A Problematic Divorce

Another video has exposed a Planned Parenthood official discussing ways to avoid criminal liability for violating the law: “Towards the end of the video, the cameras get inside the abortion clinic’s pathological laboratory.  Medical assistants are heard and seen cracking skulls, and extracting brains.  ‘Here’s some organs for you,’ a Planned Parenthood employee said.  ‘Here’s a stomach, kidney, heart.’  A medical assistant exclaims: ‘And another boy!’”  This follows the third video of the exposé, which “includes grisly footage showing the dismembered body of an aborted baby, from which technicians are preparing to harvest desired parts.”

Steve Skojec says we need to demand intellectual honesty about abortion.  “As medical technology advances, we become every year more aware of the full humanity of the child in utero. We see in the ultrasound scan of her face the features of her mother, we notice the fine details in his tiny fingers and toes, we recognize the response to external stimuli, we are confronted with the inexorable reality that these are children, not ‘choices.’ … The simple fact is this: no honest, informed person can possibly believe that an abortion does not take a human life.”

What Skojec says is true – no honest and informed person can possibly believe abortion does not take a human life.  Scientists agree that human life begins at conception, when a new human being comes into existence with a unique genetic code.  The problem is that the law does not protect human beings.  Search the Constitution for the word “human” and you won’t find it.  The word “person,” however, makes about fifty appearances.  Most normal humans believe that persons are humans and that humans are persons.  But not the Supreme Court of 1973, and not the abortion supporters of today.

Abortion supporters have divorced the notion of “personhood” from the nature of humanity.  Under this incoherent and counterintuitive philosophy only “persons” have rights and are deserving of protection, not mere humans.  Ask adherents to this philosophy what constitutes a person and you will get a different answer every time you ask.  Some would say a person has rationality, others would say consciousness, memory, or self-identity, still others a functioning brain.  Some would say all of the above.

The problem with these approaches is that they ignore what we actually believe about humans and how we actually treat humans.  Those who act irrationally, those who are unconscious, those with memory defects are not treated as individuals without rights.  In many cases they are accorded special additional rights out of concern for their well-being.  Deep down, we believe and treat human rights as persisting despite the absence of mental continuity on the part of the human (whether from sleep, unconsciousness, amnesia, etc.).

This divorce of personhood from human nature is derived in turn from a more serious divorce – human creature from God the Creator.  If we are no longer endowed by the Creator with rights, how do we justify the existence of those rights?  In a world without God, it seems unlikely that human beings just happen to be more valuable.  That would be speciesist.  Instead we must concoct a justification for our rights – our dignity derives solely from our rationality (rather than from being made in the image of God, which entails our rationality).

In the end, this divorce of man from God eventually leads to the divorce of personhood from humanity.  It is what the Supreme Court implicitly relied upon in Roe v. Wade to prevaricate on when “meaningful” life begins.

As George Will explains: “In 1973, the Supreme Court, simultaneously frivolous and arrogant, discovered constitutional significance in the fact that the number nine is divisible by three.  It decreed that the status of pre-born human life changes with pregnancy’s trimesters.  (What would abortion law be if the number of months of gestation were a prime number — seven or 11?)  The court followed this preposterous assertion with faux humility, insisting it could not say when life begins.  Then, swerving back to breathtaking vanity, it declared when “meaningful” life begins — “viability,” when the fetus is “potentially able” to survive outside the womb.

“When life begins is a scientific, not a philosophic or theological, question: Life begins when the chromosomes of the sperm fuse with those of the ovum, forming a distinctive DNA complex that controls the new organism’s growth. This growth process continues unless a natural accident interrupts it or it is ended by the sort of deliberate violence Planned Parenthood sells.”

Nor is this discussion unprecedented.  Whenever large scale oppression has deprived humans of rights, this philosophy has been employed to show that certain humans are not persons worthy of respect and protection under the law.  It was used to justify the inferiority of the black slave in America and the lebensunwertes leben (“life unworthy of life”) in Nazi Germany, and now the “products of conception” in abortion mills around the world.

The problem is not that people don’t believe humans begin to exist at conception.  The problem is that people don’t believe humans have rights.  Only persons do, and persons begin to exist whenever people want them to.

Bishop-elect Robert Barron explains the consequence of this divorce: “Once the human being is untethered from God, he becomes, in very short order, an object among objects, and hence susceptible to the grossest manipulation by the powerful and self-interested.  In the measure that people still speak of the irreducible dignity of the individual, they are, whether they know it or not, standing upon Biblical foundations.  When those foundations are shaken — as they increasingly are today — a culture of death will follow just as surely as night follows day.  If there is no God, then human beings are dispensable — so why not trade the organs of infants for a nice Lamborghini?”

More on Planned Parenthood

Dale Ahlquist: “Chesterton says that if there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals.  This explains why abortion is legal, but smoking a cigar in a public park is illegal.  This explains why the modern world is more upset about the killing of one lion than the slaughter of millions of babies.  It explains why their veins pop from their necks that a game hunter would stalk a wild animal in order to stuff it as a trophy, but they ignore the systematic dismemberment of live babies extracted from their mother’s wombs so as to save the best parts for resale.  It is something of an understatement to say that their major morals are weak and their minor morals are strong, but that is still the essence of it.”

Fr. George Rutler: “With untutored diction and uncoordinated syntax, Dr. Nucatola blithely spoke of ways to crush a baby’s skull. Affecting Latinity with which we may assume she is otherwise unfamiliar, she called it a “calvarium.”  Has anyone heard of Calvary? . . . Her words were a descant on those of the Nazi doctor Julius Hallerworden, trying to justify himself at the 1945 Nuremberg trials: “If you are going to kill all these people, at least take the brains out so that the material may be utilized.” . . . Perhaps there will be a day when remnants of our sheepish generation are dragged through the moral carnage of our land and feel some of the pity that Christ feels for us.”

Jessica Kidwell provides a brief history of infanticide.  Some lowlights:
1 BC: The Archangel Gabriel neglects to inform Mary of Nazareth that she has until, like, 20 weeks gestation to rescind her “fiat,” because, after all, no teenager should be punished with a Messias.
1 AD: Herod the Great legalizes abortion through 146 weeks for political reasons. It does not have the desired effect.”

Father Dwight Longenecker: “Politicians–especially so called Catholic politicians who support abortion are complicit in the crimes.”  Greed has always driven the abortion industry.  More videos may show body part harvesting from babies actually born alive.

Learning from the Saints

Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen: “As John Paul II puts it, More’s “defense of the Church’s freedom from unwarranted interference by the State is at the same time a defense, in the primacy of conscience, of the individual’s freedom vis-à-vis political power.” The Church’s freedom, in other words, cannot be untethered from that of the individuals who uphold its teachings.”

Remembering St. Ignatius and the golden age of the Jesuits: “Their spirituality was one of unwavering faith, indomitability, and intellectual acumen. They clashed with Protestants, rescued beleaguered Catholics in England, defended the borders of France from heresy, and won over the loyalty of thousands to God and His Church. No challenge was too daunting, difficult, or dangerous, for each member of the Society wished to prove himself in daunting, difficult, and dangerous work. They marched to India, China, and Japan. They sailed to the New World. They conquered countless souls for Christ.”

St. Ignatius reminds us of the need to be the Church Militant: “Sated by our materialism and comfort, afraid to take a stand lest we suffer financial deprivation, we shut up. We look the other way. We tiptoe around the problems.  Catholics, like most other Christians in America want to preach a greeting card kind of Christianity–all best wishes, sentimental cliches, schmaltzy music and feel good homilies.  We’ve sucked up the message of the world that it is all about tolerance, kindness, being nice and never offending anyone.”

David Warren on the hybrid warfare of St. Ignatius and the Jesuits, how Pope Francis fits into the camps of the Society of Jesus, and militarism within the Church.

Thomas Van: what can we learn from the theology of St. Irenaeus?

Randall Smith: Martyrdom then and now.

Sarah Maw on the traps of life and Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

Marriage and the Synod

Andrea Gagliarducci on the Shadow Synod: “What we are looking at now is a more secular Church that is taking center stage, one that uses secular terms. Benny Lai understood that this was the Church’s fate, since once the Church loses the capacity to speak with its own language, it loses itself. Structural reforms of the Curia and of finances are not enough, even though they might be functional, because what is needed on the ground is a theological way of thinking, and a theological ideal to reach for. As Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini put it, the Church is 200 years out of date. But not in the way that everyone thinks.”

Father Mark Pilon on the categorical silence of the Synod toward contraception practices in marriage.

Cardinal Schonborn and George Weigel weigh in on the Synod.

Christ and marriage in a time of war: “A couple that comes to confer the Sacrament of Marriage upon one another in the presence of the hierarchical Church, is pointing to Christ and their eschatological end. Marriage is to lead one another to Heaven. As a Sacrament, it always points to Christ and to the glory of Heaven. This becomes even more urgent for those who marry while they live in an area ravaged by war. They do not know if their hour will come tonight, tomorrow, or decades from now. We all must fix our gaze on Heaven constantly, and those who live in violence are a reminder to those of us who do not, just how urgent this call is for all of us.”

Discerning marriage as a vocation for young Catholics.

Ryan Anderson discusses three historical developments that explain why religious freedom is at risk.

A Church Divided

How sad is the state of the Church that an all vernacular Novus Ordo is considered so traditional it might be in schism with Rome?

Peter Kwasniewski: “It is a great irony of the postconciliar period that the Catholics today who are taking the sacred liturgy most seriously — the ones who are, quite conscientiously, building their everyday lives on it and around it, following its seasons, frequently the sacraments and using the sacramentals — are the faithful flocking to the traditional Latin Mass, especially where it is offered as the daily fare of a dedicated chapel or parish…

“Additional ironies include the fact that there is, in many ways, more active participation going on in these communities than is normal throughout the mainstream church, that the magisterium of John Paul II on such topics as marriage and family and the importance of sacramental confession is being much more consistently implemented in them, and that, by every standard of Catholic identity and mission, they are rock-solid and energetic. How could this be surprising, if what Vatican II said about the liturgy is actually true, and that truth is put into practice?

“Apart from these enclaves, however, it seems to me that we are further away than ever from recovering a genuinely Catholic perception and experience of the sacred liturgy as the foundational, central, and definitive activity of the Catholic, the origin of our identity, the purpose of our existence on earth.”

Rorate Caeli: the stripping of New York’s churches is only part of the greater iconoclasm in the city.

Nicholas Frankovich says it is also emblematic of the divide within the Chruch: “Two opposing interpretations of the Second Vatican Council divide the Catholic Church. This divide is more complex than the casual observer tends to appreciate. Within the complex divide, however, is a clear, simple divide: the familiar quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns. Each of the two parties is marked by a definite taste in liturgy, music, architecture, and art…This violence to the holy icons is itself a picture, of the demolition writ large that American Catholics have been witness to in their Church for the past half century. In China and the Middle East at least it’s not an inside job.”

Maureen Mullarkey: “Nothing explains Fr. Robbins’ behavior, or supposed archdiocesan ignorance of it, except institutional rot. This is an instance of clerical corruption, a fiduciary and ethical betrayal. The treason of the clerisy is an assault on the integrity of those moral ideals they are pledged to preserve. It is an assault on their own calling and on our fidelity to it.”

Kevin Symonds: “Reductionism is the stripping bare of sacred mystery. “Christ was stripped of His clothing at the crucifixion in order to shame Him. The Liturgy is the re-presentation of His sacrifice on the cross. We do not lay bare Christ in the Liturgy, instead we give Him the dignity and honor that is due Him that the Romans failed to give. They failed to give it because they did not see Him as He truly is. They mocked and despised Him. Christians know better and are called to give better. Clothes say something about our dignity and express mystery.

“It is appropriate to liken the “externals” of the Liturgy to clothing. These are extensions of Christ present in His Eucharistic Sacrifice—“the source and summit of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11). They tell us something about the Person of Jesus Christ and His Eucharistic Mystery. We must ask ourselves, why, then, would we want to violate the dignity of the Liturgy by denuding it?”

Kevin O’Brien writes that the great heresy of this age is Immediacy.

Culturally Catholic

Father Z on balancing mercy and justice: “People often slip into the trap of associating justice with manifestations of power.  In this Collect, however, we affirm the other side of power’s coin.  The miracles worked by Jesus in the Gospels, loving gestures to suffering individuals, were acts of mercy often connected to forgiveness of sins.  The affirmation of divine mercy, however, does not diminish God’s justice.  Mercy does not mean turning a blind eye to justice, for that would be tantamount to betraying truth and charity.”

Leila Marie Lawler on the romance of Elizabeth Goudge: “The romance they feature is the hidden kind, where the protagonist loves despite not knowing how to love — or is made to love almost against her expectations — and where the endings are happy, but without the traditional or conventional or expected correlations with beauty, youth, and starry eyes.  So this is the healing aspect, and perhaps makes Goudge’s books, for the most part, more suited to women who are past the Cinderella stage of life and more into Beauty and the Beast territory. The prince’s charm is well hidden, and that fact may or may not have to do with Beauty’s loss of her own inner compass.”

On Mordor, the Ring of Power, and Original Sin.

A trailer has been released for upcoming film “Spotlight” on the Boston Globe’s investigation of the priest sex abuse scandal.

Book review: Ryan Anderson’s Truth Overruled is a bold new defense of marriage.

Monsignor Pope on the Biblical roots of church design.

Can a Catholic be a collectivist?  Remembering the errors of liberation theology.

Father Z explains Gregorian Masses.

Living the Benedict Option

Richard Becker turns to saintly Benedicts to provide inspiration for principles of living: “In a world given over to acquisition and status, strive for downward mobility… In a culture obsessed with image and aggrandizement, have a healthy disregard for self… In a society fixated on security and the elimination of enemies no matter the cost, remain steadfast in a fundamental peace orientation.”

Politics and News

Dying for Christianity: millions at risk amid growing global persecution.  Church leaders are seeking greater protection of Christian sites even in Israel.

Term limits proposed for officials in the Roman Curia.

Jeff Mirus to Vatican delegations: avoid the rhetoric of the world in diplomacy.

As the Synod approaches, William Oddie writes on Benedict XVI’s presence behind the scenes.

Pope Francis welcomed the new Armenian Catholic Patriarch after a neat tradition: “As is customary for the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, the newly elected patriarch had written to the Pope formally requesting communion, or unity, with him and the universal Catholic community.”

A Catholic reliquary was discovered among the excavations of Jamestown.

Detroit Mass held to protest statute of Satan.

Vatican astronomer discusses discovery of Kepler-452b and extraterrestrial life.

Funeral mass stopped due to liturgical abuse.

After 57 years, the Catholic Church is leaving Antarctica.  More on the last priest in Antarctica.

Cardinal Baum, longest serving American cardinal, dies.

Residents of Castel Gandolfo see noticeable decline in tourism with Pope Francis’s absence.

Just for Fun

Pope Francis agrees to fast-track the canonization of Cecil the lion.

Twenty kids unimpressed with Pope Francis.

Website considering adding a few additional exclamation points to headlines.