Thursday, April 11

In our house, we have books.

They're everywhere. We periodically get rid of what we think are lots and lots of them, but evidently books have figured out to reproduce, because we just keep running out of shelf space.

My point this evening being that whenever I need something to read, there's no lack. I should make the related point that with so many books so inadequately arranged, finding the book you need and know you have usually takes a long time.

So today I was looking for a book downstairs in the basement (which I never did find, incidentally), I ran across a book that I'd heard of, but never read, and that looked interesting.

It's Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery , the volume of essays by physician Richard Selzer.

I flipped through the pages, and they opened to me the chapter entitled, "Abortion." Well, I said to myself. I'll scan this chapter, and if he's all tragic necessity about it, it's back in the bottomless pit for this one.

It's not. You know, I've been involved in, attached to, aware of and interested in the pro-life movement for almost twenty years, and in all that time, I've never heard anyone reference this horrifying, painful chapter, and I don't know why. It's one of the most powerful non- arguments against abortion I've ever read - I say "non-argument" because it's a couple of stories, not an argument. And it begins with the most horrifying image one can image - the unimaginable sight that's left behind when a bag filled with "medical waste" spills on a city street. And it ends with the same horror, but on an individual scale, when in observing an abortion, he sees the needle the "doctor" inserted in the woman's abdomen moved:

It is unexpected, utterly unexpected, like a disturbance in the earth, a tumultuous jarring. I see a movement -- a small one. But I have seen it.

And then I see it again. And now I see that it is the hub of the needle in the woman's beely that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.

Again! And I know!....

[two pages later]...It is a persona carried here as well as a person, I think. I think it is a signed piece, engraved with a hieroglyph of human genes.

I did not think this until I saw. The flick. The fending off.

Sometimes pro-aborts wonder what all the fuss is about, why we bother, why we won't just go away. Here it is. The babies. The little miraculous merry zygotes. The pieces signed with the signature of their Creator. Oh, how did we ever come to think that we have the right to kill them? How?

I commend to you Peter Nixon's thoughts on cloning, with a question from Stanley Hauerwas that is just about the most bracing tonic to fuzzy thinking on this I've ever heard.
Reader George Nelson of Mississippi adds his two cents, and more:

The failures of some of our priests and bishops (and possibly others) go beyond
disgraceful into sacrilege and blasphemy. It appears that there will soon be a shortage of millstones to go around the necks of all the guilty.


Despite all of this, I'm sure that those who so vehemently oppose the Church and Her true Message are having a field day. Such as these don't have to say or write anything which could get them accused of hyperbole or bias; a simple recitation of the facts will do just fine.


However, I hope (and pray) that this will be a turning point for the Church in America. Too long has the church been evangelized by the world and not the other way 'round. It may take an adversarial even anti-Catholic press to dig out all the dirt and turn over all the rocks. But the Divine Physician loves His patient and will make her well.


Remember, doctors sometimes use maggots to remove the dead tissue without harming the living.

What. Is Raymond Flynn the only Catholic in the United States now?

He's on Fox with Glam Greta. Then minutes later, he turns up on CNN with Aaron "Can I buy you a drink?" Brown. I kind of feel sorry for the guy. He looks like he's running on automatic these days.

As speculation whirled tonight, I sat on my couch thinking, "Then what?" If he resigns or if he doesn't, then what? These are such weird, weird times, what with daily allegations and priests being suspended from ministry right and left (today in St. Louis, a popular priest, the associate vocations director for the Archdiocese, arrested for an incident reported to have occurred in 1996), and discussions about everything from Catholic teaching on sexuality to mandatory celibacy to management styles flying over the airwaves, the internet and in parishes...

It's hard right now to see how it will end, isn't it? But I guess that's what happens when you're in the middle of history. You never know.

The bottom line though, is this, and I sense it's being forgotten, astonishingly enough. The bottom line: Children must be safe. That's it. Persons engaged in church ministry must all, to a person, be individuals who would never, ever harm a child or a teen. We don't want ninety-five percent of them to be okay. We don't even want ninety-seven percent to pass the test. We want one hundred percent of our priests, sisters, youth ministers, music directors and teachers to be people who are psychologically healthy and focused on the Gospel. And we want that to be the focus of our episcopacy, as well. Stop fooling around with stuff, stop being self-indulgent and protective of position and pride, and just do Christ's work.

And if that's not your bag, stop pretending, stop living off of our contributions, stop hurting our kids and just go away and do something else. Now.

Traficant guilty on all counts.

Including bad hair?

Very distressing.

Arafat addresses (by cell phone) 5,000 gathered in a Coptic Christian Church in Egypt.

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, said to Arafat, "All our people are with you, we ask God that he saves you from the situation you are in ... we hope to come visit you there in Palestine."



Both Shenouda and Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of the al-Azhar institute, the highest Islamic authority in Egypt, said they remained opposed to visiting Jerusalem while it remains under Israeli control.



A nice piece on the examination of miracles at Lourdes
Welcome to my corner of Blogdom to Corner readers, and thanks to Rod Dreher for linking me. I'm blushing.

If you've a mind to, also stop by my homepage (linked over there on the right) and check out some of the articles I've written on religious and cultural matters, as well as information on the books I've written, and do stop by my husband Michael's blog and read his reflections on seminary life (scroll down to Monday's entries to find that.).

On my way home from picking up my son from school, I heard a bit of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

He brought up the point I made below - that some are wondering if there's not a bit of anti-Catholicism in the coverage. He said that we should avoid any hint of thinking like that. Sin has been committed, and if it's exposed, it deserves to be.

And if you're tempted in that whiny direction, just remember what happens when you call a child to task for doing wrong and he says, "Well, everyone else is doing it, too! I wasn't the only one!" Does it matter? Do you care? No. What you care about is your child's character and what damage his sins have wrought on his character. It's the same with our Church. I take no solace in the presence of child predators among the Presybyterians. What sicko would?

Is it all a media plot?

There have been rumblings, from Brent Bozell and a few others, that the media interest in Scandal-o-Rama is not much more than an expression of always-latent anti-Catholicism in the media. After all, there are just as many Protestant ministers and church volunteers accused of sexual impropriety. Why the media focus on Catholics?

Can I be radical here? Can I be obnoxious? I don't care. I don't care what their motivations are. These stories are not fabricated (although there will be, tragically, some false accusations) - an amazing story out of New Hampshire said that 40 priests have been accused of sexual crimes over the past three decades or so. How many priests does that leave in New Hampshire? What? 5? Even if all of those don't hold up, that is an astonishing, horrible number.

And, as I say to those who say "Well, the proportion of Catholic priests who do this is no more than it is in the general population...." Shouldn't the number we're shooting for be...I don't know....ZERO?

Sure, there's probably some media bias in all of this, but I have to say, I think the coverage I've seen has been quite fair. I haven't seen that pig Francis Kissling of Fake Catholics for No Choice for PreBorn Children on the air once. Last night, Greta van Susteren actually took a slightly adversarial stance towards her guest who claimed abuse at the hands of a priest. The very strange Lounge Lizard of News Anchors, Aaron Brown of CNN, steered a conversation between a Globe columnist and the rector of Boston's cathedral away from ancillary issues like celibacy and ordination of women. The most frequent face critiquing the bishops has been Shoutin' Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, and no liberal he.

No. I don't see a media conspiracy. And as for the attention to Catholics and inattention to other cases? Perhaps there should be more attention to the other cases, but in the present situation, I don't think we should complain. We, out of good hearts and deep faith and compassion for human beings, offer the teachings that we have as a solution to the problems of our culture. We tell American culture that it's wrong about so many things from abortion to unbridled capitalism. When our leaders are guilty of extraordinary moral failure, that deserves to be noticed.

Update to Fr. Shawn O'Neal's reaction to Cardinal Arinze. Actually it's from a friend of his, but he's convinced:

I'm also sure the Cardinal is well aware of the atrocities committed
in his own country and would be willing to include the perpetrators
into the same category as those responsible for all the things he just
talked about. But, let's face the truth. What gets bigger press
time? The events of Sept. 11 and the ensuing terrorism, or dead
Nigerians? By using the most recent and still most talked about
events, he got to make his point which doesn't mean he's ignoring or
forgotten about the tragedies in his own nation. In fact, I suspect
his prayer is that the message will get through to his countrymen who
need to hear the same thing.

Good post at Veritas on cloning.
Teacher stresses out. Calls in a bomb threat to have a day off.

This used to happen in colleges quite a bit (does it still? I don't know.) - especially during exam week. But a teacher? When I was a teacher, I prayed for snow days myself (but it was Florida, so ...you know...), but a bomb threat?

Well uh, thanks a bunch....

The invaluable Midwest Conservative Journal (which actually sends a bunch o' traffic my way) observes re/the Scandals:

The Roman Catholic Church is important but not essential to the cause of my Lord.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, huh?

Important. Not essential. Your Lord. Harrumph.

Interesting, long article on the Alpha program as it being used in Canadian churches, the focus of the article being the Catholic ones.
All right. Lots of blogging on Cardinal Arinze's statement about the Culture of Death. The headline on the story I linked isn't really accurate. He didn't link abortion, et al with 9/11 in a way to demonstrate causation. He didn't say the former was a product of the latter. These are the crucial words:

However, it must be considered a serious paradox that this right to life is threatened precisely by today´s highly advanced technology," the cardinal observed.


"Such a paradox has reached the extent of creating a culture of death, in which abortion, euthanasia and genetic experiments on human life itself have already obtained, or are on the way to obtaining, legal recognition," the Nigerian cardinal lamented.


"How can we not make a correlation between this culture of death, in which the most innocent, defenseless and critically ill human lives are threatened with death, and terrorist attacks, such as those of Sept. 11, in which thousands of innocent people were slaughtered?" the cardinal queried.


"We must say that both of these are built on contempt for human life," he affirmed.

Here's what Blogdom is saying:

Kathy Shaidle blew a big ol' Canadian gasket: Actually a Nigerian Bishop, in a letter written to Buddhists [?!], so consider the source. Like, guy, stop your own country's illiterate, superstious, backward people from mutilating little girls with rusty razor blades, stoning rape victims--keep your priests from raping nuns--and I might just give yer critique of Western Civilization a listen.
Eye. Mote. Remove. Repeat Until Done.)

Heh. And thanks Kathy, for yesterday's props! Undeserved, but I'll take 'em from the Matriarch of Catholic Blogging!

Louder Fenn sees the comments as probably misunderstood, but still ill-advised.

Dominic's dad at Minute Particulars asks, "Am I a moron?" and tries to bring common sense to the discussion.

Peter Nixon at Sursum Corda isn't happy at all

Fr. Shawn O'Neal doesn't like the sound of it either

and Mark Byron, who isn't Catholic, but is sympathetic and often says nice things about me, tries to dig a little deeper into the Cardinal's words:

I think there are two cultures of death involved here. They both are rooted on by Ol' Sloughfoot, but come from different branches. The Islamic branch seems to stem from a overwillingness to sacrifice individuals for the good of the group, undervaluing the life of the individual. Suicide bombers and quick death penalties for sexual violations of sharia are the result of this willingness to kill to fight foes or to enforce societal norms. It's communitarianism run amok.


The western culture of death is not communitarian but individualistic, where abortion and euthanasia are avenues to kill people in the name of relieving the burdens of others. A mom doesn't want to deal with the pain of pregnancy, so she kills. A family doesn't want to care for a very ill family member, so they pull the plug. Embryos are created to be destroyed for medical tests to benefit the researchers more than society at large. It's libertarianism run amok.

Me? I agree with Mark and Dominic's dad. As I said above, I don't think the Cardinal was proposing any cause and effect. He was pointing out the prevalence of the disrespect for human life in our world. It was probably pretty dumb to even discuss the two matters in the same statement, but there you go. (Addendum: Prompted by a reader, let me clarify - I mean dumb, not because it's an illegitimate discussion - I agree that it is tragically ironic to ignore some deaths and mourn others - but I meant dumb simply because it's inevitable that the words would be misconstrued and twisted into something else, which the Cardinal did not mean.)



A good article in the current issue of Commonweal about the "wrongful life" case in France.

The gist is this: A pregnant woman's daughter contracted German measles. The unborn child, Nicholas Perruche, was affected and born profoundly handicapped. A French court agreed with the parents that doctors and medical technicians should be liable, not for his condition, but for his burdensome life - if the mother had known, the argument went, she could have aborted Nicholas.

The article is a good examination of the respective "stories" told by French and American abortion laws, rooted in the excellent work of Mary Ann Glendon. Quite properly, the writer ends by sharing yet another view of Nicholas and how his life should be seen: that of Jean Vanier's L'Arche communities:

L'Arche intentionally embodies an alternative narrative of who persons with disabilities are and puts that narrative into practice. Against the belief that persons like Nicholas are so profoundly damaged that the good of their existence is negated, L'Arche aims to help them gain a deeper sense of their own worth, as persons worthy of love and friendship, whose value and beauty lie hidden in their weakness.

It is a practice premised on a different story—not one of privacy and "nonpersons." It is based on a belief in the reality of the Trinitarian God, a community of persons, in whose image and likeness all of us—visibly handicapped or not—are made. By seeking to live this reality, L'Arche makes its claims "come true" even for persons with profound handicaps and provides a real alternative to the story embodied only in the technologies of prenatal surveillance. In so doing, it not only challenges us to see persons with disabilities differently, it challenges us to understand ourselves, and so to live, differently.


L'Arche and its work, of course, does not deny the tragedy of Nicholas's condition, the loss of who he could have been, and the anguish of his family. It does not deny the pain experienced by those with disabilities, but locates their pain primarily in society's rejection of them as persons. "Wrongful life" claims embody this rejection profoundly. By making manifest the dignity of persons with disabilities, L'Arche challenges the belief that tragedy, loss, and anguish are the only words needed to describe Nicholas's life and that Nicholas's very existence is a wrong above all to himself.



Wondering where predator Paul Shanley is these days? Probably in Thailand, according to this article:

The Rev. John J. White, the longtime companion of accused child molester priest Paul Shanley, left his home at Billerica's St. Mary's Parish for Thailand just before Easter on what is likely a one-way trip to join his friend, a source told the Herald yesterday.

The departure of White coincides with that of Shanley, who neighbors say has not been seen at his San Diego apartment since Greg Ford of Newton filed a criminal complaint of child sex abuse against him last week.

``Jack had lunch with (a relative) just before he left and said he was going to Thailand,'' said the source, who has known both priests since visiting them as a child at Roxbury's Warwick House in the late 1960s. ``He said he would be gone for an indefinite period of time.''

Now, I don't know who this "Jack" is, and his New Catholic Blog is only one day old, but I like what's there so far at Integrity. It's different. A Blog dedicated to exploration of and reflection on a single Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici ("The lay members of Christ's Faithful People ") offered by JPII in 1988.


For a while now I have felt that the Catholic Church in the United States has done little to help the laity develop a true understanding of how the laity is called to live out the Gospel. Somewhat understandable. If you aren't going to preach on the Church's doctrine, are you really going to help the laity thoughtfully develop a spirituality true to their state? I get frustrated by Catholics who are led to believe that the apostolate of the laity is to serve as lectors and eucharistic ministers. How limiting and troubling for the effort to convert society to the Gospel! I learn things from the every saint's example, but why do I never hear about saints like St. Thomas More or St. Joseph Moscati? It's always about some monk, nun or priest....

Now I am no theologian; I only offer here my simple musings on Christifideles Laici. My hope is that those who read this Blog will chime in with their thoughts, which I will post too. I am sure most Catholics are struggling to not let the scandals shake their faith. Taking a look at the ideal we are called to may be a good way to stay grounded in the hope that we find in the Lord.

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