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, October 30, 2009

Why I will skip the Nov 22 CCHD second collection

I know that many worthy causes are supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It is the unworthy causes that are also supported that create an issue for me. I've given up on this sort of aggregate giving. I am giving directly to charities and cutting out the middle man.

While this video suggests putting an acorn in the CCHD collection plate, I like the idea of this coupon instead.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

USCCB is calling for urgent action from all Catholics on health care reform

The USCCB is asking every Catholic to get involved in fighting current health care legislation. Full information is available here. Take action now!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Holy Halloween

If you are in the D.C. area and want to put the holy back into Halloween, check out the Dominican House of Studies All Saints Vigil.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Action needed to now to save pro-life amendment in health care bill

"Ardent, practicing Catholic" Nancy Pelosi is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the presentation of an amendment to prohibit federal funding of abortion in the House health care bill. Read more here then follow the Susan B. Anthony List link to urge your Congressman to support such an amendment.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Legal middle ground for same-sex marriage

If I were going to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage, I would oppose it. Marriage is a sacramental relationship between one man and one woman. Period. Those who try to portray other relationships as equivalent to marriage undermine the sacred institution of marriage and weaken the institution of the family. A weak family leads to an even weaker culture.

However, since some communities including our nation's capital, Washington D.C., seem hell-bent on calling these other relationships "marriage", I appreciate the work of an interdenominational group of attorneys to work for the protection of religious liberty. University of Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett among others have sent a letter to the D.C. City Council outlining the deficiencies in religious liberty protection that are present in the current same-sex marriage legislation currently before the Council.

This issue illustrates the challenge of living as a faithful Catholic in a secular world. Not all Catholic principles need to be codified in law. The Church prohibits the use of artificial contraception. I do not think the sale of artificial contraception needs to be banned. There is no impediment to Catholics following their faith just because artificial contraception is available.

On the other hand, abortion involves the killing of a voiceless, innocent human beings. Opposition to the legalization of abortion is a necessary response to Catholic teaching. There is no room for wavering.

Same-sex marriage falls between these two extremes. There are those who view marriage as nothing more than a contract, no different than the one drawn up between homeowners and construction contractors. With this in mind, I can coexist with such thinkers as long as my right to view marriage as a religious sacrament between one man and one woman, a covenant made in the presence of God, is protected. I don't like this arrangement. It is fraught with contradictions. While I can ignore what two consenting gay adults choose to do as none of my business, I cannot stand by and let innocent, vulnerable children be indoctrinated that this is a normal or morally acceptable behavior.

Therefore, I think the approach taken by Professor Garnett and his legal colleagues is an acceptably Catholic response to an immoral secular circumstance.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why we need a Vatican investigation into women's religious orders

Say a prayer for this misguided sister. Perhaps a request for St. Dominic's intercession would be appropriate. It seems Sr. Donna Quinn, OP, of Chicago has been volunteering for at least six years as an abortion clinic escort.

In addition to her support of abortion, Sr. Donna Quinn has publicly attacked the Catholic Church. According to Lifesite News:
In a 2002 address to the Women's Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School, Sr. Quinn described how she came to view the teachings of her Church as "immoral": "I used to say: 'This is my Church, and I will work to change it, because I love it,'" she said. "Then later I said, 'This church is immoral, and if I am to identify with it I'd better work to change it.' More recently, I am saying, 'All organized religions are immoral in their gender discriminations.'"

Quinn called gender discrimination "the root cause of evil in the Church, and thus in the world," and said she remained in the Dominican community simply for "the sisterhood."

Planned Parenthood pushing for harassment of crisis pregnancy centers

Pro-abortion organizations claim to be pro-choice. However, it seems that is true as long as the choice is to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood strongly opposes programs to help pregnant women carry their pregnancies to term. Read about their latest harassment effort here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The paperwork is healthy--the patient, not so much

An update to my previous post: At this point, I have figured out that the referral for my son to follow up on his intermittent testicular torsion was for the urologist to see him but not to treat him. The reason for this is that the doctor who saw him in the emergency room did not write down testicular torsion on either the record or the referral. He wrote down "Mom wants a referral, please evaluate." In order to get the necessary surgery, I have to take my son in to the primary care doctor. At that point they will put in the necessary referral. They will then look at this referral with no regard for the previous referral or evaluation by the civilian urologist. Since this is a new referral, they will first decide if there is room in the military facility for him to be seen. (This was done with the last referral and it was determined that there was not room for him to be seen.) If they determine that they cannot see him in the military facility, they will put his referral into the civilian referral process. That will then take 4-6 weeks for it to be approved. At that point we can schedule a visit with the civilian urologist and start the process for surgery all over again. It is as if the evaluation by the previous urologist doesn't even exist because the paperwork was insufficient. Once all the paperwork is in order, perhaps we can actually take care of the patient.

Government Health Care in action--or inaction as the case may be

Okay, now see how government health care works. My son is sitting on a medical time bomb. He has had two episodes of intermittent testicular torsion. He has to always be within six hours of a facility that can perform emergency surgery. The doctor who saw my son in the DeWitt Army hospital emergency room did not initiate a referral to a urologist until I requested it. He was going to discharge my son with no specific follow-up instructions. Because I am a doctor and demanded the referral he complied. It took one month to get the referral approved and an appointment scheduled. He saw the urologist who agreed that my son needed to have the minor procedure of orchiopexy done in a timely fashion to prevent emergent surgery in the future. However, when he went to schedule the surgery he found out that the doctor in the emergency room had checked the wrong box on the referral request. A request for a second opinion was submitted instead of a referral for evaluation and treatment. Because of this, I have to schedule an appointment with my son’s primary care manager. This primary care manager has to submit a referral for evaluation and treatment. Once that referral is approved—another one month process—the urologist can schedule the necessary surgery. Everyone in this governmental process is concerned about making sure the paperwork is correct and no one has any concern about the well being of the patient—my son.

Here is an article I wrote on testicular torsion:

Self-examination of the testicles as a screening procedure for cancer is one of the many topics covered in today’s high school health classes. As valuable as this prevention technique is, it might be even more important for the schools to educate high school boys about testicular torsion, a true medical emergency.

Testicular torsion occurs when the spermatic cord twists itself inside the scrotal sac and cuts off the blood supply to the testicle. Once the blood supply is cut off, you only have six hours to restore blood supply before the testicle is irreparably damaged and has to be removed. Torsion occurs spontaneously. Only 4 to 8 percent of cases are associated with trauma. The peak age for this condition is 14 with most cases occurring between ages 12 and 18. Every year, one out of every 4000 males under the age of 25 will suffer testicular torsion.

This happened to one of my sons when he was fifteen years old. He was playing a computer game when he suddenly cried out in pain. He said it felt like he had been kicked in the groin. Having practiced emergency medicine for several years, the sudden onset of scrotal pain was a red flag for me. I immediately told him to get his shoes on, because we were heading for the emergency room. He was surprised by my swift response, since I am known for my reluctance to seek care in an emergency room unless something is broken or bleeding. Once I explained the possible problem and the time constraint for preventing dire consequences, I could not drive fast enough for him.

Upon arrival at the emergency room, it is important to effectively communicate to the front desk personnel that this is a true medical emergency. When I took my son to the DeWitt Army hospital emergency room, the intake clerk handed us a pager like they give you at restaurants and directed us to the waiting room for triage. She looked skeptical when I told her that scrotal pain was a real emergency. However, she communicated the problem to the medical staff and they leapt into action. The primary diagnostic procedure is an ultrasound examination to assess blood flow. A urologist should be called in immediately. If torsion exists, the ultrasound will show compromised blood flow and the urologist must perform immediate surgery to untwist the spermatic cord. As I said, there is only a six-hour window from the time the cord twists until the time it is corrected in which the testicle can be saved. The surgery also includes a procedure to both testicles called orchiopexy. This involves placing small stitches in each testicle to tack them down and prevent them from twisting in the future. This is done to both testicles, because if torsion occurs in one testicle, there is a significant chance that the other testicle is predisposed to it as well.

After my son’s episode, I realized the need for better education of teenage boys and their parents about this medical emergency. I was surprised to hear my son say that he had experienced a similar pain two months prior to his emergency room visit but it had resolved spontaneously after a couple of hours. He had no idea that such pain could be a sign of something serious and needed immediate attention. More than likely, he had experienced an episode of torsion that untwisted by itself. This is called intermittent testicular torsion. Such pain should not be ignored. Even though the pain resolves, the underlying anatomical problem that predisposes to torsion remains. It is advisable to electively undergo the minor surgical procedure of orchiopexy to prevent subsequent emergency surgery for a persistent torsion.

I spoke to several mothers of my son’s friends. None of them had ever heard of testicular torsion or knew that scrotal pain was a medical emergency. Because there is so little time to surgically correct the twisted spermatic cord and save the testicle, it is critical that boys and their parents are made aware of this condition and the need to act quickly.

Click here for more information:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bishop Nickless and Catholic identity

Bishop Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, offers incredible guidance to his flock in his most recent pastoral letter. Read more here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's About Parents

Patrick Welsh teaches English at T.C.Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. You may recognize T.C.Williams as the high school spotlighted in Remember the Titans. Welsh has an opinion piece in today's Washington Post that just keeps floating around in my head. It is entitled Making the Grade Isn't About Race. It's About Parents. Here is a snippet.:

"Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?"

In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study."
Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up.

I was stunned. These were good kids; I had grown attached to them over the school year. It hit me that these students, at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, understood what I knew too well: The lack of a father in their lives had undermined their education. The young man who spoke up knew that with a father in his house he probably wouldn't be ending 12 years of school in the bottom 10 percent of his class with a D average. His classmate, normally a sweet young woman with a great sense of humor, must have long harbored resentment at her father's absence to speak out as she did. Both had hit upon an essential difference between the kids who make it in school and those who don't: parents.

Welsh's opinion piece is good, though maybe a bit simplistic. He is drawing a fair amount of criticism in the comments but also some support. One comment has kept me thinking all afternoon. The writer acknowledges that parents make a difference. But how is the school supposed to respond to this? Does the school just pretend all the kids have supportive parents and those who don't are just out of luck? Should the school assume all parents are inept and weave complex programs to compensate? My experience with public schools is that they tend towards the latter. However, public education policy is not what has been spinning in my head. I could write a very similar article about religious education. What is the difference between the kids who embrace their Catholic faith and grow in their understanding throughout their high school years and those who tolerate CCD until they are confirmed and then have no use for the Church through high school and beyond? It's about parents.

I gave a workshop yesterday morning on Building Your Domestic Church. It was a three-hour version of the six session program I gave last spring. The bottom line is that parents are the primary catechists for their children. If the Catholic Church is not relevant in the every day lives of parents it will not be relevant to their children. Parents need to believe and convey that being Catholic matters. Unfortunately, the vast majority of parents are poorly catechized and do not bring their faith to bear on their lives outside of Sunday Mass. Probably over half of the students do not attend Sunday Mass on a regular basis. Given this reality, what is a religious education program to do?

I have taught religious education around the United States for over twenty years. Most programs tend to follow the model of the public school system. They assume the parents are inept and try to develop a program that teaches the children while excluding the parents. The poor response by parents to any outreach programs discourages most religious education programs from even trying. I understand that. I only had a handful of attendees at my workshop. But the truth is the parents matter too much to exclude them. I stand before my students every week and tell them how important it is to go to Mass. Every week their parents are too busy or too tired to take them to Mass. The students don't see any immediate consequences of missing Mass. Are they going to believe me or their parents?

We've been trying gentle persuasion to get parents to learn more about their faith. I have asked parents to attend some of the CCD classes so both parents and children could cover material together. I received good feedback from the parents on these sessions, but most have not been inspired to attend any of the other adult education offering. Now our DRE is pushing a little harder. Parents of students who are preparing for confirmation are required to attend three hours of adult education. The adult education in our parish is expanding exponentially. There are Bible studies. There are studies of papal documents. There is a study of the Catechism using Peter Kreeft's Catholic Christianity. I did a presentation on end of life care. There is a program to discuss financial planning using Catholic principles. Parents are free to pick which three hours of adult education they want to attend.

I presented my workshop at the same time the eighth grade students were participating in a confirmation retreat. Most of the attendees were there because they could meet their adult education requirement in one fell swoop. However, several people came up to me after the talk to tell me how glad they were that they had heard my talk. They had a new appreciation for continuing religious education. I know there is some grumbling from parents as well. How dare the religious education office impose education requirements on them so that their children can be confirmed? For these parents, I just pray. Parenting is a vocation. Jobs, rounds of golf, and the latest reality show are occupations. It is the vocation, not the occupation, that answers God's call and leads us to Heaven.

Friday, October 16, 2009

AUL ad exposes Abortion Coverage in Health Care Reform

Diocese of Arlington

Most of my children have progressed from the high school youth group stage to the young adult ministry stage. Fortunately, the Diocese of Arlington offers a wonderful range of opportunities for young adults to gather for faith and fellowship. Even if you are not in the area and cannot attend these events, check out the links for Theology on Tap. Many of the presentations are archived as podcasts and provide a great resource for adult religious education.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Live our faith in joy, hope and truth

Fr. Troy Gately, of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Houston offered a gem of a letter in this past Sunday's parish bulletin. Read the whole thing, but take special note of this last paragraph:

In a world that promotes values and choices diametrically opposed to Christian virtue and Catholic faith, there is an increasing need for strong and clear commitment among those who believe. Reckless consumerism, unbridled materialism, greed, narcissism and moral relativism will in the end be shown for what they are but not before leading to the destruction of countless lives. As Catholics there is always the tendency to be critics and naysayers. This tendency must be avoided. Rather, we are at our best when we serve the world with our message of hope. We serve best when we offer a positive, loving and life giving alternative – Jesus Christ! This is the message of Pope Benedict. All one has to do is merely look at the titles of his three encyclicals: Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) 2005, Spe Salve (Saved by Hope) 2007 and Caritas in Veritatate (Charity in Truth) 2009. Too often the Christian message of love, hope and truth is obscured and heard only as a message of “don’ts,” a series of prohibitions or condemnations. Pope Benedict urges us to live our faith in a positive manner for the world needs us to be the best Christians we can be. Our world is hungry and longing for what God has given us in Jesus. When we live our faith in joy, hope and truth then not only is the Church invigorated, but also the world. Where do we begin? With ourselves! When do we begin? Right now!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

University of Notre Dame once again compromises Catholic identity

The Notre Dame Observer reports that the University of Notre Dame Student Activities Office funded trips for five students to participate in the gay rights demonstration in Washington D.C. This demonstration was primarily aimed at supporting gay marriage. How an ostensibly Catholic university could support this protest against clear Catholic teaching is beyond comprehension.

Fr. Jenkins claims there is an unquestionable commitment to Catholic teachings at Notre Dame and he is going to prove it by personally marching in the upcoming March for Life. He can make the entire March for Life on his knees and prove nothing. If the University of Notre Dame continues to flaunt the Magisterial teachings of the Church, it is not a Catholic university. It may be a university with a large number of Catholic students and lots of Catholic influenced art and architecture. However, that does not make it a Catholic university.

Another example of health care by committee

In light of this story, take a look at what the British National Health Service (Which President Obama looks to as a model for US health care) is doing to the elderly:

Ball, 42, from Robertsbridge, East Sussex, said: “My mother was going to be left to starve and dehydrate to death. It really is a subterfuge for legalised euthanasia of the elderly on the NHS. ”

Fenton was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia. Although Ball acknowledged that her mother was very ill she was astonished when a junior doctor told her she was going to be placed on the plan to “make her more comfortable” in her last days.

Ball insisted that her mother was not dying but her objections were ignored. A nurse even approached her to say: “What do you want done with your mother’s body?”

On January 19, Fenton’s 80th birthday, Ball says her mother was feeling better and chatting to her family, but it took another four days to persuade doctors to give her artificial feeding.

Fenton is now being looked after in a nursing home five minutes from where her daughter lives.

Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in palliative medicine, is concerned that other patients who could recover are left to die. He said: “As they are spreading out across the country, the training is getting probably more and more diluted.”

Rules are Rules

The media outlets have been covering the story of 6-year-old Zachary Christie all weekend. It seems that Zachary was suspended from school for 45 days because his Cub Scout eating utensil included a knife. This is not a Swiss Army knife or pen knife. This is an eating utensil knife. It is meant to spread peanut butter, not cut a steak. However, rules are rules. Little Zachary is being sentenced to 45 days in the Christina Delaware School District reform school. The New York Times has the story:

Zachary’s offense? Taking a camping utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about recently joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary was suspended and now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school…

…Still, some school administrators argue that it is difficult to distinguish innocent pranks and mistakes from more serious threats, and that the policies must be strict to protect students.
“There is no parent who wants to get a phone call where they hear that their child no longer has two good seeing eyes because there was a scuffle and someone pulled out a knife,” said George Evans, the president of the Christina district’s school board.

Excuse me. Are they going to also ban forks, pencils, pens, and scissors. Those can just as easily be used to poke out an eye in the event of a "scuffle".

What happens when these "rules are rules" bureaucrats get hold of health care? Consider this story from the London Times and pointed out by the Wall Street Journal:

Matthew Millington, 31, a corporal in the Queen’s Royal Lancers, had the operation to save him from an incurable respiratory condition.
But the organs were from a donor who was believed to have smoked 30 to 50 roll-up cigarettes a day. A tumour was found after the transplant, and its growth was accelerated by the drugs that Mr Millington took to prevent his body rejecting the organs.
Because he was a cancer patient, he was not allowed to receive a further pair of lungs, under hospital rules.

That's right. The likes of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel will be on the Health Advisory Benefits Committee. Forget about a modicum of common sense or compassion. Rules are rules.

Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon: A Catholic for our times

Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon was recently honored for her principled stand against the awarding of an honorary law degree to President Obama at the University of Notre Dame commencement. Read about her recent award and reflect on her amazing words of wisdom.

Friday, October 09, 2009

USCCB opposes all current health care legislation

The USCCB released a letter to all members of Congress letting them know that all current versions of health care legislation are unacceptable. Read more here. Pray for our bishops.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Remedy for a dog's grumbly tumbly

Athena, our 2-year-old labradinger

I once saw an add for health insurance for pets. It featured a picture of a dog and the words, "In spite of my keen sense of smell, I do not always make the best digestive decisions." While I did not purchase health insurance for my dog, I can concur that my dog does commit amazing dietary indiscretions. Let's just say that there is very little she finds inedible. Cardboard and paper seem to be a primary food group. True to her Labrador heritage, her digestive track is amazingly resilient. However, she does occasionally suffer from her poor snack choices.

I have no idea what caused her distress a couple of nights ago. Perhaps it was the acorns that are in abundance around our neighborhood. Perhaps she took in one too many empty cereal boxes. In any case, she was miserable. She wasn't vomiting or having diarrhea. All she wanted to do was go outside and eat grass. Her tummy was loudly rolling and gurgling. Every time she came inside she whined pitifully. It was a beautiful evening with a clear sky, full moon, and bright stars, but by midnight, I was more than ready to go to bed. Unfortunately, her tummy was not cooperating. In desperation, I dragged her into the computer room. While she howled I Googled, "remedy for dog's upset stomach". I got numerous hits, and they all mentioned the same therapy: yogurt. I promptly opened a carton of strawberry yogurt and offered it to her. She lapped it up and looked for more. I gave her one more carton. She polished that off quickly as well. Before I could throw away the cartons and get the computer turned off, she had trundled off to bed and was snoozing comfortably. She slept through the night and was fine the next day.

So just in case you have a dog with a similarly non-discriminating palate, I thought I would share this successful therapy.


Pilgrimages do not have to be big trips to Fatima or Lourdes. They can be outings in your own neighborhood. Read more here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Catholic guide to End of Life care

I will be presenting a talk on end-of-life care at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale at 6pm this evening. I would love to see you there, but if you cannot attend, please say a prayer that all goes well.

I am also available to present this topic or other Catholic bioethical topics to your parish group if you are within a day's drive of Washington DC.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI receives US Ambassador Miguel DIaz

Pope Benedict XVI offered strong words supporting the sanctity of human life and conscience protection for health care workers when he received US Ambassador Miguel Diaz. Read more here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Letter from members of the House urge pro-life amendment vote

Abortion is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. It is a human issue. 183 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi urging a vote on an amendment to explicitly forbid federal funding of abortion in health care. Pray for the success of this bipartisan coalition. Read more here.