Blogs I Know · rants · Uncategorized

A thin line

There is at times a thin line between what is right and what is wrong. As Catholics we have centuries of moral theology, direction, logic, scripture, tradition and the living breathing magisterial teaching to guide us in navigating even the most baffling questions and sometimes we still have to pick carefully through the jetsam that whirls around us as science presses ahead with the question of “can we” often trumping the more important “should we”.   A few months ago several friends and I were commenting that as we age we find ourselves more and more accenting to the Church’s judgement on issues of moral teaching and dogma even when we are not intellectually convinced.  All out us have grown tired of inevitably being proven wrong in the long run.   We had each had an issue at one point with Church teaching.  We had, all being educated and sensible creatures, put our minds to work and begun researching the Church’s teaching on our issue thinking certainly we would prove ourselves right, only to slowly become convinced that we were actually wrong and the Church was right all along.

But I have also seen the opposite happen.  Where someone would be so very, very certain that they were right that they couldn’t accept the reality that they could be wrong.  To my mind the most honest thing for a person in such a position to do is to say, “Oh, well this can’t be right and if the Catholic Church says this then I can’t be Catholic.”  and to quietly, or even raving, angry and nailing their complaints to the Cathedral door, walk away.   Of course it is obvious that a good number of people don’t agree.  Some even stick around and they either want to “update” the Church or they try to be more Catholic than the Pope.

The more Catholic than the Pope people bother me far worse than those who run left of center.   They confuse not only loyal Catholics but those outside the church who stumble into their rants and confuse their lay organisations with the magisterial Church.   You don’t see the media picking up “We Are Church” too often and confusing them for the Catholic Church… you do see them getting  Bill Donohue and the Catholic League mixed up with the See and read headlines about Catholics calling for a boycott only to find out it is not the church at large, but a lay organisation.  Somewhat akin to claiming that “Ohio sees massive crop failures” based on a single farm loosing its corn and potatoes. 

These thoughts were brought firmly to mind last night while reading over at  Confessions of a CF Husband where someone had posted a link (now deleted) to some crack pot with an MD behind his name and rosaries on his blog claiming that the medical profession vivisects people in order to harvest their organs for transplants.  He goes to great lengths to point out the sections in the catechism addressing organ donation and the papal edicts to the medical community addressing end of life issues… and the does his best to apologize around them.  “Brain death” is viewed as too vague, irreversible is somehow beyond his ability to grasp.  What truly shocked me was finding this Dr. had also writing in other more trustworthy Catholic sources.  His doubts and ideas presented there seemed much more reasonable, but placeing these issues in a light far more delicate and confusing than they need be. 

The simple straight forward facts are that the CCC views organ donations as a good as long as there is consent and for postmortem donations that a mortem is reality.

2296 Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.


Donation and transplanting of organs

83. The progress and spread of transplant medicine and surgery nowadays makes possible treatment and cure for many illnesses which, up to a short time ago, could only lead to death or, at best, a painful and limited existence.[175] This “service to life,”[176] which the donation and transplant of organs represents, shows its moral value and legitimizes medical practice. There are, however, some conditions which must be observed, particularly those regarding donors and the organs donated and implanted. Every organ or human tissue transplant requires an explant which in some way impairs the corporeal integrity of the donor

85. <Homoplastic transplants>, in which the transplant is taken from a person of the same species as the recipient, are legitimized by the principle of solidarity which joins human beings, and by charity which prompts one to give to suffering brothers and sisters.[177] “With the advent of organ transplants, begun with blood transfusions, human persons have found a way to give part of themselves, of their blood and of their bodies, so that others may continue to live. Thanks to science and to professional training and the dedication of doctors and health care workers…new and wonderful challenges are emerging. We are challenged to love our neighbor in new ways; in evangelical terms—to love ‘even unto the end’ (Jn 13:1), even if within certain limits which cannot be transgressed, limits placed by human nature itself.”[178]

In homoplastic transplants, organs may be taken either from a living donor or from a corpse.

86. In the first case the removal is legitimate provided it is a question of organs of which the explant would not constitute a serious and irreparable impairment for the donor. “One can donate only what he can deprive himself of without serious danger to his life or personal identity, and for a just and proportionate reason.”[179]

87. In the second case we are no longer concerned with a living person but a corpse. This must always be respected as a human corpse, but it no longer has the dignity of a subject and the end value of a living person. “A corpse is no longer, in the proper sense of the term, a subject of rights, because it is deprived of personality, which alone can be the subject of rights.” Hence, “to put it to useful purposes, morally blameless and even noble” is a decision “not be condemned but to be positively justified.”[180]

There must be certainty, however, that it is a corpse, to ensure that the removal of organs does not cause or even hasten death. The removal of organs from a corpse is legitimate when the certain death of the donor has been ascertained. Hence the duty of “taking steps to ensure that a corpse is not considered and treated as such before death has been duly verified.”[181]

In order that a person be considered a corpse, it is enough that cerebral death of the donor be ascertained, which consists in the “irreversible cessation of all cerebral activity.” When total cerebral death is verified with certainty, that is, after the required tests, it is licit to remove organs and also to surrogate organic functions artificially in order to keep the organs alive with a view to a transplant.[182]

The Church is, and rightly so, against many things such as fetal tissue research, IVF, abortion,  euthanasia and cloning.  These things violate the sanctity of life.  They reduce the human person in one way or another almost always with an eye toward utility.  They remove barriers that shouldn’t be taken away because then end results are ghastly for us all.  But organ and tissue donations do not fall into that category.  Far from devaluing life they elevate life, both the life of the donor and the life of the recipient as long as those few critical aspects are giving their full weight and importance.

Morally one life can not be shortened to save another.  Not matter how hopeless the case is, no matter how desperate the need.  Those aspects of the human body that are the seats of individuality, the reproductive and cognitive aspects, can not be transplanted.  There must be full consent on the part of the donor and/or their proxy.  When these issues are met then organ donation is a moral good, a postmortem act of generosity that extends the gifts of life and health to a fellow person.  This is a beautiful and honorable thing.

Where Dr (who’s-name-I-won’t-mention) goes floundering is in his conviction that people aren’t really dead when brain function ceases.  He even goes so far as to toss out his anecdotal proofs in cases where someone was “brain dead” and then came back.  I know God can work miracles, but moral theology and medical science do not base general practice on miracle cases.  In general if your heart will stop beating and your lungs will stop breathing with out mechanical support and your brain show no functioning then you are dead.  Lazarus was brought to life after three days, but organs sitting in a morgue for three days would be useless to everyone. 

Trying to frighten people off of organ donation by telling grisly tales of someone being cut open while still alive and feeling is reprehensible.  How many people out of fear for themselves or a love one would hesitate at that critical moment and say “no.”  Almost as bad is mixing the pot to confusion, talking about “persistent vegetate state”  a term heard frequently in the tragic Teri Schrivo case leading to the idea that organ “harvesting” might occur when the donor was capable of breath and circulation on their own.  Assertion that the papal documents are vauge  when they are only vague to someone determined to obscure them adds confusion that might keep a Catholic wanting to do good from signing an organ donor card. All this while quoting a dozen Popes and the catechism itself to prove the agendized point that organ donation is wrong in direct contradiction to what the documents actually say.

When the only thing that is keeping my heart beating or my lungs moving is something plugged into the wall… go ahead, turn it off.  In fact take any usable part of me and give it to some other person who needs it.  I feel quite comfortable that the magisterial Church would laud that choice.

Blogs I Know · My world

The Big Religion Speech

I am going to break from my usual “I don’t blog about politics”  idea and I am going to talk for a moment about Mitt Romney and the Big Speech.   I really enjoyed the Anchoress’ take on it which you can read here:  On Mitt Romney’s speech.  I wanted to add just a little too what I have heard said so far. 

Mitt Romney is not just a rank and file Mormon.   This is not your typical goes on Sunday for Sacrament meeting, holds a calling at the local ward, does his home teaching and pays 10% of his gross income to the church.  Mitt Romney was not a pew warmer.  Mitt Romney was a Stake President.  In fact he was MY stake president when I was a member of the Cambridge first branch/ward back in the early 1990s.  For those of you unfamiliar with the structure of the LDS church each local congregation is led by a Bishop or Branch President, above them is a Stake President.  The stake President is roughly equal to a Catholic Bishop. 

While I can see the eagerness of the comparisons between Kennedy and Romney (religious minorities running for high office) I can’t believe that the media has ignored this crucial difference.   Kennedy was a rank and file Catholic; Romney has been part of the LDS hierarchy in a rather pronounced way.   To “advance” through the ranks in the LDS church you don’t need to go to a seminary or be ordained.  The Mormon church in fact prides itself in the fact that it is locally and regionally led by  “lay ministers” and that all male members hold the priesthoods of the LDS church.  Men are “called” from among the local worthy members by those above them in the hierarchy. 

On a sort of funny personal note if Romney faces Hillery  in the general election it will be the first time I have actually met both major party canidates (I met Hillary back in 1987 in Arkansas — and intensely disliked her).   I agree with the assessments that Romney is bland.  He is bland, jello-salad sort of bland.  I don’t get fired up about him at all, and I would have a hard time voting for him, but I would hold my nose and do it.

 I am not worried about Romney being Mormon.  I wouldn’t care if he was Buddhist, Islamic or believed in the Blue Martian Monkey Cult.  Intelligent people can and do balance the demands of faith and the secular world.  In fact most of us to it all day every day.  I don’t see any one’s faith as an issue to them holding public office a long as they understand that the USA is not a theocracy.   I would rather vote for someone who is honest and forthright about their faith or lack of faith than someone who dissembles or claims it to be only a personal matter.   Romney is at his best when he says:

“There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. ”

That sentiment is exactly what I would want to say if I was running for office and the topic of my faith came up.  I love my faith, I believe my faith, I live by it, it forms me.  If you don’t like that so be it, I am not stepping down from that.  And I really wish he had closed with that because just about everything else he said jumbled it up.  Romney seems to be saying that the most important issues to the faithful are issues where the faithful agree.   That is not the case and smacks of ignorance or worse indifference to the profound differences that exist in the faith community today.  Yes, we have similar values on many things, no there is not a substantial agreement on MANY important issues, especially social issues.

I suppose being Catholic I am more cautious about the separation of Church and State than many Christians.    It is a very powerful thing to think that as a Catholic the Constitution of the United States specifically disallows a State Church.  We will never be subjected to the horror of the Church of England or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association  where the state controls our faith and turns it to its own ends.  In America I can say I am a Roman Catholic, loyal to my faith, loyal to Rome and that in no way diminishes my patriotism and my patriotism doesn’t infringe on my faith.  That is what religious liberty means. 

That is why I oppose “prayer in school” or religious dogma being taught in any form–I basically don’t trust the government to get that right.   But at the same time there is a plurality of faith in our nation and  I don’t mind someone wishing me Happy Hanukkah or sending me a Solstice card, I don’t want to have to curb my Merry Christmas either.  Carve wisdom from all our faiths deep in the stone of our public buildings, light our buildings in any array of lights for whatever occasion the population of town or city desire,  celebrate it all, celebrate us all, but don’t drown me in the drivel of “we all are all on the same path.”  for we aren’t.  There are differences, some of the seriously profound and important.  By playing down the differences too much we reduce each faith’s individual character.   Mix enough colors together long enough and you loose them all.

By Romney talking overly much about the commonality of faith he looses the bit of color he has.   I would much rather have heard Romney wax eloquent about the fact that, although he believe his own version of Christianity with all his heart he can respect that others view God differently and he does somewhat pull this back together near the end of his comments where I agree with Mr Romney and Samuel Adams.  I don’t care what your faith is, I don’t care what your personal beliefs about God are I can pray with you.  I MAY look at your faith as a guide to how you might vote on issues I feel are important.  I certainly won’t vote against you because you were my stake President once upon a time,  even though our faith paths diverged many years ago. 

Advent · Blogs I Know

Preparing for Advent 2007

This year we are trying something a little bit new for us.  We are trying to finish our Christmas shopping before Advent.  The goal is two-fold: missing the Christmas consumerism chaos and being able to set Advent aside as a spiritual, joyful and family time.

Goldstar #1 for me I have my Advent candles purchased and ready to go. 

The Anchoress has a couple ideas for Christmas gifts and I really like the idea of purchasing from religious and entrepreneurs.   Fantastic idea and there is still time in most cases to make it a reality.  I will toss a plug out there for one of my favorites the date nut cake from Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Lafayette, Oregon.

Blogs I Know · My world

I don’t blog about politics

But I do on occasion blog about gender issues.   There are three posts at the Anchoress that are well worth reading this morning.    Read “Mean Reporters dare ask Hillary real questions“,  “Stupid Men, Stupid Parents, Stupid Madison Avenue” and the most recent “Tony Snow make some great points“.

I have never, not ever understood the whole “gender” issue thing.  Probably because I grew up with parents, especially a father, who never treated me like an incompetent.  But even as I stepped out into the world I “missed” all this horrible bias against women.  I work in a very male heavy field (by profession I am a programmer),  I am a proud member of the Roman Catholic church — a patriarchic  hierarchy,  I went to college, I worked low income jobs.. and honestly in all that time I have never felt discriminated against.  Occasionally “harassed” by some guy or other who didn’t understand the meaning of “No, I am busy Friday night” but I always chalked that up to their inability to understand English and my naturally irresistible good looks (yes that is a bit tongue in cheek)  and the situation was always resolved with “I wouldn’t date you if you were the last man on Earth” . 

So this thing with Mrs. Clinton bugged me, like it bugged a lot of women.  What on Earth is she doing pointing out the obvious fact that she is a woman?  Oh, I get it she thinks women will vote for her becauseshe is a woman.   To which I say “Give me a break”, really.  It is every bit as sexist to expect me to vote for her because she is a woman as it would be to NOT vote for her because she is a woman.  There is no ( or at least shouldn’t be) any kind of sisterly solidarity when it comes to politics.  Mrs. Clinton supports the murder of unborn children she does NOT get my vote.  I don’t care if she is female or not.  Because guess what?  I don’t care if she is a woman or not.  All I care about are the issues and the confidence that I have that a candidate will serve the country well.  The sad thing is that she is right in her assumption that some women will vote on gender.  This is true in main part because media and the educational system have worked very hard the last thirty years making sure that women are gender biased. 

As the Anchoress points out:  “I was raised to see people as people first, not as genders, and I have long, long since grown weary of being preached to about it.”  So what was all this indoctrination about?  Why does every kids show blare about “Girls can do anything no matter what the boys might think” and  why do so many commercials feature the “Dumb Male”  and why does every college freshman have to sit through “orientation” which is bound to include a whole speech about date-rape, gender sensitivity and the classic “good woman/bad men” talk.   The reality is that women are by nature (yes, by nature) the gathers and men can be dangerous.  

Women gather, they shop, they talk, they make community.   They raise the children, decorate the home, decide on major purchases, they dress their households, they spend the money in most homes.  (yes,  sweeping generalisations but ones that Madison avenue counts on when they market just about anything from laundry detergent to automobiles).   Women have power and they always — have it just looks a little different then men.  Men display more, they fight more, they look at conquering something as a good thing.   In order to keep men from asserting any kind of influence they have to be cowed.  And they are.  I really don’t think all these pro-girl messages have helped girls, but they have cowed boys.  Boy like to brag, compete, show one another up.  That isn’t allowed now.  Everyone has to win and excellence in anything is all too often squashed on the alter of “self-esteem”.  Boys don’t gain self-esteem by being toldthey are great.  They gain it by finishing first, building something higher, throwing something farther than they did last time or the last kid did.   By whacking the competition out of public schools we are in a sense castrating our sons… which is exactly what some gender-sensitive feminist think is a good idea.   Enter a presidential candidate who thinks attending an all girl college is good experience for dealing with an all male political field. 

I loved this quote “There are questions some media organizations simply don’t ask. For instance, is racism as bad as it was two decades ago? The answer is no(sic) If you doubt it, check out your kids. They’re refreshingly devoid of the bigotry and self-consciousness that characterized our youth. ”  I have to remark on this.  About a week ago I was talking to my husband about our children.  There is a real and marked difference between our oldest, Ashley  (15) and Christopher (8).  Ashley is much more racially conscience than Christopher who isn’t at all. 

This summer Christopher was at the pool and he made a new friend.  They were the same height, the same age, they both loved swimming and they both were named Christopher.  My son talked about how much they had in common, how cool it was that they were so alike, same name and everything.  I laughed when I was talking to my husband about it.  Our son is the palest little boy, his friend was about as dark as you could hope to meet.  This little skin color thing was so unremarkable to them that they mention it at all… there was no “We are so alike — except the skin color”  It just didn’t come up.   My older daughter is very aware or color.  But not because of us.  The big difference is this: Christopher has been homeschooled.  He doesn’t learn about racial “issues” they way Ashley did.  When Ashley was 7 she came home crying one day.  Her class had been studying the civil rights movement as part of  “Black History Month”.  What Ashley got out of the little indoctrination session was this “Why are white people so mean to black people?” with tears and guilt that she was born the color of oppression.   It has stuck with her, it changed her.  No matter that we have friends with every pan-tone that human skin comes in.  No matter that her family’s entire experience with racial bigotry has been on the receiving end (Irish and Jewish) but she is supposed to be apologetic for wrongs committed by others with whom she has no connection because the powers that be benefit from a society where the populace is divided and controlled.

And that is what burns me.  No matter the rhetoric the real root of the gender and racial divide has so little to do with real bigotry.  It has so much to do with keeping vested political and commercial interests in their cozy spots and keeping the attention away from real issues.  Sad, true and frightening.

Blogs I Know · Caritas

When I Pray it Changes Me

Over at The Court Jester Jeff Miller writes :  Some time ago I also started to pray for him as I try to do for the priests of the parishes I attend.  A couple of months ago I was surprised to find how my attitude had changed towards Fr. Sullivan. Before seeing him with his idiosyncrasies and casual treatment of the Mass could cause me to get rather heated inside, but instead I started to become more aware of the positive things that he did and the negative ones made less of an impression on me or I could more easily ignore.

I find this is often the case for myself and one reason why I try to remind my children that if someone is really annoying you pray for them.  Prayer helps put you in God’s frame where you can more easily see the good in your fellow human and be more forgiving of the bad.  Christ loved that annoying person enough to die for them; there must be some good in there somewhere.   Even if it is hard to find.  So I try to be slow to give-up on people.  But it is prayer that makes the most difference.  It is very difficult to judge harshly someone for whom you are praying.