Pro-Life Democrats Weigh in

Many tend to think of Abortion as a partisan issue with Democrats supporting  “Abortion Rights” and Republicans as pro-Life. But an interesting situation has set up in Congress. The issue is reported over at Creative Minority Report. Here is an excerpt.

With 235 Democrats in the House and 199 Republicans it was believed that essentially any legislation proffered by Obama would sail easily through without need of Republican support. But now, the only remaining hurdle to his plans might be pro-life Democrats. US News and World Report says that nineteen Democrats warned Democrat leadership that they would oppose any bill that did not specifically exclude abortion funding.

You can read the Full article here:  19 Democrats Stand Against Abortion Funding

The Handiwork of God

You Oh Lord have formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Already you knew my soul, my bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret….I praise you that I am wonderfully fearfully made. (Psalm 139:13-15)

Development of the Unborn Baby.

  • Day 1: fertilization: all human chromosomes are present; unique human life begins.
  • Day 6: embryo begins implantation in the uterus.
  • Day 22: heart begins to beat with the child’s own blood, often a different type than the mothers’.
  • Week 3: By the end of third week the child’s backbone spinal column and nervous system are forming. The liver, kidneys and intestines begin to take shape.
  • Week 4: By the end of week four the child is ten thousand times larger than the fertilized egg.
  • Week 5: Eyes, legs, and hands begin to develop.
  • Week 6: Brain waves are detectable; mouth and lips are present; fingernails are forming.
  • Week 7: Eyelids, and toes form, nose distinct. The baby is kicking and swimming.
  • Week 8: Every organ is in place, bones begin to replace cartilage, and fingerprints begin to form. By the 8th week the baby can begin to hear.
  • Weeks 9 and 10: Teeth begin to form, fingernails develop. The baby can turn his head, and frown. The baby can hiccup.
  • Weeks 10 and 11: The baby can “breathe” amniotic fluid.
  • Week 11 the baby can grasp objects placed in its hand; all organ systems are functioning. The baby has a skeletal structure, nerves, and circulation.
  • Week 12: The baby has all of the parts necessary to experience pain, including nerves, spinal cord, and thalamus. Vocal cords are complete. The baby can suck its thumb.
  • Week 14: At this age, the heart pumps several quarts of blood through the body every day.
  • Week 15: The baby has an adult’s taste buds. Month 4: Bone Marrow is now beginning to form. The heart is pumping 25 quarts of blood a day. By the end of month 4 the baby will be 8-10 inches in length and will weigh up to half a pound.
  • Week 17: The baby can have dream (REM) sleep.
  • Week 19: Babies can routinely be saved at 21 to 22 weeks after fertilization, and sometimes they can be saved even younger.
  • Week 20: The earliest stage at which Partial birth abortions are performed. At 20 weeks the baby recognizes its’ mothers voice.
  • Months 5 and 6: The baby practices breathing by inhaling amniotic fluid into its developing lungs. The baby will grasp at the umbilical cord when it feels it. Most mothers feel an increase in movement, kicking, and hiccups from the baby. Oil and sweat glands are now functioning. The baby is now twelve inches long or more, and weighs up to one and a half pounds.
  • Months 7 through 9: Eyeteeth are present. The baby opens and closes his eyes. The baby is using four of the five senses (vision, hearing, taste, and touch.) He knows the difference between waking and sleeping, and can relate to the moods of the mother. The baby’s skin begins to thicken, and a layer of fat is produced and stored beneath the skin. Antibodies are built up, and the baby’s heart begins to pump 300 gallons of blood per day.
  • Approximately one week before the birth the baby stops growing, and “drops” usually head down into the pelvic cavity.

Sources Used: Bergel, Gary (Produced by NRLC) “When You Were Formed in Secret.” 1998. Flanagan, Geraldine Lux. Beginning Life. The Marvelous Journey from Conception to Birth. New York: DK Publishing Inc., 1996. Hopson, Janet L. Fetal Psychology. Oct. 1998. 07 Jan 2003.

Latest News – From the Self-Inflicted Wounds Department

I almost think I need to establish a new series on this blog: the “Self-inflicted Wounds Department.” This latest issue of Gloria TV news once again demonstrates how we as Catholics frequently do not see eye to eye on matters of great significance and thereby become an ineffective witness to the world. The lack of a united front, the lack of consensus on how to interact with a world increasingly at odds with us  has become a crucial issue that impacts our ability to be coherent to the world. It amounts to a self-inflicted wound.

For example on the issue of Abortion, the Catholic teaching is clear. But we seem to have little consensus on how to speak to  the world that prefers euphemisms such as “choice” and “reproductive freedom” and “privacy” to the simple and clear truth that abortion is the killing of children in the womb. Now take this item from the news today:

According to the editor-in-chief of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, US-President Barack Obama in his pre-presidential voting record may have “made decisions that certainly cannot be defined as pro-life,” but this does not make him “pro-abortion.” “He was, rather, pro-choice,” Gian Maria Vian claimed in an interview for the National Review Online. The interview came after a series of articles in L’Osservatore praising Obama and soft-pedalling the opposition of the US bishops. The articles have been heavily criticized by pro-life leaders.

Now mind you, this is not merely an average Catholic speaking, this is the Editor in Chief of the Vatican’s own newspaper, a paper that, theoretically speaks for the Vatican and represents its views. Now I don’t actually think this is the view of the Vatican but Mr. Vian cannot simply be ignored. Further he was commenting on a series of articles in L’Osservatore Romano which all raised problems for pro-life Catholics. If the Editor in Chief of the Vatican’s own newspaper seems ambiguous about our President’s stand on Abortion, and if it’s editor uses the euphemistic language of the pro-abortion movement, where do we stand? I cannot begin to understand his motivation since I do not understand European politics. But as a casual observer of European thinking (filtered through our own media) it seems that Europe is quite fond of President Obama. He has taken positions they strongly support on a whole range of other issues (war in Iraq etc.) and thus they are disposed to find ways of overlooking the fact that he is perhaps the most pro-abortion president we have ever had. He even refused to support the “born alive infant act” and limits on partial birth abortion. There are many reasons for Catholics, both Americans and Europeans,  to like and support President Obama, but Abortion is not one of them. And speaking in the language of our pro-abortion opponents and using their own euphemisms is a self-inflicted wound. We need to work more carefully to develop coherent and consistent ways of speaking and acting so that we communicate our teaching clearly.

A second issue on this same video involves a Madonna Concert in Poland on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption. While this issue is far less serious than the one above, it also illustrates how Catholics are seen as quite divided by the world. Many Catholics there have protested the concert of Madonna, who has quite a record of anti-Catholic antics. But a Jesuit priest is quoted in the media as flippantly remarking that August 15 seems to be a fine day for a concert. Enter this too into the “Self-inflicted wounds Department of this blog.” (Sigh)

Here then is the latest news:

Abortion’s Parallels to Slavery

June is Abortion Awareness in the African American Community. Here’s a post in my Bulletin from a couple of years Back in St.  Thomas More Parish, a predominately African American Parish. I plan to run it in my current parish as well later this month:

Abortion Awareness Month – Uh Oh! Not that Conservative Republican Issue again! But for a moment, set aside the old wineskins.  Turn off images of modern day fanatics, white-racist-conservative-fundamentalists, Pro-Lifers who kill doctors, ugly and violent confrontations between fierce adversaries.  Set aside for a moment the true observation that too many view abortion as all that matters and refuse to consider other life issues e.g., poverty and racism.  Just for one moment, consider these shocking parallels between Abortion and Slavery:

  1. Fate of certain human beings is dictated by financial and personal interests of others.
  2. Courts establish who is human/non-human and use categories of partial humanness (slaves were called 3/5 of  a person for legal purposes, fetuses lack all human rights).
  3. The right to life  and liberty are not inalienable for the fetus just as for slaves. They are a different category than the  “all men who are created equal” Fetuses, like slaves of old,  are held to receive their  fundamental rights of life and liberty  not “from God” but only if other more powerful people say they have them.
  4. More powerful persons are also more valued in society and their rights trump the less powerful.
  5. Less powerful fetuses like the slaves lack all legal standing and cannot advocate for themselves.
  6. Fundamentally both slavery and abortion are economic and convenience issues. Slavery was considered by many a “necessary evil” to protect economic, political and social realities. So is abortion.
  7. Overturning the injustice depends on  unrelenting, courageous efforts of people who are labeled as “fanatics” just like the abolitionists of old were called this.

And, While we are at it, the following slogans apply the abortion rationales to Slavery. Try these on for size and see how they feel:

  1. “Let’s keep slavery safe, legal and rare.”
  2. “I’m not pro-slavery, but I do think slave owners should have the right to choose how they  run their plantation.”
  3. “I am personally opposed to slavery, but I don’t want to impose my values on somebody else.”
  4. “Slavery has been upheld by the US Supreme Court (Dred Scott), it is the settled Law of the Land.”
  5. “We really can’t say the slave is  a person.”
  6. Abolitionists are just trying to impose their extreme religious views on us.

How do these slogans feel? How are they different than the current thinking?

More on Notre Dame in News

The latest issue of Gloria.TV news has a couple of reports on the Notre Dame issue. See below. By the way, AMERICAN PAPIST reports that Notre Dame has taken a big blow in terms of Alumni withholding donations. Presently 14 million has been withdrawn. I can’t link directly to the American Papist Article and so I reproduce it here:

ND Alumni withhold nearly $14m because of Obama at ND

The hemorrhaging continues. These are just the donations they can track down:
Notre Dame alumni who are upset with the university’s decision to allow pro-abortion President Barack Obama to give this coming weekend’s commencement speech and to give him an honorary degree continue to withhold their donations to the Catholic college.

In total, pro-life alumni and donors who feel disenfranchised by Notre Dame’s decision have decided to withhold nearly $14 million in gifts they normally would have given.

David DiFranco, a Michigan businessman and 1995 Notre Dame graduate, told on Wednesday that the web site for disgruntled alumni has received over 1,400 pledges to withhold donations within a month since its launch. (LifeNews)
I’m not sure if I’d call these folks “disgruntled.” “Principled” sounds better to my ears.

What Do Catholics Think about President Obama at Notre Dame?

Well that depends on what Catholics you ask. Church going Catholics are more likely to oppose the President’s visit to Notre Dame but not by as much as you’d think. Catholics who do not attend Church regularly were more likely to support the visit. White, Church going Catholics were most likely to be non supportive of the President’s visit. All of this is depicted in a graphic summary by a Pew Survey of Catholics on this issue shown at the right. But no group of Catholics surveyed polled above 50% in disapproval of the visit.

So what is going on here and what does this say about Catholics? I am not a sociologist nor a statistician, just a biased observer. Of course I am biased. I am a Catholic priest who is strongly pro-life. Hence I am somewhat alarmed by how few Catholics actually are alarmed. But perhaps if I could venture a few observations about this poll and I will try to be fair.

  1. The poll asks about a visit and speech of the president. Some are angry just about that. But there is the further matter about the President receiving and honorary  Law degree. Thus I wonder if the poll numbers would be different if this question were asked: “Do you favor the conferring of an honorary degree?” I have heard some Catholics say that their disagreement is more about the honors than the speech. Others just don’t think he should come period. But it would have been interesting to see the results of my question.
  2. Politics complicates everything, even moral issues. It has been my experience (sadly) that many people (both right and left) are more passionate about their politics than their faith. Faith, and moral and ethical issues tend to be “tucked under” political views and worldview.  Thus, in vacuum over 60% of Church-going Catholics oppose legalized Abortion. But take it out of a vacuum and into the world of politics and the numbers swing a lot. If opposing abortion means one is  opposing a favored candidate or party many who oppose abortion theoretically do not do when it “rocks their world” somehow.  Conservatives too struggle with some of the moral issues and often do not wholeheartedly support the requests of recent Popes to oppose use of the death penalty nor did they wholeheartedly agree with the Pope’s opposition to the Iraq War. I am aware of the many arguments that declare that these are not dogmatically defined positions but my only point is that, when requested to oppose these things  disinclination due to political leanings was a strong factor.
  3. Race complicates this matter as well. Here too many who oppose abortion as an isolated issue are reticent to apply their opposition directly to a President who also represents a kind of racial healing in this land. Just as Abortion is now, racism was and to some extent remains another of the great moral struggles of our time. Thus, I suspect, even to generally anti-abortion Catholics, the President is a complicated figure. On the one hand he represents injustice by his support of abortion, on the other hand he is a sign of greater racial justice. I suspect it is not always easy for everyone to sort all this out.
  4. With all the complicating issues of race and politics therefore I am not sure what to make of these numbers. It remains true, (and you can check these numbers by using the link to the Pew Study above), that Church going Catholics are against legalized abortion by over 60% but only 39% oppose the visit of the President.  I think some heard the question not as a question about abortion but more this way: “Do you like or dislike President Barack Obama?”  Generally people like to report that they like people. Generally too the President remains a popular figure even to those who do not like some of his policies or decisions.

What do? It seems clear that the Church has not closed the deal with most Catholics on the pre-eminence of the Abortion issue. Even many Catholics who do oppose Abortion do not see it as trumping other things they also see as important. It is an important issue to them but context and abortion’s inter-relatedness to other matters sways how they register their opinion. Many are simply not as focused or adamant as the Church would like when it comes to this critical moral issue. Hence we have to work to close the deal more. We have to teach and encourage. When I say encourage I mean it as the word was originally intended. To encourage meant to summon a person to courage. Many will privately say they oppose abortion but when a pollster calls they do not always have the courage to stand firm when it appears they are opposing a popular President who is a symbol of racial healing and thus represents far more than himself or even his party.

In the end, as many Bishops have already indicated, Notre Dame has made a huge moral compromise here. I pray for our President every day and respect that he has authority from God to lead this land. But he is wrong on this issue of abortion and honoring him with a Law Degree sends the wrong message. As the Church we must remain unambiguous on this issue. We must respectfully engage our president on this matter but a law degree would suggest we accept his jurisprudence on this and find it honorable. We do not. Yet it remains true that more than half of even Church-going Catholics may disagree with what I have said. That is on us. We are once again reminded as a Church that there is work to do.

Remember, this is a blog. I have written to provoke a response and to initiate discussion.  I do not write to pontificate (even though my name is Pope 🙂  ) If you disagree or would like to clarify a point, if you prefer to distinguish or debate a point that is what the comments are for. If you want to agree and add a point, comment . Agree or disagree, and comment.  Please be civil and above all else, pray to end abortion in this Land. Pray for Church leaders and for civil authorities. Pray.

Post-Abortion Healing

Among those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith are some who feel in some way that the Church has rejected them or disapproves of something they have done or are doing. Of those who feel this way are some who have struggled with abortion, one of the great moral issues of our day. Without doubt or compromise the Church prophetically announces that abortion is a great evil since it is the taking of innocent human life. And yet we in the Church also announce God’s mercy and compassion for all who have struggled with abortion (or any sin) and fallen. As Pope John Paul wrote in 1995 to those who have had or participated in abortion: The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. (Evangelium Vitae, 99).  

 If you are a woman, or a man, who, in the aftermath of abortion, has struggled with guilt or shame. If you have a fear of rejection and so have stayed away from the Church please understand this: God has never failed to love you and neither have we. Despite the Church’s prophetic stand against abortion, we are just as adamant about mercy and forgiveness. It is the heart of the Church’s ministry to celebrate God’s healing and forgiveness. It has been my privilege as a priest to reconcile many women and men who have, at some point in the past, chosen abortion. God is rich in mercy and it is a great joy to announce, celebrate and confer that mercy.

Please know that there are priests and laity who stand ready to assist you in you in the possible and likely struggles that ensue after an abortion. Understanding, mercy and healing are offered in the Church, not only at the parish level and in confession but also through a ministry known as Project Rachel. It is a healing ministry to  women and some men as well who deal with the many hurts that often emerge after an abortion. Sometimes these feelings occur immediately after the abortion, sometimes years later. Project Rachel Ministry makes referrals for one-on-one meetings with a priest especially sensitive to the needs of someone healing from abortion decisions, and also makes referrals to professional counselors, offers days of prayer and healing, and a support group. The next day of prayer and healing in English is Saturday, June 27, and the next day of prayer and healing in Spanish is Saturday, May 30. Know that you are not alone and there is healing for your soul. Project Rachel takes its name from a passage in scripture in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 31:15 In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children,she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the LORD: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward…There is hope for your future.

Here is the essential thought to end this post with: If you have had an abortion, the Lord loves you and so do we in the Church. If you wish to seek counseling and help, there are many ready to help you from the parish priest to trained experts and kindred souls in Project Rachel. Don’t stay away because you think you’re rejected. You are loved and your presence and gifts in the Church are needed.

Locally in Washington the phone number for Project Rachel is 301-982-2008 or 202-269-4673. The Website is here Project Rachel

The following video depicts the journeys of a few women. This is their own testimony. It may not be your exact experience, but just so you know that others have made the journey too.