News & Commentary

Bishop Schneider: Catholic family is the first defense against our current ‘great apostasy’

Editor’s note: This address was delivered by His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan, on 19 May 2017 at the fourth annual Rome Life Forum, which is organised by Voice of the Family.

May 19, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The family has been created immediately by God, so the Magisterium of the Church teaches us.[1] Pope Leo XIII says in his magisterial encyclical on marriage and family: “Marriage has God for its Author, and was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the Incarnation of His Son; and therefore there abides in it something holy and religious; not extraneous, but innate; not derived from men, but implanted by nature. Innocent III, therefore, and Honorius III, our predecessors, affirmed not falsely nor rashly that a sacrament of marriage existed ever amongst the faithful and unbelievers.”[2]

“The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.”[3] Parents are therefore under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children.[4]

Pope Leo XIII gave us a very concise explanation about the original and first duty of parents concerning the education of their children, and in the first place concerning the education in the Catholic faith. This duty has its foundation in the natural order of the Divine creation: “The common sense of mankind is in such complete accord, that they would be in open contradiction with it who dared maintain that the children belong to the State before they belong to the family, and that the State has an absolute right over their education. Untenable is the reason they adduce, namely that man is born a citizen and hence belongs primarily to the State, not bearing in mind that before being a citizen man must exist; and existence does not come from the State, but from the parents. The children are something of the father, and as it were an extension of the person of the father; and, to be perfectly accurate, they enter into and become part of civil society, not directly by themselves, but through the family in which they were born.”[5] “And therefore,” says the same Pope Leo XIII, “the father’s power is of such a nature that it cannot be destroyed or absorbed by the State; for it has the same origin as human life itself.”[6] Pope Leo XIII declares in another memorable encyclical, where he thus sums up the rights and duties of parents: “By nature parents have a right to the education of their children, but with this added duty that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God’s blessing it was begotten. Therefore it is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remain under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.”[7]

Already more than seventy years ago Pope Pius XII made an appeal to the Christian families to be new crusaders in spreading and defending the true Catholic faith in midst of the general and heavy torpor into which the drugs of false ideas, widely diffused, have sunk the human family in the twentieth century. This diagnosis, which Pius XII made about the spiritual health of his time, is fully applicable to our times and it became even much worse. Pius XII said: “It is for the best and most distinguished members of the Christian family, filled with the enthusiasm of Crusaders, to unite in the spirit of truth, justice and love to the call; God wills it, ready to serve, to sacrifice themselves, like the Crusaders of old. If the issue was then the liberation of the land hallowed by the life of the Incarnate Word of God, the call today is, if We may so express Ourselves, to traverse the sea of errors of our day and to march on to free the holy land of the spirit, which is destined to sustain in its foundations the unchangeable norms and laws on which will rise a social construction of solid internal consistency.”[8]

The first and most holy goal and end of matrimony and family consists in giving birth to new citizens of heaven. Pope Leo XIII said: “By the command of Christ, it not only looks to the propagation of the human race, but to the bringing forth of children for the Church, ‘fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God’;(Eph. 2:19) so that ‘a people might be born and brought up for the worship and religion of the true God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Catechismus Romanus, cap. 8).”[9] The family is therefore the first and original place, where the integrity and the beauty of the Catholic faith should be taught to the children, and by this way handed over to the future generations. Indeed from this transmission of the faith depends the spiritual health of a nation as taught Pope Pius XII: “The family is holy. It is the cradle not only for the children, but the entire nations. Man and woman should pass on the torch of the physical and also spiritual, of the moral and of the Christian life to the future generations.”[10]

From the early centuries of Christianity the family was seen as the Church “in miniature,” and the Church itself was called the “family of God”, especially the Christian community gathered for the celebration of the sacred liturgy was called the “family of God”, as we can often read in the liturgical texts, so for example in the Canon of the Mass. It was especially the Second Vatican Council, which reminded us of this ancient truth. In the Dogmatic Constitution “Lumen gentium” the Council teaches: “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care a vocation to a sacred state.”[11] Pope John Paul II, the Pope of the family, made this famous affirmation: “In the future, evangelization will depend largely on the domestic church.”[12] The same Pope said: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.”[13]

So great and splendid is the educational ministry of Christian parents that Saint Thomas has no hesitation in comparing it with the ministry of priests: “Some only propagate and guard spiritual life by a spiritual ministry: this is the role of the sacrament of Orders; others do this for both corporal and spiritual life, and this is brought about by the sacrament of marriage, by which a man and a woman join in order to beget offspring and bring them up to worship God.”[14]

Pope John Paul II gives to the catechesis in family the priority over all other forms of catechesis, when he says: “Family catechesis, therefore, precedes, accompanies, and enriches all other forms of catechesis. Furthermore, in places where anti-religious legislation endeavors even to prevent education in the faith, and in places where widespread unbelief or invasive secularism makes real religious growth practically impossible, ‘the domestic church’ remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis. Thus, there cannot be too great an effort on the part of Christian parents to prepare for this ministry of being their own children’s catechists and to carry it out with tireless zeal. Encouragement must also be given to the individuals or institutions that, through person-to-person contacts, through meetings, and through all kinds of pedagogical means, help parents to perform their task: the service they are doing to catechesis is beyond price.”[15]

One of the main causes of the moral, spiritual and religious crisis of the current time consists in the religious ignorance, in ignoring the truths of the faith and in an erroneous knowledge of the faith. Pope Pius X very rightly observed this connection, saying: “The enemy has, indeed, long been prowling about the fold and attacking it with such subtle cunning that now, more than ever before, the prediction of the Apostle to the elders of the Church of Ephesus seems to be verified: ‘I know that . . . fierce wolves will get in among you, and will not spare the flock’ (Act 20:29). Those who still are zealous for the glory of God are seeking the causes and reasons for this decline in religion. Coming to a different explanation, each points out, according to his own view, a different plan for the protection and restoration of the kingdom of God on earth. But it seems to Us, that while we should not overlook other considerations. We are forced to agree with those who hold that the chief cause of the present indifference and, as it were, infirmity of soul, and the serious evils that result from it, is to be found above all in ignorance of things divine. This is fully in accord with what God Himself declared through the Prophet Osee: ‘And there is no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing and lying and killing and theft and adultery have overflowed: and blood hath touched blood. Thereafter shall the land mourn, and everyone that dwelleth in it shall languish’ (Osee 4:1-3).”[16] And Pope Benedict XIV wrote: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.”[17] For this reason the same Pope Benedict XIV said: “There is nothing more effective than catechetical instruction to spread the glory of God and to secure the salvation of souls.”[18]

The beauty of the Catholic faith manifests itself in a special manner in large families. We possess one of the most striking and illuminating affirmations of the Magisterium on this theme in the following words of Pope Pius XII addressed to the Associations of Large Families: “Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church. […] The brows of the fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness, Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren. Their heavy labors multiplied many times over, their redoubled sacrifices and their renunciation of costly amusements are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that dwell in their hearts without ever tiring them or bothering them. And the hopes soon become a reality when the eldest daughter begins to help her mother to take care of the baby and on the day the oldest son comes home with his face beaming with the first salary he has earned himself. […] Children in large families learn almost automatically to be careful of what they do and to assume responsibility for it, to have a respect for each other and help each other, to be open-hearted and generous. For them, the family is a little proving ground, before they move into the world outside, which will be harder on them and more demanding.”[19]

The beauty of the Catholic faith manifests itself in the fact that it is precisely the family which is the first breeding ground and the first seedbed for the priestly vocations. The Second Vatican Council spoke about the family as the first seminary in the process of fostering and training priestly vocations.[20] History has given proof that the majority of priestly vocations come from large families. Pope Pius XII highlighted this interrelationship saying: “With good reason, it has often been pointed out that large families have been in the forefront as the cradles of saints. We might cite, among others, the family of St. Louis, the King of France, made up of ten children, that of St. Catherine of Siena who came from a family of twenty-five, St. Robert Bellarmine from a family of twelve, and St. Pius X from a family of ten. Every vocation is a secret of Providence; but these cases prove that a large number of children does not prevent parents from giving them an outstanding and perfect upbringing; and they show that the number does not work out to the disadvantage of their quality, with regard to either physical or spiritual values.”[21]

The supernatural spirit of love and of self-sacrifice of the mother (and oftentimes of the mother of a large family) is the very foundation of a priestly vocation and of the fruitfulness of the priestly life of her son. The following moving example illustrates this truth in an impressive manner: “In the city of Zaborze in Upper Silesia is a grave which is frequently visited by pilgrims. Above the grave rises a Lourdes grotto. At the foot of the statue of the Immaculate Conception, in a little glass case, lies a myrtle wreath. Here is the story of the myrtle wreath. A priest is buried in the grave at the foot of the grotto. He was the youngest of ten children. As a young man he worked very hard to earn enough money to study for the priesthood, because his parents were poor. After his ordination he went as a missionary to India where he worked for many years. When he died they buried him in his home town of Zaborze and erected a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes above his tomb because he had always fostered a special devotion to Mary Immaculate. Some time after the burial of this zealous priest, a little box was found among his possessions with a note pasted upon it: ‘To be opened after my death.’ The box contained a myrtle wreath and this note: ‘This is my mother’s bridal wreath. I have carried it with me to various countries, on my journeys over land and sea, in memory of that sacred moment when my mother vowed not only fidelity but also uprightness at the altar of God. She has kept that vow. She has had the courage to have me after the ninth child. Next to God I owe her my life and my vocation to the priesthood. If she had not wanted me, I would not have become a priest and a missionary; I would not have been able to work for the salvation of souls. Place this wreath, my mother’s bridal wreath, into my grave. This I ask of the one who finds it.’ When they found the wreath, the grave had already been closed, so they placed it at the foot of the statue of the Im­maculate Mother to whom he dedicated his life.”[22]

As another example we could mention the mother of Saint Pius X, Margherita Sanson. She raised up ten children. She taught them to pray first thing in the morning, communicate with God throughout the day, and to end each day with prayer, bringing the family together for an examination of conscience. The well-known story of the wedding ring of his mother remains always inspiring: Following her son’s episcopal ordination and placement in Mantova, the future Pope Pius X visited his old mother to thank her. After kissing his episcopal ring, she showed him her wedding ring and said, “Your ring is very beautiful, Giuseppe, but you wouldn’t have it if I didn’t wore this my ring.” I know the following story: A priest came to the mother of a priest to congratulate her with the episcopal nomination of her son. To this congratulation the mother replied: “This does not mean this much. The most important thing is, that my son remain always faithful to Jesus”. And each time when this bishop phones his mother, before hanging up the telephone receiver, she says to her son: “You remain faithful to Jesus!” To remain faithful to Jesus, means to remain faithful to all of His commandments and to all of His Divine teachings, and to prefer temporal disadvantages and disdain, even on the part of ecclesiastical persons, rather than to make compromises regarding the teaching and the observance of His commandments and teachings.

When parents impart to their children a truly Catholic education in faith, they lay the foundation of the faith of the future priests and bishops. Usually the uncompromising and life-long fidelity to the integrity of the Catholic faith on behalf of a priest and of a bishop, is a fruit of the education which he got in his family from his father or from his mother or from both, or from his grandmother.

The truth which says that the family is the original place of the beauty of the Catholic Faith we can see also in the following edifying witness in the autobiography of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus: “Feast days! Those words conjure up more wonderful memories! I did so love them and you were able to explain so well what they were all about. That again was a foretaste of Heaven. But the procession of the Blessed Sacrament was what I loved best, for I could scatter flowers beneath the feet of God! I used to throw them up high into the air before they fell and when my rose petals touched the monstrance my happiness was complete. The big feasts did not come along so often but there was one most dear to me, and it came every week – Sunday, Our Lord’s own day, a wonderful day, a day of rest. We all went to the High Mass, and when it was time for the sermon, I remember we had to leave our place because it was so far away from the pulpit and go all up the nave to find places nearer. This was not always easy to do, but everyone seemed quite ready to find room for little Thérèse and her father. Uncle, especially, seemed very happy when he saw us Coming; he used to call me his little ray of sunshine and say that the sight of this venerable patriarch hand in hand with his little daughter always touched his heart. The fact that all this drew attention to us never bothered me; I was far too interested in what the priest was saying. The first sermon I really understood was one on Our Lord’s Passion, and I was very much moved by it; that was when I was five and a half, and from then on I could take in and appreciate all that was said. If ever St. Teresa was mentioned, Father used to bend down toward me and whisper: “Listen, my Little Queen, he is talking about your Patron Saint.” Then I would really listen, but I am afraid I kept my eyes on Father far more than on the preacher because I could read such a lot in his noble face. Sometimes his eyes would fill with tears he could not keep back, and when he was listening to the eternal truths, he seemed to be already in another world and no longer in this. He was then a long way from his journey’s end, however; long, sad years had yet to pass before he opened his eyes on Heaven’s loveliness and Jesus wiped away His faithful servant’s tears” (Story of a soul).

In those times, the Eucharistic liturgy was not celebrated in the vernacular and without explanatory remarks and commentaries. However, Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus and her father Saint Louis Martin had a very intense active participation in the liturgy of the Holy Mass, an active participation, which was marked with silence, as recommended also by the Second Vatican Council.[23] Undoubtedly, their participation in the liturgy was more active, that means, more conscious, attentive and pious than that of many Catholics in our days, where the liturgy is celebrated entirely in vernacular and where active participation is realized in playing an exterior liturgical role, against the prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council.[24] Recently Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, made the following apt observation on this issue: “Most of the faithful—including priests and bishops—do not know this teaching of the Council. […] As Benedict XVI often emphasized, at the root of the liturgy is adoration, and therefore God. Hence it is necessary to recognize that the serious, profound crisis that has affected the liturgy and the Church itself since the Council is due to the fact that its center is no longer God and the adoration of Him, but rather men and their alleged ability to ‘do’ something to keep themselves busy during the Eucharistic celebrations.”[25]

The present situation of the world and partly of the life of many Catholics and ministers of the Church could be characterized as a great apostasy, an apostasy from the faith in the true Divinity of Christ, from the faith in the unique way of salvation through Christ and an apostasy from the faith in the perennial validity of the Divine commandments. Such an apostasy signifies ultimately to renounce Christ and to accept the spirit of the world, diluting Christ in a gnostic manner into the materialistic, naturalistic and esoteric spirit of the world. Recently Cardinal Robert Sarah made the following striking statement on the real current spiritual situation inside the Church: “Political Europe is rebuked for abandoning or denying its Christian roots. But the first to have abandoned her Christian roots and past is indisputably the post-conciliar Catholic Church. […] While more and more voices of high-ranking prelates stubbornly affirm obvious doctrinal, moral and liturgical errors that have been condemned a hundred times and work to demolish the little faith remaining in the people of God, while the bark of the Church furrows the stormy sea of this decadent world and the waves crash down on the ship, so that it is already filling with water, a growing number of Church leaders and faithful shout: Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise! (‘Everything is just fine, Milady!’)”[26] These words reflect perfectly the analysis of the modern world made by Saint Pius X already a hundred years ago: “The great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world (if such a Church could overcome) the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer. […] Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.”[27]

The Catholic family is the original place of the experience of the beauty of the Catholic Faith. The Catholic family represents the first bulwark against the current great apostasy. The two most efficient weapons against the modern apostasy outside and inside the life of the Church are the purity and integrity of the faith and the purity of a chaste life. The admonition which Saint Louis IX, King of France, left to his son, remains always valid: “My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin. […] Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies” (Letter to his son).

Once a member of an anti-christian movement, who later converted to the Catholic Church, said to Fr. Mateo Crawley, the Apostle of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart: “We have only one goal in mind: to dechristianise the family. We leave to the Catholics gladly the churches, the chapels, the cathedrals. For us it is enough to have the family in order to corrupt the society. If we have control over the family, our victory over the Church is guaranteed.”[28] True Catholic families – and desirably large families – will strengthen the Church of our days with the beauty of the Catholic Faith. From that faith will come out new Catholic fathers and mothers, and from them there will come out a new generation of zealous priests and intrepid bishops, who will be ready to give their life for Christ and for the salvation of the souls. Christianity was born out of the family, the Holy Family, so that the family may be born again out of Christianity. The first fruit of the redemption is the Holy Family, just as the first blessing of the Creator was given to the family. Indeed, what the current world and the Church mostly need, are true Catholic families, the original places of the beauty of the Catholic Faith.

[1] cf. Pius XI., Encyclical Divini illius magistri, 12.

[2] Encyclical Arcanum Divinae, n. 19, 10 February 1880. Concerning Innocent III, see Corpus juris canonici, cap. 8, De divort., ed. cit., Part 2, col. 723. Innocent III refers to 1 Cor. 7:13. Concerning Honorius III, see cap. ii, De transact., (op. cit., Part 2 col. 210).

[3] Pius XI, Encyclical Divini illius magistri, 32.

[4] CIC 1917, can. 1113 and CIC 1983, can. 793

[5] Encyclical Rerum novarum

[6] Ibid.

[7] Encyclical Sapientiae christianae

[8] Christmas Message of 1942

[9] Encyclical Arcanum Divinae, 10

[10] Radio message on 13 May 1942

[11] Lumen gentium, 11

[12] Address to the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, January 28, 1979

[13] Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, 86

[14] Summa contra Gentiles, IV, 58

[15] Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae, 68

[16] Encyclical Acerbo nimis, 1, 15 April 1905

[17] Instit., 27:18

[18] Constitution, Etsi minime, 13

[19] Address to the Directors of the Associations for Large Families of Rome and Italy in January 20, 1958

[20] cf. Decree Optatam totius, 2

[21] Address to the Directors of the Associations for Large Families of Rome and Italy in January 20, 1958

[22] Lovasik, L.G., Treasury of Catechism Stories, Tarentum PA 1966, nr. 386

[23] cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 30

[24] cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 28; 36; 56

[25] Address to the Colloquium “The Source of the Future” on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI, March 29 – April 1, 2017, Herzogenrath, Germany

[26] Address to the Colloquium “The Source of the Future” on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI, March 29 – April 1, 2017, Herzogenrath, Germany

[27] Encyclical Notre Charge Apostolique

[28] Freundeskreis Maria Goretti e.V. (ed.), Familie und Glaube, München 2001, p. 146

Catholic institutions vulnerable to sexual “identity” discrimination lawsuits

Anne Hendershott

In an attempt to continue her desired “transition” from female to male, Evan Michael Minton was scheduled by her surgeon to undergo a hysterectomy at Dignity Health chain’s Catholic Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael, California last summer.  The surgery was denied by the Catholic hospital’s policy.  And, although Minton was able to have the surgery at another Dignity Health chain hospital in September, she told a reporter for the Sacramento Bee that she was “devastated” by the denial. Claiming that the hospital’s unwillingness to perform the surgery caused such “frustration and disappointment,” the American Civil Liberties Union has now stepped in to file a lawsuit against the hospital last week on his behalf.

Filed in San Francisco Superior Court, the ACLU lawsuit claims that Minton was “discriminated against” when she sought a hysterectomy as part of her transition from female to male.  Spokeswoman Melissa Jue, of the Mercy San Juan Medical Center, told reporters that “sterilization procedures, such as hysterectomies or tubal ligations are permitted by Catholic hospitals only to cure or alleviate a serious pathology.”  She pointed out that Dignity Health officials helped Minton obtain the hysterectomy the following month at one of Dignity’s non-Catholic hospitals, Methodist Hospital of Sacramento.

Minton’s surgeon, obstetrician gynecologist Dr. Lindsey Dawson, told reporters: “I don’t blame the administrators.  I blame the (Catholic) doctrines.”  Minton has already had a double mastectomy and a phalloplasty in her quest to become a male.  The hysterectomy was the final step in Minton’s journey to “be able to be congruent with who I am.”  Telling reporters that “When I got my complete body, the rest of my life starts here,” Minton added that: “I don’t want it to affect my transgender brothers and sisters the way it affected me…No one should have to go through that.” That is exactly what should concern all Catholic institutions—including Catholic colleges and universities—as they are all vulnerable to transgender discrimination lawsuits. Minton’s suit is a cautionary tale for Catholic institutions.

All of this is emerging from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule issued on September 8, 2015, by the Obama administration.  The rule is really a new interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to extend Title IX’s definition of “sex” to include gender identity. The Rule was published as final on May 18, 2016, and it expanded the HHS definition of gender identity even further from the proposed definition to mean an individual’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female. HHS stated in the new rule that “gender identity spectrum includes an array of possible gender identities beyond male and female,” and individuals with “non-binary gender identities are protected under the rule.”  This means that doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers—including those receiving nursing or medical training on Catholic college campuses—may not “deny or limit treatment” to those seeking sex reassignment procedures, even when those procedures run contrary to the provider’s religious beliefs and medical judgement.

Religious institutions have attempted to fight back. Last August, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court on behalf of a coalition of religious healthcare providers, charging that Obama’s Health and Human Services Administration “overstepped its bounds” by requiring medical providers to participate in sex-reassignment procedures—including sex reassignment services and procedures on young children.

More recently, on November 7, 2016 the Beckett Fund filed yet another lawsuit—this time including a Catholic college in the lawsuit—against the federal government’s HHS mandates on behalf of the Religious Sisters of Mercy and the University of Mary. The State of North Dakota also joined Becket’s legal challenge. According to the complaint, Becket points out that the HHS mandate forces healthcare professionals and the University of Mary to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.  One of the plaintiffs, the University of Mary, maintains that the Catholic school “infuses Benedictine values throughout its educational experience, including its premier nursing program,” yet will be forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs by participating in what the Catholic Church teaches are “harmful medical transition procedures.”  The regulation also requires that they pay for these same medical transition procedures in their health plans on pain of massive financial liability.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed inclusion of gender identity in federal health care laws barring sexual discrimination.  In a November 6, 2015 letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the bishops claimed that “that medical and surgical interventions that attempt to alter one’s sex are, in fact, detrimental to patients” and “are not properly viewed as health care because they do not cure or prevent disease or illness. Rather they reject a person’s nature at birth as male or female.”

As the Sisters of Mercy/University of Mary lawsuit points out, since the Sisters of Mercy Health System provides hysterectomies to some patients, such as those diagnosed with uterine cancer, the HHS Regulations force the Catholic health care providers to provide a hysterectomy and remove an otherwise healthy uterus for a medial transition—notwithstanding the serious potential harm to the patient, and the violation of the religious beliefs of the providers.  The Becket complaint also points out that the Regulations require Plaintiffs to “compel the speech of healthcare professionals” (including Catholic university nursing students) in several ways—mandating revisions to healthcare professionals written policies, requiring them to promise to provide transition related procedures, and requires healthcare providers to use gender-transition affirming language in all situations regardless of circumstance.

Unless President Trump actually repeals the Affordable Care Act—including its religious liberty destroying mandates surrounding gender identity—the Catholic Church is likely in for a long battle.  The Church cannot change her teachings on non-negotiable issues such as the nature of man and woman.  Pope Francis has already joined his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in condemning contemporary gender theory as denying “the order of creation.” In a Christmas-time homily on December 23, 2008, Pope Benedict directly addressed transgender issues by cautioning Catholics about “destroying the very essence of the human creature through manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choices.”  Likewise, Pope Francis rejects the social constructionist view of gender as fluid and changeable, maintain that gender is God-given.

The Church understands that there are several dimensions to gender dysphoria—including a sociological dimension and a psychological dimension—that gender transitioning procedures cannot begin to treat.  UCLA and the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention data reveal that more than 41 percent of those identifying as “transgender” or gender nonconforming have attempted suicide, compared with only 4.6 percent of the overall U. S. population who report a lifetime suicide attempt.  It is also higher than the 10-20 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults who report ever attempting suicide.  This data come from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and UCLA’s Williams Institute, which analyzed results from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  More than a dozen other studies since 2001 have found similar results for the alarmingly high rates of suicide for transgender individuals.

In 2013, a 44-year old Belgian female-to-male transsexual chose to die by euthanasia after expressing her unhappiness with her sex-change operation.  Claiming that the surgery had turned her into a “monster,” doctors assisted her in ending her life on the grounds of “unbearable psychological suffering”.  While progressives insist that the reason for the high suicide rates for the LGBT community is due to the stigma and discrimination they have historically faced, the reality is far more complex.  In fact, the prevalence of suicide attempts is actually elevated among those transgendered individuals who are open about their transgender identity.  Those who disclose to others that they are transgender have the highest rates of suicide (50%).

The Obama administration’s HHS mandate seems to ignore the documented evidence of the risks associated with medical transition procedures.  Yet, as the November 2016 Becket Fund lawsuit points out, “HHS’s own medical experts recently wrote, ‘Based on a thorough review of the clinical evidence available at this time, there is not enough evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria.”  Some of the best designed studies have reported serious harms.

Unless the Trump administration is willing to repeal the HHS mandates that violate the religious liberty of all Catholic institutions—including Catholic colleges and universities—these  institutions will continue to be vulnerable to costly lawsuits for “discriminating” against transgendered individuals desiring transition procedures.

I was always pro-life, but when I was raped by my fiancé, I had a choice to make

March 28, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — I had always dreamed as a little girl of Prince Charming, castles, and fairytale endings. But what took place exactly one week before my birthday in September 2009 was no childhood dream, but an evil nightmare filled with pain and utter disbelief.

When I was violently raped by my fiancé, my dreams were dashed. My world came crashing down. That violent act shattered my very core.

I’m often asked when sharing my story how a fiancé could be guilty of rape.

What some people fail to understand is that when a girl says “No,” she means “No,” regardless of whether or not there is an intimate/sexual relationship. Yes, we were engaged, but this does not mean we were having sex. In fact, we weren’t. We had decided as followers of Jesus Christ that we would wait until we got married to have sex.

My fiancé had even said, “It will be difficult to wait, but it will be worth the wait!” I had no idea that the man who vowed to always protect me was capable of hurting me so much. How could the man who planned a future with me, who prayed with me every night for our future children, and who read and quoted scriptures to me be the same man who could cause me such harm?

It was through this situation that I had a true understanding of the meaning behind the phrase “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Not only had my body been violated, but also my heart had been betrayed.

I had been visiting him out of state. There was no family around. After he violated me, I called my sister and asked her what to do. I was in pain. She suggested I go to a hospital for urgent care, though I was still very much in denial with all that had just happened. My fiancé’s actions were, for the first time, the opposite of his words, and it was a lot to process.

After I relayed every harrowing detail of the traumatic event to the urgent care doctor, he sat on his spinning chair in front of me and told me by law he had to report it to authorities. He gave me the choice to make the call to the police and turn in my own fiancé for rape, or else he would.

All I could do was cry. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

The doctor said he would make the call and would come back once the police arrived. Meanwhile, my family and friends were hundreds of miles away as I sat by myself in the urgent care room, wondering how my happily ever after had turned so dark and violent. This was not at all how I expected to spend my weekend: Raped, then in urgent care with a doctor turning my fiancé in for rape, then having the rape kit (to collect evidence of sexual assault) performed on me as the police searched for my now ex-fiancé.

It was a woman’s worst nightmare. I went from being blissfully in love to feeling like the most unloved and alone woman in the world.

Most are unaware of the logistics of what a rape kit involves. It is horrifying to have it performed, but it is made even worse when you are so scared and facing so many unknowns. I found myself lying down in that hospital room as the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) nurse performed the rape kit on me, all while a SART nurse-in-training looked on.

How did I get here? I was terrified and an emotional wreck. I couldn’t help but sob and feel so utterly alone, as my future now looked so bleak.

Now, I’ve been pro-life all my life. As the painful rape kit was performed on me, one thought that went through my mind was that I finally understood why some rape victims would be tempted to have an abortion. And that thought deeply disturbed me because of the strong pro-life beliefs I have always stood for. Yet, I could not bear the thought of becoming pregnant with the child of my rapist.

Just then the nurse asked me, “Do you think you could be pregnant?”

Her question made me want to crawl out of my skin and scream. The nurse discussed with me the timing of everything and determined that I was likely pregnant.

She then told me she was going to give me the “Morning-After” pill. I lay there crying, pleading with God to let me somehow die or escape this nightmare.

I knew the purpose of the Morning-After abortion pill was to terminate a pregnancy, to destroy the life of another human being. There are three ways the Morning-After Pill operates: 1) If a woman has not yet ovulated, it prevents ovulation. 2) If she has ovulated, but has not conceived, it prevents conception. 3) If she has conceived, it prevents the tiny baby (referred to as a “blastocyst”) from implanting in the uterine wall, which causes the baby to die because he or she cannot receive the nutrients needed to survive.

The SART team deceives a raped woman if they tell her that the Morning-After pill does not “terminate a pregnancy.” If she is pregnant, the pill does kill.

As I lay there crying and in pain, I knew in my heart that a life, no matter how it is conceived, is still a precious gift created by God. It is a gift that I knew I had no right to destroy, regardless of the trauma I was now experiencing. No pre-born child deserves capital punishment for the sins of the father. So, I knew, as I sobbed while they took the most graphic pictures of my injuries, that regardless of the future, I would choose life.

That night I not only declined the Morning-After pill, but I refused to take any of the STD emergency antibiotics, not sure which pills the SART nurse might slip in if I took any. So, I took the risks with my health and trusted God.

I have since learned that it is standard practice that while the rape kit is being performed, not only is the Morning-After pill given to victims of rape, but also emergency antibiotics to combat sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including AIDS, just in case the victim has been exposed. All the pills are usually administered together. There is no way for a girl to know which pill is what.

Even though I had declined the abortion pill, the nurse continued to strongly advise that I take it, saying, “Who would want a baby out of rape?”

I was shocked and saddened by her comment. I felt very much like the nurse was trying to manipulate me into doing what she wanted me to do, not what was in the best interest for a potential pregnancy, or for me.

I eventually was released from the hospital and drove home throughout the night, not knowing what the future held. But I knew who held my future: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The next few weeks were physically painful and ridden with anxiety as I waited to see if the pregnancy tests I took would either show one line or two. But the tests were only showing one line. I was surprised when a doctor confirmed that I was not pregnant.

Tests that I took six months later also showed that I had not been exposed to any type of STDs.

As I reflect on that low valley I walked through in 2009, I am able to say that, regardless of what the pregnancy tests revealed weeks after my rape, I did choose life under the most unthinkable and traumatic circumstances while facing a world of unknowns. It’s a choice I would make again.

Since my rape, I have forgiven my rapist. I have become an advocate for abuse victims, speaking about rape, choosing life, and domestic violence. I have found hope and healing through God. Today I am an advocate for the pre-born.

I refused the Morning-After pill after rape because I am pro-life. It is deeply woven within the very core of who I am. My choice for life has helped make me into the woman I am today.

Editor’s Note: Witlee Ethan’s story is used here by permission from the author. It has been edited. Witlee can be reached on twitter: @VoiceUrRights

Meet the Catholic mother raising 15 children alone

When I get in touch with Rosa Pich by Skype during Holy Week, I discover that she is on holiday with 12 of her children in Torreciudad, a shrine dedicated to Our Lady in northern Spain. “We are trying to return to normal life,” she says, following the death of her husband, Chema, of liver cancer little more than a month earlier. “We have cried a lot, we have prayed a lot, but life continues,” she says. “I have come to see that when God gives you a cross to carry, he always gives you the grace you need to bear it.”

Rosa is a supernumerary member of Opus Dei and is the ninth of 16 siblings. Chema Postigo, who also belonged to Opus Dei, came from a family of 14. They got married young and aspired to have a family as large as those they came from. Their first child, however, was born with a congenital heart defect and was not expected to survive for long (although she actually lived till the age of 22). The second and third children died in infancy. It was then that a doctor advised the couple not to have any more children.

But after much prayer and discernment they decided against this advice. “Nobody other than the spouses should enter the marriage bed,” she explains, “not the doctor, or one’s mother or mother-in-law, or the priest.” Rosa and Chema resolved not to give up on their dream of a large family and went on to have 15 more children, all alive to this day, aged now from 25 down to seven. They became the parents of Spain’s largest family and have appeared in documentaries in several countries including one made by the BBC.

How did they manage? They lived in an apartment in Barcelona with five bedrooms: two for boys, two for girls and one for the couple. In one of the boys’ rooms, there is a four-level bunk bed and another two-level bunk bed with a spare bed for guests, since their children are positively encouraged to bring their friends home to play and to stay the night.

Each of the older children is assigned a younger sibling to look after, ensuring that they make their bed, eat enough, do their homework, clear their toys and get their clothes ready for the next day. Chores in the house are distributed monthly according to a schedule which is agreed by all. This allowed Chema to have a full-time job and Rosa to work part time in the mornings, while they spent many weekends travelling the world to help other couples make their families a success through a programme developed by the Family Development Foundation (FDF).

Rosa’s daily schedule entails getting up early to go to Mass, then on to work as a sales executive in a textile firm, getting back home for lunch. Meanwhile, the children help each other to get up, have breakfast, and travel to school and university.

Their dining table is round, with room for 20 people. This allows everyone to see and hear everyone else as the conversation around the dinner table is always very animated.

“We have three rules about our meals,” Rosa tells me. “First, you need to ensure the person to your right and to your left are served before you start eating. Secondly, when you get the tray of food, you should choose the worst for yourself, leaving the better portions for your siblings. And third, all of us, including mum and dad, should aim to do one small sacrifice in each meal.”

This sacrifice could be as simple as taking a bit more of what you don’t like or a bit less of what you like, or delaying drinking the glass of water till the end of the meal – something small that shows solidarity with those who don’t have enough to eat or are otherwise suffering.

These and many other experiences are collected in a book that Rosa wrote in 2013 and has now been translated into 10 languages, including Chinese. It was published in English by Scepter Publishers in New York this year, with the title Rosa, What’s Your Secret?: Raising a Large Family with Love.

But isn’t it very expensive to have such a large family? The Postigo-Pich family consumes 1,300 biscuits, 420 pints of milk and seven lots of a dozen eggs per month. But they are extremely careful where they buy their provisions, searching for the biggest discounts they can get. Every day one of the children walks to a bakery 15 minutes away from home because each loaf is 20 cents cheaper. This adds up to a saving of many euros per month. Sometimes the fridge becomes empty before the end of the month, so they have to skimp and make do with the basics until the next salary comes in.

In the last four months of Chema’s life the couple were able to travel to six countries in three different continents to promote FDF courses: South Korea, China, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Italy and Belarus. In the latter they had the distinct feeling they were being followed by KGB-type secret police who were about to deport them. But all was fine, and in fact they appeared in the main news programme in Minsk.

Chema felt ill during these months, losing almost two stone in weight. Eventually he went to hospital to have a number of tests. In late February, he was diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer with a metastasis in the lungs. Clearly he was not going to live much longer. He then called all his children together.

“Jesus is very good. He loves us a lot,” he told them. “He took Javi and Montse to himself when they were young and Carmina when she was 22. Now it is my turn.”

He then spoke to them one by one. Less than two weeks later he died.

The funeral was held in the largest church in Barcelona and was attended by more than 4,000 people from all over the world. At least 30 people told Rosa that Chema was their best friend. Each person who attended was given a rosary in a little pouch prepared by the children the day before. One of the people who came to the funeral said that “in the midst of the pain, these days we have touched heaven.”

Their son Gaby, 17, went to Rome for Holy Week and was able to greet Pope Francis personally after the Wednesday audience. Chema had written to the Pope, who had answered by sending his prayers and blessings. Gaby told the Holy Father that his father had died recently: would he have a message for his mother? Pope Francis said: “Tell your mother to always look up to heaven, as your father looks at her from there.”

How can Rosa cope as a young widow with so many children? Yet it is precisely having so many children which allows her to live surrounded by love. The week after the funeral there was a family meeting at which all the jobs done by Chema up to then were distributed among the family members. Rosa admits that dealing with banks is not her forte and is happy that one of the older children has taken that on. As she puts it: “In a large family, joys are multiplied and sorrows are divided.”

Recently she spotted her 10-year-old reading the newspaper, something he had never done before. When she asked him, he said that dad would always explain the news to him every night but that now he had to find it out by himself.

Rosa knows she will never be alone. “The problem today in developed societies is loneliness,” she says, “something we have never known in our families.” She adds that, although having small children takes a lot of time and effort, the years of looking after them pass quickly, and then you have around you “these wonderful human beings, who will exist forever, forever, forever”.

Each child was a gift of God and there was nothing like it: “I have many friends,” Rosa says, “who later in life have one regret: not having had more children.” She believes this is the best present parents can give to their older children.

At school, many of the boys and girls want to be friends with her children because they are used to being generous and sharing their lives with others. “I believe in this house they are getting the best possible training to run multinationals,” she says, “because they learn to negotiate, to spot the needs of others, to make the case for their suggested course of action, to give in when needed, to ask for forgiveness when they make a mistake.”

What is the most important thing in a family, I ask her as we are finishing our conversation. She does not hesitate: “That the mum and dad love each other. Everything else comes from that.”

Jack Valero is the press officer of Opus Dei UK and a founder of Catholic Voices

This article first appeared in the May 19 2017 issue of the Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here

This new technology could produce babies from skin cells

Within the next 10-20 years, a new and controversial fertility technology called in vitro gametogenesis could make it possible to manipulate skin cells into creating a human baby.
However, this groundbreaking research has caused push-back from some critics, like Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, who says IVG would turn procreation into a transaction.

“IVG extends the faulty logic of IVF by introducing additional steps to the process of manipulating the origins of the human person, in order to satisfy the desires of customers and consumers,” Fr. Pacholczyk told EWTN News in an email interview.

“The technology also offers the possibility of introducing further fractures into parenthood, distancing children from their parents by multiplying the number of those involved in generating the child, so that 3-parent embryos, or even more parents, may become involved,” he continued.

IVG has been successfully tested by Japanese researchers on mice, which produced healthy babies derived from skin cells.

The process begins by taking the skin cells from the mouse’s tail and re-programing them to become induced pluripotent stem cells. These manipulated cells are able to grow different kinds of cells, and are then used to grow eggs and sperm, which are then fertilized in the lab. The resulting embryos are then implanted in a womb.

Although similar to in vitro fertilization, IVG eliminates the step of needing pre-existing egg and sperm, and instead creates these gametes

But many experts in the reproductive field are sceptical of its potential outcomes and ethical compromises.

“It gives me an unsettled feeling because we don’t know what this could lead to,” Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis, told the New York Times.

Knoepfler noted that some of the potential repercussions of IVG could turn into “cloning” or “designer babies.” Other dangers could include the “Brad Pitt scenario,” in which celebrity’s skin cells retrieved from random places, like hotel rooms, could be used to create a baby.

Potentially anyone’s skin cells could be used to create a baby, even without their knowledge or consent.

In an issue of Science Translational Medicine earlier this year, a trio of academics – a Harvard Law professor, the dean of Harvard Medical School, and a medical science professor at Brown – wrote that IVG “may raise the specter of ‘embryo farming’ on a scale currently unimagined, which might exacerbate concerns about the devaluation of human life.”

They added that “refining the science of IVG to the point of clinical use will involve the generation and likely destruction of large numbers of embryos from stem cell–derived gametes” and the process “may exacerbate concerns regarding human enhancement.”

Fr. Pacholczyk also pointed to further concerns, saying IVG disrupts the uniqueness of every individual’s sex cells.

“I.V.G raises additional concerns because of the way it manipulates human sex cells. Our sex cells, or gametes, are special cells. They uniquely identify us,” Fr. Pacholczyk stated.

“It is most unfortunate that overwhelming parental desires are being permitted to trump and distort the right order of transmitting human life,” he continued.

Fr. Pacholczyk said that processes like IVG “enable a consumerist mentality that holds that children are ‘projects’ to be realized through commercial transactions and laboratory techniques of gamete manipulation.”

The Catholic Church teaches that IVF and similar reproductive technologies are morally illicit for several reasons, including their separation of procreation from the conjugal act and the creation of embryos which are discarded.

Pope Francis recently spoke out against the destruction of human embryos, saying that no good result from research can justify the destruction of embryos.

“Some branches of research use human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves – such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society – can justify the destruction of human embryos,” the Holy Father said May 18.

Although IVG has proven successful in mice, there are still some wrinkles that need to be ironed out before it is tested on humans, and will entail years more of tedious bioengineering.

However, Fr. Pacholczyk hopes that potential parents will come to realize that children should not products that can be ordered or purchased by consumers, and should rather be seen as a gift.

“Turning commercial laboratories to create children on our behalf is an unethical step in the direction of treating our offspring as objects to be planned and created in the pursuit of parental gratification, rather than gifts received from the Lord.”

Why Fatima matters in the battle for life and family

The message of Fatima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel. This call was uttered at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was addressed particularly to this present century.  … The call to repentance is a motherly one, and at the same time it is strong and decisive. (Pope Saint John Paul II, homily given in Fatima on May 13, 1982)

May 15, 2017 (HLI) — On Saturday the universal Church remembered and celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the miraculous events at Fatima, recalling the wondrous appearance of Our Heavenly Mother and the life-giving message she brought. In considering the meaning of her message as it pertains to us today, I am reminded of something Sister Lucia wrote in a letter to Cardinal Caffarra:

[T]he final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, she added, because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue… however, Our Lady has already crushed its head.

In my many travels, I experience firsthand the prophetic words of Sister Lucia concerning marriage and the family. These sacred institutions are at the heart of the battle because they touch upon the very pillar of creation, which is the truth about the relationship between man and woman, who are made in the likeness and image of God. If these heavenly created institutions are compromised, then the entire building collapses.

We should not view the message of Fatima as merely a historic moment, but rather as a living message purposely spoken to this age. The moral crisis we see in the world demands continued prayers, penance and sacrifices. Our response to the perverse secular culture is our ongoing conversion and spiritual renewal. We are being called to holiness.

We are prompted by the example of the visionaries, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, to offer acts of mortification with heroic virtue. At the height of their innocence, the two younger children, Francisco and Jacinta, offered themselves as expiatory victims. Sister Lucia, told she would live a long life, would exhaust her life in the service of prayer and mortification for the salvation of souls. Lucia asked Our Lady if she would take them to heaven. Our Lady answered:

Yes, I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. You, however, are to stay here a longer time. Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish the devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and their souls will be loved by God as flowers placed by me before His throne.

When Lucia asked if she were going to be left alone, Our Lady responded:

No, my daughter. Does this cause you to suffer a great deal? I will never leave you, my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.

Our Lady’s appeal for prayer and penance made to the children, to which the children responded with joy and complete obedience, also applies to us. Striving for holiness and mortifying our senses enables us to be fervent in prayer, gives us interior strength in resisting temptations, helps us to detach from worldly concerns, and unshackles our hearts from earthly vanities and attachments. Seeking holiness increases clarity of thought, making us more sensitive to the discernment of what is holy and what is abomination.

The evil one also knows the significance of marriage and the family. This is why he attacked our first parents and continues his assault today upon marriage and family. Marriage is the only institution that unites parents with their children, that recognizes the natural right of a child to have a mother and father. The family is the first cell of society, the domestic church, first government, first school, first hospital, first economy and the first mediating institution of society. Within this primary school, children learn moral and gospel values, which ultimately give shape to our cultures and societies. After all, society passes through the family, the first school.

Defending the truth about life, marriage and family is costly. The visionaries of Fatima suffered greatly because of the apparitions. Family and friends who failed to understand what the children received from Our Lady persecuted them. Newspapers waged a bitter campaign to discredit the apparitions and the visionaries. Despite all the ill treatment, the children bore it all with patience and charity, always mindful of Our Lady’s request to offer their sacrifices for the sake of poor sinners.

As we enter the good fight in the battle over marriage and family, we know that we too will be besieged by hatred and rejection. Our Lord reminds us, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). We stand before two opposing views; one set upon a path of obedience and life and the other upon disobedience and death.

We also know that the attacks against God’s divine plan for marriage and family do not come only from outside the Church but also come from within – born of sins from disobedience, dissent and rejection. This is why the Church, the people of God, needs the message of Fatima to be a constant reminder as to the universal call for repentance conversion, and renewal. Only in this spirit, renewal of heart and soul, can we be the leaven in the dough. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…(1 John 4:18) We draw strength and comfort from Our Lady of Fatima who reminded Sister Lucia that she was not alone in this great battle – in her Immaculate Heart we find refuge.

There is still much for us to learn from Our Lady of Fatima. Her message is a sign of hope to a world torn by strife and discord. The answer to the attacks on marriage, family and society is the same today as it was 100 years ago – repent and be obedient to the will of God.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Reprinted with permission from Human Life International.


If Contraception, Why Not Gay Marriage?

In his book Heretics, G. K. Chesterton writes,

There are some people — and I am one of them — who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run, anything else affects them.

Chesterton is making the point that one’s general system of values is an all-important factor in the choices he makes. For example, someone who subscribes to Ayn Rand’s “philosophy of selfishness,” or to Peter Singer’s judgment that infanticide is permissible because of utilitarian values, or to Christopher Hitchens’s view that religion is the most dangerous thing on earth, or to theologian Rev. Richard McBrien’s claim that popes have no authority in morals, can be expected to act in certain ways and take certain positions when confronted with choices. If we know their world view, we do not have 100 percent certainty about particular choices they might make under particular circumstances — but we do have high probability.

The Catholic analytic philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe (1919-2001), whose 1958 article “Modern Moral Philosophy” instigated new movements in “virtue ethics” and renewed interest in natural law, astonished her academic colleagues at Cambridge University in 1979 by publishing Contraception and Chastity, a defense of the Catholic Church’s position on contraception. Anscombe’s influence is still being felt in the United States via the Anscombe Society at Princeton University.

Analytic philosophy is famous for investigating logical connections, even in ethics, and Anscombe draws out the inescapable deductions that can be made from a value system accepting contraception:

If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery, when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? … But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example. I am not saying: if you think contraception all right you will do these other things; not at all. The habit of respectability persists and old prejudices die hard. But I am saying: you will have no solid reason against these things. You will have no answer to someone who proclaims as many do that they are good too. You cannot point to the known fact that Christianity drew people out of the pagan world, always saying no to these things. Because, if you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition…. For in contraceptive intercourse you intend to perform a sexual act which, if it has a chance of being fertile, you render infertile. Qua your intentional action, then, what you do is something intrinsically unapt for generation (emphasis added).

In other words, Anscombe is saying that, if you believe you have a right to non-procreative sexual intercourse, you have no right to criticize non-procreative sex by others — for example, by a gay couple. You may justify your personal practices on the basis of your genuine mutual love and commitment to lifelong fidelity. But homosexuals may be even more intensely in love with each other and even more firmly committed to mutual fidelity. They may even be more open to procreation than you are, through adoption or through in vitro fertilization. To want to have sex without the possibility of offspring, and condemn others for similarly non-procreative sex, would be blatantly inconsistent.

According to polls, more than 80 percent of Catholic married couples are using various kinds of contraceptives in order to prevent or separate births. But there is no necessary connection between control of births and contraception. Natural family planning (NFP), which is approved by the Church and often used by couples who want to identify a woman’s fertile periods in order to have children, can also be used to space out births without contraceptives. NFP has been shown in various studies to be just as effective as the contraceptive pill. Systematic development and improvement of the Billings method of NFP over the years has been carried out at Creighton University. The Pope Paul VI institute at Creighton has a good history of assisting married and unmarried women with irregular cycles and other problems.

A variety of objections to gay marriage have been offered. Some oppose it because it arbitrarily redefines marriage, or because it is not suitable for children to have gay parents, or because it will involve greater taxpayer burdens for Medicare and Social Security down the line, and so forth. But if we are part of that 80 percent of Catholics who are also involved in non-procreative sex, we cannot take the “high road” and be opposed to gay marriage because of “immorality.” At the very least, Catholics who choose artificial contraceptive methods, in the interests of consistency, should modify their opposition to gay marriage. If and when they follow the Church’s teaching on contraception, which has not changed over two thousand years and was reiterated by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, they will have a more secure moral justification for their opposition.

Contraceptive Implant Embolism Into the Pulmonary Artery

Nexplanon, a contraceptive implant promoted as Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive, is a single-rod, progestogen-only implant measuring 4 cm in length and 2 mm in diameter. It is not biodegradable, and it contains 68 mg etonogestrel.

Nexplanon should be placed subdermally at the inner side of the upper nondominant arm.

Subdermal contraceptive implant embolism to a pulmonary artery is an emerging iatrogenic condition.

This case was reported in  The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

An 18-year old woman underwent a voluntary termination of pregnancy in July 2014 and had a concomitant subdermal contraceptive implant (Nexplanon) inside her left upper arm.

During the procedure, the performed an inappropriate movement of flexion of her elbow. Because the gynecologist could not feel for the device to ensure that was placed correctly, a nonhormonal birth control method was advised and upper arm roentgenography was prescribed to check the device location. As the patient presented with no symptoms, she did not attend the outpatient clinic until March 2015. At that time, she asked for the removal of the device because of unfavorable change in her menstrual bleeding pattern. Examination and roentgenology of the patient’s arm failed to localize the implant, and it was deduced that it had migrated elsewhere. Chest radiography and computed tomography confirmed that the device was lodged in a subsegmental branch of the left lower lobe pulmonary artery.

The implant was removed from the pulmonary artery thoracoscopically, thereby avoiding the need of thoracotomy or lung resection.

Pope John Paul II’s Mother Rejected Doctor’s Abortion Suggestion

Maria Gallagher   May 17, 2017   |   3:59PM    Washington, DC

A champion of life—that title expertly captures the work and legacy of Pope John Paul II. More than a decade after his death, the author of Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) remains one of the greatest heroes of the pro-life movement, respected by people of all faiths and all walks of life.

The story of Pope John Paul II’s life is filled with suspense, heroism, and intrigue. What is particularly striking is the number of times during the course of his long life, he escaped death. His life hung in the balance when he was hit by a vehicle in his youth. His life was certainly at risk when the Nazis invaded Poland. In 1981, after assuming the Papacy, he nearly died from an assassin’s bullet.
In the new book The Pope and the President, author Paul Kengor paints an intriguing portrait of the lives of pro-life stalwarts Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. The two have been credited with playing key roles in the breaking down of the Berlin Wall, a long-standing symbol of Communism. The two also shared a passion for defending innocent human life and played hugely instrumental roles in combating what the Pope memorably described as a “culture of death.”

The Pope and the President notes that the future Pope’s life was at risk even before he was born. Kengor points to a report that the Pope’s mother “was in such precarious health that her doctor advised her not to continue her pregnancy.”

According to Kengor’s account, the doctor told Emilia Wojtyla, “You have to have an abortion.” The physician’s rationale was that Emilia’s life was at stake and that she should abort her child to preserve it. The Vatican Insider said of the incident, “John Paul II was in danger of not being born.”
But Emilia proved the doctor wrong. She came through the pregnancy and childbirth and delivered a baby Kengor described as “healthy and strong as an ox.” Emilia predicted that Karol Józef Wojtyła, who would become John Paul, would be “a great man someday.”

A great man who could have easily lost his life to abortion.

Ponder for a minute how different the world might be had this champion of life never entered into it.
His absence would have created a vacuum that no one else could fill—because no one else was quite like him.

And therein lies one of the great tragedies of abortion. It creates a dark abyss where our heroes might have stood.

With the birth of Karol Wojtyla, history changed—so very, very much for the better. May all of us, of all faith traditions, live out his legacy by defending mothers and their children from the scourge of abortion.

The Quiet Courage of Cardinal Robert Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is pictured at the Vatican in this Oct. 9, 2012, file photo (CNS); right: Monastère de la grande chartreuse, in the Chartreuse Mountains, France (Wikipedia)

About 365 miles south-east of Paris, high in France’s remote Chartreuse Mountains, lies one of the world’s most well-known monasteries. Since its foundation in 1084 by the religious order that would become known as the Carthusians, La Grande Chartreuse has been characterized by a daunting quietness. This was famously captured and brought to the world’s attention in the award-winning 2005 documentary Into Great Silence. The power of that silence forms the backdrop to a new book, La Force du Silence, by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the African-born Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who first came to the universal church’s attention with his best-selling God or Nothing (2015).

On many levels, this is a very different book to God or Nothing. The latter is about a journey of faith of a poor boy from an impoverished and obscure rural village in the then-colony of French Guinea to one of the highest offices at the Holy See. Cardinal Sarah’s new book, however, is a spiritual testimony to that faith: the type of witness that more of the Church’s prelates should—but often don’t—provide as successors of the Apostles. Working again with the distinguished French journalist Nicolas Diat, Sarah focuses the reader’s mind upon something easily trivialized in an age preoccupied with equality. And that is the sheer grandeur of God. To grasp this unfathomable depth, Sarah urges us to be mastered by a silence which liberates us from the Babel of distractions surrounding us.

Silence functions as a metaphor for many things in this book. It evokes the wonder that anyone should experience in God’s presence. But the silence of which Sarah speaks also embodies fidelity, humility, charity, and the clarifying light of reason. Noise, for Sarah, concerns the confusion and sentimentalism of unreason; the bombast of those who scorn the faith of the simple and the saints, and the unfaithfulness of those who would sell out the Church to the applause of the world—primarily a Western world—that tries to disguise its abandonment of God with the type of franticness that’s a sure sign of superficiality.

Pascal’s way

Having described the nature of the noise that surrounds us, Sarah illustrates how God’s silence speaks to humanity. He then turns to that most difficult of questions: God’s apparent silence in the face of unspeakable evil. The last chapter consists of a three-way exchange in which Diat poses questions to Sarah and the current prior of La Grande Chartreuse and minister-general of the Carthusian order, Dom Dysmas de Lassus. Sarah and de Lassus take turns to explore how silence reveals not only our need of God, but also sheds light on what isn’t essential as we seek this God who is beyond historical contingency and yet always with us.

Sarah’s approach throughout this book is reminiscent of the posthumously-published Pensées penned by the French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). Like the Pensées, each numbered paragraph in La Force du silence may be read as a stand-alone counsel upon which readers can reflect. The similarities do not end there. Sarah references, for example, numerous Church Fathers and saints. Among others, these include Jerome, Ignatius of Antioch, Maximus the Confessor, John of the Cross, Teresa of Calcutta, Thomas More, and Thérèse of Lisieux. Yet, like Pascal, the life and thought of Saint Augustine looms large throughout Sarah’s reflections and Diat’s questions.

Pascal and Augustine were not shy about naming the problems they regarded as characterizing the Church of their respective times. Nor is Sarah. The noisy sophistry of many contemporary Western theologians (particularly that, some might add, presently emanating from the German-speaking Catholic world) is named for what it is: a prattle which reflects a lack of humility and a disinterest in truth. More generally, Sarah suggests that the propensity of many Christians to talk endlessly about that which is peripheral to the faith reflects their loss of a sense of who God is.

So too does a tendency that Sarah singles out for particular criticism: those forms of activism which marginalize the truths proclaimed by the Church and the life of prayer in the name of “relevance”. In this connection, Sarah points out that saints who were especially immersed in the hustle and bustle of the world, such as John Bosco, John Paul II, Thomas More, and Josemaría Escrivá, maintained especially intense prayer lives, much of which was characterized by silent adoration. This is a reminder that, without regularly immersing ourselves in quiet contemplation of Christ, God’s presence in any Christian’s life will inevitably fade. That is how a church starts collapsing into being just another activist group or NGO.

Into the Darkness

Addressing these contemporary matters, however, don’t preoccupy the bulk of Sarah’s reflections. Far more attention is expended on some of the hardest questions with which every person—Christian or non-Christian, believer or atheist—wrestles. Why was God silent, for example, in face of the genocide of European Jewry? Where was God when seven Trappist monks from the Tibhirine monastery in Algeria were beheaded by Islamists in 1996? How could God not save those who remain his Chosen People? Why did God not stay the hand of jihadist executors?

The problem of evil—not mere discomfort or inconvenience, but evil—has long preoccupied Jews and Christians. They have also produced answers that many find intellectually convincing and to which atheists don’t have especially convincing rebuttals. Yet these Jewish and Christian responses can’t provide by themselves immediate or even long-term release from bewilderment and pain. Intellectual certainty is one thing, the experience of suffering is quite another.

Like any good bishop, Sarah patiently outlines some of the theological and philosophical responses to the problem of evil. Here he draws upon Catholic and Protestant theologians such as Maurice Zundel (1897-1975) and Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) as well as the German Jewish philosopher Hans Jonas (1903-1993) and his famous 1968 essay, The Concept of God after Auschwitz. But, Sarah cautions, there is a limit. The existence of evil doesn’t disprove the existence of the rational and loving God revealed in the Scriptures. Nonetheless, Sarah warns, evil “is a mystery that humanity can never completely comprehend.” Part of the genius of Sarah’s meditation is how he uses the motif of silence to illuminate this darkness.

For Sarah, it is important that humans resist and combat evil. He himself had no hesitation in denouncing the crimes and terrorism of Sékou Touré’s Marxist regime in Guinea—the same Communist dictator who imprisoned Sarah’s predecessor as Archbishop of Conakry in a concentration camp for eight years and placed Sarah himself on a death-list. That said, Sarah states, we need to remember two things.

First, God’s silence reflects the truth that he is working through time to renew all things, often in ways that we often cannot understand, precisely because we are not God. That’s not a call to be passive. Rather, it’s a caution against imagining that we can master evil in a god-like fashion.

Second, we cannot contest evil, Sarah holds, unless we are willing to quieten ourselves, enter into God’s presence, and meet his silence. In this context, silence implies neither a deaf and mute God nor a master-watchmaker God who does nothing except set time in motion. Instead, God’s silence serves to shed light upon the truth and thus the nature of the injustice and the identity of its perpetrators. Christ himself, Sarah points out, is silent before his accusers. Yet Christ’s stillness discredits the false accusations made against him. More than any words, it convinces Pilate that he’s being asked to sentence an innocent man to death. Likewise Christ’s silence on the Cross testifies to God’s willingness to let himself be humiliated and sacrifice himself in reparation for the evils we have all done. Only the one true God could do this.

Silence and the interior path to God

Silence, however, concerns not only that which is exterior to us. For Sarah, it’s also indispensable if we really want to come to know the God who would allow himself to be nailed to a tree to atone for our sins.

Sarah recalls that as a young priest and archbishop, he often retreated into the Guinean desert to find the solitude and silence he needed to find God. In doing so, he sought to create what he calls “an interior desert”. The models Sarah has in mind are Biblical figures such as Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Christ himself—all of whom took themselves into the wilderness to contemplate God. Entering into this silence, Sarah maintains, helps us to strip away those exteriorities that prevent us from encountering the hidden presence of God which Augustine discovered after his conversion to Christianity. Experiencing that presence, Sarah says, can be “terrifying” and “destabilizing”. Those who choose to embark on this path therefore need enormous courage to do so. Yet at the end of the quest, Sarah promises, we will find true life and true peace.

And that is ultimately where Cardinal Sarah’s at-times mystical reflections on silence are meant to take us: the place of true joy in which the silence no longer frightens us because we are alone with the God who is Love—the Love who is the only alternative to Nothing.

La Force du silence: Contre la dictature du Bruit
by Cardinal Robert Sarah with Nicolas Diat
Fayard, 2016
Paperback, 374 pages

Related at CWR:
 “Cardinal Robert Sarah on ‘The Strength of Silence’ and the Dictatorship of Noise”(Oct 3, 2016): An exclusive English translation of a wide-ranging interview by Cardinal Sarah with the French newspaper “La Nef”.