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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Correcting Speaker Pelosi

When asked on Aug. 24 edition of Meet the Press, “When does life begin?” Speaker Pelosi replied:

…as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition …. St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know.

Speaker Pelosi is in error. Pagan Roman society used contraception, abortion and infanticide quite freely. Under Roman law, the father of the household had the right to kill any infant in his household for whatever reason he wanted. He could require his wife or concubine to abort. Any child born with a defect, such as the defect of being female, could be abandoned. In theory, the father was placing the child on the road for anyone to pick up. In fact, the children almost uniformly died. Infanticide was so common that we still unearth ancient Roman sewers clogged with the bones of discarded infants. Infanticide and abortion killed so many women that it heavily skewed the sex ratio: Roman society could not reproduce. By the time of Christ, the Roman government was paying families to have children, and was forced to import immigrants from outside the boundaries of Empire in order to fill jobs. The population was unable to replace itself.

Christians were unusual in that they uniformly condemned contraception, abortion and infanticide. In fact, part of the reason Christians were considered wretched heretics is that they rescued exposed children, inventing orphanages to care for them. We knew the image and likeness of God was formed in the mother’s womb. All Christians agreed the fetus had a soul from the earliest moment of existence.

But when it came to contraception or abortion, it didn’t matter to the early Christians how that technical theological question was answered. Precisely because Christians didn’t know which it was, we had to treat the unborn as a fully human being. Making use of either contraception or abortion was acting against God’s life-giving work in the womb.

Thus, in his work On Marriage and Lust, Augustine condemned both abortion and contraception as immoral. St. Basil the Great, writing just a few years before Augustine, puts the ensoulment issue in proper perspective: “The hairsplitting difference between formed and unformed [ensouled and unensouled fetus] makes no difference to us. Whoever deliberately commits abortion is subject to the penalty for homicide.” No early Christian commentator can be found who held a contrary position. The Catholic Church has always known and taught that contraception and procured abortion is gravely evil.

Pelosi: The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of [trimesters]...

As a Catholic, Speaker Pelosi should know that no one has a right to choose to kill an innocent person.

Pelosi: And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins.

Ask any embryologist. Life begins at conception. As George Weigel points out in Newsweek, the widely used medical embryology text, The Developing Human, states: "Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to produce a single cell—a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." Embryologists specialize in studying the human embryo. While those who specialize in disciplines that do not study the embryo may pretend otherwise, the science of embryology agrees with the Church on this point: life begins at conception.

Question: Doesn’t the Church teach life begins at conception?

Pelosi: This is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That's why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must--it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case.

Speaker Pelosi fails to recognize the reality. As the use of contraception has increased, it has, paradoxically, increased the rate of surgical abortion, just as Pope Paul VI predicted it would. Worse, every hormonal contraceptive acts, in part, by thinning the lining of the uterus, making it impossible for the embryonic child to implant correctly. Thus, every hormonal contraceptive causes chemical abortion.

Even if we discuss only barrier methods, it is the case that the promotion of contraception leads inexorably to more abortions, more STDs, more deaths because it dramatically increases the rate of promiscuity. Uganda, the only country in Africa that has steadily reduced its rate of AIDS infection, did so through a campaign that promoted abstinence. Every other African country promoted condoms. Every other African country saw AIDS increase.

Catholics cannot use or support the use of contraception. Nancy Pelosi is a baptized Catholic. She has a duty to become informed about why the Church teaches as She does on contraception.

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement defending [Pelosi’s] remarks that she "fully appreciates the sanctity of family" and based her views on conception on the "views of Saint Augustine, who said, ‘The law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation.’ "

If Speaker Pelosi had based her views on a full reading of St. Augustine, she would abhor contraception and abortion as intrinsically evil. This is what Augustine said about both:

Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born. (De Nube et Concupiscentia 1.17 [15])

Brendan Daly implies, and many people believe, that since the Church imposed different penalties for abortion at different periods, the Church has not had a consistent teaching on abortion or contraception.

It is true that Church penalties have varied over time as the Church has tried different methods to wean Her flock away from these enormous evils. In 1588, for example, Pope Sixtus V even tried to discourage abortion by reserving confession and absolution to the Holy See alone, a restriction used for only the most heinous sins. But this proved too impractical, and he soon resumed allowing local bishops the permission to absolve this sin. Today, the sin is so common even priests can absolve it.

By using different penalties for abortion performed prior to the perception of movement in the womb versus abortion performed after the perception of movement in the womb, the Church recognized that a woman who killed the child she felt moving in her womb was acting in an even more wicked manner than someone who had not yet been taught by the movement of life inside her about the sacred gift she carried. Church teaching has been consistent: abortion and contraception are always gravely evil.

So what do you do if you have used or encouraged the use of contraception or abortion? First, make a good confession. Refrain from receiving the Eucharist until you have a chance to receive absolution. Thank God for the gift of repentance, and ask the saints, most especially your guardian angel, to assist you in avoiding this sin in the future. Learn more about the teachings of the Church so that you may grow in holiness before God, our Creator and Father. And praise God always for His goodness and the life He gives us.

*I can create a one-page (back and front) PDF of this and make it available for download if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Game Over

Well, Joe Biden must be pleased.
There wasn't time for him to torpedo Barack Obama's presidential hopes.
Nancy Pelosi seems to have killed him quite nicely.

There's now a half-dozen Catholic bishops condemning her comments:
Cardinals Rigali and Egan
Archbishops Wuerl and Chaput
Bishop Lori
Auxiliary Bishop James Conley

In addition, Joe Biden's Bishop, Bishop Saltarelli, has forbidden Biden the use of all Catholic facilities:

And Archbishop Chaput has told Biden not to come forward for the Eucharist in Denver archdiocese.

The silence from CNN and Yahoo is deafening, but it doesn't matter now.
Drudge is shooting him full of holes.

Barack Obama is going to get zero bounce out of this convention.
He will have to count himself lucky if he doesn't drop further.

I noticed back in March that Drudge seemed to purposely build Barack Obama up to Hillary's detriment. I couldn't figure out why. Drudge has always been solidly pro-life, and Obama was an active supporter of infanticide.

Now I know why - Drudge knew he could impale Obama on a stick anytime he wanted to.
As the convention approached, he kept ratcheting up the discontent among the Democrats.

And then Pelosi committed hari kari on Meet the Press.

It really isn't Pelosi's fault - someone among the Democrats was going to say something stupid. Pelosi just happened to get there first.

In any case, the Democrats are paying for having chosen Denver instead of San Francisco or Los Angeles. Smart people don't play in their opponent's back yard.

The solid bishops are tired of the games and they're taking the opportunity to cut off pro-abort Catholics at the knees. They've got solid support in the Curia, in the form of Archbishop Burke (who will probably make cardinal before Wuerl does). And when even Archbishop (note: not yet Cardinal) Wuerl piles on, you know the error was egregious.

On a sidenote, Wuerl's entry into the chorus is quite interesting. Bishops of Washington DC are traditionally elevated to the cardinalate, but Wuerl - who publicly said he wasn't going to excommunicate anyone - was pointedly NOT raised to the cardinalate.

Perhaps he has caught a clue and finally figured out that Benedict isn't interested in having cardinals who aren't willing to be crucified. Archbishop Wuerl has to prove himself worthy of the red hat by axing a pro-abort politician. And now that the sharp edge of his halberd has begun to clear the scabbard, the need for public consistency may well keep him interested in paying more attention to this problem.

In any case, the political game is now done.
The Catholic bishops are sniping the candidates in full earnest and this ten full weeks before the election.

Not all Catholics listen to their bishops, but enough will. Pennsylvania is history (note: Archbishop Wuerl's previous post was Bishop of Pittsburgh) - the Catholics who chucked Santorum out on his ear for simply supporting Arlen Specter are certainly not going to hand over to pro-aborts like Biden and Obama. With the solid bishops in full-throated chorus chasing down Catholic pro-abort leaders, and the bishops sympathetic to Obama and co. unwilling to unveil themselves, the Democrats have nowhere to go but down.

Welcome to the White House, President McCain.
Please take a lesson from your opponent's hemorrhage.

Update 8/27/2008:
Another county heard from.
Bishop Ferrell of Dallas has just joined in.

Somehow, I don't think he's going to be the last.

Update 8/28/2008
He wasn't.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik issued a response yesterday afternoon: Pelosi, D-Calif., "stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What Must We Do?

Because my company, Bridegroom Press, produces the Calendar of Indulgences every year, I get the following kind of question all the time:
If there is an indulgence attached to a devotional prayer (i.e. Rosary, DMC, Mass,) if one is praying fervently, is he required to ask for the indulgence or is it automatic?
You only have to have the "general intention" to receive an indulgence.
You don't have to specifically intend to receive the indulgence, but just generally intend it.

What does this mean? As long as you are doing the work in order to draw closer to God or in order to heal the world, then that is sufficient intention to win an indulgence.

You don't have to think "I'm doing an indulgence now" in order to receive it.

Keep in mind, however, that while this "general intention" works well for partial indulgences, the numerous conditions attached to a plenary indulgence would be hard to fulfill without actually thinking about them and "checking them off" one by one, as it were.

It could happen, I suppose, but it would be the unusual Catholic who has the kind of habit of prayer that would normally fulfill all the conditions for a plenary every time they prayed.

On the other hand, you could easily argue that the Church is asking us to build precisely that kind of habit of prayer, and encourages us to do this by giving us the "general intention" condition instead of asking us to have the specific intention.

The conditions for a plenary indulgence:
  • Be in a state of grace when doing the work,
  • Go to confession within twenty (20) days of the indulgenced act, either before or after. One confession can stand for several indulgences.
  • Receive the Eucharist once for each plenary indulgence. It is best to receive on the same day the indulgenced work is perform, but the reception can be on another day if necessary.
  • Pray for the Holy Father's intentions - an Our Father and a Hail Mary is generally sufficient.
  • Have no attachment to sin, even the most venial. People think this is the most difficult condition, but it isn't as bad as it sounds. We aren't expected to be immune from concupiscence. After all, even baptism doesn't wash away concupiscence, so it would be ridiculous to expect us to have no concupiscence in order to win a plenary. A movement of the flesh to desire something is not the same as attachment to sin. In order to have no attachment to sin, an act of the will is sufficient, e.g., praying, "Lord, I do not desire anything or anyone except Yourself" or "Lord, I reject all sin and all attachment to the things of this world; I cling to the things of heaven, most especially the Beauty and Glory of Yourself."
  • Only one plenary indulgence may be won each day, but there is no limit to the number of partial indulgences which may be won on any given day.
So, if you habitually go to confession about once a month, avoid serious sin, attend daily Mass and receive the Eucharist, routinely pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and routinely make an act of the will to reject the world and accept only God, then you are probably winning indulgences left and right and don't even know it.

If not, then you will probably need the specific intention in order to win the plenary. On the bright side, whenever we fail to fulfill all the conditions for a plenary, we get a partial instead.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Joel Osteen Can Be President

This from a friend of mine who is brilliant:

I tell you this because it's fun to watch your head explode.

So, I never got to see any of the debates during primary season--I was busy. I've only now begun to catch Obama's rhetoric as his commercials begin to air. And I have realized something: Catholics will vote for Obama, and they will do so en masse, so to speak. Why? Because his "We are the people we've been waiting for" spiel is the exact same thing Catholics have been hearing from their hymnals every Sunday at least during my lifetime (and possibly yours). "I myself am the Bread of Life." "Christ has no hands but yours." "Let us build the city of God." Etc.

Worse yet, we've got so many Protestant hymns in the book now that subtly preach the "You've accepted Jesus as your lord and savior--Bob, tell him what he's won!" Gospel of Fabulosity. "I know that my redeemer lives, and he's up in Heaven getting me the goods." "I know that my Obama is in the White House, getting me change I can believe in." They won't vote for him because he's pro-choice. They won't vote for him because he's inexperienced and lacks substance (although some will vote for him because they think he has substance and they can't stomach McCain). No, they will vote for him because his campaign prayers are the same as their hymns, and what we're all lex orandi-ing, we're all lex credendi-ing, right? They will vote for him because, as far as they can tell, he shares their basic beliefs.

We are in deep trouble. And I have just realized why the Liturgy Wars matter.


Sunday, August 10, 2008


I recently had a conversation with a relative about vocations, specifically about losing vocations. She had definite opinions concerning the lifestyle of a man or a woman discerning a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life.

According to her theory, anyone who may have been dating or otherwise romantically interested in the person undergoing discernment should immediately cut off all contact with the one doing the discernment. Discernment requires solitude, prayer, spiritual direction. The things of the world distract from spiritual pursuits and interfere with the process of discernment.

Allowing these things in is precisely how vocations are lost, she said.

I disagreed.

Someone who is undergoing discernment about their proper state in life should certainly undertake experiences of solitude, constantly pray, and follow spiritual direction, sure.

But isn't marriage a vocation? Isn't that worthy of discernment as well?

In fact, isn't it possible that the insistence on shutting out conversations with the romantically interested is also a way of shutting down, a way of losing, a real vocation?

After all, what if the person undertaking discernment really is supposed to marry? Isn't continuing conversation with the future spouse likely to help bring out that vocation?

In centuries past, when nearly everyone either married or entered some kind of religious orders, there may have been some valid concerns about the need to avoid the call of marriage so as to better hear the call of orders.

But today, as marriage rates drop across the board pretty much everywhere in the world, is this still the right way to look at it?

Today, the marriage vocation is in as much danger as holy orders or religious orders. It is often pointed out that upwards of one in every four people living in medieval Europe were in some religious order. Read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to see how well the orders fared during that period. One may argue the veracity of the popular perception, but the perception was precisely that religious orders were rife with drunken and fornicating monks and nuns.

Has it ever occurred to anyone that it is possible far too many vocations to marriage were lost during that period? After all, living the consecrated life of a religious order is laudable but it is not, by itself, a means of sanctifying grace. It is not a sacrament. Only the sacraments bring sanctifying grace, and living out marriage is a sacrament. Living in a monastery is not.

While Holy Orders is likewise a sacrament, it is not the first sacrament. Marriage is. The Eucharist is the heart of the sacramental life, but marriage is the form and foundation of that life.

In the order of sacraments, marriage came first. Through its fecundity holy orders are filled, through its example, monastic life takes its measure. It is the only sacrament called a sacrament in all of Scripture (Ephesians 5: "I speak of a great mystery..." - the word mysterion translates into Latin as sacramentum).

So should seminarians have conversations with women not their mothers or sisters while they are discerning their vocation, before they or ordained to transitional deacon?**

I don't see why not.

A seminarian who is talking with an old girlfriend, and through those conversations decides to become a husband and a father instead of a priest and a father is not "a lost vocation." The woman who woos him is not to be attacked for doing so.

It isn't a question of "losing a vocation", rather, it's a question of discerning the right vocation. For we must remember, both Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony are vocations.

He didn't lose his vocation.
He found it.

**After ordination, of course, the situation changes radically.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I'm voting for McCain

I absolutely hated the thought of voting for McCain.
I hated the thought of Obama worse.

But now that I've seen this, John McCain has got my vote.