I remember watching the movie Glory, a story from the American Civil War based on the personal letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who was the commanding officer of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal unit of the US Army to be made up entirely of African American men.
Shaw insisted that the men were worthy of being deployed for combat, and volunteered the 54th infantry to lead an assault on Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina. He led the men in an initial, noble charge upon the fort. Facing certain death he rallied the men onward.
Colonel Shaw was killed, along with 29 of his men; 24 more later died of wounds; 15 were captured; 52 were missing in action and never accounted for; and 149 were wounded. Although Union forces failed to take and hold the fort, the 54th became known for its courage during battle, encouraging further enlistment of African-American troops. President Abraham Lincoln noted that the bravery of these men helped secure the final victory.
They gave their lives. But for what? At the end of the movie all you see are dead men being thrown in a grave like garbage. It seems so senseless, so vain, so unnecessary. But it did change things. Continue reading
It is a little known fact that there was laughter in the United States Supreme Court 40 years ago during the Roe v. Wade hearings. Thought to be the youngest person ever to win a Supreme Court case, then 26 year old Sarah Weddington, the attorney for “Roe”, briefly lost her composure in a choked bout of chuckles before the court. She laughed alone that day, however, and every single citizen in our nation ought to hear what was said, particularly in light of this month’s Alabama Supreme Court ruling that “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.”
When Justice Harry A. Blackmun asked whether Mrs. Weddington felt there is any “inconsistency” in Court decisions against the “death penalty with respect to convicted murderers and rapists at one end of lifespan, and [her] position in this case at the other end of lifespan,” she replied that it has “never been established that the fetus is a person or that it’s entitled to the Fourteenth Amendment rights or the protection of the constitution.” It was clear to the court, even back then, that the case depended on the “fetus” having “constitutional rights.”
Justice Potter Stewart pressed further, “Well, if it were established that an unborn fetus is a person within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, you would have almost an impossible case here, would you not?” Mrs. Weddington replied, “I would have a very difficult case.” And then she laughed nervously. Justice Stewart, not laughing at all, continued that this is akin to ruling that if a “mother thought that it bothered her health having the child around, she could have it killed.” Mrs. Weddington said, “That’s correct,” and declined any further response.
Our laws still, chillingly, reflect this inconsistency. On the one hand, we have the almost decade long 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act which federally recognizes a “child in utero” as a legal “victim” if he or she is injured or killed by crimes of violence, and laws such as the one decided in Alabama this month that recognize “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.” On the other hand, we have abortion for all nine months of pregnancy and impunity for the ones that kill those children, children who are not even guaranteed the protections given to convicted murderers and rapists in some states. It was not funny 40 years ago, and it is still no laughing matter. These are children being killed. Aren’t children people too?
Have you ever listened to the Roe vs. Wade arguments?
Click the play button, it will start at ~20:00 minutes into Mrs. Weddington’s arguments (the attorney for Roe). The clip is only ~4 minutes, but be sure to listen from 23:30 – 24:30. The whole recording is found here. It is a piece of history, a tragic one. This is how it was argued that a mother has a right to kill her own child 40 years ago. Continue reading
Sooo…Jen has a reality show that debuts tonight. It’s called Minor Revisions.
While Jen found it a little bit awkward to tell you about this new mini-series of hers, I’m tickled pink to tell you why I think you’ll love the series. She gave me a little sneak preview since we both engage with atheists and we both are converts. We have other things in common: We both are fascinated by science, we both have a lot of little kids, and we both have a fondness for Texas. She lives there, I grew up there. She hates the scorpions that invade her house; I hate the spiders that compete for mine.
Anyway, here are three things (in true Jennifer Fulwiler bullet point style) that I think you’ll like — no love! — about her mini-series ‘Minor Revisions.’ These are things that I did not expect, pleasant surprises. Continue reading
Alright, let’s face it. Is this the time of year, just after Thanksgiving, when you start dreading the impending “Holiday (Don’t call it Christmas) Season?” You know, the season of nightly news stories about how schools won’t allow the display of Christian symbols, the already beginning onslaught of commercialism and advertising, the atheist sloganeering that degrades an event so sacred, and all the politically correct puffery about how to speak of the Holy Celebration of The Birthday – Christ’s Mass – without actually saying it.
It’s almost intolerable and almost ruinous, like the odor of the hydro-treated petroleum distillates of Goo Gone® invading a warm and apple-cinnamony glowing kitchen. Pee-yew!
How to rise above it all? Well, there’s a unique, if not peculiar, saint who would probably react the way I’d like to react in the middle of holiday nonsense, St. Christina of Liége, also more appropriately named, St. Christina the Astonishing. She frequently tried to escape, well, worldly stinkiness. Continue reading
This is the third and final in a series taken from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay, “Theology and Church Politics” published in a 1987 book Church Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology. In it he explains what theology is, what the relation of theology is to the Church, and what the relation of the Church is to education and politics.
The first article dealt with the fundamental claim to reason itself, why the atheistic view does not work and the Christian view must. The second article dealt with the ordered relationship of the Church and the University, how the Church must guide the search for truth. These are important concepts in our times. Some have asked whether the Church is partisan and what role she should play in the politics of civil society. Cardinal Ratzinger answered. Knowing how to explain this is a powerful tool for evangelization.
First, Church and Theology
Politics, rightly understood, is the practice of government or administration, so there is a political relationship between the Church and theology. The Church governs theology, but it is not a relationship concerned with Ecclesial powers which would be an “outright contradiction of the Church’s true nature.” The Church is not the “party headquarters where party ideology is reviewed in terms of a strategy for gaining power.”
The Church is the environment where reason seeks meaning. The Magisterium’s governing action is to warn theology against paths that lead to abstraction even as she respects the individual’s responsibility to inquire within the environment of faith. There is a duality, a productive functional relationship, a legitimate freedom.
Can this Freedom Fail?
This is the second in a series taken from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s essay, “Theology and Church Politics” published in a 1987 book Church Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology. In it he explains what theology is, what the relation of theology is to the Church, and what the relation of the Church is to education and politics. The first article dealt with the fundamental claim to reason itself, from an atheistic view and the Christian view.
The Christian position is not based on “In the beginning was irrationality…” but on the opposite. The Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.” God, the Creator who made everything out of nothing, is Reason Itself, and since we are made in the likeness and image of God, our ability to reason came from Reason Itself, revealed to us by Christ, the Word or Logos. The foundation of rationality cannot be irrationality; reason cannot spring from the unreasonable. This article moves into the relationship, then, between the Church and the University.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now our beloved Pope Benedict XVI, devoted much writing and attention to questions such as this, not in isolation, but as they relate to academics and civil societies. In an essay, “Theology and Church Politics” published in a 1987 book Church Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology, he explains what theology is, what the relation of theology is to the Church, and what the relation of the Church is to education and politics. He explains why such culturally shocking assertions, such as the subordination of the University and the State to the Church, are naturally and rationally ordered relationships for the common good, and it all begins with an explanation about reason.
The University and the State should be subordinate to the Church? Atheism would not agree with this, of course, and it sounds like an outlandish claim in the world today. If you have ever wondered how to respond to the insistence that faith should play no part in academic instruction or public policy, you will find Cardinal Ratzinger’s explanation illuminating. This will take a few essays to cover, so this is the first in the series and it deals with the fundamental claim to reason itself.
Can Atheism Explain Reason?
The word “reason” is repeated a lot today, but without an understanding of what it really is. Atheists lay claim to it, assuming that it is the opposite of faith. The word has its root in classical Latin, ratio, and it means intellectual power, the capacity for rational thought.
A tenet of atheism is that reason is a product of human evolution, just another step along the pathway that began with the Big Bang, a “random byproduct of the ocean of irrationality from which everything actually sprang.” But how can this be? If reason is real, then it is as inconceivable that the Big Bang is the primordial beginning of the universe as it is inconceivable that a circle can be squared. That is — it is impossible. The foundation of rationality cannot be irrationality; reason cannot spring from the unreasonable. No, atheism has no explanation for the existence of reason. Continue reading
The United States has just elected Barack Obama to a second term as President. News reports tell us that the narrow victory may have hinged on the women’s vote. It appears that the “lady parts” rhetoric about how women’s rights depend on contraception and abortion resonated with enough American women that it affected the election.
They didn’t want to “do it with just anybody.” No, it had to be with a “really great guy.” The one who will give them free contraception and abortion.
But America, I promise you that not all of us mothers raise our daughters to think this way. I promise you that there are plenty of us mothers and fathers out here teaching our daughters, and our sons, that real freedom comes from something beyond themselves, something greater than themselves.
Many people are wondering whether the devastation of Hurricane Sandy will cause the national elections next week to be delayed. The short answer is that it’s possible, but it’s not really so simple. The decision to delay elections is made by the states. The Blaze has a summary of some of the state laws, it’s more straightforward in some states than others. Governors and state election boards are permitted to change the election day if a state of emergency is declared.
The Telegraph reported a few days ago that Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has made a statement to this effect. “We are anticipating that, based on the storm, there could be impacts that would linger into next week and have impacts on the federal election.”
The storm has already affected early voting, and it remains to be determined whether any states will delay the elections. If any states do delay the elections, expect there to be debates about the effect such a decision will have on the elections over all. Is it fair for one state to give voters more time to vote than the voters in another state? What if one state does more to help voters get to the polls? If a state delays the election to help those without power, why couldn’t it delay the election to help those in the military who are unable to vote on time? Will FEMA be accused of preferential treatment in choosing how much to help each state?
The President, however, has no authority to delay the elections. There was some concern when Politico’s Roger Simon asked Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, whether President Obama does have this authority and he replied, “I don’t know.” As have many other media sources, the Wall Street Journal gives the correct answer. The correct answer is no. In 2004 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) examined this question of delaying elections, acknowledging that states can do so if there are emergencies or disputes, but the CRS was clear about the authority of the executive branch. “There is no current constitutional authority residing in the President of the United States, nor the executive branch of Government, to postpone, cancel, or reschedule elections for federal office in the various States.” (From the WSJ) Only Congress can make such a change, as stated in Article 1 – The Legislative Branch, Section 4 – Elections, Meetings.
“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.”
It’s been all over the news lately, particularly in the Catholic and conservative spheres, how Dr. Shinya Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize in medicine for reprogramming adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). People praised this research for creating new pluripotent stem cell lines to study without creating or destroying embryos. They claimed that the process doesn’t require any morally tainted source cells. They announced the feat as an achievement of great ethical significance, a beautiful and ethical science. They pointed out that the process does not pose ethical issues because embryos are not manipulated, and that embryonic stem cell research will soon be largely put out of business. What a moral victory!
However, digging into and decoding the scientific methodological explanations reveals that what is being praised is definitely not so praiseworthy. It reveals something quite significant, and it mostly hinges on one word — reprogramming. Did anyone notice that in all the cheering, little was explained about the method itself?
How is this reprogramming done? How did they “turn back the clock” on adult stem cells? How does a mature cell become immature again? Well, it’s not magic. The adult stem cell gets introduced to genetic material from other young cells – very young cells. Specifically, Dr. Yamanaka’s group used cells grown from the kidney of an electively aborted healthy child in the Netherlands.
The cells used are named HEK-293 (human embryo kidney), and often referred to without the HEK part as PLAT-A, PLAT-E, and 293FT cells. This Yamanaka paper in Cell journal explains how these cells were used in the methods section, Lentivirus Production and Infection, and elsewhere.
“293FT cells (Invitrogen) were plated at 6 × 106 cells per 100 mm dish and incubated overnight…”
They are purchased from Invitrogen.
“The 293FT Cell Line is a fast-growing, highly transfectable clonal isolate derived from human embryonal kidney cells…”
So, where did these 293FT cells come from again? It is instructive to read the troubling words of the doctor who collected them. In this transcript from 2001, the doctor explained their origin to the FDA because the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines has long been controversial for moral and safety reasons. See page 81 of the FDA document, beginning on line 14:
“The kidney of the fetus was, with an unknown family history, was obtained in 1972 probably. The precise date is not known anymore. The fetus, as far as I can remember was completely normal. Nothing was wrong. The reasons for the abortion were unknown to me. I probably knew it at that time, but it got lost, all this information. The kidneys of the fetus were then isolated and the kidney cells were isolated in the so-called still air cabinet. There were no laminar flow hoods at that time, and this, is simply a still air cabinet that was also used all over for tissue culture and worked quite well. There was UV lights in it just to sterilize it, and that was all.
“So as we did also for the rat kidney cells, the surrounding membranes were removed as completely as possible, and the kidneys were then minced with scissors, trypsinized, and the cells that were recovered after removing the trypsin were cultured in medium containing bovine serum, calf serum. That is what we know.” (Report to FDA, 2001, p. 81, line 14)
How’s that for moral sources? Read on, there were all kinds of questions about contamination from DNA, viruses, and mutant material, a problem that still plaques the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines because it is unknown how the contaminants affect small infants. You may also remember these fetal cell lines from the PepsiCo boycott when it was discovered they were used to develop flavor-enhancers. Same cells.
Still find this Nobel Prize winning technique praiseworthy? Yes, some still shrug at even this. They say that the use of the morally illicit materials doesn’t matter because the cures could improve so many lives. In other words, they say the ends justify the means.
What about parents who use vaccines grown in aborted fetal cell lines? Some are of the opinion that since the aborted child was killed so long ago and the researcher did not cooperate in the abortion directly, that he is justified in using these cells to try to find life-saving cures for people today. Continue reading
The results of a new study have just been released, and the researchers conclude that when women are allowed to chose any version of contraception they want for free, the abortion rate decreases. Spirals even.
Specifically, more than 9,000 women in St. Louis area, ages 14 to 45, were given free contraception for three years, and the abortion rate dropped lower than the national rate to 4.4 – 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women compared to 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women nationwide.
The implications? According to The New York Times, the study is evidence that the HHS Mandate should be enforced, although CNN understands that is controversial for religious groups. NBC says these findings will have many implications for society although “the Catholic Church is unlikely to be moved.”
The comment of a 26 year old graduate student named Ashley at Washington University is revealing. She participated in the project and opted to forego her $90 a month birth control pills for the free intrauterine implant. She said the implant gives her better peace of mind.
“No one had ever presented all the options equally,” she said. “It’s not telling you what to do. It’s giving you a choice unhindered by money.”
Liberal progressives argue for this kind of care because they want women to believe the government cares for them. Government caring for you is a tenet of liberalism. The problem is, governments cannot care for people. People care for people. Governments are big, nameless, faceless institutions that, if allowed, seek to sustain themselves by growing in power. But how do you communicate this to someone? You bring it down to the personal level they think it is.
Suppose you are the government and Ashley is your daughter. Is her statement really the kind of statement that makes you proud of your parenting skills? Do you want her to go to college making choices about anything — especially her choices about who she lets have sex with her — unhindered by money? That just teaches her poor discipline and puts her in danger.
The study also found a drastic reduction in teen births. Among teen girls ages 15 to 19 the annual birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000 girls compared to the national rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for teen girls. Is this the solution for teens? Have sex unhindered by money? Say that out loud a few times.
Hello TAC Readers,
The ladies of TAC decided to weigh in briefly with our thoughts about the first presidential debate, so if you’re interested in the practical thoughts of some Catholic female American patriots who are otherwise busy running their lively households, read on. And please add your thoughts as well.
The Ladies of TAC
I listened to the debate while doing other stuff — didn’t watch it — so I had to concentrate solely on what was said.
No doubt about it — Romney did great. He stayed on point, never seemed flustered, unlike Obama at times. Obama seemed to be stumbling even through his closing statement, which is supposed to be the “clincher” that sums up his entire message.
Romney kept coming back to the trillions of dollars of national debt and how unfair it is to burden future generations with that. Obama never really came up with a satisfactory rebuttal to that issue — the best he could do was lamely declare that he inherited a big chunk of that debt from Bush.
Obama didn’t even land a glove on him when it came to Romneycare and its similarity to Obamacare (which was one of Romney’s biggest vulnerabilities). Romney pointed out that his Massachusetts plan was a truly bipartisan effort while Obama rammed his through without a single GOP vote.
Also, loved Romney’s subtle but clear (to those who care about the issue) acknowledgment of the importance of religious freedom.
Hard to pick a best line of the night, but I’ll go with Romney’s yardstick for determining the worth of federal programs: Is it worth borrowing money from China to pay for?
Trivia note: After the 1960 JFK-Nixon debate, people who watched the debate on TV said Kennedy won while those who listened on radio said Nixon won. Doesn’t look like there’s any split decision this time.
I tuned into the debate last night expecting a night of mini-speeches. I thought it was going to be five minute segments of “let me tell you what I think” and then “the other guy gets to tell you what he thinks” and then we move on. It wasn’t! The new format of “we each state our position and then duke it out” was a pleasant surprise. It worked well for Romney, not so much for Mr. Obama.
For the first time since he declared for the Presidency in 2007, someone actually questioned the President on what he was saying. For a man used to the easy softball questions usually lobbed at him by the esteemed journalists on The View, last night was a very rude awakening. While Romney came across as a candidate securely in command of both the facts and his own position, Mr. Obama looked like a little boy getting scolded by his dad.
He furrowed his brown, pursed his lips, and feebly fought back. I kept waiting for him to whine at Jim Lehrer “No fair…” It was not a masterful persona. He didn’t look like the leader of anything, and may explain why our enemies aren’t afraid to attack our embassies or walk all over us in trade deals. No one is afraid of the “No Fair” kid. He’s annoying and weak from having been coddled all of his political life.
I’m not a undecided voter. Long ago I had already decided that if a ham sandwich ran against President Obama, I’d vote for him. What I’ve hoped for is that someone would run against him and demand that he answer for the decisions he’s made over the last four years.
Romney did that. He was articulate, clear, detailed, passionate, and grand. He was trustworthy. Beyond the words that either man spoke, the thing that was most deeply revealing was the eye contact.
Mitt Romney looked directly at Barack Obama, spoke directly to him, smiling confidently but not arrogantly. When Obama spoke to him, Romney continued to make eye contact, and to listen. He was engaged. The ability to look directly at your opponent is a sign of courage.
On the contrary, Obama spent way too much time looking down and avoiding eye contact, even when Romney was staring right at him. His facial expressions were full of smirks, defensiveness, irritation, and confusion. The way he kept shooting pleading eyes at the moderator to beg for his turn to speak was childlike. This is the behavior of a weak opponent. Whether people realize it or admit it, it’s certain no one missed this quality in the debate.
At the end of his closing comments when Obama said, “I promise to fight every single day for you,” I got the distinct feeling that I was listening to a speech given by someone running for senior class president, not President of the United States. It’s time for a grown-up in the White House.
I kind of killed our TV reception while winterizing the house… all we have are three strange self-help channels, the Spanish religious channel, a Korean shopping network and a couple of flavors of PBS, so I’ll have to pass. [She may chime in later...]
Yesterday The Motley Monk wrote and excellent article informing us about the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s (NCBC) advice, “Dropping All Insurance Coverage…” Speaking as a concerned Catholic, mother and citizen, I would love to see a lot more discussions like this about our options. Catholics have an opportunity, possibly, to lead the way in our nation.
Some commenters suggested an “offer and ignore” approach, and I’ve noticed some other Catholics talking about that approach as well, though only in early stages. More on that toward the end. It’s something dear hubby and I have discussed extensively in the kitchen. Our motivation? We have a large, young family, and since he’s made his career in the insurance business, he’s aware of better possible options. Admittedly, it’s the auto insurance business, but the fundamental purpose of insurance is still the same. A conscientious insurance businessman seeks to:
1) Offer a product that truly adds value to the customer’s life.
2) Build a business that employs people oriented around that principle too.
As a quick aside, the people who see insurance as some big, greedy, capitalist monster have to base that premise (in this country anyway) on the assumption that customers are unable to chose wisely when it comes to the planning of their family’s future. The Trasancos family, obviously, rejects that premise. We don’t need the government to tell us what is good for us. Thank you, but no thanks, Obama et al.
As another quicker aside, it is common knowledge in the insurance industry that the more government regulation there is in any state, the more costs increase in a general linear fashion. Some regulation is necessary. Too much regulation only employs government workers and adds cost to customers. If oppressive regulation is enforced at the federal level, the government is basically ruling us and treating us like idiots.
Consider this question. Feedback or input, including correction, is welcome. It’s a good conversation to have.
How much do you already pay for health insurance? If you get health insurance through your employer (the situation for many Americans), you most likely pay more than you realize for it. Why? Most employee benefit plans pay 75-80% of the cost of coverage, and the employee pays the rest.
Also published at Catholic Lane.
“I told my doctor that I am having issues with anxiety. I’ve had three babies in the last four years and just found I’m pregnant again, and no matter how hard I try, I keep having panic attacks. I feel out of control. I’m ready to admit I need help. I have some past issues I need to face, but I don’t know what to do. My doctor said I could talk to you because you have experience helping pregnant women.” It all finally came out, stuttered, yet punctuated, a first plea for professional help.
“Why do you feel anxious?”
“I want to do everything perfectly, I want to do it right, I’ve made some bad decisions in my past, but I want to do better. Now I get so confused and overwhelmed. When I give up, I feel ashamed, sometimes I harm myself because the emotional pain is so great. I know I need help. I’m pregnant!”
The therapist replied with a knowing grin, “You don’t have to be perfect, you know. Don’t you see? You are beating yourself up trying to be perfect. Slow down. Right now you need to take care of yourself. You have living children and they need their mother. They need their mother to be healthy. Have you thought about abortion? You know, it’s alright to abort this pregnancy so you can take care of yourself right now.”
“What? I’m Catholic, that’s why I came to a Catholic hospital, well, I mean, I’m a recent convert and I’m learning about the teaching of the Church, and this…”
The confused mother stared past the licensed mental health professional out the window of her obstetrician’s office, where she was meeting with this therapist. In this hospital that bears the name of a saint and a crucifix in every room, the mother was more confused than ever. She tried not to let the vortex starting to swirl in her mind show. Abortion? She trusted these people under this roof, but abortion? Catholics are not supposed to have abortions. She could barely speak.
“…this isn’t right.”
“Well,” chuckled the mental health therapist sitting under a Catholic roof, “Catholics don’t really believe that today, that’s an old idea. Women are not expected to tear up their bodies giving birth to baby after baby, and besides, most Catholics have small families. If that’s what Catholics really believed there’d be many, many more large Catholic families, wouldn’t there? Look, I’ve travelled in Europe where there is a large Catholic population, and they all have one or two children. You don’t have to have lots of kids to be a good Catholic. Perhaps you’re just trying to have a lot of children to be a perfect Catholic.”
Later, they got around to the big question.
“Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?” Continue reading
A reader sent me this shot of a test run of the Tribute in Lights. As he and a friend finished dinner and walked out of the Fraunces Tavern at the corner of Broad Street and Pearl Street last night, they noticed the lights were on for a moment, jumped into the car, and drove over to West Street to get this shot. It is taken from the sun roof of the car, paused at a lightd right next to the Battery Garage where the lights are set up.