Thursday, April 30, 2009

Today in History

As a Catholic I don't think it's appropriate to celebrate it, but today in 1945 Adolf Hitler's last thoughts included the Soviet Army, Eva Braun, cyanide, and a handgun.

What do Joe Biden and Judge John T. Noonan have in common?

They are both famous this year for receiving the honor for which they weren't the first choice.

A Pertinent question with Prom season coming up...

Will the Plan B pill be available for purchase by 17-year old guys, too?

Alternate post title: "Guys, why store those bulky condoms in your pocket when you can carry these little pills?"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Review of Heaven's Song

Well, I'm finally getting around to an earlier promise here and here to review Heaven's Song, by Christopher West.

There have been few books I've read recently that have proved to be so captivating as this one. Heaven's Song explores John Paul II's Theology of the Body in light of two recently discovered sermons on the topic not previously published in English.

The book is in two basic parts, the first linking Mary with the beloved in Song of Songs and showing how the poetic and erotic language of that book is essential to understanding the passion with which God loves us and wants to be united with us. That unity came through Mary.

The second part of the book centers on the marriage preparation of Tobias and Sara in the book of Tobit and shows how, step by step, our suffering, united to the suffering of Christ on the cross, enables us to love in the marital bond in the fullness of Christ. Our humility towards our own sinfulness and our complete gift of self to one another give us the power in Jesus to live a love stern as death.

This treatment refines and makes more complete this understanding of human love, human sexuality, and God's eternal plan, but I would recommend that those unfamiliar with JPII's Theology of the Body not start with this book. TOB for Beginners or TOB Explained will provide a more foundational context for Heaven's Song.

We as Catholics need to understand better and live better God's plan for human sexuality. God created this gift for freedom, but mankind always tries to pervert this gift, which leads to self-slavery.

Heaven's Song is a must-read for those preparing for marriage, as well as married couples who wish to grow deeper in their love for God and for one another, and who wish to better know what a great sex life is supposed to be.

Friday, April 24, 2009

For the fifth time...

Lila Rose exposes Planned Parenthood staff covering up statutory rape in order to provide abortion services, despite state laws to protect young girls.

Nope, no problem here. No investigation necessary.

And at Creative Minority Report, the story goes that PP is now trying to smear Lila Rose, calling her a liar, despite the full and unedited video she has provided to legal authorities.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

follow up to abortion question

Hello Fr. A.,

Ave Maria.

I have a question regarding a debate I've been having online about abortion and was wondering if you could help me. The discussion turned at one point to the example of the little girl in Brazil which led to the general question about exceptions for saving the life of the mother. I did my best to explain the principle of double-effect (which even to me sounds a little like splitting hairs, but it does make sense, so onward) and used the example of ectopic pregnancy/ salpingectomy, but I think I got back up against a wall when posed with the scenario of when the life of the mother is in imminent danger and the baby must come out, even if it is unable to survive outside the womb. It seems to me that this is morally reasonable (if the mother dies, both die; but if at least one can be saved, we would have the duty to do so), but I couldn't help but wonder. If the baby must be removed with the intention of saving the mother, isn't the direct action still an abortion? The duty to save the life is there, I believe, but how do we explain this without undermining the definition of a direct, intentional abortion being morally forbidden? In other words, don't both aspects have to be negated for double-effect? And how do I explain this? Please help!


The principle is that no harm may be directly done to the innocent life. The position of the Church is that there are no exceptions for direct abortion, even in the case where the mother's life is in danger. Indirect abortion is permitted only when there is a proportionate reason, namely, when the life of the mother is in danger. Indirect abortion would include such things as the removal of the womb with the child intact in the case of uterine cancer, or the "salpingectomy" (which I presume is the sectioning of the fallopian tube with the embryo in it) in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. Based on the principle the "salpingectomy" would be permissible, but a chemical abortion would not, even if it is safer for the woman and if it more likely to leave her fertility intact.

Catholic tradition resolves moral questions on the basis of principle, because morality is, in fact objective. The Church always distinquishes, and rightly so. When people who are testing our moral system pose hard cases, they take the application of the principle to the smallest detail and to the most fine distinctions. Those distinctions may seem to be paper thin, but they are nevertheless consistent with the prinicple. People will take the hard case and test the principle, in the case of direct abortion when the mother might otherwise die, asserting that its application is heartless; however, once the coherence of our moral system is thus compromised, it becomes the pretext for resolving any case that one deems "hard" without a principled solution.

In fact direct abortion is rarely, if ever, necessary to save the life of a mother, and the distinctions that are involved are not as thin as our opponents assert. Those opponents often fail to distinguish between a physical act and a moral act. Since there seems to be little difference, physically, between indirect and direct abortion, especially when the end result is the same, they deem the moral act to be the same in each case; however, morality is not determined by physical factors but by metaphyscal ones: object (nature) of the act; intention and circumstances. In the case of direct abortion, namely, the direct and intentional killing of an innocent child, regardless of its physical similarities with justifiable indirect abortion, the object of the act is intrinsically evil and may never be done.

I hope this helps.

Father A

I'm still not quite resolved on this, though. It would seem that we come to the conclusion that it is not permissible to surgically remove the baby, but it is permissible if we take the whole uterus with it. I have to admit, that's a hard pill to swallow.

But I come back to Fr. A's assertion that such cases where direct abortion to save the life of the mother are rarely, if ever, necessary. I believe he is right, but in the case at hand of the girl in Brazil, there are too many unanswered questions and other options for us to be able to answer this question with certainty.

My feeble fence-sitting on such a hard case, as Fr. A called it, is a luxury I can now afford, but I pray for all those faced with such a decision. God grant them guidance, and grant us all mercy.

I'd appreciate any help on this from my fellow pro-lifers.

Mary's baptism and other busy-ness

Well, blogging has been light lately because my workload is never constant. Sometimes I'm twiddling my thumbs; right now I'm drowning in work. It's a good problem to have these days, so I'm not complaining.

However, this past weekend, on Divine Mercy Sunday, my daughter was welcomed into the Body of Christ. Above is the moment she was cleansed of Original Sin.

It is an awesome responsibility to know that my wife and I are entrusted with four little souls whose destiny is to be with the Father forever. We are all called to be saints; we specifically are called to mold our saints. Please pray for us to have the strength, love, and humility to be faithful in our mission. God bless.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Completely Random Movie Quotes #2


The tragedy in Brazil

a repost from a comment on

so last night I said this: "abortion, as the direct and intentional killing of an unborn person, is never morally acceptable. It can never be justified as the lesser of two evils," which didn't sit right with you guys. Let me make it clear first that though I said it is not morally acceptable, I never said that the alternative is easy. I'm not minimizing the dangers and risks associated here, nor am I dismissing the trouble brought about in this family (of the girl in Brazil).

That said, we have to understand that the reason abortion is wrong has nothing to do with the external circumstances that surround the decision. It is wrong because it is the intentional and direct killing of an innocent human being. A baby in the womb is not an aggressor. The CCC references that MA posted explain that in the act of defending one's life against an aggressor, one may be justified in using force, even deadly force, if it is necessary to fend off the attack (though if deadly force is not necessary, it is not morally justified). But a baby in the womb's only "crime" is existence, not violent assault. There are, as MA pointed out, certain circumstances that pose a problem, such as tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, etc.

Let me step back for a moment. The Church's teaching on this doesn't pit the life of the mother against the life of her child, as many confuse the issue to be. The Church doesn't tell women that they have to die and their child has to live. The intention must be to protect the lives of both persons to the extent possible.

But what about ectopic pregnancy? In such a case, the zygote has implanted in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus, thus threatening to rupture the tube and lead to the death of the mother. This is where the notion of double-effect comes in. When I said above that abortion is the direct and intentional killing of the unborn baby, I wasn't adding those modifiers to be emphatic. "Direct" means that the action undergone is the actual killing of the baby, "intentional" means that the purpose is a dead baby primarily, for whatever other reasons may be included. So what? Well, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, one can wait for a while to see if the baby miscarries on its own, which is somewhat common. The only other morally acceptable option is called salpingectomy, in which the section of the fallopian tube with the implanted zygote is removed.

You might be thinking to yourself that I'm splitting hairs here, but I'm not-- The direct action here is not the killing of the baby, but the removal of the fallopian tube, which should it burst, will kill both the mother and the child. And the intention is not to kill the child, but to save the life of the mother. While one effect of the procedure is the death of the child, it is an unintended effect of the procedure to save the life of the mother. Therefore, if another procedure could be developed where an ectopic pregnancy could be treated without the child dying (such as removing the zygote and helping it to implant correctly in the uterus), then salpingectomy would no longer be the morally acceptable option. (I had a friend that this happened to.)

Now, how does this apply to the girl in Brazil? Let's point out that we don't know all the facts, so we have to consider a few possibilities. The doctors were saying that this 9-year old girl's body could not possibly carry these babies to term. I won't refute that, but I also imagine that if that's the case then they might very likely miscarry anyway. If they didn't miscarry, might they be able to grow long enough so that they could be taken out by cesarian section and cared for in an incubator or other technological treatments? The point is that I doubt that this girl was in IMMEDIATE danger, like say, it's Tuesday and if they don't get these babies out Tuesday night she'll die. But let's consider that she didn't miscarry and the babies did put her in serious imminent danger; then they could be removed and any possible steps taken to care for them must be taken. If they die despite medical efforts to save their lives, you must recognize that that is VERY different from intentionally killing them.

Now some of you have said that he decision is easy, that to save your kids, you would choose abortion. I hope the decision is not that easy, because we're talking about the decision to kill your grandkids. If it were my decision, I would do whatever was necessary to save all their lives, if possible. "But the doctors said she would die." Maybe, but as much respect as I have for the medical profession, they don't know everything either, nor do they have a crystal ball to tell the future. In fact, doctors told my mother she should have aborted me just on the POSSIBILITY that I might have had Downs Syndrome. My father should have been dead five years ago, except that he had a miraculous healing from asbestos cancer. Why do we have so little faith not to do all that we can to allow God to solve this in His way? (I know some of you won't accept that point, but why rush anyway?)

I've also been called naive for my position; we can't always look to the textbook, etc. But if we don't study the textbook how can we expect to pass the test? If we don't understand these moral choices and how to come to moral decisions, how can we expect to come to the right decision when faced with difficulty in real life?

Again, abortion didn't magically become morally right because the mother is a young girl. Expedient? Yes. Tempting? I'll even admit that. But right? No. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong because of what it is.

One last point--more outrage and anger have been expressed over the fact that the Church is being consistent to say that abortion is wrong, even in this case, than is being expressed over the fact that some jerk raped a 9 year-old girl.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Paschal Mystery at the Movies

An on-screen acquaintance named MA came up with a great idea the other day and I'd like to put it here for more examples.

She asked to list movies that portray the paschal mystery. This is not a list of movies about Jesus, nor is it a list of movies of singular personal redemption, but movies that reflect the mysteries of suffering, self-sacrifice, atonement and redemption for others.

Therefore, the Passion of the Christ is not what we're looking for, nor are Bella or The Count of Monte Cristo. But movies that make this list would be:

The Matrix
A Tale of Two Cities
The Grapes of Wrath
Shawshank Redemption
Chronicles of Narnia
Cool Hand Luke
one of the thousands of Joan of Arc movies
Star Wars
Dune (though I take this on hearsay)

Any others?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Outlaw contraception? Wifey and I had dinner with some friends the other night, one of whom teaches RCIA in our parish. We got into the conversation, as is pretty common, about pro-life issues. He told us that when he discusses the history of abortion he'll point out the three major US Supreme Court cases that have led to the current state of affairs, Griswold v Connecticut, Roe v Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood. What is most interesting is the connection between contraception and abortion. If we are to have a serious discussion of the problems, we must recognize this relationship:

This link between the contraceptive mentality and abortion was well illustrated in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which confirmed Roe v. Wade. This decision stated that "In some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception. ... For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail."

Commenting on this Supreme Court decision, Professor Janet Smith said: "The Supreme Court decision has made completely unnecessary any efforts to 'expose' what is really behind the attachment of the modern age to abortion. As the Supreme Court candidly states, we need abortion so that we can continue our contraceptive lifestyles. It is not because contraceptives are ineffective that a million and a half women a year seek abortions as backups to failed contraceptives. The 'intimate relationships' facilitated by contraceptives are what make abortions 'necessary.' ... Here the word 'intimate' means 'sexual'; it does not mean 'loving and close.' Abortion is most often the result of sexual relationships in which there is little true intimacy and love, in which there is no room for a baby, the natural consequence of sexual intercourse."


Well, wifey brought the subject up in the CatholicVote chatroom and was called fascist, theocratic, and foolish for wanting to outlaw contraception.

The question is, though, is that wrong? First off, let's point out that the words "should, could, would, ideal, practical and likely" all have different meanings and are not interchangeable. This seems to be the mistake my wife's scoffers made.

The case is often made that abortion and contraception are not the same thing; they don't have the same moral weight. Well, that's sort of right. In the eyes of the Catholic faith, both are mortal sins; however, abortion is more grave matter because it is the direct taking of an innocent life and automatically brings excommunication. Contraception, on the other hand, is intentionally making infertile the marital act, preventing an unintended pregnancy.

These differences alone will make it obvious that the response of law to these two actions should be different. While abortion should clearly be against the law, and such a case can be made without any recourse to a theological basis, the burden of argument is on the side that would outlaw contraception. This is in part because it can be shown that there is civil interest in protecting the integrity of every individual, but it is more difficult to show the civil interest in preventing every act of contraception. It is not, however, sufficient to note the differences between these two actions. As the Supreme Court decision points out, they are geared toward the same end: sex without responsibility.

Contraception affirms that a couple wants to have sex and avoid the responsibility of bearing a child. Abortion affirms that the couple is so strong in their desire to avoid that responsibility that they are willing to end the child's life. Keep in mind, my choice of language here is not to convey lack of compassion for the circumstances in which many women make the decision to abort their child, but I am convinced and will try to convince you also, that it is always the wrong decision. Euphemisms about what the decision involves will serve no one in reaching the truth.

Let's try a thought experiment here for a moment. What happens if abortion were outlawed in the U.S. today, including surgical abortions, Plan B pills, RU-486, and even contraceptives that are known to have abortifacient properties, but other forms of contraception were allowed to continue? I think the answer is obvious: there would be a lot more pregnant women.

Let's consider that proponents of contraception-awareness argue about its effectiveness (ignoring the arguments made by the abstinence-only community), claiming that education and availability of contraception leads to fewer unintended pregnancies. But if that is actually the case, why are there 1.7 million abortions every year in the U.S.? Did these women (and their husbands/boyfriends)change their minds after becoming pregnant? No, they never intended to be pregnant, but they nonetheless engaged in the only natural activity that makes one pregnant. And the existence of widely-available contraception makes for a culture in which individuals need no qualms about recreative or non-committal sexual encounters.

So let's go back to our thought experiment for an analogy. Say, for instance, I call the local gas company to install my new stove. In the process, something goes wrong and the gas ignites, exploding my house. (Let's assume no one is hurt.) I can sue the gas company for redress of wrongs. I paid them for a service; they burned my house down. I have recourse when I buy a product or service that fails to live up to its expectations.

But what recourse is there for a couple that contracepts in their sexual activity and finds that the contraception fails? In our world without abortion, there is no recourse to avoid responsibility. Either the child must be supported and raised, or given to others who will support and raise her. (Or there is the awful alternative of illegal abortions.)

I think it is not likely nor wise (at this time) to even consider outlawing contraception, but we need to be absolutely clear that a contraceptive culture is an abortive culture; to end abortion we need to make the case that we need to leave contraception behind. The only way to do that responsibly is to promote chastity.

I know this is not the last word on this subject by me or any of you, but I hope this sparks some reasonable conversation. I welcome your comments. God bless.