Apr 30, 2009

Conversion or Conjugal Visit?

Cath News is reporting that Pope John Paul II's assassin has converted to Catholicism:

Italian weekly Diva e people donna published the letter, French journal 7s7 reports.

"I am looking for an Italian woman, who wants to correspond with me. Obviously (I hope) she is Catholic because from May 13 2007, I decided to renounce the Muslim faith and becoming a member of the Roman Catholic Church," Agca writes.

"I have decided to return peacefully to the (St Peter's) square and to testify to the world of my conversion to Catholicism," he says in the letter written in Italian.

"Just for a day, I would wish to return to Rome to pray at the tomb of John Paul II to express my filial appreciation for his forgiveness," he adds.

Questioned by AFP in Turkey, his former lawyer Mustafa Demirbag, said he was "very skeptical" about the conversion, given the steps required to receive baptism.

I'm not sure if I buy it. It seems like a cheap way for him to score a date. But I suppose stranger things have happened.

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Eucharist During the Swine Flu

The Diocese of Dallas has issued some statements regarding mass attendance and receiving the Eucharist with the outbreak of Swine Flu causing grave concerns for the area.

Father Michael Dugan, Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Diocese of Dallas, offered some reminders and recommendations to be consulted in the event of a significant outbreak.

Fr. Dugan said that the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation is the “ordinary expectation” for Catholics. However, “extraordinary circumstances” including sickness excuse the faithful from the obligation.

“If you are not feeling well, especially during this time of concern, please stay at home and do not risk spreading infection to others. Please stay at home and do not attend Mass,” he wrote.

He said congregants should not be offended if someone chooses not to shake hands during the sign of peace.

“If you are ill, the appropriate response to someone extending a sign of peace might be to bow to them and say, ‘Peace be with You,’ to avoid bodily contact or one might wave slightly at the other person.”

Regarding the reception of Holy Communion, he advised those feeling sick to receive communion in the hand and to refrain from receiving communion under the form of the Blood of Christ.

With the reception of communion--there's probably a greater chance of someone being infected by receiving the body of Christ on their tongue or even by hand than there is from drinking out of the cup. Anything with that amount of alcohol in it anyway should be enough to kill any viruses! Someone else touching my hands or having their hands touching the host I'm about to put in my mouth is probably more likely to pass the flu to me, thinkest I.

Any health experts wish to weigh in?

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Straw: Redemption

Darryl Strawberry has written a chilling autobiography--Straw: Finding My Way. It is a great story of redemption for a man who really could've been one of the all time greats but had too many demons nipping at him constantly.

Sean Hannity has a great interview with the once great ballplayer.

A huge tip of a classic blue and orange Mets hat to The Mets Police.

To add to this, as someone who covered Strawberry when he was with the Yankees and who grew up idolizing him as a Mets fan, I used to be tempted to just shake my head at what I thought was a waste of such pure baseball talent. Straw was every pitcher's nightmare with his tall lanky frame pulverizing baseballs all over the place. Still, those Mets only won a single world series title. Their arrogance on display eventually crumbled the team and broke them part, the front office seemingly needing to break them apart. After leaving NY Strawberry was nothing and I remember people laughing when the Yankees added him and Doc Gooden to their roster. They seemingly both turned it around at that juncture: Gooden throwing a no-hitter in 96 and Strawberry making significant contributions as well and sticking around for 3 World titles.

Yet the two still had their struggles. It seemed unforgivable that two men with such talent would cast that talent to the wind.

Then I learned about addiction--something most people don't understand. It was then that I was impressed that both Gooden and Strawberry were able to accomplish anything at all with all the demons that they had faced. Potential unrealized, perhaps, but Strawberry seems to have kicked the habit to realize that his true potential is no longer about bruising baseballs, but about inspiring others.

What is it that prohibits you from reaching your full potential some days? What addictions might you have to kick? Some may not be as self-destructive as Strawberry's are but nonetheless, they are powerful enough to keep you at bay from another hurdle in your life.

Addiction to substances is something that thankfully I haven't had to face in my life but I also know that there are plenty of things that weigh me down on my own road to peace and serenity. What keeps you tied down--and more importantly what allows you to rise again?

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Breaking: Pinch-hitting for Glendon...

Short story is that no award will be given, a former winner to give the speech.

From ND's PR plant

Judge John T. Noonan Jr., the 1984 recipient of the Laetare Medal, has accepted an invitation to deliver an address in the spirit of the award at Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony on May 17. His speech will be in lieu of awarding the medal this year.

“In thinking about who could bring a compelling voice, a passion for dialogue, great intellectual stature, and a deep commitment to Catholic values to the speaking role of the Laetare Medalist – especially in these unusual circumstances – it quickly became clear that an ideal choice is Judge Noonan,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame. “This commencement ceremony, more than anything else, is a celebration of our students and their families. Judge Noonan will join with President Obama and other speakers in that celebration, sending them from our campus and into the world with sound advice and affirmation.

“Since Judge Noonan is a previous winner of the Laetare Medal, we have decided, upon reflection, to not award the medal this year.”

Read more on Noonan here

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100 Days of Obama - And the Church still stands

From CNS - the Church claims President Obama's first 100 days have not been as bad as they may have feared.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican newspaper said President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office have not confirmed the Catholic Church's worst fears about radical policy changes in ethical areas.

The comments came in a front-page article April 29 in L'Osservatore Romano, under the headline, "The 100 days that did not shake the world." It said the new president has operated with more caution than predicted in most areas, including economics and international relations.

"On ethical questions, too -- which from the time of the electoral campaign have been the subject of strong worries by the Catholic bishops -- Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed," it said.

It said the new draft guidelines for stem-cell research, for example, did not constitute the major change in policy that was foreseen a few months ago.

"(The guidelines) do not allow the creation of new embryos for research or therapeutic purposes, for cloning or for reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used only for experimentation with excess embryos," it said.

Read the rest here

A hat tip to Deacon Greg and Rocco who also adds a bit more including this snippet that we all should read:

A certain surprise has otherwise come about in these days through a bill designed by the Democratic party: the Pregnant Women Support Act would move to limit the number of abortions in the United States through initiatives of aid for distressed women. It's not a negation of the doctrine until now expressed by Obama on matters of the interruption of pregnancy, but the legislative project could represent a rebalancing in support of motherhood.

If it's good enough for the Vatican paper...

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Apr 29, 2009

Double Standard in New Orleans?

Rocco points this out from New Orleans:

... over the weekend Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans announced his withdrawl from next month's commencement exercises at the Crescent City's Xavier University over the school's choice of veteran Democratic operative Donna Brazile as its commencement speaker.

A New Orleans native and prominent African-American Catholic, Brazile's selection by the historically Black university founded by St Katharine Drexel had raised an outcry from conservative groups. In the statement announcing his boycott, the archbishop referred to Brazile as a "pro-abortion strategist."

"I recognize that Ms. Brazile is a Catholic Louisiana native who has worked effectively in service to the poor and African Americans in particular," Hughes wrote Xavier President Dr Norman Francis.

"However, her public statements on the abortion issue are not in keeping with Catholic moral teaching."

As the local Times-Picayune pointed out, however, no protests ensued over the choice of Xavier's 2006 commencement speaker: Barack Obama.

Inconsistency at best. To be fair, I think Archbishop Hughes who is a great man who helped the city immensely through the Katrina nightmare, at least had the good sense to praise her work in other venues. I wish this were at least done more often.

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Fr James Martin, S.J. as Possible Replacement for Mary Ann Glendon?

Well, not really...but...

Fr James Martin, S.J. has created a masterpiece here with his open letter to Notre Dame's President. He has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek..well..sorta.

Now that Mary Ann Glendon has announced that she would not accept Notre Dame’s prestigious Laetare Medal, because she was “dismayed” by the university’s awarding of an honorary degree to President Obama, the search is undoubtedly on for another recipient. Let me suggest one candidate you may have otherwise overlooked: me.

Now, I know many more notable and famous and accomplished and, well, deserving names may spring to mind. Names that would probably draw more of a crowd, names of people with a lifetime of service behind them, or names that would probably pose fewer problems in terms of Catholic orthodoxy. Say, Pope Benedict XVI. (Though draping a medal on top of his papal pectoral cross seems a little like overkill.) Or, say, Susan Boyle, that awesome YouTube singer, who is not only super-Catholic but would be a huge hit when she belted out the Notre Dame fight song. Or Mother Teresa, who everybody likes, though being dead might be a strike against her if a speech is expected.

Anyway, I think there are plenty of good reasons to offer me the now in-play Laetare Award. Let me list just a few.

1.) I don’t have one.
As it turns out, I've only received a few real “awards,” like one from Plymouth-Whitemarsh Senior High School, and a Christopher Award, which is really nice, and just last week an award with the longest name yet: “The Loyola Institute of Spirituality’s Hearts on Fire Writer’s Award in Spirituality,” and, let me tell you, that’s a lot of words to fit on a chunk of crystal: it must weigh five pounds. I could kill someone with that award. (But I won't of course: I'm pro-life.) But the last time I checked I didn’t have a Laetare Award. I’ll bet it’s nice, too. Is it a real medal? With a ribbon? Cool. I could wear it over my vestments at Mass. In fact, I would be so happy to have that sitting on my shelf that…

Read the rest for more--hysterical.

Upcoming--my own Laetare Medal speech...putting the finishing touches on this one and will you tube it.

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Apr 28, 2009

The Vitae Monologues

Deacon Greg pointed me to this play:

Has anyone seen it? Offer a review. I think we need to do more things like this and most times unfortunately, these things are simply not well produced or professional but this one looks pretty good to me in the video.

Any thoughts from the crowd?

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More on Faith in Flux

While the USCCB tries to tell you that 68 percent is a great retention rate, I will tell you the truth and not the spin.

That's a horrible rate.

First of all 1 in ten AMERICANS (that's total population) are former Catholics. That means for every thousand people in America, one hundred of them were Catholic and found what they thought was a better deal. That's an embarrassing number.

6 out of 10 of the people surveyed who left Catholicism and became unaffiliated with another faith were asked why they left Catholicism. They cited teachings on abortion and homosexuality. 50 percent cite teachings on birth control and about 40% say we treat women badly. I state very clearly here--these people could have and should have been retained. I'd like to see more information here--but my thought is that these people probably simply did not dismiss the church's notions on these issues but perhaps felt judged by someone in the church, or witnessed judgmental behavior. There's also bound to be wide-ranging misconceptions about what the church really does teach on these issues as well. Now that being said...

What about the people who really looked at the church's teaching and came to the conclusion that it wasn't for them? Do we just let them go? I think so at least consciously.

But this is my point about the power of action over words--and granted, we need to do both--but I think the more powerful of the two is action. People may think that Catholics are a bunch of finger-waggers because of their beliefs, but many think that because see see a lot of Catholics living their beliefs inconsistently. I think that needs to change. I know I'm not the best person, by any stretch when it comes to caring for the poor or depriving myself of something in order to better use my resources to help someone less fortunate.

When people see us living our beliefs by the fact that we stand up for the needs of the poor, we help pregnant women and help care for their children long term--despite its effects on us--then will people start to ask deep questions about why we live the way we live.

But the fact remains that most people are self-interested and don't REALLY care about the poor--but only do so to the extent that it doesn't bother them. We have all we can do some days to get people to notice their next door neighbors--never mind, the unborn, the poor, the homeless, or the elderly who many have insulated themselves from even seeing.

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Catholicism Under Attack

Catholic Mom has acquired this interesting piece from Sherry Antonetti

Currently, practicing Catholicism is under assault by the law. In 2004, the California Supreme Court ruled Catholic Charities was not entitled to an exception the law grants to churches or “religious employers.”

Because Catholic Charities assists people of all faiths, it is not a “religious employer,” the court said. The group is therefore distinct from a church that is formed to promote religion, the court ruled. Catholic hospitals had to allow their employees to acquire birth control. The court in Massachusetts mandated that Catholic Charities facilitate adoptions to gay and lesbian couples, causing the charity to pull out of providing adoptions in the state.

In the past few years, in over fifteen states, legislatures have crafted laws demanding that Catholic hospitals administer RU-486 as a post trauma means of birth control to victims of sexual assault, claiming that such medications have no abortive effects but are merely a safety precaution against unwanted pregnancy.

The fact that the Church believes it to be a means of abortion is deemed irrelevant by these states. In other words, the Church can say whatever it wants, but in practice, it must abide what the state will tolerate with respect to how its surrogates live out that faith in active mission work. These same states have also declared the moral objections of the Church and those working to manifest the mission of the Church, to be irrelevant to the health needs of the individual being treated.

Now here is something that I think the Bishops, and we, as laity, who are also hospital consumers, can have a huge voice in which we state our moral opinions. The issue will be raised that when it comes to health care, time is of the essence--so will patients who are brought to the closest hospital which happens to be Catholic after a sexual assault be upset that we won't issue an abortive pill in those instances as a precaution? States seem to already be demanding that Catholic hospitals need to comply--so a huge moral question is that if that's so does the Catholic hospital call the state's bluff and shut down and then if they do--does a more secular group simply take up ownership and the hospital continues to maintain business as usual, albeit without Catholic principles at the helm? Or does the state allow the hospitals to be run as the church wishes and upholds their right to run the hospital the way they wish.

I do a lot of traveling and I see a lot of other religious traditions beginning to open hospitals all around this great land of ours--including those who agree with us on these issues. I wonder if they address these issues as well? Anybody know?

It seems that we also have a divide of unusual proportions here. Republicans would say that the state has no right to tell the Catholic hospitials what they can and cannot do and would not wish that the state interferes. It's a private hospital would be their stance.

But with the trend seeming towards universal health care--something that perhaps many Catholics would see as providing a very necessary and much-needed service for the poor, would that exempt Catholic hospitals from participating in a government-run health care initiative and thus become hosptials only for the elite who could afford them? Or if they do serve the needs of the poor is that going to put them in a financial predicament that may force them to close up shop?

Seems to me that cooler heads need to prevail on the state's side here. They should indeed grant exemptions for the hospital to have to participate in any medical procedure that would go against the teachings of the church.

But that's me talking--what do others think?

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Apr 27, 2009

Clarifying to Be Clear on Glendon

I also added this on Facebook. I wanted to make sure I was clear on what my opinion of Glendon's decision is and am not accusing her of being a bad Catholic, an idiot, or someone who has no principles.

Glendon is of course standing up for Catholic principles with her silence but I think it would be a BETTER option to actually speak as opposed to not speak and that her decison not to speak is based more on what she's comfortable doing politically than it has to do with making a statement of pro-life. Now that last part may indeed be conjecture on my part but I think that most people would really like to hear what she has to say--and to not say anything is a lot easier than to stand up there and disagree publicly with the leader of the free world in front of a whole lot of people.

I also wasn't suggesting that HER stand had anything to do with "calling people names" but in the argument to restrict President Obama from speaking there has indeed been a lot of name calling. Fortunately Glendon has taken the high road here and that is something many of us can learn from.

Additionally, I'd like to say that we need to do both--talk loudly and work for a change in grassroots ways like working with young mothers, which I do on occasion. But for many it's all about changing the law--which I'd like to do too...but even if we do, it merely changes the law from a federal to a state issue. An important step undoubtedly, but one that still needs us to counter what remains and to be used to doing that.

As I've repeatedly said on the blog--and Bishop Chaput says similar things--if we all really cared this wouldn't be an issue because we'd spend every last moment working to end it. But most people don't--some only yell at politicians to the point that they stop listening (which does us no good) and some only work in the grassroots.
Most, I might add--do nothing at all.

Gaurev, I think where we agree strongly is that we both think something needs to be done to end this terrible murder. How we go about that might look a bit different.

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Members of Communion and Liberation weigh in on Notre Dame and President Obama

Gaurav Shroff a seminarian from the Atlanta Archdiocese and I have been having a great conversation on Facebook and he smartly pointed me to this outstanding article from Communion and Liberation:

Two snippets I'll highlight but it is a very moving article and you should read the whole thing here

The University of Notre Dame has been reprimanded by many for what seems to be a myopic decision to invite president Barack Obama—44th president and often staunchly opposed to the Church’s political positions—to give the commencement address at graduation and receive an honorary degree. The invitation has sparked outrage from many students and alumni, the former writing a petition protesting the president’s visit, and the latter withholding donations from the school. None of this, however, seems to me to be the fundamental problem, and I doubt whether these ancillary issues can be viewed correctly until the essential problem is addressed. This essential problem is that Christianity, to many people—including Christians—is nothing more than a moralistic, political ideology.

I haven’t mentioned much about Obama, because I think the issue his visit to Notre Dame has raised is ultimately: “What is Christianity? What about it is so worth defending?” This question remains unanswered unless we arrive to a true recognition of Christ, on the cross, giving us everything. In a sense, this is all that is asked of us. What upset me so much about the whole issue is how devoid of a recognition Christ’s presence the whole of popular reaction has been. If the essence of Christianity is power, as it is being portrayed both by the media and by those utterly outraged at the invitation, then I am not interested in being a Christian. I am interested in what made Zaccheus a protagonist; I am interested in the man who is able to call me down from the tree.

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Facebook comments on Mary Ann Glendon

We've been burning up the Facebook comments today. So I thought I'd share some thoughts on the reactions that folks had to my posts on Mary Ann Glendon:

Paul Snatchko at 11:29am April 27
You can see the sadness in her letter. It's unfortunate that it came to this.
Mike Hayes at 11:38am April 27
True. But it's a dumb decision I think
Paul Huesing at 11:41am April 27
Mary Ann Glendon is many things, but dumb she is not.
Gaurav Shroff at 1:13pm April 27
She rocks. Good for her! And dumb she is not. Nor is this decision dumb. And yes it is profoundly sad as well.
Jennifer D'Amico Frankenbach at 2:27pm April 27
Why is it dumb Mike? She's standing up for her convictions which, as we all know, is not easy.
Philip Schweiger at 3:19pm April 27
Did the same folk who oppose Obama speaking at ND oppose Sec. Rice speaking at Boston College? Or is torture a lesser evil than abortion these days? I think this whole boycotting of speakers is deeply unhelpful. Makes the church look like just another political group, no more special or worth listening to than any other special interest.


Mike Hayes at 5:23pm April 27
If she really wanted to stand up for her convictions she'd challenge the President on his viewpoints and would tell the story of why she is so convicted. That would change the lives and probably the opinions of lots of people.

BTW--I didn't say that Glendon was dumb--that's putting words in my mouth at best and a lame attempt to paint me with a broad stroke at worst.

But her decision is downright awful. She takes herself out of the game here. Hundreds if not thousands of people have no idea who she is nor what she stands for. She had a captive audience waiting for her and it probably would have received a lot of press coverage. but she stood down because the view from the cheap seats is a lot more comfortable.
Mike Hayes at 5:25pm April 27
BTW--I am 100% against abortion. But I don't think that anyone is ever going to change their opinion on the matter because we start calling people names, outsiding them from conversations or creating ghettos that silence debate.

Lastly, if we really cared, we wouldn't care who was speaking anywhere. We'd all be too busy trying to help mothers choose an alternative.

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and for keeping the comments as always, charitable.

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White House Responds

American Papist writes

David Brody at CBN News passes along the short communique:

“President Obama is disappointed by former Ambassador Mary Glendon’s decision, but he looks forward to delivering an inclusive and respectful speech at the Notre Dame graduation, a school with a rich history of fostering the exchange of ideas. While he is honored to have the support of millions of people of all faiths, he does not govern with the expectation that everyone sees eye to eye with him on every position, and the spirit of debate and healthy disagreement on important issues is part of what he loves about this country.”

Jen Psaki, White House Deputy Press Secretary

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Faith in Flux

Nearly half of Americans have changes religions--and that accounts for a lot of Catholics as well.

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the heels of a study of the U.S. "religious landscape" released last year that showed a quarter of Americans had changed faiths, a follow-up survey has found an even greater rate of "Faith in Flux," as the latest report is called.

When the number of people who now practice a different faith than that of their childhood is added to those who have moved around among religions or denominations and come back to where they started, nearly half of Americans have changed religions at some point, said the report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released April 27.

Among people who have changed religions, those who left the Catholic Church were more likely than those who left Protestant denominations to have done so because they no longer believed the teachings of the church, the study found.

It also made connections between how actively involved people were in their churches as children and teens and how likely they were to leave the faith in which they were raised.

Across the board, the vast majority of people who changed churches, who stopped being affiliated with any faith or who transitioned from being "unaffiliated" with a religion to belonging to a church did so before the age of 24, the survey found.

The reasons cited most often by those who have left the Catholic Church were that their spiritual needs were not being met, that they "just gradually drifted away" or they "found a religion they liked more."

A lot more to read here--but well worth the time.

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Notre Dame responds to Glendon rejection

With a big hat tip to American Papist

Statement by Father John Jenkins on the Laetare Medal

The following statement from Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, is in response to the decision by Mary Ann Glendon to decline acceptance of the University’s Laetare Medal:

“We are, of course, disappointed that Professor Glendon has made this decision. It is our intention to award the Laetare Medal to another deserving recipient, and we will make that announcement as soon as possible.” (University of Notre Dame Office of News & Information)

Pssst...Archbishop Sheehan and Bill Richardson...show the world that Catholics can indeed work with Pro-choice politicians.

As the Papist rightly mentions, I would like to see the Preisdent engage Ms. Glendon in some kind of dialogue.

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Mary Ann Glendon declines Latare Medal from Notre Dame

The circus continues at Notre Dame--hat tips to Deacon Greg, Rocco, Amy Welborn and First Things who all got the early word on this.

Former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon has declined receiving the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame in light of the hoopla surrounding President Obama's commencement speech. A snippet alongside some commentary from yours truly.

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

OK two things here:

If you think it's not the right venue than let's get the right one and have her come and let her voice the church's cause so that the President and everyone else for that matter will hear it.

Secondly, I disagree that it's not the right venue. After 4 years, graduation is not merely about celebrating an achievement of making it through the tough grind but it's also about inspiring students to stand up for justice, for their moral principles, for engaging the world's problems. They are heading into a world where many of them will be doing exactly that. Commencement speeches should have in their tone a sense of "as you leave here...keep this in mind. Don't forget about the unborn, the poor, the world beyond not just this school but this country."

I think that it a shame that Ms. Glendon will not be gracing the students at Notre Dame with her remarks. I do wonder if there is some way to salvage this. The groundswell has started and it seems to me that at this point Notre Dame is facing a public relations disaster. I would offer the following solution:

Give the Laetare medal to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan who just ended the death penalty in their state. The topic we can ask them to address is: How can we dialogue together, despite our disagreements in order to influence each other to create change.

Because that's what everyone is missing here.

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Apr 26, 2009

Three Things We Should Ask About Swine Flu

From the London Times

Churches stood empty in Mexico City yesterday and football matches were played to vacant stadiums, as soldiers and health workers patrolled the subway in an effort to prevent the spread of a deadly strain of swine flu.

If suddenly there was a large epidemic brought on by an outbreak swine flu what would be your first reaction? Many people would begin to escape the infected city in fear of their own lives. However, as Catholics where would we be called to be?

Hospitals may overcrowd. Medicines might be at a premium--putting the rich in a favorable position over the poor. Care for a large number of people effected by the outbreak may become a huge issue.

So where does that call us as Catholics who regard human life in all its precariousness as the ultimate?

Some may say, let's worry about this when and if swine flu becomes a huge issue. But by that time, it's too late and many of us may let panic overwhelm us. So I suggest three things for us to consider:

1) Prepare for the worst: Pick an agency and ask them about safe ways you can participate in helping them if the flu should become a huge problem in your area. While this isn't problem at the moment, hospitals and other organizations may be in need of mobilized help. Most of all, don't run for higher ground and abandon people. Will we be there for those in need? What will it say about us if we don't?

2) Think about the poor: Where might poor people who don't have the same access to be during an outbreak? Thinking about how one might assist agencies who might serve their needs is something to consider. When one man from England returned home from Mexico on Saturday with mild flu-like symptoms, he was told to stay at home so as not to spread the disease. NHS Direct dropped off doses of Tamiflu for him and his two children, during and epidemic or pandemic these deliveries may be paramount--especially to the poor who undoubtedly will get second rate attention in bad neighborhoods. Moreover, in a pandemic, things get crazier:

"I think there will be little bit of a lift for pharmaceuticals, but this may not follow through unless the situation gets out of hand," said Paul Kavanagh of stockbroker Killik & Co .
"Governments will be looking at vaccines, but it's come at a bad time for the world economy and could be very expensive."

3) Contribute to local economies: The outbreak could wind up dealing a terrible blow to Mexico's economy. Which by the way also serves our own self interest because Mexico is one of the United States' largest trading partners. Calling companies to ease up in various ways such as the airlines have done, including American, United, Continental, US Airways, Mexicana and Air Canada, who have waived their usual penalties for changing reservations for anyone traveling to, from or through Mexico.

Think about it. Where are we called to be during a pandemic?

Hat tip to Deacon Greg and the London Times for the pic.

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Intrinsic Evil as Opposed to Plain Old Evil

Deacon Greg quoted the Pope (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) on the intrinsic evil over at the Deacon's Bench:

"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

OK, I agree and want to honor the church's teaching on the moral weight of these issues but when we think about capital punishment, just because the church has taught that there may be some instances in which capital punishment may be permissible doesn't mean that any of those cases actually exist in the United States. President Bush executed many prisoners in Texas and none of those cases were morally right.

So while something may be intrinsically evil like abortion we can say that nobody should ever hold the position that would say otherwise. But evil is still evil--intrinsic or otherwise. We need to judge the actions of those who have actually taken the power given to them directly by the state to take the life of someone else as evil--and once we recognize that evil we need to hold them to the same standard that we do when we see evil being done in other areas--intrinsic or otherwise.

I could go on with an analysis of war in the same way but the US Bishops already did so by saying the war in Iraq did not meet the standards for a just war.

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Apr 24, 2009

Reasons Lent is Easier Than Easter

Or so says an Anglican Priest Blogger

Well here we are only in the second week of the Season of Easter - in fact only the 13th day of Easter and I’m willing to bet an Easter egg or two that for most the enthusiasm for this season is already waning. It was much easier being penitential and reflective and all-round “preparing” than it is celebrating what we have been preparing for!

I bet (more Easter eggs) that you will be hard pressed to find services this coming Sunday (only the 15th day of Easter) still booming as their opening greeting:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

And if your church does - how resounding is the congregational response? Those with daily services often find such enthusiasm even harder to maintain. I notice it in visits to this site. During Lent there were regularly two to three thousand or more individuals visiting this site daily. During Easter that drops to about a thousand a day. As humans, as Christians, are we better at preparing for something than actually celebrating what we prepare for?

As I've said before...If we REALLY believed in the resurrection we'd live our lives in a much better way than we actually do. I would also say our rituals would be done with much more enthusiasm and reverence (can reverence be enthusiastic? That's a whole other post!)

Apr 23, 2009

Archbishop Dolan Talks to the New York Post

A candid conversation...but one on heavy issues.

He seems to have great respect for journalists and doesn't talk down to them. I wish they had pressed him a bit more on the death penalty. While I agree with the church's statement that the death penalty is warranted in certain extreme situations, I would say that there is not the possibility of that existing in the United States and certainly is not the case in any of the situations in which people have recently been put to death. Regardless of this, the point that abortion is a far worse problem is certainly a valid.

A tip o the hat to the king of clerical whispers Rocco Palmo. Who also points out that the Archbishop will visit ground zero.

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The Economy Opportunity: Spiritual Discernment

In my own Ignatian discernment workshops I say this all the time--but Phil Fox Rose says it even better on Busted Halo

Nancy’s whole career has been in pharmaceutical communications. After watching round after round of layoffs at her firm over the past two years, her ticket finally came up in February. She went from a high level, lucrative management position to unemployment overnight. Stories like this are playing out across the country by the thousands. Good skilled workers lose their jobs and find strong competition for lesser positions. Seemingly secure financial futures based on real estate and stock investments disappear overnight, leaving uncertainty and worry.

But listen to Nancy:

“Ironically, this may be one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life — not because unemployment is a gift but because this gave me a forced opportunity to evaluate where I am in my life and if I want to continue on this path. In fact, I had been increasingly stressed out by and unhappy with my job for some time.”

Is it just blowing self-help smoke to say this was a good thing? Is Nancy just some crazy exception? Not in my experience.

Losing a job can be a shattering loss of identity and purpose,
or it can be an opportunity to assess your true calling and look for a better fit.

Agreed. Not being happy in radio made me discern what I really wanted and I ended up getting something that really expressed who I am even better then I imagined.

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3 Things about Internet Marketing and Vocations

Jason, a reader commented regarding the vocation survey from CARA:

You are definitely right about the personal invitation to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. But careful not to discount the power of the internet media in reaching young men, especially the post-Gen X'ers (I'm not even sure what they're called anymore.)

I knew little about my religious community when I began discerning, and I never received a personal invitation from a priest. Much of my initial research on vocations was done through the internet, and I'm not alone. Dioceses and religious orders have only scratched the surface of using the internet as an outreach resource.

An excellent point except there are a few caveats:

1) Initial Inspiration Sources: Young men and women who are searching for vocations have already been inspired to do so. So the initial spark in doesn't necessarily come to them because they stumbled upon a random internet site and then said "Gee, maybe I'll be a priest (or a sister)." Although I wouldn't discount that that COULD happen to at least a small number of people. I would think that seeing something like the Fishers of Men video or reading a story about a person's vocation would have more to do with inspiring them in a virtual way than a random ad or even a basic informational website for a community or a diocese would.

Most people have been inspired by a priest, sister or deacon who they've had an experience with in ministry and they also had the seeds planted that they might be good at what they do either by them, by a friend who notices those gifts, or by their own intuition after witnessing other clergy or religious in action. But here's the huge thing to Jason's point...wait for it...

2) Vocation Candidates search for dioceses and communities anoymously:

A survey done by the Emerging Models Project found that few people approached a vocations director to ask about possibly going into ministry. Most talked to a friend or another trusted source. Many also said they did a private search with regards to religious communities.

Once people get interested in religious vocations they decide to start searching for vocational material on their own, that search is primarily done anonymously on the internet today. So just having your diocesan information or your religious community's information online is paramount.

If nothing else, this makes a stronger case for what we call niche marketing. Better stated it means targeting people who may have already been inspired by a priest or a campus minister. In essence, you don't really have to convince people to consider vocations with an online ad--they already ARE interested. What you need to do is twofold: 1) Make it easy to find your ad in places that they are sure to visit on that search and maybe even do some search engine optimization to make sure that you come up when they put in obvious keywords.

2) Make yourself look interesting online: You are really trying to convince them that your diocese or religious community is interesting enough to make them want to join you. You are not really getting them over the hump of considering priesthood or religious life. If they were, they wouldn't be looking at your ad, most likely.

Simply put, to not be online, means that you don't exist. So you must have some kind of landing place for them to find out information on your community. These sites should have loads of information. Everything from how long it takes to be ordained, to what kind of education requirements and age are needed, and most importantly, to have stories of someone's journey on a you tube video or maybe even a seminarian's blog. Pictures are most important--what kind of message do you want to send? If you're a more contemplative community how do you best express that visually and in text (and you need both)? If you're into evangelization, how do you best express that?

This adds to the inspiration that's already present and that sparked the search to begin with.

3) Niche Marketing:

Take a hard look at where most of your present vocations have come from. As an example, many people will reply "That's easy--they dome from various college campuses who know our community." OK, that might be true--but then go beyond that. What are those people studying on those campuses? If it's theology than there's probably something happening with that group long before they get to college. My guess is that it's not theology though. My guess is that it might be something like social work or psychology or even education or something that maybe particularly connects with your community's charism. A Jesuit I knew said that the reason he became a Jesuit was so he could be a priest AND have "a job"--as opposed to just working in a parish as a diocesan priest might. He wanted more and his experience of studying counseling lead him to the Jesuits, campus ministry and spiritual direction work.

How do you express who you are to people who are already engaged in the charisms that your community holds? More importantly, are you presently going after THOSE people. Are you engaging with folks as an example in the communications department if your community has a charism for evangelization on a college campus that you're familar with? If you work with the poor in the third world are you engaged with the local global outreach programs or even with service organizations that already send people abroad--even if it's just to say hi and offer them some support. As an example, maybe offering them free space in a church hall to meet with possible recruits. They're looking for the same people you are and in some ways they might help you in the long term simply because folks will remember meeting at your church and maybe meeting you.

Hey Jason, does this make sense?

How about you vocations directors? Anything to add?

Seminarians--how did your vocations director get you on the hook?

One final point: Most of our advertisers on BustedHalo.com are vocations ads and they note that they get a huge response. Check them out on the right sidebar and if you want to advertise yourself--here's a link for you to contact us.

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Vocation Survey: Encouragement and Discouragement

CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) the major sociology group with regards to Catholic issues in the United States has some new data to share on seminarians. As someone who considered the priesthood at a young age and even well into college but didn't go to the seminary, here are some interesting numbers that I'd like to comment on.

Issue #1: Age and Encouragement
"On average, the responding ordinands report that they were about 18 when they first
considered a vocation to the priesthood. Eight in ten (80 percent) were encouraged to
consider the priesthood by a priest. Close to half report that friends, parishioners, and
their mother also encouraged them to consider priesthood."

So to the priests out there...ya gotta ask. I was asked often when I was young in a diocesan parish and asked most often by my pastor and by a deacon. I spent time at the diocesan seminary and it definitely made the priesthood seem "not weird." However, it also seemed very heavy handed to me as if other priests were only concerned about me if I were a vocational candidate at times.

Issue #2: Influence of Media

• Relatively few ordinands say that TV, radio, billboards, or other vocational advertising
were instrumental in their discernment. Four in ten ordinands (42 percent) participated in
a “Come and See” weekend before entering the seminary. Three in four (76 percent)
report that they have seen the “Fishers of Men” DVD, published by the USCCB.
Diocesan ordinands are twice as likely as religious to have seen the DVD.

Say it with me now....Direct, personal, invitation. That's what gets vocations. Jesus said (and I tend to agree!), I want YOU and YOU and YOU...come follow me. We need to do the same.

I'm more surprised that 24% hasn't seen fishers of men because that has been plastered everywhere (almost to the point that it's annoying). I'm not surprised as a media professional that vocational advertising doesn't work. A billboard, magazine ad, etc. isn't really what is going to sway people. However, something that the survey didn't ask that I'd be curious about is the aspect of niche marketing. A good number of the seminarians were educators, leading me to believe that people in service instructional and communication/public speaking industries may be more apt to be interested in the priesthood. I mentioned to our Paulist Vocations Committee that a better vocational approach might be to target people in "service industries": counselling, social work, etc and in the Paulist's case the communications industry. In the Jesuit's case they may need to target intellectuals who are looking at being college professors or educators in general as well as the service industries.

Diocesans may concentrate on Catholic School teachers and those same service industries. I think we'd be better off spending a majority of our time encouraging people who are thinking of this line of work who may not be awakened to a possible call in their life to religious life than to throw the blanket out to the masses. These jobs contain deeper callings to the type of life that priests often lead but priesthood is often not considered by people in these industries. Why? Probably because they don't realize that the priesthood would enable these gifts and be similar to the life that they are already leading.

Here's the crazy stuff:

Issue #3: Discouragement
Nearly half of responding ordinands (45 percent of diocesan ordinands and 53 percent of
religious ordinands) also said that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one
or more persons.
Very few responding ordinands said they had been discouraged from considering a
priestly vocation by clergy, teachers, or religious sisters or brothers. None reported being
discouraged by a youth minister. A few mentioned someone else who had discouraged them
from pursuing their vocation, including a girlfriend or former girlfriend, a co-worker, a more
distant relative, or non-Catholic friends.

This was totally my experience. Not by my parents but definitely by others. Celibacy was the main issue that they would cite. I was a weirdo if I was a priest, or gay, or a religious fanatic. For me, being married was something I longed for and that was something that I felt called to much more than being a priest--and I think that's a major reason why I'm feeling the call to be a deacon--I was mistaking one call for another. I also had 2 deacons in my life as a young man who were very good to me. And deacons I have become friends with (Deacon Greg, most especially!) recently have been very encouraging as have priest-colleagues.

Although four in ten received encouragement from their mother to consider the
priesthood, ordinands are more likely to report that they received encouragement from
friends and parish contacts than from other family members. About three in ten received
encouragement from their father and about one in five were encouraged to consider the
priesthood by a grandparent or another relative.

No surprise here. Most seminarians are Gen-Xers (average age is 37) so their friends hold a huge place in their discernment. Parents are not necessarily to be trusted, but friends hold much greater weight. I expect this trend to change with millennials --would like to see a breakdown between the two generations to see if this holds up. I'm going to call CARA and see if they can run this for me.

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Apr 22, 2009

The Busted Halo Charis Sandwich Army

Come on out and take part in our next Busted Halo Charis Retreat which will have a service component. We're calling it The Busted Halo Charis Sandwich Army. We do these retreats in conjunction with Charis Ministries --essentially we are their New York "affiliate." They are an opportunity for people in their 20s and 30s to share their faith, hear about how others are expressing their faith and in this case perform a bit of service.

Here's the details in a pinch:

When and Where: Saturday May 16
At Busted Halo HQ

Cost: $30

We'll spend the morning making bag lunches (Hearty Sandwiches, fruit, juice box, candy bar) and decorating the bags for the homeless. We'll then hit the streets of NYC and give away the meals to homeless men and women at various locations. We'll return to BustedHalo Headquarters where we'll have Mass and an opportunity to share your experience of the day with others and learn a bit about Catholic Social Teaching in a fun and interactive way.

Follow -up:
After the retreat we will ask the group to continue to give sandwiches away throughout the week and to share on our Facebook Page who they gave their sandwich to and what that experience was like and perhaps even where they have found God in the experience. Should be good reading and I'll even share some of those experiences on this here blog with permission.

If you are interested in joining us: email me: mike@bustedhalo.com

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Fr. Jenkins trip to DC to visit Obama?

Yesterday some reports spun around the net regarding Notre Dame's President Fr. Jenkins taking a trip to Washington, DC on the Notre Dame Charter.

OK, as an aside I find it hysterical that Notre Dame has their own plane.

Many sources assumed that Fr. Jenkins was there to meet with President Obama.

American Papist reports that this is not the case, or at least not the initial purpose of his visit to our nation's capitol.

Now an informed source tells me that Fr. Jenkins is in town for a multi-day seminar/symposium for high level Notre Dame donors, which has been planned for some time now and involves several speakers and events. Because the activities are private, they were not "advertised" to the wider public.

Of course, just because Fr. Jenkins has good reason to be in DC besides meeting with Obama, doesn't mean he might not have attempted to meet with him while he was in town. I'm trying to track down that possibility next.

Indeed a good journalistic point. Even if he does meet with him, so what? What does that mean? Is he recinding the offer? Giving him dos and don'ts for the speech? Providing him with the secret recipe for making the perfect Notre Dame shamrock waffle? Hoping to make Bo the new Notre Dame mascot? (Fighting Portugese Water Dogs doesn't really roll off the tongue though!) Or is the first step in Notre Dame's attempt to take over the world?

Maybe he's also got ideas on who that Vatican Ambassador should be?

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And we thought we had problems now?

McNamara's Blog, a great church historian webpage notes that on today's date in 1944 Cardinal William Henry O’Connell of Boston died. O'Connell was a former rector at the North American College in Rome (as was NY's new Archbishop Timothy Dolan) and later became Bishop of Portland, Maine and then went on to become Archbishop of Boston. He was famously known for increasing parishes and vocations and was a huge political voice as well who legislators feared.

O’Connell had a nasty side. When he took over as Archbishop, he got rid of the Sulpicians from the seminary faculty. (He had a grudge against them from his own seminary days.) In addition, he exhumed their graves from the cemetery. But perhaps the biggest scandal of O’Connell’s career was one that never hit the papers.

It seems that his nephew Monsignor James O’Connell, whom he appointed Chancellor at a very young age, was leading a double life. He was secretly married to a woman in New York and was embezzling from archdiocesan funds to support his lavish lifestyle. The Cardinal was aware of the scandal for several years before he was forced to act by the Vatican.

Yeouch! You can check out more here.

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Apr 21, 2009

Who Believes in Global Warming?

David Gibson has a post on a remarkable survey from the Pew Forum on the public opinion of the effects of Global Warming broken down by religious denomination. Here's a graph on some if it.

I was more surprised at how many people do believe in this as opposed to do not. And there's no surprise that some of the more fundamentalist denominations do not.

About 70% of White Catholics believe on some level and even more mainline protestants.

But here's some astounding numbers based on political affiliation:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted April 23-27 among 1,502 adults, finds that the already substantial partisan divide over global warming has widened in the past year. Fully 84% of Democrats and 75% of independents say there is evidence that the earth's temperatures have been rising, compared with just 49% of Republicans.

Among Republicans, far more moderates and liberals than conservatives say there is evidence of global warming (69% vs. 43%). However, the proportion of both groups expressing this view has declined since January 2007.

Have the republicans missed the pictures of the polar ice caps or is Newt Gingrich up there with a hair dryer and a sunlamp?

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More on Columbine

Dave Cullen the author of Columbine has this video up for his book at Amazon.com. There's no embed code but check out this here and buy the book--I did:


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Archbishop Dolan - When I Was in Prison You Visited Me

This was truly inspiring to me. If the Archbishop ever wants some company I think a group of young adults would love to accompany him on a trip. Gotham's bishop visited Bedford Correctional Facility the only maximum security prison for women in New York State. He wanted a prison to be one of his first visits. He gave them an opportunity for mass and communion.

After Mass, Dolan stood outside the chapel and greeted each woman individually. He embraced most and said at least a few words.He happily chatted with those who had a comment or question.

He asked many women to pray for him. Several of the inmates asked to be blessed by the new archbishop and one remarked “You are so cute.”

Afterward, Dolan took a couple of questions and told me that visiting inmates and others in need is his sacred responsibility.

“They do more for me than I do for them,” he said.

After the Mass, Dolan was going to visit with long-term patients in the prison’s hospital. Then he was heading to the nursery, where babies born to pregnant inmates can live for up to a year.

A huge hat tip to Blogging Religiously for the story.

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As shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves...

Some Great Expectations from Fr Brian Cavanaugh, TOR at the Franciscan University of Stubenville regarding Catholic participating in the political process.

This means that Catholic leaders in today's society must properly equip themselves to learn all the necessary skills to be competent in the arena of public affairs, i.e., rhetoric, debate, economics, civility and law, to name just a few. As well, they are to be enlightened through the teachings of Christian doctrine and faith. Simply put, Catholic leaders are to become competent and capable with all the tools necessary to perform their tasks in a qualified manner.

Jesus, likewise, prepares his disciples for the trials of ministry when he tells them, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" ( Matthew 10:16 [NIV])[10].

You've got to admire that advice. To "be as shrewd as" means you need to recognize all the skills and the wiles involved in the public arena; yet, enlightened with faith and Christian doctrine, you need to remain civil and calm in the discourse of public affairs.

Thank you, Father! Most especially for that last line. That's just a snippet of his long article complete with a lot of references. Check it out when you have the chance here

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Instead of Obama bashing maybe we should give publicity to this blog

The great story of Baby Faith

My name is Myah. I'm 23 years old and a single mom to a very special little girl.

When I was 19 weeks pregnant, I was told that my baby had no brain. This condition is known as "anencephaly." I was told that my baby was only alive because she was attached to me, but that she couldn't survive on her own. The doctor said that I could continue the pregnancy safely, but that my baby would die shortly after being born. Or I could choose to terminate the pregnancy then, which would mean being induced at 20 weeks and letting my baby die without ever seeing or holding her (I don't even want to know what they do with babies in this case). Well, to some people this would be a difficult decision, but it wasn't for me. I knew there was nothing to gain by terminating the pregnancy and I already loved my daughter more than anyone else in the world. Even if she was unconscious like the doctors said and lived for only a few seconds or minutes --even if she was stillborn --it was worth it to me. And so we began our journey...

Today, as I type this, Faith is 20 days old. Apart from a sterile dressing on her head that needs to be changed once a day, Faith lives a completely normal life. She isn't suffering or sickly, like you would expect. With no tubes and no machines supporting her life, she continues to thrive. She seems to function at the same level as any "normal" baby. In fact, she may be a little more advanced for her age. How many babies smile before they are born, start cooeing at one day old, and can sit up by 5 days old?

(Editor's note: The Baby actually has a brain but is missing a rather large part of the forebrain--regardless this is amazing.)

Read more of this woman's amazing journey here

An additional personal note: While I'm in favor of President Obama speaking at Notre Dame -- mostly because I think having him come there might actually influence his position on abortion and might actually help Catholics begin to put their money where their mouth is on approaching a holistic solution to the problem -- there's something about my own experience that comes to the fore when I discuss abortion.

My mother was 41 when she had me in February 1970. Throughout the summer of Love 1969 when she first learned that she was pregnant with me, she was advised to abort. Her age being a major factor in the doctor's decision. She flatly refused saying much like the mother of baby Faith that there was nothing to gain by aborting and that if I were to die that I would simply die naturally. This came after my mother had struggled to get pregnant for the first four years of her marriage until my sister was born and then tried again for the next 16 years unsuccessfully conceiving and living through 2 miscarriages. A nurse even said to her "How old are you? Well, you'll be back for an abortion." Needless to say, my mother was both insulted and angered by her comment and by the doctor's recommendation.

They told my mother that my brain would be deformed, that at best, I'd be mentally handicapped and that even if she carried me to term, I'd probably not live. I'm not sure what science textbooks they were looking at but we know now that women in their 40s have babies all the time.

My gutsy mom, now 81, told me that for years she used to see that doctor all the time and she'd always tell him about me. She'd exclaim in her Irish passive aggressive way that "You see that kid over there? That's the baby that you said would be brain damaged. That's the baby that you wanted me to abort. By the way, he's an honor student!" She would send him copies of my picture and my report cards for years. If the guy was still alive I'm sure he'd have a copy of Googling God by now. He'd probably get an entire box.

Now that's faith and that's witness. She lived her life in an authentic way and then did what she could to influence the doctor later on. She always did it with some kindness and was never angry when she spoke to him, but she still got her point across very effectively.

I don't know if her words had much influence on her doctor, but I do know that one of his patients said he was kind to her during a difficult pregnancy and never once suggested an abortion. So I'd like to think that she had some effect. Even if she didn't she certainly has had an effect on my family.

Thanks Mom, simply for having me--for ignoring the fact that you would be living uncomfortably and in a lot of uncertainty that could have brought you a lot of emotional pain. Thanks too for showing me how to live authentically and moreover, how to influence others in a very effective way.

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Googling God

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