“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sr. Margaret McBride: A Heartless Excommunication?

Secular news headlines are ablaze with Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted confirming the excommunication of Sr. Margaret McBride, a hospital executive, for procuring an abortion for a 27-year old woman with pulmonary hypertension who was 11 weeks pregnant. Sr. McBride cited the high mortality rate of mothers coming to term with this condition as her rationale.

Understanding this situation is a very difficult scenario, well above my "pay grade”, I would at least like to offer some bullet points for your consideration and further the discussion before we automatically demonize the Bishop and praise Sr. McBride.

1) Years back the maternal mortality rate of carrying a pregnancy to term with this condition was cited at 50%. More recently, it was then adjusted to 30%. An October 2005 article citing an 18 year survey actually cited 22%. I would ask each person who supports Sr. McBride’s decision an equally challenging question. At what mortality rate does the unborn child merit consideration and an abortion would be considered wrong?

2) How ‘bout 11%...? A research report by 13 doctors published in the International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (April 2010) cites a medical study where treating pregnant women who have PH with an early introduction of targeted pulmonary vascular therapy and early planned delivery under regional anesthesia had all the women in the study survive as well as their babies -- with the exception of one woman who chose to stop the treatment after childbirth. At the 11% mortality rate of this study do we sign off on the death certificates as a foregone conclusion of the 89 babies out of 100 that would survive birth along with their mothers? Or do we start thinking about treating both patients?

3) Father John Ehrich, the Medical Ethics Director for the Diocese Phoenix defended the Church and bishop in writing, "The unborn child can never be thought of as a pathology or an illness…" "That is, the child is not that [condition] which threatens the life of the mother, rather it is the pathology or illness [pulmonary hypertension] which threatens the mother's life." So my question is did this “ethics” review done by Sr. McBride prior to approving this abortion approach this dilemma as the pregnancy was the danger, or the pulmonary hypertension was the danger? Reading between the lines is that for Fr. Ehrich to specifically mention this in his Diocesan defense could infer that when the Diocese reviewed the minutes and documentation from this decision, this might have been the case, otherwise why would Fr. Ehrich draw ample attention to this consideration?

4) It should be stated that the excommunication was established by Sr. McBride’s action in itself and not initiated by a formal declaration from the Bishop.

5) My final observation is that why would a Catholic nun not consult the local Magisterium on a decision like this? Did she think they had no authority for a Catholic hospital within their Diocese? Sr. McBride was quickly relocated in her position after her action, so the Diocese did have authority over the hospital. So obviously this is not the reason the Diocese was not consulted. In my secular world, I wouldn't never make a decision against my company's set guidelines without getting approval from the chain on command. One would question are these decisions such a commonplace thing in this hospital that the frequency of the decisions have diluted the need to consult the Diocese on every one? Something is not right. There is more here than what is told.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Modern Day Witnesses for the Faith; May Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them

VCR friend Tim Drake, from the Register:

"We are a Church of Martyrs. As the saying goes, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” From the death of Christ, on the Cross, and Stephen, the first martyr, to today, blood has been shed by those who follow Christ. We do not follow a bloodless faith.

The Vatican’s Fides agency has issued a list of all those involved in pastoral work who were killed during 2009. The list reveals where the Church’s modern “martyrs” have died for the practice of their faith. The Church no longer refers to the group as a “list of martyrs,” since the circumstances of death in many cases is unknown. Instead, they are listed as those involved in pastoral or missionary work who died violently.

Of the 37 who died in 2009, Central and South America appear to be the most dangerous places for the Catholic faith, with a total of 19 deaths. Both Colombia and Brazil had six deaths.

Thirty of those who were killed were priests, 19 of them diocesan. Two were seminarians, both of whom were killed in Mexico. Two were nuns, one a Trappist; the other a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, who was killed in the U.S. in the state of New Mexico. Three of the total were lay people.

After Central and South America, the second most dangerous place for missionaries was Africa, with a total of 11 deaths, followed by Asia, with a death in the Philippines, and another in India. Three were from the U.S."

Here is a list of all the martyrs who died this past year . Please follow this link and say a prayer for the repose of their souls.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Great Priestly Works Accomplished in Darkness

Archbishop John Quinn gave a very well-constructed speech at the National Federation of Priests’ Councils in Houston, Texas on April 13, 2010. I listed a few paragraphs to give you the flavor but it should be read in its entirety:

"I am here to pay tribute to you, the priests of the United States. You stand on the front line. You meet the angry or confused or troubled people at the Sunday Masses in your parishes and missions. You have to try to answer their questions about the worldwide crisis caused by priests and bishops around the world. You are the ones out there in the parishes whose hearts break at the anguish of our people over the robbed innocence of their children. And you weep inside over the desecration of something so beautiful, so cherished as the priesthood is to all of us. You are the ones who meet the children and the families, and try your best to walk with them in their search for peace and healing. You are there where the wound is.

I know that all over this country, in small towns and large cities, there are priests who stay up all night in a hospital waiting room with a distraught family whose teen-age daughter lies near death from an automobile accident. I know that there are priests in rural dioceses, like the priests I knew in Oklahoma, who drive hundreds of miles both ways to one or several mission churches on Saturday evenings and then have three Masses on Sundays with baptisms, counseling, youth groups and parish gatherings in the afternoon and evening…You are the priests who have persevered when your heart sank over an admired and gifted classmate who was removed from ministry because of allegations of abuse.

…We are at a critical point in the life of the church. Here and there commentators are beginning to compare it to the magnitude of the crisis of the Reformation. This is not the place to raise these cosmic issues. But I do believe it is the place to raise the question every priest must confront today. It is the question first raised by the Jesuit Karl Rahner: “Why would a modern man want to become or remain a priest today?”

…I think of my friend, Alfred Delp, who with his hands chained in a concentration camp, signed the paper of his final vows. I think of a brother priest who for long hours in the confessional listens to the pain and torment of [society's] unimportant people…I think of a brother priest who assists daily in a hospital at the bedside of death…I think of a brother priest who as a prison chaplain proclaims over and over the message of the Gospel with never any sign of gratitude. I think of the brother priest who (in a parish) with tremendous difficulty and without any clear evidence of success plods away at the task of awakening in just a few people a small spark of faith, of hope and of charity. These and many other forms and acts of renunciation, known to God alone, are still what is decisive in the priesthood.

But there are men like these who have lived in and come from our own American dioceses.

Think of Emil Kapaun, a priest of Wichita, Kansas. In a prison camp in Korea he stole food from the commissary at night for his starving men knowing that he would be shot on sight if discovered. Depression and futility gripped many of the men in his unit. A Protestant chaplain with a wife and children at home was severely depressed and Emil knew he would die if something didn’t change. He deliberately said things to make him angry knowing that the experience of anger would bring him out of himself. It worked, and the man lived to return to his family. Emil tried everything to keep the men positive and hopeful. The men who got dysentery, he carried on his shoulders to the latrine and cleaned them. Eventually he got phlebitis and the guards took him off to die. The last thing his men heard was Emil assuring the guards he held no animosity or hatred for them.

Stanley Rother, whose bishop I was at one time, was a priest of Oklahoma City. He volunteered for the mission we had in Guatemala. He served the people with great dedication, teaching them their faith and instructing them in the social doctrine of the church. He carried on his ministry as priests he knew and worked with were murdered. His own catechists and parish leaders were abducted and murdered. Told that he was on the death list, he was urged to return to Oklahoma, which he did. But there only a short time, knowing clearly that it would mean certain death he decided to go back to Guatemala. He told his parents, “The Shepherd can’t run. I have to go back.” Father Rother was killed shortly after his return.

… Joseph Guetzloe, a Divine Word Father, was pastor of a Japanese community in San Francisco. When the Japanese were forced to move to segregation camps during World War II, Father Gutzloe asked to go with them. He voluntarily spent all the war years there with his people. A young priest, ordained one year, wrote to me about his experience during that first year and said, “ I have been looking for the lack of success in the lack of technique and finding it in the lack of holiness.”

…The cataclysmic avalanche of the sexual abuse scandal is a profoundly troubling experience for every priest. It touches not only the perpetrators and those so gravely hurt by them, but it is now engulfing the papacy itself and eroding the leadership and credibility of the bishops in the church. It forces us to ask the question of Karl Rahner, “Why would a modern man want to become or to remain a priest today?” How can an American priest persevere in the midst of such a shattering trial? How do we priests and how does the church persevere in time of severe trial?

…For St. Bernard, John the Baptist is the great image of the priesthood in the Gospel. He is the friend—the friend of the Bridegroom. An important role of the friend of the Bridegroom was that he was responsible for the joy of the guests at the wedding feast. This is how Christ presents himself in the Resurrection accounts: he is the minister of consolation. He consoles Mary at the tomb, He consoles the disciples locked in fear in the upper room, he consoles Thomas in his doubts. This is our role as priests—to console the Holy Church of God in a time of intolerable pain and suffering. We are called to be the ministers of consolation and of evangelical hope.

…And so, in a difficult time we should not forget that the great works of God have been accomplished in darkness. The people fled Egypt in the darkness; they crossed the Red Sea in the darkness; the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the darkness of night; He gave us the Eucharist and the priesthood in the darkness of the Last Supper; he died on the Cross when the Gospel says “darkness covered the earth.” He lay in the darkness of the tomb. On the third day, He rose again in the darkness, and the empty tomb was discovered “early in the morning while it was still dark.” God is at work even in the darkness.

What John of the Cross describes as the dark night of the soul has in our time become the dark night of the church. John explains that the dark night is a bewildering experience, it strips away all the visible supports. It brings a helpless, sinking feeling. But it is only truly the dark night when it is accepted as coming from God and borne in faith. The believer and the church who pass through the dark night in faith are led to the loss of everything secondary and to discover that God is not who they thought he was and they are not who they thought they were. It is the discovery that God is beyond everything we can articulate or conceive and it is the experience that we do not control God. The dark night is dark because God is infinite light overwhelming our limited capacities. It is in the experience of the dark night that the believer and the church come to know that God is all. This dark night of the church is a divine [method to teach] us painfully that we are incredibly poor and utterly dependent on God…"

Friday, May 7, 2010

Future Vice-President:"She is Worth Every Tear."

Rick Santorum has a way of breaking through the stereotypes of modern politicians. This column was published yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Htip to Reflections of a Paraplytic; I would also suggest you go over and visit Chelsea Zimmerman's blog. It is a worthwhile visit and you will leave thoroughly impressed. Both Santorum and Zimmerman do justice to the inherent beauty of life. Here is the former-Senator's column:

'Incompatible with life." The doctor's words kept echoing in my head as I held my sobbing wife, Karen, just four days after the birth of our eighth child, Isabella Maria.

Bella was born with three No. 18 chromosomes, rather than the normal two. The statistics were heartbreaking: About 90 percent of children with the disorder, known as trisomy 18, die before or during birth, and 90 percent of those who survive die within the first year.

Bella was baptized that day, and then we spent every waking hour at her bedside, giving her a lifetime's worth of love and care. However, not only did she not die; she came home in just 10 days.

She was sent home on hospice care, strange as that sounded for a newborn. The hospice doctor visited us the next day and described in graphic detail how Bella would die. In sum, she could die at any time without warning, and the best we could hope for was that she would die of the common cold.

Karen and I discontinued hospice so that we and our amazing doctors, James Baugh and Sunil Kapoor, could get to work focusing on Bella's health, not her death.

Like so many moms of special kids, Karen is a warrior, caring for Bella night and day and, at times, fighting with health-care providers and our insurance company to get our daughter the care she needs.

Being the parent of a special child gives one exceptional insight into the negative perception of the disabled among many medical professionals, particularly when they see your child as having an intellectual disability. Sadly, we discovered that not only did we have to search for doctors who had experience with trisomy 18. We also had to search for those who saw Bella not as a fatal diagnosis, but as a wanted and loved daughter and sister, as well as a beautiful gift from God.

We knew from experience that Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was such a place. Fourteen years ago, we had another baby who was diagnosed as having no hope, but CHOP's Dr. Scott Adzick gave him a shot at life. In the end, we lost our son Gabriel, but we will always be grateful to Dr. Adzick for affirming the value of his life.

When Bella was 3 months old, she needed some minor but vital surgery. Some doctors told us that a child like Bella wouldn't survive surgery or, even worse, that surgery was "not recommended" because of her genetic condition - in other words, that her life wasn't worth saving. So we again turned to the Children's Hospital and found compassion, concern, and hope in Dr. Thane Blinman. He told us he had several trisomy 18 patients who did well - and so did Bella.

Next week, we will mark Bella's second birthday. Over these two years, we have endured two close brushes with death, lots of sleepless nights, more than a month in CHOP's intensive care unit, and the constant anxiety that the next day could be our little girl's last.

And yet we have also been inspired - by her fighting spirit, and by the miracle of seeing our little flower blossom into a loving, joyful child who is at the center of our family life.

Most children with trisomy 18 diagnosed in the womb are aborted. Most who survive birth are given hospice care until they die. In these cases, doctors advise parents that these disabled children will die young or be a burden to them and society. But couldn't the same be said of many healthy children?

All children are a gift that comes with no guarantees. While Bella's life may not be long, and though she requires our constant care, she is worth every tear.

Living with Bella has been a course in character and virtue. She makes us better. And it's not just our family; she enriches every life she touches. In the end, isn't that what every parent hopes for his or her child?

Happy birthday, Isabella!

God Bless you and your family, Senator!