Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Divine Beauty: The Byzantine Liturgy - The Blessing

Nope, they aren't 'Orthodox' - they are as Catholic as anyone, but merely follow their own distinctive (and gorgeous) liturgical and other traditions. These so-called Eastern Catholics also elect their own Bishops and follow their own legal code, all in perfect harmony with the Patriarch of Rome (that's the Pope for you). Here, some of their Bishops are seen blessing the congregation with the dikirion and trikirion, candlesticks with two and three candles, respectively, with which he makes the sign of the cross:

The trikirion symbolizes the Holy Trinity and the dikirion the dual nature of Christ: God and man.

On a related note: this evening I will be attending the annual meeting of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius in Copenhagen. The fellowship exists to promote unity between Eastern and Western Christians - mostly Orthodox and Anglicans/other traditional Protestants, respectively, but I'll try to have some Catholic viewpoint thrown in. In fact, the unity which the fellowship seeks is already effected in the Catholic Church, where Eastern and Western Christians are even now under the same roof, united in doctrine and with equal rights and dignity - but unfortunately most of those involved in the fellowship don't realize that that unity is already there and just waiting for them to join in.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Obama's Stall on Stupak Betrays His Duplicity

I thought the Stupak Amendment deserved a post for itself. This bill, introduced by pro-life Democrats, attempted to exclude most (though by no means all) abortion coverage from the health care bill of the US House of Representatives. I am not betting that it will get past the Senate, especially since President Obama is seeking to roll it back - this despite the fact that all polls show that the American people were overwhelmingly in favour of the amendment . He even has the gall to claim that it violates the status quo on abortion - which it does, but in the opposite direction of what he claims: since the status quo is that no federal money whatsoever goes to abortion (at least not inside the US), by allowing federal insurance to cover abortions in case of rape and incest it will in fact expand federal funding for abortions infinitely. But even this is not enough for the President, whose rhetoric about seeking 'common ground' on abortion rings more hollow by the minute.

His assertion that the amendment "restricts women's insurance choices" is a red herring since he is putting up a system that will create federally-sponsored health insurance ex nihilo; even if they do not cover abortions, they still will expand insurance coverage to many people who have never had it, so where is the restriction? Ah, unless of course he is betting on a great number of people who now have private insurance trading it for the public option - something left-wing legislators are hoping will eventually lead to a single-payer European-style system, a system which Obama has previously supported but now publicly claims he is not working for.

Either way, it just goes to show that the man can't be trusted. No more than your average politician, anyway. This is a guy who calls himself a 'Democrat' but doesn't care what the majority of the population wants or does not want.

(Actually, the amendment part aside, it was remarkable that the bill could get through the House at all since 72% of the US public opposed it in its current form. Not surprisingly, since the Speaker wanted to hide from them what was in the bill before it was voted on - even breaking a clear promise to publish it.)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Life Issues Update

Lots and lots of things have happened in the bioethical world since I last wrote, judging from my foremost pusher of bioethics news, the excellent Wesley J. Smith. First of all, the UK Department of Public Prosecution has issued new guidelines on prosecuting assisted suicide, effectively decriminalizing cases which it is not deemed "in the public interest" to prosecute, viz.: where the victim has a "terminal" or "severe and incurable" or "severe degenerative" disease and expressed a desire to be killed. This is not humane. It is a blatant abandonment of the weakest and most vulnerable in society; the people who have the greatest need to hear confirmed, over and over again, that their life is valuable, that things would not be better if they were gone. And it does nothing to ensure that these vulnerable persons are not subjected to insiduous erosion of their will to live ("You know, darling, I really love you, but I can see you are suffering so much... You know, you don't have to do this. There is a way out... I can help you...")

And more from the UK: a severely disabled baby boy with congenital myasthenic syndrome has been taken off his ventilator and allowed to die, even though he was awake and cognitively well-functioning. To be sure, CMS is a terrible and irreversible condition - but there is no way around concluding that this child was killed.

Canada has set up a 6-member commission to investigate the issue of euthanasia. Shock and horror, the Chairman and at least 2 other members are ardent euthanasia proponents, one is a Dutch euthanasia researcher, and the last 2 seem not to have any special interest in the issue. Selection bias anyone?

The UK is on a roll these days: a man has died after he was apparently starved and dehydrated to death in a hospital. Sound horrifying? That is in fact now an accepted and common procedure in the UK these days, it turns out. Certain terminally ill people, instead of being actually cared for at a hospice, are subjected to a 'care pathway', entailing that not only all medical treatment (except painkillers) but also all food and fluids are withheld from them and they are sedated for the last part of the ordeal (which can take weeks). As far as I am concerned, this is simply cynically speeding up their death to save costs. But in this case, things went even more wrong: what was thought to be a relapse of a lung cancer turned out on autopsy to be a simple pneumonia. As if the procedure wasn't bad enough in itself. And it most likely is not the first such incident.

Former leader of the Human Genome Project Francis S. Collins, who has written a decent book on the relationship between science and religion and is a Christian (Epsicopalian, I think), has been appointed to head the NIH in the US. I was convinced by the sincerity of his religious beliefs in his book, but I thought he was wishy-washy on some issues. Indeed, he has stated that he supports therapeutic cloning, embryonic stem cell research and even eugenic abortion. Which begs the question, has the great scientist found a way to determine that embryos are not human or merely a way to determine the fastest way to gaining the top biomedical job in the US?

On a more positive note, assisted suicide bills have been defeated in South Australia (by the narrowest possible margin - one MP had a change of heart at the last minute, citing a troubled conscience) and New Hampshire. Also, a former Director of a Planned Parenthood facility resigned her post and began working for the pro-life cause after she viewed an ultrasound of an abortion (she also claimed that the facility were being told to aggressively push for more abortions rather than conducting prevention programmes since abortions generated more income). Finally, Switzerland may outlaw suicide tourism, even though assisted suicide will probably still be legal for Swiss citizens.

The war for the dignity of human life is raging on all fronts (also ones that are not covered here, of course, but since I am a medical person, these are my special concerns). Next summer, I will probably be joining the fray. I hope that I will be allowed to get on with my job and save some lives in my own country and abroad, but it is becoming increasingly probable that I will one day find myself being forced to act against my conscience for the sake of some phoney 'right' dreamed up by a biased committee. If it so happens that I am persecuted for this, I will gladly accept it to expose the illiberality of our supposedly tolerant society.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Gearing up again...

Well, time to get this blog up and running again. I am ashamed that it has been almost 2 months since I last wrote a post - I have been extremely busy, and on top of that I suddenly developed an awful distaste towards writing posts myself, even though I've been quite active on other blogs. I have even been admitted onto the authoring panel of the, if I may say so, excellent Danish blog Katolsk Tradition which aims to help restore authentic Catholic Christianity in Denmark.

Most of all, I am amazed to see that in my absence I have gained two followers - of whom one is the Caveman himself!!! VSC, you are very welcome but damn, that's something to live up to. (The other one is of course a nutter who runs a completely ludicrous blog which screwed up my browser when I checked it out, so I will block him if he attempts to write anything.)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Do Women Have Souls?

It is a well-known fact that up until at least the sixteenth century, Christian theologians were still debating whether or not women have souls.

At least, I have heard this assertion several times from different people, so it must be true.

Or is it?

A young scholar, Valentius Acidalius, was working as a teacher in Silesia, and, like many young scholars, he was short of money. He thought to turn an honest penny by publishing a “diverting” pamphlet. In Latin the word homo, like the word man in English, primarily means “a human being, male or female, young or old,” but has the secondary meaning of “adult male.” Valentius thought it would be fun to use this ambiguity to “show” that in the Bible only adult males have souls. If he thought the pamphlet would amuse, he was grievously wrong. Simon Geddicus, a Lutheran scholar, launched a mighty counter-pamphlet entitled A Defense of the Female Sex, in which he proposed... to “destroy each and every one of the arguments put forward by Valentius,” [who] took a seizure and died.

The pamphlet, however, often bound with the refutation by Simon Geddicus, survived, and it appears that it was published at Lyons in France in 1647... [T]he offending book caught the attention of Pope Innocent X, who put it on the Index of Prohibited Books (Decree of June 18, 1651). So much for the allegation that the Church holds that women do not have souls.

But that did not stop this terrible misunderstanding from spreading to anti-Catholic bigots who were only too willing to believe it. Read the rest here.

If you repeat a lie enough times...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Murder of Pro-lifer Exposes Pro-choice Bias

So, it happened. Just a few months after the US went berserk over the murder of abortionist George Tiller, an anti-abortionist protestor has been shot dead. And yes, it has been confirmed that the murder was due to the fact that the murderer did not like his protests.

Now, it does sound as if this murderer was a complete nut. He certainly doesn't seem to have had any connection with any Pro-choice organization. Pro-choicers are making a great deal out of this - while in their uproar over the Tiller shooting they conveniently downplayed the fact that his murderer was also a nut without any formal connection with Pro-life organizations, choosing instead to blame the Pro-life movement as a whole for the killing.

At that time, some people opined that the Department of Homeland Security had been right to issue warnings about the prospects of violence perpetrated by "right-wing extremists". The National Organization of Women labeled the act a case of "domestic terrorism". President Obama issued a condemnation, while the former president of Planned Parenthood called on him to "immediately outline an action plan to increase federal protection for providers and clinics".

It will be interesting to see how this current episode plays out in the media over the coming days. As of today, CBS has not reported the story. I wonder if the media will be publishing allegations about "left-wing domestic terrorism" and whether the President will make a statement.

But one thing is the news media. When Dr. Tiller was murdered, I looked through a considerable number of internet forums where pro-lifers were derided for not being strong enough in their condemnations and even for being hypocrites when they condemned the murder. Well, now if you click into the combox at the über-liberal Huffington Post, you will discover some nifty comments such as these:

"If some weirdo was waving signs depicting aborted fetuses outside my kid's school, on a regular basis, I'd be a bit peeved, too. In my case, I'd probably just give the twisted f*ck a well-deserved stomping, but many people lack my exceptional self-control."

"Being in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing sometimes brings about an abrupt end."

"To use a school for his vile tirades, I say he got what was coming to him. Now if only the protesters outside funerals and churches could only get a little of the same. No pity here!"

"One less birther pro life crazy."

"Sorry, some people are a waste of time and space and there are only so many strawberries to go 'round."

CMR has more from earlier in the day. Now, most of the comments at the Huff are civil and condemn the killing. So did most of the pro-lifers who commented on the Tiller murder. A great deal were, in view of Dr. Tiller's very publicized and unapologetic work to end the life of little babies in the womb, rather indifferent but stated as a matter of course that violence was never a solution to the problem of abortion. A few expressed real hatred of Tiller and even glee at his murder. This was very sad to see and was rightly picked up upon and condemned. However, the above comments show clearly that pro-choicers need to acknowledge that there are problematic people on their side of the aisle as well. They must acknowledge that hypocrisy and disgusting attitudes towards other people is certainly not the prerogative of Conservatives or religious people. Each side must acknowledge its failings so we move beyond name-calling and start tackling the real issue at hand, which is not whether the persons on this or that side are morally superior, but which value we should assign to the lives (for they are alive) and rights of the babies in the womb - or foetuses or whatever we want to call them. The morality or otherwise of abortion is not determined by the virtues and failings of those who are for and against it, but by its objective nature.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Just Following Orders

I don't even know how to begin reporting this revolting and outrageous story. So without further ado:

"Doctors left a premature baby to die because he was born two days too early, his devastated mother claimed yesterday. Sarah Capewell begged them to save her tiny son, who was born just 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy - almost four months early. They ignored her pleas and allegedly told her they were following national guidelines that babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment."

"Just following..." Now where have we heard that one before?

But it gets better. Listen to this nasty bit of nitpicking:

"Medics allegedly told her that they would have tried to save the baby if he had been born two days later, at 22 weeks. In fact, the medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks."

So - two (2) days later and the doctors would have agreed that he would have had a chance of survival - even though the 'guidelines' say this is not so until a week later? If they are willing to show a latitude of 7 days, why not 9? This is simply a disgusting show of bureaucratism. You can laugh at this kind of thing if it happens at a post office where the clerk complains that your stamp slants at 2 degrees too much, but here we're talking people's lives!

There is no doctor with respect for his job and profession who makes decisions on whether to intervene or not based on arbitrary limits composed by bureaucrats. Doctors may, and very often do, decide that treating a particular patient is not feasible - but they do it by drawing on their theoretical knowledge and clinical experience and applying it to that particular individual patient in front of them! Doctors are not machines, where you insert patient data into one end and out the other pops a prescription. And any doctor who acts like he is such a machine is not fit for his profession, which is not so much a job as it is an art, as the ancients acknowledged.

And now for a bit of background knowledge on this curious 'guideline':

"Guidance limiting care of the most premature babies provoked outrage when it was published three years ago. Experts on medical ethics advised doctors not to resuscitate babies born before 23 weeks in the womb, stating that it was not in the child's 'best interests'."

We'll return to that phrase presently. Now spot the non-sequitur here:

"More than 80,000 babies are born prematurely in Britain every year, and of those some 40,000 need to be treated in intensive care. The NHS spends an estimated £1 billion a year on their care."

So bloody what? I bet the NHS spends about the same amount on wages for top-level managers and 'commissions' like the one that crafted these rules.

"Medical experts say babies born before 23 weeks are simply too under-developed to survive, and that to use aggressive treatment methods would only prolong their suffering, or inflict pain."

Except that, like so much of what 'experts' say, that's not true:

"But weeks before they were published in 2006, a child was born in the U.S. which proved a baby could survive at earlier than 22 weeks if it was given medical treatment. Amillia Taylor was born in Florida on October 24, 2006, after just 21 weeks and six days in the womb. She celebrated her second birthday last year."

And now the clincher:

"Doctors believed she was a week older and so gave her intensive care, but later admitted she would not have received treatment if they had known her true age."

Time to revise the guidelines, you might think? Oh no. Remember, there's money involved.

"However, experts say cases like Amillia Taylor's are rare, and can raise false expectations about survival rates. Studies show that only 1 per cent of babies born before 23 weeks survive, and many suffer serious disabilities."

I actually happen to think that 1 percent is not too bad. Anyway, the job of doctors is first and foremost to save lives, and this we should always try to do if at all possible. Only when it is not possible, or when intervention is arguably riskier than non-intervention, do we settle for next best, i.e. alleviate suffering. In fact, the most unsettling thing about this story is perhaps that the doctors didn't even want to do that - they allegedly wouldn't even see the baby once it was born. Because they were afraid that they would be overcome by the impulse to treat it, perhaps? Anyways, to refuse to treat anyone out of hand on the basis of purely arbitrary criteria is beneath a doctor and an insult to the people he is supposed to serve - as human beings, not as so many appliances on an assembly line.

I was made aware of this story by Matt Archbold over at CMR, who, though a little off the top sometimes, is always good for some incisive comments. Like this, referring to the 'best interests' comment in the guidelines:

"Pardon me but I get a little tired of hearing the government decide what's in the 'best interests' of people."

And further:

"Pro-choice punks are all about allowing the mother to decide if the baby's allowed to live or die until the mother actually decides she wants the baby to live. Then and only then does the government jump in and say sorry, now we actually care about what's in the best interest of the baby. Then the mother doesn't get to choose. And guess what? The government decides it's in the best interests of the baby to die."

He even goes so far as saying this proves that Western civilization has turned into a "death cult". I won't go that far, but it certainly shows that when you're a poor little foetus, there is just no way you can win in this world.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Divine Beauty: Cope of Pius XI

... or possibly a mantum. They just don't seem to make them like that any more...

(Can't remember where I found this. Probably the NLM.)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The BMJ Doesn't "Get" Disabled People

I have more than a little trouble with the Deputy Editor of one of the world's three most respected medical journals suddenly coming out to express an intense contempt of disabled persons.

Mr. Tony Delamothe of the British Medical Journal recently voiced his opinion in the journal's 'Observations' section that

"The debate on assisted dying has been hijacked by disabled people who want to live. It needs to be reclaimed for terminally ill people who want to die."
I can't begin to enumerate the things that are wrong with this statement. But it gets better. After referencing the view of Baroness Campbell, herself a severely disabled member of the House of Lords who needs a ventilator to be able to breathe, that

"sanctioning assisted suicide would make doctors and those who help disabled people think that death is what is wanted by disabled people, 'the very people who need every encouragement to live and not to succumb to society’s prevalent view that our situation is so tragic, so burdensome, so insufferable that surely we must want to die,'"
he says, "I don't get it."

However, it is not that he does not understand the argument, but it is certainly true that he doesn't "get" it:

"I understand that changing the law might mean that some people could feel under some obligation to bring about their premature end to avoid being a burden to others—and that severely disabled people might feel this more than most. But should such a risk override the freedom of competent terminally ill people to bring about their own end at a time of their choosing?"
So, in other words (though not really), guaranteeing the freedom of the 'competent' - i.e. the strong - to choose for themselves whether they want to live or die is more important than securing the rights of those who might feel tempted - or pressured - to get themselves killed due to weakness, pressure from unloving relatives, lack of encouragement from caregivers etc.? Never mind if a few weaklings get thrown overboard, we have to make way for the übermensch, eh?

Plus, it costs an awful lot of money to have them pesky disabled people hanging around.

Think that's an unfair assessment of Mr. Delamothe's point of view? Then tell me why, to back up his stance, he invokes the infamous Baroness Warnock, according to public opinion Britain's "leading moral philosopher," who has publicly stated that people who suffer from dementia are "wasting [their] families' lives and... wasting the resources of the NHS," and that it is perfectly understandable that they should feel a 'duty to die'.

I understand Mr. Delamothe's and Baroness Warnock's argument for euthanasia - but I don't "get" it. And as a future doctor who joined this profession to care for the weakest, I sure as hell don't want to.

British Medical Journal? More like Brutish Mengele Journal to me.

H/T Fr. Tim

Friday, 14 August 2009

Humanizing Obama

After the slant of my last couple of posts I feel I need to say this to all who might come across this blog:

My blog is not intended to be political. But when politics come across the major themes of my life, religion, ethics, and health care, I urgently feel the need to speak out. I am not anti-Obama, and I consider the conspiratorialists - well represented among Republicans - who believe he's not an American citizen and as such is not a legitimate President to be right nutters. But no more so than the conspiratorialists who think the Bush administration was behind 9/11 - who are equally well represented among Democrats.

Truth is, I would not have so much against Obama if he - and everyone else - just acknowledged that he is simply a politician cut from the same block as all other (successful) politicians, perfectly willing to wheel and deal and half-truth and even lie himself to power. Conservatives do it, and Liberals do it. It's not exactly news. But the mainstream media, in a disgusting display of double standards, has accepted at face value his claim to be some sort of Messiah, "The One" who will lead not only the US, but the entire world, from the dark abyss of tyranny and oppression towards green pastures of freedom and light. I'm not even exaggerating here - a Newsweek editor literally assigned him a role in world politics as a "sort of God"! Truth is, of course, it's all a fiction, like everything else in politics. It only goes to show how desperately people want to believe that there is Someone out there who will liberate them from their troubles and lead them into the Promised Land.

America, Behold Thy Saviour Cometh...

This is supposed to be the guy who's going to save American health care?

Of course, it's the same guy who said this:

and this:

not to mention this:

But we all know that it was George W. Bush who was the speech-impaired moron, don't we?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Divine Beauty: Rheims Cathedral

Once the venue for the coronation of the Kings of France. May the French people by the intercession of St. Louis come to acknowledge Christ as King.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Change We Don't Need

In today's "don't expect to see this in the mainstream media" section: how come President Obama is so adamant to bring 'hope' and 'change' into the American health care system when
  1. Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.
  2. Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.
  3. Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.
  4. Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.
  5. Lower-income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians.
  6. Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the United Kingdom.
  7. People in countries with more government control of health care are highly dissatisfied and believe reform is needed.
  8. Americans are more satisfied with the care they receive than Canadians.
  9. Americans have better access to important new technologies such as medical imaging than do patients in Canada or Britain.
  10. Americans are responsible for the vast majority of all health care innovations.
Apart from the screening bit, which is not altogether unproblematic, it doesn't seem too bad after all, does it? Go here for the details.

(H/T Newsbusters)

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Macchiavelli: a Liberal Hero

I find it extremely ironic that Liberals always complain about cynicism and foul play on the part of Conservative politicians yet they have no problem playing politics as if they wrote the playbook.

Case in point: AP reports that an amendment to the health reform bill currently being reviewed in the US Congress which would have set strict limitations to coverage for abortion was voted on in the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House on Thursday. The amendment had been proposed by Republicans fearful that a reform resulting in near-universal health coverage would be used to drastically expand access to abortion.

Several Conservative Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for the amendment, and it was initially approved. But then, just a few hours later, something strange happened: the committee Chairman, a Democrat, invoked some House rules which made it possible to vote on the amendment a second time. And all of a sudden, one of the Conservative Democrats (Bart Gordon, D-Tenn.) who initially had voted in favour was now against the amendment, and another who initially hadn't voted now also voted no, sending the amendment crashing by the slimmest possible margin of 29-30.

I wonder what Rep. Gordon was offered or threatened with during that lunch break?

(Via CMR)

Obama Advisors Envision the End of US Health Care

I should say from the start that I have never been a fan of the US health care system. I have of course been fed with all the usual Liberal/European propaganda against it, and I am in no doubt that it is better than its reputation, but I still do not think it particularly charming to allocate patients to varying standards of treatment based on their income. Nor can I see anything cost-effective about spending time trying to determine what procedures a patient's insurance will cover.

Now in Denmark we have a deeply Socialist health care system which is taxpayer funded and covers all citizens. It is a principle set down in law that all persons must receive the same treatment based on no other consideration than their need. Naturally, people with higher mental and social resources know how to work the system better, but in principle there is equal access for every single citizen. When we see a patient needing surgery, we don't waste time wondering about which procedure is most affordable or cost-effective, we just refer them to what they need.

Such a system is naturally very costly, and Denmark cannot be said to be in the vanguard when it comes to pioneering treatments and medical technology. In due course, public health bombs such as obesity and the growing number of elderly might break the back of the system. The waiting lists for treatment are also in many cases prohibitively long. To salvage the system, I envision a two-track solution where those who can afford it may receive privately funded care at separate private hospitals while an equal access system remains in place for the majority of the populace.

In the US, in addition to the problems with the uninsured (the numbers of which have, though, been grossly overestimated) the costs of public health programs is skyrocketing (the US actually spends almost the same proportion of GDP on public health programs as Denmark). So President Obama is trying to reform the health care system - a worthy aim, to be sure, but the plans envisioned are of dubious quality. And some of the advice he is getting seems to not be entirely sound even according to normal Liberal principles. According to the NY Post, two of the President's close advisors on health care policy, Drs. Ezekiel Emanuel and David Blumenthal, favour rationing health care by making doctors assign treatments based on government-issued guidelines for appropriate and cost-effective treatment. At least Dr. Emanuel openly argues that disabled and elderly persons should not receive treatment:
"He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96)."
Say what you will about the American health care system, but it undoubtedly does have the highest standards in the world. Not everyone may have access to the very best clinics, but it is a misconception that you have to be very wealthy to do so: taking out a second mortgage and loaning money from friends and relatives is possible for most people. If the government takes over the system, inefficiency and waiting lists will mount. Even then, what the system might lack in efficiency it might make up for in humanity as long as all patients are treated equally. What Obama's advisors are envisioning is, meanwhile, not a 'nanny state' solution but rather an 'evil stepmother state' solution where patients are viewed as inferior and undeserving of help if they are not good, productive citizens. It is totalitarian to the core, and unabashedly so.

Of course, it is not the first time that media outside the mainstream have exposed strong totalitarian sentiments among Pres. Obama's advisors. One has to wonder why he surrounds himself with people who hold such despicable views - and why the mainstream media couldn't care less.

(Via the Cube)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

US Nurse Forced to Assist at Abortion

The New York Post reports that a nurse from Brooklyn was coerced into assisting at an abortion against her religious convictions:

"It felt like a horror film unfolding," said Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, 35, who claims she has had gruesome nightmares and hasn't been able to sleep since the May 24 incident.

The married mother of a year-old baby was 30 minutes into her early-morning shift when she realized she had been assigned to an abortion. She begged her supervisor to find a replacement nurse for the procedure. The hospital had a six-hour window to find a fill-in, the suit says.

Bosses told the weeping Cenzon-DeCarlo the patient was 22 weeks into her pregnancy and had preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure that can lead to seizures or death if left untreated.

The supervisor "claimed that the mother could die if [Cenzon-DeCarlo] did not assist in the abortion."

But the nurse, the niece of a Filipino bishop, contends that the patient's life was not in danger. She argued that the patient was not even on magnesium therapy, a common treatment for preeclampsia, and did not have problems indicating an emergency.

Her pleas were rejected, and instead she was threatened with career-ending charges of insubordination and patient abandonment, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.

Feeling threatened, Cenzon-DeCarlo assisted in the procedure.

She said she later learned that the hospital's own records deemed the procedure "Category II," which is not considered immediately life threatening.

"I felt violated and betrayed," she recalled. "I couldn't believe that this could happen."
A native of the Philippines, Cenzon-DeCarlo moved to New York in 2001 and started at Mount Sinai on the East Side as an operating-room nurse in 2004. During her job interview, an administrator asked Cenzon-DeCarlo whether she'd be willing to participate in abortions. She flatly said no.

The nurse said she put her beliefs in writing.

The day after the procedure, Cenzon-DeCarlo filed a grievance with her union. Later that week, she was cornered by two supervisors who told her if she wanted any more overtime shifts, she would have to sign a statement agreeing to participate in abortions, the suit says.

The next month, Cenzon-DeCarlo was assigned to one overtime shift, rather than the eight or nine she usually received, the suit claims.

Although the Brooklyn resident is still working at Mount Sinai, she's asking a court to order the hospital to pay unspecified damages, restore her shifts and respect her objections to abortion.

"I emigrated to this country in the belief that here religious freedom is sacred," Cenzon-DeCarlo said. "Doctors and nurses shouldn't be forced to abandon their beliefs and participate in abortion in order to keep their jobs."

This story is deeply troubling. Even if we were willing for a moment to pretend that abortion does not objectively constitute murder, it is undeniable that subjectively she was coerced to assist at a murder; for that is what she sincerely believes to be the case. No wonder she's been having nightmares since the incident. No person should be put in such a situation.

One of the very last things George W. Bush did before leaving office was to sign a sweeping conscience protection clause which guaranteed the right of any healthcare provider to refuse to participate in treatment which they found morally objectionable. And one of the very first things Barack Obama did upon taking up office was to annul this clause by executive order, that is literally with a stroke of a pen, ostensibly because it had not been "properly reviewed." The Obama administration is instead working on a new clause which will certainly be more modest and will most probably involve some kind of exception for medical emergencies - otherwise the prompt scrapping of the Bush clause would make little sense.

Most Liberals view the right to abstain from compulsory military service as something sacrosanct. The US does not at present employ the draft, but back in the days of the Vietnam war deserters and draft dodgers were viewed as heroes among the Left. In their view, no-one should be forced to kill or even be taught to kill another person if it conflicts with his beliefs - as long as this happens in the context of a war. But on the hospital ward this fierce demand for respect for conscience is largely absent. Why? It seems to me that for Liberals, there is one right that trumps all other rights, even that of the right to respect for conscience, and that is the right to have your life look as you want it to, with a minimum of suffering, even if it requires killing other people to achieve that end.

(Via CMR)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Divine Beauty: Ssa. Trinitá dei Pellegrini, Rome

This church is run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), which is dedicated to the traditional Latin liturgy. It is a personal parish serving those Latin Catholics in the Eternal City who (with good reason) favour the older rite of Mass.

The dome:

And a picture of the sanctuary in use.


Monday, 13 July 2009

Obama's Science Czar was (is?) a Eugenics Nut

... because this is absolutely too mind-boggingly awful to prevent commenting on. A "Czar", btw, in American political terminology denotes an executive official in charge of a specific area of public policy. The position is ad hoc and appointed by the government, meaning that unlike other officials such as the Surgeon General a Czar does not have to undergo confirmation by Congress or any other democratically elected organ (save for the President).

The 'Science Czar' is the unofficial title of the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is also Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Thus, he has an important role in determining policy on all matters involving science and technology, including, presumably, research.

Barack Obama's pick for this position is a certain John Holdren, PhD, a physicist who has among other things taught Environmental Policy at Harvard (go figure). This has not prevented him from making a bit of an overstatement regarding global warming, stating that sea levels might rise to as much as 13 feet (the IPCC 4th assessment report on climate change, which is largely viewed as authoritative, predicts 23 inches in its absolute worst-case scenario - it can be accessed here).

But this is not the first instance, nor by far the worst, in which he has seriously overestimated the state of the planet's decline. In 1977, he co-authored a book with Paul R. Ehrlich (author of the influential book The Population Bomb) and his wife, Anne H. Ehrlich, named Ecoscience - Population, Resources, Environment. The book adresses the issue of overpopulation, which it sees as an alarming and imminent danger to all of humanity, including the United States itself (on another occasion, he stated that the US would not be able to support a population of 280 million by 2040; as of 2009 the population is well over 300 million and the problem faced by most people in the area of nutrition is not exactly that they have too little food). To counter this danger, the authors argue for the following propositions:
  • Women could be forced to abort their pregnancies, whether they wanted to or not;
  • The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation's drinking water or in food;
  • Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise;
  • People who "contribute to social deterioration" (i.e. undesirables) "can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility" - in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
  • A transnational "Planetary Regime" should assume control of the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of the lives of all human persons - using an armed international police force.

Surely this is exaggerated? Nope. The guy who uncovered it all has provided scans of pages in the book at his website. It is absolutely clear that the authors are endorsing these propositions. But it must be out of context then? Well, reading the quotes in context arguably only makes them scarier. Do read the whole thing; it provides quite the insight into the mind of a certain strand of radical Environmentalist Malthusianism which wants to sacrifice human life and liberty to save the environment and ensure decent living standards for all (remaining) people. Did I say radical? No, it really isn't radical at all since the people who espoused it are apparently much respected in the scientific establishment and teach at Harvard.

The program outlined above is eugenics, plain and simple. There is very little difference between this and the eugenics program launched by the Nazis. The Nazis only resorted to direct killing of adult 'undesirables' at a late stage, but in the beginning the program was comprised of much the same elements: involuntary sterilization of 'undesirables' (mentally handicapped and people with hereditary defects) and forced removal of the children they already had. They, too, employed a police force which interfered in intimate details of the lives of all citizens. If anything, Holdren & al.'s program is even more radical than that of the Nazis. Now, the Nazis' motive was racial hygeine, while the motive of Holdren & al. was ensuring decent living standards for all humans on the planet and preventing environmental degradation caused by overpopulation. The latter are worthy aims, to be sure. But does the end justify the means? Those human persons who will have their rights curtailed, forced to being sterilized, abort their children or see them taken away by the authorities are not going to bloody well care about the motives behind these heinous and utterly despicable acts. They are evil no matter what purpose they are intended to serve (i.e., intrinsically evil).

The blogger whom the story originates with has not been able to identify any statement where Holdren distances himself from these views. Granted, the book was written in 1977, so a lot can have happened since then. Yet it still gives me the creeps that a person who has once displayed such profoundly twisted reasoning is now in charge of the scientific and technological policy of the world's only remaining superpower.

And even more, that this fellow was made a Professor of Energy and Resources at UC Berkeley - in 1978!

(Brought to my attention by the redoubtable Cube)

Back On

There has been a long hiatus of blogging due to exams (all passed, btw) and a spate of general laziness and uninspiredness following. But I'm ready again...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A Tale of Two Decisions

Via CMR, I was made aware of a book review in the June issue of Psychiatric Services, which I gather is the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association. The reviewed book is named Three Generations, No Imbeciles and recounts the history of an infamous US Supreme Court decision from he 1920's, Buck v. Bell, which assured mental institutions of the right to forcibly sterilize their patients (inmates, rather). The decision was outright fraudulent as the poor woman who had brought the case was supplied a lawyer who "was a prominent sterilization advocate with ties to the institution petitioning for her sterilization" and the expert witness "had a eugenics agenda." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously stated in his opinion, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." (Holmes was, by the way, in his time viewed as a 'progressive'.) The decision resulted in hundreds of thousands of poor and disabled people being coerced into sterilization for 'social purposes' right into the 1970's.

I am not sure whether it is the book itself or the reviewer who makes the connection to another infamous SCOTUS decision, but it is a very interesting one:

This book also resonates with policy questions about the tension between individual autonomy and protecting people with disabilities. Lombardo sees Buck v. Bell and Roe v. Wade as fundamentally opposed because the former gives the power over reproductive decision making to the state and the latter reserves it to the individual. But Roe v. Wade was used to overturn protective state legislation banning sterilization of people with mental retardation and enabling guardians to impose sterilization on their wards (2). Thus each case has been used to support sterilization of people with mental disabilities. Our continuing social ambivalence about these issues makes Lombardo's book starkly relevant today, when women are using the rights they gained under Roe v. Wade to abort fetuses found to have Down's syndrome and the Supreme Court protects hospitals that follow parents' direction to provide only palliative care to infants born disabled when those infants could have been treated and lived (3). Is it hypocritical to criticize the statement that "three generations of imbeciles are enough" when individuals today decide that even one generation is too many?

This is a meticulously detailed and researched history that should be read not only by those who enjoy history but also because, as Lombardo says, "one of the important lessons of the Buck story [is that] a small number of zealous advocates can have an impact on the law that defies both science and conventional wisdom." As Lombardo shows, the move to sterilize "social undesirables" is far from extinct today.

The complete review is available here.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Reflections on the Murder of Abortionist Dr. Tiller

The American media has been much preoccupied with the murder of the radical abortionist, the gynaecologist Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller was, as abortionists go, rather extreme: he specialised in third-trimester abortions and is reputed to have killed a large number of perfectly viable babies for very spurious reasons. Recently, he was brought before a court to answer charges that he had broken state laws that require parental consent before conducting abortions on minors but was acquitted.

Not surprsingly, a radical anti-abortion activist has been arrested on suspicion of the murder. Blogs and various media outlets are teeming with vitriolic statements against the whole pro-life movement. The State Attorney has even announced that the federal government will provide protection for abortion providers across the country - an enormous overreaction, if you ask me. I don't have the facts at hand myself, but LifeSiteNews reports that it has been eleven years since the last murder of an abortion provider in the US. Hardly an everyday occurrence.

There are two implications of this worth noting:

  1. I fear that this murder is providing pro-abortionists with an opportunity to whip up a state of mass hysteria that will make life difficult for the whole pro-life movement. For instance, laws might be enacted which prevented demonstrations to take place within hundreds of yards of abortion clinics, thus destroying the possibilities of helping young mothers to reverse their decision to abort their child (mind you, there have already been instances where people have been prosecuted for doing this). After 9/11, Liberals were falling over themselves to express support for Muslims and reminding everyone that Islam was a 'religion of peace'. Now, these same people label pro-lifers who deplore this murder 'hypocrites'. Double standard anyone?
  2. I have even heard some pro-lifers voicing concerns that the rhetoric used by pro-lifers in the abortion debate - calling abortion 'murder' etc. creates opportunities for radicalisation. In other words, voicing the opinion (which has more than a fair share of basis in science as well as in the intuition of most people) that abortion entails the killing of a human person is arguably 'hate speech', and is something which should be avoided for the sake of the harmony of society. This illustrates how futile the whole 'hate speech' debate is. If people cannot call things by what they earnestly believe is their proper name, public discourse devolves into the exchange of insincere platitudes. Labelling a certain person who is convicted of molesting children as a 'paedophile' or even as a 'child molester' also arguably constitutes hate speech as it puts that man in danger of being assaulted. Should we call him a 'person with a compulsion of a sexual nature towards persons below the legal age of consent' instead? And his crime? 'Improper consorting with a person below the legal age of consent while himself being above that age'? In a world ruled by fear of the inflammatory potential of language, public speech becomes neutered and meaningless.

Let it be said once and for all: vigilantism is wrong. According to Christian moral teaching, it is the responsibility of the state to exert justice in this world, and all citizens are to abide by the laws and the decisions of the state. Dr. Tiller was tried before a court and was acquitted. He was not tried for his major crimes, but that is because the state does not view them as criminal. While that is highly unsatisfactory, no person has the right to usurp the power of the state to dispense justice.

It is tempting for persons who feel strongly about any issue to think in consequentialist terms: if I do such-and-such, this will be the outcome; this will save so-and-so many lives, etc. Christian moral teaching does not permit such reasoning. There are actions that are inherently evil and are never permissible under any circumstances. Such is the taking of innocent life. Dr. Tiller was not innocent in the eyes of God, but he was in the eyes of the state, and so the above principles apply. Now, a person may legitimately exert violence against another person in order to prevent that person from killing another. But this requires 1) that the person presents an immediate danger to another and 2) that only the necessary minimum use of force is employed. None of these principles apply to this case. The last observation I will make is that it is under certain circumstances permitted for persons to usurp the authority of the state and effect an armed uprising. However, this is limited to the rare circumstances when there is prolonged and severe oppression of fundamental rights by the state or an occupying power. In the US, the state does not enforce abortion, but only permits it (and, to some extent, encourages it). It is, thus, not the state that is the source of the injustice, but the mothers who abort their children. The state is not liable for their actions and so it may not be attacked because of them. The crime of the state is its failure to protect the most vulnerable of its citizens, but since a democracy takes its legitimacy from its voting citizens, it is ultimately those citizens who are responsible for this failure. Ending abortion may only and will only be accomplished by legal means: pushing for the overturning of Roe v. Wade and for state laws criminalizing abortion, which will only be made possible by educating the public on the issue. There is no other way.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Divine Beauty: Our Lady of the Assumption, Malta

From the dedication feast of this lovely Maltesse Church:

A close-up of the main altar:

H/T New Liturgical Movement

Discovering Ethics IV: Basic Questions 3 (Pinckaers 1995)

Yet another post in my series on Pinckaers' book (earlier entries here), with yet more basic questions regarding the relationship between ethics and a number of fundamental issues intrinsic to human existence:

5. Love: Pinckaers notes that, following the New Testament, "all Christian ethicists recognize the prime place of love in Christian morality". St. Augustine redefined the four classical cardinal virtues as different movements of charity. St. Thomas taught that the act of loving something for its own sake was the first movement of the human will and that it was perfected by the virtue of charity through the grace of the Holy Spirit. According to him, without charity no other virtue, faith included, is truly alive.

However, Catholic ethicists of recent centuries have, Pinckaers asserts, turned the issue of love somewhat on its head by placing it within the context of obligation: What charitable acts are required of us? "Practical primacy is given to obedience to the law... obedience to legal obligations is now seen as the true form of the virtues". The issue is this: do we love out of obedience or obey out of love?

This approach has created two distinct strains in modern thought, Pinckaers argues: on the one hand, ethicists are suspicious of love and passion because of its close connotations with sex. On the other, there is a widespread movement both in the world at large and within the Church for spontaneous and care-free love, without due concern for integrity and truth. The absolute necessity of sacrifice for authentic love, so obvious in Scripture, is completely forgotten, as witnessed by the ever-growing number of broken homes. Furthermore, some modern thinkers have developed a thoroughly pessimistic view of human nature, where all human action is placed within the context of the fight for survival and class struggle. To answer this, Pinckaers says, is not enough to introduce a merely sentimental love. A love is needed that dares to confront violence, and knows how to uproot it... This calls for a genuine rediscovery of charity and friendship, our weapons for the combat.
6. Truth: According to Pinckaers, the moralism of recent centuries has tended to confine the issue of truth within the context of the obligation to believe certain truths of the Christian faith. But the scope of the word truth is much wider than that. In Scripture, truth is often associated with love and with upright living and knowledge of that which is true is not something that is gained through purely intellectual activity, but rather from experience, flowering in love.
We might apply here the classical definition of truth - "the mind's grasp of the thing" - but with a new interpretation. The "thing" is not now something material we think about but a personal reality - God or neighbor... "Mind" is not now abstract reason but intelligence united to will, love and desire, informing and directing them.
This kind of intelligence is active, because it leads to action in truth. In this sense we can talk about doing the truth. Truth is beneficial; through upright love it creates a profound harmony between our various faculties and between persons.
Pinckaers concludes that "love of "the fulness of truth," as St. John puts it, or the search for wisdom" is essential in Christian ethics. "We might define the ethicist's task as a search for "the fulness of truth," so that it may throw light on all human actions."

Monday, 18 May 2009

Catholics Persecuted by Catholics

One of the foremost Catholic universities in the US, Notre Dame, decided it would be a good idea to invite President Obama to deliver the address at their graduation ceremony and award him an honorary doctorate, as is apparently a tradition of theirs. The US Bishops didn't agree, with over 70 ordinaries criticizing the invitation - that's about one in four, including the Chair of the Bishop's Conference. Quite a few ordinary US Catholics are enraged as well that the university is not only inviting the most radically pro-abortion President ever to speak (which would not in itself be objectionable) but that they are honouring him as well. An honorary doctorate is an explicit endorsement of a person's politics. The university is playing the tired old record that there are so many other issues on which Catholics agree with Obama. Sorry, but that doesn't really cut it. Increasing federal funding for healthcare etc. is all very well, but it's not really of any use to those aborted people who are not actually around to enjoy it.

This video shows one of the most prepostorous events I've ever witnessed: a Catholic Priest (who is, by the way, 80 years old and fragile) is arrested by the campus police of a Catholic university for demonstrating for the right to life.

Yeah, he was probably trespassing, and he was probably not obeying police instructions, but that's not really the point. The point is that if Notre Dame was true to its Catholic identity, his demonstration wouldn't have been necessary in the first place. Anyway, Obama or not, it can simply not be the case that faithful Catholics are not allowed to voice their support for the unborn on the grounds of a Catholic institution. If this is what passes for freedom of religion in America, I'd take Saudi Arabia any day.

God bless this good Priest, who let himself be humiliated to restore the honour of our great Queen whose name has been so sullied by this sad affair, and to save the lives of her poor children who are condemned to death before they even see the life of day. And may the American public one day realize that what happened at Selma, Alabama is not only part of the same struggle as this, but utterly pales in comparison.

Christ Our Peace

One of the most wonderful homilies I have ever read. From the visit of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem:

Following in the footsteps of the Apostle, I wish to proclaim anew, to the men and women of our time, the Church’s firm faith that Jesus Christ "was crucified, died and was buried", and that "on the third day he rose from the dead". Exalted at the right hand of the Father, he has sent us his Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Apart from him, whom God has made Lord and Christ, "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12). Standing in this holy place, and pondering that wondrous event, how can we not be "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37), like those who first heard Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost? Here Christ died and rose, never to die again. Here the history of humanity was decisively changed. The long reign of sin and death was shattered by the triumph of obedience and life; the wood of the Cross lay bare the truth about good and evil; God’s judgement was passed on this world and the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon humanity. Here Christ, the new Adam, taught us that evil never has the last word, that love is stronger than death, that our future, and the future of all humanity, lies in the hands of a faithful and provident God. The empty tomb speaks to us of hope, the hope that does not disappoint because it is the gift of the Spirit of life (cf. Rom 5:5)... This ancient Memorial of the Anástasis bears mute witness both to the burden of our past, with its failings, misunderstandings and conflicts, and to the glorious promise which continues to radiate from Christ’s empty tomb. This holy place, where God’s power was revealed in weakness, and human sufferings were transfigured by divine glory, invites us to look once again with the eyes of faith upon the face of the crucified and risen Lord. Contemplating his glorified flesh, completely transfigured by the Spirit, may we come to realize more fully that even now, through Baptism, "we bear in our bodies the death of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our own mortal flesh" (2 Cor 4:10-11). Even now, the grace of the resurrection is at work within us! May our contemplation of this mystery spur our efforts, both as individuals and as members of the ecclesial community, to grow in the life of the Spirit through conversion, penance and prayer. May it help us to overcome, by the power of that same Spirit, every conflict and tension born of the flesh, and to remove every obstacle, both within and without, standing in the way of our common witness to Christ and the reconciling power of his love.

With these words of encouragement, dear friends, I conclude my pilgrimage to the holy places of our redemption and rebirth in Christ. I pray that the Church in the Holy Land will always draw new strength from its contemplation of the empty tomb of the Savior. In that tomb it is called to bury all its anxieties and fears, in order to rise again each day and continue its journey through the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee and beyond, proclaiming the triumph of Christ’s forgiveness and the promise of new life. As Christians, we know that the peace for which this strife-torn land yearns has a name: Jesus Christ. "He is our peace", who reconciled us to God in one body through the Cross, bringing an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14). Into his hands, then, let us entrust all our hope for the future, just as in the hour of darkness he entrusted his spirit into the Father’s hands... Jesus asks each of us to be a witness of unity and peace to all those who live in this City of Peace. As the new Adam, Christ is the source of the unity to which the whole human family is called, that unity of which the Church is the sign and sacrament. As the Lamb of God, he is the source of that reconciliation which is both God’s gift and a sacred task enjoined upon us. As the Prince of Peace, he is the source of that peace which transcends all understanding, the peace of the new Jerusalem. May he sustain you in your trials, comfort you in your afflictions, and confirm you in your efforts to proclaim and extend his Kingdom.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

"No More Bloodshed! No More Fighting! No More Terrorism! No More War!"

From the Farwell Ceremony of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land of HH Pope Benedict XVI at Ben Gurion Aiport, Tel Aviv, 15th May 2009:

"Mr President, I thank you for the warmth of your hospitality, which is greatly appreciated, and I wish to put on record that I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people. Friends enjoy spending time in one another’s company, and they find it deeply distressing to see one another suffer. No friend of the Israelis and the Palestinians can fail to be saddened by the continuing tension between your two peoples. No friend can fail to weep at the suffering and loss of life that both peoples have endured over the last six decades. Allow me to make this appeal to all the people of these lands: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream. And let peace spread outwards from these lands, let them serve as a “light to the nations” (Is 42:6), bringing hope to the many other regions that are affected by conflict."


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Mexico at War

Mexico is under attack - and no, I don't mean by the inaptly named 'swine flu', which is showing itself to be, as we say in Denmark, 'a storm in a glass of water' (according to the latest update from WHO, initial reports of over 150 deaths were widely exaggerated; only 19 deaths, all in Mexico, have been reported so far). I mean by Socialist politicians who have launched a concerted effort to legalize abortion in state legislation.

In 2007, Mexico City legalised abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Since then, pro-abortion groups have been lobbying for similar legislation to be introduced in other states, most recently in Queretaro, where a proposal to legalise abortion after rape was defeated. I know many will object to this. It is indisputable that a rape is a deeply traumatizing experience and that as a man I might never realize the full extent of this. However, I also believe it to be indisputable that any human life which results from such a despicable act is a full member of human society, with all the rights that entails. I also find the argument that a resulting pregnancy is necessarily a further, unbearable trauma unconvincing. It is a well-known fact that there is also a trauma connected to abortion, and it is not inconceivable that the birth of a wonderful child may just be what dispels the awfulness of the situation. Good can come out of evil. Besides, the wording of the text seems to have been extremely ambiguous, allowing for abortion simply on the grounds of a purported rape.

In fact, the efforts to legalise abortion have prompted a backlash from pro-life forces, which have been successful in introducing pro-life amendments to the constitutions of at least seven states. The Mexican Supreme Court, while ruling 8-3 that the Mexico City law was constitutional, split 4-4 on whether the constitution provided a general 'right to abortion' or whether this was up to the decision of states (in the nature of things, the minority from the former ruling did not vote on this issue).

One of these amendments, from the state of Baja California, has been brought before the Supreme Court. The callousness of pro-abortionists never ceases to amaze me. The amendment lays down that "from the moment in which an individual is conceived, he enters under the protection of the law, and is treated as a born person for all corresponding legal effects, until his natural or non-induced death." I can't possibly imagine who could be against affording this most basic right of equality before the law to all human persons, especially those most vulnerable and unable to seek legal assistance. But the Human Rights Commisioner of the state clearly does not want to do that, and cites among his reasons that it impedes the freedom of women to use contraceptives! This is quite astonishing because it represents a rare admittance of the fact that some contraceptives - among them 'the pill' - have abortifacient properties. So this guy is actually saying that we had better accept that human beings are killed in the womb than discontinue the use of such contraceptives! The Cult of the Sacred Orgasm strikes again.

Via LifeSiteNews.

Americans Evenly Divided on Abortion

According to a recent Pew Research poll, support for abortion in the US has declined dramatically since August - by a full 8 percentage points - meaning that Americans are now almost evenly split on the issue. Last August, support for the legality of Abortion in all/most cases was at 54%, while the opposition was at 41%. Now, the figures are 46% and 44%, respectively.

This is a massive indictment against the unambiguously pro-abortion stance of the present Democratic administration. President Obama has expanded federal funding for abortion and research on embryos, and Hillary Clinton has confirmed that the government will support 'reproductive rights' across the globe. However, as the poll shows, this goes directly against the trend seen in the general population. The Democrats are always banging on about their 'democratic' and 'inclusive' credentials, but what's so democratic about this?

Interestingly, there has been an equivalent increase in support for gun rights.* Strangely, it looks as if Americans are veering more to the 'right' simultaneously with, or immediately after, electing a Democratic President and Congress. Regrets, anyone?

*I want to make an observation about gun rights, because in Europe this kind of thing is easily dismissed as a sign of the crankiness of 'right-wing' Americans, along with opposition to abortion. The reason why very few people in most European countries own guns is not because we're idealistic pascifists but because our governments have historically posed strict restrictions on gun ownership - mostly to prevent popular uprisings. The US developed in completely different circumstances where it was in many places absolutely necessary to own a gun due to a lack of law enforcement and presence of hostile indigenous tribes. This, along with a general (and not unfounded) scepticism towards the state and a set of ideals extolling the freedom and autonomy of the individual, has contributed to create the conviction that it is a basic right of citizens to possess the necessary means to defend themselves from violent attack - a right which the Supreme Court has ruled is inherent in the Constitution. Greater control over gun ownership is difficult to accomplish without curtailing this civil right, which is the reason why many Americans are sceptical of such an endeavour.

Via LifeSiteNews.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

St. Catherine of Siena, 'Empowered Woman'

I would have written a post about this yesterday: April 29 is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena. She is one of the greatest female Saints of the Church, and even in secular terms one of the greatest women ever to have lived. Though of very frail physical disposition, she had the mental strength of a lioness. She entered the lay section of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) at age sixteen and, after living some years as a sort of hermit in her father's house, she began to write letters to the Bishops and Princes of Italy, urging them to put a stop to the wars which ravaged the peninsula. She also successfully implored Pope Gregory IX, who for various reasons had chosen to reside in Avignon, to come back to Rome. She earned widespread respect in the Italian political and ecclesiastical establishment and was even employed by the Pope as ambassador. Besides all this she worked for spiritual renewal in the Church and tended as a nurse to the sick. She received a large number of intriguing mystical experiences. Her Dialogue and letters are some of the most accomplished works of Italian litterature. She is invoked as the patron Saint of philosophers and, as one of the foremost female Catholic theologians, was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

There is no doubt in my mind that St. Catherine's extraordinary success, despite her sex and the age in which she lived, as a politician, diplomat, and theologian was not in the tiniest way up to her own natural abilities, but were the result of supernatural grace. It is quite certain that the Pope and the princes with whom she corresponded would not have lent any attention to this sickly, illitterate young lady if it had not been the case that they sensed an otherworldly authority behind her words.

It is sad that what passes for 'empowerment of women' today is frequently promotion of a woman's 'right' to pervert her own sexuality and kill her own children (I am not denying that there is other, very good, work being done in the area of promoting women's dignity and responsibility). St. Catherine shows what true female strength is about: giving oneself completely over to God and letting Him work wonders through you. This is what we are all called to do, but women can in fact easier do so than men because they tend to be naturally more disposed towards humility and care of others (cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem). This is not in any way a hindrance or something to be ashamed of - it is a blessing and a gift of which at least this blockheaded male is profoundly envious.

Divine Beauty: Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Truly one of the priceless gems of Christendom, Sainte-Chapelle, once the private chapel of the Kings of France, housed what was believed to be one of the very greatest Christian relics: the Crown of Thorns of Christ, which was displayed under the canopy seen above. I can personally attest to the staggering beauty of this fantastical edifice, although today, stripped of virtually all religious symbols and turned into a museum, it is even more soulless than the Hagia Sophia.

Schoolgirls to Obtain Morning-after Pills by Text Message

I fully understand that people worry about teenage pregnancy. In my opinion, people are not well suited to either have sex or be parents until they have gone through the turbulent years of adolescence and developed a reasonably stable sense of their own identity and an appreciation for the identity and dignity of others. It is even more worrying when very emotionally immature persons, even pre-teens, are having sex - they are being profoundly irresponsible and are doing damage to themselves and to others by not knowing how to set limits for their own behaviour, and in the case of girls they are often exploited by older teens or even grown men.

But how does one discourage this type of behaviour? The Oxfordshire County Council thought it would be a brilliant idea to set up a text message service where school pupils in some of the areas most affected by teenage pregnancies could receive easily accessible medical "support" if they thought they had "taken a risk." According to this article from the Times, the service is primarily directed towards handing out 'morning-after pills' to girls who had had unprotected sex or whose contraception had failed.

Now I, and many others, are asking exactly what good that will do? Apart from the obvious but controversial fact that 'morning-after pills' are usually abortifacient and thus entail the taking of an innocent life, this approach is solely directed towards treating the symptoms of a problem rather than the cause. The service may prevent some teenage pregnancies, but it is very likely that more will result from it since it will be come to seen as a handy 'back-up' plan to contraception, meaning contraception will be taken less seriously - resulting in not only more teenage pregnancies, but also more sexually transmitted diseases!

The rationale for not treating the root of this problem is, as far as I can see, that this would entail an admittance of the fact that the 'cult of orgasm' which is so prevalent in our society and is spreading to ever younger ages, is at some level problematic - that the encouragement of teens and pre-teens to delay sexual relations until they are more mature and responsible, and to develop instead within them the idea that relationships ought to be loving, caring, lasting, and not focused exclusively upon sex would amount to a disqualification of the sexual practices of adults themselves, which are often very far from this ideal. Thus the health and well-being of the next generation is essentially sacrificed in order to protect the care-free lifestyle to which the present one has become addicted.

The fact that there is no parental notification involved also makes this scheme a blatant attack upon the rights (and duties) of parents to be responsible for their children's well-being. It boggles the mind that the article states that "Child protection staff will step in if any girl aged between 11 and 13 uses the service." What of children under 11? Is that an impossible scenario? And, the legal age of consent in Britain is 16, so why set the limit at 13? As if girls aged 14 could not be the victims of exploitative relationships.

(On another note: LifeSiteNews reports that one of the schools involved in the pilot project is a Catholic school, and that the County had unilatererally included it in the project, offering it no option not to participate. Is this what passes for freedom of religion in the West?)

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Legacy of Margaret Sanger to be Fulfilled - Or?

Now it's official (as if we didn't know it): Hillary Clinton has affirmed that one of the stated aims of the Obama administration is to advance so-called 'reproductive rights', including the 'right' to abortion, throughout the world.

The same Hillary Clinton recently expressed her admiration for the founder of what would become the largest perpetrator of abortions in the US, Planned Parenthood, saying she was "in awe" of Margaret Sanger and that "her work is not yet done".

Many Catholic bloggers are going into bouts of frenzy over Margaret Sanger, stating that she was a eugenicist, a racist with ties to the KKK, and whatnot. Actually, I think they are missing a far deeper point about Sanger. I don't know much about her, but if the information about her on Wikipedia is anything to go by, it turns out she was not such a horrible person after all; in fact, she was quite conservative, even for her time. She was not a eugenicist in the most perjorative sense of the word - while encouraging women to be smart about when to get pregnant and with whom, she abhorred the murderous eugenics programs in Nazi Germany. She regarded other races than the white one as intellectually and emotionally inferior, but then such a view was not a rarity in her day. The most horrible thing she advocated was actually birth control, which, although morally reprehensible and sometimes abortifacient, seldom constitutes outright murder. On all other issues regarding sexuality and reproduction she was very much a product of the century in which she was born. She viewed masturbation as gravely disordered behaviour and had great disdain for chronic masturbators. Her rationale for birth control was not to 'liberate' women, as the feminists of the 60's sought to do, but rather to prevent their immature and irrational sexual impulses (which were of course unavoidable) from getting them into trouble. And she actually opposed abortion in all instances on the grounds that it always constituted a taking of a life.

So it seems that Margaret Sanger, godmother of abortionism and hero of the sex-obsessive Left, was herself an avid opponent of abortion and had a rather more negative view of human sexuality than the Catholic Church does today. In embracing the teaching of the Church, Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton would ironically be much more true to the ideals of their great hero than they are now, and even develop a more rounded view of human sexuality and the joys which accompany it than she ever attained.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Discovering Ethics III: Basic Questions 2 (Pinckaers 1995)

Continuing my analysis of Pinckaers' book (earlier entries here), some further basic questions regarding the relationship between ethics and a number of fundamental issues intrinsic to human existence:

3. Life's meaning and goal. Pinckaers quotes the pioneering Austrian psychiatrist, Alfred Adler, as saying "The psychic life of man is determined by his goal." St. Thomas taught that happiness is our ultimate end, but later moralists dismissed this idea of Man's ultimate end as "too speculative" in favour of "the study of individual actions in relation to law, the study of cases of conscience". But this misses the point that finality is essential to human existence.

Since the question of life's goal or ultimate end is so important, we might define Christian ethics as the science that teaches us the meaning of life. It shows the supreme end toward which all our actions should be directed, the end that gives them meaning, value, and wholeness. Within this perspective, the work of the ethicist and the priest will be to help every Christian, indeed all whose lives they touch, to respond personally to the question of the real meaning of life. Their task will be to point out the highest good in the light of the Gospel and to show how all lesser goods can lead to it.
4. Suffering. Pinckaers observes that "the manuals of moral theology have little to say about suffering", choosing instead to refer this matter to treatises on asceticism. But as he points out further, both Scripture and human experience shows the centrality of suffering in human existence. The life of Christ and His disciples is steeped in suffering. The theme is prominent in the Psalms and in Job. Even on a relatively mundane level, suffering leads Man to appreciate good. According to Pinckaers, the failure of ethicists to deal with this concept is another result of the over-emphasis on obligations: "once the idea of obligation becomes dominant and determines the scope of morality, the consideration of suffering becomes marginal, since it is not a matter of obligation," and continues, "On the other hand, if the idea of happiness is the initial consideration in moral theology, the place of suffering will be obvious, for it is precisely the reverse of happiness. Suffering will then be an element of moral theology from the start." The concept of suffering is prominent in St. Thomas, too, and closely tied up with the virtue of courage, Christian martyrdom, and the Passion of Christ.

Pinckaers believes that the separation of ethics and suffering is the product of a rationalistic mindset, according to which reason and will occupy the paramount position in the moral life of the individual, while love and suffering are secondary concepts. On an even lower level is to be found the (largely irrational) sentiments, which must be dominated by reason. But, says Pinckaers,

In setting up this dichotomy between reason and appetite, rationalism misunderstands the existence of what might be termed spiritual sensibility... [which] is associated with direct perception - a kind of instinct or connatural knowledge - and with the unique movement of selfless love which is the love of friendship... And delightedly [St. Thomas] called the gifts of the Holy Spirit "instincts of the Holy Spirit" in both intellect and will.
Instead, Pinckaers, here as always, calls for a more integrative approach which can also effectively take in the question of death which is so prominent in our society.

I can't determine whether his assertion that the separation of ethics and asceticism is due to rationalism is correct, or whether this separation necessarily implies that one is superior to the other. I might seem reasonable to separate the two for investigative purposes. But the integrative approach called for by Pinckaers certainly seems to promise a more rounded view of human existence and the role of ethics in it.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Divine Beauty: Humility and Charity

Perhaps not such a beautiful image per se, but what it signifies is: HH Pope Benedict washing the feet of priests on Holy Thursday, in imitation of what Christ did to His Apostles (in ancient times, washing someone's feet was the work of slaves).

This rite is accompanied by the singing of several antiphons, among them the profound Ubi Caritas. The most beautiful modern setting of this originally gregorian antiphon is, in my mind, that of Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986):

This captures the essence of Christianity wonderfully. The text of the full antiphon, with translation:

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Abortion Ads to Air In the UK?

Advertisements for murder on prime time TV? You can't make this stuff up.

"Abortion clinics are to be allowed to advertise on television and radio for the first time.

"Condom manufacturers will also be permitted to broadcast advertisements at any time of the day or night."

See the rest of the article here.

To be fair, I'm not sure this is all it's cracked up to be. Given that abortion clinics in the UK operate on the basis of referrals from hospitals and GP's, I think it's unlikely that they will advertise directly. But 'reproductive health services' which, among other things, refer people for abortions, might well do so - and they are notoriously better funded than Christian advisory services which do not refer for abortions. Such services would also be required to state that this is the case if they advertise. All in all, the match between pro-abortionists and pro-lifers will become increasingly uneven.

Apart from that, it is completely inappropriate for condom advertisements to be able to pop up at any time of day. Sure they will be barred from breaks in children's programmes, but given that children typically watch a whole lot more than just children's programmes that is not a great help. Then again, many things should be barred from daytime TV - all forms of depiction of sex, violence, drug abuse etc. But oh no, that would be a disaster for the industry which feeds on our disturbing fascination of these things.