Monday, November 15, 2010

Verbum Domini: Pope Benedict XVI exhorts us apostolically on the Word of God!

Deacon Keith Fournier begins his November 14 article on the release of Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini" in a way that makes me want to read the rest of the article and the entire exhortation itself! He begins:

Verbum Domini is Masterful, Mystical, and Missionary. What is clear from beginning to end is that the current occupant of the Chair of Peter is a theologian of the highest order. He must have delighted his many students as 'Professor Ratzinger'. This exhortation gives us all a chance to join them and be taught by this extraordinary Pope. With the skills of an excellent teacher, Pope Benedict XVI takes the reader through one of the finest presentations of the Catholic teaching on the Sacred Scripture I have read.


Read the rest of Deacon Fournier's article.

Or jump right to the text of "Verbum Domini" itself. Caution - it's not for the faint of heart, being 194 pages of text followed by a nice index. Deacon Fournier printed it out, put it into a 3-ring binder, and keeps it next to his "prayer chair".

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Much More Than a Baby Dies in Abortion

It's a bit of a jump from this image to the topic, but putting
Dr. Patrick's picture up made me yawn & I didn't want yucky pix.

Dr. John Patrick presents "Much More Than a Baby Dies in Abortion."

Monday, November 8 · 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Perkins Student Center - University of Delaware
325 Academy Street
Newark, DE

Dr. Patrick is a retired Medical Doctor and Associate Professor in Clinical Nutrition in the Department of Biochemistry and Paediatrics at the U. of Ottawa. He lectures around the world about controversial moral dilemmas in medicine, culture, and the integration of religion and science. He is one of the Founders and is the current President of Augustine College, Ottawa. During his academic career, Dr. Patrick did extensive research in Central Africa, Britain, the West Indies and Canada, and is an expert on childhood malnutrition.

It was a fascinating lecture. I asked Dr. Patrick afterwards if he had this online, and he said that unbeknownst to him, his wife had indeed put some stuff online that he hasn't yet seen. He discovered this after he gave a talk and someone asked him, as I did, if his thoughts were online. He said "No," only to have a student say, "Excuse me, but yes, there is a link on Augustine College's* web page." He says he still hasn't checked but takes the student's word for it. I did check. His web site is http://www.johnpatrick.ca/index.htm and on the left, under Papers you can find some of his work in both written and spoken version. I would absolutely recommend settling in and listening to one of the mp3 files over the written material. He wanders quite a bit when he speaks, and the written articles seem to be transcriptions of the talks rather than articles edited for publication.

Dr. Patrick started out as a biochemist and a medical doctor. He was specializing in the practice of infectious diseases in the mid-60's, and became familiar with the phenomenon of pregnant women who had contracted rubella measles coming to see him. Rubella causes severe birth defects in about 90% of the babies carried by infected women. He said he did not consciously think of himself as being engaged in abortion -- in those days, the word itself carried a horrendous connotation (kids born since Roe v Wade have no conception of the stigma attached to the word). As a rational, compassionate man, the way he would handle such cases would be to consult with the woman, tell her that unfortunately because of the rubella things had gone terribly wrong with the pregnancy, but if she wanted a fresh start, he could put her in hospital, take care of the problem, and she could then start over with a clean slate in trying to have a child. He said every woman he talked to like that always agreed, and he would do follow the lead of other doctors and record
performing a "D and C", since abortion was illegal.

Bess McAneny, who practiced as a nurse in the 60's in an Ob\Gyn wing of a hospital, afterwards said that she knew what he meant because there was one doctor, the chief of staff, who had a special room where he would take patients, and invariably his records would show up with a greater than average number of "D and Cs". Bess said she wondered why he had to do so many D and C's on such young patients, and why he had his own reserved room that nobody else used, but it never occurred to her that abortions were going on. Dr. Patrick confirmed that doctors all knew about such practices and covered one another.

Dr. Patrick said what happened to him was that although he left that practice and went on to other things, it stuck in his mind. Then abortion became legal. About 20 years ago, he said, his wife went off to work in a refugee camp in Africa for two years, and he became a widower of sorts. Having lots of time on his hands, he decided to think about the question of abortion, something he had not done at all during the years he was involved with it. He asked himself the question, What line of reasoning would I have to embrace in order to clearly hold the belief that
abortion was ethical? What else might flow from that line of reasoning?

This got him to thinking about personhood. What responsibilities do we owe all human persons? Protection from harm, particularly protection of the weak and innocent, is a basic responsibility that society owes to its members. If a human being isn't innocent in utero , then when is it innocent? He talked about how it is a clear fact that conception is the point in time that each human being is stamped with a unique DNA identifier, so obviously an unborn child is a human being. So why is a human person not identified at the point of conception? He discussed the various definitions philosophers have come up with for human personhood, and concluded that every one of them left him and all others who now enjoy the protection of the law at risk of suddenly becoming non-persons.

This is what he meant by titling the talk, "So much more than a baby dies in abortion". He said his reasoning lead him to realize that the legalization of abortion was not an exercise of justice but the exercise of raw judicial power, of promoting the rights of the strong over the rights of the weak. In order to do this, personhood had to be disconnected from being. That way, our consciences as a society would allow us to kill human beings who were not human persons. But of course, this means that we can kill any human being who does not meet the criteria we have set for persohood. Logically, abortion opens the gates to euthanasia, just as its initial foes predicted back in the
70’s. And indeed, despite protests at the time that of course no such thing would happen, voluntary euthanasia is indeed now available across the globe. Also, a woman who is given the choice to kill her child in utero can hardly be denied the choice to kill herself when she likes, thus leading to the logical legitimatization of assisted suicide. The rationale is still being used, in the discussion of euthanizing of disabled infants, but the most recent legal judgments have denied the application of this logic to the legitimatization of such euthanasia. In Dr. Patrick’s opinion, the U.S. courts who have ruled against euthanizing of disabled infants, have chosen to deliberately ignore the logic of the arguments in favor of it based on precedents set by abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia rulings because they know that American society is not yet ready to accept it.

He talked about a lot more than this, about the disintegration of western culture because of the marginalizing of Judaeo-Christian thought, traditions, literature and history. He faults the churches for not teaching their flocks to think. He said Protestants need to think where they now feel, and feel where they now think; Catholics, he says, are intellectually strong and know all the 100 dollar words but need to learn how to preach the word of God, and not just in the short homilies at Mass. He said the people that are doing the best work in the area of the decaying of western culture are atheistic secular Jews, and he named a few who have influenced him (can’t remember the names, Bess McAneny has them). He said an honest atheist is a treasure, because they cut through the bullsh*t on both sides and are the ones who proclaim loudest that the marginalization of traditional Jewish and Christian culture (which encompasses Hellenic culture) is having a deadly effect on the western world.

Dr. Patrick spoke like the college professor he is - witty and intellectual, but with a wry sense of how spiritually vapid academia can be and how important it is for academics like himself to avoid the temptations available to all professors to spin their own egos instead of truth. He believes in objective truth and says that moral relativists too believe in objective truth, for when they declare that “all points of view are equally valid”, they are making a statement that they wish you to believe as true, even as they believe it to be objectively and universally true.

He came from a blue collar background, the first in his family to be educated. He said he lost his faith at university, and since then he has seen the same thing happen over and over again to other students. That's why Augustine College exists, to stem the tide. He says blue collar working people the world over are the ones that have the strongest, liveliest faith, that intellectual pursuit these days tends to beat it out of you.

It was an excellent lecture. Left me with many thoughts.

*John Patrick turns out to be co-founder and president of Augustine College, which is the fruit of some years' discussion between him and some friends about how the lack of education on the "great ideas" is wreaking havoc in western culture. Basically, Augustine College appears to be a "great books" institution with a strong emphasis on philosophy as well as literature.


Want more? Go to http://www.johnpatrick.ca/index.htm and on the left, under Papers you can find some of his work in both written and spoken version. Listen to the talks rather than read them. Well worth the time.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Confessions of a Pilgrim: Back to the Source


The 2010 Pauline Cooperator pilgrimage, "In the Footsteps of St. Paul", ended two days ago on October 30. I did not keep a journal or take photographs -- Phivan was the picture-taker par excellence, and several of our pilgrims kept notes or posted updates. But I did want to report on the spiritual benefits of the pilgrimage, specifically as it has to do with my mission as a Pauline Cooperator.

I began the pilgrimage in a mood of expectant floundering. Three years into my retirement from the University of Delaware, I am finding my way into the rhythm and activity of the rest of my life. I have a mission as a Pauline Cooperator. I love the Pauline charism, I love Blessed James Alberione, I feel a fierce desire to help continue what he began in response to his interior vision from Jesus Master. But what is my next step? What is a Pauline Cooperator? What do I do, and with whom? Expectant floundering, at its best!

The picture at the top of this essay shows the Cathedral of Alba, where Blessed Alberione experienced his call from Jesus Master during the Night Between the Centuries. Our pilgrimage took us to this and many other sites that are of great importance to the Pauline Family. On our last day, we visited the open tomb of Blessed Alberione himself. In reflecting on everything that happened on the pilgrimage, here are my first responses:

1) I am reading Tametsi Futura, the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII that had such an impact on the young James Alberione. I decided to do this today, and in looking it up, lo and behold I discover that it was issued on this date, November 1 -- All Saints Day -- in 1900. No wonder it was fresh on Blessed Alberione's mind on the Night Between the Centuries! It had just been issued, and the young seminarian was just soaking up its message.

Take a look below at the opening paragraph of Tametsi Futura. How relevant it is for us today! Having just come from Rome, where thousands of people crowded the streets and churches of Vatican City, I can relate not only to the opening lines about the tenor of the times, but the later hope Pope Leo expresses about the revival of interest in all things holy. How odd it was to see, in the midst of what we are told is a very secularized Italy, the pilgrims from all around the world on their knees, in prayer, standing in long lines, cheering the Pope, and otherwise showing signs that although Christ may be hidden, He is not unsought. Pope Leo XIII writes:

The outlook on the future is by no means free from anxiety; on the contrary, there are many serious reasons for alarm, on account of numerous and long-standing causes of evil, of both a public and a private nature. Nevertheless, the close of the century really seems in God's mercy to afford us some degree of consolation and hope. For no one will deny that renewed interest in spiritual matters and a revival of Christian faith and piety are influences of great moment for the common good. And there are sufficiently clear indications at the present day of a very general revival or augmentation of these virtues.

For example, in the very midst of worldly allurements and in spite of so many obstacles to piety, what great crowds have flocked to Rome to visit the "Threshold of the Apostles" at the invitation of the Sovereign Pontiff! Both Italians and foreigners are openly devoting themselves to religious exercises, and, relying upon the indulgences offered by the Church, are most earnestly seeking the means to secure their eternal salvation. Who could fail to be moved by the present evident increase of devotion towards the person of Our Saviour?

The ardent zeal of so many thousands, united in heart and mind, "from the rising of the Sun to the going down thereof," in venerating the Name of Jesus Christ and proclaiming His praises, is worthy of the best days of Christianity. Would that the outburst of these flames of antique faith might be followed by a mighty conflagration! Would that the splendid example of so many might kindle the enthusiasm of all! For what so necessary for our times as a widespread renovation among the nations of Christian principles and old-fashioned virtues? The great misfortune is that too many turn a deaf ear and will not listen to the teachings of this revival of piety. Yet, "did they but know the gift of God," did they but realise that the greatest of all misfortunes is to fall away from the World's Redeemer and to abandon Christian faith and practice, they would be only too eager to turn back, and so escape certain destruction.

2) I'd like to organize a weekly 24-hour Adoration from Pauline Cooperators and friends from around the world. Each Monday is dedicated to St. Paul. Could we not each make a commitment to spend one hour each Monday in A Visit to the Lord, in front of the Blessed Sacrament whether exposed or not as we can find in our local area?

Many of you -- many of us -- already make A Visit daily. I thought that how wonderful it would be if the Cooperators cooperated to have a 24-hour praise and adoration to the Blessed Trinity each Monday, a prayer rising to the Father through Jesus Master, in union with the Holy Spirit, asking that we discern how we might best, individually and as a group of lay Paulines, continue Blessed Alberione's vision of using the means of social communication to evangelize the world. We can ask Blessed Alberione, Venerable Thecla Merlo, Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, and all of the Paulines who have gone before to join us in this prayer.

Who's up for it? This is my first call. Pass the word. I will be "taking names" as they say, and filling out a schedule hopefully to cover all 24 hours, setting Greenwich Mean Time as the standard for converting everyone's individual local hour.