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“If you commodify body parts, including reproductive materials, who’s going to be selling them? It’s going to be the poor. And who’s going to be buying them? It’s going to be rich people,” Jonathan D. Moreno, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist, told The Washington Post.

“You’re gradually going down a slippery slope that not only undermines respect for certain body parts but eventually whole bodies of, say, people who are very old or very sick or very poor,” he said.

Do you feel that warm gunky sludge on your backside?  you know, from tumbling down the slippery slope?

keep finding these kinds of stories, the kinds of stories that the Church warned about years ago, but were dismissed as rubbish and “something that will *never* happen.”  Well…it’s happened.  An American fertility clinic is offering free eggs to a lucky winner in Great Britain.  If you read the article, you learn that actually this has been going on for some time and that now Quebec will be offering free eggs at an annual taxpayer cost of $80 million.   Our poor Catholic brothers and sisters in Canada, being forced to pay for the commodification of human life.  

To repeat what I said in a prior post:

Each hopeful would-be parent is not owed a child by nature.  As the Church teaches:

2378 A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

(If you do not know it, the Church condemns as a moral evil, IVF procedures.  See DONUM VITAE.  (For an explanation of the teachings, I recommend this article.)

Full article on AOL here.

St. Joseph, pray for us.  

(see this and this for my previous posts)

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Word on Fire now has a blog.  If you haven’t seen it, hop over and take a look!

In a video posted there, Fr. Barron draws a comparison between the pre-papacy work of Karol Wojtyla and the story of Noah and the Ark.  In the brief time, he makes a sweeping analogy relevant for our efforts today in the New Evangelization.  Honestly, the intellectual gifts of Fr. Barron and his talent for making these insights understandable to lay people is incomparable.

His speech hit home with me because I sometimes feel like I am bursting to “let the life out.”  Ironic, too, because I have not been ‘hunkered down’ preserving the faith.   Rather, I have spent most of my adult life living in defiance of that faith.  Unhappily, I might add.  Okay….miserably – to be brutally honest.  But now that faith …it wants out.  It wants my evangelization. 

Perhaps – to extrapolate from what Fr. Barron was saying – perhaps this is part of what God intends. 

I’ll have to wait and see.  He’s not finished with me yet.

=)

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Our awesome Pope Benedict is reminding the faithful of the teachings of JPII on suffering.  How gracious and wise are his words.  From the Catholic News Agency:

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2009 / 10:26 am (CNA).- Benedict XVI has announced that the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated this liturgical year on February 11, the 25th anniversary of the institution of  the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers.  The Pontiff drew attention to the essential nature of pastoral service for the sick and asked those who are ill “to pray and offer up their sufferings for priests” in this Year of the Priest.

For February 11, the Pope said, the Church would like to “raise awareness in the ecclesial community of the importance of pastoral service in the vast world of health…”  It’s a service, that plays an integral part in healthcare’s mission following  “the same saving mission of Christ.”

“Through the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection, human suffering obtains sense and fullness of light.”

Benedict quoted the words of his predecessor to “illuminate” this mystery.  John Paul II wrote that in Christ’s death, human suffering reached it’s culmination and also entered into a new dimension of love, obtained through suffering.

“The Cross of Christ became a spring, from which gush rivers of living water.”

The Pontiff also highlighted the necessity for a “logic of love” practiced with the little ones and the needy as witnessed in Christ’s washing of the apostles’ feet  and called for every Christian to relive the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“Go and do the same,” says Jesus at the end of the parable.

“With these words he turns also to us,” indicated the Pope.  He calls us to see that “the experience of sickness and suffering can become a lesson of hope.”

It’s not “resting from the suffering or running from the pain that cures man, but it is his capacity to accept tribulation and to mature in it, to find sense through the union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”

Pope Benedict called particular attention to the institutions that provide humanitarian and spiritual healing to the sick and suffering, saying there has never been more need for them in the world.  He recognized the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers specifically.  The council will celebrate its 25th anniversary of service this coming year.

The Holy Father concluded with a message directed to priests and the sick.  To the priests, as “ministers of the sick,” he said, “not to hold back in giving care and comfort to the sick.”  To the sick, he implored, “I ask you to pray and offer your sufferings for priests, that they may remain faithful to their vocations and that their ministry be rich in spiritual fruits, to the benefit of the entire church.”

Though we may not be ill, each of us suffers in some way, at some point in our lives.  As modern folks, we don’t expect to suffer.  We don’t like it and we run from it.  So it is good to be reminded that suffering is universal, it is inescapable and furthermore, it is not necessarily bad:  it can be a conduit to God.  By turning our suffering into an offering for others, we participate in a beautiful sacrifice, pleasing to God and edifying for ourselves.  The mere contemplation of such offerings fills my soul with awe and joy.

How great is our God!

Pope Benedict asks sick to offer up suffering for priests.

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An interview from the Catholic News Agency with Abbot Michael John Zielinski, Vice President of the Pontifical Council for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and Sacred Archeology about our Holy Father, the awesome BXVI.  JPII spoke often of the importance of beauty too, so as the Abbott says, this is nothing new.  What IS new is the approach of Pope Benedict to the topic.  I don’t know what it is about this pope but he really seems to get to the heart of the matter, in grace, charity, patience, faithfulness and rationality. 

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2009 / 01:23 pm (CNA).- On November 22, Pope Benedict XVI attracted the eyes of the world to the Sistine Chapel where he welcomed a group of 250 international artists and urged them to renew an old friendship in the “quest for beauty.”  CNA interviewed Abbot Michael John Zielinski, Vice President of the Pontifical Council for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and Sacred Archeology, for further insight into the meaning of this ‘quest’ and its significance in this Papacy.

Commenting on the “via pulchritudinis,” beauty as a way to God, and the Holy Father’s recent emphasis on it, the Benedictine abbot replied, “This is nothing new.  Take a look at Pope Benedict XVI’s liturgy.  The Pope’s liturgy is not a return to tradition, it’s the way to tradition.  It is clearly the expression of… continuity.  He’s bringing out, as it were, making manifest the way of beauty to God.”

Zielinski then mused on the Pope’s awareness, “Have you seen him around people?  He listens very carefully.  He observes.”  The abbot recalled that during the Pope’s audiences, “he has these penetrating eyes.  He doesn’t observe the mass (of people), he observes the individuals…  In his spiritual life, he is also very observant.  He understands the needs of the Church.”

“I think we’ll truly understand this Pontificate in the future because he’s taking us to our principles,” opined the abbot.  “In a world where there’s inflation of words and images, his life of silence, prayer and study is truly a prophetic act today.”

Abbot Michael John alluded to a quote from Thomas Merton, the 20th Century Catholic writer, who once said, “prayer is losing time for God.”

“The Pope believes that ‘losing’ that time is important… You are prepared for the next life in that time.”

You might notice also, said the Benedictine, that the Pope’s “physical self is not over the top, you never see him moving about (exaggeratedly)…, whereas his thought is extensive, it has infinite horizons.”

“His Pontificate is so different from the last one and yet so complementary.”

The abbot the remarked that there is a reform ongoing in the Church, “the reform of Benedict XVI.”

Abbot Michael John said we will soon begin to see the fruits of the Pope’s “reform.”  “He’s preparing the younger generations.  He’s offering them a vision, a vision of life, the world and the church and what it means to be a Christian today.  He’s preparing us, opening the eyes of our hearts.”

“The vision,” Zielinski added, “is a hidden sense, a hidden desire, that of energy and force, and from this vision will come forth new life, … new forms, new expressions, new representations.”

“In Australia at World Youth Day, the young boys and girls returned home with eyes full of vision, and now,” he said, “the world is waiting to see what that vision is going to produce; they’ll write books, write music, build their houses, churches and cities.”

“Hopefully, it will be a life of peace and justice, … a life that can give witness to the Giver of life.”

American expert speaks on significance of Papal vision of beauty.

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The news on this case of the poor man who lost 23 years to the misdiagnosis of ‘vegetative coma’ status just gets more fascinating.  Things I have learned:

  • His family never believed he was vegetative and his mom requested numerous follow-up tests, all of which were a ‘fail’ for Mr. Houben but an even bigger failure of  the neuro “experts”
  • He was tested no less than 5 times here in the United States by our doctors who did not catch his normally functioning brain activity (!!!)
  • What Mr. Houben suffered from was a condition known as “locked-in syndrome“.
  • Dr. Laureys works for a group called the Coma Science Group in Belgium whose mission is “to improve the medical care and understanding of disorders of consciousness following an acute insult such as coma, vegetative state, minimally conscious state or locked-in syndrome.”
  • Mr. Houben’s conscious state was found using no fancier a tool than a PET scan (!!!)
  • The rate of misdiagnosis of vegetative state has not substantially changed in the past 15 years (no improvement?–yikes!!!)
  • new comparison of methods for detecting consciousness suggests that around 40 per cent of people diagnosed as being in a vegetative state are in fact “minimally conscious(!!!)
  • Satan’s little helpers in the bioethicists field won’t go quietly on this, either. **see below
  • Catholic bioethicists like Mr. Haas are probably rather lonely in their field. (pray for them!)
  • Dying because you were denied water until you suffocated is called “being allowed to die(Somehow, I doubt PETA or SPCA would agree with this definition if the ‘beneficiary’ of one’s kindness is a dog or cat.)
  • The Associated Press continues to change their news headlines to obfuscate, hide or bury information that is inconvenient to their liberal viewpoints.  Notice that the headline says he was ‘mute’ not that he was a ‘misdiagnosed coma patient’ as foreign papers called him.

Be assured that I’ll post more as I find it.  I’m sure that Satan’s Little Helpers in the Relativist camp won’t sit still on this.

**

Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said he is skeptical of Houben’s ability to communicate after seeing video of his hand being moved along the keyboard. “That’s called ‘facilitated communication,'” Caplan said. “That is ouija board stuff. It’s been discredited time and time again. When people look at it, it’s usually the person doing the pointing who’s doing the messages, not the person they claim they are helping.”

 Caplan also said the statements Houben allegedly made with the computer seem unnatural for someone with such a profound injury and an inability to communicate for decades.

UPDATE:  the doctor who finally “released” Mr. Houben, Dr. Steven Laureys was an invited member of the 2004 Congress on Life-Sustaining Treatments in the Vegetative State organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Life which produced this:  The Joint Statement on the Vegetative State.  While it seems that he counseled the Academy to not overly interpret the importance of his research vis a vis end of life decisions, nevertheless, he did present his findings of the problems in diagnostic interpretation, resulting in an error rate of over 40% of the “vegetative state” (“VS”) patients. 

By the way, that Pontifical  statement is quite a remarkable and well-written document.  It says in part:

5) VS diagnosis is still clinical in nature and requires careful and prolonged observation, carried out by specialized and experienced personnel using specific assessment standardized for VS patients in an optimum-controlled environment. Medical literature, in fact, shows diagnostic errors in a substantially high proportion of cases. For this reason, when needed, all available modern technologies should be used to substantiate the diagnosis….

7) No single investigation method available today allows us to predict, in individual cases, who will recover and who will not among VS patients….

9) We acknowledge that every human being has the dignity of a human person, without any discrimination based on race, culture, religion, health conditions or socio-economic conditions. Such a dignity, based on human nature itself, is a permanent and intangible value that cannot depend on specific circumstances of life and cannot be subordinated to anyone’s judgment.

We recognize the search for the best possible quality of life for every human being as an intrinsic duty of medicine and society, but we believe that it cannot and must not be the ultimate criterion used to judge the value of a human being’s life.

We acknowledge that the dignity of every person can also be expressed in the practice of autonomous choices; however, personal autonomy can never justify decisions or actions against one’s own life or that of others:  in fact, the exercise of freedom is impossible outside of life.
10) Based on these premises, we feel the duty to state that VS patients are human persons, and as such, they need to be fully respected in their fundamental rights. The first of these rights is the right to life and to the safeguard of health. In particular, VS patients have the right to: 

– correct and thorough diagnostic evaluation, in order to avoid possible mistakes and to orient rehabilitation in the best way;
– basic care, including hydration, nutrition, warming and personal hygiene;
– prevention of possible complications and monitoring for any possible signs of recovery;
– adequate rehabilitative processes, prolonged in time, favouring the recovery and maintenance of all progress achieved;

– be treated as any other patients with reference to general assistance and affective relationships.
This requires that any decision of abandonment based on a probability judgment be discouraged, considering the insufficiency and unreliability of prognostic criteria available to date. The possible decision of withdrawing nutrition and hydration, necessarily administered to VS patients in an assisted way, is followed inevitably by the patients’ death as a direct consequence. Therefore, it has to be considered a genuine act of euthanasia by omission, which is morally unacceptable.

At the same time, we refuse any form of therapeutic obstinacy in the context of resuscitation, which can be a substantial cause of post-anoxic VS.

It also requests that the term “permanent” not be used with VS patients.

Okay, well I said I would update you as I found out things.  Fascinating.  Horrifying and fascinating.

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I think this article from The Catholic Thing is reasonable and fair, challenging both sides and pretty much staying in keeping with the Magisterium. JPII was right on this one too.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously remarked that the test of a first-rate mind is to hold two apparently contradictory ideas and still be able to function. In the debate over evolution, a Catholic must allow both revelation and science their due authority, reconciling the ap­parent con­tra­­dictions between Genesis and modern research. Catholics also have to be skeptical about the claims of materialist ideologies dis­guised as science, while being open to the genuine findings of geneticists and paleontolo­gists.

In 1986, John Paul II gave a series of general audiences on the subject of Creation. In them, he laid down a principle of Biblical exegesis that has been around since the Church Fathers: The Book of Genesis is not meant to teach science. Genesis tells what God did, not how he did it. “Indeed,” writes John Paul, “the theory of natural evolution, understood in a sense that does not exclude divine causality, is not in principle opposed to the truth about creation. . . .as presented in the Book of Genesis. . . .It must, however, be added that this hypothesis pro­poses only a probability, not a scientific certainty. . . .[But] it is possible that the human body, following the order impressed by the Creator on the energies of life, could have been gradually prepared in the forms of antecedent living beings.”

In my opinion, the major problem with the Creation camp is that Creationism is becoming a litmus test of belief, and is replacing valid moral and theological issues as central to Christianity.

Read the rest here.

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Over at Fallible Blogma (Is that the most clever pun ever?), Matt Warner is presenting Catholic Speaker Month all this October.   Matt asked Catholic bloggers to feature a Catholic Speaker in a post on their weblog.  What a great way to get to know the men and women who are out there teaching, inspiring, witnessing and evangelizing, and I am thankful that Matt at Fallible Blogma is putting this together.  You can see the list of speakers and their “interviewers” here

Although I heard about it late in the month from AmP, I was thrilled to be able to have as my speaker, the biblical scholar Prof. Michael Barber of John Paul the Great University.  (Some of you already know my feelings about Prof. Barber [and let’s not forget Brant Pitre!].)  Michael is a respected biblical scholar, one of several young, on-fire Catholic Biblical theologians, whose work is important not only to we Catholics, but in the wider Christian scholarly circles because of ecumenical aspects as well. 

To get a sense of Michael personally, all one has to do is  watch  his charming videos of Reflections on the Sunday Liturgy of the Word and you can just tell that he’s a really good man.  But if you  do not know who he is, or read his books, or listen to his radio show, Reasons for Faith or follow his postings on The Sacred Page (formerly Singing in the Reign), then this is a great opportunity for us to get to know him.    Because of the lateness of my participation in Catholic Speaker Month event, I did not actually interview Michael.   But I have read carefully through his entire weblog and I slept in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I therefore give you…

My (Imaginary) Interview with Biblical Scholar, Michael Barber**

**totally made up of quotes, snippets and assumptions pieced together from Michael’s weblog

 

Michael Barber, clean shaven Professor of Biblical Studies

LuceMichael:  Hi!

Michael Barber:  Hi!

LM:  Hey, thanks for agreeing to this imaginary interview. 

MB:  It’s no problem at all.

LM:  Happy belated birthday!

MB:  Oh—thanks.

LM:  So uh…tell my readers a bit about yourself.

MB:  Certainly.

I am the Professor of Theology, Scripture and Catholic Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego. I am finishing up a Ph.D. in Theology at Fuller in Pasadena, CA. I received my B. A. in Theology and Philosophy from Azusa Pacific University and a M. A. in Theology from Franciscan University. I have written two books, “Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God’s Kingdom” and, a brand new book, “Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying Its Lessons Today. I recently began a new weekly radio show, Reasons for Faith Live, which is heard on EWTN’s Radio Network every Friday at 11am Pacific Coast Time. In addition, I am a Research Fellow for the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology (see links). I also lead Bible studies at the Sacred Heart Chapel in Covina, CA. Many of them have been recorded and are available on CD @ saintjoe.com.  source 

LM:  Uh….your answer seems a bit out-of-date.

MB:  Hmmm?

LM:  Nevermind.  Let’s move on.  First off, let me say that I love your radio show, Reasons for Faith–which I should mention you’ve actually been doing for a few years now.

MB: Thank you!  I really enjoy doing it.

LM:  I can tell.  I also love your videos on the Sunday Liturgy of the Word.  They are on my ‘must-do’ list every week before Sunday.

MB:  Ah, thanks again.  I have a lot of fun doing those, too.  The hardest work belongs to the student producer Nate Sjogren. He’s just a Sophomore, but he’s really an amazingly talented student. And he’s got the fiery enthusiasm of a new convert–he came into the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil!   source

LM:  That’s awesome!  I agree he does a bang-up job.  I really like the artwork you guys always show in the videos.  I wonder where you keep finding the right art.

MB:  We try for that whole “cover of Scott Hahn’s books” look.  source

2 out of 3 biblical scholars think that Dr. Hahn's book covers have nice artwork.

 

LM:  I notice that your reflections often sound like homilies.  Along with the biblical explanations and context you provide, you usually give a “going forth” message,  and you seem to relish the transformational dimensions of your talks.  Any particular reason for that?

MB:  I’m not sure.  One of my uncles is a priest though.

LM:  Ever think about being a priest yourself?

MB:  I have wanted to be a biblical theologian since I was a kid. 

LM:  That had to have stumped your guidance counselor.  How on earth did you decide that– as a kid no less? 

MB:  When I was a young teenager I was first exposed to a lecture given by Dr. Hahn–it literally changed my life. I was immediately hooked on Scripture. I must have been around 13 or so and I was hooked. I told my dad I wanted to major in Theology, get my Ph.D. and become a professor. I’ve been on that track ever since.     

(more…)

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