Monday, October 31, 2005

Elizabeth Anscombe: building a Culture of Life

Mercedes Gutierrez's weekly column from Catholic News Agency introduces us to the woman behind a newly formed chastity group at Princeton University: Elizabeth Anscombe. One of Ms. Anscombe's best know works is a lengthy paper called "Contraception and Chastity." I'm only about one quarter through reading this, however I would like to offer my comments of what I have read so far.

Ms. Anscombe is a smart woman; this was written in 1977, however she offers us insight into the human heart, not just the legalistic points of living the moral life. She speaks from her own experience as a convert and as a mother and wife.

In the beginning of her paper, she introduces what she calls the "contraceptive morality," an attitude that was beginning to take shape during her time in which women were being sold out as objects due to the availability of somewhat-effective contraceptive measures and ultimately availability of abortion services.

In the first part of her paper, she says the following with regard to the true reasons of the human heart for choosing chastity over contraception.

Against the background of a society with that [contraceptive] morality, more and more people will have intercourse with little feeling of responsibility, little restraint, and yet they just won't be so careful about always using contraceptives… Now if this - that you won't get this universal "taking care" - is the only objection then it's a pretty miserable outlook. Because, like the fear of venereal disease, it's an objection that's little capable of moving people or inspiring them as a positive ideal of chastity may.

When contraception is chosen over chastity, the purpose of marriage is clouded by selfishness and pleasure, in lieu of its first purpose as an environment suitable for the procreation and education of children.

More to come on this fantastic paper later!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"When you care enough to send the very best"

I went to Hallmark on Thursday, as I do during many of my lunch hours. The office I work at is in the midst of 10 huge apartment buildings, two high schools full of rowdy kids that are not the least bit interested in academics, a decent neighborhood and 5 shopping centers. Aside from a 20-minute walk down to the beach or to St. Charles parish, the one place amidst this to retreat from all of this is the local Hallmark store. This place has kept me entertained, and I have kept them open by "caring enough to send my very best" for the past year or so…

Back to lunchtime. As usual, I got caught up reading each and every card simply to imagine the situations that would go with each, dreaming of the time I would give or receive it. In my daydreams, I pick up the 50th wedding anniversary card, the new baby card and the "I miss you-come back" card. Thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones, I read the get-well card and the sympathy card. Some of them are just so thoughtful, and they really make you treasure friendships, and so forth. No one is going to deny that getting mail is like getting a little piece of love.

I stopped in my tracks when I found this card (I tried to find it online at, but to no avail): A card featuring two grown men. Though they were just little pencil drawings, it was obvious that both were men, and that the woman did not simply have short hair. Three scenes showed the one lover giving an apple pie and a bouquet of flowers to the other. The font would also suggest that it is from a man to a man. "Loving me is a full-time job. Thanks for putting in over-time" was the message on the inside. Yup, this card is definitely from Harry to Mike. You really can express anything with a Hallmark card, huh?

Well, this little revelation is certainly not the first time the gay community has succeeded in putting their vulgarity in our faces. In fact, there is even a non-profit organization, The Commercial Closet, that works to urge major corporations to include gay love in their advertising and products. Their website keeps track of their success, and it applauds companies that are sensitive to the portraying gay love as just another part of American life.

I speculate that it will not be long before there is a "same-sex" section at your local card shop. This vulgar message is so clear in so many other aspects of our lives, from TV to print advertisements, from biased media reports, from gay-straight alliances at schools, from general attitudes that embrace vice and shun virtue...

I urge you, my dear reader, to stay educated: visit the Alliance Alerts page from the Alliance Defense Fund. You can also subscribe and have the daily alerts sent to your inbox. One section of the Alliance Alert specifically addresses GLBT issues.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Catholic Institutions- what's the point?

Duquesne University student Ryan Miner has been threatened with expulsion for expressing his disgust with the gay lifestyle in a private forum, The biggest surprise is not that his conservative views are being censored, but that they are being censored by the administration of a Catholic university! This university seems not to understand the role they have in preserving and upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church in the running of their institution of higher education.

First of all, is a private forum. In order to participate in it, however, your university must agree and register with them, and participating students must do so with a college-issued e-mail address. The first purpose of this forum is so that students could link with others in their classes for the sake of academics, but it has grown to be a favored extracurricular activity for many students.

Despite the fact that it is recognized by the individual school, is quite surprising that the administration of the university would take a comment written on the forum so... seriously. This student was merely expressing his rights to free speech in a forum, one of the first rights guaranteed to citizens. The only little problem is that private institutions do have the right to censorship. That is where this story beings to shock us, however, because the views expressed by this student are consistent with Catholic moral teaching... and, remember, Duquesne is a Catholic school!

Surprising, yet again, is that there are plenty of things that actually are offensive on Facebook. Though I am not a member myself, my little brother and my best friend from high school eat, sleep and breathe Facebook. To me, it seems like an addiction. It appears much like a personals ad, but it is also a place to show what you are really worth: what you do, how many friends you have, what you believe, etc. Because of these two people, I have been able to spend time on Facebook on several occasions. I was not surprised to see things that offended me, from pictures to quotes to sexual innuendos. Personally, I am more worried about these things! If there is going to be censorship, at least let there be equal rights in censorship, and let those who post these things be disciplined as well. But, the administration of the participating universities hardly takes note of these radically immoral views. On the contrary, the attack those expressing Christian moral values.

This situation points to a much larger problem that gained much attention during the fierce battles waged before the '04 presidential elections: there is much resistance from Catholic institutions to properly represent her teachings, most notably her teachings on morality. Perhaps prophetically, Pope John Paul II issued a letter in June '04 to several Catholic bishops who were on their ad limina visit to Rome. This letter served as a reminder of the role of Catholic institutions, as outlined in his 1990 encyclical Ex Cordia Ecclesiae. This letter reminds the bishops of their role in ensuring that all of the Catholic institutions, from universities to hospitals to charitable organizations, are following all of the teachings of the Church in the course of their work. He outlines the role of all of these institutions as places that

must not only assist the faithful to think and act fully in accordance with the Gospel, overcoming every separation between faith and life (cf. Christifideles Laici, n. 34), but they must themselves embody a clear corporate testimony to its saving truth. This will demand constantly re-examining their priorities in the light of their mission and offering a convincing witness within a pluralistic society to the Church's teaching, particularly on respect for human life, marriage and family, and the right ordering of public life.

One section of the letter specifically addresses Catholic colleges and universities. John Paul II refers to the distinction of a Catholic school as possessing a unique identity.

A truly Catholic education will aim at an integration of knowledge within the context of a vision of the human person and the world which is enlightened by the Gospel. By their very nature, Catholic colleges and universities are called to offer an institutional witness of fidelity to Christ and to his word as it comes to us from the Church, a public witness expressed in the canonical requirement of the mandatum.

Furthermore, John Paul II quotes his earlier document sternly reminding these institutions of higher education that if they stray from their role in preserving and promoting Catholicism, they are abandoning the very essence of their work.

These institutions should be at the forefront of the Church's dialogue with culture, for "a faith which remains on the margins of culture would be a faith unfaithful to the fullness of what the word of God manifests and reveals, a truncated faith, and even worse, a faith in the process of self-destruction" (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, n. 44).

To meet the needs of the Church in this area, the Cardinal Newman Society works to promote these teachings. Thank God for their hard work and dedication! Please take a moment to visit their website.

So, what is the point of Catholic institutions? To proclaim the Gospel!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Carnival of Life, number 5

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, recently visited the parents and siblings of Terri Schiavo, and was able to visit Terri's grave. Here are his reactions on this visit to her tomb.

Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer, Lutheran pastor from Pittsburgh, points out the sick irony of the news that human remains are being used to create cosmetics.

Rev. Stiegemeyer also provides a brief reflection on the origins of our human nature, in light of the current debates over the place of the Intelligent Design theory in our nation's schools.

Papijoe highlights the current activity of euthanasia promoter Lord Joel Joffe. Lord Joffe is portrayed in a recent article as seemingly heroic.

Sean McConeghy writes this bit of satire in light of some other not-so-wise decisions that have recent come out of the White House.

Mary Worthington (Carnival host this week!) writes about the situation surrounding a Missouri inmate who aborted her child last week. This story is far from over!

Thanks for reading the Carnival this week!

The right to be in jail

Last Wednesday, a Missouri inmate obtained an abortion at the Planned Parenthood in downtown St. Louis. This situation caused quite a stir because she was pregnant when entering jail and had had the intention of aborting her child at that time. However, due to the circumstance of her arrest, she was unable to abort before entering jail.

Her lawyer petitioned for permission for her to abort, and shockingly, it was as success. Despite the pleas of the governor of the State, the courts ruled that she must be allowed to abort, the Supreme Court of the US did nothing to deny the abortion when the petition crossed their path.

The first think that came to mind when I saw the judgement of the Supreme Court on this matter was the extreme contradiction. According to this same Court, abortion is a right!! And, what do we do with rights when we go to jail? That's right, children, we forfeit them! Inmates forfeit their rights by the nature of the crime committed. As inmates, they no longer enjoy the right to vote, the right to conjugal visits, and the rights to many other freedoms.

But abortion is different. Abortion is unlike every other right that is granted in the Founding Documents of our Nation. The right to abortion supersedes the right to informed consent. It is above the right of a parent to express consent or notification in the healthcare decision of their minor daughters. It is above the responsibilities of safe, clinical regulations. It is above every other right that is granted by our Constitution.

Abortion always flies right under the radar screen, or maybe sometimes over it. It is the be-all, end-all right that has been dividing our nation since long before Roe.

Thankfully, some speculate that this is only beginning of a long battle over the exact position of the right to abortion in the lives of prison inmates and others.

State senator Rob Mayer expressed his concerns in these words, "I would also like to see what reason the Supreme Court had for ruling the way it did. In the past, the courts usually rule in favor of the Department of Corrections."

Stay tuned to this story in the near future…

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Chastity or Abstinence?

Recent news highlights the fact that liberals are vying for over-the-counter access to the dangerous "Plan B" abortifacient drug. While the liberals may have good intentions in wanting to reduce abortion or pregnancy, the answer is not to introduce dangerous drugs to the general public.

The situation begs the question of whether they aim to reduce abortion rates or reduce pregnancy rates. The reduction of both can be done with effective education, prayer and challenge to live a virtuous life. Often, the term “pregnancy prevention” is used to promote a vigorous plan of using “how-to” sex education, contraceptives and abortion to the youth, the poor, and minorities. This plan inadvertently contributes to the epidemic spread of STD’s and heartache, instance of teen pregnancy and a general disrespect for the human person. The great demise of our society can be said to have its roots in “how-to” sex education.

Obviously, this is not true pregnancy prevention; this is birth prevention. A plan that would truly prevent pregnancy would introduce sex as something sacred and good that must be reserved for marriage. It would present self-control as a virtue that is attainable. It would recognize the sacredness of human intimacy as a gift from God, and place the good of children and families above the intensity of sexual gratification. Pregnancy prevention would condemn pornography, promiscuity and masturbation. It would encourage chastity, a message that goes far beyond the “scare-me” tactics used in most abstinence education.

A recent article in Focus on the Family’s “Citizen Link” highlights the polar difference between abstinence and chastity. Though these words are often used interchangeably, the attitude behind each is quite unique.

Robert Rector, senior research fellow for domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, said teens who abstain are less likely to attempt suicide, more likely to have stable marriages and more apt to succeed in life.

"Abstinence from sex allows teens to focus on more important tasks it also means that they have stronger character traits inside them that are enabling them to go on and succeed," he noted. "That's a very positive message."

Mr. Rector may have realized some very important things about abstinence, but the message of abstinence itself does not contribute to a full and proper understanding of human sexuality.

Though abstinence is one of the key ingredients of chastity outside of marriage, it is not the only ingredient. Chastity is an attitude that is carried on even into marriage, therefore it must consist of a proper understanding of sexuality in all circumstances. For example, some actions are always gravely immoral, such as masturbation or the use of pornography. Some actions are proper and good in some circumstances and improper in others, such as intercourse. A message of abstinence presumes that sex is bad and must be avoided for mostly practical purposes. A message of chastity, on the other hand, teaches that sex must be used in its proper context: within marriage and for the procreation of children. This message of chastity is based on a proper understanding of human sexuality.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fr. Jim Pilsner

Nothing else has been on my mind today, and I ask for your prayers for Fr. Jim and his family. Fr. Jim and I would travel to the abortion clinic in Brooklyn on Saturdays to pray and sidewalk counsel. May God have mercy on his soul, and may he rest in peace.

Read full article here.

Please visit for updated information on the funeral.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The vocation crisis and contraception

I drove back from my sister's wedding on Sunday with my older brother who is in the seminary. The seminary is just two hours away from my "home" in New York City. Both of us have been very sick for the past week, and sadly this fact made any meaningful conversation quite impossible. Each time he said something that under normal circumstances would lead to a 30-minute discussion, I would remind him of my inability to formulate a coherent argument… This cycle repeated itself at least 20 times during our 7-hour ride!

At one point, Richard said something I know I would want to ponder later, so I got out my notebook and scribbled it down. "When I get to heaven, I want to have a long conversation with God about the vocation crisis," he said.

Richard has been spending the past few months, and will spend the next 6 years, studying and praying to prepare to become a Catholic priest. He started talking about the excitement and joy of being in the seminary. Here, he has the opportunity to live a life structured around prayer and study, as well as to maintain a balanced social life especially in fostering brotherhood among the fellow seminarians. "If only young men knew how great it was, they would be flocking to the seminary!" he exclaimed.

Yes, if men realized how great seminary is, they WOULD be flocking to it! The problem is that vocations are not fostered in our boys and young men by their families, parishes, communities or culture. My speculation, of course, is that the vocation crisis is a direct result of contraception. Please allow me to explain.

With contraception comes selfishness and lack of communion with the Church. With contraception comes a lack of large families, and therefore parents are less willing to encourage their boys to become priests or their girls to become sisters. Though parents want "their two," these same parents have hopes and expectations of a flock of grandkids later in life.

That's when the plan backfires, and grief is multiplied. These children have been raised to divorce marriage from children because of that same "contraceptive mentality." They have even fewer children than their parents, sometimes purposefully entering marriage without the intention to have children. They mutilate their bodies by sterilization, perhaps unknowingly mutilating their relationship with each other and God.

In the end, church pews are empty, and the area priest drives hundreds of miles on a weekend to celebrate Mass at three different parishes.

When families have more children, parents are more apt to foster vocations. Large families have always brought more vocations.

I would love to develop this thought even more, however my health is not quite up-to-par, and I therefore leave you with these brief reflections.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Novena for Ellen and Aaron

Dear family, friends and all my dear readers

I will be on vacation for the next week, and posting will resume on Oct 17. While I am gone, please join me in prayer! My sister Ellen is getting married in nine days to Aaron. They will be married on Oct 15, the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila. Please pray the nine-day novena for the intercession of St. Teresa for the sake of my dear sis and her marriage.

Here is a quick guide:
First day- Thursday, Oct 6
Second day- Friday, Oct 7
Third day- Saturday, Oct 8
Fourth day- Sunday, Oct 9
Fifth day- Monday, Oct 10
Sixth day- Tuesday, Oct 11
Seventh day- Wednesday, Oct 12
Eight day- Thursday, Oct 13
Ninth day- Friday, Oct 14
Tenth day- feast of St. Teresa of Avila and wedding of Ellen and Aaron

Thank you so much for your prayers and your loyalty to my postings. God bless you!

Mary W.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Revisiting euthanasia

The first news of the morning highlights the current Supreme Court case that revisits euthanasia. An APstory on Yahoo! News (please note this story is continually updated; it longer reads as follows) features a disgusting pro-euthanasia bent to it. The first sentence (at the time- this is a constantly updated story) reads as follows:
“The Bush administration pressed the Supreme Court on Wednesday to block doctors from helping terminally ill patients end their lives...”

Photos of protestors outside the courthouse hold signs with slogans such as "Give me liberty at my death," and "My life, my death, my decision." It is hard to believe that these pro-euthanasia supporters are most often the same ones who support legalized abortion, but oppose the death penalty. Life only holds value to them to the extent that each feels like he or she has this ambiguous "quality of life."

A Cybercast News story has a less biased view, obviously not promoting the euthanasia agenda. From their story, we can see that people no longer believe in biology. At their self-determination, it has become an enemy to life rather than the very ingredients of physical life.

Speaking of war veterans who have suffered injuries while in service and use this as a background for desiring their own euthanasia, Barbara Coombs Lee, a representative of Compassion & Choices (euthanasia movement), vies for legal and socially accepted euthanasia.

"These people all fought valiantly to live. But facing their imminent deaths, they did not want to die in a way that caused them to suffer needlessly, that violated their own deeply held values and beliefs."

In reality, however, it is precisely these people who have experienced death, pain and profoundly spiritual and though-provoking emotions who will be best suited to understand natural death. It is these people who will remember their fallen brothers and how they did not have the beauty of a peaceful natural death, who may not have been able to make their last confession or peace with God. It is these people who will recognize the redemption present in suffering.

On the other hand, Archbishop Celestino Migliore Vatican representative to the UN calls for the development of a society that will integrate the elderly into family life and their community. Catholic News Agency reports on the statements he made to a UN committee yesterday. Here, he said that society should create “a wide range of opportunities to make use of the potential, experiences and expertise of older persons… This approach and attitude will enable [the elderly] both to remain connected to society and to continue to make a mark in the world, whether for volunteerism or work.”

This morning, I was talking with a friend and coworker about the profound experience of watching a loved one die. The reason I was able to watch my grandma (G-ma) die was that she and my grandpa (G-pa) lived with my family. G&G, as they were affectionately known around the house, were as much a part of my family as the siblings and the parents. They contributed in different ways, as appropriate to their age and experience. They never let us forget the beauty and gift of life. They had a deep faith that we all shared. God truly blessed my family by bringing them to live with us in 1997 until their deaths in 2001.

As Rev. Rusty Thomas, widower and father of 10 children, said in a recent Gospel of Life TV program, "Our children are our social security."

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

And the first thing I am going to tell you is, "Don't support the Susan G. Komen Foundation!" While wearing pink and jogging for the cure in your local park seem like positive ways to help women, the organizations behind these events subscribe to an agenda quite contrary to the pro-life message. Not only do they refuse to mention the scientifically proven link between abortion and breast cancer, but the Komen Foundation also donates to the Planned Parenthood, the nations' leading abortion provider.

Operation Rescue celebrated Respect Life Sunday at Denver's Komen event, and there they encountered some angry abortion supporters. Please read their story after reading this post, which will provide some key information about the link between abortion and breast cancer.

One of the leading organizations dedicated to exposing the "ABC" link is the Coalition on Abortion and Breast Cancer.

The ABC Coalition, through their website, outlines the medical correlation between abortion and breast cancer and provides updated information as well as action items.

"Our purpose is to educate women about abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer, help preserve their health and save lives," states the website. "Women have the exclusive right to be decision makers where their own healthcare is concerned."

The ABC Coalition cites nearly 40 studies since 1968 that show how abortion greatly increases the risk of breast cancer. (This was long before the nation-wide legalization of abortion.)

On the other hand, the Komen Foundation, through its statewide affiliates, donates money to Planned Parenthood. While the Komen Foundation designates this money to be used for breast cancer detection exams when give it to Planned Parenthood, there is no certainty that it is not being used to promote the organization's immoral anti-life agenda.

In addition to donating funds to the abortion provider, the Komen Foundation does not recognize the link between abortion and the increase likelihood of developing breast cancer.

While brave enough to mention use of chemical contraceptives as a risk factor, their list fails to mention the instance of abortion as a risk factor.

Yet, they are so bold as to claim that they recognize advances in research. Their website states the following.

"Yet while there have certainly been great advances in our knowledge, it’s still not perfectly understood what ultimately causes breast cancer to develop. It’s likely a combination of risk factors (many of which are still unknown) that together make cells in the breast turn cancerous. But exactly why a certain combination of factors might cause cancer in a particular woman and another combination would not is still unclear."

The cancer itself as well as this cover-up are just show more ways that abortion hurts women.

Here are some ways that you can boycott the Komen celebrations, and promote the pro-life message:
Don't buy Yoplait yogurt or other products that boast of supporting the pro-abortion cause.
Find out who the corporate sponsors of the local Komen group are, and let them know you will boycott them for the month of October.
Put out a pretty pink yard sign with slogans like "Women have the right to know that abortion causes breast cancer."
Write a letter to the editor of your local paper; remember to be factual and concise.
Donate to the Coalition on Abortion and Breast Cancer.