Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ontological Effect of Received Love on Brain

The Suggested Effect on the Brain as Material Organism by the Spiritual Relationship of Mother to Child

A RELATIVELY new field, called interpersonal neurobiology, draws its vigor from one of the great discoveries of our era: that the brain is constantly rewiring itself based on daily life. In the end, what we pay the most attention to defines us. How you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life literally transforms you.
All relationships change the brain — but most important are the intimate bonds that foster or fail us, altering the delicate circuits that shape memories, emotions and that ultimate souvenir, the self.
Every great love affair begins with a scream. At birth, the brain starts blazing new neural pathways based on its odyssey in an alien world. An infant is steeped in bright, buzzing, bristling sensations, raw emotions and the curious feelings they unleash, weird objects, a flux of faces, shadowy images and dreams — but most of all a powerfully magnetic primary caregiver whose wizardry astounds.
Brain scans show synchrony between the brains of mother and child; but what they can’t show is the internal bond that belongs to neither alone, a fusion in which the self feels so permeable it doesn’t matter whose body is whose. Wordlessly, relying on the heart’s semaphores, the mother says all an infant needs to hear, communicating through eyes, face and voice. Thanks to advances in neuroimaging, we now have evidence that a baby’s first attachments imprint its brain. The patterns of a lifetime’s behaviors, thoughts, self-regard and choice of sweethearts all begin in this crucible.
We used to think this was the end of the story: first heredity, then the brain’s engraving mental maps in childhood, after which you’re pretty much stuck with the final blueprint.
But as a wealth of imaging studies highlight, the neural alchemy continues throughout life as we mature and forge friendships, dabble in affairs, succumb to romantic love, choose a soul mate. The body remembers how that oneness with Mother felt, and longs for its adult equivalent….
The New York Times

March 24, 2012, 4:28 PM

The Brain on Love


Anniversary of the Priestly Ordination of St. Josemaria Escriva (March 28, 1925)

Historically, Opus Dei began with celibate laymen. There was need for ministerial priests who had the same spirit of becoming “other Christs” in secular life. It was not enough to be a good priest to serve these men and women with Holy Mass, preaching the Word and, above all, the sacrament of penance. To have this same spirit, Escriva understood that the priests had to come from among the lay vocations thus forming a single class of laity and ministerial priests with the same vocation pace the irreducible difference of the sacramental specificity of Baptism with its “character” and Order with its. “Character” is the ontological difference of ontological orientation or relation. The laity are ordered with mission to the secular world; ministerial priest is ordered to the laity as servants with the mission of activating their sharing in the priesthood of Christ. They do this by celebrating Mass, preaching the divine Word and administering the sacraments, especially Penance.

            What was convulsively earth shattering was the fact that laymen and ministerial priests, pace the irreducible differences, had the same vocation, and the Church granted the nihil Obstat to Opus Dei of this arrangement on the feast of our Lady’s act of faith that engendered the physical Christ in her, the feast of the divine Maternity (October 11, 1943). This pristine arrangement of the early Church had no place in the structural configurations of Canon Law (1917), and although now existing de facto with regard to Opus Dei, Opus Dei had to juryrig a canonical juridical form within the Church that did not fit it, but could juridically sustain it while doing the least damage to the charism. This was the Secular Institute that perdured until the approval of the personal prelature in 1982 that permitted Opus Dei to be what it really was in the words of Escriva: “a little bit of the Church” by analogy to a diocese.

            It is most interesting to consider the chronological proximity of John XXIII calling for the Second Vatican Council in 1958 and the development of the understanding of the Church in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). The final juryrigging of Opus Dei took place in 1959 and by 1958 the Second Vatican Council was conceived and in preparation.
    In terms of the configuration of the Church, the first schema before Lumen Gentium was called De Ecclesia (November 1962). A comparison of the first and last version is revealing as to development of the understanding of the Church. Maximilian Heinrich Heim in his “Joseph Ratzinger… Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium) writes “A comparison of the two versions shows that the Constitution on the Church, as Karl Rahner remarked, ‘was not conceived from the start as a symmetrical and complete outline of a comprehensive ecclesiology.’ Rather, it ‘grew slowly and to some extent by chance through the supplementation of the preconciliar schema, which initially intended simply to treat certain particular themes’ that the Roman Curia considered to be of current interest.’”[1] Further he says, “Reference to Lumen Gentium remains indispensable for the correct interpretation of these documents, inasmuch as they can be understood properly only in view of the image of the church on which they are based.”

            Heim then offers: “What Was ‘New’ about Lumen Gentium” followed by “Revitalization of the entire tradition of the Church.” “One objection to the original schema on the Church, De Ecclesia, was that ‘it was too rigid, too scholastic, too conventional and employed an excessively juridical style.’ That is why the council Father attempted to formulate a synthesis of the Church’s self-understanding with her biblical and patristic roots and thus to free ecclesiology from its narrow, juridical-hierarchical confines. Specifically, as Gonzalez Hernandez explains, this happened through ‘a rediscovery of forgotten aspects that had always been part of her heritage, a novel experience of new dimensions of this one Church by means of the conscious and renewed assimilation of her old contents of maintaining the never-fading novelty of Christ as it constantly renews itself and making it accessible to all people of all times.”

   Heim goes on: “Lumen Gentium as ‘the work of the Council:’” “The defintive (third) version of the schema on the Church was finally passed on Novermeber 21, 1964 with 2, 151 yes-votes against 5 nays, and it was solemnly promulgated on the same day. Gerard Philips, the chief editor of Lumen Gentium, commented in retrospect on the work that had been accomplished: “During the time between the 1963 and 1964 sessions, the Theological Commission made use of the interval to bring the text that had been presented into agreement with the wishes of the Council Fathers. More than is generally believed, the Constitution on the Church is the work of the Council itself and of its most active members.”

            The point Heim wants to make is that Lumen Gentium is a work of the living Council and not the simply the Council approval of the work of theologians. In a word, it is truly the work of the Spirit. He wants to show the “extent to which the suggestions of the Council Fathers influenced the final form of the document. The purpose of this survey is, first, to mention several central modifications of the second version of the text of Lumen Gentium and, secondly, to demonstrate the breadth of its image of the Church. Unlike the uncompleted Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I (July 1870) or even the schema De Ecclesia (November 1962), this image is no longer focused on the institutional dimension of the church but rather makes evident … ‘the dynamic of a living body, which is constantly growing.’

            “The first chapter, ‘The Mystery of the Church,’ was not planned at all in the schema De Ecclesia. The original title and contents of the first chapter of that schema, ‘The nature of the Church Militant,’ had been rejected by the majority of the Council Fathers already in the first session on account of the argument brought forward by Cardinals Frings, Lioenart, and Dopfner: ‘The Church is a hidden mystery, and the study of it must be sustained by faith and love.’ According to Charles Moeller, it is ‘as good as certain that this perspective owes its place in De Ecclesia to the influence of the German theologians’…The expansion, in the second draft, of the passage about the ‘kingdom of God,’ which on earth has it beginning and core in the Church, underscores the dynamic understanding of the Church in Lumen Gentium….

            “The second chapter, ‘On the People of God,’ was inserted into the second draft of the schema on the Church from the year 1963, immediately after the chapter on the episcopate. In the final version of the Constitution on the Church, it was placed before the chapter on the hierarchy so as to indicate that all Christians – ordained and lay – belong to the one People of God and share in the common priesthood of the baptized. In this rearrangement, article 13 of Lumen Gentium was completely rewritten. In it the foundation is laid for a universalism that is charactyeristic of the entire docuemtn and also builds an ecumenical bridge: ‘All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages”…

“The fourth chapter, ‘The Laity,’ was approved in the final vote by the largest majority. It emphasized the particular importance of the lay people by explaining that they share in their own way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ by living out their faith in the world. Through baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist they are enabled to carry on their specific apostolate in the world: “They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity, and peace. The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill, and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of his Word. May the goods of this world by more equitably distributed among all men, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom” (LG #36) (My Italics).

Escriva: “I want all of you my children, priest and laity, to have one things clearly engraved on your minds and on your hearts: something which can never ge regarded as an external ornament, but which is indeed the very hinge and foundation of our divine vocation. Whether priest or layperson, each of us must have, in all things and at al times, a truly priestly soul and a fully lay mentality.”

Priestly Soul: “self-gift” is mediating between self and God in the service of others. It is the meaning of faith as receiving the Word with one’s whole self, and therefore, it must always involve deeds. Our Lady was the first one to hear the Word of God and doing it by the seed of self-gift as receptivity.

Lay Mentality: the freedom prior to choice that is self-determination. This deepest understanding of freedom is always within the horizon of the subject, the “I,” in that it is the self mastery of the self. This understanding of freedom is prior ontologically and chronologically to the freedom of choice of this and that.

            With the above, I hazard to suggest that the proclamation of the radical equality of all in the Church as lay faithful and ministerial priest would not have occurred without occurrences of 1943 in the life St. Josemaria Escriva. In fact, I would hazard to suggest that the Council would not have been called at all nor would it have taken the direction it took of rejecting schemas 1 and 2 of De Ecclesia and become Lumen Gentium with the radical equality of all the baptized as “People of God” with the equally ontological diversity of minister, laity and religious. I would add that this diversity is not merely “functional” but ontological as relational. That is, the divine Persons are ontologically “One” and ontologically “diverse” in that they are all ontologically homo ousios but at the same time ontologically diverse as opposing relations: "the Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28). The insight into the mystery is to see that the “person” is constitutively relational, and not accidentally so. This is so in the Trinity and also in human persons imaging the Trinity. This equality and irreducible diversity is true in male and female, and in ministerial priest and lay faithful.  Such was the impact of Escriva’s priesthood on the understanding of the Church and personhood.

[1] M.H. Heim, “Joseph Ratzinger, Life in the Church and Living Theology – Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium,” Ignatius (2007) 30-31.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

HHS and Religious Freedom: Lorenzo Albacete

Our Liberty and The Hearts of All

Lorenzo Albacete

            Bloggers introductory remarks: Albacete here makes the epistemological case – based on Christian anthropology – that the non-Christian citizen of the United States will/should recognize the rights of Christ, and therefore the Church, to freedom from coercion and freedom to express moral judgement vis a vis the HHS ruling on compulsory coverage for contraception and surgical sterilizations. The connection is Trinity - Christ/man - Church - everyman - universal recognition.
            If the Church is the gathering of all who have received Christ and therefore forms a single Body, a single Subject, then the Church (as Subject) has the powers of self-determination that characterize Christ. St. Paul in Hebrews 9, 11-12 writes: “…he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands… nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.” As God-man, Christ mediates between Himself and the Father by mastering His human will that the Father made to be sin (2 Cor. 5, 21) and converted it into obedience do death. In a word, He made the gift of Himself to the Father with His human will infected by sin and thereby became free: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom: he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis Splendor #85).
            So also the Church is the Body of that single Subject and is endowed with the subjective powers to master and determine herself. As such, she demands the autonomy to determine herself in teaching conjugal morality to be self-determination to be self-gift, and will brook no interference from the secular government in this regard. The conjugal union between husband and wife demands this openness to being gift, and therefore precludes every form of contraception which is the closure of the gift. Since every person is made in the image of the Trinitarian Persons, and giftedness constitutes  the ontological architecture of human personhood, then all men and women, Christian or not, will and should recognize this right of Christ, and therefore the Church which is His Body, even if they do not recognize this to be the very argument against contraception.

Albacete’s Article: “A ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of the Administration of President Barack Obama will force nearly all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, as well as surgical sterilizations. Listed as ‘preventive services for women,’ all health plans will have to cover without co-pays or any other co-sharing – regardless of whether the insurer, the employer, or any other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage.

            “The heated public discussion that has followed this ruling has mostly framed the issue as one of religious liberty or even the morality of contraception. I believe, however, that t he best way to reflect on the issues involved is in terms of the liberty of the Church – as an integral part of its social doctrine. A good source to consult is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church issued by the Holy See.

            “The Compendium states it clearly: ‘The Church has the right to the legal recognition of her proper identity. Precisely because her mission embraces all of human reality, the Church… claims the freedom to express her moral judgment on this reality, whenever it may be required to defend the fundamental rights of the human person, or for the salvation of souls’ (#426).

            “The Compendium lists exactly what freedoms the rights of the Church entail:

  • Freedom of expression, teaching, and evangelization;
  • Freedom of  public worship;
  • Freedom of organization and of her own internal government;
  •  Freedom of selecting, educating, naming, and transferring her ministers;
  • Freedom for constructing religious buildings;
  • Freedom to acquire and possess sufficient goods for her activity;
  • Freedom to form associations, not only for religious puposes, but also for educational, cultural, healthcare, and charitable purposes.

“Note that the liberty of the Church is a consequence of her ecclesiology, of her ‘identity.’ Here we face the heart of the matter. For the Catholic Church, the identity of the Church is a mystery that cannot be detached from the Mystery of Christ and His revelation of the Trinitarian God. On the other hand, political decisions are based on what appears to be reasonably possible. In classical terms, the Church/State question confronts us with the encounter between the natural and the supernatural.

“In the United States, the dominance of the Protestant way of the intersection of the natural and the supernatural makes it difficult for many to distinguish the difference between the religious rights of individual believers (the Protestant view) and the liberty of the Church as a communion of persons that can act as one subject in history.

“The intersection between the natural and the supernatural known as the Mystery of the Incarnation is the One Person of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, who acts in the world today through His Body the Church. The recognition by a human society of the rights claimed by the Church listed above are all expressions of a society open to the Presence of Jesus Christ.

“The Compendium reminds us again and again that Christ’s revelation of the Trinitarian Communion is at the same time the revelation of the mystery of the hearts of all men and women. That is why the Church is convinced that non-Christians and non-believers will recognize those rights as corresponding to the desires of their hearts. For this reason, the compendium underlines the importance of the ‘juridical experience of the Church and the State’ defining ‘stable forms of contact and suitable instruments for guaranteeing harmonious relations.’
      “It is only at this level that the HHS attach on these rights can be reversed for the good of all.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Only Relation: Conjugal Love, Not IVF or "Pre-Natal Adoption"

"Where Science Cannot Find an Answer, the Answer That Brings Light Comes From Christ"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when he received some 200 scientists and members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is currently celebrating its 18th general assembly on the theme: "The diagnosis and treatment of infertility."
* * *
Lord Cardinals,
venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters,
I am happy to meet with you on the occasion of the XVIII General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. I salute and thank all of you for your generous service in defense and on behalf of life, in particular, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, for the words that you spoke to me also on your behalf. The shape that you have given your work manifests that confidence that the Church has always placed in the possibility of human reason and in a scientific undertaking rigorously conducted, which always keep the moral aspect in view. The topic that you chose this year, "Diagnosis and Therapy of Infertility," besides being humanly and socially relevant, possesses a special scientific value and expresses the concrete possibility of a fruitful dialogue between ethics and biomedical research. With respect to the problem of a couple's infertility, in fact, you have chosen attentively to recall and to consider the moral dimension, researching paths toward a correct diagnostic evaluation and a therapy that corrects the causes of infertility. This approach is guided not only by the desire to give the couple a child but to restore to the couple their fertility and all of the dignity of being responsible for their procreative choices, of working together with God in the generation of a new human being. The pursuit of a diagnosis and of a therapy represents the most scientifically correct approach to the question of infertility, but also that which is most respectful of the integral humanity of the subjects involved. In fact, the union of the man and woman in that community of life that is matrimony constitutes the only dignified "place" in which a new human being, which is always a gift, may be called into existence.
Thus, it is my desire to encourage intellectual honesty in your work, which is the expression of a science that keeps the spirit of the pursuit of truth alive, in the service of man's authentic good, and that avoids the danger of being a merely functional practice. The human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, does not consist in a "product," but in its connection with the conjugal act, the expression of the love of the husband and wife, of their union that is not only biological but also spiritual. The instruction "Donum vitae" reminds us in this regard, that by its "intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman" (n. 126). The legitimate parental aspirations of an infertile couple must, for this reason, with the help of science, find a response that fully respects their dignity as persons and spouses. The humility and precision with which you deal with these questions -- seen as obsolete by some of your colleagues fascinated by artificial fertility technologies -- merits encouragement and support. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the encyclical "Fides et Ratio," I recalled how "easy gain or, worse still, the arrogance of taking the Creator's place, sometimes play a decisive role. This is a form of the hubris of reason, which can take on dangerous characteristics for humanity itself" (Discorso ai Partecipanti al Congresso Internazionale promosso dalla Pontificia Università Lateranense, October 2008: AAS 100 [2008], 788-789). Indeed, scientism and the logic of profit seem today to dominate the field of infertility and human procreation to the point of limiting other areas of research.
The Church pays much attention to the suffering of infertile couples, it cares for them and, because of this, encourages medical research. The science, nevertheless, is not always able to respond to the desires of many couples. I would like again to remind the spouses who experience infertility that their vocation to marriage is not frustrated because of this. The husband and wife, because of their baptismal and matrimonial vocations themselves, are always called to work together with God in creating a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that cannot be impeded by any organic condition. Therefore, where science cannot find an answer, the answer that brings light comes from Christ.
I would like to encourage all of who have gathered here for these study days and who work in a medical and scientific context where the dimension of truth is often obscured: Continue to follow the path that you have taken of a science that is intellectually honest and that always ardently seeks the good of man. In your intellectual pursuits do not disdain dialogue with the faith. I address to you the anxious appeal of the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est": "if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness [...] Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly" (n. 28). On the other hand, it is precisely the cultural matrix created by Christianity -- rooted in the affirmation of the existence of Truth and of the intelligibility of the real in the light of the Supreme Truth -- that made the development of modern scientific reason possible in the Europe of the Middle Ages, a knowledge that in the previous cultures had not progressed beyond embryonic form.
Illustrious scientists and all of you members of the Academy committed as you are to the promotion of life and the dignity of the human person, keep always in view also the fundamental cultural role that you play in society and the influence that you have in forming public opinion. My predecessor, Blessed John Paul II observed that scientists, "precisely because they know more, are called to serve more" (Discorso alla Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze, November 11, 2002: AAS 95 [2003], 206). People trust you, who serve life, they trust in your commitment to helping those who are in need of comfort and hope. Never give into the temptation of reducing the good of persons to a mere technical problem! The indifference of conscience before the true and the good represents a dangerous threat to authentic scientific progress.
I would like to conclude renewing the greeting that the Second Vatican Council addressed to men of thought and science: "Happy are those who, possessing the truth, continue to seek it, to renew it, more deeply to understand it, to give it to others" (Messaggio agli uomini di pensiero e di scienza, 8 dicembre 1965: AAS 58 [1966], 12). It is with these wishes that I impart to all of you who are here and to your loved ones the Apostolic Blessing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Teresa of Avila on St. Joseph

Devotion to St. Joseph
[from her autobiography] 

"I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble [a temporary paralysis] and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succors us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth." 
"I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him every year on his festival and I have always had it granted. If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greater good." 

"I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and he will see by experience what great advantages come from his commending himself to this glorious patriarch and having devotion to him. Those who practice prayer should have a special affection for him always. I do not know how anyone can think of the Queen of the Angels, during the time that she suffered so much with the Child Jesus, without giving thanks to Saint Joseph for the way he helped them. If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious saint as his master and he will not go astray."

Friday, March 16, 2012

What's Missing in Judy Brown on IVF

What's troubling about the below article by Judy Brown is the failure to do what she complains the IVF people fail to do: to go to the root of the problem, i.e. explain exactly what is wrong with IVF in itself. 
Her quote from the pope is, of course, correct, in that the only locus for the procreation of the human person is the conjugal union in matrimony. But Judy sails right by the need for an explanation of this and moves into the area which she highlights: the destruction of unwanted "extras." She doesn't miss the point - precisely by quoting Benedict XVI -  but she doesn't make it either. The mysterious reason for the intrinsic evil of IVF is the separation of love making and life giving. This is what has never been understood in HV since 1967, and this is another case of not tackling it head on. It is immensely easy and evident that killing the innocent human person is evil. It is less evident that human life - as image of the Trinitarian Persons - must be engendered by a relationship of love. There is nothing in Greek philosophy that demands this, basically because Greek philosophy comes from the bottom up, and Christian thought on this comes from the "top" down. Hence, we need the anthropology that is Christian, that is based on the reality of Christ, natural Son of the Father and engendered by the Father. The Catholic teaching on contraception and IVF originate from a source that is outside creation and has entered it with the Incarnation. It is eminently rational but not reducible to reason alone. A cultural and epistemology sea-change - undertaken continuously by Benedict and especially now with this forthcoming "Year of Faith" -  would be necessary to understand this. Then it will take courage to confront not only a reductive positivism but also the ensconced Greek scholastic mind. Everyone wants to play safe and no one wants to take it on, not even Judy.

IVF's Barren Wasteland

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
By Judie Brown
American Life League

Every time the subject of human personhood is raised, somebody immediately argues that legal recognition of personhood would mean an end to in vitro fertilization (IVF). It is true that any procedure that has as a byproduct the killing of human beings prior to birth would be outlawed­and that includes IVF. But few want to admit this fact. Apparently it’s unpopular to be truthful.

Most recently in Mississippi, for example, a news story claims that pro-life groups want to collect signatures for a yet unwritten personhood ballot initiative for the 2013 election. The report claims that the personhood folks are working on changing some of the language that concerned voters during last year’s voting, and that “certain fertility procedures” would be outlawed if this were to pass. How only certain ones would be illegal, I do not know, but something is amiss.

IVF is an unethical practice that not only causes the deaths of preborn babies in the earliest stages of their lives, but is also based on deception. IVF opponents like Thomas Hilgers, M.D. point out, that “IVF approaches the evaluation of treatment by skipping over the diseases…they don’t look for root causes.” And why should they? There is big money in IVF; it is an industry that is fundamentally committed not to helping couples resolve their infertility by seeking to understand the disease that may be causing it and treating that disease, but rather to tampering with the procreative process through artificial means.

Hilgers, who is a specialist in treating infertility, prefers to cure the problem so that couples can bear children naturally. His teaching staff, all experts in NaProTechnology (natural procreative technology), have trained physicians all across America and in other nations as well. NaProTechnology respects each and every human person.

Addressing this subject, Pope Benedict XVI recently said, “The pursuit of a diagnosis and of a therapy represents the most scientifically correct approach to the question of infertility, but also that which is most respectful of the integral humanity of the subjects involved. In fact, the union of the man and woman in that community of life that is matrimony constitutes the only dignified ‘place’ in which a new human being, which is always a gift, may be called into existence.”

Why? Because mankind procreates, animals reproduce! Processes such as IVF reduce human procreation to an artificial mechanical function.

The intrinsic human rights inherent in every human individual can only be validated when every aspect of human personhood is explained and clarified. This includes accurately illustrating ethical differences in infertility treatments. When such subjects are avoided or are not addressed in ways that make the problematic nature of technologies like IVF clear, confusion persists. It is literally impossible for those who favor IVF to understand why their position is in error when those who know are unwilling to address the subject clearly and with compassion. Everyone has a right to hear all the facts all the time.

In the dearth of evidence damning IVF comes a story of a couple who went through numerous IVF cycles before finally achieving a successful pregnancy. When they wanted to have another baby, they went back to IVF. Yet this time, they were in for a surprise when the doctor told them they were expecting triplets! But, according to the expectant father, three was just too many and his wife insisted, despite his pleadings, on a “selective reduction”­which resulted in two of their three preborn children being killed prior to birth. He relates,

We were told, point-blank, by the doctor who would do the procedure that they would inject potassium chloride into the placenta to stop the hearts. We were told, point-blank, that it was painless. Even then, I knew I was being lied to, but given the choice presented, I agreed anyway. My mantra became “Save one, or save none.”

Tragic? Of course it is. Avoidable? Yes, but not in a culture that places a premium on technological advancement while ignoring ethical, moral solutions to human problems like infertility.

Given the stakes in our quest for cultural recognition of intrinsic human rights for every human being from his biological beginning until his death, it would behoove each person engaged in this struggle to be clear, forthright, and consistent. Otherwise the scope of the barren wasteland will increase as the dehumanization of man escalates.

St. Joseph, Father of the New Evangelization

Benedict XVI Entrusts to His Patron All the Pastors of the Universal Church

By Anita Bourdin

ROME, MARCH 15, 2012 ( March is the month of St. Joseph, whose feast the Church will celebrate Monday. Currently the holy patron of Vatican II is now seen as the “Father of the New Evangelization” and “the holy patron of the third millennium,” according to an  initiative launched by the bishop of the French diocese of Frejus-Toulon, Bishop Dominique Rey

On Saturday, the Diocese of Frejus-Toulon will be consecrated to Saint Joseph.

Saint Joseph had a special role in the preparation of Vatican Council II, given that Pope John XXIII chose him as a protector of the event, with his Apostolic Letter of March 19, 1961. In the text, Blessed John XXIII mentions “the voices that come to Us from all points of the earth” and the documents on Saint Joseph of his predecessors, from Pius IX to Pius XIII. In his document, the Pope proposed, in addition, that on March 19, Saint Joseph’s altar in the Vatican Basilica “be clothed in new splendor, wider and more solemn” to become a “point of attraction and religious piety for individual souls, for innumerable crowds.”
Then, in October of 1962, he made a gift of his papal ring to Joseph, offering it to the Polish shrine of Kalisz, where a painting of Saint Joseph is kept, which is considered miraculous.
It was Blessed John XXIII, moreover, who had Saint Joseph’s name inserted in the Canon of the Mass, as he announced in his address at the closing of the first session of the Council on Dec. 8, 1962. 

The Shrine at Knock

John Paul II in turn gave his ring to Saint Joseph, to whom he had also been devoted since his childhood. The ring was placed by Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, archbishop of Krakow, in the church of Carmel, a shrine dedicated to Saint Joseph, on March 19, 2004.

The Polish Pope recalled the importance of Saint Joseph for the life of the Church in his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (August 15, 1989), a century after Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Quanquam Pluries (August 15, 1889) on devotion to Saint Joseph.

For his part, Benedict XVI announced recently a Year of Faith, starting on the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. On many occasions, Benedict XVI has invited Catholics to learn from the school of Saint Joseph, to have a “spiritual conversation” with him, linked to a renewal of faith. Before the Angelus on December 18, 2005, for example, he said: “It is therefore particularly appropriate in the days that precede Christmas to establish a sort of spiritual conversation with St Joseph, so that he may help us live to the full this great mystery of faith.”
On March 18, 2009, in Yaounde, Cameroon, the Pope dedicated his homily to his patron saint. Addressing all the people of God, he concluded saying that in Saint Joseph there is no separation between faith and action. 

“Dear brothers and sisters, our meditation on the human and spiritual journey of Saint Joseph invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a 'just man' (Mt 1:19) because his existence is 'ad-justed' to the word of God.”

The Year for Priests

On December 19, 2010, the 4th Sunday of Advent, Benedict XVI reflected before the Angelus on the Announcement to Joseph, entrusting to his protection all priests worldwide, stressing his role of “legal Father” of Jesus in God’s plan of salvation. “In witnessing to Mary’s virginity, to God’s gratuitous action and in safeguarding the Messiah’s earthly life St Joseph announces the miracle of the Lord. Therefore let us venerate the legal father of Jesus (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 532), because the new man is outlined in him, who looks with trust and courage to the future. He does not follow his own plans but entrusts himself without reserve to the infinite mercy of the One who will fulfil the prophecies and open the time of salvation.” said the Pope.

"Dear friends, I would like to entrust all Pastors to St Joseph, universal Patron of the Church, while I urge them to offer “Christ’s [humble] words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world”, (Letter Proclaiming the Year for Priests, 16 June 2009).),” he continued.

Brother Andre and Cotignac

On Sunday, October 17, 2010, the Pope canonized in Rome the Canadian Religious apostle of Saint Joseph, Brother Andre Bessette (1845-1937), who had Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal built, of which he was custodian until his death.

For its part, the Diocese of Frejus-Toulon has on its territory the shrine of Cotignac, entrusted to the Brothers of Saint John, where in June of 1660 the Holy Custodian appeared to a 22-year-old shepherd of Provence, Gaspard Ricard, pointing to a large rock and saying simply: “I am Joseph, move it and you will drink.”

Louis XIV, going on pilgrimage to Cotignac, only 10 days after his ascent to the throne, entrusted France to the protection of Saint Joseph the following year, on March 19, 1661.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Statement of the Little Sisters of the Poor on the HHS Mandate

March 1, 2012

The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international Congregation of Catholic women religious serving 13,000 needy elderly persons of all faiths in 31 countries around the world. Thirty of our homes for the aged, accommodating over 2,500 low-income seniors, are located in the United States. In these homes we quietly spend our lives in the humble service of the elderly, accompanying them with love and respect until God calls them to Himself.

Long-term care is considered the most highly regulated segment of health care in America. The Little Sisters of the Poor have always done their best to comply with all the government regulations applicable to our homes. We are not prone to making statements on politics or public policy. But at this moment in our country’s history we cannot refrain from speaking out regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule for “preventative services,” and the “compromise” announced by President Obama regarding religious liberty.

We Little Sisters of the Poor stand with the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and leaders of many other religious communities, in strongly objecting to this mandate. We believe that it violates the individual and collective religious liberty and freedom of conscience of the Little Sisters serving in this country. To quote Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Surely it violates religious freedom to force religious ministries and citizens to buy health coverage to which they object as a matter of conscience and religious principle.” Even the indirect subsidizing of such benefits, which would still be the case through the President’s “compromise,” is unconscionable to us.

As Little Sisters of the Poor we are not strangers to religious intolerance. Our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, was born in the midst of the French Revolution and established our Congregation in its aftermath. In 1851 the first group of Little Sisters ventured beyond France to begin establishing homes for the elderly in Great Britain, where their selfless charity triumphed over the rampant anti-Catholic sentiments of the time.

In 1868 the first Little Sisters of the Poor to set foot on American soil were amazed at the warm welcome and generosity of the people of this country. For over 140 years Little Sisters have cared for the elderly poor, welcomed the collaboration of volunteers and benefactors from their local communities and employed lay staff and consultants to help in our mission – all without discriminating on the basis of race or religion. Nor have the Little Sisters of the Poor ever faced religious discrimination or persecution in this great nation.

The health insurance offered to employees of the Little Sisters of the Poor has always explicitly excluded sterilization, contraception and abortion from its covered services. This longstanding policy has never been a matter of controversy in our homes. Policy revisions put in place as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act clearly state that to the extent the Act would legally require our insurer to provide a particular benefit, they will do so, “unless providing the benefit would conflict with the doctrine or tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Because the Little Sisters of the Poor cannot in conscience directly provide or collaborate in the provision of services that conflict with Church teaching, we find ourselves in the irreconcilable situation of being forced to either stop serving and employing people of all faiths in our ministry – so that we will fall under the narrow exemption – or to stop providing health care coverage to our employees. Either path threatens to end our service to the elderly in America. The Little Sisters are fervently praying that this issue will be resolved before we are forced to take concrete action in response to this unjust mandate.

Beyond the immediate issues related to sterilization, contraception and abortifacients, we are deeply concerned about the erosion of religious liberty and freedom of conscience which the HHS mandate signals and the impact this could have on our health care ministry. We fear that the successful implementation of this rule could set a precedent for further intrusion of government into health care, with an increasingly broad array of medical treatments and procedures – preventive or otherwise – falling under federal mandates. If the federal government succeeds in enforcing this rule, what is to stop it from rationing health care to seniors or including euthanizing procedures on the list of required “preventive services” as a way of eliminating the costs associated with caring for our aging population? Would health care providers like the Little Sisters of the Poor then be forced to cooperate in such practices?

In 1991 Mother Marie Antoinette de la Trinité, then Superior General of the Little Sisters of the Poor, took a public stand and made the Congregation’s voice heard against just such measures when the European Parliament was debating euthanasia. We now find ourselves at a similar crossroads in our nation’s history. We wish to affirm that the HHS mandate is an unjust and dangerous infringement upon the natural and Constitutional rights of Americans and that the only just solution is to rescind it. The Little Sisters of the Poor call upon Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible and we pledge our prayers and sacrifices for the true good of our beloved country.

Two Events Appealing To The Sovereignty of Person as Relation: Greg Smith Formerly at Goldman Sachs and Mike D'Antoni Formerly of the Knicks

Thursday, March 14, 2012.

            What is at stake in these two stories? The value of the others as the prime value has been trumped by the self  (:The Unencumbered Self”)  as the absolute value. 

In the Smith story, the point is the devaluation of the client from person to thing. The NYT today (Thurs. March 13, B6) said: “The notion of client loyalty went out with the old structure. And as these became public companies, clients looked for the cheapest deal, and the firms looked for as many clients as possible… You make a much bigger buck on a transaction than on the long-term relationship… You have profiteers as opposed to advisers.” 
   Quoting from a Mr. Smith: “The crucial element… is to anticipate the conflicts, and if need by, use them to your advantage. ‘Find the one that has the biggest conflict and get him on your side… You want somebody who understands both sides. The guy on both sides of the equation will find a deal to get the deal done…Is he getting his bread buttered on both sides? Who cares? Just get the deal done.”

In the D’Antoni story, the coach had the vision of the total team. Everybody moved the ball, and everybody shot the ball. With Jeremy Lin at point guard, the kid has lateral vision, moves the ball, is a marvelous ball handler, passes and sets up the open man who – whoever he is – takes the shot. Lin has a humility of execution and unselfishness. He also is unafraid and recovers after failure. 

The team had the Linsanity run of 7 straight wins and 8 out of 9 before the return of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is a superb basketball player who expects the ball to be moved in his direction as focal point. After his return from injury, the team lost 8 of 10 games. D’Antoni met with the team owner – Dolan – and asked if he would be open to trade Anthony before today’s trading deadline. When the answer was no, D’Antoni resigned for the good of the team. From this perspective, it seems that the coach did for the team what Carmelo Anthony was not able or willing to do. The Times says: “ D’Anoni decided that it was best to sever ties now and let the Knicks determine the best way to maximize Anthony’s skills” – because the talent that D’Antoni brings to the team (spread it out, move the ball, find the open man and shoot) was fettered by having many millions of dollars in a star that reduced the team from 5 players to 1. Last statement by one of the players: “If he holds on much longer, we might never get out of this. We might be in a position where we didn’t make the playoffs, and he said that he didn’t want that for us. He said as a team, we were talented enough to make the playoffs and make a run and that he really wasn’t getting through to us the way he wanted to.”

Down Child, Saved From Abortion, Awarded $3 Million For Damages

Kurt Kondrich and his daughter Chloe

March 14, 2012 ( - This past week a jury awarded nearly $3 million to a couple whose daughter was born with Down syndrome even though a prenatal test found she didn’t have the chromosomal abnormality.

The jury voted 12-0, and they took less than six hours before reaching a verdict in the case. According to the article, the money will cover the estimated extra lifetime costs of caring for a child with Down syndrome. The couple sued, claiming the mother would have “aborted her pregnancy had she known her daughter had the chromosomal abnormality.” The case was one of a handful of so-called “wrongful birth” suits estimated to be filed each year in the United States.

This represents a very slippery slope for all of us.
As a former police officer it is clear that this beautiful child was viewed as a punishment to her family and society from the time of conception. Basically the child was found “guilty” of having postnatal Down syndrome and the punishment was $3 million. Had the child been found “prenatally guilty” of having Down syndrome the punishment would have been termination. According to several studies, 89%+ of expectant mothers who learned their children would have Down syndrome chose to terminate the pregnancies, and this punitive ruling will only serve to increase that statistic as medical professionals fear the ramifications of “wrongful birth” lawsuits.

Click “like” if you want to end abortion

As the father of a beautiful 8-year-old daughter Chloe who has Down syndrome I found this incident very disturbing.

Chloe has already saved lives by showing couples the true beauty and perfection of children like her. She attends 3rd grade at her neighborhood school with typical peers and reads at a 3rd grade level — better than many “typical” adults I know. Chloe plays baseball, has met many VIPs, is on a book, is treasured by her family, community and school, and she has brought more light into this world in 8 years than most people do in a lifetime.
Chloe loves her brother deeply and he adores her — their relationship truly is one of the most incredible and heavenly things I have observed on this earth. The parents who received the $3 million settlement have other children, and I wonder what they will tell them when they are older and realize that their sister would have been eliminated prenatally and was not seen as a priceless gift when she arrived in this world.
We hear a lot in the news about deficits across the globe, and many feel we are heading off the side of a cliff when it comes to national and worldwide debt. I would argue that the real deficit facing humanity is the silent destruction of our most precious, irreplaceable resource — human life.
If we do not stop the slaughter of our most vulnerable citizens there will be no amount of money or gold that can make up the debt incurred. We are all one accident or illness away from becoming disabled, and if we don’t wake up very soon we will all be targeted one day for termination when we no longer have the prenatal/postnatal qualities of distorted perfection mandated by a culture of death.
May God help us!

Kurt Kondrich is the father of a beautiful daughter who has Down syndrome, and is the founder of Stop Aborting Down Syndrome Individuals Now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Whittaker Chambers' Real Witness: To the Experience of God Within (The New Evangelization)

Remarks of Whittaker Chambers Deep Within “Witness” pp. 482-485

Blogger: Consider Ratzinger’s theology of faith as the reception of the very Person of the Word of God into self by making a gift of one’s total self, the Virgin being the prototype of this, and the following of Chambers on what he found in Quakerism.

“Men may seek God alone. They must worship him in common. The words of Miguel de Unamuno also express my own conviction: ‘A Miserere sung in a cathedral by a multitude tormented by destiny is equal to a philosophy.’ The God it worships is what a nation is, and how he worships Him defines what a man is. I sought a congregation in which I could worship God as the expression of a common need. For I had not changed from secular to religious faith in order to tolerate a formless good will vaguely tinctured with rationalized theology and social uplift. I was not seeking ethics; I was seeking God. My need was to be a practicing Christian in the same sense that I had been a practicing Communist. I was seeking a community of worship in which a daily mysticism (for I hold that God cannot be known in any other way) would be disciplined and fortified by an orderly, and even practical, spirit and habit of life and the mind. Some instinctive sense of my need, abetted by a memory of a conversation with my grandmother Chambers, which I have written about earlier, drew me powerfully to the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers.”[1]

“Three hundred years after it wsa written, Fox’s Journal is still less a book than a voice for those to whom it speaks. It was a voice that spoke peculiarly, As Quakers say, ‘to my condition.’ It summoned me to a direct daily experience of God and told me that His revelation is continuous to those who seek to hear His voice in the silence of all distractions of this world. It summoned me to know the Inward Light of God within myself, as within all other men without exception. It enjoined on me a simplicity of the spirit whose first commandment is compassion, which is expressly commanded not to judge, and whose answer to the surging enmity of the word must be yea yea and nay nay ‘because more than this cometh of evil.’ In short, it summoned me to the most difficult of vocations – to be a Christian as in the first century….[2]

            “I was in fact, though not yet in name, a Quaker. An inward experience itself, beyond any power of the mind, had reached me. For what had happened to me, Robert  Barclay has given the expression that all Quakers know because it is final for all who have suffered it: ‘Of which I myself, in part, am a true witness; who not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came to receive and bear witness to the Truth, but by being secretly reached by that life. For, when I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart; and, as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up…’”[3]

[1] W. Chambers, “Witness,” Regnery Gateway (1952) 482.
[2] Ibid 483-484.
[3] Ibid 484

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cleansing the Temple = Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles: The Universal Mission to Worship the One God

            Benedict XVI – Jesus of Nazareth II: “After the cleansing of the Temple, so Mark tells us, ‘[Jesus] taught.’” The essential content of this ‘teaching’ is succinctly expressed in these words of Jesus: ‘Is it not written: ‘May house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers’ (Mk. 11, 17). In this synthesis of Jesus’ ‘teaching’ on the Temple… two prophecies are combined.

            “The first is the universalist vision of the Prophet Isaiah (56, 7) of a future in which all peoples come together in the house of God to worship the Lord as the one God. In the layout of the Temple, the vast Court of the Gentiles in which this whole episode takes place is the open space to which the whole world is invited, in order to pray there to the one God. Jesus’ action underlines this profound openness of expectation which animated Israel’s faith. Even if Jesus consciously limits his own ministry to Israel, he still embodies the universalist tendency to open Israel in such a way that all can recognize in its God the one God common to the whole world. In answer to the question of what Jesus actually brought to mankind, we argued in Part One of this book that he brought God to the nations (p. 44).

“What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?
            “The answer is very simple: Go. He has brought God. HE has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature – the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the nations of the earth.
            “He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart what we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.  The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to pout before the Lord at that time have all passed away. Their glory, their doxa, has proven to be a mere semblance. But the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, nor will it ever do so.”[1]

            According to his own testimony, this fundamental purpose is what lies behind the cleansing of the Temple: to remove whatever obstacles there may be to the common recognition and worship of God  - and thereby to open up a space for common worship.

   Fr. Sean Manson wrote for today (3d Sunday of Lent): "Let us not be shocked if Jesus enters our temple today and upsets a few tables. If, and only if this happens, will the company we keep; the time we spend; the opinions we form; the thoughts we entertain, be not based on self-interest, but on a true desire for the good of others. Not matter what the cost to us."

[1] Benedict XVI “Jesus of Nazareth I” Doubleday (2007) 44.