At the link here you will find an excellent article about the moral code engrained in the pro-life movement. The article also examines the tricks used by the pro-abortion side so that they don’t have to engage the legitimate questions posed by those from the pro-life side. This is the first time I have read anything from the author of the article – Mene Ukueberuwa – but I will definitely be looking for more of his articles to read.
Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
The USCCB has designated today as ‘Respect Life Sunday’. To many people this may sound synonymous with bringing an end to abortion. But while ending legalized abortion is a major component of respecting life that is not all there is to it. Now it seems obvious to me that such a designation on this Sunday would not be necessary if our country did in fact respect life. But it does not. Quite the opposite is the actual case for what our country believes about human life. There are numerous words that we could use to describe how our society, especially those in power, view human life – they disparage it, denigrate it, despise and disregard it, and have the utmost contempt for it. In short, our society dis-respects life. And we all, to a greater or lesser extent, are guilty of this disrespect for human life. But in order to understand just how deep this disrespect for life goes in our society, we must first understand what it means to respect life. I would define the respect for life as having a due regard for the rights and dignity of all mankind, whether they be born or unborn. Therefore, if we have racist tendencies, thinking we are better than someone else on the basis of skin color, then we are showing disrespect for that person’s life. And while not everyone is a racist, I think this example can help us to see how each of us, even if we are pro-life, is susceptible to a disrespect for the life of others. Now I don’t want to sound as though I am trying to belittle the concern we should have about abortion – I am not. Instead, my purpose is to try to show that there is an underlying problem within our society that leads to at least a tacit acceptance of abortion by many people in our country.
It seems to me that everyone expects to be given the respect their life demands and so you would think that they would desire this same respect for all other human life. But we know that this is not the case and, therefore, must ask why? Why do people not respect the life of their fellow man? There are several things that lead to a disrespect for life. One major component in our lack of respect is a lack of thankfulness for the life we have been given by God. People often take life for granted; in other words, we do not question how we came to be. And because we gloss over that question of how we came to be, we never acknowledge that we did not create ourselves. But in our lives, we must pause and consider the world around us. Where did the universe and everything in it come from? Do we really believe that it is all just chance? Absolutely not! We believe that it is God who created everything, including ourselves, and we need to constantly remind ourselves of this fact and be thankful. It is this lack of thankfulness that exists in our society, though, that is linked to another reason for its disrespect for life, which is this: we do not consider what the ultimate meaning of our life is.
Going back to the first point, if we never consider where it is that we came from, then we will never ask the next logical question: where are we going? Our Lord, and His Church, teaches us that our end, our telos, the reason for our existence is to be with God forever. Out of His infinite love God created mankind in order to be with Him in an everlasting communion of love. And even after mankind sinned, God sent His Son as the expiation for our sins in order to reestablish that communion of love with us. But if we take our life for granted then we will never see beyond this world and into the next. In fact, it would be impossible to do so. And if this world is all we can see then we will start to believe what the world and the devil would have us believe about our life – that we are just a collection of atoms with no ultimate purpose or meaning.
And yet, everyone desires for their life to mean something. And so we try to fill that void by getting as much as we can for ourselves. After all, if we are just a collection of atoms with nothing special about us, then that means that there is nothing special about anyone else. And then we come to view others as obstacles that are just in the way of obtaining the things we think we have a right to possess. And it is this selfishness that has led us to where we are now – over 40 years of sacrificing the unborn so that we can get the things that we want! In regards to this plague of abortion many people have been shocked in the last several months by the undercover videos about Planned Parenthood selling body parts. But I ask this – why are we shocked?! The purpose of that organization has always been to make money from the destruction of human life so why are we surprised that they have found new ways to make money off of it? The real thing that we should be surprised at is the fact that legalized abortion still exists! But we have become numb to the fact that abortion exists and therefore tacitly accept it. But we can do this no longer.
In order to overcome this we must come to an understanding that we all, born and unborn, are much more than just the sum of our parts. If we were the sum of our parts, then we could take the appropriate ratios of elements that make up the human body, put it in a blender and push puree – and voila you would have a new human. But that is not possible because there is a source of life underlying all those parts. Consider, for instance, what happens when someone dies – the body starts to decay. And the reason that the body starts to decay is because there is no longer any unifying principle within the body. In other words, the life has gone out of the body. And this unifying principle that brings life to the body is what we call the soul.
When a man and woman come together in bringing forth new life, they contribute the genetic material necessary for a new, unique person. But that which gives life to the new body – the soul – comes from God. Therefore, if on this Sunday we want to begin to truly respect life – that being to give our due regard for the rights and dignity of all people both born and unborn – then we must remember where life comes from and be thankful.
Today we celebrate one of the most significant, if not the most significant, holy day of the year. Why do I say such a thing? What about Easter? What about Christmas? The fact is that without today, those two events would have never taken place.
We should never forget the full importance of today because this is the day that God became Man. In a way it is strange that we put so much emphasis of the Incarnation on Christmas, the day of our Lord’s birth. But in another way it makes sense. Think about it: whenever a friend tells us they are having a baby we say “Congratulations!” The real celebration, though, doesn’t take place until after the baby is born when we can see and hold the baby. But I think this type of behavior really needs to change for the following reason: our society no longer values the life of the unborn.
There really should be a new emphasis on the importance of today’s Solemnity by the Church, or at least by her members, in order to counteract the misunderstanding of our society. Society claims that the unborn are not truly people, and therefore do not have any right to life, until they are born. But on this, the day that our Lord became one of us, we know that is not true. Jesus did not become a Man only after He was born, or after Mary could feel Him moving in her womb, or when He reached any other stage of development. Instead, He was fully Man and fully God, and truly a Person, at the very moment of His conception.
So how can we mark this day’s importance, even though it is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Theologically, you can let this ‘sink in’ by reflecting today on the fact of our Lord’s Incarnation taking place today. Perhaps go to Mass or spend time praying at your local parish – in Adoration if possible. But I also have some ideas on the practical side to mark the importance of this day. When a friend tells us that they are expecting a new child, then don’t wait until the birth to buy the baby a gift. Instead, go get something special to mark the occasion right then. By so doing you would be making a significant point – that the unborn child is a full member of the family of mankind. You could even tell them that you are doing it in recognition of the fact that Jesus became Man at the moment of His conception. Next, maybe we should start giving gifts to family and friends on this day to mark the occasion like we do on Christmas. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant to still mark the supreme importance of this day. Or another idea would just be to have a party. Uh oh, I hear someone saying, “But it is Lent.” Yes, but it is a Solemnity, and even if this day fell on a Friday in Lent there would be no abstinence or penance required. We should mark the special significance of this day and proclaim to the whole world the coming of our Savior as Man.
(Conscience) can mean (a) the pressure a man feels upon his will to do what he thinks is right; (b) his judgment as to what the content of right and wrong are. In sense (a) conscience is always to be followed. It is the sovereign of the universe, which ‘if it had power as it has right, would absolutely rule the world.’ It is not to be argued with, but obeyed, and even to question it is to incur guilt. But in sense (b) it is a very different matter. People may be mistaken about wrong and right; most people in some degree are mistaken. By what means are mistakes in this field to be corrected?
The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis
That last question is very important. As he rightly says, we are all mistaken to some degree about what is right and what is wrong. As fallen and sinful creatures we can and often do misunderstand or misinterpret the truths that would establish for us what is right and what is wrong. Surely most (all?) of us have encountered a situation in which something we thought for sure was true turned out to be false. If someone tells us this has never happened to them then we can only assume one of three things about them: a) they are perfect and know the good and act on it perfectly – but this is only true of God and perhaps could be said of the good angels that serve Him; b) they are lying to us; c) they are delusional. Basically, if someone (except God Himself) thinks they are right about everything – that they have the ultimate source of knowledge for what is good and evil – then they should not be trusted. To say it another way, we all need to be willing to admit that we make mistakes in our understanding about what is right and what is wrong. If this is not your understanding of yourself then you can stop reading now.
And now that it is just the mere mortals of sound mind left, let us ask the question again: how do we correct our conscience when it is mistaken? And this really requires another question to be answered: how can we even know when our conscience is wrong? First of all, we need to be humble, acknowledge our shortcomings, realize that we do not ‘know it all’, and always be on the search for the Truth; because truth brings knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong. This truth can come to us in different ways: first through intuition. Most people understand that it is not right to just walk up to someone on the street and shoot them in the face. Our basic moral intuition tells us that. On the other hand, many people today would not apply that same understanding to the unborn. Instead, they have been brainwashed by a political and social system that is constantly screaming about a woman’s ‘right’ to reproductive choice. The result is, that according to many people’s conscience, the unborn child, who is really no different from the innocent person walking down the street, does not deserve the same protection. This is obviously an instance of someone’s conscience (and here we are talking about a large group of people) being seriously distorted.
There is another way, though, that we can know our conscience is wrong and that is from authority. An example would be when parents help their children understand that a certain behavior is wrong. And here I am not talking about the parent who simply says, “Stop doing that!” Instead, I am speaking of the parents who take the time to help their children understand why a certain behavior is wrong. The same can be said of the priest in the confessional when he causes you to think to yourself, “Wow! I’ve never thought of it that way before, but he is right.” And of course the ultimate example would be Authority of Christ Himself, who speaks to us through Scripture and also speaks to us through His Church. Truly, it is with Authority that the Chruch teaches us what is right and what is wrong.
And yet, how many so-called Catholics use the excuse “My conscience says it is ok” to vote for pro-abortion politicians, to use contraception, to skip Mass on Sunday, etc. Of course the main problem here is that these people think that if their conscience says it is ok then there is nothing else to consider. But, they are missing the crucial step that is needed to rightly follow your conscience and that is to make sure you have a properly formed conscience. And this formation comes primarily from authority.
Whether we know it or not, everyone’s conscience if formed in large part from authority. What makes the difference between pro-life and pro-abortion Catholics, for instance, is which authority their consciences have been formed by. Those who believe in abortion have been formed by the ‘authority’ of the secular worldview. They have been formed by the opinions of the supposed experts that surround them in the media, movies, music and books. On the other hand, those who are pro-life have formed their conscience in accordance with Authority of the Church, which is nothing less that the teaching of Christ that has been handed down to us throughout the centuries.
Below is the speech I gave at a press conference in front of a future Planned Parenthood site here in San Antonio. There is a local organization trying to stop it and they asked me to speak. I thought today would be a good day to post it.
Pro-life and pro-choice: this is how the two sides of the abortion debate refer to themselves; but, do these two terms adequately describe the sides they represent? Let us first look and consider what life is and see if the word accurately describes the pro-life side. Based on the dictionary I have in my office, life can be defined as the power of something, or someone, to move itself toward its own good or perfection. And if we look at the basic objective of the pro-life side, which is to prohibit abortion so that unborn children may have the right to move towards their own good and perfection, then we can see that the term does in fact fit with what pro-lifers promote.
But the same cannot be said of those who call themselves pro-choice. In the same dictionary just mentioned, choice is described as “a free judgment arising from reason,” which would be the opposite of decisions based emotion or feelings. This would mean that those who claim to believe in ‘choice’ have a rational freedom to make decisions that are free from psychological forces, such as feelings or emotions. But what do we find in reality? We find that those who claim to be pro-choice rarely exhibit the rational freedom necessary to truly make a free choice. Instead what we see are people who react with their emotions and especially the very powerful emotion of fear.
According to the CDC 50% of all women who have abortions are younger than 25 years old. And what but fear would lead most of those women and girls to have abortions. Fear of the college girl whose boyfriend threatens to leave her if she doesn’t have an abortion. Fear of the teenage girl who doesn’t want her parents to find out she is pregnant or who is forced by her parents to have an abortion. Fear of those who feel pressured to have an abortion because society tells them, “You are too young to have a baby – it will ruin your life.” Or what about the fear of women of all ages in lower income brackets who don’t think they can afford to have a child.
If this Planned Parenthood opens it will feed on this fear I have discussed today. When women walk through those doors there will no longer be a choice for them because fear will have taken it away. That is why all those in this city who hold to a belief in the right to life must stand against this place opening and must pray without ceasing that God will intervene and keep these doors closed.
I just received the most recent edition of Ethics & Medics: A Commentary of the National Catholic Bioethics Center on Health Care and the Life Sciences (wow, they need to shorten that). It is a four page newsletter that comes out every month with various medical ethical issues being discussed. This month the issue in question is whether or not to deactivate someone’s pacemaker in given situations. The issue itself is not my reason for this post but instead information within the first article that I was not aware of beforehand, which has to do with ordinary and extraordinary means of medical care.
The distinction between ordinary and extraordinary does not take into account the entirety of a patient’s medical situation; it can only concern the relationship between a specific problem, its corresponding treatment, and that treatment’s effects.
Ethics & Medics, Nov. 2014, vol. 39, num. 11, page 2.
What this means is that you cannot combine all of a patient’s various and unrelated symptoms and say that any care given would therefore be extraordinary. For instance, the type of situation it discusses in the article is when someone has a serious and painful disease that would cause them to die if it were not for the fact that they had a pacemaker. But, the disease and the pacemaker are totally unrelated. Therefore, you cannot deactivate the pacemaker saying that it is extraordinary means of treatment because what it is treating is unrelated to that which is causing the severe pain. There could be other reasons in which the pacemaker could be viewed as extraordinary and therefore could be removed but it cannot be removed because of an unrelated illness – no matter how bad it may be.
But before anyone says, “The Catholic Church is so mean; why do they want people to suffer.” The Church does not want anyone to suffer but instead recognizes that suffering is a part of our experience in this life. In addition the Church does believe in and promote the use of medicines that can alleviate pain. Lastly, the Church does not allow euthanasia or anything else that could be done that would be for the express purpose of ending the patient’s life because she (the Church) recognizes that we are not the creators of our lives but instead the stewards of it. And, therefore, we are bound to protect our lives with the ordinary means that are available to us.
For more information on the subject you can go to §2278-9 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or go to the USCCB document located here. (Helpful in particular is Part Five that starts on page 29 and especially §55-7 that starts on page 30.)
Caveat: in my writings about philosophy please understand that I do not consider myself an expert and could be mistaken about what I am writing. I am writing with the purpose of working these things out in my mind and using my blog as a means of recording my thoughts and tracking my progress in this very complicated subject. Of course, I always seek to adhere strictly to the teachings of the Catholic Church and so if any reader ever notices something that could be wrong then please let me know.
The intellect receives its measure from objects; that is, human knowledge is true not of itself, but it is true because and insofar as it conforms to reality.
St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I, II, 93, 1 ad 3
What on earth does this mean and why is it important you ask? This may sound convoluted but actually it is what I would call common sense. My understanding does not come from my own reading of St. Thomas but from those who are much more intelligent than I. In this case the quote, and my understanding of it, comes from Josef Pieper’s book Living the Truth, from Ignatius Press (1989) on page 124.
What St. Thomas is trying to tell us is that we know as being true only when our knowledge conforms to the reality that exists outside of our own minds. Here is an example of what I mean: if I see a red apple on my desk then I can truly know that it is a red apple through my senses. The apple really exists and I know this because I can touch it. And even it I did not touch it I could know that it is there through my sight. Also, my sight tells me it is red in color. Some might argue that the words red and apple are arbitrary and could be called by other names. This is true. For instance, it could be that in our language red is actually called blue and apples are actually called oranges but that doesn’t change the fact that in our language as it is red means something definite and apple means something definite. What I mean is that the things we call red apples are an objective reality that we have assigned the name red apple.
But this does not mean that it is our naming of the thing that makes it what it is. Instead, we all know what a red apple is because we have been taught what it is and we have experienced it through our senses or our intellect. If someone is speaks the English language and picks up a red apple and calls it anything other than a red apple then his knowledge of that object is wrong. But this is only true of those who have learned the Truth of the thing in question. If they have never seen a red apple (which is hard to imagine) then they would not know what to call it. But suppose someone had been taught the wrong word for it. Perhaps they were referring to an apple as a cat. Clearly this would be wrong but the person does not know any better. The solution would be to politiely correct the person and tell them that it is not a cat but an apple. You may even have to go so far as to prove it by showing them pictures of a cat and pictures of apples and then getting other people to corroborate what you are saying. In the end you would suppose that common sense would prevail – right?
But that is not the way our society acts any longer. Although most people would still be willig to accept what a cat is and what an apple is there are other parts of objective reality that they completely discard. For them human knowledge is true of itself, by which St. Thomas means (I think) that the truth is whatever we want it to be. A prime example of what I mean can readily be seen in people’s treatment of the unborn. What is the unborn baby, objectively speaking? It is nothing less than the offspring of two other human beings and, therefore, could be nothing other than a human being. Right? That seems to make sense to me. But in the minds of those who are pro-death it must be something else. How else could they acquiesce in terminating its life? There are only two possible answers to this last question. First, they might think that the unborn baby is something other than a human being: you know – the whole ‘it’s just a clump of cells’ mentality. But from what I’ve read most people, even those who are pro-death, do not believe that any more. (And even if they do believe the ‘clump of cells’ lie it doesn’t seem rational because if it is not a human at conception then at what point does it become one?)
So that leaves just the second possibility – the people in our country, at least those who are pro-death, are no longer rational. In other words, they have no common sense. If they don’t believe the ‘clump of cells’ lie but instead understand that it is a baby and they either approve or actually are involved with abortion then not only are they irrational in their thinking they are also antithetical to their own human nature. And there is another word we can use for that – it is called demonic.
The fact is that to be human means, in part, to be rational. As St. Thomas said, “human knowledge is true not of itself, but it is true because and insofar as it conforms to reality.” There is an objective reality outside ourselves which we did not create and which we do not get to redefine – it is what it is. And we can most certainly come to know that objective reality. Therefore, we cannot redefine the unborn as a non-person in order to dispose of it, and still think of ourselves as fully human. Instead, to be truly rational human beings we must accept the objective reality that that which proceeds from two humans must itself be human.
Yesterday I had the displeasure of experiencing jury duty. This is only the second time I have ever had to do so in my life. But both of these experiences were for the same court in Texas. I won’t say whether it was state or federal court because I am not sure how much of that I can disclose. The first experience in that court was relatively painless compared to yesterday’s experience, which took a ridiculous amount of time. On the other hand, both experiences in that court have things that are causing me to write this post today.
First of all, when you arrive you find that there is no free parking. Granted, they do have a reduced rate for jurors ($2 instead of $10) but they are causing a MAJOR disruption in the lives of law-abiding citizens and, as such, they should provide a close, safe, and free place to park.
Next, when you get inside they immediately start to herd you like cattle that is waiting to get branded. Then they usher you into a large room with inadequate seating with about 1,000 other people. After everyone is seated some government employee addresses the crowd telling us basically to expect to be mistreated because there is going to be lots of waiting on our part. Then one of the judges comes in to address the crowd telling us how good it is that we showed up for jury duty. (Like we had a choice.) She also said that if we weren’t there then the judicial system would come to a halt. So basically we were not being viewed as individuals and law-abiding citizens but instead as tools that the governments uses to keep the judicial system moving.
Then they start calling the jurors to various courts and more cattle herding ensues. After this we were escorted in numerical order (like all other aspects of the government we were known by the number that was given to us and not by our names). My group of jurors – 65 in total – was dropped off at the door of the courtroom and told “Stay, that’s a good juror” like we were the family dog.
What happened next you ask? Nothing for the next two hours. They made 65 law-abiding citizens stand out in the hallway with only a few benches on which to sit for two whole hours without ever uttering a word to us. In that time no one ever came out to tell us how much longer it would be, what we were supposed to do or anything else.
The rest of the day was spent with the judge and lawyers talking to us and asking us questions. Oh yeah, and a lot more waiting out in the ‘hallway of no seating’.
Now let me explain why I have written this synopsis of my day’s events – it is to ask a question. Why is it that those who are summoned to jury duty are treated in such a manner? The ones on trial are treated better than those on the jury. Even convicted criminals are treated better; after all, there are laws in place to make sure convicts are at least treated like human beings. But in my experience there is no such concern for those law-abiding citizens that are summoned to jury duty. We (those 64 people along with myself out in that hallway) were treated really no better than animals. In fact, I have seen many family pets that are treated far better than we were yesterday. And why is that? I think it is because this country, especially its government, has forgotten that the people of this country, and in fact all people, are created in the image and likeness of God. And due to that fact, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and not as tools to get a job done. Yet that is how we were treated. But really it makes sense that the government views us in such a way. After all, it is the same government that doesn’t even recognize us as human at the moment of our conception.
At lifesitenews.com I came across an address given by Cardinal Burke. It is titled The Perennial Newness of the Gospel of Life. I have not yet read the whole thing but did find the following part to be very important. To borrow from Fr. Z – my emphases and comments.
In this regard, involvement in political life is essential to the advancement of the cause of life. Already in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II had declared:
The social role of families is called upon to find expression also in the form of political intervention: families should be the first to take steps to see that the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family. Along these lines, families should grow in awareness of being 'protagonists' of what is known as 'family politics' and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference. (This is from St. John Paul II and he is telling us to get off our collective behinds and do something about the immoral nature of our society. If we just look at it and say, ‘Oh well, what can I do?’ then things will never improve.)
The Holy Father repeated the same exhortation to families in Evangelium Vitae. (EV, 507-508, n. 93)
In this context, I cannot fail to note the grave scandal caused by legislators, judges, and political leaders who profess to be Catholic and who present themselves to receive Holy Communion, while, at the same time, they uphold and even promote laws which violate the moral law in its most fundamental tenets. (To this I say loudly – Amen!) The Church’s discipline, from the time of Saint Paul, has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion. (Here he is referring to canons 915 and 916. In 915 the clergy are charged with not admitting to Holy Communion those in such a state of sin and 916 deals with the sinner himself – that he should not present himself for Holy Commuion. Unfortunately, there are many times when members of the clergy ignore this canon law requirement and give Communion to these persons anyway. But to do so imperils not only the soul of the notorious sinner but also of the clergyman that knowingly distributes Holy Commuion to the notorious sinner.) The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin. (And because of that objective condition of sinfulness they should not, at least for their own good, not receive the Blessed Sacrament.) It prevents them from committing sacrilege by violating the incomparable sanctity of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, and safeguards the Christian community and the community at large from scandal, that is, from being led to believe that the violation of the moral law, for example in what pertains to the inviolable dignity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the family, and the freedom of conscience, is not sinful, does not gravely break communion with Our Lord. (This represents the biggest problem. These type of public sins that too often go uncorrected cause everyone that sees it to think that it is OK to act in such a way. The result being that people really do not understand what is right and what is wrong.)
The title to today's post will make sense in a moment. First, please start with the quotes below. (Let it be known that I in no way support any of the following quotes.
We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members. Continue reading