Friday, July 31, 2009
The initial vote on the Stupak amendment that would ban federal funding of abortion passed the amendment. However, in a strategic move, Chairman Waxman called for a second vote and Representative Bart Gordon changed his vote. The amendment failed.
In its place the House committee passed the Capps amendment:
Although the amendment’s language appears to do away with the abortion mandate, Capitol Hill pro-lifers note that it explicitly permits the Secretary to include abortion in the services offered by the public plan. Indeed, if the Hyde amendment is reversed, the amendment would actually require that the public plan cover abortions.
With regard to the massive subsidies authorized under the act, referred to as “affordability credits,” the Capps amendment specifically requires taxpayer subsidies to flow to plans that include abortion, but creates an accounting scheme designed to give the impression that public funds will not subsidize abortion itself.
Other provisions in the Capps amendment appear to prevent state laws from being overturned and prohibit the Secretary from mandating that all plans include abortion. But the Capps amendment also requires that an abortion-covering plan be made available in every region.
I called Representative Gordon’s office this afternoon. Here is how the conversation went:
Staffer: Hello, Representative Gordon’s office
Me: Could you explain the flip-flop of Representative Gordon on the Stupak amendment last night?
Staffer: The initial presentation of the amendment was misrepresented
Me: Excuse me?
Staffer: The initial presentation of the amendment lacked transparency and clarity
Me: Your answer lacks transparency and clarity. Why did Representative Gordon vote to allow federal funding of abortion.
Staffer: Representative Gordon has always opposed federal funding of abortion
Me: He voted against an amendment that would ban federal funding of abortion and for an amendment that allows federal funding of abortion.
Staffer: He voted for an amendment that is, as I understand it, abortion neutral
Me: The Capps amendment specifically allows abortion in the public plan. And Tina Tchen, an Obama staffer assured Planned Parenthood just days ago that abortion would be part of the reproductive health package.
Staffer: I will pass that message on to Representative Gordon. He is completely opposed to federal funding of abortion
Me: Those are very nice words but I expect to see action. I will be donating to his opponent if I don’t see clear action in opposition to federal funding of abortion.
If you would like to add your voice, give Representative Gordon’s office a call at (202) 225-4231
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
KMcK - This is one of the reasons I happily vote for DeLauro. Planned Parenthood is one of the greatest organizations on the face of this Earth and the best thing we can do is support them.
Perhaps some prayers are in order. I would also welcome any of you who would like to help me offer charitable correction to this commenter.
Monday, July 27, 2009
It is written for the DC area, but there are some good links for anyone who is planning a Catholic wedding.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I don't fault the President for trying to control the press. But I ask you, why does the press go along? There is not one moment of spontaneity. The questioners are tipped off, in advance, by the White House and they behave accordingly.
No. Not one questions about Iraq. Not one questions about Afghanistan, where American troops have had the worst month of fatalities in eight years. These guys, and women, are not journalists. They're enablers.
Update: I know it is just a coincidence that after WTOP published this commentary, their web site went down.
Monday, July 20, 2009
The live event will be approximately 70 minutes long. If you have access to the Internet -- even with a dial-up connection -- you can listen in on the live webcast audio and ask questions.
During this nationwide event, you will discover:
• The shocking facts about the sweeping legislation that the political power brokers are trying to ram through before Congress goes on summer recess...
• The devastating implications of the proposed mandates -- facts the abortion industry doesn't want Americans to hear...
• Why respected leaders, national organizations, and pro-life people are joining together in record numbers to challenge this attempted power-grab...
• The exact action steps YOU can take to make a difference at this crucial moment...
• ... And much more!
You can find out more and register for this webcast here.
Friday, July 17, 2009
As a first take, we might say that the good achieved by health care is the number of lives saved. But that is too crude. The death of a teenager is a greater tragedy than the death of an 85-year-old, and this should be reflected in our priorities. We can accommodate that difference by calculating the number of life-years saved, rather than simply the number of lives saved. If a teenager can be expected to live another 70 years, saving her life counts as a gain of 70 life-years, whereas if a person of 85 can be expected to live another 5 years, then saving the 85-year-old will count as a gain of only 5 life-years. That suggests that saving one teenager is equivalent to saving 14 85-year-olds. These are, of course, generic teenagers and generic 85-year-olds. It’s easy to say, “What if the teenager is a violent criminal and the 85-year-old is still working productively?” But just as emergency rooms should leave criminal justice to the courts and treat assailants and victims alike, so decisions about the allocation of health care resources should be kept separate from judgments about the moral character or social value of individuals.
This is exactly the strategy used by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom's National Health Service. They call it the Quality Adjusted Life Years(QALY). Care is determined by cost per QALY. And note that the QALY is not the same as your expected life span. Any years where you might be disabled, unable to feed yourself, have decreased mobility, or have decreased mental abilities are not included in the QALY. As you can see, the older and more infirm you are, the smaller your Quality Adjusted Life Years value is. This increases the ratio of your cost of care per QALY. The director of NICE, Michael Rawlins, has said that once this ratio exceeds £25,000-£35,000, care will likely be denied.
The ethical issue with both Peter Singer's argument and the NICE strategy is that they judge the value of the life of the patient. They value the strong over the weak and vulnerable. Catholic teaching is that the value of the life of a teenager and the value of the life of an 85-year-old are equal. Each of these lives is of inestimable worth. In an attempt to allocate limited health care resources, Singer and the NICE ration health care based on chronological age with those who are old receiving less care than those who are young. Such a system violates Catholic principles because it does not evaluate the proportionate vs. disproportionate nature of the care being denied. An individual has a moral obligation to pursue and a health care provider has a duty to provide ordinary or proportionate care. Care that is found to be beneficial to a patient and does not impose undue burden on the patient or others is deemed proportionate. Care that is found to be without benefit in relation to the burden it imposes is deemed disproportionate. This determination is made from the perspective of the patient or the patient's surrogate. This determination should not be imposed by a bureaucrat far removed from the individual patient. Chronological age can and should be used to evaluate a therapy to determine if it is proportionate or disproportionate for an individual patient. The moral imperative is that the treatment is to be judged as to its usefulness and not the life of the patient.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
President Obama is ready to drop over one trillion dollars on a health care reform initiative. Let me be clear. Every human being is entitled to basic health care. Our current health care system is not doing an adequate job of providing basic health care to every American. However, I am not an impulse shopper. I want to know what I am getting for my money. We do not know what we are getting with this health care initiative, because the health care is yet to be determined by a Benefits Advisory Council. Let me clarify what we do know and more importantly what we do not know.
Health insurance is not the same thing as health care. Right now, all anyone is talking about is making sure those 50 million Americans without insurance get health insurance. Great. Now tell me what will be different because those 50 million people have insurance. For every sob story you can tell me about how someone didn’t have insurance and couldn’t get some sort of care they needed I can tell you another sob story about how a government or insurance company bureaucracy prevented someone from getting the care they needed. Anecdotes are not reliable data. What is the metric that we can measure and say we are getting our one trillion dollars worth of benefits?
The June 27, 2009 issue of The Economist ran a cover story about American health care reform. They point their finger at America spending one out of every six dollars on health care. Then they point out that American infant mortality, life expectancy, and survival-rates for heart attacks are worse than other developed countries. My response is “So?” Tell me why these metrics are important and how they will be different after health care reform. What this article fails to mention is that Americans have better survival rates for common cancers, better preventive cancer screening, and better care for chronic disease. Everyone has to die of something. Maybe Americans die from heart attacks because they are surviving the cancers. I don’t know. But neither does the President or the Congress. They are trying to spend one trillion dollars and they don’t even know what the problem is they are trying to fix.
First look at health care spending. The Economist claims Americans spend twice as much as any other “rich” country. What is included in that health care spending number? I can tell you what America includes but I don’t know what the UK, France, Germany, or Costa Rica includes. There is no standard international definition of health care. Every country has its own algorithm for calculating health care spending. Comparing the self-reported figure from one country to the self-reported figure of another country is comparing apples and oranges. Did you know that when foreigners come to America and spend money in our hospitals for health care it gets added into our health care spending statistic and not their home country’s health care statistic? Did you know that American health care spending does not differentiate essential health care from elective health care? Braces for the kids, contact lenses, Viagra, fertility treatments, Botox injections, herbal supplements and weight loss products you buy at the drug store are all included in our spending tabulation. So is our “excess” spending a problem with efficiency or just the perks of prosperity? I don’t know and neither does the President or the Congress.
Now consider infant mortality. We already have extensive programs to provide prenatal care to anyone who needs it. Do we have too many teenage pregnancies? How will health insurance change that? There are already free clinics and Planned Parenthood clinics ready to hand out contraceptives to any teenager that asks for them. Do we have too many mothers who smoke, use drugs or alcohol, or have poor nutrition so that we have more low birth weight infants? Will health insurance make expectant mothers stop smoking, stop using drugs or alcohol, and eat better? Do we have an excess of twins, triplets, or more due to the rampant use of in vitro fertilization thus again creating more low birth weight infants which increases infant mortality? What exactly is driving our infant mortality rate and how will health insurance make a difference? I don’t know and neither does the President or the Congress.
Why is our life expectancy lower? How much lower is it? Do we have more cases of AIDS? Do we have more young people dying due to accidents or violence? Do we have fewer abortions of seriously disabled unborn children so their eventual death after birth drives our life expectancy average down? Is this a meaningful metric? I don’t know and neither does the President or the Congress.
The Economist reports our survival rate for heart attacks is lower, but it doesn’t indicate how our rate of having heart attacks compares with other countries. Because we do better at taking care of chronic illnesses like elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, maybe we are preventing all the little survivable heart attacks and only the massive deadly ones still plague Americans. I don’t know and neither does the President or the Congress.
The point of this is that there are a lot of anecdotes and statistics being thrown around with no thought as to their relevance. Before the Congress spends one trillion dollars on health care, I want them to have a very clear idea of what they are buying, what it will do, and how they will measure its effectiveness Good stewardship demands this. Health care reform should not be rushed because of political expediency.
You can check out more of my writing on health care issues under the American Health Care serial post link on the right sidebar.
UPDATE: please take a look at my response to Peter Singer's argument for health care rationing.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Felix Sanchez, the Chief Executive Officer of TerraCom, a government and public relations firm in Washington D.C., is propagating a digital image of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Blessed Virgin’s face replaced with the face of Sonia Sotomayor. Above the image he writes the words "Confirm Sonia Maria Sotomayor". As a Catholic American woman of Mexican heritage, I find the politicization of this sacred image revolting.
May the real Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us!
H/T Creative Minority Report
As a young person, I feel the moral compass that is guiding our young people has changed from the past. And we need to align our church with that. For while we are losing some, we are also not gaining so many who are looking for something. 66% of young people support gay and lesbian rights. 91% of the young people not attending church see it as anti-gay. 82% of the attenders still see it as anti-gay. The church is there to help tend to the flock of God and we are sending the message all to often that we are not accepting gay and lesbian people. We can send a message to the entire world that all are welcome in the kingdom of God.
If the church is not providing the moral compass, then what is? What is that higher authority to which the church should be aligning itself? Is there no such thing as objective truth? I would like to ask this delegate the same thing I suggested Sonia Sotomayor be asked:
“Is the difference between right and wrong a matter of truth or a matter of personal or societal opinion?” Will she respond like another well-known judge and say, “What is truth?” Or will she acknowledge that there exists a permanent body of truth that is fixed and cannot be overruled by the latest polling data or the latest social engineering agenda?
Perhaps this is a good time to once again draw attention to the Holy Father’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:
To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity. Charity, in fact, “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). All people feel the interior impulse to love authentically: love and truth never abandon them completely, because these are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person. The search for love and truth is purified and liberated by Jesus Christ from the impoverishment that our humanity brings to it, and he reveals to us in all its fullness the initiative of love and the plan for true life that God has prepared for us. In Christ, charity in truth becomes the Face of his Person, a vocation for us to love our brothers and sisters in the truth of his plan. Indeed, he himself is the Truth (cf. Jn 14:6).
The young people flocking to the student ministry at Texas A&M or to the religious life of the Nashville Dominicans or the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist belie the young Episcopal delegate's assertion that youth are following a new moral compass. There is only one compass. Those not following it are wandering and lost. Young people are not looking for a “new way”. They are seeking the Truth.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
When it comes to the First Amendment, Team Obama believes in Global Chilling.
Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to a shadowy post that will grant him powers that are merely mind-boggling, explicitly supports using the courts to impose a "chilling effect" on speech that might hurt someone's feelings. He thinks that the bloggers have been rampaging out of control and that new laws need to be written to corral them.
My oldest son graduated from Texas A&M and was a member of the student Catholic community at St. Mary’s in College Station, TX. My future daughter-in-law was received into the Catholic Church at St. Mary's this past Easter. I can give you first-hand testimony that there is an amazing Catholic presence at Texas A&M University.
But don’t take my word for it. Take a look at this awesome evangelization program Aggie Catholics started and are sharing with college communities across the country and around the world:
Ask A Catholic A Question is a program of evangelization from St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M University. The program's success on-campus was followed by a reputation, which has spread across the country. Several other campus ministries, organizations, and individuals asked for a "how-to" manual, which we are happy to offer both through this website and the AACAQ Manual (pdf) available for download.
Another sign of the incredible Catholic culture at A&M is the number of vocations coming out of College station.
In the last nine years, 75 Aggies have entered formation for the priesthood and religious life, which makes the average 8.33/year (yes, even Aggies know you can't have one-third of a priest or nun). We give thanks to God for making 2006 a way above average year [14 in 2006].
I hope there are some bishops taking notice. Imagine if every diocese produced at least eight religious vocations every year the way this one college campus does.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Did your parish mention Caritas in Veritate, the Pope’s latest Encyclical? We did not hear about it from the pulpit, but Father Gould gave a link to it in the Sunday bulletin. He also printed the opening passage of this document in the bulletin. He followed it with this commentary:
For others interested in current social issues that confront the
Church: The Central Party leadership in Washington has
opened the floodgates for embryonic stem cell
experimentation. The protocols of such research proposed by
the NIH (National Institute of Health) have found wide
opposition from both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Of
course, such an action has left the lead Catholic surrogate for
the Central Party in trouble with the Church. His name is Mr.
Dough Kmiec, former dean of the law school for Catholic
University, who expounded that the embryonic research
should be considered “ethically sensitive.”
Cardinal Regali, chairman of the USCC Prolife Committee
was not so… sensitive, in his response to the problems. He
stated the new policy would be "more sweeping" than its Bush
administration predecessor, "encouraging the destruction of
new embryos including those not yet conceived."
Oh, and now the rest of the story: The Central Party leader in
Washington has named Mr. Doug Kmiec as the new U.S.
Ambassador to Malta. In response to such an honor, we give
Doug Kmiec the Richard Rich Award for 2009. He beat out
the Central Party vice president if for no other reason but that
he sports his original teeth and hairdo. But I digress.
God Bless Fr. Gould and all of our priests!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Fortunately, there are some Democrats in the United States House of Representatives who also believe that the pro-life cause is not a partisan issue. Nineteen House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi opposing any health care reform bill that does not explicitly prohibit the coverage of abortion.
Rep. Dan Boren, a pro-life congressman from Oklahoma, organized the letter and is the lead signer of it.
"As the debate on health care reform continues and legislation is produced, it is imperative that the issue of abortion not be overlooked," they write. "Plans to mandate coverage for abortions, either directly or indirectly, are unacceptable."
"We cannot support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan," the lawmakers say. "We believe that a government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan should not be used to fund abortion."
The pro-life Democrats also want Pelosi to ensure that the Health Benefits Advisory Committee, a government panel the health care bills would establish, can't recommend that abortions be included in the covered benefits.
This is critical. Pro-abortion Democrats are giving out misleading information saying that the current health care reform package and government health care plan does not include abortion. It doesn’t even address abortion. Actually, the current plan does not specify coverage of anything. It will be up to the Health Benefits Advisory Committee to mandate the specifics of coverage. And rest assured, all of the appointees on this committee will be pro-abortion.
The Susan B. Anthony List web site has a link to email your Representative about this issue. Take action now!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
What strikes me most about Caritas in Veritate is that it is implicitly humbling. No matter how enlightened we think we have become, if we have not fallen to our knees and first pleaded with God for his assistance and responded to HIS WILL, we will not adequately address global social and economic issues. It does not matter if we are proposing a highly government controlled socialistic intervention or a market driven libertarian approach. We need God.
The best commentary without political shrieking I have found is over at the Mirror of Justice Blog. There is a post by Rick Garnett that takes to task those who politicize the encyclical:
This should be interesting. "Conservatives" are being criticized (quite snarkily, in some quarters, perhaps fairly in others) for squirming at the encyclical's social-democratic prescriptions, but one would hope that the "liberal" critics would at least consider the possibility -- as the Pope is challenging all of us to do -- that Humanae vitae has more to say about integral human development than they have hitherto appreciated.
And yes, the Pope emphasizes the importance of unions, but he also criticizes their excessive politicization and their resistance to change; yes, he talks about environmental stewardship, but he strongly criticizes the neo-pagan and anti-humanist strands in the environmental movement; yes, he talks about the need for international bodies and authorities to coordinate various efforts, but he insists that these bodies and authorities be constrained by religious liberty, subsidiarity, and rule-of-law principles. Etc. etc.
Fr. Robert Araujo, SJ offers a very cogent summary that captures the essence of Caritas in Veritate. If you don't have the opportunity to read the whole encyclical now, read this summary so you will know what everyone is discussing! As Fr. Araujo himself reminds us, eventually take the time to read the actual encyclical.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
This means that moral evaluation and scientific research must go hand in hand, and that charity must animate them in a harmonious interdisciplinary whole, marked by unity and distinction. The Church's social doctrine, which has “an important interdisciplinary dimension”, can exercise, in this perspective, a function of extraordinary effectiveness. It allows faith, theology, metaphysics and science to come together in a collaborative effort in the service of humanity. It is here above all that the Church's social doctrine displays its dimension of wisdom. Paul VI had seen clearly that among the causes of underdevelopment there is a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis, for which “a clear vision of all economic, social, cultural and spiritual aspects” is required. The excessive segmentation of knowledge, the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences, the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are damaging not only to the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples, because these things make it harder to see the integral good of man in its various dimensions. The “broadening [of] our concept of reason and its application” is indispensable if we are to succeed in adequately weighing all the elements involved in the question of development and in the solution of socio-economic problems.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Friday, July 03, 2009
In any case, I have managed to pull together a compilation of the reports on President Obama's meeting with the Catholic press. You can read it here.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Most of the details for the rehearsal dinner are under control. We will be gathering at the Astin Mansion in Bryan, Texas. Dinner will be a Mexican buffet. I am trying to decide what to serve as dessert. I am thinking pecan pie with Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream on top. They also suggested a fruit tart or cheesecake. I’ve got some time to work out those details.
I spent the weekend in San Antonio attending the Catholic New Media Celebration sponsored by SQPN. It was both inspirational and instructional. I enjoyed meeting many bloggers. Most especially, it was fun to chat with Danielle Bean, Julie Davis, and Heidi Hess Saxton. Make sure you are checking out their blogs on a regular basis.
If you are not familiar with SQPN, you are missing out on some great Catholic programming. Fr. Roderick’s Daily Breakfast Podcast is food for the heart and spirit. These are also the folks that put together That Catholic Show. It was a joy to explore and celebrate the evangelization efforts available through the new media.
Speaking of evangelization, Fr. Dave Dwyer gave the opening keynote address. Fr. Dwyer hosts a three hour talk radio program every evening on the Catholic channel on Sirius/XM radio. He was a director for MTV when he felt called to the priesthood. He is now using his media experience to evangelize through his program Busted Halo. Check out the Busted Halo web site for more information.
Fr. Dwyer offered a very inspirational talk comparing the work of new media evangelists with the evangelization efforts of St. Paul. Some of the points were pretty humorous. For example, Paul had a user ID. He was born Saul, but for evangelization purposes he was Paul. Paul kept his day job as a tent maker. Evangelism was not a means of support. St. Paul reached people all over the known world, just as today’s internet evangelists do. St. Paul dealt with both the secular and the sacred. He was comfortable with people who were different but did not compromise his message to fit in. He reached out to those who were not in the pews. And just like St. Paul, today’s new media evangelists need to keep running the race.
However, on the other side of the coin, Danielle Bean gave a wonderful presentation reminding us that the internet with its instant communication, blogs, and podcasts is a great tool, but not an end in and of itself. New media evangelists need to regularly unplug and make sure they are still connected to the real world. That is very good advice that I have taken to heart.
No word as to where the New Media Celebration will land next year, but I would love to attend again and continue this cyber journey in the footsteps of St. Paul.