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Friday, July 29, 2005

On Maria Korp: Spin Doctors

These paragraphs tell a tale of spin:
 The president of Right to Life Australia says she accepts that Maria Korp is a dying woman who is unlikely to ever regain consciousness. But Margaret Tighe describes this week's controversial decision by Victoria's Public Advocate, to stop artificially feeding Mrs Korp, as a gross abuse of human rights. Mrs Tighe, a pro-life campaigner since 1968, says the Melbourne mother of two should be cared for indefinitely in a nursing home irrespective of her deteriorating condition. The doctors' decision on Wednesday to halt artificial feeding would force nature's hand, she says. "I think it is a gross abuse of human rights,'' Mrs Tighe, 73, said today. "Her feeding tube has been removed and she will die of starvation and dehydration.
What does the first paragraph convey? By putting the statement that Mrs. Korp is dying together with the statement that she is unlikely to ever regain consciousness, the article leads readers to the conclusion that even Mrs. Tighe acknowledges that Mrs. Korp was dying and would no longer regain consciousness -- regardless of the ongoing dehydration and starvation. The article conveys the message that Mrs. Tighe is fighting to feed a terminally ill woman. But that's not what Mrs. Tighe said. What she said is that Mrs. Korp is dying now from dehydration and starvation. Prior to the withholding of feeding since Wednesday, Mrs. Korp was not dying. Probably the most damning clue to that came to me just now: Mr. Julian Gardner, who decided on terminating Mrs. Korp's life by dehydration and starvation, has never been quoted on a prognosis as to how long it will be before Mrs. Korp dies of her injuries. He only mentions a timeframe in the context of her dehydration and starvation:
 "ALISON CALDWELL: Now, her doctor has said previously that she could die within three weeks if she doesn't have food and water. Is that your understanding? JULIAN GARDNER: The medical advice is that it's difficult to be precise, but that it may be one to two weeks."
Oh sure, Mrs. Korp is dying now, but that's from dehydration and starvation. If they had kept her nourished with food and water, she would remain alive, probably indefinitely. I wish someone would ask him point blank: how long does Mrs. Korp have to live if she were to continue being fed and given water? No reporter has apparently thought to do so, and I have a cynical view as to why not.

Now He Says It, But..

The Australian reports that Mr. Julian Gardner, legal guardian of Maria Korp, has referred to her "injuries that are preventing her body from absorbing the food and using it in the way that Terri Schiavo's body could to sustain her." There. He has said it. What they're doing, withholding food and water through the feeding tube, would not be justifiable otherwise. The Archbishop of Melbourne had clarified the position of the Church that food and water are not to be withheld unless it is no longer being absorbed, especially in terminal illnesses. And yet how can Mr. Gardner have also said that feeding Mrs. Korp prolongs her dying if what he now says is true to begin with? For food to actually prolong one's life, it has to have been absorbed and done some benefit, right?

Waiting for What Might Be

In an article I'd recently read, a man talks about his elderly mother and how they agreed that she would be euthanized at some stage. His mother had said that she wished she had total control over when she would go, as at a flick of a button, so that she wouldn't have to worry about what might be. It is the uncertainty of death that causes mental anguish towards the end. Imagine how it must be if everyone goest through life, fulfilled and happy, healthy and actually arriving safely at a ripe old age just prior to dying of natural causes. There are two schools of thought I'd like to point out about death: it is like an old friend that one meets in the end, or it is an enemy that one struggles against until the end. The first concept suffers from one problem: if death is a friend, then there is no tragedy in dying, regardless of circumstances. Then you might find untimely deaths for those who have lost the will to live for whatever reason, without making any attempt at regaining the will to live instead. In the second perspective of death as an enemy, the problem lies in anxiety when death is possible or imminent. However, there is an antidote to such an anxiety: the hope of eternal life. Perhaps that is another way to look at our mission to evangelize. Christ has conquered death, which, due to our fallen nature, we are bound to meet at the end of our days. On the other hand, those who have already died to that fallen nature in baptism need no longer fear the end of our mortal days because there is no second death. Not the same death as we would have met anyway because our lot is the resurrection of the saints. Death remains our enemy but we already know that we are not victims of an uncertain fate after death because Christ has conquered it for us. So Christ bringing the certain hope of the resurrection is the antidote to the anxiety of meeting death as an enemy. We need to bring this hope to the elderly and the dying because that alone will calm their fears. Instead of rushing towards death in capitulation, they will walk calmly and leisurely, living their life to the fullest, knowing that when they actually have to meet death, they can stare it down and walk past it towards the light of eternity in Heaven.

When Is It Ethical to Withhold Food and Water?

Reading through a Herald Sun report on the final visit by Joe Korp to wife Maria Korp, I came across this:
 ""This is somebody who is not being sustained by the feeding," he said. "Her body is no longer able to process it (and) her injuries are so horrific that they are making it impossible for her to live even with this treatment." Mrs Korp's body was wasting away and her muscles were constricted, Mr Gardner said. "
This is only the second time that I've come across a report that Mrs. Korp no longer benefits from food and water. Earlier, the Archbishop of Melbourne had clarified:
  "The Catholic position is that the person retains a right to nutrition and hydration until the body rejects it, especially in cases of terminal illness."
If such a condition is indeed satisfied such that Mrs. Korp's body is alreayd rejecting food and water, then perhaps the decision reached was justified. I still have this nagging question though: so how come Mr. Julian Garner himself, the public advocate who decided for withholding food and water starting Wednesday, has never mentioned that alleged fact about Mrs. Korp's deteriorating condition? I guess I'll never know. I don't need to know, but I do pray that everything that will happen concerning Mrs. Korp will be in accordance with the holy and perfect will of God. May the almighty Lord grant us all a quiet night and a perfect end. Amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

That Slippery Slope of Euthanasia

Hyscience blogs about a specific case in "Right-to-life appeal verdict due." This is a very peculiar case of both dizzying and outrageous proportions. Essentially, Mr. Leslile Burke, 45, secured a court ruling in 2004 that requires doctors to keep Mr. Burke fed with food and drink even when he can no longer speak. "Mr Burke has cerebellar ataxia - an umbrella term for nervous system disorders that cause a lack of co-ordination, but do not affect mental faculties." On the other hand, the General Medical Council is appealing the ruling because they see a conflict looming in the future: at some point, they will believe that it is in the patient's best interest to be euthanized, since his quality of life falls below some standard. Basically what they're saying is that the ruling pits THEIR expert opinion against the prefernce expressed in advance by Mr. Burke. Outrageously, the GMC has no problem asserting that they have a greater say on Mr. Burke's continued existence than Mr. Burke himself. Here's another article on that legal battle. Please read all the way through. There's another case at the bottom of that article concerning Dr. Jane Campbell. "When she was in hospital last year doctors twice said that they assumed that she would not want to be resuscitated should the need arise. Literally afraid for her life, she kept herself awake for 48 hours." Hmm... The laws of Florida, Victoria and the UK now consider artificially administered food and water through a feeding tube as artificial life support which can be withheld for various reasons. I'm not sure which states say waht, but it can be withheld from the dying, so as to hasten their death, or from those who are not dying but are living a quality of life that doctors find unacceptable. I am definitely having second toughts about growing old in Victoria at this point. Serious second thoughts. Wait a minute -- Mr. Burke is only 45!

Archdiocese of Melbourne on Maria Korp

I'm very glad to read a strong objection from the Archdiocese of Melbourne in the papers today. There was also this strong opposition from the Archdiocese, the Uniting Church and the Presbyterian Church in Melbourne. I was taken aback by the reported reactions from Fr. Norman Ford of the Caroline Chisholm Centre for Health Ethics and from Fr. Stan Lim of Corpus Christi College. I think Fr. Stan's compassion, and that of Alan Nichols of the Anglican Church, is going the wrong way in believing that it is best to hasten the death of the dying by withholding food and water. They might be excused for thinking that Mrs. Korp is dying -- no one has said so either way. I hope they're absolutely sure about this. On the other hand, if you accept the premise that Mrs. Korp is not conscious, then she is not in pain, and there is no pain to prolong. Some comatose people actually do recover and she's only been in a coma for five months. I also have to tell myself that Fr. Norman is not wrong if he truly believes that Mrs. Korp was no longer able to absorb nutrition. Yet I can't help doubting that premise since this is the first report I've seen about that. Nor has there been any explicit statement from Mr. Gardner that Mrs. Korp was dying BEFORE they stopped feeding her. I guess my main concern is how such premises came up when there have been no explicit statements about them. What if everyone is working on the wrong premise?

Steve Guest Commits Suicide, The Age Asks..

Steve Guest, who inspired radio listeners two weeks ago with an impassioned plea for his right to die, has taken his own life. What are your experiences with people facing terminal illnesses? Should we have a right to die in Australia? My response, should it ever be published, was this: First off, let's be clear that this is not about Maria Korp. She has not expressed any wishes to die in such a situation. That needs to be clarified because Mr. Guest's suicide happens at the heels of Mrs. Korp's deathwatch. As for the right to die, theological objections to euthanasia wouldn't make sense to someone who is an atheist. From a Catholic perspective at least, it is based on an understanding that our lives are not completely ours but God's. To those who do believe in God, a "right to die" can also be rationalized, opposed to orthodoxy as they might be. This is not a theological forum so a theological discussion here would not be productive. Judging from the first few posts already here, theological arguments are not welcome anyway. What about non-theological grounds to oppose the right to die? My non-theological concern with such a right is that it is a slippery slope. Once you grant that people may have a right to die as they see fit, you slip down to questions of which people should exercise such a right. If you grant that this belongs to those in pain, you slip down to questions of what sort of pain justifies ending one's life. Mr. Guest was obviously in great physical pain, but you would also find people who are physically healthy but are in great emotional pain. To them, their pain can be worse than physical pain, regardless of their age or actual physical health. Many such people commit suicide, many of whom are young, and we can infer that they have claimed the right to die as they saw fit. Should any person in similar painful situations exercise the same right? The other slippery slope is the considerable room for abuse. In the Terri Schiavo case, the possibility of such an abuse can never be entirely dismissed. Terri had left nothing tangible to express her preferences to end her life if she were debilitated as she was. All they had was the testimony of her husband, who did not bring it up until years after her injury. That recollection also occured only after they won a malpractice lawsuit which he was set to inherit upon her death. His hearsay was corroborated by his own brother, but this was not brought up until a few more years after the husband's own recollection. This hearsay was contradicted by one of the husband's ex-girlfriends in an affidavit which was set aside by the judge for some reason. The same affidavit claims that Terri's husband stalked her (the ex-girlfriend). A court-appointed guardian ad litem subsequently recommended the removal of Terri's husband as legal guardian because there were grave conflicts of interest involved, including the inheritance due to him upon Terri's death and the fact that the husband was already living with another woman with whom he had children. Unfortunately his recommendation was set aside. This whole scenario goes on and would read like the plot for a crime/drama TV series episode, but everything I've mentioned so far is factual. FACTUAL. I'll grant that the judge did not see sufficient reason to doubt the husband's credibility and integrity, but you'll have to grant that there is reason to doubt them anyway. The judge's ruling did not involve a jury, after all, and there was no "beyond reasonable doubt" requirement in his rulings. The most damning aspect of Terri's case is that therapy was denied Terri in most of those years after her injury, despite recommendations from therapists. It's all very well for people to say that they have a right to die if they're terminally ill and in pain. But what if treatment is possible but was maliciously denied? People do get away with such things and it is conceivable that such perversities would extend to right to die cases. The proposal to enshrine the right to die in our laws is not as simple as people make them out to be. Rob the original up there (one of the first posters) claims that anyone who has lived through the horrors of a dying loved one would agree with his sentiments. I can disprove that because I went through that when my mother died of lung cancer. Yes, it was a painful way to die but my mother did not choose to end her life preemptively, nor did any of her children, including me. The weeks prior to her death, going through chemo-therapy, was painful for her and for us. I was there when she breathed her last. I was using a hand respirator to resuscitate her. I saw her tears as she left us. Strange but I did not see any lack of dignity in my mother's death. Perhaps when people refer to "dying with dignity" they refer both to dying without pain and dying without the shame one might feel from any debilitation. Perhaps half of the problem is that we expect life to come and go without pain. The other half is that we do not do enough to assure the debilitated that they are loved and need not feel shame for their pain and debilitation. After all, we all go through that on occasion, from being helpless, hapless infants, to being struck by some serious illness or injured in some accident. Debilitation is not a cause for shame but a cause for resolve to get better or to get by. There was a time when those who strove to get by regardless of pain or handicap were lauded for their courage. Clamoring for a legal right to die with dignity is also saying that handicaps, illness, disability and intense pain are causes for shame and indignity. Yes, it's a personal choice, but when have we ever stopped considering what people around us do and believe? Imagine exercising that right yourself and one day, your children find themselves in a similar situation. Will they not be affected by your choice? Will they not look back at your death with dignity and see shame and indignity in their own situation?

CWN: Sydney Archdiocese to Fund Adult Stem Cell Research

According to this report, Cardinal George Pell is offering $100,000 (AUD). Why does an archdiocese have to shell out this kind of money? Two reasons I can think of: First, funding for such research is minute compared to funding being made available to embryonic stem cell research. Second, because adult stem cells have been successfully used on human subjects 56 cases so far. Yep, they work. On the other hand, what's the score for embryonic stem cells? As far as I'm aware: a big fat zero. So why do they spend so much money and propaganda for embryonic stem cell research? I can offer two possible reasons as well: First, emrbyonic stem cell research attracts more funding for various reasons, e.g., it has novelty and it has wealthy backers. Second, abandoning embryonic stem cell research will be a major blow dealt to the pro-abortion groups who do not consider embryos to be human beings, even as it hands a major victory to the Catholic Church and other groups who believe otherwise. Way to go, Cardinal Pell.

Warning: This catholicnews.org Update is Satire

.. but it brings up certain truths, nonetheless. Read " Man Gets Birthday Wish, Church Ceases to Exist" and try to imagine what sort of world it would be like. Really.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Perspective on the Schism

In No End to Schism, Andrei Zolotov Jr. presents a perspective on the relations between the Vatican and Moscow. The Holy See has decided to grant Cardinal Lubomir Husar the title of metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia. This title has historically belonged to the Orthodox Church. Cardinal Husar is the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church which uses the Eastern liturgy but is in full communion with Rome. This move makes the Greek Catholic Church happy but might make the Russian Orthodox Church unhappy. This leads to questions about how Pope Benedict XVI views the Orthodox Church. Mr. Zolotov goes on to describe a very interesting irony: the ecumenists and liberals in the Roman Catholic Church who "bank on the `spirit of Vatican II'" are the friendliest to the Orthodox Church, but share the least with Orthodox Christianity. That is an irony -- perhaps a painful one, but Mr. Zolotov probably meant the irony considering the other side of the fence: "orthodox Catholics who are closest to the Orthodox Church in their desire to keep strictly to Christian tradition tend to view the Orthodox Church in a traditional Roman Catholic way, or in other words as schismatics who need to be proselytized or reunited with the Holy See." I'm not sure how far I'd take that supposed attitude that tends towards proselytizing the Orthodox. That would put the Orthodox on edge, although I'm not sure how that can actually be prevented. Catholic and Orthodox doctrine are identical in so many ways and both share episcopal succession stretching back to the apostles. On the other hand, I can see how a policy that prefers reunion with the Holy See, as against reunification of East and West might make sense. There is a difference, although I don't mean for the Roman Catholic Church to sit smugly waiting for the Orthodox to "join up." If both sides were to faithfully keep their eyes on their common Lord, there can be no question about what result must be: one Church founded on Peter, the rock, who is first among equals but first, nonetheless. Getting there is going to be rough, and there's no point denying that. But make no mistake: this is God's work, not ours. It will happen, despite our penchant for discord. Darn, I must be one of those orthodox Catholics. Hat tip to Kharaku who posted this at Free Republic.

Clarifications on Maria Korp

A few things to clarify: 1. She was out of intensive care by February 2005. 2. She could breathe unaided by May 2005. These two developments within this year points to recovery, not deterioration as the public advocate, Mr. Gardner, claims. I also note crucial lapses in this report from Seven News and in this report from The Age. Cursory reading of those reports will give you the impression that death is imminent in two weeks or so, although the doctors supposedly give an escape clause of sorts ("it's difficult to be precise"). Actually, both reports failed to clarify that the two-week estimate begins after food and water are withdrawn, based on what Mr. Gardner actually does say in this ABC News interview:
 "ALISON CALDWELL: Now, her doctor has said previously that she could die within three weeks if she doesn't have food and water. Is that your understanding? JULIAN GARDNER: The medical advice is that it's difficult to be precise, but that it may be one to two weeks."
What does that mean? She is not dying. I don't know who was playing word games here but clearly some confusion has been sown concerning this and it should be clarified. Particularly since there was never any mention of what is killing Mrs. Korp. They did not even mention physical brain injuries apart from the lack of oxygen for a prolonged period of time. Nothing like those CT scans of Terri Schiavo showing physical brain tissue damage. No, I'm not really into invading Mrs. Korp's privacy to the point where medical records must be made public. But if she truly is dying, why have they never mentioned any specific deterioration? Especially considering that she got out of intensive care just five months ago and she got out of respirator assitance just two months ago. It also pays to state flat out that Mr. Julian Gardner is wrong in saying that his decision is consistent with Catholic teachings. Dead wrong because food and water do not constitute extra-ordinary or artificial life support, even when given artificially via a feeding tube. I'm also wondering out loud why nobody has noticed that there appears to be no medical finding of brain death. Mr. Gardner never mentioned it in this interview which would have been a good opportunity to say so. Permanent vegetative state (PVS)? Note that:
 "But National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, introduced in December 2003, say patients in a persistent vegetative state -- such as Mrs Korp -- should be monitored for 12 months."
Source: Herald Sun This case is far from easy to dismiss. Update: this Herald Sun report cites a 2003 ruling by "Justice Stuart Morris ruled that artificial feeding of a terminally ill woman was medical treatment that could be legally withdrawn." Same thing that they did in Florida. We must take note of this: such legislation is crucial for pro-euthanasia lobbyists. Opposing legislation must be enacted in states where there is yet no such legislation that classifies food and water, artificially given, as medical treatment or extra-ordinary care.

The Age is Running a Poll on Maria Korp

Such polls are not scientific, but they do affect public perception. Repeatedly voiced opinion have a nasty habit of being perceived, for no other reason than prominence, as factual. Within the coming weeks, this poll will be bandied about as representative. But what if one camp is simply more participative than others? The poll therefore becomes most inaccurate, which makes it useless -- unless you're comfortable citing inaccurate polls. If you haven't voted on the poll, please do so now. It only gets more accurate as the sample size grows, after all. Whichever way you vote, you're participating. Note that the URL is not timestamped. Therefore, that particular poll will probably be gone by tomorrow, or when they replace that poll with something else.

Seven News on Maria Korp

I shouldn't be surprised that Seven News Australia leaves a gaping hole in their report on Maria Korp's impending dehydration and starvation as decided by her so-called legal guardian. Yet here I am, surprised and utterly disappointed. Note that the story says nothing about the fact that Mrs. Korp's family was never consulted. Never mind too that there were no details about how her condition is deteriorating. In what way is she deteriorating? I find that odd considering the trend so far. In Feburary, she got out of intensive care. By May, she could breathe unaided. That sounds awfully like recovery. Furthermore, Seven News also failed to see the big story that should be told about medical protocols that are not being followed here. There's this blog by the PurpleKangaroo which highlights a few things. For example, more recent standards from 2003 require six to twelve months of monitoring before making a diagnosis of permanent vegetative state (PVS). Then there are those open problems in accuracy and certainty (or lack thereof) when making a diagnosis of PVS. These are all revealing angles that make the whole story more compelling for the public to be aware of. Inexplicably, Seven News missed them. Oh, and yes, please insert the recommendation by Mrs. Korp's treatment team somewhere in the middle where people will least notice it. After all, they recommend palliative care, not dehydration.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Another Euthanasia Without Consent Case

A woman allegedly in a coma in Melbourne, Maria Korp, may be starved and dehydrated starting tomorrow. I say "allegedly" because, after the Terri Schiavo case in Florida earlier this year, I don't take reports from mainstream media at face value anymore. There is no mention of any terminal illness or condition. There is only a vague statement that "while it is difficult to know, Mrs Korp may die within one to two weeks after changing to palliative care." The cruel twist in Mrs. Korp's case is that the decision to remove the feeding tube does not come from any single member of her family. Not even by the husband who is in prison for allegedly colluding to her attempted murder. The decision was made by the public "advocate." Whatever happens, Mrs. Korp and her family need our prayers, especially her daughter. Not only is she going through her mother's condition, she also has to deal with what her father had done to her mother.

Bookshops and Brown's "The Da Vinci Code"

I wonder if there was ever a time when booksellers took it upon themselves to stock up on carefully selected books on the basis of encouraging intellectual stimulation. I browse various bookstores from time to time and I find that I have to avoid looking at Christian/Catholic titles if I want to avoid disappointment. For example, there was this bookshop in Melbourne CBD that had three shelves on every religion and form of spirituality except for Christianity. Then there is this bookshop in the suburbs with a huge selection but with anti-Catholic books mixed in with the Catholic ones. And then there is the Dan Brown phenomenon. Every week of every month since it came out, the Da Vinci Code has been hogging the best spots as you enter the bookshop. Given how flawed Brown's allegations are, it should be funny that bookshops are investing so much selling anti-Catholic slander dressed up as fiction. Why funny? Because these bookshops are respected businesses, and bookshops in general, up there with libraries, are usually regarded as bastions of enlightenment and reason. The irony! On the other hand, perhaps it is too much to ask. These are business establishments, after all. Brown sells so it makes sense to stock up on his books. I am too naive in holding on to ideals where people who sell books are interested in balanced reading. If I were in charge, and I will never be, I would stack Amy Wellborn's De-Coding Da Vinci right next to Brown's fiction. I might even encourage public debate about this in universities, as an academic exercise. Wouldn't that excite readers? Wouldn't that encourage analytical thinking? On the other hand, maybe that's not the point.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Very Impressive JPII Youth

Check out the Thoughts of Apolonio Latar III, blogsite of a very young but very capable defender of the Catholic faith. May all our children be so fired up with the love and truth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Feast of St. James

Today is the feast of St. James, brother of St. John the beloved. St. James was one of the three pillars of the Church (Gal. 2:9) and was one of the three apostles, along with his brother St. John and St. Peter, who were present in many private events of the Lord's ministry where the rest of the Twelve were not, e.g., the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2). He was also the first apostle to be martyred, beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I. There is an ancient tradition that makes St. James the primary apostle to Spain, prior to his beheading, although doubts to that have been raised. Still, who are we to question the efficacy of asking one of the pillars of the Church for aid?

The Truth About Pope Pius XII

Oswald Sobrino has a revealing post about The Myth of Hitler's Pope (Regnery, 2005), written by Rabbi David G. Dalin, professor at Ave Maria University. There's been so much said in the media in the last few years about Pope Pius XII allegedly having stood aside and cooperated with the Nazi destruction of millions of Jews across Europe. It is revealing that the staunchest defense of Pope Pius XII have come from Jewish historians themselves. Consider, for example:
 One of many of Pius's Jewish defenders quoted in the book is "Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide, who had been the Israeli consul in Milan and had spoken with many Italian Jewish Holocaust survivors" (pp. 10-11). According to Lapide's extensive historical analysis, Pius XII "was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands" (p. 11). Whatever the exact number, Rabbi Dalin's sources all point to the fact that Pius XII's efforts saved hundreds of thousands of Jews, most notably in Italy, Hungary, and Slovakia (see pp. 92-99). Most dramatically, the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo sheltered as many as 3,000 Jews (pp. 92-93).
The thinker who prefers to receive balanced input should read this, if only because too many in the mainstream media have been particularly shrill and loud about Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. Perhaps they were screaming in order to drown out opposing views?

And I'm Lousy at This

Today's Gospel (Matthew 13:44 - 52) about the Kingdom:
 Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field. ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.
And I'm really lousy with the "everything" part -- that part which is unambiguous about Total Commitment (TM) that is due and rightly so. After all, the Kingdom is Totality. It is the complete fruition of all our desires and hopes -- right there, in the Kingdom of God, seeing the face of God.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Much obliged to Veritatis Splendor for blogging and linking to this short guide to ancient heresies by Kenneth D. Whitehead -- which is still relevant even today because they keep coming back! Have a read and see if you can identify them in their modern forms.

Absentee Parenting, Anyone?

Blogger Diogenes shares this thoughtful review written by F. Carolyn Graglia on Mary Eberstadt's book, Home Alone America. I am reluctant to shake a finger at absentee parents because I am a working parent myself and my wife currently stays home. I know how much she wants to go back to work but we have also thought hard about various factors that led to the decision for her to stay home for now. I can, however, definitely express gratitude for her sacrifice, and I will try to express that to her everyday (though I fail miserably far too often) for my children while they are not yet wise enough to express that same sentiment. And for those parents of children who are left alone without their parents for most of the day outside of school, this is not cause for guilt or blame-throwing. This is simply an invitation to re-assess the situation.

A Must Read for Catholics and Evangelicals

Mark Shea has yet another brilliant article at Catholic Exchange. In Apollos, Priscilla, Aquila and the Glory of Eupocrisy, he's calling on Catholics to look beyond what Evangelicals say and realize that what they mean is far closer to our Catholic faith than we'd have thought. Perhaps this is because faith is a gift, and the obvious good fruits from both camps can only attest to this faith as having come from the same source. God is harmony Himself and cannot but speak with one voice through His one Word, our Lord, Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit that alone plumbs the depths of God and plumbs the depths of our hearts. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Can I live?" by Nick Cannon

There's hope in our future with people like Nick Cannon talking about the basics of what abortion means. This is not about judging anybody, but think about what this means to those who were almost aborted, which is what this new rap single by Nick Cannon is all about. Read the Catholic Exchange article about it and visit Nick Cannon's site to watch the music video (Quicktime or Windows Media Player formats). Note that the music video might disappear from the main page after some time in which case it will probably be linked to in the site's archives or by Google.

What Does a Thirteen-Year-Old Know About Abortion?

Well, she might cover the basics:
 " "If your mom would have had an abortion, you wouldn't be here to read this""
Smart kid, whose short, simple and wise essay is blogged about by her aunt over at Veritatis Splendor.

Last Night My Son Asked Me..

.. about bad angels. He was saying something about listening to his good angel and not the bad angel. Then he asked me if the bad angels can become good. I know they won't, referring to Lucifer and his fellow rebels, but is it a good idea to tell my kids about the Devil and other fallen angels so soon? He's only five. Never mind his younger brothers.I don't even know where he picked up the idea of bad angels. I just told him to ask his good angel to tell the bad angel to leave him alone, in case he's getting bad advice. I just answered his question by saying that "that would be nice" (if the bad angel turns good). Then thoughts of relativism and the secular tendency to deny the existence of evil and the Devil popped into my head. Hmm... a new idea just popped into my head. I think I shall revisit Adam and Eve with my son and talk a bit about what the serpent did.

My Wife Won't Believe This

No, really, she won't believe this.
You Are Incredibly Logical
(You got 75% of the questions right)
Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic You think rationally, clearly, and quickly. A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Friday, July 15, 2005

I found the following comment from the comment boxes of The Curt Jester on his blog about Freedom in the Church which reacts to Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's words following Christoph Cardinal Schönborn's letter on evolution. There is a thorny issue with neo-Darwinism concerning origins. My understanding is that neo-Darwinism's evolution explains the process but does not suitably explain how it all began. I think this comment hits it on the head with a laugh in the end:
 Try this. "What came first: DNA polymerase or DNA?" The enzyme called DNA polymerase links nucleotides together (the four bases: A, C, G, T). But enzymes are proteins, made by a ribosome out of amino acids. (Ribosomes are made of many smaller molecules. Living cells contain thousands of them. You can actually see them in a good microscope.) The ribosome does its work from a template, called messenger RNA - like DNA but with a U instead of T. The messenger RNA comes from the DNA master code, which contains the master blueprint - the sequence of A, C, G, T which "spell out" the amino acids in the right order to make the polymerase (and all other parts of the cell. Human DNA has about 3 billion bases. So you need, at one and the same time, the code to build the machine and the machine to read the code. Or you do not have life. But there is a funnier answer, which sends the question back to where it belongs... A biologist happily went into a church, and called out, "I know how life works!" God called from the tabernacle: "Oh? You figured it out, did you?" "Yes," the biologist said. "I don't need You at all." "Really?" came the surprised voice, "I am, er, rather curious how you managed that." "I did it in the lab," he replied. "First I take some dust..." "Oh, no," laughed God, "That's not fair. That's My dust - I made it. You want to make life, you get your own dust."
DoctorThursday clarifies, however, that the joke in his comment above was heard from someone else, perhaps from a book. The DNA discussion, moreover, is serious and can be verified with references.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

How is Christ a Son of David?

I'm listening right now to EWTN and a caller is having trouble understanding how Jesus Christ is from the house of David. The answers are coming I think from Fr. Mitch Pacwa. The trouble stems from a misunderstanding of what constitutes sonship. She's worrying over the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is not biologically related to Joseph. Two answers were given: one, there is evidence from ancient but extra-Biblical sources that Mary also comes from the house of David; and two, that the sonship of Jesus by David is a legal reality. First of all, there are two sources of Mary's Davidic lineage: the Proto-Evangelium of James (~ 120 AD) and a tradition from the same century that a relative of Jesus, presumably from his mother's side, being arrested and brought to Rome on fears that he would try to revive the Davidic kingship as an heir of that house. The man, who was a farmer, was subsequently released. Of course, many would object to these sources for being extra-Biblical. The second answer should be even more satisfying. Joseph's sonship of Jesus was very legal in Jewish society. Legality of adoption is not problematic at all because we are sons and daughters of God in the same vein: we are legally adopted in having been born again in the waters of baptism. Do we ever question how real (or unreal) our relationship is with God as his children? I hope not!

God Calls and Man Responds

A thought just hit me this morning as I was praying lauds at my parish chapel: nobody calls and ordains one's self. It has ever been the case that God calls us to whatever work He plans for us. That was true for Abraham and the patriarchs, Elijah and the prophets, Samson and the judges, David and the kings, Peter and the twelve, and Paul. Some were called directly, e.g., Abraham and Moses. Many were called by ordination, e.g., David was annointed by Samuel. God calls and man responds. The story of Samuel, Eli's helper, is a good model for this. God calls us by name and, as Eli advises, we should quickly reply "Here I am, Lord!" This dovetails with everything we know about the relationship between God and Man: God calls, we listen and move towards God. God invites, we accept and we move closer to God. It is always God who initiates. It is to our advantage to respond openly, with humility and sincerity, and the end is always to become one with God. That is prayer: a relationship with God that starts with God, proceeds with our acceptance, and ends with God. Yesterday, a friend was asking me how to pray. In our discussion, he drops in the most significant clue as to why he was dissatisfied with his prayers: "but it's all about me!" I am no expert, but I think that I now have a nice answer for him: "Shema!" -- listen! It must begin with God's call. It is perhaps too much to expect that one will simply sit down and "tune in" just like that to God's voice. God calls us from many places and in many ways. The Scriptures are God-breathed and carry the voice of God. He calls us there. Other inspirational writings likewise may carry God's voice, through His inspiration that moved the authors to write. Writings from the Church Fathers, e.g., the Didache, the Epistle of St. Barnabas, St. Clement's epistle to the Corinthians --- but please avoid the heretical writings such as the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. Writings of the multitude of saints whose memoirs we still have, like St. Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life." St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer left us many good books such as "The Way." The Rosary, which concisely goes through the highlights of the life of Crhist, also carries the voice of God. The lives of the martyrs and saints, whose lives were lived under God's inspiration, also carry God's call. Finally, the celebration of the Eucharist, the most concise and complete prayer of all, from the call of Scriptures in the Liturgy of the Word, to the call of the Lord's Supper in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is especially important as it carries an immense invitation to the Lamb's Supper that we glimpse in the words of St. John in his book of Revelations. God calls us in so many, many ways. So many books and lives to read. So many prayers and liturgical rites that invite us to live a deep and life-giving relationship with Him. We have only to respond with humility, sincerity and wonder.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Question of (Theological) Truth

Jeffrey is trying to understand. In that first of two (so far) parts, I found this gem:
 "This led historically to such disparate theological views that many people began to wonder if theological truth was possible to know at all."
Recently, I blogged about the dispersal of Christians resulting from the Schism and the Protestant Reformation. That statement I quote is interesting because ambiguity goes hand in hand with relativism. I've read more than one atheist or agnostic dismiss the gospel because it looks contradictory or ambiguous to them. The Holy Spirit does not give up on them, but when the Spirit elicits in them a thirst for Christ, they'd have to be a bit taken aback at the multitude of cities built on top of separate hills. Then they have to ask in bewilderment: "in which of these cities is Christ calling me?" Think about that the next time you celebrate the congregational contradiction of contradictory Protestant denominations. Catholics should think about that before they cheer on the dissidents and cafeteria Catholics who freely discard Catholic dogmas to suit their individual preferences.

Saddam, bin Laden and What They Knew

It appears that the mainstream media (MSM) has been mising a hot story all these years. Was that intentional? The Anchoress has this concise blog about the connections between Iraq and bin Laden that even Bill Clinton knew when he was in charge.

Mandatory Inclusion of Queer Issues in Canadian Schools

Angry in the Great White North has this blog about a worrying case of making it mandatory for children to be taught about queer issues in school. Now that Canada has enshrined same-sex marriages (SSMs) in their laws, it becomes quite logical for the tribunal to hear this case. Ruling in favor of the petition is quite possible. When it happens, how do parents deal with this? What if they sincerely believe that this is a sensitive issue? What if parents want to reserve the right to decide when and how their children learn about such issues? What if it so happens that the family's faith disagrees with what the curriculum will say about homosexuality? This is where some people can contradict themselves. On one hand, they will say that individuals have the right to abort their offspring, that parents hold the most basic power over their offspring: life or death. On the other hand, as in the case above, they now say that parents should not have the final say concerning the education of their children. As a parent, my worries are (1) at what age they will require this; and (2) what they will teach our children. Will they start at kindergartens? Will they encourage adolescents to engage in sex, whether homosexual or heterosexual? If the couple pushing this case get their way, parents will have very little to say about that.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Is That Your Church?

Mark Shea talks about a misguided parish that is innovating itself away from the vine. If your parish appears to be following in the same footsteps, be afraid. Be very afraid. And do something about it, starting with prayer. Remember that this is not just your personal beliefs at stake. Your children's faith, and that of the other parishioners' children. Woe unto us if we neglect these scandals that cause our little ones to stumble and fall.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Striking the Shepherd

That line from Matt 26:31 came to mind recently. I think I was contemplating the first sorrowful mystery, the Lord's agony in the garden, right after the Last Supper. During that supper, the Lord spoke about the coming chaos that ensues after he gets arrested a few hours later. "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed." These words speak of two things: the coming blow directed at the shepherd, and the resulting dispersal of the sheep. The expert exegesis of this passage from Zach 13:7-9 is beyond my simple knowledge of Scripture. I do understand that this is God Himself who speaks, and of His plan to put His people to the test. My mind focused on the objective of scattering the sheep and a conversation I once had with an Evangelical friend (one of my best friends) about the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. She holds the belief that it was a necessary event, and because of human frailty, a reunification of all believers into one Church will not occur until the second coming of the Lord. I disagreed. Perhaps that passage in Zach 13:9 holds the key. The true objective of God in striking the shepherd is not to scatter the sheep. His true objective is challenging -- testing -- as silver is refined in fire, thereby forming the faithful through endurance. The dispersal is but a means to a crucial end, and I believe that the same method of refining His people applies to the divisions among Christians today. I agree that the uproar of Luther and the original Reformists was necessary. The resulting split in the Church, however, is something I cannot agree with. The dispersal was necessary but it must be followed by reconciliation and reunification, where the Church will emerge reformed and stronger for having addressed the issues raised. As with the dispersal of the apostles after the arrest of Christ, the dispersal of Christians into discordant denominations is not meant to be a necessary and semi-permanent state. In the Schism of the 11th century between East and West and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the sheep were scattered and the flock was divided. Who were struck if not the shepherds of the Church then, many of whom had been corrupted and were neglecting their ministries. Christ, the head of the Church, was also struck as it was His Body, the Church, that was wounded. One limb was telling another: "I need you not!" After the resurrection of our Lord, the apostles did manage to recover from their abandonment of Christ in that garden. What about us? Where now do Christians recover from the divisions of the Schism and the Protestant Reformation? Is it faithful to God's will for Christendom to be so divided? Is this the best, the first-fruits, that we can offer our God? The prayer of Christ in John 17 reveals His mind to us. As in the old testament, where the faithful people of God are to be a sign to the unbelieving nations, so too was the Church meant to be such a sign. The rifts that have not healed must confront that priestly prayer of Christ for Christian unity. Disunity compromises the integrity of the Mystical Body of Christ as a sign to the nations. God does not contradict himself. It cannot be His will for the Church to be in such a broken state that it will not function as He wills it to. Yes, conflict, disagreements and divisions are always possible. They will always happen. We can learn from them so we grow wiser, humbler and more aware of what can go wrong and what should go right. But what is there left to learn over these centuries? That the world turns against Christ and his Church time and again, and that the gospel is watered down by our divisions? Is it possible? Can the Church be healed so that all her members are in communion with one another through a communion with the Body of Christ? Which is easier: to tell a sinful man that his sins are forgiven and he is saved, or to tell him to get up and rejoin the Church of the those who are alive in Christ? If we believe that the grace of God is enough to save a sinful man, how can we disbelieve that it is also enough to unite him with others who were also saved by the same grace? For a Christian to deny the possibility of Christian unity on earth contradicts the absolute trust we have in our good shepherd, Christ our Lord. Ultimately, believing that Christian unity on earth is impossible means believing that God's power to unite is thwarted by our capacity for conflict. The effects of such disbelief can be seen today. Far too many Protestants, seemingly oblivious to John 17, feel that they must justify the state of Protestant Christianity today. Some embrace it: with thousands of denominations dispersed across the globe, more or less a single Church of believers, loosely held by common roots of faith, i.e., the Word of God. I find that this position is untenable considering how bitterly contested the differences between these denominations are on grave matters of salvation, justification, the sacraments, eschatology, teaching authority, human sexuality, marriage, divorce, abortion and euthanasia. Other groups dismiss history and claim that their church is the original, true Church that has been in hiding from the bigger but allegedly false Church that inxplicably held the episcopates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Syria, Egypt and Rome. But consider those positions in the light of this prayer:
 11 And now I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou hast given me: that they may be one, as we also are. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou gavest me have I kept: and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture may be fulfilled. 13 And now I come to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them: because they are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. 16 They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me. 21 That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them: that, they may be one, as we also are one. 23 I in them, and thou in me: that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. 24 Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me: that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. 25 Just Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee. And these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have made known thy name to them and will make it known: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
How many times did the Lord pray for unity? Some would argue that Christ was not referring to visible oneness. I would respond by pointing out that Christ gives us a most remarkable model: the oneness of the Father and of the Son. What can be more perfect and complete than the unity of the Trinity? Scripture says "Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter," but it does not end there:
 "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined: and I will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on my name, and I will hear them. I will say: Thou art my people: and they shall say: The Lord is my God." (Zach 13:9)
God occasionally sends tough trials, like the dispersal of the the Apostles upon Christ's arrest. The aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, which resulted in chaos and too much bloodshed, was one of them. Yet God's tests are never ends in themselves, but are means. The divisions among us must end. There is a world out there that is losing its soul. We must ask the Lord to send workers for the rich harvest. God have mercy on us if those workers waste their time bickering amongst themselves instead.

The World's Strongest Dad

No, that's not me, unfortunately. Read about him here. Hat tip to Jimmy Akin who writes:
 There are those who would say that Rick Hoyt's severe physical disabilities meant that his life wasn't worth living. Dick and Rick Hoyt have proved them wrong. And that's how we'll rebuild the Culture of Life: One family at a time.

Read 'em and Weep

"Do you really believe in the things you write on your blog?" Mark Maness answers. Catch more of Mark Maness at his blog.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Gnostics of the 21st Century

Dr. D'Ambrosio writes about New Age and the Da Vinci Code at Catholic Exchange. Read it. Learn something that everybody should already know, but too many fail to understand for lack of intellectual commitment. In other words, if it matters, it deserves deep thinking and thorough research. There's a reason why Da Vinci Code is sold as a work of fiction, not research.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Our Last Confession

Russel Shaw writes a nice, short article with a lot of punch ("Guilty as Sin"). Ponder this one:
 A Catholic friend once informed me he hadn't been to confession in years and added, "I don't feel any need for it." To be sure. The relevant question is: Why not?
If the answer runs along the lines of "I don't have anything to confess," then there are only two logical causes for that. Either one is an immaculate saint, unlikely for anyone on God's green earth, or one needs to raise the standards of saintliness just a tad. Mr. Shaw also points this out:
 But a Catholic who accepts the Church's teaching that Christ instituted this sacrament for the forgiveness of sin must accept the corollary that this is how Christ ordinarily wants our sins to be forgiven and is, exceptional circumstances aside, the necessary means of forgiveness in the case of mortal sin.
Many will offer differing exegesis on the relevant Scriptural passages (Matthew 18:15-18, John 20:21-23) where Christ gives his apostles the power to declare sins as forgiven or retained, and examples of this function used (2 Corinthians 2:7). Likewise the passages relating to the Jewish practice of priests participating in the public acknowledgment of someone's uncleanliness (archtype of a sinful nature) having been cleansed (interpreted as the curse of sin being lifted with sin's forgiveness). They might also bring up different interpretations for the centuries-old practice of public confessions and public penance from the first century on, or dismiss them entirely. If you follow the more ancient and orthodox Catholic understanding, however, Mr. Shaw's point cannot be ignored. Recommended reading: From the Catholic Encyclopedia and from Father Alexander of the Russian Orthodox Church.

St Elizabeth of Portugal (1271 - 1336)

Unversalis reminds me today that it is the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. The brief biography they included was striking for two reasons. First, some aspects of her life reminds me of my own mother. No, my mother wasn't royalty, but she was a saint. :-) Second, the bio notes that it is scandalous to many today to think about how royalty could ever become a saint. The Lord's words about the rich man's difficulty getting into Heaven are some of his hardest. The rich have so much temptation stacked against them, being rich, powerful, famous, surrounded by servants and lavish living. The Lord's response to such thoughts remains true today, however: with God, nothing is impossible. All the same, may I never be rich in this world. Just let me get by with enough to feed, clothe and educate my kids, buy a house and perhaps a bigger car. Maybe visit home every 5 years or so. Travel out of state with the family every 2 years or so. The list gets longer if I think about it too much. Sigh. See what I mean? ;-)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Paggalang sa mga Yumao

Pardon the Filipino, which means "respect for the dead." I jumped into a heated forum dicussing continuing criticism of John Paul the Great and the American sex abuse scandals, so I shouldn't have wondered that I'd get burned. Still, people are people. May I never stereotype them into villains and saints. Whereas I was stung, he who did that sent me an unexpected apology. We all do our best in any engagement, even when we end up on opposite sides. My side is simple. While we acknowledge that JPII/JPG had the ultimate responsibility as shepherd, we can only criticize him to a certain extent. We can say something about his actions because we saw them. What we cannot do is judge his heart. Only the Holy Spirit can plumb those depths. What saint am I to presume knowledge of the man's motives, intentions and the contraints he lived with? The Filipino culture has changed much, but one thing which I hope will never change is a great emphasis on respect: paggalang or, more recoganizable, respeto. The departed are no excemption -- they too deserve respect. We can say what can be said objectively about the flaws that they had, and we all have them, but attacking the dead is about as fair as wrestling with an infant. They are helpless, they cannot defend themselves, and it is rather mean and unfair to attack a helpless subject. It also gets to a point that, in heaping all the blame on JPG's head, the true culprits escape undetected. With all the anger and hatred directed at JPG, what righteous anger is left over to prosecute the abusers, their superiors who hung it all on secular therapists, who did not care enough about the vulnerable members of their own diocese? What about the people around the parishes who had a whiff of what was going on, yet did not act? What about the community, the civil authorities? It is not entirely rhetorical to say that there are far more people who could have acted sooner than the Pope in Rome. But where does the blame end? At the end of the day, what matters is to move towards preventing future abuses. The sex abuse scandal was terrible, and we wish JPG had been able to do more. One thing that we do not have, however, is perfect certitude about that.