The Wonder of Life

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington delivers the keynote address before a panel discussion titled “Lives Worthy of Respect” held at Georgetown University in Washington on Oct. 2. The event was held to kick off the month of October as Respect Life Month.

Read Cardinal Wuerl’s prepared remarks for the Lives Worthy of Respect Panel Discussion at Georgetown University on October 2, 2017.

Some years ago, I visited a mother who had given birth to sextuplets – six tiny bundles of life. As I gave a blessing to them, with pride in her voice and joy in her eyes, she described each child’s own identifiable personality even though they were so young and tiny that I could practically hold each of them in the palm of my hand.

How precious were each of those infants, as all babies are, not simply upon their birth, but beginning with their conception in the womb, made in the image of God and thus demanding of respect and protection from that very first moment.

But this is not always the message of our society. It certainly is not what is being heard by at least two generations of our fellow citizens.

Many years ago, I attended a meeting of representatives of civil government, police, education, philanthropy, social services, law enforcement, judiciary and faith communities. The topic was how to reduce youth crime and the violence associated with it.

At one point, a political leader addressed a question to one of the young people described as “at risk” who were already in detention or correction facilities. He asked a fourteen year old young man why at his young age he felt so comfortable with being violent to other people? I shall always remember the young man’s reply, “How come you get to draw the line?”

When the politician interjected, “What do you mean?” the young man continued, “How come you get to draw the line? You say it is all right for anybody to kill someone until they are born. How come you get to draw the line?” Another version of that question is: “Who put you in charge of who lives and dies?”

Today many accept the premise – advanced in the media, public schools and even civil law – that the value of human life is relative, and that people have the power to choose which lives are worth living and which are not.

What is the fruit of this culture’s “choice” mentality? Human life is increasingly held cheap as violence stalks our communities, suicide is on the increase nationwide, and in some states, instead of saving lives, there are physicians who help to end lives. The elderly and disabled, in addition to the unborn, are especially vulnerable in this climate.

Once you accept the thesis that it is all right to kill human life before it is born, or as it nears its end, or for some other reason, at almost any time you accept two premises: that we, human beings, have the ultimate say over all life and who gets to live, and that such a decision is ultimately arbitrary.

What we are witnessing today is a concerted effort to convince people that the sick and dying constitute a burden to their families and society, and therefore to regard those lives as not worth living. Such a view is of course antagonistic to the God-given dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.

At this point we need to examine the starting point of two diverse views of life that lead to these startlingly diverse conclusions about taking human life.

One view that for the most part was long recognized as the context for any life/death decisions saw all life as a gift from God. In this understanding, we spoke of “procreation.” Life was not something we could maintain indefinitely. At some point, all science, all medicine fails and life comes, in the natural course of events, to its natural end. So, too, with its beginning. Human life came to be through the marital act. It is not produced on a conveyor belt or in a technician’s lab. In this worldview, a child was not killed or “exposed to the elements” at birth if he or she demonstrated some defect.

What was accepted – grounded in God’s Revelation found in the Book of Genesis – was that God’s glory is manifest in all creation. Thus, children and adults with a wide range of capabilities and special needs are welcomed as God’s creation. Our annual White Mass at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral recognizes, as its foundational “given,” the Revelation that God, not we, determine the worth of each human life. Life. Life, as all creation, in its rich diversity is God’s gift.

Another view is far more directed by arbitrary decisions. The determination about the worth, value and quality of human life is made according to criteria established as politically correct and acceptable to a majority of voters. For example, in ancient Sparta, the martial Greek city-state, a male child deemed unfit for growth and training for military service was simply disposed of. Today an unborn child can be killed – aborted – because it is the “wrong” sex, or might possibly be less than what someone else determines as perfect.

The choice offered by assisted suicide, for example, is presented as kindness to avoid suffering and possible pain which many times is a euphemism for inconvenience for caregivers. It is a false compassion lacking true care and concern for the dying, as Pope Francis has noted. Instead of regarding suffering people as disposable and eliminating them, as one view asserts, we should accompany them with love and support them with access to better palliative care.

An element in our understanding of the value of human life is the cross. Catholic health care, in all its many manifestations, is an effort to extend the healing ministry of Christ. What we bring, however, is not merely the science of medicine and medical technology today, however good these realities are. We also bring an understanding of the need as members of the community of faith, to be with one another, support one another, particularly in the face of prolonged or even terminal illnesses.

These human realities we are invited to see as reflections of the cross. Jesus asks each of us to take up our cross and follow Him. It is our faith conviction that redemption came through the One on the cross. For this reason, we are asked to see in the cross we bear the signs of salvation and redemption. Clearly, the perspective is a horizon far beyond the limits of this natural life. It is one that opens up on to the glory of eternity.

When asked what does the Church bring to the world of technology, political correctness and satisfied self-assurance, our response must be that we bring what we have always brought. We bring an invitation to faith, a respect for God’s creation and His created plan. We offer an introduction to the Gospel and its values. Most importantly, we present the opportunity for an encounter with Christ and his compassion and mercy.

A beautiful example of this truly merciful response to illness and suffering was offered by Saint Marianne Cope, whose feast day we celebrate today. Following Saint Father Damien of Molokai, she embraced and provided loving care and hope to the wretched patients who had previously been given only despair by society when they were banished to the Hawaiian leper colony on Molokai.

 When we speak of respect for human life, it is easy for us to get caught up in abstractions, and our response can seem somewhat theoretical. But our obligations are quite concrete. Lives depend on us.

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a maternity hospital in Peru that was supported and sustained by the Church in this country. It operated in an impoverished area with a large, struggling population of poor and needy people.

One of my greatest joys is when young parents give me their newborn baby to hold, so I was delighted when the sisters running the maternity ward invited me to hold one of the children under their care. As I gingerly picked up a one-day-old infant, the baby latched onto my finger with all his strength and held tight.

That infant is a parable to me – a representative of countless unborn children reaching out to hold onto you and me, reaching out with all their strength. In their struggle to find a place, a home, a life in this world, the most vulnerable among us depend on us to work for a culture of life.

It is said that silence and ignorance are allies of evil and this is certainly true with respect to abortion. So ingrained and commonplace is the mentality and practice in our society that many have become inured and numb to the violence. Moreover, so staggering and beyond comprehension are the nearly 60 million innocent unborn children taken in abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that they risk becoming just numbers. However, these are not mere statistics on the page. We are talking about real human lives and the loss of each one is an alarming tragedy.

What is even more alarming is the call of some pro-abortion organizations “to celebrate abortion.” Just as we would celebrate a new born child – what we used to refer to as “a blessed event.”

This is why we cannot be silent. This is why we dare not turn our attention away. We pray and march so that these innocents will have someone who will speak for them. We labor in order that unborn children will not be ignored, forgotten, invisible to people’s consciences, to remind the nation that behind the word “abortion” and euphemisms like “choice” and “reproductive health” are real human beings.

We need to ask those who say they are in favor of “choice” to complete the sentence.  Choice of what? Cigarettes in public restaurants, funding for the school for your kids? The list can go on and on!

Our witness must be the voice that awakens our society to the emptiness of telling women that abortion is the answer to their problems. We must work for the right to life and bring hope and healing to those women and men who are or have been in crisis situations. May God give us all the determination to build a culture of life, defending the life and dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.

During Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, one of the most striking images was how the Holy Father’s love radiated whether he was greeting a head of state or a homeless person. His gestures, his words, his actions in every encounter proclaimed the truth that every life is worth living. As a gift from God, every human life from conception to death is sacred. It is this fundamental truth the Pope so convincingly communicates.

October is Respect Life month. During this time, in a special way, people are invited to reflect on the ways they can give witness to the dignity of every human life. “In many places, quality of life is related primarily to economic means, to ‘well-being,’ to the beauty and enjoyment of the physical, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence – interpersonal, spiritual and religious,” observes Pope Francis. “In fact, in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always ‘of quality.’ There is no human life that is more sacred than another – every human life is sacred.” (Address of November 15, 2014).

The Church has always proclaimed the dignity of each human person. In our day when we hear so much about renewing the inspiration of the Second Vatican Council, we must also remind ourselves of what it said as it stressed how human life must be honored and upheld, fostered and respect: “whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and willful self-destruction . . . all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed” (Gaudium et Spes, 27).

Thus, there is great need now as much as ever for faithful disciples of the Lord and members of his Church to give ready witness to the dignity of human life at every stage, including our efforts to bring hope and healing to those who are or have been in crisis situations, leading to pain and despair.

For example, for more than 25 years the archdiocese’s Project Rachel Ministry has helped women and men heal spiritually and psychologically from the pain of abortion. Please take a minute to go here to learn more about this blessed work.

The archdiocese has also created a variety of #TransformFear resources that address the questions related to the end of human life due to illness, age or injury. With Pope Francis warning us of the “throwaway culture,” we must remember that human life is a gift from God – there is no such thing as a life not worth living. Our response as family members, as caregivers, and as a Church to those facing the end of life – with all their feelings of isolation, fear, and burdensomeness – is genuine compassion and reciprocal love, which seeks to provide comfort and hope in the face of fear and suffering.

One manifestation of support for life is found in what has become for decades an every year event, which welcomes new generations of participants.

Preceded by the morning Youth Rally and Mass for Life hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington, in the March for Life hundreds of thousands of voices are raised to announce the truth that every human life is sacred. What is so encouraging to me is the huge number of high school and college students who participate. While many of these young people are local, there are also many who have endured long bus rides from destinations all over the East Coast and Midwest, and wherever they are from, they are willing to stand outdoors for many hours in generally less than welcoming weather conditions.

Even more impressive, for many of them, their participation in pro-life advocacy does not begin and end with the Rally and March – it is a year-round commitment to human life, something that is part of the fabric of their lives.

Dear friends, what we bring to our culture, our society, our community today is not just the very significant call to respect all life. What we also offer people is hope – the Good News that God exists and our existence is not random or accidental. We are not at the mercy of arbitrary forces; chaos does not rule the universe. Rather, we exist because God brought us into being and breathed life into us (Genesis 2:7Jeremiah 1:5).

I want to conclude with one last story. Some years ago, when I was on pilgrimage to Lourdes, I watched as the Eucharistic procession wove its way through the huge crowds. At one point, a young woman in a wheelchair struggled to stand, bracing herself by holding on to the arms of the wheelchair. She strained to remain standing until the Blessed Sacrament had passed in front of her. Then, exhausted from the effort, she slumped back into her chair. Some things are worth standing for, even if it takes effort.

My brothers and sisters, let us always be prepared to stand for the gift of life. Let us be ready to stand for those who cannot yet or can no longer stand for their own life. Let us stand in the strength and gift of our own life in order that we can always be a witness to our message: That all life is sacred because it is a gift from God.


Of Plenty, Population, and Trust: A Further Reflection on the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes

blog7-24The multiplication of the loaves and fishes that we read about at Sunday Mass this week was a miracle so astonishing that it is recounted in all four Gospels. And a second, similar instance is recorded in another Gospel. In other words, this sort of miracle by Jesus is recounted five times within the four Gospels.

There are many theological reasons for this. Clearly, Jesus was fulfilling the promise of Moses: that after him a greater One would arise who would also feed the people mysteriously with bread. There are also many Eucharistic and spiritual dimensions to the miracle.

But in this reflection I would like to ponder the notion that this miracle of satisfying our physical hunger is one writ large in our times. While many wish that the astounding miracles of the Scriptures were more evident today, I would like to argue that the miracle of the loaves and fishes and God’s promise to care for His people is right before our very eyes.

And while there is hunger in the world today, it is not due to God, but to human struggles and human sinfulness.

More on the question of hunger in a moment. But first, let’s ponder the work of God to feed us and see how He has multiplied our loaves and fishes.

In the Book of Genesis, God blessed Adam and Eve and said to them,

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant-yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit-yielding seed; it shall be food for you …” (Gen 1:28-29)

God would repeat a similar blessing and instruction to Noah, adding meat to the diet as well.

So note that God wanted the human family to grow and promised to supply food for us. Even after the fall of Original Sin, although God told Adam that his harvesting would come “by the sweat of your brow,” there would be a harvest.

In the first reading from Sunday’s Mass, Elisha said, “For thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”  And when they had eaten, there was some left over, as the LORD had said (2 Kings 4:43-44).

So God did establish the general truth that the earth would provide adequate food for His people. And while there might be local famines or droughts, on the whole, the earth would provide.

In more recent times, as the world’s population has continued to grow, some have cast doubt on the capacity of the earth to supply food for us. In 1798, Thomas Malthus wrote an influential essay in which he predicted that our population was approaching a critical stage and that it would soon outdistance the food supply, bringing on mass starvation. Since that time many others have posited similar doomsday scenarios, and though the projected date of the crisis varied, they predicted that the scenario would surely come.

But although the world’s population is now more than 7 billion people, there remains a remarkably stable, even increasing, food supply.  So abundant is agriculture here in the U.S. that the government actually encourages, through subsidies, farmers NOT to plant certain crops. We even burn a lot of corn for fuel. I do not report these things because I necessarily approve of them, but only to show that basic foods are produced by this earth in abundance.

Now there are some who will want to dispute the claim that our earth is producing in abundance. They will point to declines in arable land, desertification, etc. But for centuries now, one doomsday scenario after another has failed to materialize. The population continues to grow, and yet there is still food in relative abundance.

And though many (perhaps understandably) like Phillip and the Apostles cry out, “How can we ever get food to feed this multitude?” the Lord and His earth continue to provide for us. In a way, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is writ large by modern agriculture.

Surely, though, just as the Lord used the five loaves and two fishes in the lakeside miracle, He involves us in the solution to feeding the planet today. The miracle of multiplied food sources comes from God, but interacts with human ingenuity. Consider the human role:

  1. Agricultural technology, soil management, insect control, etc. have all increased the yield of crops many times over. God has given us intellects and blessed our capacity to learn what works to increase the harvest.
  2. There is the emergence of a worldwide economy and the transportation to be able to harvest crops from all over the world. Localized droughts and even just the change of the seasons no longer have the impact on the food supply that they once did. Trouble in one area can be mitigated by supply from another area. Winter in one area can be covered for by summer in another.
  3. Animal husbandry, fisheries, and other technologies also foster a great increase in meats, fishes, and dairy products.

So our five loaves and two fishes do matter!

Granted, some of these technologies are controversial from an environmental point of view. If we can make the desert bloom, should we? Should we genetically modify things, and if so, how much and how often? What pesticides are OK to use and what are their side effects?  How much water can and should be used for agriculture? Is building dams helpful or harmful?

This is not a blog to debate such matters. But without suggesting either blanket approval or blanket condemnation of such technologies, the fact remains that the earth continues to provide abundant food. And it does so in a way that the ancient world, or even more recently Thomas Malthus, would consider astonishing (and I would say, miraculous). As atomic physics has shown, even tiny amounts of matter contain enormous energy locked within them.

God’s promise to provide food for the human family, whom He told to “multiply to fill the earth,” remains stubbornly true, despite the doubters and the doomsday predictions of recent centuries.

But what of hunger? Clearly there is not an even distribution of food on our planet. There are areas where people go relatively hungry. Often, the poor do not have adequate access to good food supply. As food sometimes rots in American silos, is burned for fuel, or is even deliberately not planted, other regions struggle. As many Americans blithely cast food into the trash after meals, others would pine for the scraps from our tables.

Yet note that this is not a lack on the part of God. The earth supplies what we need, but that does not preclude human sinfulness or other factors from allowing hunger to continue. Consider that hunger in the modern world is often caused by things like

  1. war,
  2. local corruption that blocks food from reaching the poor,
  3. poor infrastructure (e.g., roads, landing strips) to bring food in, and
  4. greed and hoarding.

How to best address these factors is a matter of controversy, and is beyond the scope of this blog post and my blog as a whole.

But the point I wish to emphasize is that the miracle of the loaves and fishes, even from the standpoint of merely physical food sources, is writ large today. It is a miracle the way this earth, as God has given it, supplies our needs even as we “fill the earth.” God did not command what He could not provide for. If He told us to multiply, fill, and subdue the earth, then He also asks us to trust Him. Bringing the loaves and fishes of our minds and our ingenuity to the table, with God’s grace and the earth He has given us, we have partnered to produce an abundant harvest!

Are there hungry people? Yes. And this is a disgrace rooted not in God, but in us. God Himself counsels us not merely to build bigger barns so as to hoard our excess food. Rather, He advises that we should “store” it in the stomachs of the poor and needy (cf Luke 12:13-21).

God is faithful and true to His promise. The earth has yielded its fruit, God our God has blessed us (Ps 67:6).

An even more widespread problem today is spiritual starvation. I’ll address that topic in tomorrow post.

Misleading and Uniformative: Some Thoughts on a Recent Abortion Poll

012813I like many of you heard of a recent Pew Research Center survey on Abortion (released just before the March for Life) that presents discouraging results. The very title of their release was trumpeted by secular Media: Most Oppose Overturning Abortion Decision. That was the lead and really the only thing the secular media wanted to hear.

The actual Pew report is a lot more difficult to read and the results are hard to compare with other surveys since the wording of the questions is never held constant. For example, the exclusion of rape/incest clauses makes for different results. Like it or not most Americans are more sanguine about abortions in cases of rape and incest (rare though such cases are). Whether respondents are given such distinctions makes a difference, as do other factors. For example, many if not most Americans favor any number of restrictions on Abortion short of a total ban and, depending on how the questions are asked, the restrictions they favor come close to a general exclusion of Abortion as a legal option. Thus there are many subtleties in the context and wording of questions.

You can see the full Pew Report here: Roe v. Wade at 40 Frankly the report is bewildering to my eyes, pointing in many different directions and broken into so many categories. It is hard to draw any real conclusions at least to my amateur statistician eyes.

Ramesh Ponnuru writing in National review on-line has some of the following observations of the Pew Report that also help place the survey in context and which raise the problem of leading questions flawed premises that plague such surveys. His remarks are in bold black italics, my comments are plain red text. His full article is Here: How Not to Read Abortion Polls

Actually, Pew did not find that support for Roe has been increasing. It found less support for Roe than it did in 2005, which appears to be the last time it asked the question. The ABC/Washington Post poll also found declining support for Roe between 2005 and 2010.

But of course the lead headlines all suggest that support for legal abortion was growing, not declining. The impression on radio and TV news was that over 70% Americans want Roe to stay just as it is.

But the fact is that Roe and subsequent rulings that brought us Abortion on mere demand for all nine months of pregnancy has been steadily eroding as an unabridged legal right. This is because Americans, at many state levels, are insisting on and getting increasing restrictions both on the abortion industry, and the right to unrestricted abortion for all nine months.

Americans do not in practice provide unqualified support for Roe and abortion on demand away from the poll takers survey. Late term abortion are far more repugnant to Americans, as are abortions for crass reasons such as sex-selection. There are many things that will influence how a person answers the survey.

Other polling does not find any leftward shift. The University of Michigan’s polling finds no clear change from 1990 through 2008. The CBS/New York Times poll shows no movement between 2003 and 2012. Gallup shows no clear change in either direction from 2002 to 2012. (It also finds no pro-choice majority: In May of 2012, 59 percent of respondents told Gallup abortion should be legal in a few circumstances or illegal in all circumstances, while 38 percent said it should be legal in “all” or “most” circumstances.) Harris’s numbers show a movement in the pro-life direction from 1993 to 2009 on the question of under what circumstances abortion should be legal.

And here is a key point that makes surveys hard to read. Some surveys ask the question of support for Roe in an all or nothing, up or down fashion. Other surveys introduce circumstances. And it would appear that the circumstances make a lot of difference.

And when poll takers do not add any circumstances or qualifiers to the question it is less clear what qualifiers the respondents read into the question. For example, if a person is asked to vote up or down on Roe it is important to know if they think Roe allows abortion only in the first three months or if they know that Roe permits abortion right up to the last moment in the womb. Far fewer Americans support abortion in month 8 than in week 4. Further, far fewer Americans support abortion for sex-selection than due to the health of the mother.

Simply reporting that a percentage of Americans support or don’t support Roe is not really very informative.

Pollsters [often] include misinformation in their questions about Roe, as both the Pew and NBC/WSJ polls do. They suggest falsely that Roe limits the abortion license to the first three months of pregnancy. (The combined effect of Roe and its companion case Doe v. Bolton is to make abortion legal at any stage of pregnancy.) The latter poll even uses the phrase “completely overturn” in its question, a qualifier that can be expected to lower support for the option….what the Roe polls are probably picking up is that a strong majority of the public does not favor a ban on all first-trimester abortions.

Exactly, and while we may wish that Americans rejected abortion under ALL circumstances, we may have to be content to change hearts incrementally in this matter. It is at the outer edges that the pro-life progress is most evident. For, as noted above there is a steady string of legislative and legal victories at state levels that have sought to limit abortions. Gradually Americans are more comfortable that access to abortion at any stage for any reason should not be unrestricted. This may then lay the groundwork for further progress in a total change of heart and rejection of abortion at all stages  for more and more Americans.

Maybe it will turn out that the public is becoming more supportive of abortion. I’d wait to see more evidence before calling that trend, which may not exist at all, “clear.

Yes, it seems clear that the media rush to publicize the Pew results simplistically was likely more illustrative of their own views than of what this limited result actually shows. Shame on Pew as well for their leading headline which probably was aimed more at publicity than careful analysis.

More the complexity of this issue was discussed a year and half ago on this blog when a Gallup Poll released then said that 61% of Americans want all, or most abortions, to be declared illegal. Even there, the nature of the questions had to be carefully factored in. You can read more of my blog from then Here: Americans Want most Abortion to be Illegal.

Fair is fair. We continue to have a battle on our hands, be I still contend that we are steadily eroding support for abortion at the edges and more Americans want more restrictions. We are heading in the right direction. Further embryology and medical science in general are on our side. Increasingly, with 3-D sonograms and the like the reality of life in the womb is evident to all but the most hardened.

Onward fellow pro-lifers. Time + evidence favor our cause. Do not be discouraged by misleading reports and undistinguished data.

For those of us in pro-life work there are important precedents to be seen in the fight against slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and even in the anti-smoking campaign. Consistent, persistent and organized action brings eventual results. This is often a battle for inches, but inches become yards, and yards, miles. Keep a inching alone like a poor old inch worm, Jesus will come by and by.

Bills in Three States Set to Ban Most Abortions and Define Life at Conception: Pray, Pray, Pray!

We considered recently the progress that the Pro-life movement is making in changing hearts (HERE). We pondered that over 61% of Americans want abortion to be illegal in most circumstances. In today’s paper is more hopeful news as three Southern States consider legislation that would outlaw abortion in most circumstances, and go so far as to declare that life begins with conception. Children in the womb thus have the same rights as child of any age.

If this legislation goes forward, there will surely be appeals that will likely wind up in the Supreme Court of the United States, and bring the debate on life and personhood back into focus.

That such bills would be moving forward, along with a steady growth of legal restrictions on abortion in a total of up to 39 States, would have been almost unthinkable 10 years ago. But increasingly, the absurdity of abortion becomes more and more obvious as medical science makes it clear that a unique human being comes into existence at conception. Attempting to fix the moment when life begins at any later time is pure fantasy, and more and more Americans know this. We have reached the point where it may be politically possible in three states to legally recognize this sure fact.

Not only can we thank medical science for this information, but profound credit it due to the prophetic voice of the pro-life movement in this country.

I want to share an article from Reuters News Agency and add comments. As usual, the original text is in bold, black, italics, and my comments are in plain red text. This is an excerpt, the full article is here: Louisiana House May Conisder Bill to Ban Abortion

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The Louisiana state House of Representatives on Tuesday evening was set to consider a bill that would ban abortions and launch a battle to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill by Republican state Rep. John LaBruzzo defines human life as beginning at the moment of conception and makes it a crime to terminate a pregnancy except when the birth would endanger the mother’s life. The measure would repeal previous state exceptions that allowed abortion when a pregnancy results from rape or incest. This final point flows from personhood, doesn’t it.  If the unborn child is a human person, then that person has a right to life, even when third parties have done terrible things related to him or her. A person does not lose their right to live based on the crimes of third parties.

“Our first intent is to save unborn babies’ lives,” LaBruzzo told Reuters. “Our second intent is to have an opportunity to mount a challenge that makes it to the Supreme Court.” Yes it is wonderful to see these mounting challenges. 150 years ago the absurdity of slavery began to occur to a nation founded on liberty and justice. We could no longer square our practice with our national vision, and so, support for slavery waned. Either all men were created equal and endowed by their creator with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or not. Slavery simply could not be justified in the light of that sweeping national premise.

Little by little, we are winning the battle in a similar way. Abortion is appearing increasingly absurd. That  absurdity is increasingly clear in the light of what we know about when a distinct life begins, and what it therefore means to be a person, deserving of rights and respect. Assigning the beginning of human life to anything but the moment of conception is not only medically absurd, but appears to an increasing number of Americans to be purely arbitrary. “Arbitrary” is just another way of saying “unjust” in this case. The legal cases being brought forward about personhood are a wonderful focal instance of this insight. The only rational, legal basis for personhood is conception. The determination of any other time is an exercise of purely arbitrary and raw power where the State or the judiciary takes up the role of God. I am convinced that more and more Americans see it this way.

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, said the bills are “a nationwide movement to erode women’s access to health care.” Abortion is not healthcare.

Louisiana joins two other Southern states — Mississippi and Alabama — in attempting the most stringent abortion restrictions seen in the nearly four decades since the landmark Supreme Court ruling making abortion legal. Notice the word “stringent.” Why not the word “protective” instead? Further I would replace the word “landmark” with something like “horrifying” or “infamous” or “flawed.” Sure, these words would make the report “biased,” but no less biased than words like “stringent” and “landmark” bias it.

Since the High Court in 1973 upheld a woman’s right to seek an abortion in Roe v. Wade, states have passed a wide range of abortion laws aimed at regulating when and under what circumstances a woman may obtain an abortion. No state has so far succeeded in banning abortion altogether, though many have tightened restrictions on the procedure in recent years.

According to the Guttmacher Institute in Washington, D.C., which conducts research and policy analysis related to reproductive health, 39 states prohibit abortions after a specified point in pregnancy. Many states also impose requirements ranging from minimum waiting periods to state-mandated counseling. That’s very impressive: 39 states have moved to limit abortion in some way. Pray God this is the slow but steady progress we need and that it will continue.

Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, says about 14 states have this year made some attempt at limiting abortion. “We have seen the most abortion restrictions adopted in one year that we have ever seen,” she said. Praise God!

Two of the most aggressive efforts are under way in Alabama and Mississippi. The measures define life as beginning at conception and would ban abortion. The Alabama Senate approved its bill, which is now pending in the House, and Mississippi residents will vote on the issue in November. And if they pass, there is likely a sure trip to the Supreme Court for a kind of show-down on Roe. Even if these laws are upheld, it is conceivable Roe could also continue to stand in some form. But I am getting a sense that Roe’s days may be fast eroding. I hope too that, in the meantime, the bishops and local pastors in these states will work hard for passage, and ask for prayer and fasting. If things move to a nationwide level I hope too that prayer and fasting will be central weapons. Maybe American Catholics could pledge 50 million rosaries for the over 50 million abortions performed, as the cases move to the national level. Pray, Pray Pray!!

“What the bill says is that life begins at conception, and a baby who is pre-born should enjoy all the rights that a 1-day-old baby does.” Amen!


Photo Credit LunarC via Creative Commons

Little by Little, the Tide is Turning. But We have to Keep Working

Most of you probably heard of the Gallup Poll released yesterday that showed that 61% of Americans want all, or most abortions, to be declared illegal. There remains for further study, the oddity that some Americans who take this position still say they are “pro-choice,” but in the end they still want most abortion to be illegal. If you are unaware of this report you can read it here: Gallup Poll

The upshot of the report is: that, despite their labeling of their own abortion views, a majority of Americans clearly not only oppose abortion and believe it to be a morally improper “choice,” but they believe the legal status of abortions should change and all or virtually all abortions should be prohibited [1].

The lesson here,  is that we ought to take heart. Our prophetic stance in the Church and in the wider pro-life community is having good effects. At times the battle seems long and the results seem distant, but little by little, the tide is turning. There will be set backs and troubles, but we have to keep working. Gently the tide is turning.

An old African American Spiritual says, Keep-a-inching along, Jesus will come by and by, Keep-a-inching along, like a poor inch worm, Jesus will come by and by. So the song says, keep working for justice, it implies, don’t give up. And those slaves of old saw slavery end. Many of the same arguments for slavery have been redeployed by abortion supporters, but keep inching along, Jesus will come, by and by, and the truth will out.

When we look back at slavery, most Americans are embarrassed that we ever thought such an abomination was fine and legal. But it took time to turn the tide in that great struggle. And even after slavery, the struggle continued, through years of Jim Crow and many indignities.

We look back on such things with shame now, how could we have been so foolish and have betrayed American principles so badly, as to enslave, and later segregate and exclude, a whole race. Slowly conversion has come upon this land. But it only came because some were willing to be prophets, and to keep insisting on what was just and right.

It will be the same with abortion. One day we will look back with shame on this era, and wonder how we could ever have been so sinfully wrong as to think abortion should be legal, and even funded it with state money. But it will take time and continued work. The poll shows we are on the way. Keep inching along, Jesus will come by an by.

Another example of how the tide can turn on an issue is smoking. The videos at the bottom of this post are hilarious ads from the 1950s entitled: More Doctors Smoke Camels. The ads, at the time they were produced, did not intend to be a comedy, but now they are. The ads show a doctor puffing up a storm and it assures us of the “benefits” of smoking Camel Cigarettes.

Looking back at ads like this we think, How could we have ever been so stupid? But of course it has taken us time and effort for us to come to our senses. The anti-smoking campaign was long, and at times, loud. I remember more than a few times being annoyed at the “anti-smoking Nazis.” Though I never smoked myself, I became especially alarmed when the government started telling restaurant and bar owners what to do. But in the end, and all discussions about Government intrusion aside, smoking has really been kicked to the curb in our culture. Some still smoke, but everyone today sees it for what it is, poisonous and, frankly, stupid. Those, who are sadly addicted, puff away, but most of the rest of us look to them with a kind of sadness.

This sea change came as the result of a sustained effort, often on an unwilling public. It was multi-pronged as well, using the media effectively, and even the legislative process.

For those of us in pro-life work there are important precedents to be seen in the fight against slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and even in the anti-smoking campaign. Consistent, persistent and organized action brings eventual results. This is often a battle for inches, but inches become yards, and yards, miles. Keep a inching alone like a poor old inch worm, Jesus will come by and by.

Enjoy these silly ads.

A Journey Home to the Catholic Faith and What We Can Learn.

A recent announcement of journey home to the Catholic Faith was made by the well known pro-life advocate Bryan Kemper. His announcement letter is posted below. Not only can we rejoice to have a fine and prophetic new member, but, in reading his letter, we can also see certain hallmarks that have led him to the Church. The things he mentions are also things others have mentioned. I would also like to discuss something he does NOT mention.

First here is the letter he sent to his supporters on his blog. I have taken the liberty of adding a few reflections which appear in plain text red.

Dear friends,

I know this may come as a shock to many of you; I am in shock in a way my self. I have spent the past 23 years living my life for Christ always wanting to serve Him and know His truth.

I have been a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for almost 10 years as I was so inspired by the liturgy and reverence I found there. I have also been in a constant journey for God’s truth, studying His Word as well as church history. After many, many years of resisting a calling that I tried to suppress I have finally felt the peace of God with my decision to join the Catholic Church. Please note his reference to being inspired by the liturgy and reverence in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I want to comment on that below.

I know that many of you will be confused, even concerned for me. I know that you will have many questions and even be tempted to try and dissuade me from this decision. While I will most certainly talk to you about what God is doing here, I will not be entering into any debates about this right now.

I want to let you know this is not made lightly; I fought against this for years. There are several things that led me to search and finally choose to go back to the Church. I will share a few things in brief here and would love to sit down in person some time with you if you want to peacefully discuss them in more detail.

Every true spiritual journey is marked by profound consideration and often painful discernment. He clearly has love for the traditions which have nourished and sustained him and cannot lightly leave that behind. I have made this journey with others who have joined the Catholic Church and found that their love and appreciation for what has sustained them and is an important  aspect of the gifts they bring to the Church. The Church is wonderfully enriched by the fact that they do not cast aside what they have received in the past, but rather that they transpose and apply it to the Catholic setting. For there is great zeal, love and knowledge of Scripture, a fine tradition of preaching, hymnody, an appreciation for a personal walk with the Lord, and countless other gifts in the Protestant traditions. We are indeed enriched by those who join us.

Church authority: There are simply thousands and thousands of denominations and every time someone disagrees with another teaching of their church they simply start a new one. The Catholic Church has had it’s teaching since the beginning of the Church in the scriptures. There is no way God can be happy with thousands of denominations or so-called non-denominational churches. It seems that when people disagree on doctrine it often results in another break off church. The fact is that current Christian teaching can differ so much between two churches that it really constitutes different religions and different Gods. There must be one established truth that God gave us, one that has remained from the time of Christ.

We have talked a lot about this in this blog. It is the chief problem with the Protestant approach. When no one is Pope, everyone is Pope and there are no real ways of resolving difficulties and the conflicts that inevitably happen when two or more human beings are together. One of the glories of the Catholic Church has been her integrity in terms of authority and unity in terms of doctrine.

There are, to be sure, squabbles among the faithful as to emphasis and direction. But when the problem is doctrinal, or the non-doctrinal debates become too divisive, we DO have a way of ultimately resolving it and remaining in a coherent unity.

Some of the older, main-line Protestant denominations were able to keep this for a time when Scripture’s authority and veracity were unquestioned. But in recent decades, the main-line denominations no longer agree on authority of Scripture in terms of its plain meaning, and the differing views have caused major ruptures in the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian branches. It is most often the moral questions, such as homosexuality and abortion, that prove most problematic. And without Scripture, tradition and authority the severing into ever wider varieties is inevitable.

Mr. Kemper could not have said it better than when he speaks of there being one established truth that has remained intact since the time of Christ.

Pro-life and Contraception: There is only one church that has been consistent from the time of Christ to today on the teaching of pro—life and contraception. Before 1930 there was never a single Christian church in history to accept any form of contraception and today there is only one that absolutely has kept this Christian teaching and truth.

Praise God for this insight. The Catholic Church has often been excoriated for not keeping up with the times. But of course, as Mr. Kemper notes, this is not the role of the Church. Rather, she is to consistently hold to the truths that come to us from Christ through the Apostles. Though sorely tempted by her own members to update in terms of contraception and, to some extent, abortion, the Church has held firm to what she has received.

In terms of pro-life issues, you may recall that we discussed on this blog some time ago what David French, a well known Protestant author said of the Catholic Church: for almost forty years has been the beating heart of the American pro-life movement….One cannot spend five minutes with thoughtful Catholics without understanding how the defense of life is a fundamental and integral part of the DNA of the church. Since the defense of life is theologically-grounded, it is functionally and practically independent of any secular ideology. Life is not just an “issue,” for a Catholic; it is at the core of the Gospel. [1]

Yes, dedication to pro-life issues and holding firm on the teaching about contraception are two glories of the Church. And, it is important to see that this sort of prophetic stance is winning new members for us, members who bring great gifts and zeal with them. We ought not fear being prophetic and zealous lovers of life. God is both renewing us and blessing us with new members like Bryan Kemper.

Communion or the Eucharist: I have always believed that communion was more that just a symbol and in looking back at early church teaching it is crystal clear that this was taught from day one. St Ignatius of Antioch a student of John the Apostle taught on this and clarified it well.

Here too is the central glory of the Catholic Church, that we unvaryingly hold to the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I cannot tell you how many have come to the Church or returned to her on this count. The Scriptures could not be clearer on this point and, as Mr. Kemper notes, the Church Fathers also held it from day one. What a magnificent glory it is that we have Christ truly present in our tabernacles and truly receive him in Holy Communion. To remain devoted to Christ in the Eucharist is surely a necessary requirement for the Church if we want the Lord to bless us with new members.

These are just a few of the things that drew me back into the Catholic Church; however there is so much more. I was baptized Catholic as a child so the process is not as complicated for me. I will be starting RCIA classes and working towards confirmation.

I am asking my friends to pray for my family’s journey and me as I truly seek to be closer to Christ. My relationship with Christ is the most important thing in my life and I hope my friends will stand by me, as I grow closer to Him.

As for the work of Stand True; it will remain focused on educating, activating and equipping young to stand up for life and Christ. We have always been an organization that reaches out to and works with all Christians and we will remain true to that. A great work he is doing.

For Christ I stand,

Bryan Kemper

The original statement is found here: Journey Home

So, there is much to be grateful for here. Clearly the beauty, and the integrity of the Church on many issues continues to inspire new members to join us.

I would like to mention something Mr. Kemper did not say and ponder for a moment the possible meaning of it. You will note above that he said: I have been a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for almost 10 years as I was so inspired by the liturgy and reverence I found there. Among the things he did not list, as his reason for joining the Catholic Church, was the inspiration and reverence related to the liturgy. It may well be that he did not discuss this for the sake of brevity. But I wonder if we might not perhaps be willing to learn why the liturgical experience did not make the list?

The fact is that too much Catholic liturgy today comes across as neither inspiring nor reverent. There is nothing wrong with our liturgy in essence. It is the glorious Mass handed on to us by Christ and the Apostles. But the way we celebrate it in the typical Catholic parish is often problematic. It is rushed, sermons are poor and music is sometimes of questionable taste. Further, people dress casually, and sometimes act irreverently in the Church. Many too, seem bored and disengaged from what is going on. Clergy too often seem to celebrate in a perfunctory manner, and liturgical abuses sometimes taint the celebration.

In dealing with converts from the main-line denominations, one of the hurdles I have discovered they often have to clear is the question of liturgy. They come from liturgical traditions that are not as elaborate as the full Catholic Tradition. However, their traditions are marked by a noble simplicity that has engaged them well. There is a great tradition of hymn singing, and congregational involvement. There is also a tradition of fine preaching that includes a lengthier, teaching oriented sermon that fully develops the scriptural text. Their congregations tend to be smaller and the services less numerous. Community is more intimate and so forth. It is often a sacrifice for many of them to leave this and come to an often less cozy and reverent environment that predominates in many of our larger parishes. To be sure, Catholicism offers a wide variety of liturgical experiences and reverence is not easily defined as jsut one thing. But it ought to be noted that Mr. Kemper did not mention the reverent liturgies of the Church on his primary list. We might learn something from this.

Bryan Kemper’s entrance into the Church is something to rejoice in. Obviously he sees and appreciates something in the Church that has caused him to make what is a big step for him. Pray for him as he makes this transition. Further, we ought as Catholics, to rejoice in the prophetic witness of the Church and how many are still inspired to join. Something is going right here and we ought to be grateful at what the Lord is doing. Not only does the Church enrich and inspire others to membership in the Body of Christ, but the Church is also enriched by the gifts that others, like Bryan Kemper brings. Let us rejoice and give thanks.

Here is a video clip of Bryan’s Work:

Putting the Lie to “Safe and Legal.” A Pro-Life Victory in Virginia, and a Reminder in Maryland that the Battle Goes On

Many of you are aware that last week the Virginia Legislature passed historic legislation that calls out the veracity of the Pro-Choice claim that they want abortion “safe and legal” and puts that claim to the test.

Here are excerpts from a Washington Examiner article:

The Virginia legislature on Thursday passed historic legislation that would tighten regulations on abortion clinics in the state — and could make it more difficult for Northern Virginia women to find one.

Facilities in which five or more first-trimester abortions are performed each month would be classified as hospitals, which are subject to stricter rules regarding the width of their hallways, for example, as well as certain staffing and medical requirements…..Gov. Bob McDonnell said Thursday he intends to sign the measure.

Should that happen, Virginia will become the first state to require hospital regulations at facilities that perform first-trimester abortions. The law would take effect July 1, and the state Board of Health, made up of gubernatorial appointments, would issue regulations within 280 days of that date.

Advocates for the long-sought measure, including Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, hailed the outcome as a measure to preserve and protect the health of women in the state.”While I regret the occurrence of abortions, I do want women in all circumstances treated with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.

Opponents, however, argued that the increased regulations would have the opposite effect and restrict access to those seeking abortions, raising potential constitutional issues. “This is a sad, sad day for the women of Virginia and our families,” said Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax.

Clinics in Northern Virginia could be shuttered as a result, said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “Right now, believe it or not, the most populated area in Virginia does not have an abortion clinic that would meet hospital standards,” Keene said.

….Abortion clinics in Virginia are currently regulated as outpatient clinics, similar to oral or cosmetic surgery centers.

The Full article is here: Virginia Law Regulates Abortion Clinics

Now, of course, pro-choice advocates, who have long marched under the banner of “safe and legal,” should hail this decision since it goes a long way to ensure one of their two “pillar” positions. As strong advocates for “women’s safety” they, look back in horror to the days of “coat-hanger” abortions and insist that those days must never return. So, surely, they will support measures to further protect women from the often unsafe, unsanitary and under-regulated women’s “clinics.” Many stories have recently surfaced that show just how unsafe these clinics are. For example


Well, you get the point. There are huge problems in the abortion “industry” regarding safety. The pro-choice advocates claim they want to have safe abortions available. Here  comes Virginia to the rescue with strong legislative protections for women who go to these so-called clinics. But as we can see from the reactions above, the “safe and legal” advocates are well prepared to sacrifice safety in order to keep abortion more legal. Regulating abortion for them is chipping away at its legality and availability. Hence the “Safe” pillar, they claim to be at the foundation of their movement, has to give way for the legal pillar. Never mind that some women are butchered and even die.

It’s really the “legal” of “safe and legal” that matters. Or so it would seem. For all the talk about women’s safety, it would appear that such a concern is quite secondary.

Hence, the Virginia Law puts the lie to the propaganda of the Pro-choice advocates. “Safe” for them appears to be more of an abstraction or a slogan. Real safety doesn’t seem to interest them, or at least, it seems to threaten them.

Without a doubt, the victory in Virginia is a sad and ironic one. Focusing on women’s safety is a fine goal in itself. But, what of the safety of the unborn children? Well, step by step we’ll make this journey to recapture of the hearts of our countrymen. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli rightly states, While I regret the occurrence of abortions, I do want women in all circumstances treated with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves. Yes, and to this I would only add: unborn babies too. I know Mr. Cuccinelli would agree. Here at least is a step to further exposing the hypocrisy of many who cry “safe and legal.” Here at least is a step in seeing that women who are often pressured to have abortions are not easily subjected to the horrors of an under-regulated “industry.”

Now a river runs through the DC area called the Potomac. And while there is a small bit of good news on the Virginia side of the river, a deep sadness has set up on the Maryland side. Sad and tragic to be sure, but some local heroes have stepped on the scene armed with prayer.

The place is Germantown, Md. The case is that of the notorious late-term abortionist, LeRoy Carhart who arrived in this area after being invited to leave the Midwest. Carhart is at his “clinic” Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Women from all over the country arrive as he performs his three-day abortion procedure. Protestors witness mothers walking in the door clearly advanced in their pregnancies. The babies are killed by lethal injection on Monday morning and a laminaria (to dilate the cervix) is started. On Tuesday they return. Finally on Wednesday the mothers get a “choice”, they can either endure a hard day of labor with no anesthesia and deliver the “contents” intact (a dead baby) or they can deliver the “contents” more easily in pieces. (Pardon the graphics.)

Pro-life advocates are working hard to spread awareness and awaken the community. For over a month now 80 to 200+ people protest and pray before the clinic as the women arrive for the Monday killings. There are people from many local denominations, students coming before classes, pro-life veterans from all over the county, businessmen that are currently in the surrounding offices and businessmen that have moved their businesses because of the presence of the abortion clinic.

A First Rescue – On the second week of the protest was seen the first fruit of the efforts. Here is and excerpt from a press release that describes the rescue:

[As] Over 90 people stood in peaceful, prayerful witness outside of the abortion facility….witnesses described a young woman who arrived to have a scheduled abortion with Carhart, and how the entire group gathered together to pray specific and focused prayers for this particular woman and her child. The woman came back out of facility a short time later and announced, “I knew the love was out here and not in there!” She also said that the facility is “disgusting and the people are mean in there.” The young woman continued to speak with the group for several minutes, and eventually accompanied one of the witnesses to Shady Grove Pregnancy Center. Shady Grove’s purpose is to help and support women who believe that their only option is abortion [1]

The prayer and the advocacy for life continue. God bless those who pray before these “clinics.” As one who does so myself, I want to say it is a very difficult work, often a deep sadness envelopes, and yet also a deep love. Pray for those who make these difficult walks. Pray for results. Pray that more women may come to know that “the love is out here, not in there.” Blessings to Grace and Jamie Morrison who supplied me with info for this post.

The address of the clinic is

Germantown Reproductive “Health Services”
13233 Executive Park Terrace
Germantown, MD. 20874

Here are some additional sources:


Here is a video of the prayers on-going before this awful clinic. Take a few moments and watch. And while you watch, pray. One of those organizing the prayers says with confidence, “Carhart will leave soon.” And surely our prayers will help in not only that, but his conversion as well.

Photo Credit: Flickr (right click for URL)