Saturday, January 31, 2009

From the moment of conception

From the moment of conception
By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — Last week I covered the introduction to the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith known as Dignitatis Personae or Dignity of a Person. In light of recent indications that there may be an expansion of permission to experiment with human embryonic cells the section of Dignitatis Personae, which deals with this topic, is particularly timely.

Once again, Dignitatis Personae reminds us: It is appropriate to recall the fundamental ethical criterion expressed in the instruction Donum Vitae in order to evaluate all moral questions, which relate to procedures involving the human embryo: “Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say, from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life” (D.P.,4 - Citing Donum Vitae).

The teaching that every human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception has consequences for both how that human being is conceived and how he or she is treated immediately after conception. Thus the teaching directly touches infertility treatments. “With regard to the treatment of infertility, new medical techniques must respect three fundamental goods: a) the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death; b) the unity of marriage, which means reciprocal respect for the right within marriage to become a father or mother only together with the other spouse; c) the specifically human values of sexuality which require ‘that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses.’ Techniques which assist procreation ‘are not to be rejected on the grounds that they are artificial. As such, they bear witness to the possibilities of the art of medicine. But they must be given a moral evaluation in reference to the dignity of the human person, who is called to realize his vocation from God to the gift of love and the gift of life.’ In light of this principle, all techniques of heterologous artificial fertilization, as well as those techniques of homologous artificial fertilization which substitute for the conjugal act, are to be excluded.” (D.P., 12)

The teaching of the church is clear. All forms of artificial fertilization, and the subsequent insemination which normally follows, whether the gametes are from a suitably married couple or not, are a violation of the dignity of the person. In our society pragmatism and utility are principles that rule the day. Thus the general perception is that anyone who wants to have a child is deemed free to do whatever needs to be done in order to achieve the fulfillment of this desire. No one of us is free from pangs of heart as we hear of the heartfelt longing of a couple for a child. Yet that longing does not justify a violation of the fundamental principle that every human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception, indeed, in the very act of being conceived. The document makes a distinction between those methods which “substitute for” and those interventions that “assist” procreation. I do not intend to give any kind of in-depth scientific exposition other than to note that anytime human embryos are created in a setting other than the woman’s body (conception usually occurs within the fallopian tube) there has been a “substitution for” the conjugal act.

A very sad corollary to much of the present day reproductive technology is the destruction of unwanted or unused embryos or their cryogenic preservation. Neither is acceptable. As the document notes: “These losses are accepted by the practitioners of in vitro fertilization as the price to be paid for positive results. In reality, it is deeply disturbing that research in this area aims principally at obtaining better results in terms of the percentage of babies born to women who begin the process, but does not manifest a concrete interest in the right to life of each individual embryo.” (D.P., 14) The document continues: “The blithe acceptance of the enormous number of abortions involved in the process of in vitro fertilization vividly illustrates how the replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure — in addition to being in contradiction with the respect that is due to procreation as something that cannot be reduced to mere reproduction — leads to a weakening of the respect owed to every human being.” (D.P., 16) The document links the utilitarian desire for a child with the same utilitarianism, which fosters direct abortion: “The desire for a child cannot justify the ‘production’ of offspring, just as the desire not to have a child cannot justify the abandonment or destruction of a child once he or she has been conceived.” (D.P., 16)

While it is not possible for us to see these tiny microscopic embryos as God sees them, the document very beautifully includes, in this same paragraph 16, a citation from Pope Benedict, which should touch us deeply: “God’s love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother’s womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Gen 1:26) in each one. Therefore, the Magisterium of the Church has constantly proclaimed the sacred and inviolable character of every human life from its conception until its natural end. Benedict XVI, Address to the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life and International Congress on ‘The Human Embryo in the Pre-implantation Phase.’” (February 27, 2006) (D.P., 16)

I did not yet get to embryonic stem cell research, but in light of what we have already seen, we would conclude, in advance, that the dignity of a person precludes such experimentation. It is not right to treat that in which God “sees an impression of his own image and likeness” like a common laboratory rat. To do so does immeasurable harm to us all.

© 2009, Catholic Sentinel online edition

Friday, January 30, 2009

Condoms & HIV = death sentence

A question I rec'd via email:

I heard from a student in bible study class that the Holy Father had commission a study, and that the imposition condoms may be necessary for Africa to curb the spread of Aids. Have you heard of such an inquiry? I have not and don't think that this is actually factual. Could you pleas help me if you can find such a statement. I can't find such a statement. I am assuming that a statement such as this might be from a secular press if at all.

The burden is not upon you to prove the non-existence of something, but the burden is upon your student to prove the existence of what has been asserted. Granted, Individual bishops have crossed the line and advocated condoms for married spouses, but that is another matter.

A good summary document (from 2004) is:
Family Values Versus Safe Sex
A Reflection by His Eminence, Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, President, Pontifical Council for the Family

Also this is interesting:-------------------
Condom Risk
Besides the risks inherent in every “protected action” in which the condom is used, there is a cumulative risk factor. Even if the risks were constant (and we know that they are not because there are variants that change increasing or decreasing these risks) the repetition of the conduct increases the probability of infection. What has to be considered therefore is not only the risk of infection from one act of “protected” intercourse , but also the cumulative risk from continuing “protected” acts of intercourse. The risk of infection and death dramatically increases in the medium or long term. One author, very reasonably claims that from an “epidemiological” perspective, an HIV/AIDS infected person having “protected” sex seven times, negates any protection a condom might offer. This means that safe sex becomes even more serious with repeated condom use. A person that persists in playing Russian Roulette will eventually kill himself, in the same way that a person that persists in having sexual relations protected by a condom with someone infected with HIV/AIDS.
Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula, Director HLI-Rome

Promoters of condoms do not understand (or lie with) statistics; probabilities are multiplicative, not additive. Please consider that the effectiveness of a condom in preventing pregnancy is about 85% according to the CDC. That is the equivalent of putting 100 men on a plane with 85 good parachutes and 15 that won't open. Now you would have an 85% chance of jumping with a good parachute and surviving, but the point to remember is that if and when you survive, and you get on the next flight with the same number of good parachutes... your chance of getting a good chute is again 85%, but your cumulative chance is 0.85x0.85, or .72%. By the 3rd jump it is 61%, 4th it is 52%, 5th is 44%... etc. You have a 19% chance of surviving your 10th jump! Would I not be morally culpable if I encouraged this by hiding the cumulative probability and touting the 85% number, which is valid for each jump?

This can also be demonstrated in a very simple way with dice; give everyone in the group a die and have them roll. Count the number who roll less than a 6 compared to the total number who roll. do this a few times, and you will see, not unexpectedly that consistently each group roll validates that the probability of rolling less than 6 is 5/6, (83%), or about the same as the effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy. To drive the point home, now ask each one to roll their die 10 times and see how many roll a 6 even once. Even though the probability is 83% not to roll a six, you will roll one.

When you consider that pregnancy can occur only a few days out of the month, whereas HIV infection is a risk every day, this Russian Roulette approach really is a death sentence; what are the stats on the effectiveness of preventing HIV with condoms? who would submit to a test as a control? it would be unethical; rather, there is a blind faith that this is a "good thing".

Those who refuse to think about it, constantly reply "Yes, but I'd rather take the chance to get a good chute than jump off the plane with none!" If one were to respond to this completely idiotic answer by supplying the questionable product, one would be guilty of complicity aned negligence; the only way to avoid the bad chute is to not jump out of the plane, a dumb thing to do for pleasure anyway.

If you think this is not so, consider for a moment when AIDS first appeared, the UN predictions on its spread in Thailand and the Philippines. Thailand had imposed a 100% condom use goal (ever sex act would be condomized), and the Philippines refused to permit promoting condoms. So, the UN predicted that by 2000 Thailand would have 50,000 cases and the Philippines would have 500,000 cases, or a 10 to 1 margin (I may not be precise on these numbers, but I have read the UN document and the point is valid). However the situation is quite the opposite; with 350,000 (or 700,000, depending on the source) cases of HIV in Thailand as of 2004, and 1200 in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the Philippines number has doubled recently, as there is now the presence of NGOs promoting condoms in the Philippines.

Friday, January 23, 2009

March for Life

---A little late---
All are invited to attend the March for Life, Saturday, 23 January, 2009. Mass is at 11:00 a.m. at St. John’s, gathering at Julia Davis bandshell at 1:00 p.m., gather in front of City Hall at 1:15 p.m.., with speech by David Ripley of Idaho Chooses Life [he once headed the legislative arm of Idaho Education Assn and was ardent pro-abortion until his wife had an abortion—very interesting fellow]. After all that, we will gather at St. John’s for hot coffee and hot chocolate.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Update on Catholic Radio for Idaho

Click the link for the latest news!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Newsletter posted

I've finished the second issue of "Truth be Told," the newsletter of the Laity of the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus.

This issue is devoted to the issues surrounding the politics which is "in our face" everywhere, but particularly in California as it deals with Proposition 8.

The newsletter can be found here:

Those who profess to love God, but back abortion, are liars

Those who profess to love God, but back abortion, are liars
By Bishop Robert Vasa

BEND — The Mass readings for the week between Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord are taken from the First Letter of St. John. These readings are not always used for it often happens, depending upon the day on which Christmas falls, that the season of ordinary time begins immediately after the celebration of Epiphany. This year, however, the occurrence of Christmas allowed for a full week between these two post-Christmas celebrations and thus the readings from St. John’s first letter. As often happens, the daily Mass readings are both appealing and challenging. The reading of Thursday from I John 4:19ff is particularly appropriate in this year when the life issues are very much on the minds of pro-life persons.

The reason for the increased awareness and even concern on the part of the pro-life community is the specter of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) which is highly rumored to be in the works at the federal level. It is this act which has stimulated the bishops of the United States to launch a massive postcard campaign calling upon the House and Senate to abandon FOCA. While further details about the dramatic impact of FOCA on our American culture can be found in many places, I will simply say that it would establish abortion as a federally protected right and, as I understand it, preclude state limitation or regulation of abortion. Further, since abortion would be a federally protected right, it is very possible that even Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Physicians would be mandated to provide this heinous service.

Thus I strongly urge all who have a glimmer of concern for the lives of pre-born children to engage themselves in this postcard campaign. This is not an action which would limit or alter present permissive abortion laws, which some so-called Catholic pro-choice persons might object to, it would simply preclude a dramatic expansion of that permissiveness. Thus it would be very difficult for any Catholic, no matter how much in favor of abortion itself, to find a reason to refuse to participate in this campaign. At the same time, I do not see how any Catholic senator or representative could vote for the passage of FOCA without recognizing that such a vote would constitute a direct and intentional declaration of their disdain for Catholic teaching. Such a vote would be tantamount to a public declaration of their intention to abandon the Catholic faith. It would be imperative that the faith consequences of such a declaration be allowed to fall fully on the heads of those who would make it.
The writing from St. John applies: “Beloved, we love God because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from Him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
We of the Catholic faith certainly know that love of God is central to our tenets, this is the appealing part. It is hard to imagine a Catholic saying, “I am a Catholic in good standing but I do not love God.” But the inspired scriptures tell us that whoever does not love his brother or neighbor does not and, indeed, cannot love God. This is the challenging part. The people of Jesus’ day understood this and it was this understanding that prompted them to ask, “And who is my neighbor?” For all of us, and especially for Catholic legislators in every strata of government, it is necessary to declare, in conformity with the Natural Law and the teaching of the Catholic Church that, the pre-born child is our brother, our sister, our neighbor!

It may sound a little strong to state that legislators “hate” the pre-born child but hate is an absence of love and love means to wish another well. There is nothing about abortion that wishes the pre-born child well. The preservation of abortion “rights” is already an absence of love for the pre-born child but the passage of FOCA could be construed as nothing less than active and positive disregard, even hatred, for these our brothers and sisters. To paraphrase St. John, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but votes for FOCA, thus showing a disregard for his pre-born brother or sister, he is a liar.” Lots of things can be rationalized in government but I do not see any way in which any Catholic could rationalize or justify an affirmative vote for FOCA.

It is not necessary for your postcards to be as outspoken as this bishop but you do have an obligation to participate in this concerted effort to show love for the tiniest and most defenseless of our brothers and sisters. President-elect Obama made it very clear, prior to the election, that he would happily sign FOCA and the millions of Catholics who voted for him hopefully did so for reasons other than this promise and certainly not because of it. It seems to me that it is particularly incumbent upon these same voters to make it clearly known to their representatives that their vote may not in any way be taken as a sign of support for FOCA.

Another way in which we show our affirmative love for our pre-born brothers and sisters is by way of our annual memorial on Jan. 22. This year the Diocesan Office of Pro-life Activities has scheduled a rosary and Mass at St. Joseph’s in Prineville on Thursday evening, Jan. 22. The rosary will commence at 6:30 p.m. with Mass beginning at 7 p.m. While I recognize that many parishes host similar memorial Masses to pray for the two-fold victims of abortion, the child and the mother, I invite any who can to join me at the rosary and Mass at St. Joseph’s in Prineville.

Regardless of how many years have passed since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court Decision and regardless of how prevalent and routine abortion has become in this country, the simple truth remains, it is an act of extreme violence to the pre-born child and to the distressed mother. Thus, if anyone says, “I love God” and still favors abortion, he is, to quote St. John, a liar. May we all live out faithfully what it means to love God.

From the Catholic Sentinal Online edition

Friday, January 09, 2009

During recent travels...

I learned how to "blow down" the boiler in dad's basement, a job he has done weekly during heating season for over 30 years.

then there was this in Farmington, New Mexico:

Notice the subtext "Roman Catholic Churches of San Juan County"
Makes you proud!

Family emergencies have kept me from Blogger for a while now, perhaps things will ease up a bit.