Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Conscience Protection, Relgious Liberty and the HHS Mandate

I just read of the owners of the billion-dollar U.S. Business, Hobby Lobby, having filed suit to prevent having to implement the HHS Mandate due to their deeply-held religious and moral convictions. This is a “Christian family who...,” according the the article, “...will be fined $1.3 million a day for not complying with Obamacare?” This is an example of just one of the thousands of businesses, both public and private that are being called upon to violate their consciences by being mandated to implement the provision of the HHS Mandate (as defined by HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius) which requires ALL employers of 50 persons or more to include free coverage of sterilization, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs as a part of the health care coverage they offer to their employees. Many other public institutions as well as private companies have now filed suit against the U.S. Government, HHS and/or Secretary Sebelius seeking redress from this overt violation of our Constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of religion: to wit, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

RIGHT NOW our religious liberty in this country is in severe jeopardy, if the HHS (Health & Human Services) Mandate is allowed be be included as the "law of the land" under the new health care law (Obamacare). This includes not only serious government mandates upon public AND private employers, but also threatens the right to conscience protection, which is particularly concerning for health care providers who have religious and moral objections to carrying out (or being complicit in carrying out) the mandate. The penalties (which, in August of this year, was ruled to be a tax by the Supreme Court) that would be imposed on institutions or companies and other organizations that refuse to include what, to them, are objectionable insurance coverage provisions in the policies they offer employers would be SO outrageously severe as to have the effect of bankrupting or otherwise, shutting such institutions, companies, or other organizations down.  

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Contraception Not Controversial?

When does a doctor prescribe a Class I carcinogen (according to the World Health Organization or WHO) to a healthy person? Too, too often, as the article below describes.


A Letter to Melinda Gates: The Contraception Controversy

For another perspective on the use and exporting of contraceptives than what you usually hear in the mainstream media, please read this article by speaker-author-radio host, Teresa Tomeo:

A Letter to Melinda Gates: The Contraception Controversy

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

     Okay, I can imagine some of you--especially those friends and other readers who are not Catholic--wondering, what on earth do those Catholics mean by the Assumption of Jesus' Mother and why is that a cause for a Feast Day (what Catholics call special days of particular significance set aside for celebration throughout the Church Year)? Not having grown up in the Catholic Church, these Feast Days were a new concept to me when I joined the Church back in 1985.
     Many of these days are also referred to as Holy Days of Obligation for Catholics, which, as the title implies, means that faithful practicing Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on these days. While such a title connotes a duty, which many times, is not construed to be a positive thing, I actually look forward to these Days of Obligation and, especially, to those that are also Feast Days! In fact, at last night's Vigil Mass (the Eve if the Feast Day of the Assumption), our Pastor spoke about how those who grew up in my (and older) generations and attended Catholic schools actually had a day off from school during Feast Days in order to devote that time to the proper celebration of the day. He even went so far as to suggest that we, especially families with young children, go out for donuts or ice cream to help regain some of that sense of festivity (a great idea, I thought)! Then, as Catholic families descend en masse upon sweet shops on Feast Days, it will become inevitable that people will wonder just what it is they are celebrating, creating opportunities to share some of the delights of our Faith with others.
     Now, to return to the topic at hand: Just what do we mean by the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? The word Assumption comes from the word assume, by which we mean to say that she who was and is Mother of God (if you acknowledge Jesus as both Human and Divine) was translated (or assumed) into Heaven, body and soul. From the earliest days of the Church (during the first century and beyond), word spread of Mary's Dormition, that she had "fallen asleep" (the Dormition, from the Latin) and been taken up into Heaven after having "fallen asleep" in the home where she had lived with St. John following Jesus' Death, Resurrectin and Ascension into Heaven. From those initial reports, word was passed on and it was believed by the earliest Christians that Jesus had called His Mother to Himself and, as her eyes closed on this earth, they opened upon her Son and Lord in Heaven, without her body having undergone the process of the decay of death as is natural and usual.
     This certainly seems reasonable if you accept the other claims of Christianity: i.e., that the Christ (Jesus) was born of a virgin, His Mother, Mary, that Jesus is God Incarnate, that Jesus is the Christ, the "Annointed One of God", long-foretold and expected from the Hebrew scriptures (our Old Testament), that He "suffered, died, and was buried", that "He rose again on the third day" and "is seated at the Right Hand of God the Father", Who with the Holy Spirit comprises the Three Persons of the One God (the Holy Trinity), and Who will return again "to judge the living and the dead", as the Creed proclaims.
     So, today as we remember the Assumption of Jesus' Mother into Heaven, we celebrate. We celebrate that she, who is Holy and fully alive in Heaven is there now, interceding along with Jesus, and all "the Holy Ones" (the Saints and Angels) before Almighty God for us who continue to journey here on earth on this, our pilgrimage of life, with its many challenges, temptations, trials, and sorrows while she (and they) also rejoice with us in each victory over them as we seek to be conformed more and more to the image of her Son Who lives in us. We celebrate because we know that she, along with all the Church Triumphant (all who now dwell with God) pray for us, encouraging us and strengthening us by their prayers. We celebrate, too, because we believe that we, also, will one day close our own eyes upon this earth and open them upon Heaven and the unimaginable joy of beholding Jesus, our Lord and Savior, along with His Mother and ours (for He gave her to us, His brothers and sisters, as He spoke while dying on the Holy Cross.
     Last night during Mass as I prayed and reflected upon what this Feast Day of the Assumption portends for us, I felt the Spirit moving me to realize in a way I had never felt so strongly before that, as my own dear biological mother loved, protected, and taught me, praying regularly and fervently for me, while guiding me to love and worship the Lord Jesus, Whom she worshipped and loved, in an even more profound way, my Heavenly Mother, Mary, does also.

Some Scripture References Related to the Above:  Genesis 3: 15; Deuteronomy 31: 26; Exodus 25: 11; Exodus 37: 1; Numbers 14: 43-44;  Isaiah 7: 14; Isaiah 9: 7; Psalm 16: 10; Psalm 68:18; Luke 1: 39-55;  I Corinthians 15: 12-58; Hebrews, Chapter 1; Hebrews  12: 1-3; John 6: 32-40, 47-51; John 19: 26-27; Philippians 2: 5-11; I John ;3: 2; I John 4: 9-21; I John 5: 11; Revelation 12: 1-5.

A Further Note:  In reflecting upon my growing understanding and appreciation for the role of Mary in Salvation history, key to my understanding of her role has been the realization that the Flesh and Blood of her Son, Jesus, came from Mary alone, as His Father was and is God (a Mystery beyond the ability of our finite minds to comprehend). When Jesus bled and died on the Cross for our Salvation, the blood He shed came from His Mother, Mary. I believe that these realizations are key to coming to understand and believe another often misunderstood tenet of Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that is, that she was conceived without the taint of original sin, as all other human beings are, save Adam, Eve, Mary and Jesus. As the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments, (the Words of God), was Holy, so Holy that to touch it was to die!, so, too, Mary was the Holy Vessel in which the Word of God in the Person of Jesus, the Christ, would dwell for nine months. (But, to elaborate further on that topic must be left for another time!)


Friday, August 10, 2012

St. Lawrence, Victor, Pray for Us

Today,Aug. 10th, we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Lawrence, my patron saint. (Laura is the feminine form of the same root from which the name, Lawrence, comes, which is derived from the word laurel, the vine from which the laurel wreath of victory was woven to crown the winner of the ancient Greek games.) This, by the way, is a happy coincidence as we are currently celebrating the 30th of the modern-day Olympics. But, I digress. Lawrence was a deacon in 3rd-century Rome who, as such, had a vocation to care for the needy, sick, and elderly of the city. He lived during the reign of Pope Sixtus II during a time of great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Valerian II. When the prefect of Rome, ruling then under Valerian, ordered the execution of the Pope, he demanded from Lawrence that he bring to him all the treasures of the Church. Lawrence, in turn, quickly sold all the precious objects the Church had in its possession at the time and distributed the proceeds among the poor, then, gathered together as many of these needy and sick as he could and brought them before the prefect, saying, "THESE are the treasures of the Church." With that, of course, his fate was sealed and he was executed just 3 days after Pope Sixtus, going with courage and even, it could be said, with joy, to his death, he so loved his Lord Jesus. Several Roman senators who witnessed the power of his testimony of faith as he was sentenced, then, roasted to death on a gridiron, still professing faith in Christ, were converted to the faith and took upon themsleves the responsibility of seeing to his burial. Today's Gospel reading includes Jesus' words that "unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die, it remains a single grain, but when it dies, it bears much fruit." Just so, as St. Lawrence's life and death testify, along with all the other Christian martyrs up to and including the present day, there is truth to the saying that, "From the blood of the martyrs, springs the life of the Church." May we who today seek to follow Jesus serve Him faithfully with much love and joy, as St. Lawrence did, in the lives of our brothers and sisters in the human family, especially the most needy among us, from whom we expect nothing in return save the joy of serving them.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Some Reflections on the Greatest Human Rights Struggle of Our Time

I have been accused of playing only one string on my violin, the pro-life one. I do believe the other strings are also important: those that represent the stewardship and conservation of the natural world, the plight of the working poor and of poorest among us in this country and throughout the world, access to health care for all people, the advocacy of freedom for the people of the world, especially for those who now exist under tyrannical rule or who suffer under political and/or religious persecution in many countries and areas of the world, and the dignity of people at all stages and ages of life, including that of the handicapped and disabled. However, I believe the ostinato (to continue the musical analogy), that is, the underlying and supporting tone that must be there to hold up and hold together all the other causes for which we as believers in God should care, must be that of the fundamental value of human life.
It is human life from which all other values in life derive. If human life is not held to be sacred, then, we are merely physical beings, composed of human tissue, yes, but of no more or less value than any other living being or object in the natural world. It is then, according to this reasoning and view of reality that human beings and human “parts” can be used, exchanged and sold as commodities. Thus, the “market” in human (mostly, aborted) placentas and essential body organs that are sold in the black market to the highest bidder. According to this world view, then, it is acceptable to place a value scale on those members of society who are deemed to be less important or unable to contribute as much to the community as others.
Thus, when it is determined through prenatal testing that a child is likely to be born with Down Syndrome or some other genetic defect, it becomes acceptable to “terminate the pregnancy”, in contrast to saying that the killing the pre-born infant is warranted. (Note the terminology that is used in such a case.) And, when a terminally-ill person, a disabled person or a someone who is clinically depressed feels that their life is no longer worth living, society can declare that that person should be allowed to end his or her life. In fact, it becomes an issue that can be decided by majority vote, as it has in those states that now have legalized euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. The standard of what is morally acceptable becomes what the elite of the society deems it to be, what Pope Benedict XVI terms “The Tyranny of Relativism”, rather than there being a clear demarcation between what is right and wrong (moral absolutism).

It is, after all, a scientific fact that human life BEGINS at the moment of conception, when one of the millions of sperm that make their way toward one egg cell, succeeds in penetrating that cell and a human zygote is formed. The zygote then, the most minute form of the unique human being that has been endowed with its unique DNA combination, immediately begins the miraculous process of cell division, that will differentiate into nascent blood cells, skin cells, heart, lungs, brain, etc. When high schoolers study the cycle of human life, does it not begin, as it always has, with the union of the sperm and the egg, united to form a unique human being? Only in recent decades have those who hold to a perverse, but sacrosanct view of abortion as a “right”, attempted to differentiate the fetus from the growing, developing human being that exists and is nurtured in his/her mother’s womb, to make that life seem something less than human, thinking that we will not realize that using the word “fetus” for the unborn baby is only to substitute the Latin term that means “young life”!
I remember hearing it said that those who control terminology control the culture, and so it is today. (I think back to how this was done in Aldous Huxley’s prophetic look into the future in his book, 1984, written in the 1930s, that seemed far-fetched when he wrote it, but is the all-too-real state of affairs in today’s world and politically-correct culture. In his book, he described how the public was led to accept concepts and realities that were initially contrary to their values and way of thinking by the pervasive desensitization that occurred as these things were presented over and over in more “acceptable” and seemingly palatable, terms. Thus, in today’s p.c. environment, the growing unborn baby is known as the fetus. Body parts are harvested or procured and conception is accepted whether it occurs as a loving act between a man and a woman or as a technological accomplishment in a fertility clinic or research lab.
To be truly pro-life means to take a stance that favors and advocates for the dignity of every human being, to promote the well-being and care of people living in every stage and condition of life, from the unborn to the disabled, the handicapped, those who suffer chronic physical, mental or emotional ailments, including the terminally-ill, not to seek to suffering for suffering's sake, but to find value in the inevitable sufferings of one's life and not to seek to deprive others to find meaning and purpose in and through their suffering.

It means to value the poor, to give them support and aid, to reach out to the homeless with tangible means of assistance, to promote human justice where it it lacking, to place value and offer protection to those incarcerated, whether they are merely accused or convicted of a crime, and to help them to work for reform and redemption of their lives. Thus, it becomes unacceptable to advocate for the death penalty, no matter how egregious the crime one is deemed to have committed. To prefer lengthy or even life-time incarceration over the death penalty is to punish the offender while protecting society as a whole, while, at the same time, recognizing that here is a human being who has worth and should be afforded dignity and respect owing to the fact that she or he is a human being.
For those who accuse pro-lifers (or to use the more politically-correct term, anti-abortionists) of not caring for infants and children after they are born, all they need do to see that this is a misnomer is to take note of the thousands of pregnancy care centers and organizations and ministries throughout this country, located in every city of any size, that seek to provide and care for those experiencing crisis pregnancies and that go on to continue to provide support for unwed mothers and their children. Unlike Planned Parenthood, a for-profit organization, these centers are almost entirely staffed and funded by volunteers.
Planned Parenthood and those who advocate for a so-called woman's “right to choose” seek to make their case by denying the personhood of the unborn child as did those who defended the practice of slavery for more than hundreds of years in this country. For if they were to recognize that “a person is a person no matter how small” (Dr. Seuss), born or unborn, it would be clear that when a pregnancy is “terminated” by the active means of a surgical or medical abortion, one is ending the life of a unique and unrepeatable human being who possesses at conception his or her unique DNA and individuation. Thus, is was in the nineteenth century as abolitionist began to claim the moral high ground by asserting that ALL human beings have inherent worth by virtue of their personhood. This is in contrast to Margaret Sanger, the early 20th century eugenicist, who like Hitler, proclaimed that some lives are of more value than others, that some should be allowed “to breed” while others—the poor and the black race, for example—should not be, she who was the driving force behind The Birth Control League which later evolved into today's Planned Parenthood Federation, International.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's Not Possible to Practice Vice Virtuously

by Laura Heyer on Tuesday, February 1, 2011

As Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has often said, "You can't practice vice virtuously." The following news article attests to this fact all too well.
This message speaks for itself just by conveying the facts of the grisly situation finally brought to light about a Pennsylvania abortion mill and its chief practitioner, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, whose primary concern was anything but the welfare of women who came to him for abortions.  Truly, this is a business that thrives on "Blood Money", as a recent documentary is called, a lucrative business that victimizes not only the unborn babies whose beating hearts are stopped by abortion, but that also victimizes women who live on to suffer, more often than not, physically, psychologically, and spiritually, often in silence and often for the rest of their lives. The article is reproduced here below unedited.

Slaughterhouse Live
Tuesday, February 1, 2011 4:28 AM
Population Research Institute
Weekly Briefing
31 January 2011
Out of a Philadelphia abortuary comes a grisly tale of horror that could have been made in China.
Slaughterhouse Live
by Steven W. Mosher
“Pennsylvania is not a third-world country,” the grand jury investigating abortionist Kermit Gosnell insists, yet the clinic he ran bears a closer resemblance to the killing fields of one-child China than to a legitimate medical facility in the U.S.
In fact, the description of Gosnell's operation contained in the grand jury report reminded me of some of the abortion mills that I have visited in China: “The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment — such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff — was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn't used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.”
With the exception of the cats, which would have wound up on someone's dinner table, this could be a description of rural clinics in southern Hubei in 2010. It was to such clinics, on the orders of provincial officials, that mothers accused of violating the one-child policy were given lethal injections into the womb, or were induced and had their babies killed at birth. Floors grew sticky with blood as the bodies of dead babies piled up. Some of the little corpses were thrown on local rubbish heaps, to be discovered later by horrified passersby.
Everyone in China knows that it is fruitless to complain to the authorities about such atrocities. After all, it is the authorities who are responsible for enforcing the one-child policy in the first place.
But if the Gosnell case proves anything, it proves that it can be equally fruitless, in some states at least, to complain to the authorities about botched abortions, late-term abortions, and even infanticide in the United States.
Consider that Gosnell opened his house of horrors in 1979 and performed hundreds of illegal late-term abortions in the decades that followed. Many of these babies were born alive after induced labor, only to be murdered by Gosnell. He would give them what he lightly termed “the snip,” which meant that he would dig into their back with a pair of scissors and sever their spinal cord. These babies had just a “few moments of life [outside the womb] spent in excruciating pain,” in the grand jury's words.
When his efforts to induce labor failed, he would attempt to remove the unborn child himself, with sometimes disastrous complications for the women. Torn cervixes, perforated uteruses, and slashed intestines sent a constant stream of women to local emergency rooms.
Numerous complaints about Gosnell's practices were filed by his patients, by family members, and even in some cases by employees. These were ignored by state officials who were under pressure from pro-abortion politicians and groups not to act against abortion clinics, however sleazy and corrupt, lest abortion “rights” be infringed upon.
In fact, it was not his barbaric abortion practice at all that finally ended Gosnell's run, but an investigation into complaints that he was selling prescriptions for Oxycontin and other controlled substances. FBI agents and detectives from the district attorney's office carried out a raid, only to find jars filled with severed baby feet lining the walls of his office, along with milk jugs and other containers filled with aborted fetuses scattered about the clinic.
How did Gosnell get away with such horrors for decades on end? The grand jury states that several Pennsylvania agencies share the blame.
First, the State Health Department stopped inspecting abortion facilities 15 years ago following the election of Governor Tom Ridge. As Brad Mattes has noted, “The politics of a pro-abortion governor put an end to inspections. Abortion mills got a free pass.”
Even a cursory inspection would have revealed that Gosnell's own patient records contained enough evidence to convict him of performing illegal late-term abortions. But nobody bothered to check.
Second, the Department of State ignored dozens of complaints from women, relatives, and former employees about Gosnell's behavior. The department could not bring itself to take action even when a whistle blower—a former employee of Gosnell—came to it and “laid out the whole scope of his operation.”
Gosnell should have been stripped of his license to practice medicine years ago. Instead he was allowed to continue to kill babies and mutilate women.
Third, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health failed to enforce its own regulations. The department knew that he was in violation of local health regulations. They knew that he had no medical waste plan. They could hardly not have known, since one of Gosnell's own employees complained to them that aborted babies were being stored in the same refrigerator that employees used to store their lunches.
They could have shut down Gosnell's mill for any one of a number of violations. Instead they turned a blind eye.
Fourth, the local hospitals did not report—as legally required—the large number of complications that followed from Gosnell's botched abortions. Local emergency room personnel had seen it all: patients with torn uteruses and perforated intestines; patients overdosed on pain medication; patients with baby body parts still inside of them.
But they protected Gosnell—and thus failed to protect his patients.
The grand jury report also faults the National Abortion Federation (NAF), whose representative described the small brick building on the corner of 38th and Lancaster in Pennsylvania as the worst facility she had ever seen. Yet she did nothing and told no one, confirming the suspicions of pro-lifers that the abortion industry is incapable of policing itself. To put it bluntly, if you are willing to kill babies for profit, what won't you do?
There is a lot of money to be made by doing abortions: Just ask Planned Parenthood, which rakes in a couple hundred million a year from the practice. The grand jury estimated that Gosnell was bringing in nearly $1.8 million a year, mostly in cash, just from doing first and second trimester abortions. Add to this the money that he made by performing even more lucrative—and illegal—third trimester abortions, which he performed on Sundays in secret with only his wife to assist him. And don't forget the prescriptions for narcotics, which must have been good for another couple hundred thousand or so.
If Gosnell was driven by greed, he was protected by pro-abortion groups that maintain that ordinary medical regulation and supervision will curtail access to abortion.
Pennsylvania's Department of Health apparently agreed for, as the Gosnell grand jury noted, it “has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.”
An entire wall of our offices at the Population Research institute is covered with regulations promulgated by HHS, OSHA, and the Department of Labor which we are required to post. I have not been inside of Gosnell's so-called “Women's Health Society,” but I venture to say that its walls are bare of such postings.
If the Gosnell case proves anything, it proves that greedy abortionists—the slumlords of the medical profession—have gotten a regulatory pass for far too long. Neither the National Abortion Federation or individual abortionists can be trusted to regulate themselves.
Pro-life legislatures need to lower the boom on the abortion business by burdening its practitioners with extensive paperwork and expensive equipment. Pro-life governors need to follow up by ensuring that such laws and regulations are vigorously enforced. Inspectors need to show up on the doorstep of every abortion mill in the country every week, or even every day. Any violation, however slight, should be grounds for closure.
The pro-aborts at NARAL and Planned Parenthood will loudly decry the imposition of what they call TRAP laws, which stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. And they will fight hard to prevent such laws, once passed, from being enforced.
They know, as we all should by now, that reasonable medical regulation of abortion clinics would expose them for the human slaughterhouses that they are, and would ultimately threaten abortion-on-demand.
Because of the grand jury charges, which ran to over 200 pages, Kermit Gosnell is now locked up without bail, charged with the death of a female patient and accused of murdering seven babies born alive in his squalid clinic.
But how many more Kermit Gosnell's are there in the U.S. plying their grisly trade, evading scrutiny because of the ideological bias or cowardice of the authorities.
Meanwhile, women and babies die.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute.