Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?"

A column by Anna Quindlen in the current issue of Newsweek begins:

Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless.You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."

Since the Pro-Life Action League sponsored the Face the Truth Tour demonstration at which this video was filmed -- in fact, I was one of the Tour coordinators, so I was there that day -- Quindlen's article deserves a response from us.

First, Quindlen didn't check her facts.

Monday, July 30, 2007

In Court Today

The guy who assaulted me three weeks ago told the judge he wants to hire a lawyer.

So, the judge granted a continuance and told him to come back September 5.

I’ll let you know what happens then.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Hello, and to Speak Institute the welcome!"

If, like me, you like satire and dark humor, you'll like this video.

If you don't, you probably won't.

(One complaint, however: The video starts playing as soon as the link opens. That's really, really annoying.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Humanae Vitae: Still Right After All These Years

On this day in 1968, Pope Paul VI, of happy memory, issued his landmark encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which reiterated the Catholic Church's nearly 2,000 year old teaching that contraception is sinful.

At the time, and even more so 39 years later, many people -- Catholic and otherwise -- are shocked that at precisely a time when the winds of change were gale force, the Bride of Jesus Christ vowed that she would cling to such an allegedly antediluvian view of sexual morality.

I first read Humanae Vitae ten years ago, during my sophomore year in college. I was prompted to do so because at the time, I had issues with the Church's teaching against contraception. I had always been strongly against abortion, but I also believed that birth control could be helpful to the pro-life movement's goal of eradicating abortion.

(That, and I gullibly believed that "overpopulation" was a problem. Thanks be to God, I soon thereafter discovered that this hand-wringing, gloom-and-doom nonsense was just that. I also had yet to discover G. K. Chesterston, who, in characteristic wit, managed in one sentence to expose the insanity of the Chicken Littles who seriously believe that "overpopulation" is somehow causing the sky to fall: "The answer to anyone who talks about the surplus population is to ask him whether he is the surplus population, or if he is not, how he knows he is not.")

When I first HV, I was blown away. First, at how succinct Paul VI was.

Second, at how right he was. And is. And continues to be.

The thing that most people seem to remember most about HV is the series of predictions Paul VI made about the grave consequences that would inevitably result from an increasing reliance on contraception:

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity...

All other things being equal, it doesn't take much grey matter to realize that convenient, widespread access to contraception has made it easier to commit adultery.

...and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings —- and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.

As for coming up with examples testifying to the general lowering of moral standards in the last two generations, it's hard to know where to start -- all the more reason why Paul VI was right when he made this prediction.

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Interesting, isn't it, that just as our culture is now awash in contraception, we are also awash in p*rnography -- and increasingly hard-core p*rnography, at that.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone...

And, indeed, many have. China is probably the most notorious, but it's hardly alone. Indeed, forced contraception, sterilization, and abortion are the norm in many parts of the world.

Limits to Man's Power

Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions...

Paul VI rightly recognized that contraception would pave the way for public acceptance of such evils as in-vitro fertilization and, more recently, human cloning.

Without a doubt, nearly two generations later, Humanae Vitae has proven to be prophetic.


(Cross-posted at Catholic Dads ... this post originally appeared in slightly modified form on 25 July 2006 on the Generations for Life blog)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Where Is That in the Bible?

Last month, I posted a comment on a post on a blog called Two Edge Talk titled "Where Is That in the Bible?"

A previous commenter (apparently a non-Catholic) had asked "why we pray to the Saints and to Mary".

By this time, this post was about a week old, and the discussion on the blog seemed to have shifted to other, more recent posts.

Still, I wanted to answer her question, since as far as I could tell, she had asked it out of genuine curiosity, and without a hint of rhetorical dismissiveness.

My response was this:

The easiest way to explain why we ask the saints to pray for us is to say that there is "strength in numbers" when it comes to pray.

When we have a burning need that we want to ask God for, we don't keep it to ourselves. Instead, we ask others to pray with us and for us.

That's exactly what we're doing when we ask the saints to pray for us.

(You'll notice that I said, "ask the saints to pray for us" instead of "pray to the saints". I think it sounds confusing to say "pray to the saints," since it implies that when we ask the intercession of the saints, we're praying to them and not to God. Obviously, that's not the case. Instead, we're praying to God, along with the saints.)

Also, the Catholic belief in the intercession of the saints is very much a Biblical belief - for example:

James 5:16 - "The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." (Who is more righteous than the saints in heaven?!)

Revelation 5:8 - "When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones."

Another commenter must have been digging through their archives, as Cyndi (one of the contributors to TET -- the same one who interviewed me a few months ago) e-mailed me to say that someone had responded to my comment, and invited me to respond if I would like to.

That comment was this:

Re John Jansen's comment: If you approach the verses objectively, James 5:16 and Revelation 5:8 are not evidence that the belief in intercession of the saints is biblical. You are simply reading your beliefs into them. Do you have any other verses that support the belief in intercession of the saints, in your opinion?

First, I'm really glad to see that the comment I posted last month didn't go to waste - so to speak. (I'm sure those among you who are habitual comment-posters can relate to the feeling of, "Is anybody ever going to read this?")

I just posted a comment in reply to this comment indicating that I've posted a longer reply here. (My response follows.)


Actually, if one approaches James 5:16 and Revelation 5:8 objectively -- coupled with some other verses I cite below -- it's quite clear that the saints in heaven pray for us.

A simple syllogism illustrates this:

The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful before God.

The saints (angels and human beings in heaven) are obviously righteous (cf. Rev. 21:27 - "No unclean thing shall enter heaven...").

Therefore, the prayers of the saints are very powerful.

You are simply reading your beliefs into them.

While I do believe in the intercession of the saints, it's inaccurate, in a manner of speaking, to characterize it (or any of the articles of faith I profess) as "my beliefs".

It's not so much my belief as it is the Church's belief.

The belief in the intercession of the saints has been handed down from the Apostles. Those who knew the Apostles, and those who knew those who knew the Apostles, and those who knew those who knew those who knew those who knew the Apostles -- well, you get the idea -- believed in the intercession of the saints. (There are many examples of the early Church Fathers professing belief in the intercession of the saints here.)

Furthermore, Scripture is not a matter of private interpretation (cf. 2 Peter 1:20). If I were to read my own beliefs into a particular passage in search of some sort of proof text, I would be wrong to do so, because I would have no right to do so.

It's the Church's job to "guard the deposit" (1 Tim. 6:20), and to settle disputes that arise within the Church (cf. Acts 15). Thus, the Church has the enormously important duty of properly handing on teachings that come not only from Scripture, but also Sacred Tradition - see, for example, 2 Thess. 2:15, 2 Tim. 2:2, Luke 10:16, Rom. 10:17, 1 Pet. 1:25, 1 Cor. 11:2, 1 Cor. 15:3.

As for other biblical verses that support belief in the intercession of the saints, there are numerous verses where Paul asks other Christians to pray for him -- e. g., Rom. 15:30-32, Eph. 6:18-20, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1.

When you get right down to it, that's all we're doing when we seek the intercession of the saints: We're asking other Christians to pray for us.

Furthermore, the Bible actually directs us to ask those in heaven to pray with us:

Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will! (Psalm 103:20-21)


Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host! (Psalm 148:1-2)

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Trouble With Harry (Or Is It Much Ado About Nothing?)

Just about everybody has an opinion on Harry Potter. Except me, that is.

I've not read any of the Harry Potter books, mostly because literature of that genre just doesn't do anything for me.

That said, I don't -- nay, can't -- have an opinion of my own on the books.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're well aware that there are not a few Christians (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) who don't like Harry Potter -- to say the least -- and who believe that the books are inherently anti-Christian. People like this lady.

However, considering the number of good Catholics I know who love the books -- including my co-worker Eric Scheidler, who is smarter than the average bear when it comes to matters literary -- it flummoxes me when folks work themselves into a lather arguing that HP is evil.

Methinks Mark Shea said it best:

Look. De gustibus, y'all. Nobody says you have to like the books. But the notion that those of us who do are agents of Satan is just stupid. Even stupider is to lie (as Lifesite News did) that Pope Benedict condemns the books or (acting on that lie) to imagine that stealing and lying for Christ is a brave act on behalf of Holy Church. Such behavior just disgraces the gospel.

Mark also offers a plug for Nancy Brown's new book, The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide.

Maureen Wittmann offers an eminently sane response here to some of the vicious personal attacks that have been brought against Nancy recently, and in a comment on the Mark Shea post I linked to above, she offers this equally sane comment:

One thing I find terribly disturbing is this new trend to compare HP readers to abortionists. I'm hearing and reading this in many different places.

Much like libs comparing Bush and everyone else they dislike to Hitler lessens the very real horror of the holocaust, this new tactic of making HP out to be as evil as abortion lessens the absolute evil of abortion.

If, as she claims to be noticing, there is an emerging trend among HP opponents to compare HP fans to abortionists...well, that's just flippin' weird, man.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Face the Truth Tour Recap

Blazing Heat. Driving Winds. Downpours. Uncooperative Police. Lots of middle fingers and nasty insults. One assault (against me). Lots of thumbs-up and "God bless you"s. People stopping their cars to argue with us. People stopping their cars to give us donations and thank us for being there. Countless hearts changed. Babies' lives saved.

All of the above provide a partial description of our Face the Truth Tour last week.

Eric Scheidler will soon have a full report on the Tour on the Pro-Life Action League's home page, but for now I wanted to get the word out about the assault last Monday.

This wasn't the first time that one of us was a victim of violence during a pro-life demonstration, and I'm sure it won't be the last, either.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Facing the Truth

I won't be blogging all next week, as I'll be helping to coordinate the Chicago Area Face the Truth Tour, sponsored by my employer, the Pro-Life Action League.

If you're anywhere near Chicago, join us! If not, please say some prayers for us -- and, even more importantly, pray that the hearts of many will be changed by seeing the ugly reality of abortion.

I can't tell you how many times during a Face the Truth day we've heard from people comments along the lines of, "I never knew what abortion was until I saw these pictures..."

One such reaction that sticks out in my mind was from a guy no more than 16 years old, who saw our display a few years ago with a group of friends:

Him: "Man, that's what an abortion looks like?!"

Me: Yeah, it is.

Him: (With genuine astonishment) "Damn!"


Other times, people really wish we would just go away.

Last month, while we were doing a Face the Truth Day in the famously liberal Chicago suburb of Evanston, someone came up to us and yelled, "Why don't you show pictures of children who don't have adequate housing?"

Um, these children don't have adequate housing.

After several years of experience showing graphic abortion pictures out on the streets, we've gotten used to hearing complaints. A while ago, we posted a FAQ-type page on the PLAL site's Face the Truth section that answers the most common objections we hear:

  • What if children see these graphic abortion pictures?

  • What effect do these pictures have on a woman who has had an abortion?

  • Doesn't the public display of graphic abortion pictures make the pro-life movement look extreme?

  • Doesn't it dishonor the unborn babies in these pictures to show them out on the street?

Our answers are here.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

IVF Is, Always Has Been, and Always Will Be a Really Stupid Idea

Although I'm not inclined to optimism, I am inclined to hope. (Being Catholic, it comes with the territory.)

One small part of my hope is that years from now, when we're all dead and gone, history will look back on in-vitro fertilization and consign it to its rightful place on The List of Really Stupid Ideas. (Conversely, it is also part of my hope that history will look at NaPro Technology and give it a rightful place on The List of Ideas That Were Way Ahead of Their Time.)

This morning, I read this article, which starts off thusly:

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, widely touted as a way to help older women undergoing in vitro fertilization achieve a higher birthrate, actually reduces births by one-third, Dutch researchers reported Wednesday.

This provides further proof that Mark Shea was really onto something when he came up with his Two Phases of History meme:

1. What could it hurt?

2. How could we have known?

Imagine if the rapacious hucksters who provide IVF had to be brutally honest about this "procedure". Their sales pitch might sound something like this:

Give us thousands of dollars and you may -- or, more likely, may not -- get pregnant! And, assuming you do get pregnant, we'll end up killing several of your children that we've helped you produce in a most unnatural and grossly immoral manner. And as for the rest? We'll put them in cold storage and keep them there for a uterus-to-be-implanted-in-later!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Last week, I posted an entry on the Catholic Dads blog titled "Fatherhood and Almsgiving". (Appropriately enough, it was about fatherhood and almsgiving.)

I'm edified by some of the comments posted in response.

Check it out!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Kids Are So Passé

When I see an article with a title like this:

"Fewer say kids key to successful marriage"

...I realize why it seems fruitless to have any sense of optimism about the future of our culture. (No doubt the First Reading from today's Mass also has something to do with that.)

The percentage of Americans who consider children "very important" to a successful marriage has dropped sharply since 1990, and more now cite the sharing of household chores as pivotal, according to a sweeping new survey.

The Pew Research Center survey on marriage and parenting found that children had fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of factors that people associate with successful marriages. [emphasis added]

The article offered one sane perspective:

The survey's findings buttress concerns expressed by numerous scholars and family-policy experts, among them Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of Rutgers University's National Marriage Project.

"The popular culture is increasingly oriented to fulfilling the X-rated fantasies and desires of adults," she wrote in a recent report. "Child-rearing values -- sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity -- seem stale and musty by comparison."

The article also offered one insane perspective characterized by comments so stupid they could only have come from a sociology professor:

Virginia Rutter, a sociology professor at Framingham State College and board member of the Council on Contemporary Families, said the shifting views may be linked in part to America's relative lack of family-friendly workplace policies such as paid leave and subsidized child care.

I'm going out on a limb and guessing that maybe, just maybe, four decades of increasingly ubiquitous contraception -- and the anti-child ethos from whence contraception cometh -- might have something to do with couples' "shifting views" on the importance (or lack thereof) of having children.

You know, the same anti-child ethos that gives us condom ads like this one, which apparently won an award at Cannes last year: