Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

“Eat, Pray, Love”: If you can get through the first 40 pages….

Throughout my reading of this best-selling spiritual memoir I could not decide whether I hated it or I liked it. The first 40 pages are quite difficult. Like a stereotypical teenage girl, she talks about her feelings for a cute Italian guy. Does she really want to break the promise she made to herself to remain celibate? She decides not to break her promise. She is happy the next morning that she didn’t give in.

After describing this horribly difficult decision to keep it in her pants, she complains about the last year or so of her marriage. Apparently she had decided that at the age of 30, she would *gasp* decide to be a mother. As 30 loomed near, she changed her mind and came to the conclusion she couldn’t give up her traveling and career for a child. She further more decided she could no longer be married. To her credit, she does not disclose any of the specific problems she and her spouse had, but she does seem to dwell on how much it hurt her.

Maybe I’m being too self-righteous, maybe I should go to confession after writing this blog, but I:

1)      Don’t approve of having sex with a cute Italian guy to whom you are not married.
2)      I don’t appreciate the dichotomy she sets up between being a mother and having a career. It’s not an either/or situation. Nor is giving up a career for children an ignoble thing to do.
3)      Her lack of details about the reasoning behind the divorce makes it sound as if it’s another one of those cases where they “fell out of love.” That is a poor reason for a divorce and I hope my impression is inaccurate.

Now to the confessional:

All of that said, after her divorce and a whirlwind affair that ends terribly, she decides she needs to travel to Italy (to experience pleasure and learn the language), India (to find spirituality with her guru) and Indonesia (to fulfill the prophecy of a medicine man).

Over all, the rest of the book is much better than those first 40 pages. She does from time to time dwell on those shallow, stereotypical female problems, namely her weight and men. At those times a reader such as myself will get the urge to throw the book across the room. There is more to life, and there is definitely more to the female psyche, than worrying about our looks or men.

The non-shallow part of the book that interested me most was her time in the ashram in India.

Now for a bit of personal interjection: I practiced Buddhism for about 3 years before converting to Neo-paganism before converting to Catholicism. In my undergraduate studies, I more or less specialized in both Christian studies and Eastern Religions. Now, back to your regular reading.

There are many people at the ashram from many different nationalities and walks of life. Their typical day includes getting up at 3:30 AM to chant, hours of independent and group meditation, and a few hours of labor for discipline and to keep the place going. The ashram is a hub in the town where it is located, it provides much of the town’s jobs and income. People from the town go there to meditate and show respect.

This section about her life in the ashram includes a very good exploration of distraction and forcing in meditation. She feels like a failure because she can’t come to some kind of enlightenment even though she had been meditating and practicing yoga for years. A straight talking Texan gives her some good advice: quit fighting the mind, distract it. Also, a monk tells her that the mind just needs some rest. She comes close to her goal when she decides to no longer fight the mind, but to ignore it.

This is also good advice for anyone of any religious persuasion engaging in prayer or meditation. Do not fight distraction because that will only breed more distraction and stress. For example, when something pops into your mind when praying the rosary: Don’t fight against it or beat yourself up for being a bad Catholic. I believe that when something pops into my mind, it’s God’s way of telling me I need to pray about it. So I pray about it and let it go. The rosary is the perfect prayer for the Texan’s advice because you have many aspects of it to distract your “monkey mind” with (the beads, the prayers, the meditations…).

By the way, she does give an accurate, and interesting explination for “kundalini shakti” in chapter 46.

She continues to battle with distractions and boy troubles, with increasing maturity and wisdom. The gems of good advice continue: the Texan teaches her to be patient with herself, a monk challenges her to participate in a chant that she does not like, she fights and wins against her negative self-talk through positive thinking and prayer, she learns to see things through the lenses of eternity, and she tries and fails to fight against her outgoing nature. It is when she embraces her unique personality is when she finally has the elusive experience of bliss, “turiya.”

The entire section about her time in India is makes reading the whole book worth the effort. It is the deepest part of the book. There is something worthwhile for everyone, regardless of where you are in your spiritual journey.

At the end of her story, it’s a man (who worships the ground she walks on) who carries her off into the sunset. This is a very disappointing ending to the book. She becomes mature and wise through her journey in India. Instead of finding her ultimate fulfillment in God, however, she finds it in a man who idolizes her. A man with whom she can talk to and have sex with for days on end. A relationship that tramples all of her other responsibilities in Bali. Sounds like the perfect romance in our culture which values physical pleasure and “all about me.” And so this book starts with every bad stereotype involving women, gets better toward the middle, and then ends with “every woman’s dream.”

What do you think? Am I being self-righteous? Am I being too picky? What are your experiences with meditation and prayer?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Impact of 100 Bishops in Jail (and Graphic Pictures)

In a video, Catholic philosopher and author Peter Kreeft is quoted saying that it would be “wonderful” if 100 bishops were arrested for carrying graphic pictures of aborted babies. The context for this quote is a recent decision by some Canadian bishops to withdraw from pro-life activities where the organizers could not guarantee that such images will not be used.

His argument seems good. He argues that Hitler would have been toppled earlier if the average German saw pictures of what was really happening in the death camps. He argues that the media would have to pay attention to 100 bishops being arrested for the pictures, since they ignored the arrest of one activist.

However, he neglects a few things:

1)      We’re pretty desensitized to pictures of violence. By the age of 18,many of us have been exposed to 200,000 acts of violence on television alone. We would hope that pictures of dead, mutilated babies would still have a shock value. We hope that we’re not that desensitized. But I don’t think we are sensitive to those images anymore. I don’t think that pictures of dead babies have the shock value protesters want them to have.
2)      Offending someone is not a good way to win them over to your side. Think of it from the perspective of a pro-choice person. What would you listen to? Someone yelling at you with a horrifying picture or someone giving you logical arguments and engaging you in dialogue?
3)      Arresting 100 bishops? And it’s not related to the sex scandal? The media as of late only reports things that make the Church look bad. Look at some of the articles at Get Religion. Many well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning journalists depict deeply religious people as ignorant and close-minded. I can only see how the story would be covered: "Those poor, stupid bishops in their religious zeal march around with disgusting pictures and get arrested. And, believe it or not, the disgusting pictures aren’t child porn."

Don’t get me wrong, Peter Kreeft’s heart is in the right place. We need to make a statement. We need to save the unborn. We need to be bold. There are, however, many other ways in which this can be accomplished. Many other ways that doesn’t include incarceration or needlessly graphic pictures.

What do you think? Am I too cynical?

PS: I don't agree with the Canadian bishops' decision, however. As someone who has organized protests before, you can't control what the protesters will do. Nor do you really want to control them. Of course, you don't want a riot or any violence. However, if you invite people to your protest with a list of things they are not allowed to do, you won't get the turn out you want. Numbers speak volumes.

I do not want to write another post like "The State of Catholic Marriage" where I complain but don't offer any solutions. Let me give you some websites of some great pro-life organizations that my husband or I have been involved with in the past that need your help:

The Pregnancy Resource Center in Rolla MO

Lifeline Pregnancy Center in Kirksville MO

We have not contacted any centers in Syracuse yet.

But nearly all (if not all) dioceses have a Respect Life office (For example, the two dioceses we have lived in):

The Diocese of Syracuse NY

The Archdiocese of St. Louis

Monday, September 19, 2011

In defense of Accepting Abundance

"I disapprove of what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" - falsely attributed to Voltaire

Well, the internets have been alive as of late over a 839-word post by Stacy Trasancos over at Accepting Abundance. She expresses her despair of her children being exposed to PDAs by homosexuals at the park. She doesn’t look forward to her children’s questions, luckily it sounds like they are too young to understand anything now. She doesn’t feel comfortable taking them to the park because of this. The post ends with her, as a mother, expressing her concerns with how the world is going. She feels like she shouldn’t leave the house with so much evil in the world. As homosexuals fight for the freedom to live out their sexuality, she bemoans the loss of her freedom to raise her children in the kind of society she would like to see.

And the response she has received from various pro-gay, politically liberal people on the internet only proves her point. She *feels as if* her family is being attacked by a society that permits such evils as abortion and IVF. Now she *is* being attacked by people who wish her evil and call her unspeakable names. Homosexuals are fighting for the freedom to live as they wish. They want their freedom of speech. What about Stacy Trasancos' freedom of speech? People have the right to speak out for gay rights, why can’t she have the right to speak out for her beliefs? And they are not just her beliefs, they are the beliefs of the entire Church. The attackers should all be ashamed of themselves. They want tolerance, but only for people who agree with them.

I want all of those who are bashing her to know I’m praying for them.

"Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle; the strength to be forgiving; the patience to be understanding; and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.
May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.
We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world emancipated from violence, a new world where fear shall no longer lead men to commit injustice, nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.
Help us to devote our whole life and thought and energy to the task of making peace, praying always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all men were created." -Prayer for world peace, 1978

 St. Monica, patron of mothers, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

“Amish Grace”: A Story that can never be told too much

On October 2, 2006, a truck backed into the front door of an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County. The man who came out of the truck was someone that all of the students knew. He was the man who picked up the unpasteurized milk from their parents’ farms.

Charles Carl Roberts IV had been a tormented soul and he had planned to take out his torment on the female students of the school. He had bought all the supplies he needed. He had written suicide notes to everyone in his family. He went into the classroom initially with a rusty metal object in his hand. He asked the children if they had seen an object like it in the road. The children, respectful and trusting of adults, said they’d help him look.

He went back to his truck and came back with a semi-automatic pistol. He ordered everyone to lie down facedown in the front of the room. Seeing the gun, one of the adults ran out to get help at a nearby farmhouse. From there, she called the police.

Back in the schoolhouse, Roberts sent one of the boys to go get the adult that fled and he tied up all of the girls. One of the girls heard a voice she later attributed to an angel who told her to run. She escaped before Roberts had the chance to tie up her legs. Roberts ordered the rest of the adults to leave and then he ordered all of the boys to leave. His intention was to molest the girls, but state troopers had soon surrounded the school. He tried to order all of the troopers off of the property but the troopers would not comply. So he skipped that part of his plan and shot at all of the girls, killing five, putting one in a coma, and injuring the other four. He then killed himself.

Later that same evening, people from the Amish community went to see Roberts’ widow, children and parents to let them know that they were not to blame and to share their sorrow. The parents of several of the victims invited Roberts’ family to the funerals. Many family members of the victims went to Roberts’ burial to show their support and love to the family. As donations came in to support the victims of the shooting, the Amish community shared the money with the Roberts’ family. When people in the media asked the Amish if they had any anger toward Roberts or his family, repeatedly the Amish people said they had forgiven them.

As the book “Amish Grace” explains, the reasoning behind the Amish willingness to forgive is long and complicated. For one, the Amish take literally the Bible’s command: that if you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. The 18th chapter of Matthew is frequently used in Amish services especially twice a year when they have a time of penance and reconciliation before their big communion service. In that chapter, Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive, and Jesus says seventy-seven times. Also, this is the chapter of Jesus’ parable where a king forgives a debtor his debts. This debtor goes on to refused to forgive the debts of another person and so the king punishes him. Jesus says that this is how God works also. That if we refuse to forgive, God will not forgive us.

They also have a sense of the absolute power of God. God will deal with the perpetrator as He wishes; there is no reason for the victim to curse them. Not that they don’t agree with law enforcement. They will plead for mercy for those who have been arrested for crimes against them, but they do not argue that law enforcement doesn’t have the right to punish them. They will not seek revenge on their own, however. God will do with the evil-doer as He wishes. 

As Jesus prayed for his executioners, the Amish believe we are to pray for our persecutors as well. While they leave the criminals to the mercy of God, they do pray for God to be merciful toward the criminals. They make it a point to see the criminal as another human being. Just as the Amish have faults, so do everyone else. They do not feel as if it is their place to judge.

The Amish faith has a long history of persecution and martyrdom. These stories of martyrdom have an overarching theme of forgiveness and acting gracefully. One in particular that is shared in the book is the story of Dirk Willems. He was arrested and he escaped. As he ran, the guard went after him. He and the guard ran across a frozen pond. Willems got safely to the other side, but the guard fell through the ice. Willems actually goes back and rescues his captor. He ultimately gets executed for his trouble. As he is burned at the stake, he cries out loud repeatedly for God to forgive his executioners.

Another major idea discussed in the book is that the Amish do not have the secular American idea of the individual; they stress the community over the individual. They don’t encourage independence in the way that we typically do. They don’t encourage the questioning of authority or individuality. Instead, they have a strong sense of community where they support each other through thick and thin. They depend on one another for everything and they are very closely knit.  In a society where community is of the utmost importance, forgiveness becomes an important virtue for living together cooperatively. If being a part of the group is the most important thing, you cannot have grudges or hatred breaking the community apart.

This book was outstanding. I highly recommend it for everyone and anyone. We all have people in our lives we have not forgiven. This book gave me the encouragement I needed to list those people and start to work towards forgiving them. The story of this community in Lancaster County cannot be told often enough.

I know I’m supposed to be a forgiving person, but it is hard. I can only imagine how hard it was for these people to be so kind to the family of the gunman. This idea of forgiveness is not only an Amish idea, it’s a Christian idea. “They will know we are Christian by our love.”   

What do you think about this story? What do you think about forgiveness?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What is excommunication?

"If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." –Matthew 18:15-20, This Sunday’s Gospel Reading

I had a friend in college who confided in me that he had a problem with the idea of “excommunication.” In high school, when many people are questioning the faith of their birth, he came across some literature about excommunication. He had a hard time reconciling that concept with a loving God. He also couldn’t understand how a group of people could banish someone and essentially send them to Hell. Over time, he came to an understanding that excommunication is not an act of the Church, but an act of the individual being excommunicated. He realized that excommunication isn’t really in conflict with a loving God, after all.

What is excommunication?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “excommunication” as: “A formal ecclesiastical censure that deprives a person of the right to belong to a church.” This definition, like any definition, is quite simplistic. It kind of makes it sound as if the big, bad ecclesiastical body is callously picking on the poor, innocent ex-church member. This is far from the truth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “excommunication” as: 

A severe ecclesiastical penalty, resulting from grave crimes against the Catholic religion, imposed by ecclesiastical authority or incurred as a direct result of the commission of an offense. Excommunication excludes the offender from taking part in the Eucharist or other sacraments and from the exercise of any ecclesiastical office, ministry, or function.

As indicated in the CCC definition, there are two types of excommunication. One, ferendae sententiae, occurs after a trial. It is a matter of public record. The other, latae sententiae, does not require a trial. It occurs automatically when a person commits a particular offense. In a sense, people who are excommunicated latae sententiae excommunicate themselves. 

In some cases, excommunicatable offenses can sometimes be excused:

1)      Lack of full use of reason. Children and people who are mentally handicapped cannot excommunicate themselves.
2)      Lack of liberty resulting from grave fear. You cannot be held accountable for something you were forced to do.
3)      Ignorance. You cannot be held accountable if you could not have known that what you were doing was wrong.  
What is an excommunicatable offense?

-          heresy
-          apostasy (total rejection of Christianity)
-          schism (rejection of the Pope)
-          desecration of the Blessed Sacrament
-          physical attack on the Pope
-          procuring an abortion
-          fake celebration of the Mass or other sacrament by someone other than a priest.
-          Unauthorized episcopal consecration (making someone a bishop without authorization from Rome)

Priests are also not immune to excommunication. Some specifically priestly offenses include:
-          Breaking the seal of confession
-          Giving someone absolution for murder, lying, or sexual immorality when the priest themselves were involved in the murder, lie or sexual immorality. 

Who can excommunicate?

In most cases, the excommunicated person essentially excommunicates themselves. By committing an offense like those listed above, they are automatically excommunicated. If a trial is involved, it is the Pope that excommunicates.

Who can lift an excommunication?

Generally speaking, a priest in the Sacrament of Confession can lift excommunications. Sometimes, some further action must take place for it to be completely lifted. In rare cases (particularly ferendae sententiae excommunication), only a bishop or a priest who is specifically assigned by the bishop can lift the excommunication. In all cases, a priest can lift an excommunication when the person seeking reconciliation is in grave danger of death.  

Okay, why is excommunication not so bad?

First of all, excommunication is not usually a punishment forced upon someone. The person usually brings it upon themselves. Excommunication works kind of like hell. No one is forced to be excommunicated or to go to hell, people choose to do so. God gave us free will and he respects that free will so much that he allows people to choose to disobey and reject Him.

Second, excommunication is never irreversible. An excommunicated person can always come back and we will welcome them with open arms. Most of the time, all it takes is a simple, sincere confession. Excommunication is not an act of rejection or punishment, it is an act of love. There is hope that the person will see the error in their ways and come back. It's tough love, the harshest penalty that the Mother Church can use on her children in hope that they will change their ways. 

To learn more:

The hard facts from Catholic Answers

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Shack: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Yesterday I read William Paul Young's The Shack almost entirely in one sitting. The writing is fantastic. He really knows how to pull a reader in and not let them go. He knows how to tug on the emotions, making the reader laugh and cry.

Reading this from a theological perspective though, my review of this book is mixed. There are aspects of this book that are very good. There are parts where we border on heresy. And there are parts where we go over the deep end into the abyss of not even being Christian anymore.

First, the good...

I love this book’s depiction of the Trinity. I've read reviews where people have gotten angry that God the Father is depicted as a woman, stating that this view is not biblical. Apparently, they've been reading a different Bible than the one I have:

"I have looked away, and kept silence, I have said nothing, holding myself in; But now, I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting." -Isaiah 42:14 

"For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort."-Isaiah 66:12-13

"You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, You forgot the God who gave you birth."-Deuteronomy 32:18

Mystics throughout time have used feminine imagery for God. Theologians over the centuries have used "motherhood" as a metaphor for God.

The Catechism itself has something to say about this:

"By calling God "Father", the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father." -CCC 239

I have no problem, therefore with God the father being personified as a woman.

And the Trinity, itself, is depicted beautifully:

“As he leaned against the doorway watching, Mack was full of thoughts. So this was God in relationship? It was beautiful and so appealing. He knew that it didn’t matter whose fault it was—the mess from some bowl that had been broken, that a planned dish would not be shared. Obviously, what was truly important here was the love they had for one another and the fullness it brought them. He shook his head. How different this was from the way he sometimes treated the ones he loved!” –pg. 107

“He had never seen three people share with such simplicity and beauty. Each seemed totally aware of the others rather than of himself.”- pg. 123

“They all laughed and then busily resumed passing platters and helping themselves. As Mack ate, he listened to the banter between the three. They talked and laughed like old friends who knew one another intimately. As he thought about it, that was assuredly more true for his hosts than anyone inside or outside creation. He was envious of the carefree but respectful conversation and wondered what it would take to share that with Nan and maybe even with some friends.”-pg. 202

An even more beautiful and accurate depiction is touched on:

"Man - whether man or woman - is the only being among the creatures of the visible world that God the Creator has willed for its own sake; that creature is thus a person. Being a person means striving towards self-realization, which can only be achieved through a sincere gift of self. The model for this interpretation of the person is God himself as Trinity, as a communion of Persons." JPII, MULIERIS DIGNITATEM, part 7

To Young’s credit, he makes it clear as frequently as he can that while the three Persons are personified in three different people, they are, in fact, One.

Now, the bad….

First, mixed in with some decent theology is a lot of pop psychology, self-help, feel-good crap. For example:

“Not much to understand, actually. They just are. They are neither bad nor good; they just exist. Here is something that will help you sort this out in your mind, Mackenzie. Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions.” - pg. 199, the Holy Spirit explaining emotions to Mack

It has been explained to be before by different priests that emotions in and of themselves are not bad. You can’t control a fleeting emotion. However, it can become sinful if you entertain that anger by prolonging it or act out of that anger (or lust or any other negative emotion). I looked up this exact quote to see if Young had borrowed it from any particular psychologist, but I couldn’t find one. Readers: let me know if you know of one.

The entirety of Chapter 15 is an acid trip around a very touching scene of reunion between Mack and his abusive alcoholic father. In this chapter, the Holy Spirit gives Mack healed vision to let him see as God sees. With this gift he can see all creation and all time. That I understand, because God can see those things. However, he can also see himself and others robed in color and light. This color and light can change in accordance to what a person is feeling or doing at any given time. It can also reach outside of the person to touch those they care about. As someone who has previously practiced Wicca/Neo-paganism, this color and light sounds suspiciously like auras. The belief in and vision of auras are generally banned in Christian circles under the heading “No sorcery, witchcraft, or occult.” As the Bible states:

“When you come into the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abominations of the peoples there. Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD…” - Deuteronomy 18:9-12a

If you thought that was bad, now we have the ugly…

The two biggest areas where Young misses the mark are Authority and Evil.

First, authority:

“I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.” – pg. 184, Jesus talking about his relationship to humanity

This completely goes against all mainstream Christianity. Some Christians do not believe there is any salvation outside their church. As far as the Catholic Church, this is discussed in CCC 846-848. 

“They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about.” –pg. 181, Jesus talking about politics, economics, and religion

The Shack is thoroughly anti-organized religion. Some church-goers are depicted as sincere but naïve. They are good people doing good things, mislead by church authorities. Other church-goers and church authorities, however, are depicted as hypocritical, lying, and the cause of much evil and suffering in the world.

”Both evil and darkness can be understood only in relation to light and good; they do not have any actual existence.”-pg. 138, Holy Spirit discussing good and evil.

This is an Eastern and philosophical concept, not a Christian one. Evil is certainly a lack of Good, but it also has an existence of its own. It is “the opposite or absence of good.” If evil did not exist, why did Jesus have to die for us? If evil does not exist, how does one explain suffering? Why are we, as Christians, engaged in a cosmic battle with something that does not exist? See CCC 309-314

In conclusion:

The Shack is very well written. However if you are a Christian (especially a Roman Catholic) who is looking to this book for any religious teaching, you are looking at the wrong place. This book, arguably, should not call itself Christian at all. It is very entertaining. For all it's faults, I can see how this book could be enormous help some people in the grieving process. But do take it's theology with a grain of salt. It is frequently inaccurate when it comes to Christian doctrine.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The State of Catholic Marriage

While Catholics have somewhere between a 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 divorce rate and gay marriage is legal in 6 states as well as the District of Columbia, people are concerned about the state of marriage in the Catholic Church. This opinion article by Russell Shaw and the comments that follow it, however are way off the mark. Here I will break down the article and give my take on Catholic marriage as someone who has recently been married in the Catholic Church. The highlighted is quoted from the article (blue) or the comments (pink). The plain text beneath is me.

A word of caution at the start. Don’t read what follows as a suggestion or even a veiled hint that the Catholic Church and other defenders of traditional marriage should abandon the fight against legalizing same-sex marriage. Yes, the New York state legislature, strongly lobbied by Catholic governor Andew Cuomo, voted in June for legalization, making New York the sixth state where same-sex couples can marry. And yes, there are an awful lot of people in New York.

Thank you for the clarification, but I wouldn't have read that much into this article.
But let’s be clear about what happened. The legislature and Cuomo imposed gay marriage on the state without consulting the voters, and there are an awful lot of people who remain opposed. The widely repeated line that this marks a decisive step in the campaign for legalization is part of the propaganda — eagerly seized upon and parroted by media that support gay marriage — aimed at bullying opponents into throwing in the towel.
I agree with this assessment of what happened in New York. I also agree that this is not a decisive step. Where New York goes, others states do not necessarily follow. For example, New York has had a "Bottle Bill" (refund for recycling cans, plastic and glass bottles) for 26 years, and still only 10 other states have them.

...That said, however, recent events do underline the fact that the Catholic Church needs to do some fundamental rethinking on the subject of marriage. I don’t mean the Church should approve gay marriage. I mean making it crystal clear what a sacramental marriage sanctioned by the Church really is — and why the secular state’s version of “marriage” isn’t the same thing at all.
I would agree that we need better catechesis on the sacramentality of marriage. Some people just don't get it. As someone who has recently did all the tests, classes, and meetings herself, I can honestly tell you I got a better education in my theology classes about the importance of marriage than I did in any of the marriage prep programs.

...A new addressing this problem would involve a two-step procedure. First, a couple seeking to enter into sacramental marriage would be required to go through whatever civil ceremony the state might insist on in order to be recognized as legally married. Then, and only then, the couple could proceed to sacramental marriage — a church wedding — with the blessing of the Church.
This is where Shaw loses me. Two weddings? What?

Yes, [there] are problems with that. Some people would resist what they’d see as “getting married twice” and would settle for the civil ceremony alone. But many do that now anyway. If those who said no to “getting married twice” were, by and large, people like those who now get “married in the Church” without understanding what they’re doing, what difference would it make?

As for the pluses, the procedure outlined here would have the huge practical advantage of educating couples to the fact that civil marriage and sacramental marriage are two vastly different things. Catholic marriage, like marriage generally, is in crisis, with the push for gay marriage adding to the confusion. Something needs to be done. If not this — what?
Okay, so this would make a clear statement that state and sacramental marriage are two vastly different things. Yeah, I would agree that it would make a profound statement. But what about the couples?

They would face two wedding budgets, two wedding guest lists, two ceremonies to organize. I can tell you that planning one is enough work. Yes, weddings have turned into self-indulging, self-promoting circuses in recent years. That is a far cry from what Our Lord would like to see. It's a far cry from what our Church teaches. But two ceremonies are not the way to go.

(I understand that civil ceremonies don't have to be that complicated. But there will be people who are offended that they aren't invited to both. Also, you have to get the bride and the groom together on two separate occasions to do the ceremonies. I'm thinking of couples like my husband and I who lived half-way across the country from one another when we were married. Also, another catechetical nightmare: I can see people asking, "When is the couple actually *married*? Is it at the civil or the religious ceremony?")
And let's take a trip down to the comments:

I think for those states that allow gay marriage, the Catholic church should decline signing a civil marriage license. The state redefines marriage, and then the state wants a priest to sign their marriage certificate?

Thomas More wouldn't even sign such a document.

Seriously?!?! The state doesn't care if the couple gets civilly married or not. You aren't telling the state anything by refusing to sign the civil marriage license. You aren't "sticking it to the Man" because "the Man" doesn't care! You're only punishing the faithful couple who now has to go find someone who will sign it or face not getting their full rights as a married couple in their state.

Now to quote my comment to the article:

As someone who has recently gotten married in the Catholic Church, I find Shaw's suggestion and some of the comments completely ridiculous. All that you are doing is making a Catholic wedding more difficult and expensive for well-meaning, faithful Catholics. Instead of splitting the civil and the church wedding or making priest refuse to sign the marriage contracts, how about we...I don't know....BETTER CATECHIZE OUR PARISHIONERS!!!! I know, it's a crazy idea! Why don't we use our creativity to come up with a way to help Catholics understand the importance of a Catholic marriage through better catechesis rather than making life more difficult for the faithful Catholics who already want to do the right thing.

I still stand by this comment. And now I pass the torch on to you. Do any of you have any ideas on how to better catechize couples looking to get married?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stop the birth control mandate!

Please sign the petition found here.

To quote the affore-linked website:

"On August 1, 2011 the Department of Health and Human Services directed by Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic, adopted the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that “the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods” be determined a “preventive care service for women.” Under these new guidelines, mandatory coverage will be provided for surgical sterilization, all prescription contraceptives approved by the FDA - including drugs like Ella that can cause abortions in the early weeks of pregnancy - as well as counseling to promote them. This directive from the Affordable Care Act initiative will be supported by tax payers without a conscience clause exemption, violating the civil and religious liberties of millions of Americans."

Please defend religious liberties and sign the petition.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

...and the Impact of the Dying

The title of the article is quite melodramatic, but this article from the CNA last week reminds me of another topic near and dear to my heart.

Let me start us off with a true story:
I have been a nursing assistant for 6 years. As a nursing assistant, my job can and does include caring for the basic needs of people who are dying. One particular death I’d like to share with you.
This is one of the more recent deaths I've seen. This lady, we’ll call her Joan, was somewhere in her eighties. I’m not sure of all of the details of her condition. Between her and her family it had been decided that she would not get a feeding tube. As of this night, that I will never forget, she had been living off of lemonade for over a month. She refused all other forms of nourishment (except for sometimes she’d let her daughter give her some root beer).
She was skin and bones. As soon as you entered the room where she was, you could hear her struggling to breathe, but we couldn’t suck out the gunk out of her lungs because it would have done more harm than good. Every time an aide had to do something for her, clean her up, change her clothes, anything like that, she would look at us, completely terrified. She was paranoid about falling out of bed when we rolled her. Kind of crazy given that she had been a small woman to begin with and she was just getting smaller.
That last night, I was the aide that gave her her last drink of lemonade 20 minutes before she died. She took the drink willingly, it was through a straw, and I had the head of her bed all the way up, but she coughed every other sip like the liquid was going into her lungs not her stomach. And she looked at me with eyes I will never forget: She was hurting, she was scared, and she just wanted me to do something, anything, to take it all away. To this day, when I think of desperation, when I think of despair, all I have to do is think of those eyes. Thank God, she died 20 minutes after that moment. As I told everyone at the nursing home, “She arrived just in time for a huge dinner with Jesus.”
I think that the handicapped have much to offer us. The dying have even more. Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors and I respect him. But if the time comes and he does commit assisted suicide, he is robbing the world of an immense gift of caring for him and standing witness. He would only be contributing to a mindset that "People are only worth what they can physically contribute to society."

My work with the dying has taught me a lot about living. It has taught me to appreciate the time I have on this earth. It has taught me to look at everything through the eyes of eternity, not through the eyes of the here and now. It has taught me the importance of love and relationships, as those are really the only things that we can "take with us." Love and relationships are really the only things that matter in the end. All 25 of the deaths I have witnessed have left their mark on my soul and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Dignity of the Handicapped...

It was a bad day in my Mythology class. The teacher made a scene in front of everyone, pointing out that I shouldn't be in that class. He said I was too dumb and I had apparently not read the readings. I went home after class. I had some time between class and going to work. I didn't want to go to work, I was so humiliated, depressed, and angry. I tried to call in, but my charge nurse that evening wouldn't accept it. So I reluctantly got dressed and made my way to work.

When I got there, I was greeted by a sight I will never forget. We had a resident there who had the most beautiful green eyes and red hair. His body was so badly deformed, he had to use a lying-down wheelchair. His body was permanently in the fetal position. He could not move anything on his own except for a few of his face muscles. The only time we heard his voice was when he was having a seizure when he would sometimes scream. As a walked in the door that evening, he was there, lying in his wheelchair, right in front of the front doors with a ceiling light right over him like a spot-light.

Like Someone in the Great Somewhere wanted to make sure I saw him. Like Someone wanted me to know I was blessed, at least I could go to school. Like Someone wanted me to know I was needed, I had a job to do. My residents at my first job working with the severely handicapped taught me many things. Here are just a few:

1) How to appreciate the small things in life: Like laughing at a silly face or throwing around a soft ball. (Or throwing around silverware and food when some of them got particularly feisty)

2)How to accept differences: My dozen residents had differing levels of ability in many different areas. One was only moderately MR (Mentally Retarded) and blind. She could pretty much do for herself with constant instruction and supervision. Others were wheelchair-bound and non-verbal but you could tell by their facial expressions that they knew exactly what was going on. A few could not walk, but could surely throw things across the room if they wanted to. Working with them, one has to work with and recognize their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Helping them to use their strengths is really the only way that a small staff can care for so many residents.

3)There are many ways of communicating: One does not need to speak to get one's point across. The eyes can tell stories. Your facial expression and gestures can articulate pretty much everything that words can.

4)There are many ways of knowing: Even if you don't know all of the words someone is saying, you can understand exactly what they mean. My residents were very much in tune with subtleties of tone and expression. They knew when people were angry, hurt, or sick. They knew when one of my co-workers were pregnant. They might not have understood that she was going to have a baby, but they knew to be gentle and kind to her.

This is just the beginning of the list. My residents taught me many more things. They made me who I am today. It pains me when I hear statistics like 90% of babies diagnosed with Down's Syndrome prenatally are aborted. A Down's Syndrome diagnosis isn't a death sentence, it isn't even an indicator that the child will have a diminished "quality of life" (there are people who live perfectly normal lives with Down's). And even if the child has a diminished "quality of life" there is still much that the child can give the world. I know my residents gave me an abundance.

And stories like this warm my heart.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A "Fright Night" Review

Sometimes this blog will get way off topic to talk about a certain Scottish actor who I greatly admire. Bear with me......

There are few things in life that gets me more excited than seeing someone do something they are very good at. In this movie, Colin Farrell and David Tennant are amazing. No question, this is one of their best performances.

Colin Farrell's vampire is classic; The good-looking charismatic man who is pure evil. Fans of classic, real vampire films would surely enjoy this movie. His character is smart and slick. He does sexy evil very well. I didn't know that eating a granny smith apple could be menacing.

David Tennant's character has nothing in common with the original Peter Vincent except for their name and their hobby. An angry, alcoholic Criss-Angel-like illusionist, he becomes the film's reluctant hero.

As a huge David Tennant fan, I'm disappointed that his name hasn't been more prominent in the publicity here in the states. However, I did not come away from this movie disappointed. He puts 110 % into his real American debut and it shows. He steals every scene he's in. He masterfully delivers all of the one-liners he's given. I look forward to buying the movie once it comes out; I'm looking forward to seeing what scenes didn't make the final cut.

I understand that this movie did not do very well this weekend. I'm frustrated with Dreamworks (or whoever makes those decisions) for releasing this movie well before the Halloween season. Also, it has been advertised as a horror movie. While there were a couple of moments that would make someone jump, it was principally a cheeky comedy. Also, I hardly saw any commercials for this film. The publicity for this film was insufficient and inaccurate. The release date was poorly decided.

I hope and pray that as people walk out disappointed by the film, they are impressed with David Tennant's performance. I didn't walk in expecting to be scared, so I didn't have that disappointment. I did, basically, only go to the film to support Tennant. And I came out impressed by both Tennant's and Farrell's performances. I did enjoy this movie.

David Tennant rocks!!!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why do you stay? Response to "Staying Power"

In response to Staying Power by Cynthia Reville Peabody:

Why do you stay?

The question seems to come with the assumption that something is wrong with the Catholic Church. I won't argue. There are some things wrong with the Church. If there weren't, it wouldn't be an organization made up of human beings. The author of this article, however, seems to consider the main problem being the status of women in the Church. How can women stay in a Church that considers them second-class citizens?

Why do I stay?

The fact that I cannot officiate the sacraments does not make me feel like a second-class citizen. While I would not be against women being allowed to be priests, this is not an issue that I feel passionately about. This is not an issue that makes me love the Church any less.

Just because a priest can't marry or have children like I can, doesn't mean he's being prejudiced against. Similarly, just because I can't officiate the sacraments does not mean I'm being prejudiced against.

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, "Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, "Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? -1 Corinthians 12:12-19

This passage in 1 Corinthians continues by expounding on how the parts of the body of Christ cannot do without one another and even the least honorable parts of the body are important.

I cannot be a priest. I can be a wife and mother. I could have gone into religious life. These options are just as honorable as the priesthood.

Of course, when I think of the Church, I think of it's priests, but I also think of the catechists I know (who are predominately women). I think of women like the author of the aforementioned article who work as activists and prophets in the name of Christ.

I don't feel like women are denigrated into the church basements or each others' houses. We are very visible as lectors, cantors, and Eucharistic Ministers. When I go into a parish office, the first face I usually see is a woman working either as a secretary or a parish administrator.

It may be high time for the Vatican to recognize our efforts again, but the Vatican has recognized us before. We are blessed! We have dignity! God works in and through us! To dwell on the issue of women in the priesthood is wasting all of our valuable time and energy. There are many other issues deserving of more attention.

Why "The Syrophoenician Woman"?

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon."
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus' disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."
He said in reply,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me."
He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."
She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters."
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
"O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour. -Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28

This past Sunday we heard Matthew's version of the story of the Syrophoenician Woman. Matthew calls her a Canaanite, but the point of the story is the same. Here is a woman, a *gentile* woman, pleading Jesus for help. At first, he doesn't seem to want to help her. She's not one of his people, the Jews, and he came to help his own people. But she argues with him. With her wit and her perseverance, Jesus is persuaded to heal her daughter.

This story inspires me in two main points:

1. The strength and the courage of a woman fighting for her daughter.

2. God can change His mind.

Put yourself in her shoes: Your daughter has been acting strangely for months. She never feels well and rarely gets out of bed. She apparently has no control over what she says or does. She randomly screams and throws herself on the ground. She threatens you. You've done all you can to watch over her and care for her, but you're at your wits end. You hear about a Jewish man coming through your neighborhood. He's healed many people. He seems to have some authority over demons. You go to see if he can heal your daughter, too.

When you get there, the apostles all around him glare at you. You fight for the miracle man's attention, but it's clear that the crowd around him does not want you there. You're not a Jew, you're a gentile. The crowd wants nothing to do with gentiles. The miracle man ignores you. You watch him heal other people in the crowd. That only makes you more desperate for his attention. When he finally looks at you, he tells you he won't help you because you're a gentile.

After months of stress caring for your daughter, this finally pushes you over the edge. You know he can heal your daughter, he just doesn't want to. You beg him for his help. He calls you a "dog." So be it, you think, he can call me whatever he wants as long as he heals my daughter. In one last act of desperation, you turn his argument on it's head. "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." He finally grants your request and your child is healed.

I'm sure there are people out there that can relate all too well to this woman. We can all relate to the feeling of being at one's wits end for one reason or another. There are definitely parents out there who can relate to this sense of desperation, looking for someone to help their child. I am impressed by the Syrophoenician woman's courage, standing up to a crowd who didn't want her there. I am inspired by her perseverance, there are many times I just want to give up. I admire her wit. I know I couldn't have thought that well in the heat of the moment. I'm not the only person inspired by her, she's in two gospels and a search for her online yields over 56 thousand results.

This is a gentile woman who argued with God and won. People typically have difficulty with that idea. If God is all-perfect, God must be never changing because change is imperfect. God, Who is perfect love, must have been intending to help this woman all along, because it would be cruel to not help her. God knows no prejudices!

The story of the Syrophoenician woman is not the only time in scripture that someone argues with God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we see Abraham argue with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities are ultimately not spared because God does not find 10 righteous people in them, but God does spare the righteous people that God does find. Later on in Genesis, Jacob even wrestles with God, being consequently renamed Israel. Just because God is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect doesn't mean humans can't argue with God and it doesn't mean we can't sometimes change God's mind. I like an analogy I saw somewhere. It's like children arguing with their parents. Just because parents are wiser and more powerful than their children, it doesn't mean that children can't argue and sometimes even win.

While God does not know any prejudices, the human Jesus may very well had. Christians hold that Jesus was truly God and truly man. So he knew our faults. He knew that it was not customary in this time for a Jewish man to have anything to do with a gentile woman. At that time, he may have honestly thought that his mission was only to the Jews.

Being perfect does not mean not changing. My experience with perfection does not support that hypothesis at all. But that is definitely a topic too big to tack on to this post.

I love the Syrophoenician Woman

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Religious Person's Response to the Premiere Episode of "Curiosity"

In a special event Saturday night, all the channels under the "Discovery" umbrella showed the first episode of a new series "Curiosity." It seems as if the series is based on viewers submitting questions and they take an hour-long show to explore it. The first question is one of the ultimate questions, "Did God create the universe?" Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on how you see it), they used the work of Stephen Hawking to delve into the issue at hand.

Being the religions nerd I am, as soon as I heard God, I had to DVR it. So I did, and I watched it yesterday. I gave myself a day for my thoughts to form into some sort of coherency and here it is:

There only continues to be a conflict between science and religion because the extremists on both sides insist there must be one. People who worship at the altar of science seem to have a compulsion to break down religion, to prove religion is false. Meanwhile, people who are obsessed with their religion seem to need to insult science whenever they can, to bash new discoveries and refuse to listen to new ideas. And then there are folks like me in the middle who just don't see what all the fuss is about. Science can't prove or disprove God. Religion can't nullify all scientific inquiry or discovery (although there needs to be a reservation for judgment when it comes to the morality of some scientific progress, but that's another topic).

In showing the "history" of the conflict between science and religion, Curiosity rehashed the old story of Galileo (which the Pope apologized for a few years back) and also mentioned Pope John XXI. According to Stephen Hawking, Pope John XXI met an ironic fate, denouncing science and then dying due to gravity and a crumbling building. I don't know where this accusation comes from. I can't find any reference to any denouncing of science by John XXI anywhere. John XXI was a physician. He asked for an extra room to have a quiet place to study medicine. How could a scientist denounce science?

In the last half hour of the program, we get to the nuts and bolts of Stephen Hawking's ideas. He points out that quantum mechanics shows that sub-atomic particles can and do appear out of nowhere and disappear just as mysteriously. Based on this, he postulates that the Big Bang could also appear out of nowhere. He shows that time did not exist prior to the Big Bang. God could not create the universe, according to him, because there was no time for God to exist in. I have two problems with this simple "proof" for the non-existence of a creator God.

1) It limits God. Is God really limited to the laws of nature? Is God really limited to our concept of time? I feel very uncomfortable saying "God can't do something." I don't even feel comfortable saying "God can't sin." In this "proof," Hawking seems to be running on the assumption that God is some sort of physical being that is ruled by all the laws that we are. I don't see God in such simplistic terms.

2) Where is nowhere? Okay, I admit, quantum mechanics does challenge our human assumption of cause-and-effect. We assume that everything has to come from somewhere, that everything has to have a cause. But I ask him, where is your imagination? Do you really hit a brick wall? Are you forced to say the universe comes from nowhere?

In the end, he says he is grateful for the time he gets to see the beauty of the universe. I ask, "Who are you saying 'thank you' to?"

I want to end this post with a story I've heard a million times:

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." - Robert Jastrow

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Judas Iscariot as a literary device?

So, it's always dangerous to watch shows on the History channel that touch on religious topics. I know this very well. As a theology and world religions student, I've seen many specials on television that I could tear apart for inaccuracies and for simplifying things that can't be simplified. This particular special was about Masada. Judas' name came up because there is a theory that he was a member of the Sicarri rebels. The expert being interviewed argued that Judas' name had nothing to do with the Sicarri but his last name actually means "from the place," making his full name meaning "the Jew from the place." Now, I haven't heard this theory before. Looking at my textbooks, this idea doesn't come up. It's entirely possible that it's a case of a History Channel "expert" saying nonsense. However, this made me wonder, what if Judas is a literary device? Could this be true? What would it mean to me as a Catholic?

This idea is not a new one. Scripture scholars as of late have played with the idea for various reasons. They see that some of the earliest Biblical materials don't mention him (i.e. Paul and the disputed Q). They see some very good reasons to make a character like that up. The one reason that I find to be the most provocative is that Judas draws even more blame away from the Romans. The early Christian church was in a difficult position. They didn't want to emphasize that the Romans killed Jesus because they wanted to be in the Romans' good graces. Rome was already persecuting them, they didn't need to make more barriers between themselves and Rome. They were also very angry at the Jews who had recently kicked them out of the synagogues. So, what better way to deflect blame from the Romans than to blame the Jews for Jesus' death.

Now let's look at the story of Judas from that perspective:

Here we have a clearly Jewish disciple of Jesus who betrays his rabbi for money to the Jewish leadership who aren't painted in a very positive light either. This group turns Jesus over to the Roman leadership. The Roman leadership are not portrayed as the good guys, but they aren't portrayed as the bad guys either. Pilate washes himself of his guilt, and the crowd is given a second chance to free Jesus from his fate.

Seeing the story of Judas' betrayal in light of the situation of the early Christians does not make a convincing case for Judas being a real person. It would make sense for the early Christians to make such a character up in order to place blame for Jesus death on the Jews.

What does this mean to me as a Catholic? I don't think that questioning the existence of Judas is heretical. Judas isn't in the Nicene Creed. The important thing for Christianity is the belief that Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified and resurrected. [Edit: Joe Heschmeyer has corrected me as far as the previous flawed 2-3 sentences: His blog is here.] The story of Judas still has some value as a reminder of the dangers of greed and the importance of trust and friendship. It also brings about fruitful reflection on questions such as, "If a particular sin is preordained by God, is it really a sin?"

Also, it serves as a reminder of the painful history of Jewish/Christian relations. May we never forget that the Jewish people are our brothers and sisters. The Christian faith does not supersede the Jewish faith. The Jews did not kill Jesus, the Romans did.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Baby Joseph: I don't know what to think

Below I have links to two stories and one video about Baby Joseph.

If you have never heard of him, let me give you a little overview. Joseph Maraachli is a 14-month-old who has a progressive neurological disease. He's been in pretty bad shape since he was born. He has trouble eating and breathing. He's from Canada. In Canada, a hospital (London Health Sciences Centre) wanted to remove him from life support and allow him to die. His parents did not agree with that decision. He ultimately was accepted to come to Cardinal Glennon here in St. Louis to get a tracheotomy and he will eventually get to go home. It is felt that this way, even though the tracheotomy will not prolong his life, he will be able to live the rest of his days more comfortably at home with his family.

According to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services:

"56. A person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life. Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or the community."

In the case of Baby Joseph, this directive is complicated in that the parent is the one making the decisions, the patient obviously cannot make decisions for himself.

I do not think it is unreasonable for the parent's to wish for the child to die in the home. Unfortunately, many hospitals are still unable to make a "home-like" atmosphere for those dying. It is hard to adapt to the different religious and ethnic practices of every patient that dies in the hospital. And some situations just don't lend themselves easily to allowing the family to be close by and to give the dying and the family their personal space.

I do not know enough about the baby's situation nor enough about medicine to form a definite opinion as to whether giving him a trach was the best idea. I do know from personal experience that a trach is not always the best option. It is not a pleasant thing to have. It gets clogged. It's uncomfortable. I am sure, however, that it is better than being hooked up to machines in the hospital. It is definitely better for the parents to not see their baby hooked up to machines in the hospital. I do not know if the tracheotomy was "proportionate means," but people (who I would hope know better than I do) think that it is.

One thing that does bug me about this is that Baby Joseph's parents had another baby with a similar issue only 8 years ago. Why did they get pregnant again?

Another thing that bugs me is that he has been used as a poster-boy for the pro-life movement. Now, the fact he was a poster-boy probably saved his life. I am grateful for that. However, misinformation abounds. His life has been saved for a few months and he will be able to have the most graceful death anyone could hope for, but this was not a case of the evil socialized medicine wanting to kill an innocent baby. Nothing in life is ever that simple.