Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cardinal DiNardo Stands Against Military Abortions

June 29, 2010

Dear Senator:

When the full Senate takes up the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011 (S. 3454), it should remove from the bill a misguided committee amendment to 10 U.S.C. §1093 that authorizes the performance of elective abortions at military hospitals in this country and around the world.
Archbishop Broglio of the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services wrote to all Senators on June 17, urging Congress not to impose this tremendous burden on the consciences of Catholic and other health care personnel who joined our armed services to save and protect innocent life, not to destroy it. On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops I wholeheartedly endorse his plea, and want to offer some additional considerations in terms of longstanding government policy on abortion.
First, the committee amendment is titled a “restoration of previous policy” on use of military facilities for abortion. But in fact, the Department of Defense has barred use of these facilities for elective abortions since 1988. President Clinton reversed the policy in January 1993, but in 1995 Congress voted to restore the ban, and it has remained intact for the last 15 years. During the brief period when these facilities were told to make abortions available, scarcely any military physician could be found in overseas facilities who was willing to perform abortions. Proposals for hiring private physicians from outside the system, or for taking a more coercive attitude toward military physicians and nurses, were never implemented because Congress acted in a timely way to restore the morally sound policy.
Second, pro-abortion groups claim that the longstanding current policy somehow treats military personnel differently from other Americans. On the contrary: Other federal health facilities also may not be used for elective abortions, and many states have their own laws against use of public facilities for such abortions. The vast majority of public and private hospitals in the United States do not provide elective abortions, and 88% of U.S. counties (97% of non-metropolitan counties) have noidentifiable abortion provider.
Third, and most disingenuously, the claim is made that the committee amendment is somehow a moderate policy, because Sec. 1093’s ban on use of federal funds for the abortion procedure will remain in place – that is, patients will have to pay the facility to perform the abortion. But this is disingenuous, to say the least. Which is a more direct governmental involvement in abortion: That the government reimburses someone else for having done an abortion, or that the government performs the abortion itselfand accepts payment for doing so? In fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld bans on use of government facilities and personnel for abortions, on the same basis as it upholds laws against government funding of abortion. In one such decision, citing a consistent line of decisions going back to 1977, the Court memorably observed that “the State need not commit any resources to facilitating abortions, even if it can turn a profit by doing so.” Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490, 511 (1989).
In short, this amendment presents Congress with the very straightforward question whether it is the task of our federal government to directly promote and facilitate elective abortions. During the recent health care reform debate, the President and congressional leadership assured us that they agree it is not. The Senate should not approve this legislation until the original version of 10 U.S.C. §1093 is restored, maintaining the longstanding current policy on abortion as the House version of this legislation has already done.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

As a Ensign in the Navy and a future physician, I am horrified at the possibility of abortions being permitted in military facilities.  How long will it be before physicians and other health care personnel are coerced into assisting or providing an abortion?  As Cardinal DiNardo (a magnificent man) said, I joined the Navy because I desired to protect and save lives, not destroy them.  Congress is continuing its attempt to force the American taxpayers to fund abortion.  In this case, facilities and personnel built and trained through taxpayer dollars will used for the abortion.  We cannot let this happen, so please, please, please contact your congressman and Senators to tell them that this is unacceptable!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Dangers of Synthetic Life

Here is an excellent commentary on the recent news that scientists made the next step in creating synthetic life by inserting an artificial genome into a cell.  

Regulate Synthetic Life Science While the Horse is Still in the Barn

June 10th, 2010
By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC
The media was all atwitter a few weeks ago when scientists announced that they had created synthetic life.Technically, that isn’t true—if by synthetic life one means creating life out of non life. Rather, scientists took a living bacterium, removed its genetic content, and replaced it with a manufactured genome of a different species. The new genome took control of the existing cell and created a new species that acted like its natural counterparts, including cell splitting. Thus, it might be more accurate to say that scientists have successfully mimicked life rather than literally created it.
Semantics aside, it was an astounding scientific achievement that could lead, the scientists said, to man exerting “a new power over life.” They weren’t kidding. The potential safety and ethical consequences of learning to engineer new life forms—including eventually of the human variety—is hard to overstate.
That being so, we had better get about the task of erecting legally enforceable safety and ethical parameters around this field while we still have time to act deliberately. And here’s an important truth: If society doesn’t decide where we want the science to go—and not go—the amoral inertial imperative of technological advance will fill the resulting vacuum with potentially terrible consequences.
We have already seen the moral and social anarchy that flows from refusing to rationally regulate the awesome power of emerging life sciences. When in vitro fertilization (IVF) became a possible means of treating infertility, critics worried about ethical and practical consequences that could result when we took reproduction literally into our own hands. But IVF boosters scoffed at these concerns, assuring us that scientists could be trusted to exercise prudence and self control without the need to resort to government regulation. Thus in her 1980 syndicated column “Making Babies,” syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman wrote:
A fear of many protesting the opening of this [IVF] clinic is that doctors there will fertilize myriad eggs and discard the “extras” and the abnormal, as if they were no more meaningful than a dish of caviar. But this fear seems largely unwarranted.
We now know that Goodman was wholly mistaken, that we do indeed “discard” the “extras,” and do view these embryos as “no more meaningful than a dish of caviar.” Worse, because we now have more than 400,000 embryos in hyper-frozen stasis, many view these nascent human beings not as potential babies, but instead, as a bounteous natural resource ripe for exploitation and destruction in medical treatments and various biological experiments, a matter that would have caused horror when Goodman wrote, but which she and much of the science sector now find perfectly acceptable.
Indeed by failing to regulate IVF, it has, in effect, regulated us, leading directly to tremendous changes in the norms of family life (e.g., Octomom and aged motherhood), the reemergence of eugenics values (for example, in embryo selection), and an overall utilitarian objectification of unborn life (human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and advocacy to permit fetal farming). If that was true of IVF—which, recall, had the original limited goal of helping infertile married couples have babies—imagine the potential epochal impact broadly synthesizing life could exert over the earth’s biology and human morality............

Read the rest here 

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

NFP: Licit or Illicit?

Within the Church, there is a great battle raging.  This battle is truly for the heart of the Church and centers around sexual morality and ethics.  It is the battle between those Catholics who feel it is moral to use artificial birth control and those who stand behind the teachings of the Church on this topic.  In recent years, with the support of many wonderful priests and bishops, the tide is turning where more and more individuals are turning their hearts back to the teaching of the Church and rejecting artificial birth control as an intrinsic evil.

Yet, this is not the only struggle on this topic.  As Natural Family Planning instructors for the Couple to Couple League, my wife and I have encountered on several instances individuals and families within the Church who claim NFP to be no better than artificial birth control.  These people are good people who obviously seek to do God's work and support the Church, yet in their animosity towards NFP, they do great harm.  This harm stems from a rejection of the Church's teaching on the use of NFP.  I realize that for some of these people, it can be very difficult because they have been on the defensive within the Church itself for the past 40 years in regards to so many issues.   It would seem that they do not know what they can believe anymore and so some turn to the time before the tumult, namely the pre-Vatican II era.  And yet, in doing so, they lose so much of the rich development in the understanding of sexual ethics that has come from John Paul II's Theology of the Body and the need for orthodox Catholics to better understand the relationship of man and woman in response to a culture hostile to God's design for sex.  

In this smaller conflict, there is a need for proper catechesis. It is a matter of reminding these families that the Church's teachign truly does trump all, and in this case, NFP is licit.  Below is the beginning of a post written on the topic that does a thorough job of laying out the case for NFP in the heart of the Church.  I encourage you to read it, and if the Lord calls you to, send it to anyone who you think may benefit from its message.

Let’s talk about, sex, artificial birth control (ABC) and Natural Family Planning (NFP).  Let’s focus specifically on the licitness of NFP.  The things that follow here assume the Catholic position on ABC.  I understand that some who come here may not share our beliefs.  This is not about “convincing” non-Catholics of anything.  This is what you might call an “internal discussion.”  This is a discussion for those of us who are Catholic and who agree that ABC is morally wrong.  That is the foundation.  If this isn’t you, you may find this writing to be boring or even ridiculous.  That’s okay, you can just close the window and come back another time to see pictures of GarinĂ­on or to see what is happening in our daily life.  Whether you stick around or not, this will be a very, very long entry.
Throughout the years, I’ve been exposed to a many, many, many conversations regarding Natural Family Planning.  I guess that comes with being Catholic, having a large family and being a certified NFP instructor (now retired!)  It has come up again recently in a couple of different venues.   I often find it frustrating to have conversations about this because people tend to be passionate about their position to the point of not being able to consider or hear anything else.  I also find that it is hard to fully “argue” your position in these types of conversations.  (That fact that it’s taking 3100+ words here might explain part of that!)
Sometimes in these conversations the question is trying to get to the heart of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, birth control, and what it all means.  Often, it boiled down to questioning the licitness of using NFP at all.  Many have wondered if using NFP shows a desire for control that is not an appropriate response to God’s creative prerogative, and is therefore just as evil as contraception.  This is what I’ve got on my mind today.  Let me say right upfront that while I do not criticize the people who are asking these questions (for in my experience, most truly appear to be seeking) I find the suggestion itself (that NFP is always wrong) to be, well, hogwash.
The conversations I was a part of or was exposed over the years to took all kinds of twists and turns and some of the things that were said or implied were mind-boggling to me.  Some of these things seemed a bit extreme.
I have heard or read more times than I can remember that since ABC and NFP have the same “end goal” in mind, (avoiding pregnancy) either both are valid or both are invalid.  This argument is put forth by those who reject the Church’s teaching against ABC as well as those who reject NFP along with ABC.  The problem with that line of thinking, in my opinion, is that it confuses the issue.  The problem with it is that it assumes that seeking to avoid pregnancy is always evil in all circumstances.  If that were true, then I would have to agree that no matter how you violate that, it is evil.  But avoiding pregnancy for a good (sufficient/grave/serious) reason is not evil.  The problem enters with the how.  It comes down to the meaning and purpose of sex and to the natural law regarding human sexuality
As I observed these conversations and took it all in, particularly over the past 15+ years, I kept coming back to one, single question:
Does no one read the catechism?

Read the rest here.