Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Abortion: The Great Malady of Our Time

Perspectives on Respect Life:

The following is an article by Fr. Patrick Nwokoye, Phd. The Director of Campus Ministry at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. http://www5.semo.edu/ccm/who_we_are/staff.htm
He keeps his own blog at http://regnumchristifloreat.motime.com/

Pope John Paul II marking his 22nd anniversary as pontiff spoke to the pilgrims who participated in the jubilee for families and said “what great value every human life, every human being, must have in the eyes of the creator.’’ Every human life is priceless in the eyes of the creator. At a time when life is considered a “thing” I bet making it the center of our own very existence becomes ‘difficult’ and “unnecessary.”

Why abortion? Why must we take an innocent life? I have tried finding the answers to these two questions and I cannot find a plausible reason for favoring it. Abortion has in all ramifications impoverished our families and has done lots of damage to our nation and also the human person.

How many times have we heard that the family is a domestic church that “human life is sacred from its very inception, that it reveals the creating hand of God.” Yet these profound words of Pope John XXIII seem to fall on deaf hearts and minds in our society. I will begin by stating my conviction that a culture that fails to value life is doomed to death.

We are horrified at the site of gunshots; we condemn Columbine High school shootings and the various killings that go on in our country today. Why? Because human lives are taken and reduced just to ‘things.’ We support at the same time the killing of the helpless, of those who have no one to defend and fight for them. How strange that a so-called ‘civilized society’ can ever afford to place a human life in such jeopardy. Because in any civilized society, all human beings have a natural right to be treated as persons entitled to the right to live and certainly the unborn is entitled to live as well. It is disheartening that the law legalized the killing of the unborn by defining the innocent unborn child as a non-person who therefore has no constitutional rights and who may be executed at the discretion of his mother. This sounds so cruel and I permit myself to say that in this light humans have taken up to themselves to kill their very own. It is not about eliminating a tissue, it is about killing a child an innocent child whom God has given to us and who in His divine plan has a role to play. The catechism of the Catholic Church states criteria that governs this matter: “human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”
We have to recognize that in depersonalizing the unborn child, the Supreme Court prevents interference by anybody with the killer of the unborn child and even makes that killing a specially protected constitutional right. As Pope John Paul II said at the Capitol Mall in Washington on Oct. 7th, 1979, “If a person’s right to life is violated at the moment in which he is first conceived in his mother’s womb, an indirect blow is struck also at the whole of the moral order, which serves to ensure the inviolable goods of man. Among those goods, life occupies the first place.” It is exceedingly important that we fight for life, for all life and it should and must be made a priority in our preaching and evangelization, for we cannot promote a world that is peaceful, that respects human dignity if we still adhere to the killing of innocent babies.

Mother Teresa once said that “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” It is sad that our society has turned from being life-giving to death bringing. With abortion legalized we can never get around in solving the problem of the world.

In an article that appeared in Times magazine they raised a question: Should authorities ever intervene between a woman and her fetus? Lynn Paltrow, who directs National Advocates for Pregnant Women, says no. “Women have a right to make decisions regarding their own bodily integrity, and that does not stop when they become pregnant.” I can’t help thinking how far humans have gone in the name of ‘rights;’ it is not about ‘rights’ anymore but about being selfish and not caring. We have turned ourselves into a killer machine. A mother is supposed to be a protector. We are called to nurture and to protect life from conception to natural death.

“The church feels called to this by her Lord. From Christ she receives the “Gospel of life” and feels responsible for its proclamation to every creature. Even at the price of going against the trend, she must proclaim that Gospel courageously and fearlessly, in word and deed, to individuals, peoples and states.” All of us have a grave responsibility to promote respect for human life everywhere, in addition to proclaiming public opposition at every opportunity.

We must understand that to have a peaceful world importance should be attached to life. God the Creator guides the process of conception. God is the creator, and author, and Lord of this tiny-almost invisible-child. God infuses the unique soul into this new human being at the very moment in which the egg and sperm are united! We believe that God is ultimately over and above all that exist. In The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II wrote so eloquently:
“Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth. All human beings, from their mothers’ womb, belong to God who searches them and knows them, who forms them and knits them together with his own hands, who gazes on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now written in the book of life.
There, too, when they are still in their mother'’ womb...they are the personal objects of God'’ loving and fatherly providence.”

May the Holy Spirit, “The Lord and giver of life,” fill us with his gifts, and may Mary, the Virgin Mother who gave birth to the author of life be our intercessors.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Breaking the Bread ("Hope in Tribulation")

The reflections on next week's Mass readings from St. Paul Center of Biblical Theology (www.salvationhistory.com) are now available on their website (so I do not have to write them and post them myself).

Get ready for this Sunday's Mass by reading the readings ahead of time and check out this reflection so that you can see the illuminating connections between the Old Testament and New Testament readings:


Labels: ,

Runnin' with the Rosary

Here is an interesting article on how to combine prayer with exercise. I myself have been an avid runner in the past. One way to occupy your mind on a long run is to pray the rosary. Check it out:

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Understanding Purgatory

Something for this month dedicated to the Holy Souls. My article follows, scroll down to the previous post for more links to other articles on purgatory...


From the new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
210. What is purgatory?

Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.

211. How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory?

Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.

These brief answers dispel a lot of misconceptions that surround the Church’s doctrine of purgatory. Purgatory is not an “in between” state, for those “stuck” between heaven and hell. Purgatory is not a second chance to earn one’s salvation. Purgatory is a state that is only for those who are saved, those who have died “in God’s friendship” (that is, in a state of sanctifying grace) and yet who still have need of further purification. It is an exercise of God’s mercy and grace.

Our need for purification

One might ask, “why would a baptized Christian who has not committed unrepentant mortal sin still have further need for purification?”

Even after the sanctification of baptism, we still commit sin and have a certain attachment to sin. Mortal sin is what cuts us off from communion with God and makes us incapable of eternal life (this is the “eternal punishment” of sin). Venial sin, however, also affects our ability to stand in God’s presence. “…Every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here or on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1472).

In the Old Testament, God told Moses that no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). Jesus Christ reiterated this point on the Sermon on the Mount: “blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5:8). The book of Revelation tells us of heaven that “nothing unclean will enter it, nor any [one] who does abominable things or tells lies” (Rev 21:27). So great is God’s heavenly glory, that we would not be able to stand in his eternal presence if we still had “an unhealthy attachment to creatures” and attachment to sin. St. Paul urged the Philippians to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish” (Phil 2:15). God desires that we are completely purified—pure of heart, without blemish—so that we can enjoy the beatific vision and live with Him for eternity. Sometimes our purification happens through suffering on earth (all of the great saints experienced some aspect of suffering)… sometimes this is completed after death. The suffering in purgatory stems from the fact that the holy soul is prevented from what they desire the most—being in God’s presence.

Purgatory in Scripture
While you will not find the word “purgatory” in the Bible (just as you will not find the words “Trinity” or “Incarnation” in the Bible), certain texts of Scripture do speak of a cleansing fire (CCC 1031). Some Scripture verses related to the doctrine of purgatory:

Matt 5:25-26: “you will be thrown into prison… not be released until…paid the last penny.”
Matt 12:32: (Particular sin not forgiven in this life or next—implies some sins could be forgiven after death).

1 Cor 3:15: “If someone’s work is burned…the person will be saved, but only as through fire.”
2 Tim 1:16-18 (Paul prays—asks God to have mercy on his dead friend, Onesiphorus.)
1 Peter 3:18-20: (Jesus preached to the “spirits in prison.”)
1 John 5:16-17 (Distinction made between deadly sins and ones that are not deadly.)

[see also: Lev 26:41, 43; 2 Sam 2:14; 2 Macc 12:38-46; Is 4:4; 6:5-7, 33:11-14; Mic 7:8-9; Zech 9:11; Mal 3:2-4; Matt 5:48; 12:36; 18:34f; Luke 12:58f; 16:19-31; 1 Cor 3:10-16; 2 Cor 5:10; 7:1; Eph 4:8-10; Phil 2:10-11; Heb 12:14, 29; James 3:2; 1 Pet 3:19; 4:6; Rev 5:3, 13.]

Prayer for the dead

The Church’s teaching is based, in part, upon the ancient tradition of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the death, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Macc 12:46). “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God” (CCC #1032). St. Augustine’s mother St. Monica said before her death: “Put this body anywhere! Don’t trouble yourselves about it! I simply ask you to remember me at the Lord’s altar wherever you are” (5th century). Noted ancient Church theologians make reference to the practice of praying for the departed: St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and Tertullian, etc. (see the previous post on links to Purgatory articles: http://swallowedscroll.blogspot.com/2006/11/

How do I engage my students to be aware of the Holy Souls in purgatory?

One idea might be to make a poster with the names of beloved relatives who have passed away. And remind the students that all prayers offered in class during the month of November are offered for the eternal rest of their loved ones. Ask the students to make small acts of self-denial (as we all should try to do some form of penance every Friday), and to offer up any of their small moments of suffering for the Holy Souls. Encourage families to have the Holy Mass offered for a loved one.

If we pray for a beloved family member, doesn’t this insult them by implying they are not in heaven?
This is actually a common fear. However, the only souls that we know are in heaven are those who have been formally canonized by the Church. Otherwise, it is a great act of charity (and a spiritual work of mercy) to pray for the souls who may still need purification before entering heaven. (I wonder how many souls go without prayers for this reason!) If the one you pray for has already entered God’s presence in heaven, then your prayers will go to another soul in need (God does not waste any prayer). Otherwise, do not immerse yourself in anxiety—pray for your loved ones, and then entrust them to the care of God who is perfect justice and mercy!

The Church’s Prayer for the Faithful Departed
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


Understanding Purgatory... more links

As November is a special month dedicated to the
Holy Souls, below are some links to some articles (followed by my own article):

How to expalain Purgatory to our Protestant brothers and sisters:

Purgatory and praying for the Dead

The historical roots of the doctrine of Purgatory:

St. Ambrose on death:

Pope John Paul II’s General Audience on Purgatory (8/4/99):

What is the origin of All Saints and All Souls Day.
Are they linked with paganism and Haloween?

Why we pray for the dead; activities for catechists and families, etc.:

All Soul's Day history, information, prayers, resources, traditions, etc.

Indulgences related to All Souls

More blogging on the matter.... (note: some things that this guy writes
are from private revelations to saints, etc.,... so they are not necessarily official
church teaching [such as the belief that most souls leave purgatory on Christmas]...
you are not required to believe them)


Bite-size wisdom (only giving half?)

"We must not belong to God by halves;
as God gives Himself entirely to the soul He loves,
so does He desire to possess the soul's entire love.
-St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
from Thoughts and Sayings of Saint Margaret Mary, TAN Books and Publishers
Who is St. Margaret Mary Alacoque? Find out:

Labels: ,

Cardinal George says: 'World distrusts us'

This is an interesting article from the Chicago Sun Times Religion section (10/31). I love our country (and think we are pretty rashly judged by other nations), but I must agree that we should always be open to examining our collective conscience on how we view the rest of the world. ...

"Fixing America's blind spot a huge job, George says..." GET THE STORY:

Labels: ,

Friday, November 03, 2006

More on the evils of embryonic stem cell research

The following is an excellent article by Elizabeth Wickstrom, M.D. (I received this via an email post list that I suscribe to). Although this concerns an issue for the state of Missouri, the article deals with embryonic stem cell research and cloning in general. For background on the proposed Missouri state constitution ammendment, see http://www.missourilife.org/news/2006/cloning/index.html

Embryonic Stem Cell Research: An M.D.'s Perspective

Scientific View from Dr. Wickstrom:
Dr. Wickstrom is Director of the Saint Luke's Perinatal Center at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
Position Paper Re: Embryonic Stem Cell Research Elizabeth Wickstrom, M.D.

Although I am not a resident of the State of Missouri, and will not, therefore, have the opportunity to vote "No" against Amendment 2 in November, I have taken the time to investigate the subject of Stem Cell Research very thoroughly. Please take a moment to read through this paper. If you don't feel it impacts you directly at this time, it will in the future.

The wording which will appear on the ballot in Missouri to create a constitutional amendment (not just a bill or a law, but a permanent change inthe state constitution) is designed to create the illusion that it prevents scientists from cloning humans, and that it is necessary to pass this amendmentto allow Missouri citizens to have access to any cures which may, eventually, be discovered as a result of this research. There have been two lawsuits brought before the state supreme court, contending that the wording of the ballot title is misleading because it does not accurately describe what the amendment really says. The lawsuits were defeated, however, because - who knew? It's not actually required by law that the ballot title says what the amendment does. Although the judge ruling on the cases agrees that the title on the ballot is inaccurate,there is no legal requirement to change the title before the people vote inNovember. This is only the beginning of the deception.

First, I want you to understand that I am not against stem cell research. However, not all stem cell research is created equal. Stem cells which come from"adult" (as opposed to embryonic) cells, including placental and umbilical cordblood cells, have great pluripotentiality - this means that they have the ability to provide stem cells for any body tissue, if properly modified. Thereare, to date, over 70 treatments and cures using these adult cells, which do not require that any blastocysts or other embryos are destroyed to make them. To date the number of proven cure techniques from embryonic stem cells created by a form of cloning called SCNT is ZERO. No cures. And the technique requires the destruction of human embryos. I support unequivocally the use of adult stem cells in medical research, and have personally collected umbilical cord blood at deliveries for this purpose. Sadly, I throw out much more of this precious resource than I collect, as there is not enough funding to store and use all of this cord blood.

So, what is SCNT [=somatic cell nuclear transfer], and why is it cloning? In this technique, an adult nucleus is placed into the human egg, and the host cells replicate, using DNA from the adult nucleus. This causes tissue to form which has the characteristics of the adult. This is the technique by which "Dolly", the cloned sheep, was created. It is, unequivocally, cloning. However, the writers of this amendment wish to redefine cloning and indicate that it is not "cloning" until the resulting cloneis placed into the womb to allow it to become a baby. The amendment does provide for a $250,000 fine for anyone caught trying to clone a human being. Do you seriously think that this amount of a fine would convince anyone who is close to becoming the first scientist to clone a human to stop and throw awaytheir life's work? Legal re-wording does not change the scientific fact. SCNT is cloning and Amendment 2 proposes not only to protect it, but to fund it with government money. Currently, SCNT is perfectly legal, but there is a ban on use of tax dollars at any level of the government to pay for it - scientists must use their own funds to conduct the research. Therefore, Amendment 2 is NOT necessary to allow this technique to be used, only to use YOUR TAX MONEY to fund it, and to protect the research from appropriate government oversight (more deception). The amendment is designed to protect government funding for SCNT, even to the point that, if a lab is investigated or sanctioned for another reason - any illicit or illegal behavior or the suspicion of this behavior, that investigating body will face a lawsuit for trying to withhold funds from the lab. More deception.

Proponents of this constitutional amendment will lead you to believe that there are millions of frozen embryos which will be discarded if not used for medical science. They have to make you believe this, because over the MANY YEARS of work which will be required to see any result of embryonic stem cell research, MILLIONS of embryos will be needed to create these clones, only to destroy them if they produce, as the early research has done, tumorous masses instead of healthy tissue. (More deception.) The truth is that there are several hundred thousand embryos frozen in storage now, most of which are spoken for by their parents and by "embryo adoption" services for infertile couples. So, if the SCNT scientists are deceiving you by saying they already have millions of embryos,where will the embryos come from? Not out of a freezer, but from the bodies ofwomen who are willing to be paid to subject themselves to super stimulating medicines that cause them to ovulate a dozen eggs at a time. It is one thing for a couple to determine that they will take a risk with these drugs (which have potentially life threatening side effects) for the purpose of gaining the family they have been unable to conceive. Is it ethical for researchers to entice low income, young women to take these drugs? Are there safeguards in place for truly informed consent?

Why are there companies and institutions strongly backing this amendment if it's not a good idea? One family, James and Virginia Stowers have, as of the end ofJune, put over $15,000,000 (that's MILLION) into the propaganda supporting this amendment. Ask yourself why. Stem cell lines created from adult stem cells cannot be patented. They can provide life saving treatments, they can grow into all kinds of human tissue, but the scientist who produces them cannot patent thecell line for profit. Stem cell lines created from embryos can be patented forPROFIT. Big profit. This is why the backers of this amendment are pushing so hard for it. This is why they insist that they are "against" human cloning (as are most Missourians), when, in fact, they are trying to guarantee that they will have access to government funds to promote cloning.

The backers of Amendment 2 will also tell you that his amendment is necessary to provide access to Missouri citizens for "life saving cures". There is no foundation for that statement; it is propaganda and deception, pure and simple. Missourians have access to every other medical technology, whether it was developed in our state, or not. There is nothing specific about the treatmentswhich have already been developed from stem cells, nor treatments which will be developed in the future, that limits their use to the state in which they were developed. As a matter of fact, Amendment 2 provides no upper limit on the amount that a researcher or company might charge for their stem cell based treatments. Therefore, this amendment may actually end up LIMITING access to stem cell based treatments (which would be considered experimental and therefore not paid for by insurance companies, including Medicaid, for many, many years) to only the very wealthiest Missourians.

You may have noticed that I have been writing for seven paragraphs and have not yet mentioned any religious point of view. Every word above has been soundly based in science, not philosophy or religion. The proponents of this amendment have published editorials stating that there are physicians and other medicalpeople who oppose Amendment 2 on the basis of their religious opinions. The editorial suggests that those who read the article check out this list and ask these physicians, before they allow the physician to treat them, whether they will allow their religious ideals to interfere with treating the patient. I think this is supposed to be some sort of threat to those of us who would sign such a statement against Amendment 2, but I'm not threatened by this. I certainly hope that my faith enhances my ability to care for patients through the most difficult times of their lives - the loss of a child or a critical illness of the mother. Threaten away, editorial writer. You do not frighten me. But, as long as he brought it up, here's their idea of the "religious" angle. A blastocyst is an embryo. A human blastocyst is an early human embryo. You and I were blastocycts before we were embryos. If you test the DNA of a human blastocyst, it is human. The blastocysts which must be destroyed for use in SCNT have a unique combination of chromosomes and DNA. They are human. They are unique. The only thing they lack to be considered a "being" is where they are located - in a test tube instead of a uterus. If you were to be sent into space in a space shuttle, and went for a space walk outside of the protective "womb"of the spaceship, would you be any less human because of your location, or the availability of life support systems? No, you would not. Why, then, are these cloned blastocysts not human, simply because they have not yet been placed intothe womb?

Since stem cells are available from other sources, why should we sanction and fund-with our tax dollars - a technology which must, by its very definition, destroy human embryos or else implant them in a woman's uterus, completing the creating of a human clone which is begun by SCNT technology? Please consider this question in November, and whenever this topic of embryonic stem cell research is discussed. Thank you for the length of time that you have spentlooking into this topic with me today.

Labels: , ,