Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Friday, March 27, 2009

Light Up the Night!

Until today, I didn't know anything about the campaign to turn out the lights on Sunday night but I do like the Wall Street Journal response:
Reader, if you are against global-warming hysteria, high taxes, socialized medicine and a weak foreign policy, Sunday is your day. Show how you feel about the issues by turning on your lights in the evening and leaving them on until you go to bed. If you go out for a drive after dark, make sure you turn your headlights on too.

Granted, the EarthHour people have a head start on us. They started planning this months ago, whereas we're giving you all of 48 hours notice. Yet we think the outlook is bright for this effort. Tell your friends, tell them to tell their friends, and so on, and we'll bet millions of people across the country will turn their lights on Sunday night.

If no one will listen to the silent majority, let's at least make sure they see us.

I think I just might have to turn on a few lights on Sunday evening!

Good Facts About American Health Care

Must be a day for me to put my doctor hat on. Here is another piece on American Health Care.

Keep these facts in mind as you follow the health care reform agenda.

A Pill Cannot Replace Parents

The Washington Post offers a front page article on the controversy surrounding ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) medications. A very large multiyear study initially showed promising results when comparing medicated children to non-medicated children with ADHD. At the fourteen month point, medicated children fared much better. However, by three years this difference was questionable and by eight years the difference has disappeared. One of the researchers, psychologist William Pellham, is ready to declare that the initial reports were misleading.

New data from a large federal study have reignited a debate over the effectiveness of long-term drug treatment of children with hyperactivity or attention-deficit disorder, and have drawn accusations that some members of the research team have sought to play down evidence that medications do little good beyond 24 months.

The study also indicated that long-term use of the drugs can stunt children's growth.

The latest data paint a very different picture than the study's positive initial results, reported in 1999.

One principal scientist in the study, psychologist William Pelham, said that the most obvious interpretation of the data is that the medications are useful in the short term but ineffective over longer periods but added that his colleagues had repeatedly sought to explain away evidence that challenged the long-term usefulness of medication. When their explanations failed to hold up, they reached for new ones, Pelham said.

"The stance the group took in the first paper was so strong that the people are embarrassed to say they were wrong and we led the whole field astray," said Pelham, of the State University of New York at Buffalo. Pelham said the drugs, including Adderall and Concerta, are among the medications most frequently prescribed for American children, adding: "If 5 percent of families in the country are giving a medication to their children, and they don't realize it does not have long-term benefits but might have long-term risks, why should they not be told?"

As a family physician, the problem I have seen with these medications is too many parents want to use them as a substitute for parenting. Don’t bother them with behavioral assessments and discipline strategies. Just give them the pill so they can have some peace. I realize that there are very good parents of children with ADHD who use the medications as an adjunct to parenting. In my clinical experience, however, this was not the norm. At the end of the article, William Pelham offers a very concise summary of how the ADHD therapy should be used:

Pelham, who has conducted many drug therapy studies, said the drugs have a valuable role: They buy parents and clinicians time to teach youngsters behavioral strategies to combat inattention and hyperactivity. Over the long term, he said, parents need to rely on those skills.

A yet-to-be-published study, Pelham added, found that 95 percent of parents who were told by clinicians to first try behavioral interventions for ADHD did so. When parents were given a prescription for a drug and then told to enroll their children in behavioral intervention programs, 75 percent did not seek out the behavioral approaches.

You cannot replace parenting with a pill. Considering the high cost of ADHD medications and the fact that we spend more on these medications than we do on asthma or diabetes medications for our children, this is a very significant development.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Notre Dame: Tradition!

After a couple of days to mull over the Notre Dame fiasco, I am beginning to think too many people are sounding like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Tradition! It is a tradition to invite the newly elected president to speak. It is a tradition to give him an honorary degree. It is a tradition to have the Archbishop present but not have him speak. Folks, we are talking about little “t” tradition here, not big “T” Tradition. These precedents are not carved in stone. So here is my solution:

1. President Obama speaks but no honorary degree or other award is given. He is given the attention and respect that is due the office of the President of the United States.

2. Bishop D’Arcy should also speak. Rather than delegating the teaching moment to Professor Mary Ann Glendon, he should step up and directly address the “primacy of truth” he feels Notre Dame has neglected. He should clearly and unequivocally affirm the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and the immorality of embryonic stem cell research. He should advocate for the protection of and respect of the consciences of both health care workers and religious institutions. He should decry the use of United States foreign aid by groups promoting abortion. He must also firmly state that these are non-negotiable principles for faithful Catholics.

This way the University of Notre Dame can have the prestige of hosting the President without sacrificing its Catholic identity.

If Archbishop D’Arcy is not given the opportunity to clearly present Catholic teaching, then I agree he should not attend. And in such a case, can faithful Catholics in good conscience attend?

Mandatory "Volunteerism"

Remember how there were always these rumors that President Bush was going to reinstate the draft? It was complete nonsense.

This however, is not a rumor. It is actual legislation , H.R. 1388, that has passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.

You can read a more inflammatory description here.

Another description is here.

I tried. I can't make head nor tails of the actual legislation. The bits and pieces that I do read worry me. It seems this is an attempt to nationalize charitable work. Consider section 120:

‘(3) YOUTH ENGAGEMENT ZONE PROGRAM- The term ‘youth engagement zone program’ means a service learning program in which members of an eligible partnership described in paragraph (4) collaborate to provide coordinated school-based or community-based service learning opportunities, to address a specific community challenge, for an increasing percentage of out-of-school youth and secondary school students served by local educational agencies where--

‘(A) not less than 90 percent of the students participate in service-learning activities as part of the program; or

‘(B) service-learning is a mandatory part of the curriculum in all of the secondary schools served by the local educational agency.

Excuse me. I will teach my children the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. I don't need the federal government stepping in with their "service-learning curriculum".

In addition, the bill changes "clothing" in the authorized benefits list for the Civilian Community Corps to read "uniforms". Put the kids in a uniform and indoctrinate them. That does not sound like the American Way that I know.

It would behoove us all to study the principle of subsidiarity and resist this sort of federal government intrusion.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do we have such a statesman?

Who in the halls of the American Congress has the fortitude to stand up and speak in the same fashion?

(h/t The Anchoress)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

God Bless Bishop D'Arcy

From the Catholic News Agency:

March 24, 2009

On Friday, March 21, Father John Jenkins, CSC, phoned to inform me that President Obama had accepted his invitation to speak to the graduating class at Notre Dame and receive an honorary degree. We spoke shortly before the announcement was made public at the White House press briefing. It was the first time that I had been informed that Notre Dame had issued this invitation.

President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred. While claiming to separate politics from science, he has in fact separated science from ethics and has brought the American government, for the first time in history, into supporting direct destruction of innocent human life.

This will be the 25th Notre Dame graduation during my time as bishop. After much prayer, I have decided not to attend the graduation. I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well. I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.

My decision is not an attack on anyone, but is in defense of the truth about human life.

I have in mind also the statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 2004. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” Indeed, the measure of any Catholic institution is not only what it stands for, but also what it will not stand for.

I have spoken with Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who is to receive the Laetare Medal. I have known her for many years and hold her in high esteem. We are both teachers, but in different ways. I have encouraged her to accept this award and take the opportunity such an award gives her to teach.

Even as I continue to ponder in prayer these events, which many have found shocking, so must Notre Dame. Indeed, as a Catholic University, Notre Dame must ask itself, if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.

Tomorrow, we celebrate as Catholics the moment when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became a child in the womb of his most holy mother. Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for the university named in her honor, that it may recommit itself to the primacy of truth over prestige.

Paid In Full

What is the appropriate time for performing works of charity? My beloved children, any time is the right time, but these days of Lent provide a special encouragement. Those who want to be present at the Lord’s Passover in holiness of mind and body should seek above all to win this grace. Charity contains all other virtues and covers a multitude of sins.
As we prepare to celebrate that greatest of all mysteries, by which the blood of Jesus Christ destroyed our sins, let us first of all make ready the sacrificial offerings — that is, our works of mercy. What God in his goodness has already given to us, let us give it to those who have sinned against us. –Pope St. Leo the Great (From today’s Office of Readings)

Holding a grudge is so universally human. I have heard many ethnic groups lay a tongue-in-cheek claim to being the champions of holding grudges: What is ___________(insert your favorite ethnicity here) Alzheimer’s disease? You forget everything but the grudges.

Why do we hold grudges? We hold a grudge because we got hurt. We didn’t deserve the hurt. It wasn’t fair. But rather than binding and healing our wound, holding a grudge is like picking at the scab. The wound stays open, festering, and painful.

What Pope St. Leo the Great teaches us in his sermon and what Christ teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer is that we need to let go of our grudges. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This is hard. The pain of our wounds is real. These wounds are not self-inflicted. Someone did this to us. Someone should pay.

Someone has paid.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;

Christ paid.

So tear up the balance sheet and forgive. Only mercy will heal these wounds

Monday, March 23, 2009

Notre Dame Response Sampler

Head on over to NRO for a sampler of eloquently written responses to the unfortunate choice of President Obama as the 2009 commencement speaker for the University of Notre Dame. Here are a few snippets:

Imagine a Catholic university in the 1960s awarding a segregationist politician an honorary doctorate. This would have been an outrage — giving religious cover to someone who denied the equal rights and fundamental equal dignity of a whole class of human beings. In the same way, it is an outrage for a Catholic university to provide a stamp of approval to someone who just last week wrote the death warrant for millions of embryonic human beings, the most recent of a long line of anti-life acts. Obama’s pro-abortionist extremism relegates a whole class of human beings — unborn human beings — to the status of mere sub-personal objects that can be dismembered, ripped to shreds, or disposed of in trash cans.--Patrick Lee


And there’s more to the outrage. Beyond the matter of propriety, Catholics rightly suspect betrayal by a Catholic institution. With all of the possible honorees who could have been selected, Notre Dame chose the individual who is today the most dangerous proponent of the Culture of Death in the United States. For centuries, faithful Christians persevered under the persecution of emperors, kings, and Communists; but in the Land of the Free, so-called Catholic intellectuals freely honor those who are responsible for great evil. We have been betrayed.--Patrick J. Reilly


This is a highly cynical act, contemptuous of the Church’s prophetic voice in civil society and wagering that there will be no retribution. If a midwestern school seeks attention by granting Mr. Obama an honorary doctorate in law, the next logical step would be to grant Judas Iscariot posthumously an honorary doctorate in business administration.--Fr. George W. Rutler

There are many more salient comments so do read the entire article.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Glamour of Evil

The University of Notre Dame has invited President Barack Obama to be its 2009 commencement speaker and will confer upon him an honorary law degree. It must seem quite glamorous to have the President of the United States honor a university with his presence. However, when that university professes to be Catholic and this president has violated non-negotiable Catholic principles on a nearly weekly basis for the last two months, it seems to me that such behavior is akin to selling one's soul to the devil.

Please note the difference between non-negotiable Catholic principles and principles about which faithful Catholics can disagree. Catholicism is not synonymous with pacifisism. Two faithful Catholics can disagree about whether a specific armed conflict is justified. Abortion and embryonic stem cell research are non-negotiable issues. The sanctity of human life from conception to natural death is not just one of many "peace and justice" issues. The sanctity of human life is THE ISSUE from which all other "peace and justice" issues take their justification. It is an illusion to say you are working for justice if you do not safeguard the right to life.

Notre Dame has a choice. It can either reject its Catholic identity and bask in the limelight of the president's celebrity status, or it can stand firm in its Catholic identity and reject the glamour of evil. Like it or not, Notre Dame stands as a perceived authority on what faithful Catholics think. I resent this icon of American Catholicism putting its seal of approval on President Obama's culture of death agenda. If you are also opposed to this action, please go here and let your voice be heard.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary

As I have said many times, living the rhythms of the liturgical calendar is an essential part of building your domestic church. The folks over at Catholic Culture have an excellent discussion of today's Feast of St. Joseph. (Feel free to offer a donation to Catholic Culture. They are an important internet presence for the propagation of the Faith.)

Today, however, I want to focus on the words of Pope Benedict XVI as he spoke of St. Joseph at last night's vesper service.

Dear brothers and sisters, our meditation on the human and spiritual journey of Saint Joseph invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a "just man" (Mt 1:19) because his existence is "ad-justed" to the word of God.

The life of Saint Joseph, lived in obedience to God’s word, is an eloquent sign for all the disciples of Jesus who seek the unity of the Church. His example helps us to understand that it is only by complete submission to the will of God that we become effective workers in the service of his plan to gather together all mankind into one family, one assembly, one "ecclesia". Dear friends from other Christian confessions, this quest for unity among the disciples of Christ represents a great challenge for us. It leads us first of all to be converted to the Person of Christ, to let ourselves be drawn more and more to him. In him, we are called to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. During this year dedicated to the Apostle Paul, the great herald of Jesus Christ and the Apostle of the Nations, let us all turn towards him so as to hear and learn "the faith and truth" which are the deepest reasons for the unity of Christ’s disciples.

Dear St. Joseph, Pray for us!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Catholic Carnival with an Irish Flair

Ebeth has a lovely Irish themed Catholic Carnival this week. Grab yourself some Irish refreshment and head on over. You will be showered with blessings, Irish and otherwise.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wise Words

As always, Fr. Araujo offers an eloquent and well reasoned response to human embryonic stem cell research:

There is no doubt that the cloned human embryo is a human being. From the very beginning of its existence, it is a unique human life that will eventually mature through its natural progression in which every person has joined. It is at the entrance of the continuum of human life. This human life has commenced the natural vocation of fetus, birth, maturation, and death. Unlike those of us who continued this natural progression, the embryo produced for “research” is destined for a planned, premature death when the stem cells necessary for the research to proceed, but which are also necessary of the embryo to continue his or her life, are removed from the embryo.

In many discussions by intelligent, often highly educated people throughout the world today, the reality and the science of human embryology is often disregarded when the case of embryonic stem cell research is under discussion. I suspect that a source of this view is related to the thinking—or lack of thinking—taken by pro-abortion advocates who use language that denies the scientific reality of the human life the procedures which they advocate will take. While formulaic norms about human existence may be limited in both value and scope, there is something to be said about the intersection of right reason of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the formulation of ethical norms that guide the moral reasoning essential to sound scientific research.

Does the right reason that directs us to the transcendent, moral order justify research on embryos that inevitably leads to their destruction? The drive to conduct such destructive experimentation on the nascent human life of cloned embryos is strong in our world today. But such research, if it were permitted to continue, defies the dignity to which each human being, each person is entitled.

To ban “reproductive” cloning only, without prohibiting “research” cloning, would be to allow the production of individual human lives with the intention of destroying these lives as part of the process of using them for scientific research. The early human embryo, not yet implanted into a womb (natural or artificial), is nonetheless a human individual, with a human life, and evolving as an autonomous organism towards its full development into a human fetus. Its location does not determine the reality of its ontological nature. Destroying this embryo is therefore a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate suppression of an innocent human being.

That Slippery, Slippery Slope!


Two arguments have persuaded the United States to fund stem-cell research using destroyed embryos. One is that the research will save lives. The other is that the embryos, left over from fertility treatments, will otherwise be wasted.Both arguments are now being applied to fetuses. The Daily Mail notes:

Almost 7,000 of the 8,000 Britons waiting for a transplant need a kidney. More than 300 are hoping for a liver, 222 need lungs and almost 100 have requested a heart. Kidney donors have a less than one-in-three chance of receiving an organ in any given year, and hundreds on the transplant list will die before a donor becomes available.


Professor Stuart Campbell, who has argued for the abortion time limit to be lowered, had no ethical objections to the proposal. He said many babies were aborted quite late, "and if they are going to be terminated, it is a shame to waste their organs."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Untold Story

Did your local paper or the national news give this story headline coverage?

Researchers from DaVinci Biosciences, Costa Mesa, California, in collaboration with Hospital Luis Vernaza in Ecuador, have determined that injecting a patient's own bone marrow-derived stem cells (autologous BMCs) directly into the spinal column using multiple routes can be an effective treatment for spinal cord injury (SCI) that returns some quality of life for SCI patients without serious adverse events.

I didn't see any major coverage of this medical breakthrough either. Take a look at Wesley Smith's blog to read about this tremendous story that is never told. Note these are morally licit stem cells. No embryos were created or harmed to obtain these stem cells. Why isn't this big news?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Destroying Pharmaceutical Research

Back in January I warned you of the 1.1 billion dollars in the stimulus bill that would fund and create the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (FCCCER). This entity will stifle new drug development. Don’t expect any wonder drugs to emerge under this system. Dr. Gilbert Ross explains:

...the Obama administration wants to add another obstacle to new drug development.

The health section of the new stimulus budget contains a section funding - at a $1.1 billion level - a program to evaluate drugs (and procedures) for "comparative effectiveness" (CE).

If followed to its logical conclusion, the FDA will no longer approve a drug if CE studies show that it's merely safe and effective. Henceforth, it would have to be proven better than similar drugs already on the market. If adopted, this will lead to major declines in the already-stunted drug pipeline and fewer choices for consumers.

The handwriting on the wall was exemplified recently when Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, halted development of two new drugs during late-stage trials, after many millions of research dollars had been spent. This unusual timing - failed drugs get scrapped in their early stage trials, as a rule - occurred because, according to Pfizer, "We don't believe that they provide significant benefit over other therapies." Imagine if we held other consumer products and manufacturers to this standard: No new TVs, computers or autos would be marketed without clear evidence the newer models were "better" according to some arbitrary government standard.

Please read Dr. Ross’s full commentary.

Let me give you an example of how this could play out in the future. Cimetidine was the first of a class of drugs to fight excess stomach acid in cases of peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Several other “me too” drugs followed. Eventually, it was found that cimetidine has significant drug interactions that its successors did not possess. It would even interact with grapefruit juice in a way that could cause serious side effects. It was taken off the market, but there were plenty of alternatives for patients to use. Under the FCCCER system, none of those successive drugs would have been available because they did not show a significant clinical advantage over the original drug, cimetidine. Patients would have to wait for an alternative to go through the development process (often 10-15 years) and then the approval process.

What happens if something similar occurs with a new vaccine, for example a vaccine against tuberculosis? No one will develop a competitor once an effective vaccine is approved. Then perhaps the original vaccine shows evidence of a serious side effect and has to be pulled. There is nothing to replace it. A highly contagious and difficult to treat disease becomes a threat when it could have been prevented if an alternative vaccine had been developed.

The United States is the center of new medical developments precisely because we have a free market system. The system proposed by President Obama will bring that to an end.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another opportunity for alms giving

LifeSiteNews is a good source for finding pro-life news stories that the Main Stream Media ignores. They are dependent on your donations. They have an interesting fund raising plan going on. Donate to LifeSiteNews and a card like that pictured here will be sent to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Take this opportunity to support LifeSiteNews and send a message about the sanctity of life to Planned Parenthood.

Today's Reading Assignment

Today’s post is really a reading assignment. The first part is to read all of Archbishop Chaput’s address given in Toronto, February 24. Here is a sample, but you really must read the whole speech(H/T Michelle):

It doesn't matter what we claim to believe if we're unwilling to act on our beliefs. What we say about our Catholic faith is the easy part. What we do with it shapes who we really are. Many good Catholics voted for President Obama. Many voted for Senator McCain. Both parties have plenty of decent people in their ranks.

But when we hear that 54 percent of American Catholics voted for President Obama last November, and that this somehow shows a sea change in their social thinking, we can reasonably ask: How many of them practice their faith on a regular basis? And when we do that, we learn that most practicing Catholics actually voted for Senator McCain. Of course, that doesn't really tell us whether anyone voted for either candidate for the right reasons. Nobody can do a survey of the secret places of the human heart. But it does tell us that numbers can be used to prove just about anything. We won't be judged on our knowledge of poll data. We'll be judged on whether we proved it by our actions when we said "I am a Catholic, and Jesus Christ is Lord."

Here's the fourth and final thing to remember, and there's no easy way to say it. The Church in the United States has done a poor job of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years. And now we're harvesting the results -- in the public square, in our families and in the confusion of our personal lives. I could name many good people and programs that seem to disprove what I just said. But I could name many more that do prove it, and some of them work in Washington.

The problem with mistakes in our past is that they compound themselves geometrically into the future unless we face them and fix them. The truth is, the American electorate is changing, both ethnically and in age. And unless Catholics have a conversion of heart that helps us see what we've become -- that we haven't just "assimilated" to American culture, but that we've also been absorbed and bleached and digested by it -- then we'll fail in our duties to a new generation and a new electorate. And a real Catholic presence in American life will continue to weaken and disappear.

Every new election cycle I hear from unhappy, self-described Catholics who complain that abortion is too much of a litmus test. But isn't that exactly what it should be? One of the defining things that set early Christians apart from the pagan culture around them was their respect for human life; and specifically their rejection of abortion and infanticide. We can't be Catholic and be evasive or indulgent about the killing of unborn life. We can't claim to be "Catholic" and "pro-choice" at the same time without owning the responsibility for where the choice leads -- to a dead unborn child. We can't talk piously about programs to reduce the abortion body count without also working vigorously to change the laws that make the killing possible. If we're Catholic, then we believe in the sanctity of developing human life. And if we don't really believe in the humanity of the unborn child from the moment life begins, then we should stop lying to ourselves and others, and even to God, by claiming we're something we're not.

After reading that I hope you feel like standing on your desk, applauding, and shouting “Amen!” Please carefully sit back down. Now read this piece by Michael Scaperlanda at Mirror of Justice:

There is a part of me – a big part of me - that wants tidiness, especially on those matters with significant cultural and legal consequences. I wish all Catholics were swimming in the same direction on these issues. Pelosi, Sebelius, Biden, Kennedy, Daschle, and the host of other pro-choice Catholic politicians are causing scandal within and outside the Church with respect to an issue that has, as Fr. Frank Sullivan, S.J. told the Conference of Catholic Legal Scholars last summer, been infallibly taught by the magisterium. Part of me wishes that the bishops would say what seems obvious to me – that these individuals, by obstinate opinion and action, have separated themselves from communion with the faithful. In other words, they have excommunicated themselves. But…

When I step back and put our present moment in historical context, and when I think about how such public “judgments” by the bishops would be taken in our current cultural climate, the waters get muddied, and the proper response less clear cut.

On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed: “Holy Father, keep them in your name … so that they may be one just as we are” (John 17:11), “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:20-21), and “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:26).

I hope that this unity –this oneness – manifests itself as a oneness of heart, mind, and spirit in all things. But, Lord knows that in this fallen world that is a tough order. Self-centeredness, feeble mindedness, lack of courage, sickness, misunderstanding, ineffective means of communication, competing interests, and all sorts of other problems, surface to disrupt unity. This is certainly true in every marriage that I know, and throughout history we see it in the Church.

From the beginning, bishops, other leaders, and the rank and file have disagreed and fought among themselves (read Acts or almost any Pauline letter). And, for almost 1700 years bishops have fought with Catholic political leaders over political and theological matters both great and small. Why should our age be any different?

I have been harshly criticized by some readers of this blog because of my strident remarks about pro-abortion Catholics. Like Archbishop Chaput I believe they are lying to themselves, to others, and to God by claiming to be Catholic when they are not. And like Michael Scaperlanda, there is a part of me that wants to tidy this thing up. The quick and easy solution is to just excommunicate them all. But that is not what Christ wants and that is not what the Church wants. Therefore, that cannot be what I want. Sentire Cum Ecclesia Instead, I must long for reconciliation. I want these wandering sheep to come home. I must pray for conversion.

This doesn’t mean I will be any less strident in my criticism of pro-abortion politicians. The truth is the truth. Pro-abortion Catholics have forsaken their faith. But it does mean I will try to bite my tongue before I quip, “Oh, why don’t they just go become Episcopalians!” I can’t imagine ever saying to one of my children, “You’ve screwed up so badly I never want to see you again!” As a Catholic Christian, I cannot say that to an erring Catholic either.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Trojan Horse

Because it is Lent, I have truly tried to stay out of the political fray and focus my writing on spiritual growth and reflection. However, this is too critical to ignore. Back in January I called attention to President Obama’s modus operandi of Trojan Horse policy making. He is at it again.

Yesterday, President Obama opened the door for the destruction of human life for research purposes with his authorization of expanded embryonic stem cell research. This is another expected action. However, look at the final sentence of his proclamation:

(b) Executive Order 13435 of June 20, 2007, which supplements the August 9, 2001, statement on human embryonic stem cell research, is revoked.

What is Executive Order 13435? This is the order by President Bush that directs federal funding to be spent on research of alternatives to embryonic stem cells. Not only did President Obama give federal funds to the immoral practice of human embryo destruction, but he took away federal funds from the morally acceptable research that seeks alternatives to embryo destruction. Is it surprising that President Obama did not explicitly spell this out in his executive order?

Embryonic Stem Cell Research has produced no successful treatments. Morally acceptable alternatives have produced hundreds of successful therapies. Why does President Obama insist on evil?

Embryonic Stem Cell Research is promoted by those who support abortion. If one affords any dignity to the human embryo in the laboratory, then the morality of abortion can be called into question. Therefore, it is in the interest of preserving the perception of abortion as a moral right that human embryos are afforded no special status in the laboratory.

The lesson here is that we must remain vigilant. Every word of every piece of legislation, every executive order, and every policy statement must be examined. We cannot trust this administration to be truthful and forthright.

Here is a statement by the Catholic Medical Association:

CONTACT: John Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L. Executive Director & Ethicist
Catholic Medical Association

CMA Protests Obama Executive Order
Funding Life-Destroying Embryonic Stem Cell Research

DATELINE March 10, 2009 – The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) protests President Obama’s March 9, 2009, executive order providing taxpayer funding for research that destroys the lives of human embryos. This decision demonstrates a disregard for human life, for the beliefs of millions of Americans, and for the lives and health of those suffering from devastating diseases and injuries.

CMA President Louis C. Breschi, M.D., stated, “It is very unfortunate that, at a time when ethical options are showing greater promise than ever, and when the nation’s economy is suffering, President Obama would direct more taxpayer dollars into scientific research that is unethical, ineffective, unworkable, and unnecessary.”

John F. Brehany, Ph.D., CMA’s executive director, explained further: “President Obama’s radical new policy is unethical because human beings—at the embryonic stage of life—are being destroyed in the name of curing disease. It is ineffective because human embryonic stem cell research has no demonstrated success in treating diseases, despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal, state, and private funding. Basing therapies on human embryonic stem cells is unworkable because it will require obtaining human eggs from thousands of women—a painful, dangerous, and expensive process. And finally, destroying human embryos is unnecessary. Not only have adult stem cell (ASC) therapies demonstrated real-life success in treating dozens of diseases, but new induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) techniques have created cells with all the properties of embryonic stem cells—without destroying human lives to obtain them.”

President Obama’s action belies the language of consensus, high ideals, and scientific objectivity in which it is wrapped. For, at the same time he overturned the executive order limiting federal funding to those embryonic stem cell lines created before August 9, 2001, President Obama also revoked, without comment, a June 20, 2007, executive order (no. 13435) encouraging the National Institutes of Health to promote research into clinically effective alternative sources of stem cell lines—sources that do not depend on destroying human life.

Finally, while President Obama claimed that he would reject “cloning for human reproduction,” he failed to acknowledge that he actually supports human cloning—for therapy and research. His policy provides taxpayer funding for a new industry dedicated to creating and destroying human lives in labs.

The Catholic Medical Association is the nation’s largest professional organization of Catholic physicians. To learn more about the CMA and its publications, go to

Monday, March 09, 2009

Reflections of Our Kids on Parenting

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting a class at our parish on “Building Your Domestic Church”. So far, so good. We are having a reasonable turnout to each session and the feedback has been positive. We have covered (1) The Five Pillars of a Catholic Family (2) Keeping Parents Catholic, and (3) Keeping Your Home Catholic. This course is loosely based on the book by Bert Ghezzi, Keeping Your Kids Catholic. This week we will cover the topic Keeping Your Teens Catholic. In preparation for this presentation, I went to my own teens and twenty-somethings. I asked, “What did we do as a family that helps or helped you make it through your teenage years with your faith intact. The answers were as varied as my children. Interestingly, several points they noted were as much about parenting in general as they were about specifically teaching the faith.

One child pointed to the fact that we usually did not have cable television and we never had gaming consoles. We also didn’t buy a lot of the faddish gadgety toys. This is not an indictment of cable television or gaming consoles. But resisting the norms of the culture because they did not fit our lifestyle gave her a sense that the standards in our household were different than the general cultural standards. She knew we set the bar higher. That helped her to resist peer pressure and follow the principles of our family. She also knew these principles were guided by our Catholic faith so the faith was very relevant to her day-to-day life.

More than one child pointed to our commitment to going to Mass, no matter what. We went to great lengths to make it to Mass, even if we were camping or traveling. That left no doubt about the primacy of our faith.

When my children were not enrolled in Catholic schools they were enrolled in the parish CCD program. When they returned from class they knew they would be asked about the lesson. If my husband or I didn’t think the lesson was adequate, we would expound upon it. Similarly, the question “What feast day is it?” would send kids scrambling to the refrigerator to look at the Catholic calendar. One child told me this more academic approach to the faith gave him an appreciation of the saints as well as Church history. It appealed to his intellectual side. Of course, this approach also meant my husband and I had to keep studying to keep these quick snatches of catechesis interesting.

Finally, I heard from a twenty-something that my always asking questions like “Where are you going?”, “Who else is going?”, “What are you doing?”, let him know that he was important to me. We often joked that an important guiding principle for behavior is WWJD-What would Jesus Do, but another standard not to be ignored is WWMS—What Would Mom Say. We established clear boundaries and expected teens to respect them. We had confidence that our kids could meet these expectations so they had the self-confidence to expect this of themselves.

My husband and I are not perfect parents and my children are not perfect kids. In the grand scheme of teenage angst, however, we’ve done pretty well. What the kids didn’t mention, but what I know in my heart, is that credit for any parenting success really belongs to the Holy Spirit. I have spent a great deal of time on my knees asking the Holy Spirit to fill my children’s hearts and guide them. I have asked for the Holy Spirit to give me the words I need to teach them.

If you would like to attend any of the remaining Building Your Domestic Church sessions, you can get the information here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Just Ask!

From today’s Gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who ask, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mt 7:7-8)

Why did Jesus have to remind us to ask? He reminds us to make prayers of petition because asking requires faith that God can really answer prayers. I am very good at remembering to pray for big lofty goals: world peace, an end to hunger, an end to abortion, etc. But I cannot count the times that I have been dithering about something—sometimes a big dither and sometimes a small dither—and suddenly I hit myself up side the head like a V-8 commercial and say, “Oh yeah. I should pray about this.” There is no task that is too big or too small for God. Whether it is picking out a Christmas gift for the in-laws or finding the right words for an errant child, God will help if I ask. I just wish I could remember to ask before I worked myself into a worried frenzy.

Pope Benedict XVI has some interesting words on this idea of asking for God’s help in today’s reflection from Journey to Easter:

Today we are seeing a revival of gnosticism, which perhaps is the most somber threat to the spiritual and pastoral work of the Church. Gnosticism allows of retaining the time-honored terminology and ceremonial of religion, the aura of religion, without retaining faith. And this is the profound temptation of gnosticism: it is nostalgia for the beauty of religion but it is also weariness of the heart, which no longer has the strength of faith.

Gnosis presents itself as a refuge where religion can continue after faith has been lost. But behind that flight stands almost always a faint-heartedness which no longer believes in the power of God over nature, in the Creator of heaven and earth. And so there begins a contempt of bodily things—the body appears exempt from morality. Contempt for the body generates contempt for the history of salvation, to become finally a religious impersonalism. Prayer is replaced by interior exercises, the search for the void as a place of freedom.

I had never really thought about failing to ask God for help as a sign of a weak faith. But it makes sense. If I don’t think God can help me get dinner on the table, do I sincerely believe He is powerful enough to bring world peace?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Messenger of Penance

God seeks messengers of penance even today for the big cities, the modern Ninevehs. Have we the courage, the depth of faith, the credibility, to touch hearts and open doors to conversion?
--Pope Benedict XVI, Journey to Easter

It is not easy to be a messenger of penance. It means telling someone, “ I love you. I respect you. But you are walking away from God. Turn around. Come home.” And then that someone may say, “You are wrong. Get away from me. You are the one walking the wrong way. Stop attacking me. If God loves me he will take me as I am. If you loved me like God loved me you would accept me.” He walks away. You are left alone, your arms outstretched and empty. The embrace you hoped for never happens.

Christ, too, stretched out His arms. He was the messenger of penance for the people of Israel. He told them, “ I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (Jn 14: 6) But his way was too hard. The people of his time said, “You are wrong. We don’t want a new way. Leave us in our old ways.” Instead of an embrace, he received death on the Cross.

The sign of true justice, of perfect justice, is to die voluntarily for the salvation of others. This sign Jesus gave. He is the truly just man. His sign is his death. His sign is his Cross. By it his sign will continue to the end of days, and this sign will be a judgment upon the world, a judgment on our lives. Let us, day by day and from now on, put our life under this sign. By making the sign of the cross at the beginning and the end of our prayer, we receive and recognize the sign of Jonah.
--Pope Benedict XVI, Journey to Easter

Today after Communion, I crossed myself. As I touched my right shoulder, I felt a little twinge. I shattered my wrist this past Thanksgiving. After surgery, nearly two months in a cast, and six weeks of occupational therapy, I am almost completely healed. Since my injury, making the sign of the Cross has been a deliberate act. It is only recently that I have regained enough range of motion to make a complete sign of the Cross. But when I get to the extreme ends of my range of motion, it hurts. After reading these reflections today, I think I will be grateful for this little reminder that following the Way of the Cross is painful. Painful, but necessary.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Man of Conscience

A man of conscience is one who never acquires tolerance well-being, success, public standing, and approval on the part of prevailing opinion at the expense of truth.
--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On Conscience

It is very easy to read this, shake my head, and point to all those who compromise their principles for the sake of political advancement. What is more difficult, is to look in the mirror and think of all the times I stayed silent for fear of offending. Fear of being the subject of gossip has tied my tongue. Speaking the truth does not have to be confrontational. It can be done with charity. Speaking the truth is not judgmental. It is merciful.

A Nice Piece on Grace Before Meals

Take a look at this front page article in the Washington Post. Fr. Leo Patalinghug, exuberant leader of Grace Before Meals, is featured in this morning's paper. I am a fan and supporter of the Grace Before Meals movement. It is a very simple but powerful way to build up our domestic churches. Read the article, but more importantly, head on over to the Grace Before Meals website and learn about this beautiful ministry. While you are there, buy a cookbook or make a donation.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Silence: Fasting From Words

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
(Mk 1: 12-13)

My Lenten fasting, prayer, reading, and alms-giving all seem on target. Usually, in such a state, the creative juices start flowing and I cannot type the words as fast as my brain is thinking them. A theme emerges and I just have to share it. This year is different.

Then I heard the Gospel yesterday. I heard the homily. Father compared our culture to a spiritual desert. It is dry. It is Godless. It is without sustenance. It leads to death.

Then I read Pope Benedict XVI’s Journey to Easter:

First the desert is the place of silence, of solitude. It is the absence of the exchanges of daily life, its noise and its superficiality. The desert is the place of the absolute, the place of freedom, which sets man before the ultimate demands. Not by chance is the desert the place where monotheism began. In that sense it is a place of grace. In putting aside all preoccupations man encounters his Creator.

I recalled the words of Fr. Jerry Pokorsky at last week’s lecture on spiritual combat. He compared the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to seeds lying dormant in the desert. If we call forth these gifts the desert will blossom with the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Then I found the theme. This Lent I will find the desert. It is a place of both death and life. There is a deprivation of the material world but an abundance of grace. There is solitude and silence. Yet the voices of the Spirit, the Scripture, and the Saints seem louder.

When Pope Benedict XVI focused his Lenten message on fasting, I felt compelled to increase my fasting during this Lent. I thought I would be fasting from food. It seems I will be fasting from words as well—giving up the nonessential. I think I will keep blogging this Lent. But in this Lenten desert words may seem more measured and sparse. We shall see. It will be up to the Holy Spirit. But at Easter, I hope this fasting will bring forth the Fruits of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual desert of our culture.