sábado, 25 de agosto de 2012

Euthanasia is a Cultural Addiction - by Wesley J. Smith

In Seconhand Smoke 

The Netherlands opened the doors to euthanasia way back in 1973. Since then, it has fallen off a vertical moral cliff with the killing agenda having spread to the pediatric wards. the mentally ill, and now stalking the elderly “tired of life”–all reported here and in my other writings.

But even that isn’t enough.  The cultural death addiction is now spreading, as I have reported, to the point that people want to be able to do each other.  That process is moving ahead with Hemlock Society type advocacy of assisted suicide proselytizing.  From the Radio Netherlands story:
A special website has been launched in the Netherlands for people who assist family or friends to commit suicide and want to tell their stories anonymously, or simply ask questions. Assisted suicide carried out by lay people is currently punishable by law. In the Netherlands, only doctors can carry out assisted suicides, and they can do so only if they follow strict protocols. [Me: Baloney!]

According to Right-to-Die-Netherlands (NVVE), physicians frequently refuse requests for assisted suicide, leaving patients unable to carry out their wishes in a humane way. One case recently made headlines: a man who helped his 99-year-old mother to die by giving her the lethal medication she requested. The Ministry of Justice is considering bringing charges against the man. The NVVE says people are often unwilling to help their friends and loved ones because they fear prosecution. So they’re left witnessing their loved ones dying or committing suicide and have to live with those memories. The organisation hopes that the anonymous testimonies will provoke discussion in the Netherlands and ultimately to the scrapping of the law against lay people helping in cases of assisted suicide.
If he is prosecuted, don’t expect any meaningful punishment.  And watch, E will spread away from the “medical model,” which is logical when you think about it because killing isn’t really a medical act.

Here’s the moral of the story: Euthanasia is addicting.  Once you allow it for a few circumstances, over time, you will allow it for many.  Ultimate destination: Death on Demand.

Contraception and Public Policy - by Rob Agnelli


One can readily see why there is an insistence against “artificial” methods of birth control, while something like Natural Family Planning is in accord with the natural law.  It is not because they are artificial, per se, but because they are unnatural.  In other words, they violate human nature.

In what many regard as the most prophetic work of the 20th Century, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley presents a culture in which fertility is seen as a nuisance, with women carry contraceptives with them everywhere they go on their “Maltusian Belts.”  Perhaps, the last major obstacle to making this prediction a reality is the Catholic Church.  That is why the recent HHS mandate that requires religious institutions to subsidize free contraceptives for their employees is seen by many as a shot over the bow of the Bark of Peter in the United States.  Not surprisingly, one Catholic GOP candidate for President was peppered with questions related to the mandate, and birth control in general.  He attempted to address the immorality as well as the societal consequences, but his support of public policy was inconsistent with his personal views.  This is especially true with his support of the Title X program that provides access to contraceptive services, supplies and information.  Clearly, he felt the pressure of speaking to a society that has become dependent upon the widespread availability of contraception.  It seems that the only recourse is to fall back on the safety net of:  “I am personally opposed, but I can’t impose my beliefs on others.”  But given our contraceptive culture, is there a realistic public policy that respects both the common good and the natural law?

To begin, one might simply say that the government ought to give the people what they want.  This is a foundational principle of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Those that do not want to use contraception have a right not to make use of the service, but that should not take away the rights of those who do.  Although this is the prevailing mentality, it rests upon two erroneous assumptions.

Running from the Natural Law?

The first is a misunderstanding of self-government.  This does not mean majority rules, and whatever a majority wants, they should get.  This eventually leads to the type of soft-despotism that Tocqueville thought a very real possibility in the democracy of the United States.  Instead, because the right to self-government proceeds from the natural law, the exercise of that right must be in accord with natural law.  If natural law is sufficiently valid to give this basic right to the people, then it must be valid to impose its precepts on this same right. 1  Whatever rights the people want to exercise must be in accord with natural law.  You cannot run away from this law, as any honest moral relativist quickly finds out.  To the matter at hand, the immorality of artificial contraception is not simply a religious or personal belief, but something that can be arrived at through the application of natural law.

Despite the fact that the founding fathers framed this country on a Judeo-Christian understanding of natural law, very few Americans today actually know what it is, and how to apply it.  Most assume it has something to do with what naturally occurs rather than something that is linked to man’s nature or essence.  Therefore, it is instructive to discuss precisely why contraception violates the natural law, if for no other reason than to put away the myth that it is merely a regurgitation of outdated religious dogma.

In examining human nature, one finds that man has a natural inclination to the good.  In particular, there are four intrinsic goods in which man is naturally inclined.  First, all men have an inclination to conserve their being.  From this inclination every man naturally does those things which preserve and enhance his life, avoiding those things which would be harmful to it.  Second, man possesses the natural inclination to marriage and procreation (including the raising and education of children).  Third, because man is a rational creature, he has a natural inclination to know the truth, especially about God, and how to live in society.  Whatever pertains to each of these inclinations belongs to the natural law. 2  In other words, whatever leads to true human thriving, ought to be promoted; whatever is contrary to one of these goods, is wrong and ought to be avoided.  It is also important to note that something is wrong, not simply because God said so, but because, ultimately, it is harmful to us.  That is why Aquinas insisted that we offend God only by acting contrary to our own good. 3

Notice also that in the list of intrinsic goods, marriage and procreation appear as a single good.  That is because they are intrinsically linked, so that anything that harms either of the two aspects, harms both.  Therefore, contraception is intrinsically wrong because it harms the good of marriage and procreation.

Many question how these two aspects constitute a single, inseparable good.  If we understand marriage in the traditional sense to mean the “one-flesh communion of persons in which the spouses unite on all levels of their personhood (body and soul)” and we examine the conjugal act on a biological level, we can illuminate the inseparability principle.  Professor Germain Grisez articulates this well when he carefully explains this based on the following principle:
Though a male and female are complete individuals with respect to other functions—for example, nutrition, sensation, and locomotion—with respect to reproduction, they are only potential parts of a mated pair, which is the complete organism capable of reproducing sexually. Even if the mated pair is sterile, intercourse, provided it is the reproductive behavior characteristic of the species, makes the copulating male and female one organism. 4
While it was claimed above that the laws of nature are not the same as the natural law, these laws can serve as a reliable guide in discovering the good.  Because nature is intelligible, to act in accord with nature is to act in accord with reason and, therefore, to act morally.   Conversely, we can say that which is not natural is not in accord with reason and, therefore, is immoral.  One can readily see, based on this principle, why there is an insistence against “artificial” methods of birth control, while something like Natural Family Planning is in accord with the natural law.  It is not because they are artificial, per se, but because they are unnatural.  In other words, they violate human nature.

“I Want My Rights”

A second confusion arises with respect to whether there is truly a “right” to contraception.  There is a necessary distinction to be made between what are commonly referred to as “strong” and “weak” rights.  A “strong” right is always connected to a true perfective good, which cannot be derived from a broader right.   On the other hand, “weak” rights flow from others’ duty of non-interference.  This distinction is important because many people confuse the fact that if there is a right of noninterference, then this gives them a right to a particular activity.  True rights never proceed from another’s duty not to interfere.  This, unfortunately, is a source of confusion even in our current judicial climate, especially in the relationship between Roe vs. Wade’s “right to privacy,” and Casey vs. Planned Parenthood’s declaration that a woman has a “right to abortion.”  In applying this to the question of artificial contraception, one can say that, although there may be a right to non-interference because artificial contraception violates the natural law, there is no right to it.

The Policy
Based upon this foundation, one might conclude that artificial contraception should be outlawed immediately.  One can hardly begin to imagine the political upheaval if such a policy was put in-place.  That is why St. Thomas Aquinas thought that not all vice ought to be outlawed.  Instead, he thought only “the more grievous vices from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others…” 5 should be outlawed.  In essence, the Angelic Doctor is saying that when a law prescribes acts that are far beyond the virtue of the average person in society, then there ought to be no laws against it.  One of the reasons for this is that the law may become a pathway to further vice.  For example, suppose you outlaw contraception but not everyone has the level of virtue to follow the law.  Now, you can create a situation where a black market arises, causing  more serious crime to occur.

This does not mean that contraception is a necessary evil, and that nothing can be done.  Classically understood, a good government is one that helps make the people morally good.  This is especially true of a democracy which depends on a “moral and religious people” to survive, as John Adams said.  While laws may not seek to outlaw all vices, they certainly should not promote them.  Therefore, governmental policies, such as Title X, that actually supply and pay for contraception, should not be in-place.  A policy such as this would also respect the fact that most people view contraception as “a private matter,” although they may not be happy once they got their wish. This step in the process may not be a hard sell, but there would be an aspect of the policy that would literally be a very difficult “pill” for many to swallow.

The Bitter Pill
Unfortunately, one of the best kept secrets with respect to most chemical contraceptives is that they act as abortifacients.  These would have to be made illegal immediately.  The killing of an innocent child in the womb involves the type of “grievous vice” that St. Thomas said must always be outlawed.  In fact, one could argue (although it might be difficult to prove) that more abortions occur through the use of these “medicines” and devices than the 1.2 million that are performed directly in the US each year.

Justice Harry Blackmum, in the Roe vs. Wade decision, said: “we need not resolve the difficult question as to when life begins.”  But, this is precisely the question that needs to be answered, as shown by the rather schizophrenic manner in which he later says: “(If the) suggestion of personhood {of the preborn} is established, the {abortion rights} case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the {14th} Amendment.”  A policy such as this would force an answer to this “difficult question” because of the prevalence of chemical contraceptives.

Furthermore, this would force out into the open the myth of government neutrality.  Even though one may say that the question of personhood is “above my pay grade,” and attempt to appear neutral, this so-called neutral position makes a claim that personhood begins at birth (as distinct from “partial-birth”).

This is one of those rare cases in our society in which we drown out the voice of science.  When Congress attempted to answer the question in 1981, they found that “physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being—a being that is alive, and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.” 6  Unfortunately, that initiative failed 30 years ago.  It is time it be reopened in order to provide a definitive answer.

Effect on the Common Good
In Huxley’s book, “Brave New World,” the disillusioned Bernard is banned to the Falkland Islands.  While a candidate that ran on a platform that proposed removing the government from the business of providing contraception might get elected, I fear a similar fate to Bernard’s would await any candidate that proposed outlawing all chemical contraception with abortifacient properties.  Nevertheless, the morally responsible policy would be one similar to what has already been proposed.  Still, one aspect that should be examined is the harm that readily available contraception does to the common good, especially to women.

Contraception is often presented as an important issue related to “women’s health.”  But as economist, Timothy Reichert, 7 has shown, contraception is anything but a social good for women.  It shifts wealth and power away from women by creating a “prisoner’s dilemma” game, where each woman is induced to make decisions that make her, and other women, worse off in the long run. 8

One of the social consequences of a contraceptive culture is that, what was once a single mating market—men and women paired in marriage—has now become two markets.  There is the classic “marriage market,” that represents the market for marital relationships, and a “sex market,” which represents a market for sexual relationships.  Because of ready access to contraception, both men and women frequent the “sex market” earlier in life, and then inhabit the “marriage market” later in life.  With supposedly more reliable contraception, assurance is provided that participation in the sex market will not result in pregnancy.  This separation into markets is not necessarily adverse to either sex, assuming that the amount of sex being had is the same.  It only becomes adverse to one of the sexes when there are imbalances in the “price” that is paid.  The price the women pay is much higher than the men.

The two markets are not equally populated by men and women.  At a certain age, because of their biological clocks, most women will inhabit the marriage market rather than the sex market.  Men do not enter the marriage market at the same time, or even at the same rate.  The imbalance comes in that, in the sex market, women have more bargaining power than men, since they are the scarce commodity, and can command higher “prices.” The picture is flipped over when women make the switch to the marriage market, in that there is a relative scarcity of marriageable men. Over time, however, women cut deals and settle for less of a man.  Thus, men take more and more of the “gains from trade” that marriage creates, and women take fewer and fewer.

Contraception, then, ultimately leads to divorce for two reasons.  The first reason is because of the lower relative bargaining power that women wield relative to men, as more women will simply strike bad deals.  The second reason is that it creates a demand for divorce, even before marriage occurs.  Women now need a pre-marriage exit strategy, in case things turn out badly.  They do this primarily by going into the labor market at the price of developing stronger familial relationships.

You might say that professional development is worth the price of stronger familial relationships for women, because the women are more personally satisfied.  However, this ignores the fact that about half the children who are placed in daycares are girls and, therefore, future women.

Obviously, contraception also increases the incidence of infidelity.  It opens up more opportunities for infidelity to married men than it does married women.  It is easier for an older man to enter the “sex market” than an older woman.  It also increases a demand for abortion in that women rationally plan their human capital investments around childbearing in the later phases of their lives.

As economists and social scientists know, it is nearly impossible to break out of a prisoner’s dilemma unless there are changes in laws and social mores. Thus, even from a common good standpoint, it is necessary that the access to contraception be limited greatly.  This begins, first of all, by removing the government as a provider of contraceptives.  Catholics also have a key role to play, in not only continuing to preach the message of just how harmful contraception is to women and society as a whole, but also to preach the “new feminism” proposed by Blessed John Paul II in his “Letter to Women.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles. n.d.

Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. 1920.

Goldin, Claudia, and Lawrence Katz. “The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women’s Career and Marriage Decisions.” Journal of Political Economy, 2000: 730-768.
Grisez, Germain. “The Christian Family as Fulfilment of Sacramental Marriage.” Studies in Christian Ethics, 1996: 23-33.

Maritain, Jacques. Man and the State. Washington DC: Catholic University Press, 1989.

Reichert, Timothy. “Bitter Pill.” First Things, May 2010: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/04/bitter-pill
  1. Jacques Maritain, Man and the State (Washington DC: Catholic University Press, 1989), 135.
  2. Summa Theologia (ST), I-II, q.94, a.2
  3. Summa contra Gentiles, 3.122 
  4. Germain Grisez. “The Christian Family as Fulfillment of Sacramental Marriage.” Studies in Christian Ethics, 1996: 27.
  5. ST, I-II, q.96, a.2
  6. Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981.
  7. Timothy Reichert, “Bitter Pill.” First Things, May 2010.
  8. Goldin and Katz, “The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women’s Career and Marriage Decisions.”  http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~jkennan/teaching/pillpaper2.pdf

Grande descaridade de Deus Nosso Senhor? - por Nuno Serras Pereira

Depois de ter mostrado a Santa Brígida da Suécia algumas imagens proféticas, Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo explica-as assim: “ O castelo de que te falei é a Santa Igreja, construída com o Meu sangue e o dos meus Santos, cimentado com o cimento da Minha Caridade; nela coloquei os meus eleitos e amigos. O seu fundamento é a Fé, isto é crer que Eu sou um Juiz Justo e Misericordioso. Mas agora está minado o fundamento, porque todos crêem e pregam que sou Misericordioso, mas quase ninguém prega nem crê que Eu seja Justo Juiz. Esses acham-me quase um Juiz iníquo. De facto, seria iníquo o Juiz, que por misericórdia despedisse sem castigo algum os iníquos, os quais por conseguinte oprimiriam ainda mais os justos. Mas eu Sou um Juiz Justo e Misericordioso, de modo que não deixarei sem castigo nem sequer o mínimo pecado, nem sem recompensa o mínimo bem. Esses pregadores malvados “ … que pecam sem temor, que negam a Minha Justiça, atormentam os meus amigos … ” dando-lhes “opróbrio e toda a espécie de dor … como se fossem demónios” “experimentarão a Minha Justiça, serão como ladrões confundidos publicamente diante dos Anjos e dos homens … . De facto, como os enforcados são devorados pelos corvos, assim estes serão devorados dos demónios e não consumidos.” Dirigindo-Se à Sua Igreja, continua o Senhor: Não escondas nenhum pecado, não deixes nenhum por punir, nem consideres nenhum ligeiro. Tudo aquilo que tiveres descuidado, Eu recordá-lo-ei e julgar-te-ei. E mais adiante “não há homem algum que seja tão pecador que o seu pecado não seja perdoado, se o pedir com o propósito de se emendar e com contrição.”

E noutro passo “Ouvi, vós todos meus inimigos, viventes no mundo, pois que não falo aos meus amigos que fazem a minha vontade. Ouvi, vós todos, Clérigos, Arcebispos e Bispos … Ouvi, vós todos, Religiosos de todas as Ordens. Ouvi, ó Reis e Príncipes e Juízes da Terra … escutai estas palavras , que Eu mesmo, vosso Criador, agora vos dirijo.

Eis, eu lamento que vos tenhais afastado de Mim e entregado ao diabo meu inimigo, abandonastes os meus mandamentos e seguis a vontade do diabo e obedeceis às suas sugestões, não pensais que Eu sou o imutável e eterno Deus, vosso Criador.” Encarnei e padeci os tormentos da Paixão para vossa Salvação mas “a tudo isto, ó meus inimigos, não prestais atenção alguma, porque fostes enganados. Por isso carregais o jugo e o peso do diabo com falsa alegria e não sabeis nem ouvis estas palavras, antes que chega a dor desmesurada. Nem isto vos basta, mas é tanta a vossa soberba que se pudésseis alçar-vos acima de mim, o faríeis de bom grado. E tanta é em vós a volúpia da carne que de bom grado preferiríeis passar sem mim a deixar a desordem da vossa volúpia. E acresce que a vossa cobiça é insaciável, como um saco sem fundo, porque não há nada que vos possa saciar.
Juro por isso – pela minha Divindade – que se morrerdes no estado em que vos encontrais, nunca vereis o meu rosto. Mas, pela vossa soberba mergulhareis no inferno, e todos os diabos se precipitarão para vos atormentarem desoladamente. … Ó meus inimigos, abomináveis e ingratos e degenerados, Eu pareço-vos como um verme morto no Inverno, por isso fazeis o que quereis e prosperais. Por isso erguer-me-ei contra vós no Verão e então chorareis e não escapareis à minha mão. Todavia, ó inimigos, uma vez que vos redimi com o meu sangue e nada mais peço senão as vossas almas, voltai de novo humildemente e de bom grado vos acolherei como filhinhos. Sacudi de vós o pesado jugo do diabo e recordai-vos do meu amor e na vossa consciência vereis que sou suave e manso.”

Santa Catarina de Sena - Padroeira da Europa, juntamente com Santa Brígida e Santa Benedita da Cruz (Edith Stein) - recebeu, também ela, as inspirações de Deus, que constam principalmente no escrito Dialogo della Divina Providenza. Nesta obra, Deus fala pela boca de Catarina chamando aos maus Sacerdotes e Prelados “desventurados”, “devoradores de almas”, “bestas”, “templos do diabo”, “animais ferozes”, “brutos animais”, “demónios incarnados”.

Alguns trechos: “Vê como a minha Esposa (a Igreja) tem conspurcada a sua face, é leprosa pela imundície, o amor-próprio, a inchada soberba e a avareza daqueles que se pastam ao seu peito … ” “para onde quer que te vires, para seculares e religiosos, clérigos e prelados … todos me lançam o fedor dos seus pecados mortais … ” “Ó templos do diabo, Eu levantei-vos às dignidades para que sejais anjos terrestres nesta vida; mas sois demónios, e arrebatastes o ofício dos demónios … e estes miseráveis, indignos de ser chamados ministros (da Igreja), são demónios incarnados, porque por seus defeitos conformaram-se à vontade dos demónios, e por isso tomaram o seu ofício, quando me dispensam, a mim verdadeiro Sol, nas trevas do pecado mortal, e administram as trevas da sua vida desordenada e celerada aos súbditos (os fiéis leigos) e às outras criaturas dotadas de razão. Induzem em confusão … as mentes das criaturas que os vêem viver desordenadamente; pior, são causa de pena e confusão de consciência naqueles que frequentemente subtraem ao estado de graça e ao caminho da verdade: conduzindo-os à culpa, fazem-nos caminhar pela via da mentira.” “Vê com quanta ignorância, com quantas trevas, com quanta ingratidão, e com que mãos imundas, é administrado o glorioso leite e sangue desta Esposa (a Igreja).” “Esta Esposa está cheia de espinhos diversos, de muitos e vários pecados, Não que ela possa receber em si o fedor do pecado, como se a virtude dos Santos Sacramentos pudesse receber alguma lesão; mas aqueles que se apascentam a si mesmos aos peitos desta Esposa, recebem o fedor nas suas almas, tirando-se a dignidade a que os elevei. No entanto não diminui a dignidade em si, mas neles mesmos. Deste modo pelos seus defeitos é envilecido o Sangue; uma vez que os seculares (os fiéis leigos) perdem a reverência que lhes é devida pelo Sangue.” “Todavia estes não deveriam proceder deste modo: se a perdem não se torna menor a culpa pelos defeitos dos pastores. Mas estes miseráveis são espelho de miséria, tendo-os eu posto como espelho de virtudes.” “ Oh homem desventurado! … Foi este o ofício (eclesiástico) que te concedi, isto é que invistas sobre mim com os cornos da tua soberba injuriando-me a mim e ao próximo … ? Tu és como um animal feroz sem temor algum de mim … tu desprezas os humildes, os virtuosos, os pobrezinhos.” Chega mesmo a invectivar o Papa por não castigar os pecados e abusos: “Se o não faz, não ficará sem castigo esse pecado quando tiver de prestar contas das suas ovelhas diante de mim”.

Regressando a Santa Brígida da Suécia, que precedeu Santa Catarina de Sena -uma das filhas de Santa Brígida, Santa Catarina da Suécia, será contemporânea e grande amiga da de Sena -, importará referir que as suas Revelações foram motivo de desconfiança, quer durante a sua vida quer depois de morta. Uma das razões era o desassombro, a crueza, a “falta de reverência e de caridade” daquilo que era atribuído a Nosso Senhor. Ao princípio, a própria Santa Brígida tinha receio de estar a ser iludida pelo demónio, pelo que quis sempre ter varões, sacerdotes e bispos, de virtude experimentada e de ciência teológica eminente que a assegurassem e garantissem a origem sobrenatural e Divina das mesmas. Aquando do processo de Canonização, que durou 18 anos, mais do que um Papa instituiu várias comissões de teólogos e Cardeais que depois de minuciosos e extensos estudos concluíram, sempre, serem as Revelações dignas de toda a credibilidade, não hesitando em atribuí-las a Deus Nosso Senhor. 

Vejamos agora, a título de exemplo, uma das Revelações que Santa Brígida recebe para um dos Pontífices: “Queixo-me de ti, oh cabeça da minha Igreja, tu que te sentas sobre a cátedra que eu dei a Pedro e aos seus sucessores para que tenham uma tripla dignidade … Mas tu, que deves libertar as almas do pecado e apresentar-mas, tu és o seu verdugo; porque eu nomeei a Pedro pastor e guardião do meu rebanho, e tu dissipa-lo e fere-lo. Tu és pior que Lúcifer … Eu ganhei as almas como o meu sangue e confiei-tas como a um fiel amigo, mas tu abandona-las ao inimigo das quais eu as havia libertado. Tu és mais injusto que Pilatos … Tu és mais meu inimigo do que Judas … Tu és mais abominável do que os que crucificaram o meu corpo … ”.

Pelos poucos exemplos que deixo, podia trazer à colação muito mais Santos, parece-me claro que o próprio Deus, que Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo, seria, nos dias de hoje, de novo condenado, mas desta vez no tribunal daquilo que muitos católicos entendem ser a Caridade.

Eu, pobre de mim, não me atrevo a emitir sentença alguma, Deus me livre de tal, contra Nosso Senhor. Pelo contrário, procuro, tanto quanto o consente a minha miséria, agarrar-me ao dizer de S. João, numa das suas cartas: "Quem diz acreditar n’ Ele deve proceder como Ele procedeu”.

24. 08. 2012

sexta-feira, 24 de agosto de 2012

The Church and Secularism - part 2 - by Peter Kreeft


The Nature of Diagnosis 
All right.  The symptoms are obvious.  We know the symptoms.  The diagnosis is the most important point.  If you don't go through step two — diagnosis — you can't go into step three or four, cure and prescription.  And in fact, of the three steps, the diagnosis is the thing you pay the doctors big bucks for, because they're experts.  They've gone to medical school, they've gone through all this training that makes them experts — you couldn't diagnose your own disease very well.  You observe your own symptoms, of course.  And once the disease is diagnosed, you can peruse the medical books and say, "Well, this is the likely outcome." The prognosis is almost automatic and the prescription is fairly routine.  But the diagnosis is the thing.

There's a story of one of the world's first computers, an enormous thing at MIT, during World War II.  It was all cathode ray tubes; it didn't have chips then.  And it was coordinating the war efforts and went on the blink.  And they asked the main inventor of the computer to come and repair it.  And he said, "I'd be glad to, but I'm going to charge you big bucks." It was a multi-million dollar computer, and it was worthless without repair.  So he said, "I might charge up to a million dollars to diagnose the problem.  But I won't charge you anything if I don't succeed." They said okay.  So he went up there with a screwdriver, and walked up and down the different halls of the computer, which was as large as a building, and listened, and at a certain point, when he heard something wrong, he tapped with the screwdriver — bom bom bom — and said, "The computer's fixed now." They turned it on, and sure enough, it was fixed.  It took him about five minutes.  So they said, "Send us your bill." So he sent them the bill; it was a million dollars.  For tapping the screwdriver.  So they said, "Please itemize your bill." He said, "Gladly." Item one: tapping with a screwdriver, one dollar.  Item two: knowing where to tap, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars.  That's diagnosis.
  What's the essential diagnosis of the ills of Western Civilization? It's rather painfully obvious: atheism.  But not just in terms of polls; in terms of real presence in people's lives.  When Nietzsche, back in the 19th Century, said, "God is dead," he didn't mean simply that God is a myth and a superstition and never did live.  He meant that this superstition, this thing that never was literally alive, was the energy of Western Civilization.  Nietzsche, like the saints, understood that there is no Western Civilization without God.  Although he believed that we created Him in our image, rather than that he created us in His image, he realized that the image and the model go together.  When there's a mirror on the wall in a room, and you walk out of that room, due to the finite speed of light, though you can't see it, your image remains in the mirror for a split second after you leave the room.  Well, if we're made in God's image, and God is dead, it may take a split second, or a century, for man, His image, to die.  But man cannot live without God.  An image cannot live without its model.  If God leaves, man leaves.  Nietzsche knew that.  Half of him rejoiced in it; half of him was agonized over it, but he called for the new man, the man without religion and without morality.  We're seeing it gradually happen.  

If you want to read the two most prophetic books of modern times, read The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis, and remember, his title is to be taken seriously, it's not an exaggeration; and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  Brave New World is what de Tocqueville called "soft totalitarianism." 

One of the biggest traumas in my life when I was a young and naïve teacher — I'm still young, I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, and I'm still naïve — but I gave them Brave New World, a class, and I didn't prepare them for it.  I thought they'd understand it.  So I said nothing about it, I said we'll discuss it next week, and we started discussing it in the class and I discovered to my consternation that they misunderstood Brave New World.  They thought Huxley was for it.  Worse, they agreed with him! They were astonished when I told them that this was a dystopia, not a utopia, and that Huxley was a prophet who was counselling us against Brave New World.  "What?  Against Brave New World?  Everybody's happy there!  Everybody's comfortable!  They solve all problems.  There's no poverty, there's no prejudice, there's no war.  There's free sex, there's free entertainment, there's free drugs — it's ideal!  It's like Boston College campus!"

Well, if we're in love with it, that's where we're going.  If there's no God, then there's no being.  Wait a minute, that's very abstract.  What do you mean, "being"? Well, being isn't just the fact that something exists.  Being is real-ness.  Nihilism is the ism or ideology that says there is no being.  Well obviously we exist, and this piece of paper exists, and the planet Mars exists — what do you mean, there is no being? Well, nothing's really real.  Everything's fake.  Nothing is to rely on.  Everything's empty.  Read the Book of Ecclesiastes.  Don't read the last six verses, which is the answer.  Read the rest of the book, which is the problem.  "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What does that mean? There is no being.  Nothing's real.  Everything's like a bubble.  Touch it, and it bursts.  People are like bubbles; they're fakes.  Everything's a fake.  Everything's a facade.  Nothing's behind the facade.  It's empty.  The difference between the full and the empty is more important even than the difference between life and death, or good and evil.
 Lack of Meaning 
  Viktor Frankl wrote a wonderful book called Man's Search for Meaning.  It's the best book to come out of the Nazi era.  He was a disciple of Freud, a psychiatrist from Vienna, who, as a Jew, was put into Auschwitz.  And he observed his fellow prisoners with the eye of a scientist, and was struck by the fact that his predictions didn't come true about who would survive and who didn't.  Some of the weakest prisoners who had no privileges did survive, and some of the strongest and healthiest prisoners, including those who had privileges with the Nazis because they sucked up to them, didn't survive.  And he questioned Freud's basic principle, which is the pleasure principle, that the desire for pleasure is the deepest need of human beings, and he said, "That principle didn't enable me to predict the facts that I observed at Auschwitz.  There must be some deeper need that everybody has that the survivors fulfilled and the non-survivors didn't.  What could that be?"

And he came to the conclusion that it was the need for meaning, the need for something real in your life that was an absolute, that you'd give yourself to, that wasn't humanly invented, that was real.  And he tested the hypothesis and it came out.  All these survivors, weak or strong, had some reason to suffer.  They said, "Life has meaning, and suffering is a part of life, therefore suffering has meaning." That's the common feature. 

For some of them, the meaning was simply to get back at the Nazis after the war, to get revenge.  For some of them, the meaning was to find a family again.  For some of them, their meaning was to complete their work, to finish their book or whatever.  For some of them, their meaning was to prove that they were strong and able to survive.  For some of them, the meaning was religious.  But for some of them it wasn't.  But all of them turned a corner.  All the survivors turned this corner and the non-survivors didn't.  Everybody, survivors and non-survivors, asked the same question: why? Why are we here? This is meaningless.  This is nonsense.  This is unjust.  This is ridiculous.  This is insane.  It is utterly irrational.  Of course.  And some of them just stuck in that forever, and they didn't survive.  

But some of them turned a corner and realized that whereas they had been asking life, "Life, what is your meaning now," they were wrong.  Not because they didn't get an answer to the question, but because they were asking the wrong question.  In fact, the fact that they were asking the question was the mistake.  Life was asking them the question.  They were being asked, "What is your meaning?" And they had to respond.  That's the essence of responsibility.  The ability to give a response to life's challenges, to life's questions: What is your meaning? And those who had any kind of answer to that question survived.  Those who didn't didn't. 

Many of the prisoners believed that behind life there was a personal God.  So it was God that was asking them, "What is your meaning?" But even those that didn't believe in God knew that life was asking them, "What is your meaning?" And those that responded, survived, those that didn't, didn't.  So he wrote this wonderful book called Man's Search for Meaning and founded a whole new school of psychology called Logotherapy, based on the principle that man's fundamental need is the need for meaning.  

Meaning means, ultimately, purpose: teleology, from the Greek word telos, which means "end" or "purpose." That's a concept which modern science has discarded.  And in order to do hard science you have to discard it.  You can't bring that into equations.  And since science has been our most spectacular success, we tend to make the mistake of thinking that the closer you can get to the scientific method, the stronger and more certain your knowledge is and therefore we tend to discount anything that doesn't fit the scientific method.  But purpose doesn't fit the scientific method.  You can't measure purpose.  

That, by the way, is why I personally think that the intelligent design people, who are very good and well intentioned and reasonable people, are making a strategic mistake when they say, "This is science." It's not.  It's philosophy.  Science requires quantification and empirical verification, and you can't do that with purpose.  It's very good philosophy — it's basically Aquinas' fifth way, the argument from design, which is probably the most popular argument for the existence of God in the world — but to present it as science is not going to convince people, because the scientific method is tougher than that, harder than that, narrower than that. 

But if you run your life by the scientific method, nothing's left.  Not only do you throw out God, you throw out persons.  Science doesn't know what a person is.  If you're a doctor and you're operating on a patient, you have to treat that patient as a machine in order to be an efficient doctor.  If you think, "That patient has a soul," or "That patient is my grandmother," or "That patient is someone I'm in love with," your hands are going to shake, and you're going to botch the operation.  So you have to deliberately suppress the most valuable stuff in you in order to be an effective surgeon or an effective scientist.  That brain is a computer that is not working; let me figure out why.  But to take that over into life as such is devastating.  But, more or less, our society has done that.  And therefore there's no purpose: "Oh, everybody needs a purpose, but it's just a fiction.  It's something you make up.  It's not real.  It's not true.  It's just a little game you play with yourself in order to motivate yourself.  You're the donkey and you invent a carrot and you put it on a stick in front of your own head to make you move." That's not going to really motivate you.  

The True, the Good, and the Beautiful 
Well, I've expressed my diagnosis in three different terms, which are equivalent: God, being, and meaning.  But those are pretty abstract terms.  Can I make this more concrete? Can I break it down into something more specific? Yes, I can. Every religion in the world that has, if not a God, something above man, something god-like, also has a meaning, a purpose, a fundamental absolute to give to all human beings as the main purpose of human life.  And every religion in the world, according to social scientists and anthropologists and sociologists, has three visible ingredients.  It manifests itself in three ways.  They are often called creed, code, and cult — or words, works, and worship.  Every religion says there's something to believe in as true.  Every religion says there's some lifestyle to practice as good.  And every religion says there's some work to do, some liturgy, some worship, some prayer or meditation.  Thomas Aquinas says we only need to know three things.  And the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer tell us everything we need to know.  The Apostles' Creed, the simplest and earliest and shortest creed, summarizes what is true.  And the Ten Commandments summarize what is good.  And the Lord's Prayer summarizes what is desirable or beautiful.  So the Creed tells us what we must believe — that's the object of faith: truth.  The Commandments tell us what we must love — that's the object of the will, that's good.  And the Lord's Prayer tells us what we must hope for — that's what gives us joy.  If we use beauty as a correlate to hope, we have the true, the good, and the beautiful as the three absolutes.  The three things every human being wants infinitely, and is not satisfied with only a little bit of.  We're satisfied with a little bit of food; we're satisfied with a little bit of power; we're satisfied with a little bit of sex; but not a little bit of truth.  "I'll be ignorant about fifty percent of truth and knowledgeable about fifty percent" — nobody says that.  I've got a couple of things that are good for me, but I want some things that are not good for me — nobody says that.  I like to enjoy beauty on Monday, but ugliness is okay on Tuesday — nobody says that.  And therefore these are the three things that don't get boring and therefore they are the three foretastes of heaven, because they are three attributes of Almighty God himself.  

But without God, there really is no truth, because there's no being.  God, being, and truth are a kind of progression.  Truth means truth about what is real, and if there's no ultimate being, no ultimate reality, then reality is just what we call it.  It falls apart, ultimately.  Deep down, everything is empty.  So if there's no truth, there's nothing for either reason or faith to grab onto, so you're a sceptic.  And that's certainly one of the deep distresses of modern society — scepticism.  Second, without truth there's no goodness.  Nothing's truly good.  Goodness too is kind of a fake, or purely subjective.  So another aspect of the diagnosis of our society is amoralism.  And without goodness, there's really no beauty.  Gothic cathedrals were not made by moral sceptics; they were made by saints.

quinta-feira, 23 de agosto de 2012

Economics, reproductive health and the integrity of the family - by Arland Nichols, PhD and Donald DeMarco, PhD

In Zenit

The term “economic” is derived from the Greek oikonomia, pertaining to the management of the household. In this sense, the term has considerable breadth inasmuch as it deals not only with finances, but all the human complexities involved in managing and caring for all the members of the family.

Today’s economist is, in general, not particularly concerned with the family. He is not interested in those realities that are beyond the reach of data. At a macro level an economy is said to be “healthy” when GDP, interest rates, and unemployment stabilize at acceptable levels. In our modern use of the term, it is possible to have a healthy economy in a sick society. Thus, a “healthy” economy at the macro level can coexist with the use of contraception or abortion by families seeking to avoid another mouth to feed.

The modern economist who restricts his professional interest to financial data displays a much narrower view of economics than has been characteristic of the Christian tradition. As Pope Pius IX stated in Quadragesimo Anno, “Economic life must be inspired by Christian principles.” This includes the reproductive realm. In writing Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI was guided by an ever-present concern for a “integral vision of man.” In section 7 of the encyclical, Paul VI writes:
The problem of birth, like every other problem regarding human life, is to be considered…in the light of an integral vision of man and of his vocation, not only his natural and earthly, but also his supernatural and eternal vocation.
From this perspective, Pope Paul accurately predicted what would happen if the use of contraception became widespread. He warned of a general lowering of moral standards throughout society, an increase in marital infidelity, a lessening of respect for women by men, and the coercive use of contraceptive technologies by governments.

Leaving aside the obvious connection between this fourth prediction and the current “contraceptive mandate” in the United States, Paul VI could not possibly have predicted the radical impact “reproductive health” initiatives would have in changing the demographic and economic landscape through the world. For years the world has wrung its collective hands at the disastrous economic situation in Greece. Few know, however, that Greece is also demographically insolvent. Fertilityrates in this country have dropped from 2.2 children per couple in the 1980s to less than 1 child today. As Mark Steyn recently characterized the problem: “In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren – i.e., an upside-down family tree…if 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off?” No amount of aid, restructuring of debt or infusion of financial capital can offer a long-term solution to the situation in Greece. Only human capital can remedy—perhaps “could have remedied” would be more accurate—the impending collapse. A vibrant economy is only possible through an “integral vision” of economy as oikonomia. In other words, Greece must address the family and demographic collapse if its financial crisis is to be ameliorated.

Another country with looming debt problems seems insistent on pursuing a similar course as Greece: According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of the United States the economy is projected to shut down in 2027 as the nation will be unable to meet its trillions of dollars in debt obligations. By the middle of the 21st century the CBO notes that interest payments on the debt will exceed federal revenues. The specter of collapse looms large.

Clearly guided by a truncated anthropology and economic vision, political leaders in the United States have chosen to throw gas on this proverbial fire. Though the United States already gives birth to children at a rate (1.9) below replacement level (2.1), prominent political figures have decided that the solution to economic woes is more “reproductive health” i.e., more abortion and contraception. Nancy Pelosi gave voice to this approach when justifying the “economic stimulus plan” of 2008 that included hundreds of millions of dollars toward provision of contraception to the poor.

In an interview with George Stephanopolis, Pelosi argued: “Well the family planning services reduce costs, it reduced [sic] costs. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crisis now.” Categorizing “family planning,” provision of children’s health, education, food stamps, and unemployment insurance together, Pelosi noted that these initiatives “are to help the states meet their financial needs…the contraception will reduce costs to the State and to the federal government too. No apologies, no…We have to deal with the consequences of the down turn in our economy…there is more bang for the buck [with such initiatives].” To put it simply, poor children cost the government money, and since we have the goal of saving money, we need the poor to have less children.

Contraception as economic stimulus was eventually removed from the economic stimulus that would pass in the United States Congress, but the prevailing economic and sexual ideology expressed by Pelosi has continued to hold sway in the debates concerning the economically strained health care industry. This ideology was apparent in the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs should be part of free “preventive health care” for all women.

Their mandate explicitly forbade the use of costs as a justification for a recommendation. “Cost was explicitly excluded as a factor that the committee could use in forming recommendations, the committee process could not evaluate preventive services on the basis of cost.” It is of no little coincidence that the committee went on to argue the following to justify “free” provision of all sterilization and contraception: “contraception is highly cost-effective. The direct medical cost of unintended pregnancy in the United States was estimated to be nearly $5 billion in 2002, with the cost savings due to contraceptive use estimated to be 19.3 billion.” In other words, on a macro-level, children are an economic liability and the government has a vested interest in ensuring that on a micro level women (especially poor women) use contraception.

Continuing in this vein, the argument that the HHS mandate is justified by economic benefits has been repeated on a number of occasions. President Obama noted it in his announcement of his “accommodation” that was anything but, and Kathleen Sebelius has asserted that “the reduction in the number of pregnancies is [sic] compensates for the cost of contraception.”

As we have seen in countries facing demographic collapse, preventing more births does not, in fact, buoy an economy. Aside from what has already been noted, contraception adds further strains on a country and the health care system in particular. Allow us to note just a few examples.

Out of wedlock pregnancies and divorce rates in the United States are positively correlated to the increased use of contraception and availability of abortion. Yet we continue to hear the tired refrain that contraception brings about “stronger marriages.”

Further, the negative side effects of combined oral contraceptives creates a host of unnecessary costs. These negative effects include increased risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer, stroke, heart attack, and blood clots. As noted in a recent “LifeWatch” column, it is estimated that in one year 50,000 women experience blood clots because of the use of combined oral contraceptives. That’s one year alone and only one health issue! And aside from the obvious human cost, the economic toll is clearly staggering.

Consider also numerous studies that indicate that contraceptives are correlated with the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, such as the study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases that indicated that women who use contraception and men whose partners use it were twice as likely to contract HIV/AIDS than non-users.

The destructive impact that contraception has on marriages, the family and the health of women is well documented—if not well known.

The ideology of certain members of the media and politicians has prevailed where it pertains to the importance of children for society, the economy, and families. Children are viewed as a liability to a thriving economy or robust family life, and contraception presented as the remedy. This is both misleading and dangerous. To strengthen the integrity of the family and economy we would do well to hold an integral vision of economics as oikonomia. The modern economist may not be expected to share this broad vision, but he is surely under no obligation to oppose it. Contraception is hardly a panacea. On the contrary, a culture of contraception carries a significant array of problems that warrant attention. Most fundamentally, however, we must cease to view children as an economic liability. Unless we relish the prospect of going the way of Greece and other EU nations reaping contraception’s demographic desserts, we must recognize children as the most precious good of the family and greatest treasure of a healthy economy.

Arland K. Nichols is the National Director of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of HLI America. He is Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Some of their recent writings may be found on HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.

Editorial: Delegates Beware on Sexual Orientation - by Austin Ruse

NEW YORK, August 24 (C-FAM) The UN is in the midst of a multi-year campaign to regularize homosexuality and other behaviors in the scheme of international law.

The skirmishes began many years ago with attempts by Brazil to place sexual orientation within a resolution at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva. This failed more than once but it was a testing motion to see where they stood. Read More

Philippine Senator Denounces Global Abortion Lobby - By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

MANILA, August 24 (C-FAM) Senator Vicente C. Sotto III, one of the most popular and beloved politicians in the Philippines, is using all his clout to fight the latest attempt of the global abortion lobby to change his countries' laws to open the door for unfettered abortion. He has made it his "mission."

A bill, commonly known as the Reproductive Rights Bill or RH Bill, is currently undergoing an amendment process in the Philippine Legislature. The same bill has been rejected five times under different names, and as recently as 2010. The bill has made it to the amendments stage this time. President Aquino is backing the bill and the odds seemed to be stacked against the life of the unborn. Read More

Nada te assuste… - Nuno Serras Pereira

Eu sei que nestas missivas que vou enviando não deveria falar de mim, no entanto, por vezes, e esta é uma delas, sinto o dever de o fazer para salvaguarda e defensa dos meus amigos. Sabereis que todo eu sou uma enfermidade, tantas são as doenças que me acometem que um confrade meu já exclamou assombrado: Puxa!, é preciso muita saúde para aguentar tanta doença!

Ora uma dessas obriga-me, de há uns anos a esta parte, a tomar umas cápsulas que não só me engordam como me abrem grandemente o apetite. Devereis saber que todo eu sou uma farmácia ambulante, e um verdadeiro índice terapêutico - não há droga legal que não ingira ou que não conheça, com todos os seus efeitos, contra-indicações e interacções medicamentosas: se a teologia fosse farmacêutica eu seria um eminente catedrático. Sucedeu porém, como periodicamente me acontece, que entretanto contraí uma nova maleita, pelo que um médico feroz ao verificar a minha obesidade, as incomensuráveis toneladas de gordura que fui acumulando como um imenso javardo, um enorme tonel de banha, um oceano de toucinho, peremptória e implacavelmente vociferou crueldades ásperas, bárbaras e medonhas traduzidas neste conciso mas pavoroso verbo: Irra, emagreça!!! Caramba!

Tolhido de paúra recolhi-me ou arrastei-me cabisbaixo, com grande pesar, imaginando futuros negros e tremendos, até ao convento. Cheio de receança, timidamente, comecei por abster-me de alguns cozinhados que me asseguraram serem insalubres porque geradores enxúndia. Depois, aos poucos, à medida que ia fraquejando fui ganhando forças para a luta. Travaram-se então combates tremendos, batalhas épicas, escaramuças heróicas. Cada prato, era um inimigo a derrubar; cada copo, um comando a abater; cada sobremesa, um fuzileiro a eliminar; cada cedência, uma traição; cada gelado, um submarino a afundar; cada bolo, um porta-aviões a destruir. 

Preocupados por me verem a definhar os meus confrades começaram por me avisar: olhe que tu qualquer dia desapareces. No entanto, com o decorrer do tempo, quando me lobrigavam ao fundo do corredor, e como são infindáveis os corredores nos conventos!, viam um esqueleto, eu, a caminhar e cuidavam ser uma alma do outro mundo. Pelo que o Guardião mandou que no coro se fizessem preces e cada irmão trouxesse consigo água benta, e, ademais, alcançou do Bispo diocesano que a todos os sacerdotes fosse concedida a devida autorização para fazerem exorcismos. Fui desde então sujeito a consecutivos chuveiros de água benta e a incessantes exorcismos até que se concluiu que este cadáver ambulante, este esqueleto barbudo era mesmo eu, irremediavelmente enfermo, amumiado e escanzelado até que a próxima doença me obrigue de novo a anafar. 

Fique pois, isto que aqui deixo escrito, como aviso para que quem se depare comigo não se assuste cuidando espavorido que topa com um espírito ou com um esqueleto reanimado. Sou eu mesmo. E assim serei até que nova ruindade me force, de novo, a tornar-me um paquiderme banhudo.

23. 08. 2012