KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

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 Jägerstätter

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A different sort of Christmas








My oldest is celebrating in Afghanistan. He already called after getting out of "Midnight" Mass. It began at 3:30am Afghanistan time which corresponded to midnight in Poland. He is on a Polish base. During Mass, a Polish general in Poland addressed the troops in Afghanistan via a video conference set up. Interesting that he assumed the Polish troops would be at Mass.

My daughter-in-law and granddaughter are in Texas with her parents for Christmas. Our home is so quiet. There are only five of us here--well five people and four dogs. My son's two dogs did not join his wife and daughter in Texas. Normally, my parents would be with us for Christmas. My mother's death this past February has left a gaping hole in the Christmas season. My father was here for Thanksgiving so he stayed in Texas and visited my sister for Christmas this year.

Still, there is joy. I heard my son's voice today so I know he is safe. Miles cannot diminish love so even family members who are not in my home are in my heart. And it is still Christmas with so many familiar sights and sounds--a Christmas tree, cookies, and carols.

Most importantly, there is Mass. We always go to Mass on Christmas Eve, but this year my son drew the 7:30 am Christmas morning Mass as an altar server. So we will go to Mass before we open presents. Another difference this year. I love Christmas Mass. The joy of welcoming our newborn Savior wells up within me. It fills all the niches of sorrow and loss. There is Faith. There is Hope. There is Love.

Wishing each of you a Christmas filled with Faith, Hope, and Love. Know the greatest of these is Love.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Ordering"' a child

In these days when the order for a cup of coffee specifies the size, flavor, ingredients, and country of origin for the coffee bean, it is not surprising that some parents think they can do the same thing with their children. "I want one healthy male, intelligent with no genetic diseases, and no prospect of serious diseases in the future, please." When the child doesn't arrive exactly as ordered, some parents are taking legal action. See my latest article at Zenit:

WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Imagine gazing at your child and coldly declaring, "You should never have been born." Yet parents are doing exactly that in courts around the world as they bring "wrongful life" or "wrongful birth" lawsuits against doctors and fertility clinics.

These very sad cases are variations on the classic "wrongful death" medical malpractice suit. The twist is that the plaintiffs are dissatisfied because the patient -- in this case a child -- lived instead of died. Usually these children suffer from a serious disability or genetic disease. In a "wrongful birth" suit the parents allege that if they had been given a prenatal diagnosis of the child's condition they would have aborted their child. They seek compensation for the care of their child and punitive damages for having to live with a disabled child.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A hit piece masquerading as a medical report

The Lancet, a respected British medical journal, just published a commentary that was nothing more than an attack on the Catholic Church masquerading as a medical recommendation. I responded in this piece over at HLI America:

On December 8, the Solemn Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the British medical journal, The Lancet, published a most puzzling commentary, in which a clarion call is issued for the Catholic Church to provide all nuns with oral contraceptives in order to prevent cancer. Australian researchers Kara Britt and Roger Short make their recommendation based on the increased risk of ovarian, endometrial and breast cancer associated with nulliparity, the condition of having never been pregnant:

Today, the world’s 94,790 nuns still pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity.

While nuns almost always carry this risk factor, many lay women are also nulliparous. Why are the authors limiting their recommendation to women religious? It seems that these researchers are trying to cast the Church hierarchy in a negative light by claiming they are not addressing a significant health issue of their women religious:

If the Catholic Church could make the oral contraceptive pill freely available to all its nuns, it would reduce the risk of those accursed pests, cancer of the ovary and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves.

Continue reading here.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Telling the truth is not propaganda

A recent news article claimed that publicizing a medical study that suggests a link between abortion and breast cancer is a form of propaganda. I answer that charge at HLI America:

Which of the following is likely to be motivated by ideological bias: Reports on independent medical studies that show a link between a commonly chosen medical procedure and rates of a certain type of cancer, or news stories that ignore the latest scientific evidence and rely on a single, controversial, and now-debunked report to make the case in favor that the medical procedure?

In a, to put it charitably, questionable news article, The Daily Caller suggests that pro-life medical and research experts, dubbed “advocates,” are motivated by a political agenda after statements on recent research that showed a nearly 3-fold increase in breast cancer in women who had an abortion. The headline, “Pro-Life Advocates: Study shows link between abortion and breast cancer; cancer institute: no way,” suggests that this is an ideological battle rather than a debate in which almost all relevant research points in a specific direction. In fact, The Daily Caller claims the “experts” deny a link between breast cancer and abortion, while the “advocates” say the link exists.

Continue reading here.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

How fast can two weeks fly?

It seems like just yesterday that we were picking Wesley up from the airport. Now it is time for him to return to Afghanistan.



We had everyone home for Thanksgiving Day so we took advantage of the opportunity to do a family picture. We even had my dad and my husband's parents visiting from Houston.



Please say a prayer for my son and his family. He has another three months of deployment to go.




















Can you believe my granddaughter is already a year old? It is such a blessing to be able to spend so much time with her and her mom.

Hope your Advent is full of joy. Count your blessings and prepare for the coming of the Lord!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Let a nation of faith and justice begin with me

A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us. Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith. A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.
(Is 26:1-3)

I would like to live in a nation that keeps faith; a nation where God is not banned from the public square; a nation whose laws are consistent with God's law. Such a nation begins first with individuals who keep faith. These individuals form families that keep faith. These families form communities that keep faith. These communities will build a nation that keeps faith.

So as individuals and families, do not be afraid to publicly live your faith. Bow your head and say grace before you eat in a restaurant. Wish your friends and neighbors a "Blessed Advent" and then a "Merry Christmas".

Remember that Christ said, "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock." (Mt. 7: 24) Share your bounty with those in need. Reach out to the lonely. Offer love and forgiveness to those who have hurt you.

It is easy to point out the faults of those around us. But turn that examination inward. Advent is a penitential season. Humbly acknowledge your sins and seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We used to sing "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Perhaps our song should now say, "Let us be a nation of faith and justice, and let it begin with me."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I need Advent

"Advent is a time of vigilance, prayer and conversion."
--Blessed John Paul II

The world gets very loud at this time of year. Lights flash, music blares, and commercials scream at us that we are lacking the material goods necessary for true happiness. The Church offers an oasis of calm. It is Advent. Advent lets us turn away from the dizzying sparkle of tinsel and lights and bask in the soft glow of candles. Through prayers proclaimed around the Advent wreath we rededicate ourselves and our families to holiness. We clothe ourselves in the purple of penitence, acknowledging our sinfulness but confident that with God's grace we can hope for our conversion. We await the coming of Jesus, not only as the Holy Infant, but as the King of Kings at the end of time. Our anticipation and joy overflows on Gaudete Sunday when we cast off the purple and wrap ourselves in hues of rose. We then return to our purple world with renewed vigor. We offer more prayers and give one final push towards conversion to a life of holiness. We may not be perfect when we greet Christ on Christmas morning, but we will be better than we were when Advent began.

So let every gift purchased, every card written, and every cookie baked be a prayer. If it does not lead you to holiness, it does not belong in Advent. Let the quiet rhythm of this liturgical season carry you to the real joy of Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Counting Blessings 2011

My son made it home from Afghanistan for a little R&R. He will head back after Thanksgiving, but we are counting our blessings that he gets to share Thanksgiving with us.



Waiting for Daddy in the airport








Daddy!


Happy Family!


Mom gets her turn

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pro-Abortion group goes after Crisis Pregnancy Centers

While the advocates of abortion like to label themselves "pro-choice", they seem to support only one choice--abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice of North Carolina released a report condemning the work of crisis pregnancy centers. My analysis of this report is up at HLI America.

The abortion industry is clearly feeling the heat. Planned Parenthood has been defunded in several states, workers from the infamous Kermit Gosnell abortion facility have pleaded guilty to murder, and the Commonwealth of Virginia is providing a model for other states with newly enacted and strict standards for abortion clinics.

The North Carolina chapter of National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro Choice has responded to this pressure with a report lambasting crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in the Tar Heel State. In it’s press release, NARAL claims to have conducted an undercover investigation of 66 of the 122 CPCs in North Carolina. The actual report reveals that this “investigation” involved visiting only 27 of the centers, while the rest of the information was gleaned from 47 CPC web sites and from 40 phone calls. This small sample size would be enough to question the usefulness of any conclusions, but as it turns out, there are bigger problems in the report than its very limited scope.

Continue reading here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A time when the free market approach does not work

I am usually a fan of letting free markets do their thing. However, when we start treating humans as commodities for sale, it is time to reject economic incentives and seek a higher motivation. My latest article for HLI America addresses the sale of transplant organs to increase the supply:

What’s wrong with paying people in dire straits for their kidneys?

Dr. Sally Satel asks the question many consider taboo in the November 8 Wall Street Journal. In her op-ed, she argues for the compensation of organ donors in order to alleviate the worldwide shortage of kidneys, livers and lungs needed for transplantation. Herself the recipient of a donor kidney, she points to the tens of thousands who are waiting for organs in the United States, as well as the twelve patients who die every day because no donor kidney is available as justification for her position. Since a black market already exists for transplant organs, Satel argues, legalizing organ sales is a win-win proposition, especially for those facing financial hardships:

Were donor compensation legal, it might have been a good option for Donna Barbera of California. Last week, she wrote me asking how she could sell her kidney. She sent her phone number and blood type. “I do not find anything immoral about helping someone get a kidney and in return they help me out of a financial bind,” she said by email, noting that she faces foreclosure on her house. “I have a donor card on my license, so my intentions have always been to help. I just thought maybe someone could help me too.”

Revising NOTA [1984’s National Organ Transplant Act] would allow healthy people like Donna to save a life in exchange for bettering their own. As countries provide for their own needy patients, they will keep future clients from patronizing people like Levy Rosenbaum—and they’ll keep brokers from preying on the vulnerable.

Continue reading here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A moral approach to infertility

I wrote the HLI America column for the Arlington Catholic Herald this week:

Laura and her husband married in the Catholic Church and have been open to life throughout their marriage, yet in three years they have not conceived a child. Well-meaning family and friends keep asking when she is going to start a family. In spite of her smiles and reassurances that they hope to have children someday, she has a growing realization that there might be a problem, a physical reason for why they haven’t gotten pregnant. Her heart aches as she thinks about life without bearing a child. She wonders how God could let this happen to her.


Continue reading here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kind of Pathetic

I was probably not the model of Christian charity last night when I was on the phone with our credit card company. Someone had obtained our credit card number and used it to make online purchases. USAA was amazingly helpful as always. Within hours they had contacted us and our credit card was disabled. However, it is still a monstrous inconvenience to be without a credit card for a few days and to have to re-establish the recurring charges that I have set up. I did not have kind thoughts about the thief who was inflicting this stress upon me.

But then I looked at the fraudulent charges. The first thing he did was to join Match.com. I bet his profile had a few lies in it. The second purchase was $180 in flowers from FTD.com. That is just plain sad. Someone has to be pretty lonely for them to steal a credit card number just so they can join an online dating service and send flowers to potential mate(s). I guess now mixed in with my sense of outrage is a bit of pity.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Seeing blessings in 'Impossible Situations"

I am on day four of my novena to St. Jude. This is today's reflection from the praymorenovenas.com email.

"Take up your cross and follow me..."
Sometimes Jesus asks us to embrace the suffering and pain that we endure. Sometimes God want's us to carry the cross like Christ did for a greater good in our lives.
Despite this suffering, God want's to bless us. He wants to bless us abundantly.
Today let's pray that in the midst of our 'impossible' situations that we pray for in this novena, that we can still see God's blessings in our lives.

Go to Mass. Offer it up.

I have mentioned before that this is one of my most popular posts. People do a Google search for "travel dispensation for Mass" and find it. I suspect some are sorely disappointed when they read in the first sentence that there is no such thing as a "travel dispensation".

I though about this yesterday when I spoke with my son who is stationed in Afghanistan. We are blessed that he is able to phone us regularly. He had not phoned in a while so I knew he had been out and about in the countryside. He mentioned that when he did get to another base he found they were having Mass and attended. Just as at his primary base, the priest was Polish. It didn't matter. It was the Mass.

So if my son can make it a point to find Mass in the wilds of Afghanistan, I can't imagine that it would be that difficult to find Mass here in the United States. The instructions on doing so are in the first link. And if you find going to Mass a little inconvenient this weekend because you have soccer games, work, relatives visiting, or some other competing activity, go anyway. Offer it up. Pray for all the soldiers who serve in war torn areas and struggle to find Mass. Pray for all the priests who serve these soldiers. And if you need a special intention, pray for the cadre of Polish priest who have offered spiritual support to my son during his deployment. I will be forever in their debt.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That's my girl!



That's my daughter at the 27 second mark. She is sitting and sketching at the base of Willy's statue.

Pray a Novena with Me!

A novena is nine days of prayer, usually dedicated to a specific intention or to the intercession of a specific saint. It is based on the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost that Blessed Mother and the Apostles spent in prayer.

Starting today, I am joining over 5,000 Catholics to pray the St. Jude Novena!

I’m looking forward to the answered prayers from this amazing saint! With so many faithful Catholics around the world praying this novena, I thought you’d like to join too!

Do you have any ‘impossible causes’ to pray for?

You can sign up for handy email reminders to get the the novena prayers here: St. Jude Novena

I love this "pray more novenas" site. They start a new novena and then email me the prayers each day. It is a wonderful reminder and helps me stick to my commitment to pray. It is also very supportive to know that thousands of other Catholics are praying right along beside me. Click on one of the above links or on the badge in my sidebar and join me in offering this and future novenas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When Catholics and non-Catholics mingle

Thanksgiving and Christmas are approaching. This means many Catholic families will be intermingling with their Protestant relatives. So, what do you do on Sunday? If you visit your Protestant aunt's church, what do you do about "communion"?

Fr. Z offers a great deal of commentary here as he refutes an article in US Catholic, a less than orthodox publication. The bottom line is canon 844:

“Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful only and, likewise, the latter may licitly receive the sacraments only from Catholic ministers.”
and
“Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.”
Protestant sects do not have valid sacraments. Canon 844 cannot be used to justify receiving communion from Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc. The non-Catholic Churches that do have valid sacraments are the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Polish National Catholic Church, and the pre-Calcedonian Churches.

Also, attending the liturgy of a Protestant sect cannot fulfill a Catholic's Sunday obligation to attend Mass. Refusing to attend Protestant services can create family tensions. However, it is not unreasonable to expect our Protestant family and friends to respect our Catholic faith. Perhaps you can attend Saturday evening Mass and then spend Sunday morning at the Protestant liturgy (refraining from taking communion as described above). Or perhaps you can attend Mass while the others attend their services and then meet for brunch.

Our Protestant relatives are welcome to attend Mass, but just as we do not receive communion in their churches, they should not receive the Eucharist at Mass. No one, Catholic or Protestant, should receive the Eucharist unless he is in a state of grace and fully united to the Catholic Church. Such unity is impossible for Protestants.

It is tempting to pretend there are no differences for the sake of peace in the family. However, we miss a chance to evangelize when we fail to live up to the teaching of the Church. We also risk confusing children in the family. The Catholic Church is not just one of many Churches. It is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. There are elements of holiness in many of the Protestant sects, but only the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth. By insisting that all Catholics attend Mass on Sunday (or Saturday evening) and refusing to engage in "cross-communion" we show by our actions what we truly believe.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Plug for speaking opportunities

Wanted to highlight the intro to my guest column for the HLI Newsletter:

When we first envisioned and created HLI America's Fellows program Dr. Denise Hunnell was the first person I contacted due to her medical and bioethical expertise. She's been a great addition to the HLI America family. Be sure to read the rest of her work on the

Truth and Charity Forum. And if you'd like to have Denise (or any of the other members of the HLI America team) speak at your parish or organization email us at hlia@hli.org. God's blessing to you and yours.

Arland K. Nichols

National Director
I have a presentation entitled "10 questions about health care ethics that every Catholic should be able to answer" that is ready to go. Especially if you are within a day's drive of the Washington DC area, I would love to speak to your group.

When "Preventive Care" causes diseases instead of preventing them...

My latest work for HLI America is up.

Every package of either oral or injectable contraceptives includes a warning that they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. This warning may need to be amended: A study published in the October 4 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that use of a hormonal contraceptive doubles the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS.

Continue reading here.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Do Not Ask Amy!!!

Why do I do it? Every time I read an advice column in the Washington Post I find myself fuming. I should just turn the page and never read another word. A couple of weeks ago Carolyn Hax suggested a woman let her pregnant teenage niece come live with her and her three young children. Being around those children should certainly convince the niece to have an abortion. Today, Ask Amy basically tells a woman to get up off her backside and find a job. Staying at home with kids does not contribute enough to the family.

My husband and I have been married for 12 years. He has always worked, and I’ve always been a dedicated homemaker. I consider this my “job.”
Recently my husband was laid off, and he accepted another position that pays significantly less. Now that my sons are in middle school, my husband wants me to consider working part time, because I “have so much free time during the day.”
I find this extremely disrespectful. I feel like he thinks I just lounge around all day.
How can we compromise on this issue, and how can I show him the importance of everything that I do? -- Already Employed Wife

DEAR WIFE: One way to compromise would be for you to get a part-time job to help support your family.

Excuse me. Exactly how much money do you think this woman is going to make at a part-time job? Nothing in her letter indicates they are not putting food on the table or a roof over their heads. What Amy should have recommended is that the husband and wife sit down and discuss the benefits and burdens of her taking on employment outside the home. How does the husband see this extra income being used?

Things to consider:
There are costs associated with working. The increased spending power of a second income is grossly overestimated. Families with two working parents eat out more. They buy more convenience foods which are more expensive. A woman's wardrobe for work is more expensive. If both parents are working you tend to pay for household services like housekeepers, dry cleaners, laundry, and yard work because you are both too tired to take care of them.

Will the wife's job compromise her job as a mother if she works outside the home? The prime time for teens and tweens to get into trouble is when they are unsupervised after school. They are too old for daycare and babysitters often don't exert much control over their behavior. The first hour after children get home from school is golden. That is when you can look at their faces and see how their day went. The look in their eyes tells you if there is something bothering them. Shuttling them around to after school activities is a window into their world that you lose if you are paying someone else to drive them.

With increased costs and possibly increased taxes, will the extra income be worth the burdens? The couple should discuss ways to cut expenses that might be equivalent to what the wife would make in a part-time job. Perhaps, the husband is just feeling envious that his wife gets to keep doing the job she loves--being a stay-at-home-mom --and he has to take a downgraded less satisfying position. This may be more about his professional unhappiness than about the family's need for more income.

Rather than belittling the work of being a wife and mother and telling this woman to go get a job, Amy should have recommended the couple sit down and find out what each thought the family would gain and what it would lose if the wife got a job.

It really makes one wonder what kind of family life these advice columnists have when they think staying at home with kids is insignificant and living with children is a good argument for abortion.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Last day to let HHS know you oppose contraceptive mandate!

Today is the last day for comments on the HHS mandated no-cost contraception insurance coverage. If you have not made your voice heard, please comment now!

Read this letter written by Keith Rothfus, a candidate for Congress from Pittsburgh. I thought it was so good I sent him a campaign donation. We need congressmen like him!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where I will be on Saturday

This Saturday, October 1, I will be giving a presentation entitled "Ten Questions on Health Care Ethics every Catholic Should be Able to Answer." The talk will follow the 9:00 am Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale. We will probably start around 9:45. If you are in Northern Virginia I would love to see you there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Would anyone notice?

Rob Vischer at Mirror of Justice expresses some concern over the expanding use of drones in military conflicts. He worries that if we are not putting troops in harm's way we will not be as judicious in our use of military force. That may be a reasonable theoretical concern. However, here is my response:

My husband just retired after 30 years of service to the Air Force and my oldest son is currently in the Army, stationed in Afghanistan.I spent much of today walking the halls of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Around every corner was a young man who was maimed from service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The number of amputees I saw brought me to tears. This sight is hidden from most Americans. I understand your concern that using drones might loosen the inhibitions against using military force. However, there is such a disconnect between the military and the general public as it is, that most Americans are only vaguely aware of the sacrifice of our armed forces in the current conflicts. I don't know that many would notice we are losing drones instead of soldiers.
Now I realize that many of you are part of a military family and know exactly what the cost of armed conflict is. I also know that many of you are unwavering in your support of the military. My comments are not directed at you.  Unfortunately, for way too many Americans, episodes of NCIS are as close as they come to the military. They are oblivious to what it means to serve in the military and to be part of a military family. There is a huge gulf between those who serve and those who don't. No one who is not in the military or a civilian supporting military operations is sacrificing for this war effort. The military is a fuzzy concept without a human face.

If you don't know anyone in the military, why don't you take a look at this. Put a name and face to our military. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for their sacrifice and another prayer for their continued safety.

The full story on HPV

The Washington Post ran  a very abbreviated version of my article opposing mandatory HPV vaccines. My full argument is up at the HLI website.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I would never consider my own kids as a persuasive argument for abortion!

This has got to be one of the saddest commentaries on motherhood I have seen in a long time. Carolyn Hax is a newspaper advice columnist. A woman writes to her because her 15-year-old niece is pregnant and the girl will not listen to her parents' advice and get an abortion. The woman suggests that she have her niece come live with her for a few months since she has three children under the age of six. Time spent in such a household would certainly open her niece's eyes and make her see the sensibility of abortion. Carolyn Hax responds that it should only take a couple of weeks. She advises the woman not to bring up the subject of abortion. Just let her daily life do the talking.

My first three children were born in under four years. My oldest was eight when the fourth child was born. As chaotic and exhausting as those years were, I would never consider our household to be a living statement for the wisdom of abortion. Pray for any woman who thinks a pregnant teen would see her life with children and opt for abortion.

Washington Post publishes my letter on HPV vaccination!

I sent the Washington Post  an op-ed article explaining why mandatory HPV vaccines are an intrusion on parental rights. HPV infection does not rise to the public health risk level needed to merit overriding parental authority. They truncated it to a Letter to the Editor and took out most of my medical information that justifies my position. But they did publish it and gave it a prominent place on the page. My full argument should be up on the HLI America website in the near future. I will keep you updated. In the meantime, feel free to visit the Post website and offer support if the liberals start taking pot shots.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thanks, but no thanks

I love nuns! I am overwhelmed when I think of how completely they have given themselves to Christ. I have a couple of orders on my monthly charity donations list. In my work with pro-life advocacy and bioethics I run into these holy women regularly. I often will send a donation to the order of a sister with whom I have just worked. Take a look at this post by the Anchoress. She has a beautiful round up of nun news.

However, not all orders have stayed true to their charism. That is why there now two groups of nuns in the United States. There are orders who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). They have shunned tradition, are very concerned with feminism, fight the Magisterium, support women's ordination, and are often into New Age nature worship. These are also the orders with very few new vocations. Then you have the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.(CMSWR) They are faithful to the Magisterium, love the Church, and are supportive of tradition. These are the orders that are growing by leaps and bounds.

This week I received a solicitation for a charitable donation to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Wisconsin. They sent me a lovely set of Christmas cards. Now I don't send money to everyone who offers me greeting cards or address labels. I went to their web site to see who these sisters are. Are they vintage 1970's feminists or are they true brides of Christ? Take a look for yourself and you will easily see the answer. What bothered me was they had no "corporate stand" on the sanctity of human life. In fact, they explicitly state that human life cannot be placed above "Earth" and the "Cosmos". Take a look at their "corporate stand" on the "web of life":

All of creation, from the initial creative event to the arrival of humans, is a single, interconnected and interdependent whole. Over billions of years hydrogen and helium unfurl the shimmering stars and galaxies, the basic elements emerge, and eventually our solar system and life unfold. Each aspect of the creative process is necessary and essential since each mode of being depends on the interactions and transformations that both precede and follow it. This web of relationships makes it impossible to rank or separate creation in a hierarchical or dualistic manner.

Perhaps even more disturbing is they avoid speaking of God and prefer to talk about the "Creator Spirit"

We believe we are to relate to Earth, to one another, and indeed to the Cosmos, in mutually sustaining ways and that all of our systems of learning, technology, healing, economics, governance, politics, and religion, including our Christian faith and Franciscan charism, must be in harmony with the basic ecology and laws of the Universe.
TODAY THE CREATOR SPIRIT STILL MOVES OVER THE EARTH WAITING TO ASSIST US . . .
In spite of their lovely and very traditional Christmas cards, I will be offering my charitable donation elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is it really all relative?

I post this for everyone, but most especially for my young adult children and friends. First read this. Pay attention to this passage:
Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”
Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”
Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism. Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.
  Then reflect on the words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger just before he was elected Pope:

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Decades of evil. Decades of courage. Decades of prayer.

There is no way to write an adequate tribute or commentary on September 11, 2001. Yes, I remember where I was when I found out. My four children were at school. All I wanted to do was rush and pick them up and hold them close. Yet, I stayed put. I let them finish their school day. I knew our world had changed forever. However, after sending my husband to war nearly a decade earlier, I knew how important it was to keep as much of life's normal routines intact. I was first and foremost a military wife. I knew that my husband's military mission would not include directly fighting this fight. But I knew that someone's husband or wife, father or mother, would fight it. I fell to my knees and prayed. Countless decades of the Rosary passed through my fingers as I watched the fire, smoke, and devastation unfold on television.

What I could not anticipate is that on the tenth anniversary of this horrific evil, the soldier fighting the fight would be my son. My oldest is deployed to Afghanistan.  He was the little boy who was four-years-old when the combat started in Desert Storm. He sat and watched CNN with me and when he saw my tears start to fall, he marched to the television screen, pointed to the map of the Middle East, and said, "Look, Mom. Iraq invaded Kuwait. Daddy is doing his job. He is going to push Iraq back. He has to be there." Nothing like having your four-year-old show more courage than you do. So the tears stopped.  We still had family dinners, playtime, and weekly Mass. The Rosary was our constant prayer. We rejoiced when Daddy came home. My oldest son was a skinny high school kid when the Twin Towers fell. He knew the fight was continuing.Now he is a muscular full-grown man wearing body armor and carrying a weapon half way around the world. He still shows more courage than I could ever muster.

His wife now has my role. She guards the home fires and keeps their daughter happy and healthy. I do my best to support her because I have been in her shoes. I know my husband went to war hoping it would save his children from having to fight this battle. I am sure my son likewise hopes that his children never have to face the horror of war. What I have learned over these decades is there is no shortage of evil. What I pray is that with God's grace, there will be no shortage of courage. Perhaps even more importantly, may there be no shortage of wisdom. As the decades of my Rosary continue, may decades of peace follow.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Your new Pyrex is not like your old Pyrex!

In January 2011, Consumer Reports ran an article about the reported shattering of pyrex dishes while cooking. The Pyrex your mother used or you may have used years ago was made from borosilicate glass. This is the same kind of glass used in laboratory test tubes and flasks. Today's Pyrex is made of lime soda glass. The manufacturer says the lime soda glass is no more prone to shatter, but consumer complaints are rising. I have a pretty large collection of the new generation blue Pyrex baking dishes and bowls. I noted the article, but didn't pay that much attention to it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, my father-in-law used one of my Pyrex bowls to cook some canned beans. He cooked them on top of the stove, doctoring them up with a few spices. The bowl went from the stove to the table. We ate dinner then poured the left-overs into a plastic bowl for storage. Because he cooked the beans over a gas flame, there was some sauce that had adhered pretty firmly to the bottom of the Pyrex bowl. My mother-in-law put some soapy water in the bowl and set it on the counter to soak. Probably a good fifteen minutes later there was an explosion. The bowl shattered sending shards of glass everywhere.  We were stunned. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Coincidentally, two days later the latest issue of Consumer Reports arrived with a follow up on the Pyrex concerns. After their first article, the anecdotal reports of shattered Pyrex came rolling in. One woman reports that the glass shattered with enough force to sever her Achilles tendon when it was hit by a flying fragment. The incidents are most frequent when butter or oils are microwaved in the glassware. Delayed reactions like the one we experienced are common.

The manufacturer still claims that lime soda glass is as safe as borosilicate glass. I am not so sure. However, the Consumer Reports article did give four safety tips to reduce the risk of Pyrex glass shattering:
  1. Never place Pyrex directly on a burner or under a broiler
  2. Add liquid prior to cooking meats or vegetables
  3. Preheat oven
  4. Place hot glassware on a dry cloth pot holder. (Our bowl had been placed directly on a granite countertop. This seems to be a common factor in several of the shattering incidents. The granite may cause the glass to cool too rapidly.)
Just thought I would pass on this safety tip. I may be scouring the thrift shops for vintage Pyrex.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Use Words if Necessary

"Preach the Gospel always. Use words if necessary." 
(Often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)

A few days ago I wrote about fraternal correction. One of the comments asked for guidance about how to go about offering such correction. This offering from  Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, HLI Interim President, offers a solid approach. The crux of the advice is in his last two paragraphs:

As we discuss how we can overcome this growing decay in our societies, the primary solution must be to return to a living faith. We have to live our Faith with total coherence; living by example is far stronger and more convincing than a flood of words. Living of the faith leads to a deep love of its saving truths, and moves us to share them with others.  

And as we share these truths: we must be certain that the Lord will be with us, and will give us all the graces that we need to fulfill our mission.
We teach most by our example. Great heroics make for inspiring stories that are told over and over.  However, more hearts are quietly softened and converted to the Gospel message by the demonstration of simple, faithful, living. Clothe yourself in your Catholic identity. Then remember, that once you have identified yourself as a Catholic, the Church will be judged by everything you do.

Charity in word and deed is paramount. Be a joyful Catholic. It is easy to wrap ourselves into knots over the moral decay so aptly described by Monsignor Barreiro-Carámbula. We cannot condone or ignore sin. We must be clear and forthright in promoting goodness. However, rather than relentlessly wailing about the sin around us, we should model the joy of virtue. Have you noticed how complicated and unhappy lives become when the straight and narrow way is abandoned for promises of a shortcut to happiness? Be living proof that the road to Heaven is challenging but filled with authentic happiness.

Be faithful in the little things. For example, make it to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. You don't need to make a show of it. Just do it. All four of my children played soccer. We never missed Mass for soccer games. We found Mass wherever we were or found a Mass time to fit the soccer schedule. Sometimes it meant driving a long distance. Sometimes it meant missing a team meal on Saturday night. 

A couple of years ago my husband and I were invited to an elegant ball. It was on a Friday during Lent. The meal choices were  steak, chicken, or vegetarian. The others at our table were intrigued when our vegetarian entrees arrived. "Oh, how long have you been vegetarians?" I think some were disappointed to learn that we were not an exotic progressive-minded couple. We were just faithful Catholics. Still, humble obedience to the disciplines of our faith was a form of evangelization. As it happened, there was another Catholic at our table. He expressed disappointment that he had not also kept the meatless Friday directive. I think he will next time.

We must not be afraid to lovingly offer fraternal correction. Live the faith always. If necessary, use words. 




Unintended consequences of artificial insemination

We medical students were for the most part broke. I was an economic vegetarian – I couldn’t afford to buy meat. The medical school faculty knew that there were always student subjects available to participate in their research studies as long as they offered money or free food. My arms still bear the needle marks of multiple vials of blood proffered for about ten dollars a pop. For $100, my roommate agreed to undergo bronchoscopy, which entailed inserting a tube through her nose all the way into her lungs so that the technician could collect cells from her deepest airways. Afterwards, she said it wasn’t worth it.

The male medical students, on the other hand, had it made. They were very desirable sperm donors: lots of women want to be able to say their child’s father was a doctor, even if they have never met him. I always wondered if in the future one of these men would look at every child who shared his physical features and wonder if this boy could be his son or that girl could be his daughter.

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Faith in the face of persecution

 Psalm 3:

A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.
How many are my foes, LORD!
How many rise against me!
How many say of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God."
But you, LORD, are a shield around me;
my glory, you keep my head high.
With my own voice I will call out to the LORD,
and he will answer me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and I fall asleep,
[and] I will wake up, for the LORD sustains me.
I do not fear, then, thousands of people
arrayed against me on every side.
Arise, LORD! Save me, my God!
For you strike the cheekbone of all my foes;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation is from the LORD!
May your blessing be upon your people!

Pope Benedict reflects on this powerful prayer in today's Wednesday audience:

Psalm 3 presents us "a supplication replete with faith and consolation. By praying this Psalm we share the sentiments of the Psalmist: a just but persecuted figure which would later be fulfilled in Jesus. In pain, danger and the bitterness of misunderstanding and offence, the words of this Psalm open our hearts to the comforting certainty of faith. God is always close, even in times of difficulty, problems and darkness. He listens, responds and saves.
  "However", the Pope added, "it is important to be able to recognise His presence and to accept His ways: like David during his humiliating flight from his son Absalom, like the persecuted righteous of the Book of Wisdom and, finally and fully, like the Lord Jesus on Golgotha. In the eyes of the unrighteous it appeared that God did not intervene and that His Son died, but for believers it was at that precise moment that true glory was manifested and definitive salvation achieved".
A quick look at today's news reveals the hostility Christians face in today's culture. The current health care reform efforts seek to marginalize faithfully Catholic health care. Any mention of God is being shut out of the public square, public schools, and the workplace. Relativism denies an objective truth and labels any such assertion evidence of bigotry. Yet, as we learned Sunday, we cannot stand by silently as our culture descends into sin. We must speak out for virtue--even when it aligns tens of thousands against us. For no earthly numbers can overcome God. We must test our faith and trust this to be true.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Fraternal Correction

8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life. (Ezekiel 33:8-9)

Pope Benedict reflected on fraternal correction in yesterday's Angelus address:

The text of the Gospel “tells us that brotherly love also involves a sense of mutual responsibility,” said the Pope, “so if my brother sins against me, I must use love towards him and, first of all, speak to him personally, pointing out that what he has said or done is not good.”
The Pope quoted the 4-5th century theologian, St. Augustine of Hippo, who said Christians cannot be indifferent to the “severe wound” a fellow believer may have inflicted upon themselves through sin.
However, St. Augustine also stressed that any subsequent fraternal correction has to be animated by love and not revenge insisting “you have to forget the hurt you have received, not the wound of your brother.”

Therein lies the challenge of fraternal correction. To admonish the sinner and to instruct the ignorant are spiritual works of mercy. In order to be merciful, they must be done with love. Fraternal correction is not a game of "gotcha" where we expose, judge, and condemn. Even Jesus promotes the leadership pearl of "praise in public, correct in private". We show our love by offering the sinner truth while never demeaning his dignity. We stand fast by our principles because to do otherwise would condone sin and lead others to sin. We offer correction with humility, fully aware that we ourselves are sinners and will need correction at times as well.

As Pope Benedict said:
All this indicates that there is a shared responsibility in the way of Christian life. Everyone, aware of their limitations and defects, is called to welcome fraternal correction and help others with this particular service.

If our fraternal correction is rejected, our response must still be one of love. We pray for the one who persists in sin. Once private correction fails, it may be necessary to publicly expose the sin to protect others from the same error. Church sanctions are not punishment. They are proclamations of the truth and a call to conversion. We cannot presume the authority to mete out God's justice. We can seek to imitate His mercy.

New study confirms abortion link to subsequent mental illness

Here is my latest piece at HLI America

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pregnancy "Reductions": a euphemism for abortion

The New York Times recently ran an article lamenting the stigma attached to women who "reduce" their multiple gestation pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc) to a single fetus. My response is up at HLI America.

The directions on my flower seed packet say, “Sow seeds directly into the soil. When plants are two inches tall, thin to six inches apart.” Sowing more than you need and culling the excess once seeds have germinated is a great approach to gardening. But it is a horrific way to approach pregnancy and childbirth.

Yet that is exactly what happens in more and more pregnancies achieved by in vitro fertilization (IVF). The New York Times ran an article chronicling the growing trend for women to “reduce” their multiple gestation pregnancies to a single fetus. Under ultrasound guidance, the physician inserts a needle directly into the chest of the unwanted child and injects potassium chloride, the same drug used for prison executions by lethal injection. This stops the heart and the child dies. The corpse is broken down by the mother’s immune system and is reabsorbed. What prompts a mother to consent to this barbaric procedure?

Continue reading here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

True justice demands legal protection for the unborn

My latest article is up at the HLI America Truth and Charity Forum:

The abortion debate is not about when life begins. Science has answered that question. Life begins at conception. The newly formed embryo meets all the scientific criteria for new human life. From the beginning he has metabolic processes and is responsive to his environment. He initiates movement of both his entire organism as well as his individual parts. He grows by increasing the size of existing cells as well as by increasing the number of cells. The embryo exhibits differentiation, meaning cells transform from unspecialized stem cells to cells designed for a specific purpose. Finally, the embryo is capable of reproduction: he can form new cells for growth, repair, or replacement. Most importantly, the embryo accomplishes these life processes under his own direction. The mother supports and nurtures these processes but does not direct them. As far as science is concerned, the embryo is a distinct living human being from the moment of conception.

Therefore, it is wrong to suggest the abortion debate centers around the humanity of the embryo. That question is irrefutably resolved. The debate is actually about whether or not an unborn human being is a person who deserves legal recognition and protection.

Continue reading here



Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Young Voice on Authentic Support of Women

One of wonderful things about now being a fellow with HLI America is that I have been introduced to some really great voices in the pro-life movement. Sarah Ryan is one of the HLI America Young scholars and she has a wonderful piece on the misguided efforts of the United Nations to address women's issues.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that its mission is to promote health and opportunity for every man, woman, and child; it attempts to ensure that “every girl and woman [be] treated with dignity and respect.” As a woman, I will gladly stand behind an organization that empowers me, dignifies me, and acknowledges the rights that accompany my femininity and humanity. The UNFPA’s idea of empowerment, however, seems to be limited to the promotion of birth control, and its dignity to the avoidance of children through sterilization. Its acknowledgment of rights is applied narrowly to those women who are “wanted” or who happen to be outside of their mother’s womb. In taking this tack, the UNFPA is in reality accelerating the very discrimination against women and children that they are purportedly trying to alleviate.
Continue reading here

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Lord have Mercy

My son who is stationed in Afghanistan called me this morning and told me about this. May the souls of these brave soldiers rest in peace. May God provide consolation to their loved ones.

Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us this day in battle...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Kathleen Sebelius and HHS thinks being a woman is a disease

Part of being a woman is having the capacity to be a mother. For a substantial portion for our lives, most women are capable of bearing children. It is considered to be a medical disorder for a woman to be infertile unless she is prepubescent or she is post-menopausal.

Tell that to Kathleen Sebelius at HHS. She has declared that a woman's fertility must be thwarted. It is now mandated that all group insurance plans must cover contraception and sterilization. There are no meaningful conscience protections.

As I wrote here and here, fertility is normal and healthy and not something that should be prevented. All women should be offended and outraged that our normal physiological state is being declared a disease.

More on Sham conscience protection

As I mentioned in this article, HHS adopted the Institute of Medicine recommendations for preventive services. The USCCB demanded conscience protection. The response would be risible if it were not so repugnant.

The sham conscience protection offered is as follows:

HHS’ preventive care guidelines have been released http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/

** Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B). See the Federal Register Notice.

How many Catholic entities meet these criteria? Certainly not Catholic hospitals. Certainly not Catholic schools. Certainly not Catholic doctors' offices. These guidelines protect no one. They are window dressing.

Sham conscience protection and more discrimination

As expected, the department of Health and Human Services department accepted the recommendations by the Institute of Medicine to include contraception and sterilization as mandated preventive services for insurance coverage. My latest article at HLI on this topic is up:

Last week the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its report proposing a list of preventive services for women that would be mandated for coverage in all private insurances under the regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Early this morning, the Department of Health and Human Services accepted these recommendations. Included in this list are all prescription contraceptives, surgical sterilizations, and “education and counseling” to inform women about these options. (At the moment of publication it is still unclear whether the coverage includes Plan B and Ella, which are known abortifacients)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops vigorously opposed the inclusion of these elective medical therapies that are contrary to Catholic moral teaching in the mandated coverage requirements. There are no provisions for conscience protection in the PPACA, however, the HHS did propose some limited conscience exemptions with this decision. Initial analysis reveals that the proposed conscience protections exempt Catholic organizations that primarily employ Catholics, serve Catholics, and have as their purpose, the inculcation of religious values. With these criteria in mind, it seems that many Catholic institutions will have to provide coverage for services they find morally reprehensible, including Catholic hospitals and universities. This would be contrary to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services directive number 52:

Continue reading here

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An affirmation of parenthood

This week is NFP awareness week. My fellow writer for HLI American, Gerri Laird, offers a beautiful testimonial to the gift NFP can be to a marriage. Take a look:

“My children are going to pay for your Social Security!” That was my response to one of my husband’s co-workers when he approached me at a company picnic and loudly criticized my pregnancy with child #5. My husband and I were pregnant by choice. He didn’t have a response – he and his wife were childless by choice.

But, child #5 must have heard this conversation while in utero. When he was old enough to talk, he came running down the stairs one day and asked if we loved him and his brothers and sisters. Our “Of course,” was met with, “Then, why aren’t there more babies around here? You love each other, right? Well, when mommies and daddies love each other, babies come…so why aren’t there more babies around here?” From the mouths of babes, we learn Natural Family Planning (NFP) and responsible parenthood 101! And as this has been designated “Natural Family Planning Awareness Week” by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, it may be time to reflect on how our innate love of siblings and children can be better understood by embracing Church teaching on fertility and sexuality.

Continue reading here

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A response to a critic

Normally I delete anonymous hostile comments. However, I decided this comment (which is indented and in bold print) which was submitted to this post might be instructive.

OR....Artificial contraception is an elective medical therapy

Ok. We agree on something. Artificial contraception is elective medical therapy. It is not essential health care. It is optional. That is what elective means. It is a lifestyle choice.

For those desiring to enable the totally normal and healthy physical condition of NOT being pregnant while engaging in sexual relations.

On the contrary. Fertility is not a disease. It is a normal, physiological condition. It is not normal and physiological to engage in sexual relations without the possibility of pregnancy unless you are prepubescent—and in that case the sexual relations are sexual abuse--, you are already pregnant, or you are post-menopausal. Otherwise, you suffer from the non-physiological condition of infertility. The purpose of oral contraceptives is to induce this non-physiological condition of infertility.

Your counter argument is pretty weak from a medical stand-point. However, if you want to play the "Conservation Catholic" card and argue about "God's will" goooo ahead. I wonder how far an argument of God's Will regarding female reproductive rights would go in the courts?

No one is trying to outlaw contraception. If you want to choose this lifestyle, in your words, “goooo ahead”! All I am saying is that elective medical therapy should not be mandated for insurance coverage. We don’t force insurance companies to pay for Botox injections. Why should we force them to pay for this elective medical therapy?

Catholic conservative theology and medicine are two different topics, and just because you have a[sic] educated grasp of both, doesn't mean that what you are preaching isn't erroneous, ridiculous, and contradictory.

Tell me again what I have said that is erroneous or contradictory? Ridiculous is a subjective judgment and you are certainly entitled to your opinion as to what is ridiculous.

It's probably a good thing you don't practice medicine anymore. I can't imagine if I sent my daughter to you at a clinic and you starting to council[sic] her about your specific religious beliefs regarding female contraceptive practices when she was there to see an unbiased medical professional in obtaining a valid and legal prescription.

Ah, yes. Nothing persuades like a good ad hominem attack. Never fear. If you were to bring your daughter to my office in order to enable her fornication there would be no surprises. I would be very upfront that I run a medical practice that is pro-life and consistent with Catholic medical ethics before you ever set foot in the door.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

EEEW!...

I love belonging to Groupon. I find good deals on car washes, restaurants, and yes, manicures and pedicures. Yesterday's deal, however, was not my cup of tea. Anyone out there ever tried the fish foot treatment?

Yvonne’s Day Spa's welcoming aesthetes soothe weary feet with the invigorating fish foot therapy before primping and pampering hands and feet with traditional mani-pedi techniques. As toes wiggle into a small trough of warm, relaxing water, a cabal of tiny fish, armed with a natural predacious appetite for coarse, dead skin, nibble off rough patches with the aquatic excitement of Jacques Cousteau on a jet ski. The finned factions leave feet thoroughly exfoliated, smooth, and relaxed for a human-led pedicure, during which hooves are further massaged and nails are transformed into paradoxes of beauty and strength. A member of Yvonne’s staff then turns attention to clients’ hands, filing down rough epidermic outgrowths, sweeping out digital disrepair, and kneading out stress and stiffness

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Contraception is Not Preventive Medicine

My latest piece as an HLI America Fellow:

In a July 18 New York Times op-ed , Dr. Vanessa Collins, a physician and vice-president of medical affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America offers an interesting but erroneous argument for mandating insurance coverage of contraceptives as preventive medicine. First of all, preventive medicine implies the prevention of a pathological condition. Pregnancy is anything but pathological. Artificial contraception is an elective medical therapy for those desiring to block a totally normal and healthy physical condition

Continue reading here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's So "Natural" about Natural Family Planning?

I am so excited! I have just begun working as a fellow for Human Life International--America. I hope to be posting over there on a regular basis. My first piece is up now.

In the last week, articles on Natural Family Planning (NFP) appeared in both secular and Catholic media. In the New York Times, David Oppenheimer chronicles the views of Sam and Bethany Torode, two conservative Protestants. In 2000 the young married couple co-wrote the book Open Embrace: a Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception. They advocated for NFP, a method of fertility regulation in keeping with the Catholic Church’s teaching. However, by 2006 both rejected NFP as a recommended method of birth control. They divorced in 2009. Both have joined liberal Christian communities. Mr. Oppenheimer offers their story as a testimony to how maturity and enlightenment lead to the rejection of NFP.

Then Danielle Bean, a solidly Catholic author, offers what she calls a “reality check” on NFP. She writes in Crisis magazine of “Five Ways I don’t Love Natural Family Planning.” She discovered that NFP is less precise for her when she is breastfeeding. Her reaction is disappointment.

Continue reading at HLI America


Monday, June 20, 2011

Please stop whatever you are doing and pray

With my son deployed to Afghanistan it was very hard to read this article in yesterday's Washington Post. Then my son called from Afghanistan this morning. He sounded very tired. He had been at the helipad waiting to receive a delivery. Then a medivac helicopter arrived and a flag-draped body was off-loaded. He attended the memorial service for this soldier today. Right now, that soldier is everyone's son or brother. Please stop whatever you are doing and say a prayer, right now, for the repose of the soul of this soldier. Then say another prayer for all the men and women who are serving our country.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him . May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
St. Michael, pray for us
Our Lady of Victory pray for us

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why does Terry Pratchett want to die?

Several nights ago, BBC aired a documentary by the immensely popular author Terry Pratchett. This was not a romp through Discworld. No. This was a much darker journey. Terry Pratchett explored the world of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in "Choosing to Die". This is a very personal topic for Terry Pratchett. In 2007 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He has made no secret of his desire to have control of his own death. After his diagnosis was made public he said he would like to die in his, "own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the 'Brompton cocktail' some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death."

I have not seen the program. From media reports I gleaned that Pratchett went to the Swiss clinic Dignitas to explore using its assisted suicide services and followed the course of two British men who did the same. The death of one of the men, Peter Smedley, was captured on camera and the scene was included in the documentary. This graphic look at euthanasia and assisted suicide has provoked both horror and praise.

What drives a man who is in no pain at the moment to take a cup of poisoned tea in his hand and willingly gulp it down? I believe there are two factors. The first of these is pride. Mr. Smedley was a millionaire. He had made his fortune in the hotel industry. He was used to having others look to him for guidance. He had a degenerative neurological disease. There was going to come a time that he would be dependent on others for the most basic of needs. Similarly, Mr. Pratchett is a celebrated author. He created a world and everything in it. How can he allow his brilliant mind to wither into a lump of Silly Putty? The answer for both Mr. Pratchett and Mr. Smedley lies in the fact that allowing others to care for us when we are in need is actually an act of generosity and holy humility. Yes, it is humbling to have someone else bathe us and feed us. It is humbling to have someone see us when our hair is unkempt and our breath stinks. But in that humility, we allow others to be virtuous. We generously give others the opportunity to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, clothe the naked, and minister to the sick.

But do others want to be virtuous? When physician assisted suicide and euthanasia were being discussed in light of the Oregon assisted suicide law, it was directed mostly at cancer patients who had a grim prognosis. The reason these patients were looking at taking their own lives was that they feared being in pain. Once they were assured that they could be kept comfortable, most chose to continue living. The medical community realized they had not been adequately addressing pain. Suddenly pain assessment became part of every practice of medicine. This is the origin of the ubiquitous query about your level of pain on a scale of one to ten no matter why you are seeking medical care.

Just as these terminal cancer patients fear pain, those like Terry Pratchett who have a degenerative disease fear becoming a burden. Will anyone really take care of them? Will they be treated with kindness and compassion? Will they be laughed at or treated with dignity? If you wander through any nursing home you will see rooms of elderly souls who are mere shadows of their former selves. They seem warehoused and forgotten. In our self-gratifying culture, is it any wonder that self-sacrifice for the debilitated seems almost unthinkable? Just as the medical community realized their failure to assess and address pain contributed to the appeal of suicide and euthanasia, our culture must see that our failure to embrace the opportunity to lovingly care for the chronically ill and disabled breeds a fear of being ill and disabled that makes death look desirable.

The debilitated patient exercises humility and generosity when he allows himself to be cared for. The virtuous caregiver is generous and patient. Every challenge is an opportunity for virtue. Seeking death selfishly denies this expression of holiness.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Conservative and Liberal are not the right words

Much can be said about the Roxanne Martino fiasco at Notre Dame. For those who have not heard, The University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees elected Ms. Martino as a member. The Cardinal Newman Society then revealed that Ms. Martino had donated $25,000 to Emily's List, a PAC dedicated to electing pro-abortion women to congress. Fr. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, claimed that Ms. Martino is a strong supporter of all Catholic teachings and was unaware of the connection between Emily's List and the pro-abortion movement. Now there are two scenarios here. The first is that Fr. Jenkins is being less than truthful about what Ms. Martino knew and when she knew it. It is truly hard to believe that Ms. Martino could have been unaware of the purpose of Emily's List. Supporting abortion is not just a sideline cause. It is their raison d'etre! Of course, let us say that Fr. Jenkins is being completely truthful and Ms. Martino had no idea of the pro-abortion purpose of Emily's List. That means that the Notre Dame Board of Trustees is electing a woman who is conspicuously careless with large sums of money. Neither of these scenarios looks good for Notre Dame.

The Chicago Tribune now reports that Roxanne Martino has resigned from the Board of Trustees.

A Chicago business executive resigned Wednesday from the University of Notre Dame's board of trustees after a conservative Roman Catholic watchdog group reported that she donated thousands of dollars to an organization that says it is "dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women."

Roxanne Martino, a 1977 Notre Dame graduate and president and chief executive officer of Aurora Investment Management, a Chicago firm with more than $8 billion in investments, said she stepped down less than two months after her appointment in "the best interest of the university."

I do believe her resignation is in the best interest of the university. However, could we please dispense with the labels of "conservative" and "liberal" or "progressive" when referring to Catholics? This is not an issue of politics. This is an issue of being faithful to Church teachings or being unfaithful to Church teachings. Are you Catholic or not? Faithful Catholics are sinners. They often fall short of living up to the teachings of the Church. But they recognize the authority of Church teachings, acknowledge their sins and pray for God's grace that they sin no more. Unfaithful Catholics pick and choose among Church teachings, rationalize their deviance from Church teachings, and have no intention of repenting. The only authority they recognize is their own.