Sunday, April 3, 2016

4 things to do when suffering

Following are a few suggestions I hope might be helpful to anyone experience suffering life. These are not "solutions" to make suffering go away. Many sufferers have learned there is not a secret formula to make it "stop." Not even prayer. Even in Scripture, Job cried out to God yet still lamented of his "months of emptiness" (Job 7:3), which may have amounted to years. Paul likewise begged for the removal of a thorn (2 Cor. 12:8-9), yet God did not effect Paul's request in the manner Paul requested it. Jesus himself prayed to be spared the cup of blood (Luke 22:42; Matt 26:39), yet he still endured the crucifixion. In this fallen world, we often feel the sting of

So the purpose of this post is not to examine the mystery of suffering per se, but things we can do amidst it.

1. Offer your suffering as a gift to God.
Scripture teaches us both that Christ offered himself in suffering and that we suffer with him (e.g. Phil. 3:10, Rom 8:17). Deep down, there is a generosity here bestowed by God, that we might in some sense, by grace, join him in his work. It doesn't matter if we "feel" the value of this, but we are simply called to accept crosses and to share in Christ's suffering. We may never know in this life what God "does" with such gifts from His children. Do not worry about having that answer before being a child offering a father a present.

2. Pray even if your prayers are weak.
Don't worry if your suffering is so dark that you can barely muster a prayer. If you must, simply pray with your action, as in point #1, by accepting a share of the cross. If you've already prayed and prayed and things have never changed, you might find yourself in a dark, frustrated, empty place which razes at your faith and trust. Even if you are in such a condition, perhaps you could still pray something like: Lord, please hear me despite my anger and frustration. Don't let the answer to my prayer depend on the wreck that is my faith, nor the anger and sorrow that spills from my heart. Hear my prayer even if I feel like it is futile.

This can help place the matter more into God's hands than one's own. The petitioner admits his sorrow or anger or exhaustion. This can help the petitioner avoid falling into the deceptive trap of thinking his prayer didn't "work" because he didn't pray "right."

No matter how short or how poor you think the prayer comes out, God can work with it. This is the God who built a church on Peter, who was a flawed man in many ways. This is the God who built a universe literally out of nothing. Even a clumsily crafted prayer could become something great.

3. Recognize in your suffering a glimpse of Christ's suffering.
In today's Gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday, we read in part the story of Thomas who would not believe Christ had risen lest he see Christ's wounds.
John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." 
Doubting St. Thomas by St. Tito (ca 1576-77)
(detail from photograph by Saliko,
acquired from Wikimedia Commons)
After seeing this, Thomas' awareness comes to life. Remember in #1 above how Scripture teaches we suffer with Christ. This is our window to Christ's suffering even when we are weak and faithless. Just like Thomas we desire to see Christ's wounds. Sometimes we are given that glimpse right in our own hearts.  When we suffer, we thus "see" Christ's suffering and garner our limited understanding of what Christ endured. And since Christ was wholly innocent and accepted this suffering, we know that whatever we suffer as sinful beings, Christ suffered infinitely worse as the innocent one. From this, we see the love Christ had for mankind. Although easier said than done,  we can translate this to our own lives. We say to ourselves:
If Christ willed to accept a suffering even worse than what I suffer now, how much must he have loved us. This is an example for me to follow when I do something loving for someone else. Do I hold my tongue against a family member while arguing, even if it is difficult for me to resist? Do I guard my eyes against sinful temptations even if I desire to look? Am I willing to accept something that is painful to me for the sake of doing something loving for another?
4. Recognize the faith underlying your frustration
Perhaps you find yourself vexed and frustrated, even "angry" at God after you've cried out again and again to be heard. Like Israel, you "cry out" (e.g. Ps. 22:2, Hab. 1:2) and wonder "how long" until you are "heard." Although the pain does not subside, part of the reason you are frustrated is because you recognize in God the power to hear you. There is faith in such a lamentation. In such a case, consider a prayer such as this:
God I wouldn't be so frustrated and crying out to You if I didn't think You had the power to help. Hidden in my rage is knowledge of Your power and divinity.
In a way, a prayer such as this can be a prayer of praise. And previously, perhaps you have found it very difficult to make a prayer of praise as you've endured heartbreak and difficulty day after day.

Conclusion
Only in suffering can the pinnacles of human love be realized. Is it easier to love a spouse when things are going well or difficult. Great love rises even in turmoil. All this can be overwhelming. None of the above suggestions may take away the pain we so desire be removed. With Job, Paul, Jesus, and Israel, we cry out for mercy, to be spared the pains, thorns, and cups of sacrifice. Even if we remain in the darkness and pains this fallen world delivers, it is worth looking to Scripture and Christ's love as an example to follow.


Note: The 4th point and other slight changes were made to this post on April 6, 2016.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Refuting Planned Parenthood on viability and SCOTUS

THE VIABILITY ARGUMENT
The "viability" argument goes something like this: "A fetus can't survive on its own outside the womb, therefore, it's not a fully developed human." Therefore, says the Planned Parenthood supporter, abortion is morally acceptable.

For example, we see this from among Planned Parenthood's Arizona advocates, one of whom writes that a woman has the "right not to be forced to give birth and choosing not to carry a non-viable, non human being..."

With the scandal of Planned Parenthood having been caught on film negotiating the sale of infant body parts, such supporters of the organization are perhaps finding themselves having to seek refuge in such shelters as the "viability" argument. (By the way, you can keep abreast of the Center for Medical Progress and David Daleiden's legal battle surrounding Planned Parenthood at Life Legal Defense Foundation.)

So what's wrong with the viability argument?
  • The presence of human life is not dependent on the subject's personal capacity to survive in any particular environment. For example:
    • Even a post-live-birth baby cannot survive without a variety of dependencies and isn't "viable" of his/her own accord. A newborn baby cannot feed him/herself, dress him/herself, protect him/herself, nor a variety of other things that can easily determine that child's fate. Thus, a baby's ability to viably self-preserve is not a logical measure by which the presence of human life is determined.
    • If the PP supporter is referring to a baby's ability to survive outside the womb even with medical assistance, there is another problem. Throughout history, the stage at which a baby has survived outside the womb gets younger and younger. The PP supporter finds him/herself arguing that human life comes into being at a different point, depending on whether that child was born in 2016 or 1916. The same supporter would have to argue that human life comes into being at a different point, depending on whether that child was born in Beverly Hills or the terrains of Somalia. Holders of this view must change their view of when they believe human life to exist by appealing to available medical technology. This is a nonsensical position.
    • If the PP supporter is merely talking about respiration, there are clearly situations in which even an adult human cannot "viably" respire of his/her own accord, such as under water, in outer space, in a dense fire, amid toxic air, or other situations. Point being––ability to respire is not a logical measure by which the presence of human life is determined. It's absurd to say an adult who cannot respire in any given environment is less than human. 
THE SUPREME COURT ARGUMENT
The Supreme Court argument goes something like this: "The Supreme Court determined that a fetus isn't a human being." Thus, says the PP supporter, abortion is morally acceptable.

For example, we see this implied by NARAL Wisconsin, outlining what it believes to be good arguments to tell pro-lifers, including the following statements (emphasis mine): "The Supreme Court has said and I believe that legal personhood begins with birth" and "Embryos are a cluster of cells with the potential to develop into a human life if implanted into a woman's womb and brought to term."

So what's wrong with the Supreme Court argument?
  • The presence of human life is not dependent on any verdict by the Supreme Court of the United States. For example:
    • The Supreme Court itself has reversed its own prior verdicts. In fact, it has done so well over 100 times. Appealing to a source that denies its own immutability is hardly a satisfactory argument.
    • Thus, appealing to the "Supreme Court" results in the nonsensical position that human life began in the womb prior to 1973 but not after 1973. It fails the same test as the "medical technology" fallacy described in the first section above: depending on when a child was born, the court's Roe v. Wade opinion may not even have existed. In fact, prior to 1789, SCOTUS didn't even exist. 
    • As well, the Supreme Court's jurisdiction ends at the United States. Obviously, the majority of the human population is not subject to SCOTUS verdicts. Appealing to a single country's legal verdict as the benchmark for a philosophical argument for all of humanity is self-defeating when the court itself does not claim to govern all humanity. 
    • In an ironic twist, Planned Parenthood doesn't even embrace verdicts of the Supreme Court. For example, in 2014, SCOTUS upheld a federal abortion ban involving second trimester pregnancies.  PP immediately sent out a press release which stated: "Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) denounced the ruling."
CONCLUSIONS
It's not difficult to refute arguments built on shaky ground as we can see here. It may be a bigger challenge simply to find a mind willing to permit his/her views to pass scrutiny.

Regarding the matter of abortion, I would suggest the discussion must always be founded on whether or not that which is in the womb is a human life. Biological arguments are effective here. It is no secret that the when a zygote is formed at conception, the baby has a unique DNA, distinct from the mother. Even the government admits this:
The zygote contains all of the genetic information (DNA) needed to become a baby. Half the DNA comes from the mother's egg and half from the father's sperm. Fetal Development, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013) (see more references at Life begins at conception, science teaches, Live Action News)
The NLM is ironically part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services––the government entity that admitted oral contraceptives increase cancer risk in women. And here it admits the unique DNA identity of the enwombed infant from conception.

Building on the science from a philosophical perspective, we can observe the beginning of the life process with the merger of the egg and sperm (the zygote). And we can observe continuity from that stage until a person passes away. To assign human life's beginning at some other point along the empirical timeline inevitably proves arbitrary, inconsistent, and fails scrutiny. For some examples of these flawed arguments here at TCV, see Replies to Planned Parenthood arguments or Notre Dame professor's flawed argument for abortion.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

7 historic photos with Catholic back stories II

This posts continues the theme of the first "historic photos post" here at The Catholic Voyager. Following are seven more historic photos with Catholic back stories.

1. Nuns on the swing, 1963

Credit: New York Daily News Archive / Contributor
In November 1963, the Catholic Committee on Scouting of North Bergen, Boy Scouts of America visited St. Joseph's Village, a home to nearly 200 dependent children in Rockleigh, New Jersey. The complex operated from 1958-1972 and was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph to give care to children without a viable home situation.

Jim Brown, webmaster and historian at the St. Joseph's Village website, recalls the boy scouts' visits:
There were two times the scouts had a clam bake there, as I remember. And I was at it one of the times. That day, they had different activities that the scouts were doing, like rope climbing and things like that. And the nuns were participating in them.
Pictured above are two of the sisters enjoying a ride on the Village's playground swing set, near the Barbara Givernaud Cottage, a residence home for the children.

Today, the Village is now a facility for a variety of human services, as summarized at the St. Joseph's Village website:
After the Village closed it doors for good in 1972, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Newark sold the property to the Bergen County Special Services on the condition that it be used to help people. After making considerable modifications, the county opened several human services programs — a 110 bed nursing home, a substance abuse rehabilitation program, a high school for autistic children, and other programs for youth with emotional and behavioral needs.

2. The Copiapó Mining Rescue, 2010


On August 5, 2010, over 2,000 feet beneath the earth's surface, the San José copper-gold mine in Copiapó, Chile suffered a cave-in. Over 700,000 tons of rock sealed the exit on 33 miners. The following days would prove taxing on the hearts of the watching world.

Mining companies throughout the globe offered their assistance. The owner of one company, Drillers Supply International, was Greg Hall, a Catholic deacon at Christ the Redeemer church in, Cypress, Texas.

In a recent interview with Aleteia, Deacon Hall recalls:
The miners were somewhere between 400 and 800 meters down. The mining equipment only goes to 400 meters. We were called in to help them get to 800. ... After day 10 I was convinced it was a recovery effort, not a rescue. There was a place in the mine called the “refuge” where trapped workers could go during an emergency, but there were only provisions there for three days.
Yet, on day 17, a drill penetrated the "refuge" chamber, and the rescue crew could hear tapping on the end of the drill. When they raised the drill, on the end was a note in Spanish reading: "We are OK in the refuge, the 33."

How did 33 men survive 17 days on 3 days rations? They ate two teaspoons of tuna, one biscuit, and a sip of milk every other day. They also had dug for water and rationed extra water from the radiators.

Now with an opening to the miners, supplies were sent for their continued survival. Yet the Chilean government's plan for rescue at this point was scheduled to last 5-6 months. Hall met with officials and convinced them to attempt what became known as Plan B.

With help from a team of specialists and high-tech equipment from around the world, the rescue team sought to widen a hole which was originally 5 inches in diameter to a hole 26 inches in diameter. Throughout the ordeal, Hall prayed and prayed. While praying the Liturgy of the Hours one morning, he recalls praying: "I’m going to do everything I can, Lord, but this is not my work, this is your work."

One hundred feet from finishing the widened tunnel, the drill stopped. "We were stuck, totally, 100 percent stuck," Hall recalls. The equipment had already defied computer modeling for that depth and that pressure to that point. The situation felt bleak. Hall prayed again, "I’ve done everything I can, Lord, this is your work.  You are going to have to send your angels." And the drill finally came to life again, finishing the 26-inch wide tunnel through which the miners would be rescued one by one via a narrow capsule. "God drilled the hole," Hall says.

Pictured above is Mario Gomez, the ninth miner rescued, pausing to pray after reaching the surface. The narrow transport capsule is in the background. The 33rd and final miner was rescued on October 13, 2010, over two months after the cave-in, and also the feast of the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.

The incident is now a major motion picture called The 33.


3. The Boxer Rebellion, 1900


In 1900, Chinese Christians sustained some of the worst persecution in Chinese history during "The Boxer Rebellion."

According to History.com, a number of Chinese rebelled against Christian residents and missionaries, and other Western immigrants, blaming "their poor standard of living on foreigners who were colonizing their country." Whether immigration attributed to their poverty was a matter of debate. For instance, a large percentage of Boxers came "from Shandong province, which had been struck by natural disasters such as famine and flooding."

During the rebellion, "the Boxers killed Chinese Christians and Christian missionaries and destroyed churches and railroad stations and other property." Pictured above, center, is a Roman Catholic priest identified as "Pater Schen," with two Catholic guards, preparing for a siege on their church by the rebels. In researching the back story of this photo, I was not able to ascertain the fate of these specific men. However, the Catholic Encyclopedia records a number of martyrs during the Boxer Rebellion, including the Lazarist priest, Jules Garrigues, Doré, two Marist brethren, and Father d'Addosio.

The Boxer rebellion officially ended in 1901 following the help of allied forces which included Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.


4. "Christ of the Abyss," 2009 (1965)

Photo by Stephen Weir, (stephenweir.com)

For our next photo, we go subaqua to the waters of Key Largo, Florida. Pictured above is a 2009 photo of one of the premier attractions of Key Largo––the Christ of the Abyss statue. It was installed in the underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in 1965.

The statue is the third underwater sculpture of its kind, cast from the same mold as the original, which dates back to 1954 near Genoa, Italy. The second, installed in 1961, is off the coast of Grenada.

The Key Largo statue celebrated its 50th year this year. The man responsible for transporting the replica of the original Italian statue is Gabe Spataro. Earlier this year, at age 83, he celebrated the statue's anniversary by diving, while legally blind, no less, in Key Largo to lay wreaths on the statue.

Discovery News recently produced a short video on the Key Largo Christ of the Abyss. The video features the photographer credited above, Stephen Weir. Although Weir himself is not a Christian, he said of the statue, "For me, when I first saw Jesus, it was inspirational." Watch the Discovery News video here.


5. The Penitent Thief, 1961


If you think this photo looks like characters from Dragnet taking detectives' notes with Catholic statues, you're not far off. This photo appeared on the front page of the June 9, 1961 issue of the Denver Post with the headline: Religious Statues Prod Thief's Conscience. The brief story reads:
Denver detectives Walter Starr (left) and Arthur Moser make a list of the religious statues left, apparently by a thief, in vestibule of the parish house of Loyola Catholic Church, 2301 York St. The statues were in three suitcases, and the Rev. Ed P. Murphy left them undisturbed several days, thinking they belonged to a visiting priest. Finally he opened them, and in looking over the statues found the name of their owner, Hans Dorff, a San Francisco importer. Fr. Murphy wrote to Dorff, and Dorff notified Denver police. Seems the statues and other belongings were stolen from his car parked on a Denver street the night of May 29.

6. Smoke Signals, 1963


This gentleman is cooking up none other than smoke signals from inside the Vatican during the 1963 papal conclave at which Pope Paul VI was eventually elected. This was the first time special chemicals were added to the signal smoke. To outside onlookers, white smoke signifies a new pope has been chosen. Black smoke signifies no result. During the prior conclave in 1958, what was intended to be black smoke escaped white, confusing the audience into thinking a pope had been named, when in fact he had not.1 The confusion later led to the chemical additives of 1963. In 2005, ringing of bells were also added as part of the signal for an affirmative papal election.
1Burke-Young, Francis A. Passing the Keys. Madison Books. Maryland, Oxford. 2001. p.110

 

7. Comet Hunters, 1946


Either the two priests above were holding a pair of binoculars when they shrunk, or they are Jesuits at the Vatican Observatory. On February 2, 1946, the announcement was made of the "Timmers Comet," named for Brother Matthew Timmers above, with his associate Father Walter Miller.

The comet, visible with telescopic assistance, passed over the Americas. Subscribers of a Harvard "announcement" list received a mailing that included "Tables of position" for the comet's spring travels. Author J. Hugh Pruett for the Spokane Daily Chronicle recounted his observation:
Two of us first looked for Comet Timmers in a wonderfully clear and moonless sky on the evening of February 25. There...was in the position predicted, a fuzzy little object with a bright central nucleus and a faint indication of a nebulous tail pointing away from the sun––as do all orthodox cometary appendages. Surrounding it in the circular field of view were many little stars of various brilliancies. We were reaching into the great spaces for an interplanetary traveler far beyond the ken of unaided vision.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Reactions to CO Planned Parenthood shooting reactions

EDIT 12/2/15 to add: Witnesses, among others, apparently say the CO shooter initiated his violent actions outside Planned Parenthood and closer to a bank down the road. This contradicts the media's central narrative on this story. In the Nov. 29 Examiner, we read: "the Public Information Officer for the Colorado Springs Police Department 'told reporters that the entire incident started with shooting at the Planned Parenthood facility;' multiple reports conflict with this narrative, including accounts from eye witnesses." For the purposes of the blog post below, the sentiments remains the same, as they are a reaction to reactions about pro-lifers in relation to this tragedy. 
On Friday, November 27, 2015 a man entered a Colorado Planned Parenthood, shooting and killing three and wounding several others. We immediately saw a multitude of pro-life supporters and Christians condemn the act and pray for the victims and against future violence. See here for just a handful of examples.

Also immediately came a geyser of Planned Parenthood and abortion supporters on social media and elsewhere accusing the pro-life movement for causing this act. For instance:
Site Of Planned Parenthood Attack Is A Hub For Anti-Abortion Christians- so not surprised this happened there... ––Martina Navratilova, former professional tennis star and pro-abortion activist, Twitter post on November 29, 2015)
Perhaps Navratilova is unaware that for decades Planned Parenthood facilities nationwide have been the site of Christians praying against abortion, day after day, year after year, and yet violence is all but non-existent.

Another example:
Carly Fiorina and every single one of them has blood on their hands this morning. And these idiots that put out these deceptive videos in the first place... Yeah, it's because of them. … These videos are complete bull---. You get lunatics like this all ginned up. "Oh, they're selling baby parts, and blah blah blah blah…" ––Stephanie Miller, pro-abortion radio host, on her November 30, 2015 show.*
Common folk likewise expressed similar sentiments, often suggesting that pro-life rhetoric is responsible for the shooting. In social posts, the terms "Christian," "hypocrites," and "Planned Parenthood" are often assembled to suggest Christians condone this act.

And, as evidenced by Miller's rant above, often, The Center for Medical Progress is specifically brandished the culprit. The murders occurred "because of them," Miller indicted.

But what is the 800-lb gorilla in the room about these bold accusations against The Center for Medical Progress and other pro-lifers? The avoided questions are such as these: Is what they say true? Does abortion take a human life? Does Planned Parenthood kill enwombed babies and sell their body parts?

In the case of The Center for Medical Progress, what we have is not so much what The Center has said, but what they have revealed Planned Parenthood's own management and affiliates to have said. For example:
We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. ––Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director for Medical Services, Planned Parenthood

On liver tissue, because that's such an area of demand for us. ... As you probably know, one of the issues with neural tissue, it's so fragile. It's insanely fragile...it's the hardest thing in the world to ship. ... [T]hey don't want to know where it comes from. I can see that. Where they're like, "We need limbs, but no hands and feet need to be attached." ... Or they want long bones, and they want you to take it all off, like make it so that we don't know what it is. ––Cate Dyer, StemExpress CEO

If we want to pursue this, mutually, I'll talk to Ian and see how he feels about using a less crunchy technique to get more whole specimens. ... When we first started this program, we had a situation, a policy that she would call the day before and how many ten-weekers do you have. She wouldn't come in unless we had a chance for getting tissue that day. ––Dr. Mary Gatter, President, Medical Directors' Council, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Medical Director, Planned Parenthood Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley

We've just been working with people who want particular tissues. Like, a, you know, cardia–– they want cardiac, or they want eyes, or they want neural. ... oh, gonads. Oh my god, gonads. ––Dr. Carolyn Westhoof, Senior Medical Advisor, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
These quotes are, sadly, a small sample and can be found among others at The Center for Medical Progress' Investigative Footage page in video and transcript. And these don't even include the procedural improprieties nor the visual evidence exposed in the videos. Pro-lifers don't have to say Planned Parenthood sells body parts. Planned Parenthood is saying it themselves.

So where does that leave us? Essentially, devout PP supporters are saying, "If The Center for Medical Progress hadn't exposed Planned Parenthood's management admitting to selling babys' body parts, no one would be upset with them!"

Perhaps a final example may help put this in perspective. Imagine a brothel consisting of victims of the sex slave trade. An undercover video exposes the evils occurring within its walls. Then an unstable individual enters the brothel and goes on a murderous rampage, killing several, including police staff on the scene. Would we turn a blind eye to the women and children victimized in the brothel? Would the killer's actions erase or nullify what had happened and what will continue to happen to the women and children victimized in the brothel? Would we focus blame on the undercover videographer for exposing what happened there? It would be irrational to do so.

Being both opposed to the murder of adults and the murder of babies doesn't make one a hypocrite. It's nonsensical to suggest otherwise. Nonsensical, emotional, irrational rants on social media are one of the hallmarks of our time.  The Christian needn't let another's mad ravings define him/her.




*Attempts to discredit the content of The Center for Medical Progress' videos based on the videos being "edited" are hardly honest, particularly when an accusation is never paired with examples. Lengthy segments of the Planned Parenthood representatives proceed unedited. The words they spoke are in context. Readers can see the videos or transcripts for themselves. Even the Fiorina accusation, mentioned in the above quote by Miller, is an embarrassing attempt to cloak what actually occurs at Planned Parenthood clinics. Essentially, PP supporters reacted to her comments by insisting the baby she described was different than the one whose brain was actually procured. See a breakdown of that matter here.