Should you choose to accept it, Zachary Gappa from the Center for a Just Society has a New Year’s challenge for pro-lifers:
this new year I beg people to take some time to learn more about bioethics.
The stakes are high. Our definitions of life, death, and human dignity are up for grabs, so we must not abdicate our moral duty to be informed about such weighty matters.
Few controversial topics in our society are more important and less understood than bioethics. The average citizen doesn’t need to take a college course to be able to understand and talk about the basic questions at play today. They should seek to get a grasp on some of the more prominent practical questions at play, including stem cell developments, assisted suicide, reproductive technologies, animal rights, and the quality of life concepts in healthcare.
Many of the current trends in these scientific arenas are unsettling (some possibilities sound like dystopian fantasies), and it is our collective moral duty as a society to establish legal restrictions and moral guidelines for these trends.
Pro-lifers will lose the next stage of this argument unless they become more informed. The graphic abortions we have known over the past few decades will soon be largely a thing of the past, but we may be killing more unborn children than ever before. It just will be less obvious. It’s not so much the left or right that will be deciding what “life issues” will look like in the next few decades – it’s the scientific establishment. Unless, that is, the public takes steps to become more informed.
I couldn’t have said it better, myself. And I’ve been saying it a lot lately. Or trying to. Nice to hear it from a new voice for a change. I feel like a handful of us have been screaming this into a vacuum the past few years.
Gappa cites several disconcerting modern trends such as the western world’s fast-paced move towards wide-open access to assisted suicide. Or how recent developments in stem cell research point to the possibility of children one day being born from a single parent, by deriving both sperm and egg from a single man.
As I have said many times on this blog and elsewhere, pro-life 3.0 is upon us, whether we like it or not and it’s progressing fast — and largely under the radar. Human cloning. Three parent children. ONE parent children. Sure, these things sound like science fiction, but they are quickly becoming our scientific reality.
It is time to stop pretending that this is a problem for our children and grandchildren. This is our issue to tackle. Now.
The trouble with many of these bioethical issues is that they involve cutting-edge scientific developments, and it’s hard to find good science reporting from anywhere outside of journals and periodicals produced by the scientific community — and even many of those have an agenda.
Some trusted resources to bookmark: news and analysis by NRO’s Wesley J. Smith, BioEdge for helpful news, The New Atlantis for broader technology and ethics discussions, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, the Oxford Christian Bioethics journal. and, of course, Mary Meets Dolly, the blog of my good friend and BioTalk partner Rebecca Taylor.
You can also, get started on this resolution right away by catching up on old episodes of BioTalk. (I hope we will have many more for you in the coming year!)
When you hear something on the news, pull out your smartphone and spending 15 minutes trying to begin to get a handle on what is actually going on. Then, tell others what you know, because most people don’t have a clue, and most members of the media are not actually informed enough to be a reliable help. And then let your voice be heard, publicly. In the very least, we must insist that all people, including scientists, submit to moral standards of human dignity, but without more knowledge, we won’t know when to insist.
The many positive developments for the pro-life effort in recent years, Gappa explains, is “partially the result of decades of hard work by committed conservative Christians to explain what abortion really is to their fellow citizens and argue against the practice.” Unfortunately, many of these same pro-lifers lack this same level of knowledge when it comes to more complicated and obscure bioethics issues.
Don’t delay, start your 2015 Bioethics challenge today!
The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network has compiled their list for the “Winners and Losers” in bioethics for 2014.
Kathleen Sloan, board member for the National Organization for Women and a regular consultant for the CBC. Human biotechnology creates strange bedfellows. Although Sloan is a committed abortion rights advocate, she has also lent her voice to campaigns opposing human cloning and, most recently, surrogacy and third party reproduction.
Manuel Valls, Prime Minister of France, who spoke out strongly against surrogacy, stating it “is and will be banned in France” because it is “an intolerable commercialization of human beings and commodification of women’s bodies.”
The Swedish Women’s Lobby for responding to the Swedish government’s consideration of surrogacy with an important campaign called, Feminists No to Surrogate Motherhood to protect against the exploitation of women and their bodies.
Maggie Karner, a wife and mother of three who was diagnosed with the terminal brain cancer, glioblastoma, has chosen to die naturally rather than invoking a ‘right to die’ as Brittany Maynard did.
Among the “losers”:
Uterine Transplants: not all progress is good, and in this case there are still many safety and ethical factors to worry about.
The New Jersey state Assembly, which passed a “death with dignity” law. If it is signed into law, New Jersey will be the fourth state to permit assisted suicide.
Three-parent embryo technology: Despite warnings that there are too many safety concerns to allow this technique to move forward in human trials, Britain’s department of health and our own FDA continue to consider implementing the idea.
And celebrities Jimmy Fallon with his wife Nancy Juvonen, and Bryan Singer. Fallon and his wife welcomed their second child via surrogacy this year, and Singer announced that his “best friend,” actress Michelle Clunie, will serve as a surrogate so that he can have a child.
Other people and things I would add to this list:
1. Maggie Karner wasn’t the only person with a similar diagnosis who desperately reached out to Brittany Maynard, hoping to show her a better way. Other “winners” at life in the face of death included: Kara Tippetts, Raleigh seminarian Philip Johnson, Nadin Naumann and her terminally ill mother,
And then, of course, there was 19 year old Lauren Hill, who chose to spend her remaining months raising awareness about her rare disease — and fulfilling her dream of being a starter for her college basketball team.
Hill didn’t reach out to Maynard like the others, to my knowledge, but her story made headlines around the same time and she was a refreshing contrast.
2. To call Maynard, herself, a “loser” would be cruel. But I think it’s fair to say that the reaction by the general public — especially the media — to her suicide was disappointing, to say the least.
I never commented on the Britany Maynard situation at the time here because, well, every time I sat down to write about it, I couldn’t decide where to even begin.
On the one hand, it was a tragic story about a woman in an impossible situation to relate to making a personal decision about her end of life “care” (if you can call it that). But it was also about much more than Maynard, herself.
Thanks in large part to the vultures exploiting her tragedy for their own purposes, she became a new, compelling spokeswoman for suicide. And the widespread support that was given to her, her ‘choice’ and her message is truly terrifying.
You know, it wasn’t that long before Maynard’s death that we were all mourning the ‘tragic’ suicide of a famous movie actor and collectively advocating suicide ‘awareness’ and ‘prevention’ for those suffering from mental illness.
Why does our tune change for the physically sick and disabled? Then, instead of calling for suicide prevention, we cheer them on to their deaths. Indeed, we call on our medical professionals to help them die!
I think what’s most disturbing about the championing of Brittany Maynard’s suicide is that it was not about hastening death as a last result for a terminally ill patient once the pain and suffering become unbearable, but a preemptive strike to avoid any possible pain and, more importantly, loss of autonomy, in the future.
3. Speaking of which. Another loser to add to the list is the Washington State, where a 43 percent rise in doctor-prescribed suicides in 2013 was motivated not by pain, but by feared loss of autonomy and “dignity,” according to the official state government report. This despite the fact that at the time of the referendum debate, the suicide advocacy group, Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society), promoted adoption of the Washington law largely on the basis of the claim that it would be used for dying patients with unbearable pain and suffering.
Maynard, herself, in interviews, videos and blog posts, talked mostly about fear of losing her faculties and being a burden on her family than she ever talked about pain.
As I’ve said many times, we are in for a world of trouble once we start making death an acceptable “treatment” for pain and suffering. The “slippery slope” of this is real and well documented.
One only has to look at Belgium where euthanasia has been legal since 2002. Where, despite being originally limited to those at the end of life for whom nothing else but killing would adequately alleviate suffering, they have been known to kill non-terminal elderly couples, a despairing transsexual, and psychiatric patients. Where the Journal of Medical Ethics found that nearly 25% of patients denied tube-supplied food and water were dehydrated to death *without consent* of themselves or family. And where they just approved euthanasia for children 17 years old and younger.
4. Shifting gears: 2014 was certainly the “year of international surrogacy“. Several surrogacy horror stories made headlines last year. Perhaps the most notorious was the case of “Baby Gammy“, who was born with Down syndrome and left in Thailand with his surrogate mother while his parents took his healthy twin sister back to Australia.
Commercial surrogacy was technically restricted in Thailand in 1997, but remained largely unregulated. In the wake of the Baby Gammy controversy Thailand’s interim parliament has voted in support of a bill to ban commercial surrogacy in the country — making Thailand both a loser and a winner in 2014.
5. Finally, the age of cloning is upon us. There were a few cloning “breakthroughs” last year. Most notably, researchers from the US and South Korea announced that they had successfully created cloned human embryos that survived long enough to be harvested for their stem cells — or implanted. What makes this one even more significant (and scary) is that it was accomplished using stem cells from 35 and 75 year old men instead of fetuses and infants.
Be sure to check out CGS’ more detailed wrap-up of 2014. Here’s hoping 2015 has more winners than losers!
Everyone’s favorite “media nun”, Sr. Helena Burns, recently reviewed the six-part Lifetime reality TV series The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns.
According to the good sister it is a “wonderful” show and well worth watching, though not without its drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is the attitude that some of the discerning women seem to have toward sex:
Theology of the Body
One disturbing detail was the existing/persisting attitude of some of the young women toward chastity and premarital sex. The girls themselves reveal that two of them are virgins, at which two of the other girls were truly shocked, but not only shocked: completely uncomprehending! They expect virginity of one already nun-like girl–although they challenge her never having dated–but they are shocked by the virginity of the more “normal” girl!
The attitude was: “But if you don’t have sex with a guy you like, you will lose him and he might have been ‘the one’ you will marry.” WOW. WOW. WOW.
I know this is a completely common viewpoint/practice today, but it was just so taken-for-granted, so ingrained in these otherwise deeply faith-filled, faithful young women. They don’t even see how sex is profoundly related to their relationship with themselves, with God. Their attitude toward men is: “Of course you have to give in to them. That’s just the way the world is.”
This is not gender equality. These are not “liberated” young women in any sense of the word! Not in a feminist way, not in a Christian way.* They don’t realize how their philosophy undermines their whole feminine self. And the masculine self of every man they date, even if one of them becomes their husband.
It’s one thing to say/believe: I don’t always live chastity perfectly, but I try. It’s another thing to say/believe: sex before marriage is no big deal. You have to/should do it. Any such cavalier attitude toward sex means: The body doesn’t matter. My body doesn’t matter. I don’t matter. I firmly believe this is one of the root-causes of widespread low self-esteem among women. Others turn this “I don’t matter” into a kind of ambitious, hardened drive toward acquiring.
The girl in question was shocked at their being shocked. She summed up her own ethos perfectly: “But why should I NOT be who I am for someone who is supposed to LOVE who I am and get to know me as I am?”
Such a crying, crying need for Theology of the Body. Check out this news article that is troubling on so many levels. Just like the Church’s mishandling of the clergy sex abuse crisis, the Church’s failure to teach and adhere to her beautiful vision of human sexuality has resulted in messes like this. And the messes are getting bigger and more complex and far-reaching by the day. This one is just the tip of the iceberg. A precedent. A legal precedent. Expect many more such scenarios to follow.
Read the entire review.
Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn and Mother of the Americas!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, we turn to you who are the protectress of unborn children and ask that you intercede for us, so that we may more firmly resolve to join you in protecting all human life. Let our prayers be united to your perpetual motherly intercession on behalf of those whose lives are threatened, be they in the womb of their mother, on the bed of infirmity, or in the latter years of their life. May our prayers also be coupled with peaceful action which witnesses to the goodness and dignity of all human life, so that our firmness of purpose may give courage to those who are fearful and bring light to those who are blinded by sin.
(from a prayer said at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on January 22, 1999)
Prayer for Victims of Abortion
Holy Mother of God and of the Church, our Lady of Guadalupe, you were chosen by the Father for the Son through the Holy Spirit.
You are the Woman clothed with the sun who labors to give birth to Christ while Satan, the Red Dragon, waits to voraciously devour your child.
O Help of Christians, we beg you to protect all mothers of the unborn and the children within their wombs. We plead with you for your help to end the holocaust of abortion. Melt hearts so that life may be revered!
Holy Mother, we pray to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart for all mothers and all unborn children that they may have life here on earth and by the most Precious Blood shed by your Son that they may have eternal life with Him in heaven. We also pray to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart for all abortionists and all abortion supporters that they may be converted and accept your Son, Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Savior. Defend all of your children in the battle against Satan and all of the evil spirits in this present darkness.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, hear our pleas and accept this cry from our hearts!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn, Pray for us!
Recommended: When the Womb is Empty
It’s not what you think.
A while back I wrote an article entitled “Reproductive Rights Run Amok“. This is precisely what I was talking about.
Headline: I paid $50,000 to have a girl
After naturally conceiving and giving birth to three boys Jayne Cornwill and her husband traveled to America and pay fertility doctor Daniel Potter to finally give them a girl. In a first-person piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Cornwill says:
I know that, to a childless woman struggling with infertility, I might seem ungrateful because I already have three healthy sons. But unless you’ve experienced “gender disappointment”, you can’t understand how crippling it can be. My desire for a daughter caused me to spiral into depression and left me virtually housebound. Every time I went out, toddlers in pink seemed to taunt me.
Cornwill claims that her “only goal in life” ever since she was little was to have a daughter and says that during her third pregnancy she was so “crippled” with disappointment that it was going to be a boy, she considered having an abortion.
Well, won’t that do wonders to her boys’ self esteem when they find out about this, which they are bound to at some point.
Note that they didn’t just have embryos made of her desired sex, rather they had multiple offspring created of both sexes and then discarded the boys. That’s how sex-selective IVF works.
Note also that they came all the way from Australia to the Brave New United States for this, where the fertility industry remains laughingly unregulated. And she’s not alone. According to Cornwill, Dr Daniel Potter, the US fertility specialist who treated them, has helped more than 1000 Australian couples “gender balance” their families.
Now that her obsession with having a daughter is finally a reality, Cornwill is lobbying for gender selection to be legalized in Australia. “It’s not about playing God,” she assures us, “it’s about giving women reproductive freedom.”
Oh, that’s a relief. “Because a child’s whole reason for living is only about a mother’s freedoms, not about their own” -Rebecca Taylor.
When I first read this last month, I was hoping I had stumbled upon an Onion article or some other satire news site. But, no. This is the “reproductive rights” movement come full circle.
I recently got to spend almost a whole week with my nephew (aka the cutest baby on the planet) in Cancun for my baby sister’s wedding. Here is some of the cuteness for your viewing pleasure. Click each image to enlarge.
I have never been to a resort with it’s own Catholic chapel. With a tabernacle. And priests who come not just to celebrate destination weddings, but also Sunday Mass and some daily Masses. I was impressed.
Gosh, I miss that baby already!
This has been quite an eventful couple of weeks for our family. Almost exactly a week after my youngest sister got married, my middle sister received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy (after only, oh, nearly 8 years of school)!
Words cannot express how proud of and happy I am for these baby sisters of mine! Caitlin was a stunning bride and is a truly wonderful mother (getting ready for baby boy #2!!). And Carly is going to be an amazing PT. Her future patients are in such great, capable hands!
I hope that’s enough cuteness to last you all a little while!
I don’t know about you, but it’s been hard for me to see the images coming out of my former home state of Missouri this week. People often say that it’s not fair to bring a child into such a cruel world, but as Unilever reminded a few expectant parents, there has never been a better time to create a brighter future.
The world may be a scary place, but new life is new hope for a better and brighter future.
Some new life to be thankful for this year: my nephew, of course! I can’t believe how much he’s grown in less than a year.
And Cruz has some exciting news to share:
Yep. Nephew #2 is on the way!!
And on that note, I’m on my way out of the country for the next week — my baby sister is getting married this Friday!
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And don’t forget to give thanks to our good and gracious God for his beautiful gift of life!
Recently Rebecca Frech drew attention to the accessibility problems that many of us still face in parishes throughout the country.
What’s perhaps most surprising is that it’s not just old buildings that are a problem. Even some brand new or newly renovated structures don’t seem to take accessibility into account (and, it should be noted, churches do not, by law, have to). Using her own newly renovated Parish as an example, Frech notes:
Those beautiful hand-scraped doors impress visitors with their obviously-expensive weight. They set the tone for the worship space that lies beyond.
There are nine doorways into the church. All are beautiful. All are heavy. All are self-closing. None are handicapped accessible.
At no time in the planning of this new and expensive building was accessibility considered to be a priority, and it shows. The automatic door buttons which would have remedied the problem were an additional expense that was not deemed a priority.
The interior is just as imposing, and just as equally inaccessible.
The cathedral ceilings soar, the stained glass glitters, the acoustics are perfection; and yet there is nowhere in this entire church, which seats over 1,000 easily, for a person in a wheelchair to sit. The non-ambulatory members of the parish have the choice of placing themselves either in the middle of an aisle, behind a pillar, or behind the very last pew. Parishioners with walkers have nowhere to place them that is out of the way. The woman at the 10am Mass who has a service dog seats him in the aisle out of necessity.
This, unfortunately, isn’t unique. A commentor relates:
My bishop spent millions having elaborate redecorations done to the cathedral, and neglected to put an access ramp onto the front steps. Now he is fundraising for a $250,000 ramp, to go with the new expensive look of the place. Its practically blackmail, a lot of his big donors are the frail elderly who can’t make it up the steps.
Now, I know churches are not required to comply with the ADA, but I can’t imagine how they could have overlooked (or, God forbid, deliberately left out) something as basic as a way for people with disabilities to access the building at all.
I’ve traveled a lot in the last 15 years and it’s always interesting — and sometimes frustrating — to see how different parishes accommodate their disabled members/visitors. Doors can definitely be a problem and I’ve been to several churches where I was not able to sit with my friends and family. But, I think bathrooms tend to be where I have trouble the most
In fact, the day before I read Rebecca’s post I went to Mass at the Cathedral here in Pensacola and was not able to even get through the bathroom door! When I asked if there was an accessible restroom somewhere, I was told that I would have to go to the parish hall next door…and that they would have to unlock it for me first.
Frech concludes her post with a list of several recommendations, including:
- Those push-button door openers on at least one set of doors would be amazing!
- If you can’t afford the $2,500 approx. per door, then please dismantle or slow down the self-closing mechanisms. Having a door slam into you when you’re not in a position to catch it is dangerous.
- If that doesn’t work, prop the door open.
- Have door greeter/opener people as a last resort. People leave or wander off. It’s not entirely their fault, stuff happens, it just means that the handicapped can’t get in/out until help arrives.
- Handicapped parking with room for a chair lift is a must. This is a huge need especially in older or urban parishes where that may not have been a consideration when the parking lot was built. The absence of room to load/unload a wheelchair means that our family cannot attend your parish.
- Handicapped entrances near the handicapped parking. Can you imagine having to go all the way around the church through the rain when you’re sitting down (and your hands are getting filthy from the mud and rain) because of someone’s poor planning? Been there, done that. It’s really no fun.
- Handicapped accessible bathrooms near the handicapped entrance. Sometimes you’ve just really gotta go!
- Handicapped stalls and hand rails do not make a bathroom accessible. Ask whether or not a person with physical limitations get in and out of the door, and remedy what’s wrong. (Is it heavy? Is there too sharp of an angle to get a wheelchair around?)
- If the door is difficult to open, it needs to be fixed.
- If it’s feasible to remove it completely without compromising modesty, that’s a really cheap fix.
- Ramps need to end flush with the sidewalk. Powerchairs can’t go over those bumps, and it takes a bit of coordination for someone in a manual chair to make it. Please find a way to smooth it out.
- Wide aisles that have room for a chair to fit in the Communion line for anyone who wants to receive with their family and/or the rest of the congregation.
- A cutout or niche in at least one pew where a chair, walker, service dog, or stroller could easily fit.
- At least one outlet in the sanctuary where oxygen tanks or equipment could be plugged in in the case of low batteries or an emergency.
- Please remember that the sanctuary isn’t the whole church. If you’re having doughnuts in the hall, is there a way for everyone to get there? Is there an elevator or chair lift available if the hall is up or downstairs?
- Remember that people with physical limitations aren’t trying to be annoying or exasperating. They have the same need for the Sacraments that the rest of us do. We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to make sure it’s feasible for everyone to be able to receive them.
- It doesn’t have to happen over night. Slow and steady progress is still progress and is welcoming because it shows concern for the well-being of the differently-abled.
Along with some of these structural accommodations, something I’ve often wondered about is the kind of training ushers get on how to treat people with disabilities who come to Mass. For example, it is nice when they actually ask if I want communion brought back to me instead of just assuming. I usually prefer to go up with the congregation if I can.
What do you think? What do you see? Are churches doing enough to provide access for handicapped individuals? What more could they be doing?
Personally, I tend to keep quiet and give most churches the benefit of the doubt, assuming they’re doing what they can within their means to accommodate the disabled. But Rebecca’s post encouraged me to try to be a little more proactive in suggesting where things can be improved when I come across them.
Understandably, cost is an issue with many of these things and churches are not obligated to comply with ADA regulations. But, if anyone should be doing all they can to make people with disabilities feel welcome and valued, it’s the Church. Her mission is, after all, to spread the Good News everywhere, to everyone. What does it say about her commitment to this mission when a segment of the population are literally prevented from opening her doors and being an active part of her community?
**Update** I will be discussing this on Catholic radio this afternoon with Mike Allen. Click here to listen live at 5:15 pm Eastern.
The Vatican-hosted international interreligious colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Women started in Rome yesterday with an address by Pope Francis. The purpose of the conference, which ends tomorrow, is to show the beauty of the complementarity of men and women, which has existed across cultures and religions.
The Holy Father began his address by dwelling on the word “complementarity”. Christians, he said, “find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole-everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each.” Reflecting on “complementarity”, he said, “is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation.”
Complementarity “is at the root of marriage and family” and “will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children.”
“In our day, marriage and the family are in crisis,” Pope Francis said. The “culture of the temporary” has led many people to give up on marriage as a public commitment. “This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”
This family crisis has also produced a “crisis of human ecology, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection.” The Holy Father called on participants to, “foster a new human ecology and advance it” by first to promoting the “fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.”
He noted that the family is the foundation of society and that “children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”
Recalling what he wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis said that the contribution of marriage to society is “indispensable”; that it “transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple” (n. 66).
Finally, he urged participants to life up the, “permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.” This is especially important for young people, who represent our future. That they do not give in to the “poisonous mentality of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love.”
This understanding of the family, he stressed, is not an ideological concept, but an “anthropological fact”, a reality that transcends ideological labels.
Accompanying Pope Francis and a number of speakers from 14 religions and 23 countries is a six-part video series on men and women and marriage the world over. Below is part one “On the Meaning of Marriage” (be sure to turn on closed captioning):
See more: TOB Tuesday
At the National Right to Life Convention this summer I caught up with Dr. David Prentice, Senior Fellow for Life Sciences at Family Research Council, and chatted with him a bit about the current status of the great “stem cell debate”, how scientists are tinkering with human life these days and what, if any, positive signs he sees for trying to stop this train at some point.
Only audio this time: