Human Life – Disposable

I’m still reeling from the news about the school shooting in Connecticut, which I’ve been following all afternoon. One of my piano students is kindergarten-age, for goodness’ sake! And I remember so vividly how sweet and small and precious my own daughters were at that age.

So many people on Facebook are screaming for more gun restriction laws – but just who’s going to have guns, then? I mean, for crying out loud, people, the school was a NO GUN ZONE… and who had the guns there? The criminal. The off-hinged young man who came in and shot up the school and killed at least 26 people, 20 little kids.

No. The problem is not “gun control.” It’s a rotten, selfish attitude that people are here for someone’s personal convenience, are disposable. It begins with the 1960s and the idea of contraception on demand, the idea that we can have our pleasure without consequences, without lifechanging commitment. It grew in the 1970s with the legalization of abortion-on-demand, and the idea that if the contraception fails (or if one is too lazy or selfish to use it) then a little surgical procedure will take care of the problem – the baby can’t even be called a baby any more; it has to be a “clump of cells” or a “fetus”; God forbid we should acknowledge the humanity of the unborn.

It grows with a sense that children can’t be spanked, no matter what they do, because that would hurt their precious feelings. Most of the parents I’ve known who refused to spank their children have tried to present themselves as morally superior to the rest of us, but in reality they’ve just been too damned lazy to deal with their kids. Working in a lawyer’s office, several years ago, I saw the names of some of those unspanked kids of my acquaintance listed on a series of police arrest reports for drug, larceny, and property damage charges. Mom and Dad wouldn’t deal with them as toddlers and preschoolers, so now the court system has to deal with them.

What happened in CT this morning is an extreme consequence of the disregard of personal responsibility. It’s really not so ironic that on the same day, in another abortion capitol, China, a man went through a crowd of school kids with a knife, hurting more than 20 of them.

We must renew our fight against the attitude of children – of people – as accessory objects that can be casually gotten rid of if they get in the way of our personal satisfaction.

The HHS Mandate

Every blogger in Christendom has addressed their reaction to the Health & Human Services mandate for religious institutions to fund contraception and abortion in their insurance packages. I think I’m ready to post mine, now. Goodness knows, I’ve commented on enough blogs and Facebook posts, this week.

Obviously, I do NOT support the Obama administration’s move. Sure, there are exceptions. If you only hire members of your church, and if you only serve members of your church, you’re exempt. But what church do you know of that is so self-limited and self-contained as that? Every church I know of, Catholic and Protestant, hires people outside its own membership. Most Catholic parishes have to hire nonCatholic musicians because there aren’t enough musicians to go around any more. Right now I have the pleasure (heightened by my delight in the irony of it all) of being a Catholic filling in for a nonCatholic church’s pianist while she recovers from surgery. Many churches have support staff not from the membership, for a variety of reasons – if nothing else, many hire cleaning teams.

Every church daycare I know of serves families not of its membership. Every charitable outreach, whether food pantry, clothes closet, or whatever, is extended to the larger community, not limited to that narrow congregation. Catholic hospitals comprise some 25% of medical services in this country – and they don’t limit their hiring or their caregiving to Catholics.

So the exemptions are worthless.

Right now, Catholics are being named as the target population being affected by this mandate, but let’s not fool ourselves, Mr & Mrs America: many, many nonCatholic Christians find this mandate a violation of their own religious sensibilities. Every Protestant Church I was ever part of – Methodist, Baptist, Christian & Missionary Alliance, FourSquare, Pentecostal Holiness – taught that abortion is wrong, that it is murder of an unborn child and therefore unconscionable to a Christian community. Many, many of those churches taught against certain types of contraception which act as abortifacients (IUD and the Pill). They, too, are being held in contempt by this Administration in this mandate.

We must band together in fighting this threat to our Constitutional liberty and to the salvation of souls. What’s more, we must learn to band together to fight the even great threat to souls: the paganization of our culture.

We’re told that we, as Christians, have an obligation to sit down and shut up and quit trying to manipulate the culture. This is a lie straight from the pit of Hell. Our obligation, friend, is twofold:

We are obligated, mandated, to carry the Gospel into the highways and byways, the marketplace and where we are often the only representatives of the Gospel encountered by our fellows;

And we are obligated, mandated, called by Christ to infuse that world with Gospel values.

If we sit, silent, and let a government agency that is hostile to Faith call the shots, if we sit silently by while our neighbors, coworkers and very family members wallow in grave sin, then we not only are failing to achieve our calling – we are bloodguilty of their souls through our silent complicity in their sins.

That’s serious business. That’s scary business.

And this “accommodation” of mandating insurance companies to cover things objectionable to thinking Christians? Just a wicked ploy to force a diabolical mentality on us. If I had a dollar for every time I encountered the argument that we Christians need to get out of the abortion debate “because it’s legal, so shut up,” I’d be a rival to Bill Gates in wealth. People really do think that because something is legal, it’s acceptable. (And point out that owning human beings through slavery was legal, or that all the atrocities of Hitler’s Germany were legal, and listen to the screams of indignation.)

We know better. Or we’re supposed to know better.

So I oppose this mandate as the forcing of a pagan values system on a nation that was founded on a premise of Christian moral and social values. I oppose the coercing of our children and our young adults to be desensitized to the utter wrong that is abortion and the contraception mentality – the divorcing of sex from love, commitment, respect and family life. Okay, from procreation. But that’s another blog post.

The American Catholic bishops have stood up and howled – a bit late; they should have begun standing like this when President Bush’s conscience protections were overturned almost as soon as Obama got into the Oval Office, and they should have stood united to defend Catholic Social Services when that fine organization, in several states, quit handling adoptions rather than yielding to new state “laws” that mandate serving gay couples in the adoption process. But they didn’t. Now they’re standing – and I hope they will continue to stand and give us leaders to be glad of, to rally with.

But if they fall flat on their faces, we the Faithful must continue the fight.

Final word on death: Prayer of the Faithful

I think (hope!) this will be my final observation on the deaths of Nora and Uncle Theo, but it is a story I think others would profit from reading.

I mentioned in my reflection on Nora’s death how people were changed by the caring for her. I am seeing in Uncle Theo a similar change – and from people who never heard of him until last week, and who never laid eyes on him in this world.

News of Uncle Theo’s situation spread through the internet rapidly. Several bloggers picked up the cry, and I myself shared the need for prayer with the 150 or so people on my email prayer group, some of whom also posted on their blogs, on Facebook, on other venues. The outpouring of prayer was immense.

Several of us have found renewed vigor in standing firm for the sanctity of human life as consequence of this.

But one of the most beautiful things I found – I’ve got to share this with you.

I’m a member of the Catholic Writers Guild,  This past week was our very exciting Writers Conference Online – begun each morning at 8:30, half an hour before the first chat conference, with Morning Prayer, led by… yours truly.

I mentioned the need for Uncle Theo on the very first morning after I found out his plight. It is the only time during the conference I initiated any mention of him – because thereafter, conference participants were intitiating the queries – “What’s the word from Uncle Theo?” – “Have you heard anything?” –

Chats were interrupted when I would sign in late – “Laura, have you heard anything?” followed by an explanation to the Presenter and those participants who had missed prior word. Others initiated prayer for Uncle Theo before I could have time to mention him, myself.

Even after his death, Friday, by legal euthanasia (he was in Holland, remember), the Guild members continued to hold his soul – and the souls of family and the medical personnel responsible for promoting this heinous act – in prayer.

We ended the conference last night with a “party,” of sorts – an open chat room. And one of our leaders said, “We need to take a moment to pray…” and it began with prayer for Uncle Theo.

The Communion of Saints – and saints-in-the-making – is a mighty powerful force.

In life we are in death… and in our unity of prayer, then we are very strong.

Amen.

In life we are in death…

So reads the a line from the old Requiem Mass. It certainly has been a vivid reality during the month of March, when several of my friends lost close loved ones and my own life was touched by the deaths of my dear friend Nora, and my friend’s Uncle Theo (written about, below).

I think about the nature of death – I’m not so much afraid of death as I am of dying (how it could happen, that is). My maternal grandmother had a deep dread of becoming incapacitated and winding up in a nursing home, where she had seen so many family members wind up – “I just hope it’s quick,” she said. And when the time came, it was. She sent my grandfather out to the garden to get an eggplant for lunch, and while he was out there she suffered a massive event of some description; she died moments after Papa found her lying on the hallway floor.

The fact is, we take what we’re given. God hasn’t spoiled us yet by sending us emails and polls asking us how we prefer to go – He determines the time and the method, and that is it.

What we have to do between now and then is to prepare. And one of the ways we prepare is by visiting the sick and dying, which is a Work of Mercy. It’s an obscenity that any of our family members should approach death alone, untended and unsupported by our love.

“I want to remember Granny as she was,” is just a flimsy cover for abject selfishness. We owe our parents, our siblings, our extended families and our friends – even strangers, if we happen to have them placed in our paths – with the very tenderness and compassion that we, ourselves, would have extended to us as we approach the hour of meeting God face to face.

Death is a part of life – it’s the end of the finite and the beginning of Eternity. We experienced its parallel in being born – dying the security and familiarity of the womb to be born into our life as independent creatures. This is only the prep school for Eternity, after all.

No need to be squeamish. No need to recoil. Comfort the afflicted – visit the sick and dying.

A contrast of two deaths

He’s not my uncle, he’s the uncle of my dearly loved friend, Angela. He lived in Holland, and was elderly and ill, and on Friday, March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation – Feast of the Incarnation) “Uncle Theo” was propelled unnaturally into Eternity. Put to sleep like a dog or a cat.

Euthanasia sounds like such a compassionate act – take the elderly, the infirm, the incapacitated, the suffering, and just go ahead and ease them out of their misery.  “I don’t want to suffer like so-and-so,” someone will say. “I’d like to just be put out of my misery.” But we don’t really expect to be taken literally, do we?

After all, our hours and our minutes belong to the Author of Life, to God Himself, not to us. We didn’t ask to be born, and we don’t get to determine when or how we die. It’s His call.

We don’t always get to see the point. There lay my dear friend Nora, incoherent so far as we could tell, unable to eat for months because of the cancer that had ravaged her body for the past four years. But her vital signs remained strong, and when her husband tried to help her take her meds, or to perform some other service for her, she fought back.

Pain was compounded by fear.  Severe depression, depression that had required electroshock therapy more than once, had left her bereft of hope. “I’m scared,” she grabbed my arm on one of my visits. “I’m so scared.”

Father had pointed to a statue of an angel and told her to remember her Guardian Angel. “You are not alone,” he promised her. “God loves you.” But she had become unable to hold on to that hope for more than the time it took to sing the refrain of “Be Not Afraid.”

“There’s no point to this!” her husband protested during one of my visits. The lingering, with the impossibility of providing true comfort, or to see how long the ordeal would last, took a toll on everyone. It always does.

But there is a point. And I saw it in the family – in Nora’s husband as he persisted in getting pain meds down her throat for as long a time as she could swallow, in her children as they came and kept vigil with their mother. Love was perfecting them – they might not see it right away; it might take years before they can point to this time in their lives and say, as I now can after my mother’s horrific death from lung cancer, twenty years ago: “We were all made better people because of this.”

Nora died a week ago – at home in her own bed, quietly, gently, naturally. Yes, she was momentarily alone as her husband had to leave the room briefly. But she was not really alone, because her family had waited for God’s hand, for His time, to choose the moment of Homegoing.

That last afternoon, I went to visit. We didn’t know it was the last afternoon, of course. I just went, because it was a day when I could. And after I’d been there a few minutes, another of her friends arrived, and a few minutes after that, still another – and each time a new friend walked in the room, Nora’s breathing quickened and deepened: she was aware that we were there.

Sally and I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet, sitting by the bed, and Nora became still and quiet, her breathing regular and steady. When Carole came back in, and the conversation shifted to mundane things, her breathing altered with the flow of the conversation.

Nora – who could not actively communicate, was still in our conversation. I’m chuckling to recall how a couple of times she seemed to interject her own responses into my mind. She had a low opinion of one of the people being spoken of, and I could hear her calling him by a not-very-nice word.

But we had to go home, not knowing that it was the last visit, expecting to return the next day – and that evening, while herchildren were en route from their own families and jobs, and while her husband stepped out of the room ever so briefly, she died.

Nora’s death was a victory of human spirit and the Love of God over suffering – seemingly pointless suffering that had the point of perfecting Nora and refining the hearts and characters of those of us who loved her.

What beauty of redemption was circumvented because some Dutch doctors were too impatient to let death come in God’s time? Two doctors told Theo’s daughter that euthanasia was “the only option left.” What obscenity!

And what a stark contrast between these two deaths.

An Open Letter to friends – on Marriage

Dear M.,

I see on Facebook that you were married yesterday, and I want to write to share with you my best wishes for your greatest happiness.

I also want to share with you my very grave concern that you have chosen to marry outside the Church. By not waiting until your boyfriend’s prior marriage was resolved through the proper channels of the Tribunal, by being married by a nonCatholic minister, you have entered into a marriage which is both invalid and illicit.

This means that you and your new civilly recognized spouse. have removed yourselves from full Communion with Mother Church, and you cannot receive any of the sacraments until P’s prior marital bond has been resolved –

IF it’s resolved. Declarations of nullity are not a right, nor are they guaranteed. Even where indisputable grounds exist, those grounds still have to be adequately demonstrated to the Tribunal. Without such demonstration, the Tribunal cannot declare affirmatively in the case, and you’re going to be slap flat-out sunk.  Canon 1100 warns that private opinion doesn’t eliminate the possibility that nuptial consent was actually present.

You also need to consider what impact, what influence, your decision to marry outside the Church is going to have on your friends and relatives. You have received scores, at least, of congratulations from people who don’t understand the gravity of what you have done, here. Your actions make it look as if it doesn’t matter that a nonCatholic minister is not approved for Catholic Sacraments, that a nonCatholic minister’s ordination bears the same weight of authority and authenticity as a Catholic priest’s.

In other words, you’ve added scandal to the mix.

I never would have thought you would have taken such a dangerous, even irresponsible step. Too often, in our acquaintance, I’ve seen you speak affirmatively of the Church’s requirements, and labor with those who would treat those requirements carelessly. Now you’ve followed the same path, and from your announcement it appears that you feel your particular personal circumstances justify willful rejection of the very rules I’ve heard you defend repeatedly as long as I’ve known you.

Marriage is not the civil contract you have treated it to be. It is a sacrament, and as such under the rightful authority of Christ’s Church. You cannot in seriousness ask God to bless and reward such disregard, nor expect such scorn for the wisdom of the Church to be shrugged off as inconsequential.

You’re off to a very bad start, and I’m sorrier for it than I can say. I hope you will at least possess the integrity to not present yourself for Communion until your civil union can be convalidated, and I hope that the spiritual communion open to you will teach you renewed and greater respect for the Magisterial authority of the Church.

Laura

Once falsely accused –

I’m home from Mass today because of knee and back pain. I had to call Fr N to let him know of my absence, and he had some shocking and very distressing news for me: one of my dear priest friends has had his priestly faculties suspended in the wake of accusations that he behaved inappropriately toward a then-minor girl, back in the early ’80s.

I’ve known Fr K for more than ten years. He heard my first Confession, and numerous subsequent ones, and he has always given me solid, sane, spiritual counsel. He’s been a good friend, and a great support during a particular difficulty he happened to walk in the door to face… and I’m having a very hard time believing this accusation.

I’ve been falsely accused. When the ex- and I separated, he told his parents (and who knows who else) that I was having an affair with one of my professors (I was in college at the time). I suppose I can see how he found it easy to foster this idea: after being treated like an idiot unworthy of simple conversation in the privacy of our own home, I was deliriously enthusiastic about being in an academic setting where brilliant people, and this professor in particular (who had a reputation for being difficult to get along with) treated me as if I were someone special, possessing brilliance, even. I thought the world of this professor who opened the world for me, and he seemed rather partial to me – within the confines of the classroom.

HOWEVER, a mutual admiration society is not adultery, and the closest we came to even a social relationship was a brief exchange we had by the milk case of the local grocery store, that July –
Laura: Hey, Dr. B – how’s summer school going?
Professor: Laura, I swear, the incoming freshmen are getting dumber every year. I can’t wait for the regular term to begin so I can be with my upperclassmen again!

I really thought adultery was supposed to have a bit more to it than that? be a bit more exciting? a bit more wicked?

But somehow quite a lot more was added to the story during the translation, it appears. And, of course, there are those foolish people who will always love a scandal more than the truth. We just have to live with that.

There are a lot of factors that motivate people to lie – on both sides of the fence, let me add. The guilty are almost always going to vehemently deny culpability, even when caught in the act (just ask anyone who’s been married to a drunk caught in any one of a thousand lies), and for some reason I simply cannot fathom, sometimes people lie about the innocent.

It’s terribly hard to be a priest these days. It’s never easy – the self-abnegation required is unimaginable for folks like me. Folks just don’t have an idea what priests go through, day to day, in solitude, often without adequate fraternal support and comaraderie. And it’s open season on Catholic priests anyway.  Hardly a week goes by that a preacher or youth minister in some Protestant group or other isn’t reported by our local news outlets to be arrested and charged with some form of abuse or misconduct, but none of those denominations, seminaries, or camps go through the scrutiny or public insults that our good Catholic priests suffer.

Pray for our priests. Pray for the accused, and the accusers. Pray for Truth and justice.

* * * *

On another, but not unrelated note:

A well-known pro-life activist reports that another well-known pro-life activist suffered a bit of public humiliation over the weekend of the National March for Life. Names don’t matter for the point I want to make.

That point is this: that we who call ourselves by the name of Christ have a greater obligation to conduct ourselves appropriately in public, not to glory or wallow in gossip, not to rejoice in a fellow Christian’s downfall.

Akin to this situation is the uproar that occurred when Pat Robertson made his perhaps-indiscreet remarks about voodoo having something to do with Haiti’s current misery in the wake of the horrible earthquakes it has suffered this past week and a half. Mr. Robertson was called a number of immature and offensive names in Facebook and around the internet media. I rebuked one young man for using an offensive word as a predicate nominative –

We have to be above such behavior, if we’re going to make a difference in the world. Okay?