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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Still Lives -- Why?

Terri has so far survived 12 days without food and water. Oh they're feeding her morphine and other pain relievers to hide the painfully obvious implications of dying from starvation and dehydration, but if she's survived this long, doesn't that imply that she must have been in excellent health to begin with? You'd expect someone on "artificial life support" as mainstream media report these days to die almost immediately after removing the artificial life support, don't you? Well, Terri's survived 12 days without food and water so far -- maybe she wasn't dying after all. After all, she's survived worse. She's survived 2 previous starvation attempts by court order. She's survived despite claims that her brain's been damaged beyond repair 15 years ago. She's survived an uninvestigated attempt at insulin overdose -- recorded in a police complaint and affidavit by the registered nurse who discovered the insulin vial, used syringe and Terri's near-hypoglycemic state one day. She's survived the original head injuries of a blow on her head or being dropped on her head WHILE in the first 28 days of her hospitalization in 1990. Boy she's pretty tough, isn't she? Oh and she's survived despite having had no therapy since 1993 as per the orders of Michael Schiavo, her husband. To have survived for so long despite all the odds, I wonder how long it will be before this thought catches up with people: maybe she wasn't dying after all. And if she's not dying, apart from wondering why she was in hospice for several years, perhaps they'll also ask what we've been asking from the very beginning: why did her husband deny her therapy since 1993?

A Web of Lies Surround Terri

Consider this web of lies postulated in The Title of Liberty blog that surrounds the Terri right to live (hey, isn't that something enshrined in the United States constitution?) case. You decide.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Whittemore rules against saving Terri again

Federal Judge Whittemore denies the Schindlers' petition for a second time. You would think that he'd be prudent, what with new evidence coming up which Governor Bush considers to require serious reconsideration of the whole case. I don't know if the democrats or the pro-death-to-Terri crowd are just so engrossed with opposing anything that is supported by US President Bush. I know that lots of folks from that crowd have been raving about the federal bill at the 11th hour for Terri -- citing political maneuverings by the GOP. But in ignoring the Schindler's pleas for their daughter Terri, and by ignoring the serious issues raised by those pleas, they have shown themselves to be even worse. Their ranting and raving IS political maneuvering, but it's also kneejerk reaction, so in fact they're just reacting. I once postulated at another blog a simple theory about why this whole thing is happening. The furor over Terri's execution by starvation and dehydration is deliberate. The rhetoric about its painlessness is part of the plan. What plan? The whole thing is designed to raise the specter of a painful and lingering death for the disabled. The result is a wide swing in sympathy for euthanasia. If they succeed in killing Terri this way, they may also pave the way for making America the largest nation where euthanasia is practiced legally. From there they can start exporting that across other countries, perhaps through the United Nations. They will probably use the same tactics as with population control: First, they make the case, through sensationalization of the population problem, that birth rates must be controlled. Next, they aggressively market population control programs with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars -- that includes providing the supply of artificial contraceptives, on top of providing suppliers to SELL additional contraceptives, of course. In the case of euthanasia, they're already making the case, one western country after the other, that there's a demographic problem of not enough labor and tax revenues to support an aging population. They're already marketing euthanasia in those same countries, and what a coincidence, it would seem to alleviate the burden on governments for the care of an aging population. I shudder at the thought of these as I write these words, but God help me, they actually make sense. God have mercy on us.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Terri's Murder: 6th Day

The 6th Day of Terri's starvation and dehydration is ending. Judges are ruling against her left and right. The federal judges are being obtuse about what should be De Novo cases. When US President George Bush signed that law for Terri, the case was supposed to just that: De Novo, brand new, a new case, so why are the Federal Judges citing Florida court rulings at all? In the meantime, there are these interesting videos of Terri provided by LifeSite News. Please take a look and see for yourselves. In the meantime, the world is shamefully shrugging its shoulders, thanks to the biased slant in mainstream media, whose reports still refer to Terri as being in PVS when that is being challenged with sworn affidavits by doctors and nurses who have personally worked with Terri. Those reports are still focusing on the political maneuvering between the Republicans and the Democrats in the US, despite the fact that this is also about attempted homicide and medicare fraud that is apparently being covered up. Those reports never touch on the fact that Terri's so-called preference to die this way was based on hearsay evidence from her husband, his brother and his brother's wife, and that it is extremely unusual to accept hearsay as clear and convincing evidence in a court of law. They neglect to report that Michael Schiavo's fitness to be a guardian was questioned by another guardian ad litem, Atty. Richard Pearse, appointed in 1998, who recommended to block attempts to kill Terri then, and recommended further the removal of Michael Schiavo as guardian due to conflicts of interest. They neglect to report that Michael himself admitted in his testimony to having conflicts of interest as guardian back then because he would gain financially from her death from her trust funds, worth $700,000 then, and he wants to marry his current girlfriend with whom he has a child -- so Terri's recovery isnt' in his best interests. They mainstream media also ignores the fact that since winning over $1 million in a 1993 malpractice settlement for Terri's rehab, Michael IMMEDIATELY disallowed rehab and added a "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" order in her medical charts. Say again? Terri has not had treatment nor rehab since 1993! What's more, Terri has not had a swallowing test to determine if she can be safely fed without feeding tubes. Michael also blocked antibiotic treatment for an infection that Terri had back then which the nursing home staff ignored as it was apparently life-threatening. The mainstream media also neglects to inform readers that there are seventeen (17) affidavits from nurses and doctors stating that Terri can swallow on her own. They also keep referring to Dr. Ronald Cranford, star expert witness of Michael Schiavo, as a foremost PVS expert, without citing the fact that he happens to be one of the most prominent euthanasia campaigners in the united states -- meaning that he is not an objective expert! Did the media fail to mention that Michael's lawyer, George Felos, was apparently chairman of the board for the Woodside hospice when Terri was moved in? Did they report that the hospice corporation was being investigated for $15 million in Medicare funds meant for terminally ill patients of the hospice who weren't terminally ill after all? Was it mentioned that Terri shouldn't even BE in a hospice because she isn't terminally ill? Did they mention that she was brought into the hospice without a signed authorization from her doctor? Oh, and was it in the news that Judge George Greer apparently doesn't have the appropriate paperwork to handle cases from a few months back, so his rulings should actually be invalid? They neglect to report as well that the current legal guardian of Terri is not Michael Schiavo but Judge Greer himself, something which is apparently against the law. My, my, how can they have missed those trivial details?

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Age gets it wrong: why am I surprised?

This piece from The Age shouldn't surprise me, but it does. More the point, I feel like screaming at someone. They got most of the facts straight but for this lapse in homework:
 Terri Schiavo, 41, has been in a vegetative state since a heart attack in 1990 put her in a coma.
Obviously, permanent vegetative state (PVS) is distinct from coma, but someone hasn't been paying attention. The rest of the piece got facts straight -- but they're written to suit a message: comatose Terri Schiavo told her husband that she wanted to die, her husband tries to fulfill her dying wish, but her parents, and Christian nuts in the US (read: Republicans) are butting in where they shouldn't. In short, euthanasia = good, Christian conservatives = bad. One day soon, someone will discover a psychological condition that causes psychosomatic reactions when an orthodox Christian (the so-called Christian conservative) is encountered. Kind of like how Count Dracula reacts in the movies when he gets a crucifix shoved up to his face.

"we didn't know what Terri wanted" -- Michael Schiavo

On the Larry King Show, March 18, 2005, this came out:
 KING: Have you had any contact with the family today? This is a sad day all the way around, Michael. We know of your dispute. M.SCHIAVO: I’ve had no contact with them. KING: No contact at all? M.SCHIAVO: No. KING: Do you understand how they feel? M.SCHIAVO: Yes, I do. But this is not about them, it’s about Terri. And I’ve also said that in court. We didn’t know what Terri wanted but this is what we want…..
Add that admission to what he told his ex-girlfriend Cindy Shook:
 "How the hell should I know we never spoke about this, my God I was only 25 years old. How the hell should I know? We were young. We never spoke of this."
and you just can't still believe that this is a right-to-die issue. Add to that the fact that Michael Schiavo forbade treatment for her wife in 1993 right after winning a malpractice lawsuit awarding Terri $1 million, and only remembered Terri's alleged death wish in 2000 -- 10 years after her collapse in 1990. Read the Empire Journal's piece on this outrageous slip, plus other injustices done to Terri. Read the Hyscience piece on Cindy Shook deposition for which she had to be served a subpoena as she was gravely afraid of what Michael might do to her if she spoke out.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Terri's Murder Begins Anew

Terri's feeding tubes have been removed. Worse, in the last court order from Judge Greer, his language has changed considerably from the initial order to withhold "artificial life support," referring to feeding tubes then, to "feeding tubes", to "nutrition and hydration." Yep, that includes feeding her from a spoon. The judge just wants her starved even if she can swallow on her own -- something that has never been diagnosed properly by a simple swallowing test, by the way. Just in case you're one of those who still think of Terri as being in a vegetative state, here's comprehensive report on two glaring facts:
  • Terri has never been given the requisite MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) because her legal guardian, her husband, consistently forbade it, and
  • the diagnosis for permanent vegetative state (PVS) that the court recognizes was one given by perhaps the most prominent euthanasia advocate whose published opinions include withholding even natural nutrition and hydration (spoon and cup) from Alzheimer patients
So if you think you know enough to say that Terri is in PVS, THINK AGAIN. And just in case you think this is a clear right-to-die issue, read this report about why this is about millions of dollars in an on-going practice of judges and court-appointed legal guardians milking their wards for all their worth. Terri, her brother, her sister and her parents need our prayers. If you're in the US, you can help even more by going on the phone to talk to your House representatives and senators. Why is there this rush to kill Terri? Why can't they wait for Congress to investigate? You'd think that such an investigation would be good for everyone, to get things straight once and for all. So why are Michael Schaivo, George Felos and George Greer in such a hurry? What have they got to lose in waiting?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Terri's Fight: Congress Offers Hope

From Reuters comes this report:
 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers said on Friday they plan to issue a congressional subpoena to keep alive Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the heart of a heated debate over the right to die. "Later this morning, we will issue a subpoena, which will require hospice administrators and attending physicians to preserve nutrition and hydration for Terri Schiavo to allow Congress to fully understand the procedures and practices that are currently keeping her alive," three Republican leaders said in a statement.
Let us pray for this hope to be a fulfillment of our ultimate hope in saving Terri from starvation. Read the full report here. Thanks to CatholiCity for the link.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri's Fight: the Eleventh Hour Comes

Terri is running out of time. Friday March 18, 2005 is when Terri's feeding tubes are to be removed by court order. She is not dying, she is not in a coma. They claim that she is in a persistent vegetative state without having undergone in-depth tests. She is awake and aware -- her videos show this clearly. There are many testimonies from doctors, nurses and caretakers that she can swallow unaided and that she can speak a little. Doctors also believe that she can be taught to speak better. But for 15 years, no treatment for her has ever been allowed by her husband. On this day, they will simply stop giving her food and water. They will starve her to death. Why? Because her husband claims that this is what she would have wanted, without any written proof -- and the courts believe him. There are serious testimonies and evidence that she was a physically abused spouse, and that her present injuries were possibly caused by strangulation and an attempt at insulin overdose. The courts consistenty threw out the evidence and the witness statements. Her husband remains her legal guardian. The judge has conflicts of interest, having ties with the hospice she's in. Her husband's lawyer was the chairman of the board for that hospice when they moved her in. Her husband allegedly set up a fake insurance company -- perhaps to profit from her death? He's also supposed to inherit what remains of a $1 million award from a malpractice lawsuit years ago. He lives with someone else, and they have kids. He remains her legal guardian. Terri's parents have repeatedly begged her husband and the courts to give them custody. They were offering to take none of her money, giving them instead to her husband. They just want to save her life. Her husband remains her legal guardian. Several witnesses, under oath, paint a picture of her husband as a man with a terrible temper. He's supposedly attacked her brother, with his hand around her brother's neck, and her sister. A deposition reports that he's stalked another girlfriend, one he had after Terri's hospitalization, one who had to be forced by the courts to give testimony, for fear from this man. A state expert witness, a psychiatrist, has attested that this man fits the profile of an abusive spouse. The courts have thrown out these testimonies, and he remains Terri's legal guardian. Time is running out. Please keep Terri in your prayers. Follow the progress of Terri's fight at BlogsforTerri

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

"from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.."

Blogodoxy has an interesting post about a thawing in Protestant circles in the frosty view of Marian devotion. This is about a cover story in Time Magazine. I remember this article about the Blessed Mother from a Protestant who noticed the disparity between Scriptures and Protestant practice. Will Protestants finally stop attacking the Catholic and Easter Orthodox views of Mary? Maybe not entirely, but one can hope that we'll have more charitable dialogue, and we can carry on from there.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I Never Thought of Death That Way

In The Last Victorious Sign, Dr. D'Ambrosio offers an insight I'd never thought of before: Christ's attitude towards death. Up until this article, I thought that the Christian view of death was to consider it harmless, perhaps even benign as it is our entry to the afterlife. This artlce says that Christ sees death as an enemy, an aberration of God's plan for man, and he's got a very good point.

Those Kids-Wise Folks at Our Lady of the Holy Souls in Little Rock, AR

It worked! This was the one of the few truly relaxed and almost peaceful Sunday Masses I've attended with my kids. Except for two short episodes when Francis and Patrick were unable to control their mischief, there was actually a semblance of peace in our pew. Hats off to the people who put up the Children's Fun Page at the website of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. The children's page had coloring sheets of angels, Noah's ark, scenes from the Mass from St. Jude's Coloring Book, and other drawings. I printed them out while we were having breakfast and brought them along with crayons and coloring pencils. That kept my kids preoccupied through 70% of the Mass. Tonight I will pray also for Fr. Paddy, our parish priest, who assured me last Monday that they (I assume he meant himself and the other regular priest, Fr. Michael) didn't mind our kids' antics. Usually, those antics make me lose it, particularly those times when Francis thinks it's cute for him to climb up the steps to the altar and sit there, smiling at everyone and daring us to go after him. Oddly enough, he did it again this morning but I was somehow relaxed about that -- until he sat on top of the power plugs for the music equipment. Visions of a fried Francis flashed in my mind for a few seconds until my wife went to get him. Otherwise, I was quite relaxed. I will also pray tonight for the couple behind us who kept smiling, winking and talking to the kids, even handing them a candy each towards the end of the Mass. (This proud parent has to point out that all three boys managed to wait for the end of the Mass before eating their candies!) There was also this woman who came up to us on our way out to tell us that the kids were very well-behaved. I love my parish! My blood pressure typically shoots up to near-stroke levels when the kids are naughty but maybe that's just me. For example, Francis' altar antics this morning were just as bad as in other days. In fact, he was already pulling himself up to the priest's chair before my wife caught him, but it was strange that I didn't flare up. Perhaps it's not necessarily just about my kids' naughty antics at Mass, but more about my tendency to overreact and lose it. I read someplace that something like that happens in prayer, where the positive change does not just (and sometimes not at all) happen to the conditions I prayed about, e.g., a problem at work, but it is sometimes or mostly ME that changes. Where lies the greater evil anyway: my kids' mischief in general or my temper? That's a no-brainer, and I'm just glad that he's chipping away at my temper -- I'd give the whole lot away if I could! My temper, not my kids. :P

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Terri's Fight: Judge's Decision

This can't be right. Guardian Unlimited has this report about someone's offer to pay $1 million to Michael Schiavo if he would desist from ending his wife's life by starvation. This bit here jumped out at me:
 Even if Michael Schiavo had taken the money, Felos said, there is still a court order requiring removal of the tube next Friday. A judge ordered that the feedings be stopped after finding ``clear and convincing'' evidence she would not want to be kept alive in her current state.
That's George Felos, counsel for Michael Schiavo. Come again? Now the judge can go overriding the authority of the legal guardian, were he inclined to change his mind?

$1 Million Not Enough to Let Terri Live

Assuming that this report is true, about a man's offer to pay Michael Schiavo $1 Million to give up his plans to end Terri's life, then it appears that her death is worth more than that sum, as he apparently rejected the offer. Continue following the progress of Terri's fight at BlogsforTerri.

Choosing Badly

This afternoon, I encountered a difficulty with a choice I gave 3-year-old Patrick. He was misbehaving and I issued a threat: to withhold his bedtime story tonight. His answer: "ok." I repeated and clarified the ultimatum three times, but he wouldn't budge. He regretted that choice at bedtime, but it was still an interesting quandary. How does our Heavenly Father deal with this? It is so easy to see rebellion in all walks of life, even among people with vows to be faithful. I'm at the wrong generation, probably, to understand how many of my fellow Catholics reacted to Humane Vitae. When Pope Paul IV came out with it and decided against contraception, amidst the new sexually liberated generation of Catholics in the 60's, a tumultous response was dissent. Despite the sobering predictions of the successor of St. Peter, people for the most part opted to ignore the warnings of marital infidelity, lowering of moral standards, the exploitation of women, abuse by government authorities, and reducing the dignity of human life. As with myself in today's encounter with Patrick's bad choice, Pope Paul IV must have been incredulous. It's been a generation and a bit since then, and all of those consequences foreseen have come to pass, and worse. Pope Paul IV is no longer here to say so, but I can easily imagine him saying now, however: this could have been prevented. Back to this new development with Patrick, I'm gonna have to try a something different next time.

Terri Schiavo: Victim of a Conspiracy?

Developments on Terri's fight for life as related at BlogsForTerri are getting stranger by the day. This post relates that Terri finds herself in a hospice now because she was secretly relocated there in March 2000 "without court order and without notifying her parents." George Felos, counsel for Terri's husband Michael, just happens to be chairman of the board of directors in that hospice! Oh, and it so happens that the US federal government was at that time trying to recover nearly $15 million from the corporation behind the hospice for Medicare payments that shouldn't have been made to them. How come? Because the payments were for patients that were claimed to be terminally ill but in fact were not. Further to these oddities, the medical order to place Terri in hospice was fraudulent, it wasn't signed by Terri's attending physician and there hasn't been any medical tests conducted that should be the first recourse to determine the need for hospice care or lack thereof. Read the full story on the Empire Journal website. It just gets more outrageous as the days go by.

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Challenge on Homosexuality

Stephen Bennett sends out this call for Catholics to confront homosexuality and speak out in faithful love for the truth and for those who embrace homosexuality. Stephen used to live in that homosexual "lifestyle" himself, so his voice carries a weight that I can't duplicate. My own take on openly gay people have been somewhat simple: the evidence suggests that the life of an openly homosexual man or woman leads to so much heartache and misery that it cannot be a viable lifestyle choice. Such individuals bear a heavy cross. I wouldn't presume to know how heavy the cross of their homosexuality is. I've always harbored no small anger about certain lies perpetuated about homosexuality that have led the youth astray, lies that have limited their choices. For example, the born gay argument is overused and has been disproven time and again. How awful to think about how many individuals have embraced the homosexual lifestyle because the born gay argument convinced them that there is no choice but to be gay. Likewise, those lies about the happiness that is as available to children raised by gay parents as to children raised with a father and a mother. This is performing social experiments with children! Both overused arguments have persisted for years despite questionable logic, questionable research and despite solid scientific evidence to the contrary. I'd have to agree with Mr. Bennett here and say that it is time for plain speaking.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Beyond Terri's Fight

There's this amazing story about a woman and her story about how her brother lives today because of Terri's story. The short of it is that doctors at a teaching hospital recommended giving up on her brother and she almost fell for it, but following Terri's story on the news gave her renewed resolve to keep him alive. Three months later, he's well enough to go home. He's not off medication, but he's got a fairly normal life, i.e., he can go shopping. It's amazing because it took anger, as a reaction to Terri's story, to firm up her resolve to keep her brother alive. This anger was crucial: she relates: "If I hadn't been seething for weeks over the attempted murder of Terry Schiavo, my brother would now be ashes." That's a short hop between life and death, eh? The woman also makes this excellent case for going slow to give up on someone's life: "We can always kill him later; we can't resurrect him." So why all the rush to end lives?

Is Canada Becoming a Totalitarian State?

Catholic author Michael O'Brien observes that Canada shows signs of growing Totalitarianism. Scary stuff because Canada isn't the only case of such trends.

Post(Anti?)-Christian Political Correctness

The Daily Telegraph reports how "Before Christ" (BC) was replaced with "Before Common Era" (BCE) from a recent English Language and Literacy Assessment (ELLA) test in the State of New South Wales, Australia. The literacy test history books with the ammended dates offered footnotes to explain what BCE meant. They'd have to because, apparently, the term is only used "in international scientific, academic and museum contexts."

Overpopulated? Not in Japan!

There's this LifeSite report that Japan is facing a population crisis: it's starting to go down and their economy is threatened. Not enough people means not enough tax revenues and not enough manpower to keep their industries and commerce going. According to this Washington Post report (2005-03-03), more than 2,000 schools have closed and 63,000 teachers have lost their jobs over the last 10 years, and they expect to subsequently close 300 schools each year. Businesses are also affected, with 90 theme parks for children closing so far. What the story doesn't say is why Japan's replacement birth rate is only at 1.3. They don't have a one-child (per family) policy like China does. So what gives?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Million Dollars Off the Mark

The 'Not So Quiet' Catholic Corner has something to say about "Million Dollar Baby." This movie draws strong emotions particularly among Catholics since the lead actor, Clint Eastwood, plays the role of a devout Catholic who euthanizes his severely injured trainee boxer in the end. The post reacts to this article by Prof. William Wyatt, which appeared in Providence Journal, that compares the trainee boxer to a horse that should be put down for mercy's sake after becoming severely handicapped. Catholic Apologetics of America also posted a very interesting comparison of how the promotion of euthanasia today parallels that which came about from the 1920s in Nazi Germany. Creepy to think about that.

Sarah Hart Music!

I sampled some Sarah Hart music via her site and I liked what I heard. I'm seriously thinking of buying two CDs. Great background story, too!

The Eucharist and Comedy

There was a rousing good discussion over at Amy's blog concerning this post about an episode of the NBC sitcom "Committed." The plot revolved around two non-Catholics receiving Holy Communion by mistake. Some people thought the point was about respecting other people's beliefs, given how the characters try so hard to give back the Host so as not to commit sacrilege. Mishaps come one after the other, which I would normally consider funny but for the poor choice of the Host as the prop. The Host gets mixed up with crackers. One of those crackers drops into the toilet and the characters had hilarious, horrified reactions to that -- they thought it was the Host. The toilet gets flushed and the cracker bounces back up with the characters exclaiming that it was a miracle. I'm not comfortable with the idea of the Host figuring in on that sort of comedy. As the Anchoress says, the Holy Eucharist is not sitcom fodder. The real presence of Christ and all that. I think there are better ways to get the message of respecting other people's beliefs without using the Eucharist as the prop. In fact, if that was the point that the episode meant to make, it's ironic that the episode cheapened the Eucharist and offended Catholic sensibilities. I don't have too much trouble with Dante's Divine Comedy, with serious points made at the expense of clergy and the afterlife, among other things. Perhaps today's sitcoms simply aren't cut from the same cloth. I know that Dante Alighieri's literature, even if graphic and brutal, were not trivial commentaries. I can't say the same thing about many sitcoms of the 21st century. Perhaps it's because they're mostly about ratings, not art. Perhaps because they trivialize their subjects, making light of them for the sake of making light of them. Perhaps because they really don't care whom they offend. I believe Dante Alighieri seriously cared whom he offended, because he seriously cared about his message, and he had to offend the right people with the right message. I think the "Committed" episode cited earlier has only one message: lighten up. That's a terrible way to show respect for someone's beliefs.

Thousands prepare to join the Catholic Church this Easter

Found this story hiding in this post from the Anchoress: The Catholic News Service reports in the link above that tens of thousands in the United States are preparing to join the Catholic Church this Easter. Accordingly, about 150,000 joined last year. Men, women, young, old, very old -- they come from all walks of life and from all ages. The harvest is rich! Lord, send more workers!

Needing to be Catholic

The Anchoress posts a wonderful treatise on a question she was posed: do Catholics need to be Catholic? I can relate to the question because I have many friends who are not Catholic but I believe would be welcomed by Christ when they stand before him, counted among his flock. Their Christ-likeness challenge me with the same question posed to me: do I need to be Catholic? The eloquent answers given by the Anchoress express my own affirmative answer: yes I do. The Anchoress is right, God down the ages does not change, and is not really affected about our Catholicism, but I need to be Catholic because of what being Catholic offers to me: sacred traditions of the Apostles and the Church Fathers that guide us, the sacraments that nourish us with life, and the Word of God that teaches us. These all speak of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I wouldn't dream of giving up the Holy Rosary that helps me relive important mysteries of the gospel and the life of Christ. Nor would I want an empty cross that doesn't have a Christ on it to remind me of the price for our redemption and that the suffering I occasionally undergo can be a holy suffering. Most of all, I could never give up the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass, that nourishes me with the bread of life, the body of Christ. Ultimately, being Catholic is exactly how I answer Christ's all-important question: who do you say I am? He is the Christ, the son of the living God, and I follow him as best I can by being Catholic. The day I (personally) cease to be Catholic is the day I stop following him. I'm not implying that non-Catholics aren't Christians, but personally, I'm following Christ by being Catholic.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Abstinence war zone

Here's the article, by Brian Harradine, and here's the warzone. Which side gets angry and loud? The anti-abstinence camp, of course! Why? I'm not really sure. I think it's mostly based on contempt for anything that smells of faith or religion. How much contempt? Try these:
 "If your faith's most celebrated woman never actually gets laid... steer clear about comments on sex education!"
 "We have to be careful because many religions in the past have used sexual abstinence as a tool of power over people. The result was institutionalised paedophilia and many with screwed up sexuality."
Don't ask me where the contempt comes from. I really don't know. One of the commentators referred to a Washington Post article, "Uganda's AIDS Decline Attributed to Deaths" [1]. It cites "findings" that contradict the success stories of the Ugandan ABC program (Abstinence, Being faithful to your spouse, and Condoms only in high risk situations). This program was previously the centeriece for abstinence as a viable tactic against AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. However, the so-called "findings" in the Washington Post article have yet to be scrutinized [1], have yet to be published [1], and are based on a study that is not yet over [2]. On the other hand, I found this Citizen Magazine article [3] that cites a Harvard report, entitled "What Happened in Uganda?" [4], by Dr. Edward C. Green et al. This report, submitted to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), appears to be the primary basis for lauding abstinence tactics. However, the report was allegedly shelved as soon as it was submitted. The Citizen report also alleges possible political maneuvers to publicize instead a report by Dr. Douglas Kirby of ETR Associates. According to Citizen, Dr. Kirby's report instead promotes condom use and claims that there is no evidence to support abstinence. I didn't find any ETR publication listed in their website pertaining to AIDS in Africa. There are a number of publications by Dr. Green available online. Looking at "What Happened in Uganda?" [4], it looks to me from reading just page 2 that the rate of new HIV infection (seroincidence) "fell from 7.6 per thousand per year in 1990 to 3.2 per thou-sand per year by 1998." The Washington Post article cites mortality as the cause for the drop in HIV infections in Uganda, but Dr. Green's report also maintains that "Uganda’s falling HIV prevalence is likely not due merely to measurement bias or a “natural die-off syndrome,” but rather mainly to a number of behavioral changes that have been identified in several surveys and qualitative studies." Dr. Green's report also makes the following conclusions:
  • Behavior change communication (BCC) reached both general populations and key target groups.
  • "Condom social marketing has played a key but evidently not the major role."
  • "The most important determinant of the reduction in HIV incidence in Uganda appears to be a decrease in multiple sexual partnerships and networks."
  • "the experience there and in other countries that have achieved some success suggests that a comprehensive behavior change-based strategy, ideally involving high level political commitment and a diverse spectrum of community-based participation, may be the most effective prevention approach."
Those are serious published findings that can't be ignored. Reference:
  1. Uganda's AIDS Decline Attributed to Deaths, David Brown, Washington Post, February 24, 2005, Page A02.
  2. STD Control and AIDS Prevention in Uganda, Key Researchers: Maria Wawer and Lynn Paxton, The Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Columbia University, Mailman School of Health.
  3. Special Investigation: Burying the Truth, Candi Cushman, Citizen Magazine.
  4. Green, E.C., V. Nantulya, R. Stoneburner, J. Stover, (Hogle, J. editor), What Hapened in Uganda? Declining HIV Prevalence, Behavior Change and the National Response. USAID/Washington and The Synergy Project, TvT Associates, Washington, D.C. September 2002.

IVF Issues

I've always accepted that the Catholic Church had good reasons for objecting to IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) procedures for couples having trouble conceiving. This is the first time that I've found out why:
 .. there is a massive loss of life associated with the procedures since for every child born through the procedure some 10-25 embryonic children are either killed or frozen indefinitely. The bishops noted that if 15,000 children were born through the procedure in Croatia, "then we should seriously think about the fate of 285,000 brothers and sisters who died, killed or frozen."
That's from the Catholic Bishops of Croatia in a new brochure aimed at educating the faithful about IVF. I personally know someone who was in this situation and actually did try IVF at least twice in six years. The procedures were expensive and they didn't work. Finally she and her husband moved overseas and conceived within a year. I also know another couple that didn't use IVF but also moved overseas after a few fruitless years back home. They also conceived within a year of moving overseas. I don't know if the overseas move was at the point when they resigned themselves to God's providence, but it sure worked. Now I'm feeling guilty that I didn't get to tell that someone who went for IVF procedures about what it is wrong. This is one of those cases where, yes, I didn't know the issues myself, but, no, I'm not invinsibly ignorant and therefore I'm not faultless. Not in this day and age of the Internet where most if not all relevant Church documents in just about everything is freely accessible. Well, I didn't find out about the IVF after they had the procedures, but I'm not comfortable saying that this lets me off the hook. Now I know, and I'll continue to educate myself. In case another couple I know tries IVF and I find out about it beforehand, I'll be ready.

A Samaritan Evangelist

Dr. D'Ambrosio puts it so well and he has answered a question that is close to my heart: should I be an evangelist? We're all called to preach the gospel by our deeds, but on top of that, I've always felt the urge to speak and to write about my faith, but always held back. My excuses were plenty, and, I thought, reasonable: I don't have formal training in theology; I am a sinner; I can't claim that I properly manage my own household; I have a fulltime job that has nothing to do with the gospel; and the list goes on. Dr. D'Ambrosio points to the Samaritan in last Sunday's gospel reading as an example: here was a Samaritan, typically shunned by Jews, and she was untrained, of course. Having had five husbands, and living with a man that wasn't her husband, she was hardly one's image of a saintly, perhaps celibate evangelist. That is not to say that the gospel will not challenge her lifestyle: it will. She accepted the gospel, however, rather than run away from it. She let wonder and hope take hold, and she shared them with her neighbors. Was she effective? You bet she was. (Note: I am not implying that the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42 was necessarily a sinner. Was she five times widowed perhaps, and now she is betrothed but not yet married? I'm not expert enough to say for certain. In any case, my point is that she was an untrained and as yet unbaptized Samaritan, but that doesn't keep her from sharing even a newfound, unexplored faith.)