Does Planned Parenthood Like
Obama’s Mandate?

          The Obama contraception / abortifacient / sterilization mandate has been hailed as a victory for Planned Parenthood.  But is it?  You won’t hear much talk about it publicly, but I believe there are those in that organization who wish the President would have just left well enough alone.
          Why would I say that?  Planned Parenthood has been spouting off about women’s freedoms, preventative health care, and all the other nonsense that the senators who voted down the Blunt Amendment have been using as talking points.  But the debate surrounding the mandate and the Church’s refusal to back down has brought a dirty little secret out into the light.  There’s no doubt that Planned Parenthood prefers darkness surrounding all of their activities.
          The dirty little secret I’m speaking about is the truth surrounding the birth control pill.  There’s no doubt that this whole battle is more about religious freedom, the Constitution, and protection of conscience than it is about contraception.  However, the media are hoping to reshape the debate in order to convince the majority of Americans who use contraception that somehow this mandate is protecting them.
          So far polls indicate that the American people have not been as gullible as the President’s men had hoped.  But in trying to reframe the debate, the topic of contraception, usually not a major issue in the public discourse, has been center stage.  It provides us with a unique opportunity to explain the moral and sociological perils of contraception in the first place, and also to expose the birth control pill for what it really is.
          Many people have no idea that the birth control pill works in two ways: it can prevent conception, making it a contraceptive, and it can prevent implantation of an already conceived child, making it an abortifacient.  This has been a fact that Planned Parenthood and their allies have tried very hard to cover up for years, but thanks to the mandate it can no longer remain hidden.  Many other “contraceptives” act as abortion drugs as well.
          Attention has also been paid to the fact that the birth control pill causes cancer.  There have been many studies doctored so as to try to deny the link, but the evidence is clear.  The pill is a carcinogen and has been unmistakenly linked to cancer.  The deception of Planned Parenthood has led so many women to participate in something that they not only morally oppose, but that has killed many of them.  The pill also affects the lining of the uterus in such a way as to make women more susceptible to STDs like HPV and HIV.  This also is a verifiable scientific fact.
          Planned Parenthood can’t be happy.  Truth has never been their ally.  And since artificial contraception has such an incredibly high failure rate, they know that the more contraceptives they can push onto the population, the more money they will collect performing abortions.  Let us pray that the light shed on this issue will not only spare women heartache and disease, but will be one more nail in the coffin of Planned Parenthood.  
Note: Because so many people have been hurt by Planned Parenthood and the “services” they offer, I want to end with a word of hope from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae.  Also, see my post How Do We Help? for only a few of the organizations out there offering help and support.
I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion…Do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope.  Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly.  If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance.  The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord...You can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Movie Review - 'October Baby'

Movie Review – October Baby

          October Baby, a movie loosely based on the real life story of Gianna Jessen, a survivor of a failed abortion, opened in theaters last Friday.  The film begins with Hannah, a college student, suffering an epileptic seizure as she is performing a play.  The specialist she sees, a friend of her father’s, who is also a doctor, believes the many health problems she has suffered all her life are related.
          This is when 19 year-old Hannah receives the first blow - she learns she is adopted.  But there’s more.  Her health problems stem from the fact that her birth mother had attempted to have her aborted.  She survived, but was delivered three months premature.
          The film centers around Hannah’s struggle with learning this news as a young adult, and her search for answers.  She goes, with a childhood friend, on a quest to find out the truth about her past and to meet her birth mother.
          October Baby is an emotional film that will draw plenty of tears from many viewers, and it is being released at the perfect time.  One of the tragedies of just the past few weeks has been the contrived “war against women” fabricated by the left in the hopes that women can be inspired, out of anger, to reelect the President.  Fortunately, at least until now, polls have shown that the vast majority of women aren’t falling for it.  But the result has been that issues like abortion are being framed entirely in terms of politics.  October Baby reminds us that they are about people.
          The film is powerfully human.  It confronts the pain and brokenness that abortion unfailingly brings.  October Baby is certainly both pro-life and Christian, but it is not preachy.  We enter into Hannah’s pain and confusion, and the anguish of her father who tries desperately to protect his little girl from suffering, only to realize he can’t; all he can do is support her as she goes through it.  We witness Hannah’s struggle with forgiveness, which in the end is the one thing that finally brings her peace.
          Along the way October Baby introduces us to a couple of characters that might be seen as the villains, such as Hannah’s birth mother and the nurse who assisted at the failed abortion attempt.  But although the film does not sugar coat what abortion is, neither does it wag a judgmental finger at these two women.  They are strikingly human, and we see that they too are suffering and in need of healing.  In fact, movie goers that stay a few moments into the closing credits will see the actress who plays the birth mother step out of character and address them.  Through tears she explains that she believes the role was made for her because as a young woman she had an abortion, went through the brokenness it brought her, found healing, and believes this role was a call from God to finally share her own story.
          Because of its focus on relationships, October Baby might be considered a “chick flick.”  In some ways perhaps it is, but there is plenty here for men to enjoy as well.  Men will relate to Hannah’s father, and will appreciate the developing love between Hannah and her childhood friend Jason, which is so pure and selfless.  And anyone who is pro-life or has suffered through an abortion or with a loved one who has, will relate.
          I would strongly recommend this film.  We need to support movies like this so we will get more of them with a truly Christian message, one that is pro-life, and full of healing and hope, and reminds us, as politicians rail on about “freedom of choice,” that abortion is not about campaign slogans, it is about human beings.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Link - Does the President Know Who We Are?

Link – Does the President Know Who We Are?

          Over the centuries many political leaders have sought to destroy the Catholic Church, from Nero and Julian the Apostate, to Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler.  The Church has been persecuted for much of her history and in much of the world.  David Catron’s article at the link below suggests that President Obama doesn’t really know who he’s picked a fight with in this attack concerning the HHS mandate.  Mr. Obama has targeted not only Catholics, but has drawn the ire of many Christian and non-Christian groups alike.  I love the quote of Archbishop Dolan, the head of the USCCB: “We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lila Rose - Soldier in the Church Militant

Lila Rose – Soldier in the Church Militant

For a little over a year my wife and I have chaired the Respect Life ministry at our parish.  Recently we were asked to assist with the creation of a social justice group to address other issues beyond the Right to Life.  We agreed and I am excited to attack another evil I’m passionate about destroying – human trafficking, particularly sex slavery.  Ironically, but not surprisingly, it pits me against a familiar enemy – Planned Parenthood.

          Perhaps no organization is more complicit in the human trafficking tragedy than Planned Parenthood, as has been made public by Lila Rose and her organization Live Action.  I am always honored to promote a charity or ministry doing the Lord’s work, and Live Action is certainly a worthy combatant in the Church Militant.  Ms. Rose and her associates have repeatedly gone under cover into Planned Parenthood centers asking for help with a problem.  They have an under-aged girl needing an abortion and want to either skirt parental notification laws or protect the supposed father of the child, an older man, perhaps even her own father.  They have gathered scores of video evidence showing Planned Parenthood attendees giving advice of what to do and say and what not to say, to allow them to provide the abortion without reporting.

          These videos are proof of what has long been known, that Planned Parenthood routinely protects statutory rapists, performs abortions on little girls, and then callously sends them away with their molesters.  Recently Live Action obtained video of Planned Parenthood counseling a “pimp” as to how he could obtain abortions for his prostitutes as young as fourteen, who are in the country illegally.  The man portraying the pimp made it obvious that these young girls were victims of the sex trade.  Not only was he promised abortions with no legal troubles, he was offered a place at the front of the line for an extra kickback.

          Lila Rose and her organization are creative and effective adversaries of the planet’s most notorious anti-life group, which is why Planned Parenthood is sparing no expense to try and take them down with frivolous lawsuits and violent threats.  It’s also why Live Action provides the rest of us with a unique and powerful opportunity to take down this wicked giant.  Planned Parenthood has already lost millions thanks to their efforts.  They are always in need of funds and prayers to continue the fight.

          It is also important that we let our Congressmen know how much we care about this issue, and not let President Obama off the hook for being such a faithful supporter of human trafficking.  Mr. Obama has repeatedly forced funds into the coffers of Planned Parenthood, including at the state level by withholding federal dollars from states that will not fund Planned Parenthood.  In doing so, he has, unintentionally I imagine, become an important ally to sex slavers all around the country and across our borders.  By also refusing federal dollars to Catholic charities that have been so effective at helping the victims of human trafficking (for the crime of refusing to provide them abortions) he has given further support to abusers.  Mr. Obama needs to know that we are aware of the disastrous results of these policies and how many innocent women and children are so terribly hurt by them.  It is amazing what enough pressure can accomplish.  And thanks to Ms. Rose and Live Action, everyone is beginning to see the extent of the ugliness of Planned Parenthood, making the President’s faithful support more politically damaging, especially in this election year.  Not to mention that as morally empty as many of his policies are, I do not suspect him of being a man who would relish the opportunity to support human trafficking and sex slavery.  Perhaps we can light a spark in his conscience.  We can also remember to pray for those who work at Planned Parenthood.  As the story of recent convert to pro-life heroics Abby Johnson reminds us, many employees of Planned Parenthood are not monsters, and may only need the Grace our prayers can obtain to become saints.

          Other than Live Action, here are links to other organizations that are fighting to end human trafficking and support the healing of its victims.  May none of us remain silent.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty - Myth #2

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty –
Myth #2

The mainstream media have been working overtime to try and dupe the American people that the war the President has declared on the Church through the HHS mandate is about anything than an out-of-control government violating the religious liberty and conscience rights of its citizens.  The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is debunking some of the myths being spread through a series of short videos.  Here is the response to Myth #2: Federal funds mean the feds make the rules.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Feast of St. Joseph

The Feast of St. Joseph

          My three sons are named after St. Damien of Molokai, St. Dominic and St. Maximilian Kolbe.  Those three men lived quite extraordinary lives.  Damien voluntarily spent the last two decades of his life living in a leper colony and ministering to those dying from that dreaded disease.  Predictably, he contracted leprosy himself and offered his life as a sacrifice to Christ.  St. Dominic traveled all over preaching the Faith against the Albigensian heresy.  He won many souls back to the Church because of the fidelity of his life to his teaching.  St. Maximilian Kolbe established the Knights of the Immaculata, was one of the first to use the mass media for the spread of the Faith, and voluntarily died in another man’s place in a Nazi concentration camp.
          Today (March 19) is the feast day of St. Joseph, whose life, to undiscerning eyes might seem less remarkable than those of these three great saints.  But to us he is among the greatest of the saints.  He is the man specifically chosen by God to be the foster father of His Son and the spouse of His Mother. 
          The Scriptures and even Tradition tell us very few of the details of the life of St. Joseph.  He, of course, brought Mary to Bethlehem for Caesar’s census, where Jesus was born.  He then led the Holy Family as refugees into Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.  When finally he returned to Nazareth he lived the rest of his life as a simple carpenter, husband and father.  But a deeper examination reveals some of the virtues that made St. Joseph truly an extraordinary man. 
          We do see some rather unique events in Joseph’s life, namely the fact that three times an angel spoke to him in dreams.  What is telling, however, is Josephs’ reaction.  Each time he listens to God.  Without reservation he embarks on the mission to which God calls him.  Clearly St. Joseph was a man of prayer who was attentive to the Voice of God. 
          Most of Joseph’s life, though, is hidden, in his home or his carpentry shop in Nazareth.  His life could have been any man’s life.  But the Scripture tells us that Joseph was a “righteous man.”  He was the spiritual head of his family, even though that family contained the Son of God and His Blessed Mother.  He was a provider, a protector and a teacher.
          We can imagine how Joseph must have treated Our Lord and Our Lady as husband and father.  We can conclude with what diligence and faithfulness he tended to his work and cared for his customers.  He lived a life that any of us might live, and yet he attained the heights of holiness.
          I am always fascinated by the life of St. Joseph.  I could imagine a St. Dominic or St. Maximilian Kolbe as being the patron of the Universal Church, but that title is reserved for Joseph.  The simple man with the hidden life receives the title, in Litany of St. Joseph, “Terror of demons.”
          What an incredible patron for all men, for husbands, for fathers, for workers.  We who provide, protect and lead our families can find a wonderful model in Joseph who, not because of extraordinary deeds, but because of his righteousness, became the greatest of saints.  We too need not live lives of unusual heroics to obtain holiness or to be the terror of demons in our homes.  We only need, in our normal lives, to seek heroic virtue and to be attentive and obedient to God.
A Prayer to St. Joseph Dating From the First Century
O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.  O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.  O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms.  I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart.  Press Him in my Name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.  St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.  Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty - Myth #1

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty –
Myth #1

The mainstream media have been working overtime to try and dupe the American people into believing that the war the President has declared on the Church through the HHS mandate is about anything than an out-of-control government violating the religious liberty and conscience rights of its citizens.  The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is debunking some of the myths being spread through a series of short videos.  Here is the response to Myth #1: The Federal Mandate Only Supports State Mandates Already in Effect Across the Country.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrating the Precious Little Ones

Celebrating the Precious Little Ones

One of the greatest tragedies of the past 10-15 years has been the denial to our world of untold treasures, who have been sentenced to death simply for existing.  I am speaking of the precious children who have been identified through prenatal screening as having Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and have been subsequently aborted.  There are also, however, many families who love and cherish these children and are greatly blessed by them.  March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day and in anticipation, the International Down Syndrome Coalition for Life has created a beautiful video celebrating these children and their families.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lessons of History

The Lessons of History 



My grandfather, for whom I’m named, fought against the Communists in Spain in the 1930’s in the Spanish Civil War.  I never knew much about his experiences because he died when I was six and my father said he would never speak about the war.  Over the two and a half minutes that were spent in high school covering the Spanish Civil War we were told it was a preview of World War II, which I have since learned is utter nonsense.  You can call the Franco government fascist, but he and the Nationalists were as far as you can get from Hitler and the Nazis.  The history and causes behind the Spanish Civil War were not those that led to German aggression in World War II, but there are many parallels to what is happening today in the United States.

It’s been said that those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it, and that has been proven true.  Our nation has not reached the point of 1936 Spain, but it is our duty to read the signs of the times.  Let’s fight now, in the courts, in the voting booth, in the arena of ideas, in prayer, so that we and our children will never face the horrors that my grandfather kept hidden for the last 40+ years of his life.

A quick look at a few of the events surrounding the build-up to the Spanish Civil War will prove some of them hauntingly familiar.  After disheartening election results in April, 1931, King Alfonso XIII left the country, ironically hoping to avoid heightening tensions that he feared might lead to civil war.  Immediately the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, in which most of the cabinet members were openly hostile to religion.

The government promised to fundamentally change the nature of the country, and in October of 1931 Manuel Azaña, a future President, said in a speech that Spain had ceased to be Catholic.  Language is important and we would do well to remember that we have a President who ran on the promise of “change,” and famously declared that the United States is not a Christian nation.  His clarification of the remark still gave a distinct impression of a break with our historical tradition.

The turmoil that followed in the Spanish government and election irregularities in the early 1930’s have not yet been replicated in the United States, but much of the rhetoric and policies of the government toward the Church have been.  Church institutions were denied public funds, religion was forced out of education, and the public manifestation of religion was suppressed.  In response to critics, Azaña said, “Do not tell me that this is contrary to freedom.  It is a matter of public health.”  That quote should send chills down our spines given the administration’s defense of Obamacare and the anti-religion mandates that have been added to the legislation by executive order.

We’ve also seen education under attack, particularly with attempts to include a redefinition of marriage to curriculum.  And though Catholic schools have not yet been targeted, influential voices in Washington have said that the Church’s teachings on sexuality are bigoted and passing them on to children constitutes abuse.

There were violations of executive power in Spain.  In January, 1937 the President dissolved the Cortes (the parliament) in violation of his rights under the Constitution.  As mentioned before, President Obama’s controversial mandate is not in the health care law passed by the legislature.  He is changing the rules as the game progresses.  He also recently made a recess appointment even though the Congress was not in recess.

Class warfare was a prominent player in the demise of Spanish society.  There was a large anarchist contingent and one of the Communist leaders of Spain’s “revolution” proclaimed, “I desire a republic without class warfare; but for this it is necessary for one class to disappear.”

It would be a gross injustice to equate this unbelievable statement with anything Mr. Obama has said or done, but it is apparent that he has tried to benefit from the class warfare perpetuated by the Occupy movement.

I am not suggesting that we are watching a direct reenactment of 1930s Spain occur in the United States presently.  The population in Spain was far more sympathetic to anarchy and Communism, and there were numerous attacks on churches, priests, nuns and Catholic laypeople, including murders.  However, the trouble in Spain accelerated when an anti-Catholic, far-left government took power and began persecuting the Church through rhetoric, propaganda and unjust laws and regulations.  That is becoming more and more familiar to us here.

My grandfather and the other Nationalists had no choice but to take up arms, but we do.  We can draw a line in the sand now, and refuse to budge any further.  We can use every peaceful means at our disposal to fight back.  And, of course, every spiritual means.  There have been many throughout the course of history who thought they could destroy the Church, but at each time Our Lord raised up saints to defend her.   Now we are being called to be those saints.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Link - Defending our Freedom of Religion

Link – Defending our Freedom of Religion

          The Obama administration’s HHS mandate has set it directly at odds with the Catholic Church and most other Christian organizations.  The media have tried to frame the issue as anything but what it really is – a gross attack on religious liberty.  Some have welcomed this as an opportunity to share the Church’s teaching on contraception with the culture at large, but as Russell Shaw argues below it is critical that the fundamental issue of the government’s suppression of fundamental freedoms not be lost in the shuffle.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Remembering the Spiritual Needs of the Poor

Remembering the Spiritual Needs of the Poor

          Not long ago I was at Mass on a Tuesday evening at a church that is not my regular parish.  As the Mass was beginning, a man walked into the back of the church who was obviously homeless.  He parked a shopping cart in the vestibule and sat near the back in the pews.  As I noticed him I remembered that I had a few dollars in the car and I quietly hoped I’d be able to find him after I ran out and got it when the Mass was over.

          Without even thinking about it I just assumed he was there to ask for money.  It’s not uncommon to see the homeless outside of churches since they know that religious people are more likely to be generous with their spare cash and many parishes are equipped to help them. 

          When Mass was over, however, and I was intending to get the money from my car, I saw the man kneeling in the pew silently praying.  Occasionally he would stop and say hello to people as they left.  It was clear they knew him.  No one gave him any money and he didn’t ask.  I waited a few minutes after Mass until it became clear he was going to be inside praying a while.

          I thought about him as I left.  He had clearly come to the church for Mass, and since he knew so many of the daily Mass goers it was obvious he was a regular.  They all knew better than to give him money.  That’s not what he came for, and it would have been rude to interrupt his prayer with such assumptions.

          I was a little disappointed in myself for rashly judging the man’s intentions in coming to the church but it also made me realize an important reality that sometimes we can miss, namely that the very poor have spiritual needs that ought not be ignored.

          Years ago I worked at a homeless shelter and I got to know many of the residents quite well.  Many were suffering with mental illness or addiction, but regardless of how hard they worked just to survive, by and large they maintained an openness to God.

          It can become very easy, when dealing with the problem of poverty, to focus solely on people’s material needs.  But the fact is we all have the same destiny, and the spiritual works of mercy are still primary as compared to the corporal works of mercy.

          No one understood this better than Mother Teresa.  She was asked once how she was able to go on day after day, year after year, working with the poorest of the poor, the rejected by their society.  The saintly woman answered with genuine surprise and said, “Is that what they are?  We spend every morning with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and when we work among the poor, we see Him.”

          Everything was a prayer for her.  She touched so many souls because she saw each of the people to whom she ministered as created in the Image and Likeness of God, she tended their material needs as she would His, and she never forgot that they are eternal creatures with spiritual needs as well.

          May we in the Church do the same.  Often when we minister to the poor, we think that because we serve them, we show them the Face of Christ.  And that’s true.  But somehow we must introduce them to that Christ.  We can’t come off as some charitable club helping the less fortunate, but rather as sons and daughters of God reaching out to our brothers and sisters.  It doesn’t take proselytizing, just a Christian witness.  By and large we in the Church do a great job, but every now and then we need a reminder, like I was given by my brother who came to Mass not for gold or silver, but for the Bread of Angels and some quality time with his Lord.   

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Fathers Speak: The Martyrdom of Polycarp

The Fathers Speak:
The Martyrdom of Polycarp

          St. Polycarp (feast day Feb. 23) was a second century bishop of Smyrna (modern-day Turkey).  He learned the Faith from St. John the Apostle and subsequently passed it on to St. Irenaeus.  Below is an excerpt from The Martyrdom of Polycarp, written in about the year A.D. 155.  It is the earliest factual account of a martyr’s death besides that of St. Stephen in the Book of Acts.  Besides giving us a look at the courageous death of this early Christian hero, it highlights the fact that the Church has been celebrating the feast days of the martyrs and Apostles from the beginning.
  When the Proconsul urged him and said, “Take the oath and I will release you; revile Christ,” Polycarp answered: “Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong.  How, then, should I be able to blaspheme my King who has saved me?
  “…In this way and for all things I do praise you, I do bless you, I do glorify you through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Child: through whom be glory to you with Him and with the Holy Spirit, both now and through ages yet to come.  Amen.”
  And of the elect, he was one indeed, the wonderful martyr Polycarp, who in our days was an apostolic and prophetic teacher, bishop of the Catholic Church in Smyrna.  For every word which came forth from his mouth was fulfilled and will be fulfilled.
  [Christ] we worship as the Son of God; but the martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord; and rightly so, because of their unsurpassable devotion to their own King and Teacher…The Lord will permit us, when we are able, to assemble [at Polycarp’s tomb] in joy and gladness; and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already engaged in the contest, and for the practice and training of those who have yet to fight.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Has Obama Wakened the Sleeping Giant?

Has Obama Wakened the Sleeping Giant?

          The Catholic population, as a voting bloc, has been quite unreliable for many election cycles when it comes to voting our principles.  Our bishops have been very civil and accommodating of politicians from both parties, mainly staying above the fray.  But with President Obama’s recent declaration of war on the Church, and his message to USCCB head Cardinal Dolan that “compromise is off the table,” he may find Catholics far less accommodating than we have been in the past.  In the video below, Father John Hollowell responds to a Planned Parenthood request for videos titled, “I Have a Say,” encouraging women to support the President’s contraception / abortion / sterilization mandate.  Father’s video has a different message and contains the hope that the Sleeping Giant, Catholics in America, is finally waking up.

Let us join Father Hollowell in his righteous anger.  May it spur us to fight this battle rather than run from it, and in keeping with Our Lord's command, let us always remember to pray not only for each other but also for those against whom we are fighting.  May their conversion be a jewel in the Crown of God.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

I was recently asked to write a piece opposing embryonic stem cell research as a counter-point by someone who supports it.  I was leery because I have had people who disagree with me edit my work in the past so as to make my points seem less valid.  However, I was convinced of this man’s sincerity and integrity.  I have not sent him the final draft, but here is what I have developed thus far.

          There are two fundamental reasons to oppose embryonic stem cell research.  The first, and most important reason, is moral.  The other is scientific. 

          I will begin with the scientific.  For all the promises we’ve been given, and all the money that’s been spent, embryonic stem cell research has not produced one single cure or therapy.  Not one.  Zero.  By contrast, adult stem cell research has produced over sixty.  This is an extremely important point because when it comes to stem cell research, we are dealing with a zero-sum game.  Particularly with the current economic climate and debt crises, every dollar that goes to embryonic stem cell research means one less dollar available for adult stem cell research.  We have been taking billions of dollars away from productive research to throw it at an endeavor that is showing less and less promise all the time.

          Sure, someone may argue, we have not seen results from embryonic stem cell research yet, but the potential for the future is so great.  Is it?  We were told that embryonic stem cell research was critical because the cells were pluripotent, allowing them to turn into any other kind of cell, which made their potential so enticing.  However, we have since discovered that many adult stem cells, including olfactory cells and placental cells, also display pluripotency (Developmental Dynamics, June 2005) and can do everything embryonic stem cells can do, only better.

          Why better?  Because with adult stem cells, a donor can donate to himself.  Why is this important?  Because it eliminates the risk of rejection by the recipient and negates the need for immune-suppression.  Embryonic stem cells also have a nasty little habit of forming tumors, which adult stem cells do not (Stem Cells, November 2005).  So, medically speaking, there is no rational reason to continue to pursue embryonic stem cell research.  It should also be stated that it is economically insane to throw so much money at something that has shown no value, when all it does is put us into greater financial disaster than we are already in.

          But as I said at the beginning of this article, the moral reasons to abandon this type of research are far more important.  When a scientist gathers embryonic stem cells, the donor embryo is killed.  Any time we kill something, we need to ask the question, “What is it that we are killing?”

          An embryo is a human being, plain and simple.  It is a unique, self-replicating organism with its own unique DNA.  Even the most dedicated euphemists will call an embryo, “an organism of the species homo sapiens.”  That means a person.  In fact, that is the definition of a person.  If left alone, within nine months, the embryo will be a newborn baby; within six years it will be a kindergartener; within 21 years it will be a young man or young woman.  Every person reading this article was once an embryo.  All you’ve done since then is grow and develop, as you are still doing now.

          It is simply not morally justifiable to kill an innocent human being, no matter the intended benefits to others.  To do so is to walk the same road as Adolph Hitler, for example.  I do not suggest one would be walking arm in arm with him, but certainly on the same path.  And we have seen how the devaluing of the tiniest human lives has led down a slippery slope.  On February 23 an article appeared in the Journal of Medical Ethics in which the killing of infants was advocated, based on the claim that there is no moral difference between infants and fetuses (about which they are correct, by the way, both must be protected).  And Princeton “ethicist” Peter Singer has famously defended the killing of children up to the age of two.

          The fact is, there is nothing that can be claimed about an embryo in an attempt to make its life less valuable than ours that, taken to its logical conclusions, doesn’t lead to far more lives being devalued.  Morally speaking, if you are human you have inestimable worth.  There can be no qualifications to that.

          I have nothing but sympathy for people who are suffering from debilitating injuries and diseases or watching their loved ones do so, and who are placing their hope in stem cell research.  But as much as we pray for their healing, we can never turn to a solution that destroys other innocent human lives in the process.  And with adult stem cell research we don’t have to.  Adult stem cell research contains none of the ethical perils that embryonic stem cell research does, and offers far more promise.  In fact, since our time, energy and dollars are going to be spent in one arena or the other, supporting adult stem cell research not only protects the dignity of all human life, but it is the way we can offer the most help to the suffering for whom we care so deeply.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Link - Linsanity in China?

Link – Linsanity in China?

          Now that football season has given way to basketball, Lin-sanity has taken the place of Tebow-mania.  Jeremy Lin, of course, is the Harvard-educated New York Knicks point guard who not long ago was sleeping on his brother’s couch after being dropped by multiple teams, and not being given any real chance to prove whether he could play.  Well, the chance finally presented itself and Lin made the most of it, setting all-time records for points and assists among players in their first ten starts.

          At the link below is an interesting story from a different angle.  Lin, of course, is Asian-American with a Chinese and Taiwanese background.  He is also a devout Christian.  As one might imagine, Lin is the hottest craze in China right now, and he may have a unique opportunity to change attitudes in that atheistic country about God and perhaps even about the people of Taiwan.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Senate Betrays the People

The Senate Betrays the People

          As Catholics our Faith must absolutely govern our politics.  This blog is a Catholic blog, but especially in an election year, naturally there is much that needs to be said about politics.  We have no business being involved in the political life of our nation if our Faith does not drive our political decisions.

          That being said, we do not put our trust in princes, but in the Lord.  Our devotion is to our God, not to any political party.  Obviously, as the Democratic Party has become increasingly secularized and hostile to religious values, particularly those concerning life and marriage, most practicing Catholics have found it impossible to support that party and have worked to better our country through the Republican Party.  We must always be careful, however, not to see the party as an end or to give the loyalty that ought to be directed to God to any political party.

          While we must keep these things foremost in mind, I believe the time has come to become very active in ensuring the defeat of the Democratic Party at every level of government.  As strong as my political language tends to be, I almost never direct it in this way.  But today I’m mad, as we all should be.  This Thursday, March 1 we saw the Democrats in the Senate defeat an attempt to roll back President Obama’s insidious contraception / abortion / sterilization mandate, which is an inexcusable anti-Catholic, anti-American attack on the freedoms protected first in the Bill of Rights, namely those of religion and conscience.

          It was one thing when the President pushed forth his mandate.  He is one man and by now we should have come to realize what we’re dealing with in the Oval Office.  But when the Senate refuses to act to curb this abusive, unConstitutional aggression, we need to look beyond just the man at the top of the party.

          Why did they refuse to act?  Are the Democratic senators really so morally blind that they support what the President has done?  Or is it simply politics?  To men and women of good will that’s not the first question.  The first question is, what do we do about it?

          I wish I had all the answers.  I can do no more than brainstorm suggestions.  First, we need to be vocal.  Newspapers and Congressional offices around this country should be hearing from us non-stop regarding what we think about this.  We must defend ourselves.  Encourage good senators to keep the pressure on, to keep these bills coming.  The good news is that among average Americans, the mandate is overwhelmingly opposed, including by 56% of registered Democrats.

          We need to mobilize.  Check out organizations like or anything else that can bring Catholics together to defend our Faith and the values in which we believe.

          We also need to make sure that after November Democrats are harder to find in Washington than World Series are in Chicago (sorry, Cubs).  We need to sacrifice our time volunteering for campaigns, and our treasure, donating what we can.  If Mr. Obama loses this November and the Democrats lose the Senate, this evil mandate will never be put into force.  But there is no time to waste.  We have to get active now, and support our bishops, who are speaking with one voice against this injustice.

          Look for ways to get involved, and most of all, pray!  Your Confirmation demands it.  We have the opportunity now to defend our Faith against a government that is growing more hostile and even tyrannical.  If we don’t win in November, it will get much worse.