News & Commentary

Study finds the birth control pill has a pretty terrible impact on women’s wellbeing

https://www.sciencealert.com/major-study-finds-the-pill-has-a-pretty-crap-impact-on-women-s-wellbeing
FIONA MACDONALD
20 APR 2017

A new study has reinforced what many women have been saying for years – the oral contraceptive pill is associated with reduced quality of life and wellbeing in healthy women.

The double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial found that healthy women reported reduced quality of life, mood, and physical wellbeing after taking a common birth control pill containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel for three months.

The findings reinforce earlier research and anecdotal claims that women are struggling with the side effects of the contraceptive pill.

But there was no significant evidence that the contraceptive increased depressive symptoms in the latest study… so, there’s that.

Surprisingly, this is one of the most rigorous studies to date to look into the impact of the pill on women’s quality of life.

“Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill’s effect on women’s health,” said lead researcher Angelica Lindén Hirschberg from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

“The scientific base is very limited as regards the contraceptive pill’s effect on quality of life and depression and there is a great need for randomised studies where it is compared with placebos.”

To fix that, her team took 340 healthy women aged between 18 and 35 and gave them either placebo pills, or contraceptive pills containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel over a three-month period.

Ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel-containing pills are among the most common form of combined oral contraceptive pills around the world because they’re the least associated with a risk of blood clots, and they include brand names such as Levlen, Microgynon, Portia, and Alesse.

The study was double blind, which meant that neither the researchers giving out the pills or the women taking them knew whether they were getting a placebo or not.

At the start of the study, the women had their general health measured, including weight, height, and blood pressure.

They also filled out two well-known surveys on general wellbeing and depressive symptoms – the Psychological General Wellbeing Index and the Beck Depression Inventory.

They then went through the same tests at the end of the three months so the researchers could compare the results.

The women who were given contraceptive pills reported that their quality of life was significantly lower at the end of the study than those who were given placebos.

This was true for general quality of life and also specific aspects of wellbeing, such as self control and energy levels.

No significant increase in depressive symptoms was observed.

While it’s an interesting first step towards better measuring the pills’ side effects, the researchers caution that the changes were relatively small so we can’t read too much into them just yet. And we can only apply these findings to ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel-containg pills.

Also, the study only looked at women over three months – it will require longer monitoring to get a more accurate idea of how the contraceptive pill affects women.

“This might in some cases be a contributing cause of low compliance and irregular use of contraceptive pills,” said one of the researchers, Niklas Zethraeus.

“This possible degradation of quality of life should be paid attention to and taken into account in conjunction with prescribing of contraceptive pills and when choosing a method of contraception.”

With recent research also providing insight into why periods can be so damn painful and heavy, it seems scientists are finally starting to take women’s reproductive health and contraceptive side effects seriously.

And we’re getting some male options too – scientists are making progress with a hormonal contraceptive injection for men, as well as a reversible, condom-free gel that blocks sperm.

More research is needed before we can identify more accurately how the pill impacts women, but these early results are reassuring for many women who’ve struggled with side effects while on the pill.

The research has been published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Cardinal Sarah: Church is facing ‘grave risk’ of schism over morality

NEW YORK, April 24, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Robert Sarah warned that the Church’s unity is being threatened by influential leaders within the Church who “insist” that national churches have the “capacity to decide for themselves” on doctrinal and moral matters.

“Without a common faith, the Church is threatened by confusion and then, progressively, she can slide into dispersion and schism,” he said.

“Today there is a grave risk of the fragmentation of the Church, of breaking up the Mystical Body of Christ by insisting on the national identities of the Churches and thus on their capacity to decide for themselves, above all in the so-crucial domain of doctrine and morals,” he added.

Catholics profess every Sunday in the Nicene Creed that the Church is “one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.” These are often called the four “marks” of the one true Church.

Sarah, who comes from Guinea, made the comments when asked in an April 18 interview with the charitable organization Aid to the Church in Need about the relationship between the “African Church” and the “Universal Church.”

The Cardinal, who is the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said that, strictly speaking, there is no such reality as the “African Church.”

“The Universal Church is not a sort of federation of local churches,” he said. “The Universal Church is symbolized and represented by the Church of Rome, with the Pope at its head, the successor of Saint Peter and the head of the apostolic college; hence it is she who has given birth to all the local churches and she who sustains them in the unity of faith and love.”

Sarah’s remarks will be seen by some as opposing a push by Pope Francis to give bishops’ conferences in individual countries more power, even to settle doctrinal and moral disputes.

In his 2013 Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis called for a “conversion of the papacy” that would help him “exercise” the Petrine ministry. He criticized in the same document “excessive centralization” of power in the office of Peter, suggesting that bishops’ conferences should be empowered with “genuine doctrinal authority.”

Francis also wrote about a decentralized Church in his 2016 Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He wrote: “I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium…Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.”

According to Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, the Pope told Polish bishops last year that a decentralized Church would be able to interpret papal encyclicals and to solve contentious issues, such as giving Communion to civilly divorced and remarried Catholics.

In the interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Sarah said that the Church will grow throughout the world only if it is united by “our common faith and our fidelity to Christ and his Gospel, in union with the Pope.”

“As Pope Benedict XVI tells us: ‘It is clear that a Church does not grow by becoming individualised, by separating on a national level, by closing herself off within a specific cultural context, by giving herself an entirely cultural or national scope; instead the Church needs to have unity of faith, unity of doctrine, unity of moral teaching. She needs the primacy of the Pope, and his mission to confirm the faith of his brethren,’” he said.

Later in the interview, Sarah said the Church would be “gravely mistaken” to think that social justice issues such as combatting poverty and helping migrants were her real mission.

“The Church is gravely mistaken as to the nature of the real crisis if she thinks that her essential mission is to offer solutions to all the political problems relating to justice, peace, poverty, the reception of migrants, etc. while neglecting evangelisation,” he said.

The Cardinal said that while the Church “cannot disassociate herself from the human problems,” she will ultimately “fail in her mission” if she forgets her real purpose. Sarah then quoted Yahya Pallavicini, an Italian and former Catholic who converted to Islam, to drive home his point: “If the Church, with the obsession she has today with the values of justice, social rights and the struggle against poverty, ends up as a result by forgetting her contemplative soul, she will fail in her mission and she will be abandoned by a great many of her faithful, owing to the fact that they will no longer recognize in her what constitutes her specific mission.”

Serena Williams Writes to Her Unborn Baby: “I Can’t Wait to Meet You”

Although many in the media praise abortion, some Hollywood and sports stars are starting a new pro-life trend: celebrating their unborn babies on social media.

Serena Williams is the latest to join the team. On Monday, world-famous tennis player posted an Instagram picture of herself lounging at the beach. In the caption, the 35-year-old penned a heartfelt message to her unborn baby:

My Dearest Baby,
You gave me the strength I didn’t know I had. You taught me the true meaning of serenity and peace. I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait for you to join the players box next year. But most importantly, I am so happy to share being number one in the world with you…. once again today. On @alexisohanian bday. from the world’s oldest number one to the world’s youngest number one. -Your Mommy

By “@alexisohanian,” Williams meant her fiancé, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian.

Last week, Williams revealed her 20-week pregnancy on social media platform Snapchat. As her fans calculated, that means Williams won the Australian Open while pregnant with baby number one.

What a wonder woman.

LifeNews Note: Katie Yoder writes for Newsbusters, where this originally appeared.

A vending machine at the UC Davis campus dispenses Plan B

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN

(CNN) Students at UC Davis can now press A4 for Plan B.

A new vending machine in a University of California Davis study room traded the usual Hot Cheetos and Red Bull for condoms, tampons, pregnancy tests, Advil, and the morning after pill (or Plan B). They call it the “Wellness To Go” Machine.

Stocking contraception rather than caffeine may seem out of place in a study area, but to former UC Davis student Parteek Singh it makes total sense.

Although the Wellness To Go machine was installed in early April, Singh spent two years working to make it happen.

“The more skeptical and negativity I got from people like ‘oh it’s not going to happen,’ kind of pushed me more,” Singh told CNN affiliate KTXL.

Plan B and other contraceptive methods have had their ups and downs. In 2013, Plan B was made available to women without a prescription. But the Trump Administration has threatened funding for Planned Parenthood.

With a nation divided on the issue comes a campus divided as well.

“It is promoting like ‘Oh hey, go and have unsafe sex because then you have a backup option and it’s gonna be cheaper than if you just wanna go to a drug store,'” UC Davis student Jordan Herrera told the affiliate.

But other students come to its defense.

“It’s a great thing for women,” student KC Cui said.

CNN has reached out to UC Davis and is waiting on a response.

Fatima is the solution to the mayhem in the Vatican today

(Editor’s note: The following is a slightly edited version of the editorial of the April issue of LifeSite’s Faithful Insight magazine. Those interested in subscribing to the monthly Catholic news magazine may do so here.)

April 19, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Mayhem. That’s the only word to describe what is taking place in the Church today. Remember the archbishop who released a scandalous Vatican sex-ed program at World Youth Day in Krakow? He was appointed as the new head of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Rome’s John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. Both institutions have now been stripped bare – the Academy of all its members and the Institute of its most conservative faculty.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia recently gushed praise for one of Italy’s leading proponents of abortion, same-sex “marriage” and restriction on religious freedom. More than that, prior to his Vatican post he commissioned a homoerotic mural in his cathedral church in which he had included an image of himself.

Another Vatican bishop in charge of two Pontifical Academies is responsible for bringing into the Vatican, to speak at his conferences, some of the most anti-life, anti-family people in the world. Those supporting forced abortion and forced sterilization are finding themselves at home in a new Vatican where the lovers of life and family are increasingly alienated and ostracized. A Vatican where fear among the orthodox rules and in the words of retiring Archbishop Luigi Negri – the only Italian bishop to go to the Rome March for Life – those who are normally papal critics, “for a time have become hyper papists for their own ends.”

The only solution to this mess is Divine intervention. And in this year of the 100th anniversary of Fatima, it is time to beg for that intervention and to do what we can to bring it about.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI himself hoped that such an intervention would happen shortly. “May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity,” he said in a homily on May 13, 2010. “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete,” he said.

The October 13, 1917 Fatima miracle of the dance of the sun was witnessed by 70,000 people with coverage in all the secular papers at the time. It was the most spectacular public miracle of all time. What was it that heaven was trying to communicate with this stupendous event?

Our Lady showed the three shepherd children hell. “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go,” she told them. “To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

What did Our Lady ask for to bring about the triumph of her Immaculate Heart? First prayer, most particularly the Holy Rosary, and the devotion of the Brown Scapular. Second, she called for us to make reparation for the sins and outrages perpetrated against God’s Grace and blasphemies against the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Thirdly, she asked for consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, both on a personal basis and, publicly, that of Russia by the Pope and all the world’s bishops.

Our Lady warned that if Russia was not consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. We have seen atheistic communism spread throughout the world. But most don’t realize that legalized abortion began in Russia and this global atrocity has cost more lives than all wars combined.

Our Lady warned specifically that if Russia was not consecrated there would be “wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”

She predicted the Second World War, and it happened. She predicted “fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much. Woe to women lacking in modesty.” And it happened like never before in the history of the world. She predicted wars, and there have been more wars in the last 30 years than ever before. We have not yet seen whole nations annihilated.

Many have said her wish for the consecration of Russia was accomplished in 1984 when Pope St. John Paul II entrusted the world to Our Lady. Let’s skip the debate over it and do it again, but this time mentioning Russia specifically, as was requested by Our Lady. Poland was blessed greatly each time they consecrated their nation to Our Lady.

“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph,” she promised. “The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” We await that peace eagerly both in the world and in the Church.

But Our Lord warned Sr. Lucia in a vision in 1931, expressing dismay that the Pope would not carry out the consecration of Russia as requested. “Like the King of France, they will repent of it, and they will do it, but it will be late. Russia will already have spread its errors in the world.” He added, “Make it known to My ministers, seeing that they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My demand, they will also have to follow him into misfortune.”

That warning has a severe implication for our days. The mention of the King of France by Our Lord refers to the request He made of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. On June 17, 1689, He asked her to have the King of France consecrate France to the Sacred Heart. For 100 years, the Kings of France failed to make the consecration.

On June 17, 1789, 100 years to the day of the request, the King of France was stripped of his legislative authority and four years later executed.

Let us play our part in hastening the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Let us pray the Rosary, wear the Scapular, make the First Saturdays devotion and request the explicit consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart.

An Agonizingly Cruel Death Sentence

Physician assisted suicide legislation has been making the news recently. Legalized euthanasia in Canada, Netherlands, Belgium and other European nations have also generated headlines.

However, a silent, rampant killer is intentionally claiming lives of far more patients each day in America’s medical facilities.

This quiet, legal killer is taking the lives more Americans than all the assisted suicide deaths combined. It’s the withdrawal of food and water from patients whose lives are deemed “futile” by hospitals, nursing homes and hospices throughout the nation.

Food and water delivered by tube instead of mouth was once deemed “basic and ordinary care” but is now viewed as “extraordinary medical treatment.” Further, it’s legal in all 50 states to withhold food and water when it will directly result in the death of a patient.

Terri Schiavo was denied food and water. It too her 13 days to die.

So how many patients is this likely affecting? According to the American Hospital Association and the Centers for Disease Control, there are nearly 35,000 hospitals, nursing homes and hospices operating in the USA — 1.3 million patients in hospice alone. After doing the math it’s easy to assume that every day patients are being “put down” using an agonizingly cruel, drawn-out death sentence.

Bobby Schindler, president of the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network and brother to Terri Schiavo, saw this horror play out in a very personal way with his sister. It took her 13 excruciating days to die. A time period he appropriately describes as a nightmare for Terri and her family.

“My sister’s lips were horribly cracked to the point they were blistering. Her skin became jaundice with areas that turned different shades of blue. Terri’s breathing became rapid and uncontrollable. Her moaning, at times, was raucous, which indicated to us the insufferable pain she was experiencing. Terri’s face became skeletal, with blood pooling in her deeply sunken eyes and her teeth protruding forward. What will be forever seared in my memory is the look of utter horror on my sister’s face when my family visited her just after she died.”

Death with dignity?

How did a compassionate and progressive nation like ours resort to such a barbaric practice in the name of medicine? So-called bioethicist Daniel Callahan planted the seeds of what can be considered “medical cleansing” in 1983. “A denial of nutrition may in the long run become the only effective way to make certain that a large number of biologically tenacious patents actually die. . .it could well become a non-treatment of choice.”

Brutal and prophetic.

Don’t think you’re immune to the risk of death by dehydration. Laws in 46 states already allow the medical provider—not the patient or family—the right to refuse life-saving or sustaining treatments, including food and water.

Over the years laws have quietly been enacted that prioritize the financial standing of insurance companies and medical facilities over patient autonomy and well-being. Ending the life of a costly patient by dehydration and starvation is an economic no-brainer in this day and age of demanded profitability within medical care. Obamacare has expedited this process.

We have seen examples of patients like Stephanie Packer, California mother of four, denied life-saving treatment where physician assisted suicide is legal, while being offered coverage for a lethal prescription to end her life.

Hospital ethics committees routinely assume full decision-making authority over the treatment of patients when family members disagree on how to proceed. And medical facilities have effective methods of “treatment” for the biologically tenacious who simply refuse to die.

Ethicist Wesley Smith calls it “termination without request or consent.” It involves offing “futile” patients via the denial of food and water or by using terminal sedation, which administers a heavy dose of morphine or other pain killer, whether it’s needed or not, to slow respiration and cause an early death.

Bobby says the best way to protect yourself is to have a legally designated advocate as your power of attorney who will vigorously fight for you. Visit our website for free resources that can help protect you and your family.

Defending innocent human life,

Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. For 25 years, organizations and individuals around the world have depended upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

Vatican’s doctrinal chief: Church hasn’t changed teaching against contraception, divorce, homosexuality

April 10, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Catholic Church under Pope Francis has not changed her teaching on the immorality of cohabitation, adultery, divorce, or homosexuality, and she has certainly not opened the door for civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller in a new book-length interview published April 1.

Muller, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in the 240-page book, titled The Cardinal Muller Report, that Catholics must not fear “confessing our faith.” The book was dedicated to Pope Francis.

In the interview, conducted about a year ago but only made available in English this month, the Cardinal said that it would be a “false concept of God” as well as a “false interpretation of mercy” to allow civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics living in adultery to receive Communion.

In “immoral relationships” such as cohabitation and divorce-and-remarriage, he said, “the seeds of the Word [of God] do not abide in [these] sinful situations.” In these situations, he added, “despite the fact that it might seem otherwise, there can be no authentic dynamic of love but, rather, only a serious obstacle to the ability to grow in humanity.”

Muller said that the 2015 Synod on the Family insisted that “given the intimate nature of the sacraments and the character of the indissolubility of marriage as divine law, it is not possible to admit to the Eucharist divorced people who have remarried civilly.”

Any pastoral accompaniment for those in irregular situations, he said, must “always be rendered according to conscience and the teaching of the Church.”

“Saint John Paul II warned that being pastoral does not mean a compromise between the doctrine of the Church and the complex reality of daily life but, rather, leading individuals to Christ,” he added.

The Cardinal said that Pope Francis’ much used statement that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,” is often mistakenly interpreted. He maintained that it does not mean that “anyone can come to receive the Eucharist even though he is not in grace and does not have the required state of mind, just because it is nourishment for the weak.”

He noted that access to the Eucharist comes with necessary preconditions.

“Certainly access to Eucharistic Communion presupposes a life of grace, presupposes communion in the Body of the Church, and also presupposes a life ordered in conformity with the Body of the Church so as to be able to say the ‘Amen’ to which you referred before. Saint Paul insists that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord,” he said.

To go to Communion without being in the required state of grace and with the assumption that God “grants me privately the forgiveness of my sins” is a “false concept of God; this is tempting him,” he added.

Muller said that Pope Francis’ famous statement “Who am I to judge,” often repeated by those who are hoping to see a “change of direction” in the Church on homosexuality, does not mean the Church has suddenly become “less dogmatic” on the issue.

“The concept of the intrinsic disorder of homosexual acts, because they do not proceed from a genuine emotional and sexual complementarity, stems from Holy Scripture,” he said.

And yes, he said, the Church “with her Magisterium, has the power to judge the morality of specific situations,” such as sexual acts.

“This is an undisputed truth: God is the only judge who will judge us at the end times, and the pope and bishops have the obligation to present the revealed criteria for this Last Judgment which our moral conscience already anticipates. The Church has always said ‘this is true, this is false,’ and no one can live by his own subjectivist interpretation of God’s commandments,” he added.

The Cardinal warned against “new anti-family ideologies” that have arisen that “attempt to redefine what is human, based, not on the truth, but on individual feeling and social utility.”

He specifically mentioned the danger of “gender ideology.”

This ideology, he said, “does not respect the reality of things and that ultimately denies the Creator and man’s condition of having been created.” It “affirms that man’s identity does not depend on nature, with a body that is limited to a masculine or feminine sexuality” and “makes use of medical advances to use the body as an area of experimentation, viewing a change in sex as a simply biological operation,” he said.

Muller said that lurking behind gender ideology is the manmade “idol” of “our own liberty, of our own wish, proposing to be, ourselves, those who determine what is good and bad.”

“Was this not the substance of the first temptation of Adam and Eve? Is it possible to build a society without respecting the fundamental difference between a man and a woman?” he added.

The Cardinal concluded his interview by proposing how the Church can help modern man find “peace and reconciliation with himself.”

“There is only one way open to us: compunction or repentance for the evil committed. The Cross of Christ is the only path. There is no other path for evangelization today,” he said.

Other topics Cardinal Muller addressed in his interview (paragraphs not necessarily linked in original): 

Islamist terrorism

More deeply, I believe that we have here a path out of the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism: we should not favor a separation of society as a whole from God, but should instead, on the contrary, harness the power of religion as a social relationship that reinforces living together, peace, and therefore progress for all.

Priestly celibacy

Priestly celibacy, which is being challenged so much today in certain ecclesiastical quarters, is rooted in the Gospels as an evangelical counsel, but it also is intrinsically related to the ministry of the priest.

We cannot break unilaterally from the series of declarations by a long line of popes and councils and from the steady and continuous adherence of the Catholic Church to the image of the celibate priest.

Women priests

This is not a legitimate issue, because it touches on a subject that has already been decided. Pope Francis has made it clear, as have his predecessors: in that connection, I remember that Saint John Paul II, in number 4 of his Apostolic Exhortation Ordinatio sacerdotalis of 1994, reinforced with the use of the royal “we” (“declaramus”), the only document in which that pope uses that verb form, that it is a definitive doctrine infallibly taught by the ordinary universal Magisterium (CIC, can. 750 §2) that the Church does not have the authority to admit women to the priesthood.

It is the province of the Magisterium to decide if a question is dogmatic or disciplinary: in this case, the Church has already decided that this proposition is dogmatic and that, because it is divine law, it cannot be changed or even reviewed.

[Male-only priesthood] can be supported with many reasons, such as fidelity to the example of the Lord or the normative nature of the centuries-old practice of the Church.

I would not want to leave it unsaid that there is an essential equality between male and female, in nature and also in the relationship with God through grace (see Gal 3:28). The priesthood, however, implies a sacramental symbolism of the relationship of Christ, the Head or husband, with the Church, the Body or wife.

Married priesthood (viri probati)

A vocational crisis cannot be dealt with by addressing only its symptoms and not its real cause. What has given rise to the vocational crisis? I believe I can say that it is a matter of a crisis of faith, which in turn is a result of a long secularization that has dried up what was once fertile soil and has scorched the earth.

Are we aware that a massive inclusion of viri probati, which is especially foreseeable in countries where Catholicism is expanding and there are not many priests, would unquestionably mean the end of celibacy?

We cannot solve such big problems through compromise solutions or half-measures.

Catholics and Protestants

Strictly speaking, we Catholics do not have any reason to celebrate October 31, 1517, the date that is considered to be the beginning of the Reformation that led to the rupture in Western Christianity. If we are convinced that revelation has been preserved, in its entirety and unchanged, through Scripture and tradition in the doctrine of the faith, in the sacraments, in the hierarchic constitution of the Church by divine right, founded on the sacrament of holy orders, we cannot accept that there are sufficient reasons to separate from the Church.

Indissolubility of Sacramental marriage

We therefore have to take as our premise that she will never have the authority to dispense with the divine commandments, in the name of a supposedly compassionate and loving vision, in situations that do not conform to the Word of God. She cannot, for example, grant a second marriage while a first spouse of a sacramental marriage, consummated or unconsummated, is still alive. In certain difficult family situations, the Church can allow an interruption of marital life together, but she cannot break the sacramental bond.

Population control

Anti-birth policies are nothing but another ideological proposal that hides the unmentionable: the attempt to maintain, unfairly, the privileged status of a few, at the expense of blocking access to wealth by broad layers of the population. Actually, as we have just explained, we know that hunger in the world is not at all the consequence of overpopulation and that abortion does nothing to contain population growth, serving only to satisfy our hedonism.

Based on catastrophic predictions that have never been borne out, rooted in neo-Malthusianism (for example, Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb), some international organizations have recently exacerbated the problem, proposing a “responsible parenthood” that implies reducing the birthrate, by whatever means, for a better distribution and optimal use of resources.

In that regard, we must clearly denounce as having no scientific basis the claim that the alleged current population explosion has caused global economic impoverishment: if two thousand years ago the world had an estimated two hundred million inhabitants, and it took fifteen centuries to double that population, in the last two centuries the world population has multiplied by six, surpassing six billion inhabitants, while real GDP worldwide has multiplied by fifty. It is no surprise, then, that the anti-birth theories based on the myth of population’s geometric progression while the means of subsistence have grown only in arithmetic progression (Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population), should be more and more discredited among the scientific community, which now leans more and more to the conclusion that people, when they are seen clearly, unclouded by erroneous ideological distortions (Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit), end up resolving the problems themselves thanks to human creativity.

Anti-birth policies are nothing but another ideological proposal that hides the unmentionable: the attempt to maintain, unfairly, the privileged status of a few, at the expense of blocking access to wealth by broad layers of the population. Actually, as we have just explained, we know that hunger in the world is not at all the consequence of overpopulation and that abortion does nothing to contain population growth, serving only to satisfy our hedonism.

Large families

Large families are an expression of the superabundance of love. They are a great yes to life. Several children are a great gift not only for their parents but also for the Church and all of society. Lumen gentium (no. 11) speaks of Christian parents as those who in a certain way bestow their children on the Church.

Humanae Vitae / Contraception

The encyclical Humanae vitae had many difficulties in its reception, as much for its underlying anthropology— especially regarding its proposal on the experience of love and sexuality—as for its clarification of the intrinsic morality of the methods of birth control. The indiscriminate attacks to which it was subject from the outset caused it to be marginalized and forgotten, despite its richness in inventively and prophetically posing the reality of love, of marriage, and of the beauty of married life.

Today, almost fifty years later, we see much more clearly that Pope Paul VI was right in everything that at the time he had the courage to make clear. Ahead of his time, this humanist pope had the courage to offer this document to the Church and to society, denouncing with an accurate analysis what ended up happening. Are we not, indeed, witnessing a pandemic of divorce? Have we not, just as unmistakably, turned sex into a trivial reality devoid of feeling? And is it not as patently clear today that Western societies, having radically separated the unitive function from that of procreation, have a true problem in their birthrate? The situation is one of authentic demographic involution that carries grave consequences, considered both synchronically and diachronically, if we examine the present moment and the foreseeable possibilities for the near future.

But the problem, I repeat, is not only demographic but rather, above all, one of meaning: I mean the question of the identity and vitality of marriage. Perhaps five decades ago it was not so evident, since the institution of the family was still strong: in fact, it was not yet foreseen that there could be so many broken marriages in our own families, with so many children who could not enjoy a father and a mother living under the same roof or so many adolescents initiating themselves at a young age in a life of frivolous sex. Yes, we are much more able today to grasp the negative impact of a mistaken conception of sex, valued only for the gratification it brings and not for the gift that it makes possible. We understand better today the perverse effects of artificial birth control, as a simple means toward the worry-free enjoyment of sex, without wanting to see the consequences for physical, psychological, and spiritual health.

Moral problems demand moral solutions. We must humanize sexuality, which is at the service of the personal union of spouses, making it possible for each to be a gift to the other and not only a means for satisfying their desire. We must explain to new spouses the goodness, for example, of natural methods that, based on abstinence from sexual contact during the fertile days, foster dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding in the couple.

Divorce

In the East, for example, after the separation of those ecclesial communities from the Cathedra Petri, an increasingly liberal praxis or “right of consuetudinary origin” was accepted, under which—after a period of penitence—a second marriage was allowed, even in the case of a valid first marriage and with the first spouse still living, and participation in Communion, as a life preserver that enabled “salvation”, was allowed at the same time. As a result, the Orthodox Churches, by the principle of oikonomia or pastoral condescension (called the “pastoral approach of tolerance, clemency, and indulgence”) went on to justify a multitude of reasons for divorce. Considering the words of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage, I do not see how this practice can be derived from the will of God.

The Church lives by God’s truth and therefore is responsible to man for it. She bears witness to it with humility and with the strength that the Lord gives her, without allowing herself to be cowed by the world’s accusations. On marriage and the sexual morality that she has received from God, she must remember the substantial unity of man in spirit, soul, and body, his relationship with the community, the truth about the totality of the gift required for sexuality to be human, the intergenerational responsibility, the identity as man and woman in their essential mutual reference.

These principles are not just an ideal, because love is never just an ideal, or even just a beautiful concept; it is instead a concrete dedication of life and the deep-rooted availability that opens the horizon of hope in individuals’ daily lives.

All of us know that we are sinners and that it is in the sphere of sexuality that human weakness obviously manifests itself. But this does not mean that the sexual morality taught by the Church is an unattainable ideal. The biggest scandal of which the Church is capable is not that there should be sinners in her, but that she should stop explicitly calling the difference between good and evil by name and that she should relativize that difference, stop explaining what sin is, or try to justify it by a supposedly greater closeness to and mercy toward the sinner.

We know, for example, that marriage is indissoluble, that the union of a man and a woman has “forever” as an essential and unforsakable characteristic, and that spousal love is therefore so deep and so beautiful. So in a traumatic situation where a woman has been abandoned by her husband, in the context of a sacramental marriage, whether consummated or unconsummated, it would not be permissible to say “let us be merciful and allow her to contract a new marriage with another man.” This would not be true mercy but, instead, a failure to take her personal travail seriously, besides favoring sin and mocking God and his commandments.

Sex-education / parental rights

Throughout my years of priestly ministry, however, I have been able to see that what young people want is precisely to discover the meaning of sex, its relationship to love, its opening to the future. For that reason, emotional-sexual education is a duty that begins at the first moment of the child’s life and that, unavoidably and definitively, falls on the parents. They can be supported, but they cannot be supplanted, by school and other educational institutions like the parish.

Mercy

I said before that mercy cannot consist in relativizing God’s commandments but must, rather, make possible the encounter with God’s love, which renews and changes our life. Mercy consists in recognizing that the truth, the truth of love, will make us free (see Jn 8:32).

All of us know that we are sinners and that it is in the sphere of sexuality that human weakness obviously manifests itself. But this does not mean that the sexual morality taught by the Church is an unattainable ideal. The biggest scandal of which the Church is capable is not that there should be sinners in her, but that she should stop explicitly calling the difference between good and evil by name and that she should relativize that difference, stop explaining what sin is, or try to justify it by a supposedly greater close- ness to and mercy toward the sinner.

I think, first, that sacramental confession is the most paradigmatic expression of God’s mercy.

Hell

Hell, certainly, is not just a rhetorical and pedagogical tool with which to frighten sinners: it is a real possibility.

The Cross

How can modern man find peace and reconciliation with himself ? There is only one way open to us: compunction or repentance for the evil committed. The Cross of Christ is the only path. There is no other path for evangelization today.

Pro-Life Victories: Several Bills Attempting to Legalize Assisted Suicide Have Gone Down in Defeat

Eric Metaxas   Apr 12, 2017   |   11:42AM    Washington, DC

A funny thing happened on the way to our supposed brave new world of assisted suicide.

 Proponents of assisted suicide would have us believe that legalized killing is an unstoppable freight train and that those who oppose it are going to get run over. And no wonder. Last year Colorado and the District of Columbia legalized it, while California enacted a bill that had been passed in 2015. They joined Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana where this great evil is now legal.

That’s why I’m very pleased to tell you that reports of the demise of a culture of life have been, to borrow a phrase, greatly exaggerated. We’re starting to win again. No, this doesn’t mean we can relax, but it’s really good news—and frankly, we could use some.

Bills to legalize euthanasia “have done very poorly” in 2017, Rita Marker, executive director of the Patients Rights Council, told Baptist Press. “That has been a shock to those who are in favor of it because they thought that all of [a] sudden the dam had burst and everything would happen for them.”

So far, that has not happened. Bills to advance the idea that some lives aren’t worth living have gone down to defeat in Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Tennessee. Also in New Mexico, the state senate voted 22-20 against a bill to legalize assisted suicide for people expected to die within six months. It was a bipartisan vote, with 7 Democrats joining 15 Republicans.

Similar bills stalled in Hawaii, Maryland, Utah, and Wyoming, Marker said, although it’s always possible they could be brought back. In Hawaii, a House of Representatives committee unanimously decided not to advance a proposal allowing physicians to prescribe lethal drugs on the same day a patient is diagnosed as terminally ill.

Eva Andrade of the Hawaii Family Forum said that Hawaiians should “say a prayer of thanksgiving” while remaining vigilant—because when it comes to assisted suicide bills, death is never final. “Although this may seem like the battle is over, please be advised that the battle is not over until the last day of session,” Andrade said. “And even then, the bill is still alive for next session. Even now, proponents are most likely regrouping.”

Dauneen Dolce, executive director of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, told the American Family Association that assisted suicide legislation likely will be introduced next year. Therefore, she said, those opposing the culture of death must remain “actively involved in some way,” by “educating yourself, or giving support to the organizations that are educating others, or [being] involved in the political arena. If you don’t do that,” she added, “you are handing over our state [and] our laws, and the culture of death will come to us—and that’ll be from apathy.”

The job is immense. According to a 2016 survey by LifeWay Research, 67 percent of Americans say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their physicians to help them end their lives. We must not only work to change—or block—laws in the political and legislative realms. We must also work—and pray—to change hearts and minds in our neighborhoods, in our social and work circles, and across society.

Apparently most Americans see pain and suffering as the ultimate evil and personal autonomy as the highest good. What I can only call this “sub-Christian worldview” completely misses the truth that God can and often does use the things we’d rather avoid in our lives—even at the end of life—to draw us closer to Himself.

Remember, when it comes to assisted suicide, apathy is deadly. So let’s educate our fellow Americans about the beauty and dignity of life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Remember as well: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

LifeNews Note:  Eric Metaxas is best known for two biographies: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery about William Wilberforce. He also wrote books and videos for VeggieTales.

This column originally appeared at Breakpoint.

 

 

Pope will canonize Fatima visionaries in May

VATICAN CITY, April 20, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Jacinta Marto and Blessed Francisco Marto, the two siblings who witnessed the Virgin Mary’s appearances at Fatima, during his upcoming visit to the site of the apparitions on May 13.

The pope convened all of the resident cardinals of Rome on Thursday to officially establish the canonization date for more than three dozen new saints, according to Rome Reports, including two of the three child seers of Fatima.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, recounted some aspects of the Fatima siblings’ lives for the gathering.

“They attended little school, and they were practically illiterate,” he said. “They learned the catechism at home, along with their cousin Lucia.”

Pope Francis announced the date of the canonization in Latin, as prescribed by ecclesiastical tradition.

“May the Blessed Francis and Jacinta Marta be canonized on May 13, 2017,” he said.

Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to the Fatima shrine in Portugal on May 12-13 for the centenary celebration of the 1917 apparitions of Our Lady.

The April 20 announcement took place in the course of an Ordinary Public Consistory, a meeting of the pope, cardinals and promoters of sainthood causes that formally concludes the sainthood process.

A year after the Fatima apparitions, both Marto siblings became ill during a European flu epidemic. Francisco died April 4, 1919, at age 10, and Jacinta died almost a year later on February 20, 1920, at age 9.

Francisco and Jacinta’s cousin, Lucia Santos, became a Carmelite nun and passed away in 2005 at age 97. The diocesan phase of her sainthood cause concluded in February and has advanced to the Vatican for study.

The pope also announced at Thursday’s consistory that he would canonize 34 others on October 15.

Among them are:

The 30 martyrs of Natal, Brazil, including Jesuit Father Andre Soveral; diocesan Father Ambrosio Francisco Ferro; and layman Mateus Moreira, along with 27 others murdered in 1645 by Dutch soldiers;

The child martyrs of Tlaxcala, the first martyrs of Mexico, named Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, who died in 1527 and 1529;

The Spanish Piarist Faustino Miguez, who founded the Daughters of the Divine Shepherd Institute in 1855, a school for girls;

Religious priest Father Angelo da Acri (formerly known as Luca Antonio Falcone) of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

Landscape shifts for surrogate motherhood

Tightening of laws in other countries fuels U.S. market, but not all states are relaxing statutes OSV Newsweekly

Landscape shifts for surrogate motherhood  Modern technology for nearly two decades has made it possible for infertile couples to use the wombs of other women, known as surrogates, to have their biological children. But cultural changes, a crackdown in international surrogacy and high-profile endorsements from celebrities experiencing fertility issues, including Kim Kardashian and Tyra Banks, have resulted in increased demand for surrogacy in the United States.

Surrogacy involves contracting with a woman to carry a child conceived through artificial means, such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. Many fertility companies recommend gestational surrogacy, where couples have their own IVF-manufactured embryo implanted into a surrogate mother, in order to decrease her likelihood of forming an attachment to the child she carried.

Patchwork of laws

International surrogacy arrangements have been popular because of the inexpensiveness of the procedure, compared to the United States. Whereas a surrogate pregnancy can cost $100,000 or more in the United States, similar arrangements would cost a third or less in countries like India or Thailand. In 2012, an estimated 20,000 children were born through international commercial surrogacy.

But beginning in 2015, the most popular countries for international surrogacy banned the practice: Thailand, Nepal, India and Mexico all issued instructions to prevent foreigners from using their citizens as surrogates. As these countries enacted new regulations, though, other countries, like Cambodia, become hubs for surrogacy tourism.

But the uncertainty of international surrogacy has made the United States a more attractive location for couples, despite the high price tag for an American surrogate. Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, told Our Sunday Visitor that the closure of other countries to international surrogacy has “most certainly” led to an increase of the industry in the United States, because “we have very favorable and friendly laws here.”

Church’s Concern For Those Seeking Parenthood
The suffering of unanticipated childlessness is real. Spouses may feel they have somehow failed, that they are inadequate in a basic aspect of their marital life. Their pain may even be aggravated by regret or guilt over past contraceptive use, sterilization, abortion, or other factors that can contribute to infertility. The sight of other couples’ children may make them yearn for a child all the more and add to their distress. Infertility can affect a couple’s sexual relationship and the stability of their marriage. It may even affect relationships with parents and in-laws who express disappointment at the absence of grandchildren. Catholic couples may feel this pain even more deeply as they hear the Church praise family life and teach that children are “the supreme gift of marriage” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 50).

In addition, Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteeing a right to marriage for same-sex couples, has removed in many states the barriers to these couples being listed as legal parents of a child, and many fertility clinics target their services to gay men looking to hire a surrogate.

The domestic fertility market, which the investment bank Harris Williams & Co. estimated at a value of $3-4 billion, lacks a coherent legal framework in the United States. In contrast to other western nations, there is little federal or state oversight of the industry, and laws vary among states.

“The surrogacy laws around the country are kind of a patchwork quilt,” Jason Adkins, executive director for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told OSV. While some states like Indiana or New York prohibit surrogacy agreements because they are contrary to the public good, others like California enjoy a booming business in surrogacy.

Other states have recently passed legislation allowing for gestational surrogacy. Last year Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who identifies as pro-life, signed legislation recognizing surrogacy contracts for married, heterosexual couples. New Hampshire has passed even less restrictive legislation, as has the District of Columbia.

Fertility clinics thrive in states where surrogacy agreements giving all parental rights to the contracting couple can be enforced in court. In such an arrangement, the contracting couple are listed as the parents on the birth certificate, and not the surrogate mother who delivered the child.

Pushing back on surrogacy

In states like Minnesota, where the law has not explicitly guaranteed the parental rights of a contracting couple, the fertility industry has repeatedly sought “enabling legislation, not regulations of surrogacy,” Adkins said.

If states “create a legal mechanism by which contracts are honored and enforced, it really creates a legal framework for the surrogacy market to flourish and grow.”

As states continue to pass legislation supportive of surrogacy, Minnesota represents a rare bright spot for those opposed to contracting women to carry children. Adkins credits the state’s success to stepping back from an emotionally fraught legislative environment.

“You’re not going to have rational discourse in the context of a heated legislative environment in which people need to take votes,” said Adkins.

The state created a bipartisan commission to hear evidence on the issue during several months of meetings, and it issued its report in December 2016. While a bill to enforce surrogacy contracts was sponsored in the 2017 legislative session, it died in committee.

Adkins told OSV that while “the moral teaching is clear” from the Church on surrogacy, the issue fails to attract the same attention or coordination of resources as abortion and assisted suicide do, even though abortion frequently plays a role in surrogacy, through selective reduction of implanted embryos or requests by parents to abort children with birth defects.

“Sometimes we overlook the key life and bioethics questions that aren’t directly related to abortion,” he said, “and that’s a significant deficit in the national Church.”

Pastoral care needed

The desire to have children propels the surrogacy industry, which presents the Church with the challenge to do more to recognize and address the particular role that infertile couples have. Timothy O’Malley, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and founding editor of Church Life: A Journal for the New Evangelization, told OSV that the Church is not providing enough pastoral care in this area.

“If you’re infertile as a couple, the only advice you’re going to get is from your doctor. No one in the Church is there for you, except for a couple of resources you might find online,” he said.

For O’Malley, infertility can serve as a charism of authentic marriage because “in the Catholic imagination, marriage is not reducible to having children, but is really a conjugal bond of love shared between husband and wife.” While children are often a gift of that love, “there are a variety of gifts that are not reducible to having children, and the infertile can have these gifts whether or not they have children.” O’Malley said that parishes and dioceses can value the marriages of the infertile in the pulpit, but also address their needs through diocesan support groups.

“It’s not just saying, well, let’s fix it for you, it’s saying that not being able to have children can become a particular icon of love for the Church, and it can lead to adoption, it can lead to foster care, but it can also lead to other spiritual gifts and renewal that can take place.”

Nicholas W. Smith writes from New York.