Sunday, December 22, 2019

Does the Church still heal the sick and raise the dead?

Perhaps you've heard an atheist or skeptical challenge to the effect of, "If the Church really was divine, why doesn't it heal the sick and raise the dead, etc., like it says in the Bible:
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
The response to this is twofold.

First, this prophecy was fulfilled in the immediate early Church following the Ascension. Most of the promises are recorded to have occurred in the book of Acts. As well, there have been other records of such miracles occurring in the subsequent history of the Church.
  • The matter of exorcism is attested, for example, in Acts 16:18. In Church history, the ministry of casting out demons in exorcism is attested by a number of other subjects and witnesses.  This is the case even today with lay people and clergy who work in close conjunction with medical professionals in order to rule out medical conditions. See the footnotes for references.
  • Regarding the gift of tongues, the Scripture attests to the phenomenon in the book of Acts, which followed Christ's promise. Some early Christian texts repeat the claim (e.g. St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.6.1). It is sometimes attested in modern times that this gift, perhaps, is now rare or non-existent (e.g. Fr. Edward O'Connor, The Catholic pentecostal movement, 1971). Read further in the next section regarding a concentration of miracles in the early Church.
  • The matter of handling serpents or poison, again, is attested in Acts. Paul is bitten, yet unaffected, by poisonous snakes (Acts 28:3-5). In Church history, one of the miracles attributed to St. Edith Stein (aka St. Benedicta of the Cross) is the recovery of Benedicta McCarthy who in 1987 ingested "19 times the lethal dose of acetaminophen" and recovered instantly.
  • Healing the sick is attested in Acts 3:1-10, Acts 14:8-10, et al. Peter is recorded to have raised the dead in Acts 9:32-42. Of course, there have been numerous healing miracles attributed in every age of the Church, such as the aforementioned Edith Stein miracle, and even more recent miracles, such as attributed to Bl. Fulton Sheen.
St. Peter Raises Tabitha, Fabrizio Santafede, 1611, acquired from Wikimedia Commons

For the purpose of interacting with a skeptic, it is enough to note that the Biblical text records fulfillment of Christ's prophecy. Whether the skeptic believes the miracles is a different matter. The text of Acts accounts for the prophecy in Mark.

Secondly, and more importantly, the Scriptural promise must be understood spiritually. After all, Scripture likewise alerts us, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)

Preservation of the soul, in the order of Christianity, is more important than preserving the body. That, of course, does not suggest we are to neglect the body, because the body is also the sacred temple of the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).

But, Scripture often uses the figure of healing the body as the figure of man healed of sin. The opening of the Mark 16 prophecies fits with this healing language, which is indicative of healing sin.

Consider another occasion on which Christ juxtaposed the healing of a body in order to make a point about spiritual healing. After healing the paralytic whom was lowered through the ceiling, Christ said,
But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins." He then said to the paralytic, "Rise, take up your bed and go home." (Matt. 9:6)
Christ reveals the purpose of performing the visible healing—that the onlooker would understand that healing of sin is real, even though he cannot see it. Christ performed a visible healing in order to give cause for his audience to believe the invisible healing. They saw the paralyzed man healed. They had reason to believe the invisible, but real, wounds of sin were likewise healed by the power of Christ.

Luke quotes Christ analogizing sin and sickness. When asked why he would engage sinners, Christ replied, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." (Luke 5:31)

The Catechism echoes this sentiment in multiple places. For example:

  • [W]e are dead or at least wounded through sin... (CCC#734)
  • Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion. (CCC#1448)
  • But [Christ] did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. (CCC#1505)

Return now to the Mark 16 prophecies and the spiritual meaning becomes clear. This spiritual understanding is explained by Pope St. Gregory I (d.604):
Are we then without faith because we cannot do these signs? Nay, but these things were necessary in the beginning of the Church, for the faith of believers was to be nourished by miracles, that it might increase. Thus we also, when we plant groves, strong in the earth; but when once they have firmly fixed their roots, we leave off irrigating them. These signs and miracles have other things which we ought to consider more minutely. For Holy Church does every day in spirit what then the Apostles did in body; for when her Priests by the grace of exorcism lay their hands on believers, and forbid the evil spirits to dwell in their minds, what do they, but cast out devils? And the faithful who have left earthly words, and whose tongues sound forth the Holy Mysteries, speak a new language; they who by their good warnings take away evil from the hearts of others, take up serpents; and when they are hearing words of pestilent persuasion, without being at all drawn aside to evil doing, they drink a deadly thing, but it will never hurt them; whenever they see their neighbours growing weak in good works, and by their good example strengthen their life, they lay their hands on the sick, that they may recover. And all these miracles are greater in proportion as they are spiritual, and by them souls and not bodies are raised. (Pope St. Gregory I, commentary on Mark 16, quoted in St. Thomas Aquinas's Catena Aurea)
It is worth emphasizing that St. Gregory also expounds on why the volume of miracles are more prevalent in the early Church—because they were useful in giving the Church root. From there, the Church stood with greater strength, having a firm foundation and the assurance of a divine pedigree. The Catechism #156 refers to miracles as one of the means by which faith is nourished (cf. Is faith belief without evidence?). Although miracles have occurred in every age in the Church, it is sensible to expect greater "proofs" would be given at the beginning of a new era in the divine economy of salvation. This is somewhat analogous to an infant requiring much sleep until he grows in strength and depends less on it.

St. Gregory's spiritual interpretation of the Mark 16 passage is echoed by others, including Fr. Cornelius Lapide (d.1637), the Flemish exegete, by quoting St. Bernard (d.1153):
Mystically: S. Bernard (Serm. de Ascens.) says, “The first work of faith which worketh by love is compunction of heart, by which, without doubt, devils are cast out when sins are rooted out of the heart. After that they who believe in Christ speak with new tongues when old things depart but of their mouth, and for the time to come they speak not with the old tongue of our first parents, who declined unto words of wickedness in making excuses for their sins. But when by compunction of the heart, and confession of the mouth, the former sins have been blotted out, in order that men may not backslide, and their latter end be worse than the beginning, it is needful that they take away serpents, that is, extinguish poisonous suggestions, &c. If they shall drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them. This is, when they feel the stings of concupiscence, they shall not consent. They shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover. This is, they shall cover their evil affections by good works, and by this medicine they shall be healed.” (Lapide, Commentary on Mark 16)
So, when someone asks, for example, why doesn't the Church still heal the sick or raise the dead, the answer should be that it does, every day, in the sacrament of Confession. Whenever an earnest soul makes his sacramental confession, a miracle occurs. We have the visible installment of belief from the miracles of Christ and his apostles and saints through the ages. It is up to us to recognize the greater healings occurring in spirit.

Further resources:
Christ’s Power Shines Even in “Creepiest” Exorcism Case, Says Psychiatrist by Patti Armstrong, 2018.
The Rite by Matt Baglio, 2010.
Hauntings, Possessions, and Exorcisms, Adam Blai interviewed by Patrick Coffin, 2019.
US exorcists: Demonic activity is on the rise by Patti Armstrong, 2011.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Serial Killers & Abortionists: Psychological parallels

The subtitle of the 2018 film Gosnell is "The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer." This is more than just a description of someone who took multiple lives. When one compares some of the common psychological and other characteristics of serial killers and supporters of abortion, one finds ominous parallels.

Compartmentalization is aided by another universal process: the capacity of human beings to dehumanize “the other” by regarding outsiders as animals or demons who are therefore expendable. Serial killers have taken advantage of this process in the selection of their victims: They often view prostitutes as mere sex machines, gays as AIDS carriers, nursing home patients as vegetables, and homeless alcoholics as nothing more than trash. By regarding their victims as subhuman elements of society, the killers can delude themselves into believing that they are doing something positive rather than negative. They are, in their minds, ridding the world of filth and evil. (Serial Murder and the Psychology of Violent Crimes, 2008)
Dehumanization of victims was something the writers of the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs incorporated into the character of the killer, who was based on several real serial killers, when he referred to his victims as "it."

Likewise, proponents of abortion avoid confronting the humanity of the enwombed victim. As made well-known by the 2019 film Unplanned, when the enwombed infant is dismembered, he/she is "reassembled" for inventory in a room referencing not "human" remains, but rather, "products of conception."

A defender of her days as an abortion counselor declared, "fetuses are not people," and "It is not a baby. It is medical waste." and
While it was shaped like a baby, what I was looking at was not a person. It was a fetus. A fetus my patient had chosen not to make into a baby." (Rewire News)
Activists at abortion rallies have been seen with signage referring to the enwombed as "parasites," paralleling the serial killer's reframing of their victims as some type of "filth and evil."

Related to dehumanization is euphemistic language. I reviewed a number of other euphemisms used by supporters of abortion in my review of Unplanned. Though euphemisms are common to political issues of all sorts, these are specifically designed to avoid confronting the humanity of the victim. Not one of the abortion industry's euphemisms, such as:
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Anti-choice
  • Tissue
  • Products of conception
  • Reproductive health
  • Her body
or a host of other diversionary terms directly confront the humanity of the enwombed.

Notice also how referring to the baby as "waste" and abortion as "healthcare" aligns with the serial killer's delusion that he is "ridding the world of filth and evil."

In March, Georgia House member Stacey Abrams used the euphemism "forced pregnancy" to describe a bill against abortion. Notice how the term avoids the humanity of the victim, as does the language of the serial killer. Diverting the matter to a "pregnancy," something the mother undergoes, or calling abortion "healthcare," etc., is to use "sanitizing language," which makes the idea of abortion more easily digestible for its proponents. (And, nevermind that the women in question are already pregnant. Saying "forced pregnancy" is like saying that the prohibition of all murder is "forced parenthood" to the victim's parents.)

Kermit Gosnell, the now-imprisoned abortionist featured in the 2018 Gosnell film, said in the 1960s, he pushed for "the liberalization of the performance of therapeutic abortions." He likewise touted  his work in abortion, saying, "I provide the same care I would want my daughter to receive and I feel I fulfill that standard." And, a reporter quoted him as saying, "my work to the community is of value."

Like the attitude of the serial killer thinking he is "doing something positive," phrases that describe abortion as "healthcare," or as "therapeutic," or as opposition to "forced pregnancy," are all euphemisms designed to delude one to believe he is committing some act of heroism by killing the enwombed.

Related to both of the prior categories is the serial killer's and the pro-abortionist's desire to conceal the identity of the victim. Some serial killers conceal the face of the victim:
[D]epersonalization of the body...refers to actions taken to obscure the identity of the victim, as through mutilation or covering of the face. (Handbook of Psychological Approaches with Violent Offenders, 1999) 
However, in cases of sexual or lust murder, the victim's face may be covered in order to dehumanize or depersonalize the victim. (Serial Murder and the Psychology of Violent Crimes, 2008)
The notorious "Jack the Ripper" was famously known to target faces in his attacks, especially disfiguring the faces of his last two victims.

Planned Parenthood openly decries the notion that a mother should see her baby via a "mandatory ultrasound." Young women have been denied by Planned Parenthood their request to see their baby in an ultrasound. Planned Parenthood has also refused to even perform an ultrasound unless the mother is "terminating"—per another of their euphemisms.

This aversion to ultrasounds is confirmed by former employees. For example, ex-Planned Parenthood worker Patricia Sandoval described how she was taught the following:
So the most important thing here [at Planned Parenthood] is that when we do the ultrasounds before their abortions, you never ever let the woman see the screen. If she wants to see that ultrasound, that screen has to face the doctor, never the patient. I don’t care if she cries. I don't care if she’s screaming. [She] never sees that ultrasound. (Patricia Sandoval - Testimony on Abortion)
The ACLU also fights regularly against women seeing their ultrasounds prior to abortion.

Pro-life campaigns like "Face the Truth", which show photos of aborted babies to the public, have likewise been met with hostility by abortion supporters. It is another attempt to conceal the identity of the victim.

Among serial killers and pro-abortionists, there exists a psychology that avoids looking upon the victim.

Selling the bodies and body parts of victims is more common among abortionists, but known to happen among serial killers. We learned of the abortion industry's body part sales in recent years via first-hand video conducted by the Center for Medical Progress. In harmony with the serial killer's delusion that they are "doing something positive" when killing, we see another mental justification used by abortionists—that the body parts will go toward medical studies. Consider the following serial killer cases involving sale of body parts and using victims for medical study.
  • Notorious Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes "sold several of his victims' skeletons and organs to medical schools."
  • Victims of the Burke and Hare murders were sold to physician Robert Knox for use in anatomy lectures.
  • Nazi scientists testified that their murder was justified because they derived use by medically studying the victims.
The preceding parallels are not merely ordinary characteristics native to ordinary folk. The characteristics described are, in a sense, essential to the psychological justifications of both serial killers and pro-abortionists.

For those whose hearts may be stung by the pain of abortion, there are many resources available, such as at AbbyJohnsonLiveAction, or Waterleaf.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Is Judas in hell?

Revised 4/4/2024

In Dante's epic poem, Judas is depicted in the deepest pit of hell as the devil devours him. It brings to mind a common question: Is Judas in hell? The evidence says yes, barring a last-minute genuine repentance for which we do not have evidence.

Let's examine the words of the popes, theologians, and Early Church Fathers on the matter.

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
Although the text says Judas repented, he obviously followed that by hanging himself. Thus, either he repented only momentarily but fell back into despair, or his repentance was not of the complete sort to which the Christian is called.
  • St. John Chrysostom suggests the repentance might have borne fruit, if the devil had not quickly lured him back into despair: 
    • "[T]he devil led him out of his repentance too soon, so that he should reap no fruit from thence." (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 85 on Matthew, 2.6, ca. 389 A.D.)
  • And elsewhere: 
    • "For this reason also the wicked one dragged Judas out of this world lest he should make a fair beginning, and so return by means of repentance to the point from which he fell." (St. John Chrysostom, Exhortation to Theodore, 1.9)
  • St. Leo suggests the same: 
    • "even [Judas] might have found salvation if he had not hastened to hang himself." (Pope St. Leo, Sermon 62.4, ca. 450 A.D.) 
  • St. Augustine deduces that Judas's repentance was not the sort that asked for pardon and mercy, for it produced no hope: 
    • For after [Judas] betrayed Him, and repented of it, if he prayed through Christ, he would ask for pardon; if he asked for pardon, he would have hope; if he had hope, he would hope for mercy; if he hoped for mercy, he would not have hanged himself in despair.... (Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 109. 8)
  • Cornelius Lapide, the 16th-17th century exegete, describes the falsity of the repentance:
    • Repented himself. Not with true and genuine repentance, for this includes the hope of pardon, which Judas had not; but with a forced, torturing, and despairing repentance, the fruit of an evil and remorseful conscience, like the torments of the lost.
  • The Navarre Bible Commentary
    • "Judas' remorse does not lead him to repent his sins and be converted." (The Navarre Bible, St. Matthew, on v.27:3-5, p. 174, 2005)
  • Haydock's Commentary similarly suggests Judas originally repented, but the devil talked him out of it, leading him to "eternal destruction": 
    • To his first repentance succeeded fell despair, which the devil pursued to his eternal destruction. If the unhappy man had sought true repentance, and observed due moderation in it, (by avoiding both extremes, presumption and despair) he might have heard a forgiving Master speaking to him these consoling words: I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may be converted and still live. Origen. (Haydock Commentary, Matthew 27, 1859)

Le Portement de Croix by Jean Fouquet, ca 1452-1460 (acquired from Wikimedia Commons)

  • On this verse, Lapide seems to suggest the words are more of a corrective warning: 
    • "For “far better is it not to exist at all, than to exist in evil. The punishment is foretold, that him whom shame had not conquered, the denunciation of punishment might correct,” says S. Jerome. He threatens him with the woe of damnation." (Lapide, Commentary on Matthew 26)
  • St. John Chrysostom likewise suggests the context is corrective: 
    • This He said to comfort His disciples, that they might not think that it was through weakness that He suffered; and at the same time for the correction of His betrayer. (St. John Chrysostom, quoted in Catena Aura on Matthew 26:20-25)
  • Remigius, the sixth century monk, interprets the words as "emphasis": 
  • Origen extends the meaning to refer to anyone who betrays Christ or his disciples: 

Let's take a short segue to look at a strange thought regarding Judas and his hanging. There is an interesting sentiment that Judas may have believed he could repent in the afterlife.
  • Origen says:
    • Or, perhaps, he desired to die before his Master on His way to death, and to meet Him with a disembodied spirit, that by confession and deprecation he might obtain mercy; and did not see that it is not fitting that a servant of God should dismiss himself from life, but should wait God's sentence. (Origen, quoted in Catena Aura, on Matthew 27:1-5, d.253 A.D.)
  • And Blessed Theophylact: 
    • [H]e hanged himself thinking to precede Jesus into hades and there to plead for his own salvation. (Bl. Theophylact, Commentary on Matthew 27, ca 1100)
Of course, if Judas did hang himself with the intent to plead with Christ in the afterlife, he failed to understand the nature of temporal life as the time of repentance, as Origen suggests above.

First, let's examine two texts from recent Popes, confirming the uncertainty of Judas's fate:
Even when Jesus says of Judas, the traitor, "It would be better for that man if he had never been born" (Mt 26:24), His words do not allude for certain to eternal damnation. (St. John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 186, 1994) 
What is more, it darkens the mystery around his eternal fate, knowing that Judas "repented and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'" (Mt 27: 3-4). Even though he went to hang himself (cf. Mt 27:5), it is not up to us to judge his gesture, substituting ourselves for the infinitely merciful and just God. (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, Oct. 18, 2006)
Origen also suggests there was some inkling of hope in Judas's behavior:
[T]he instructions of Jesus had been able to produce some feeling of repentance in his mind, and were not altogether despised and loathed by this traitor. (Origen, Contra Celsium, 2.11)
St. John Chrysostom, although he believed the devil dragged Judas from life to prevent repentance, understood even Judas's sin was not beyond forgiveness:
For although it may seem a strange thing to say, I will not admit even that sin [of Judas] to be too great for the succour which is brought to us from repentance. (St. John Chrysostom, Exhortation to Theodore, 1.9)
The Church's maxim lex orandi lex credendi, we pray as we believe, is a strong indication Judas was damned because the traditional liturgy states, "Judas received the punishment of his guilt..."

Some might argue Judas was entirely possessed by the devil, and thus excused, however, this is not the understanding of the Church, nor does it account for his acknowledgement of guilt. Some might also argue he had gone mad. St. John Chrysostom (Homily 81, On Matthew, 3.4) and St. Leo I (Sermon 62.4) reference "madness," however, both refer to it in the sense of a madness of sin.

If we take the comments of Popes, theologians, and the Early Church Fathers as a totality, it seems the following might be 5 reasonable conclusions:
  1. Judas fell into grave sin in betraying Christ and handing him over to be condemned.
  2. When Judas repented by trying to return the silver, his repentance was fleeting or inauthentic.
  3. Judas's act of hanging indicates he did not trust in God's mercy and remained in a state of grave sin.
  4. His only remaining opportunity for repentance was his final moment during the hanging.*
  5. Conclusion: If Judas authentically repented in his final moment, he could possibly have found salvation, though tradition does not not lean toward this.
Certainly, if hypothetically Judas indeed repented in his final moment, his path is not a safe one to follow. None of us know their hour, and it is foolish to plan for a deathbed confession. Judas's example amplifies our need to repent and seek refuge in the sacrament of confession regularly, and especially when we commit a grave sin.

*There is a thought that Judas did not die by hanging, rather that he plunged from a cliff (cf. Acts 1:18), or that he hung himself and the rope broke, thus spilling him on the rock. But, for the purposes of this thought exercise, whether Judas's final moments came at the rope or on the rocks, the point remains the same—his last chance for repentance was his final moment.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Takeaways from Unplanned movie

One of the first sentiments I had after viewing the film Unplanned was the same as my opening remarks last October about the film Gosnell: the scariest moment perhaps "is when one realizes how protected the abortion industry is."

Let's review that and several other takeaways from the film. I will keep spoilers at a minimum.

Still from the movie Unplanned (2019). Obtained from

Unplanned is an important insider look at the machinations of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry on which it thrives. The film is based on the actual life of Abby Johnson, whose name is very familiar to Catholics and the pro-life industry. Her perspective as an acclaimed and former director of Planned Parenthood has inspired many. The film's epilogue notes how Johnson's organization And Then There Were None has provided resources for and helped lead over 500 workers to discover the truth about Planned Parenthood and subsequently abandon it.

Planned Parenthood's business model is evident in the film. Abortions collect the largest margin of any product or "service" they offer. That means the difference in the amount an abortion costs them versus what they charge typically vulnerable women and girls is a larger dollar amount than anything else they offer. The description of this business model in the film is evidenced by the facts.

The film draws attention to Planned Parenthood publicly claiming they desire abortion to be "rare." Yet, as Abby Johnson and others have revealed, Planned Parenthood issues awards for increasing abortion productivity. This is hardly the organization's only lie.

Although the film does not delve into it, Planned Parenthood's long list of lies includes denial that they cover up child sex abuse, and denial that they sell baby body parts and have altered abortion procedures in order to procure specific parts.

The film does involve more than one bloody scene, including a dramatic abortion. The film received an R rating, which seems excessive, considering bloodier films without pro-life messages are given lesser ratings. However, the film's co-director Chuck Konzelman pointed out the irony of this rating, because "abortion is an act of extreme violence."

Another feature in the film worth mentioning are the several euphemisms and terms of snakery Planned Parenthood uses to disguise the truth.
  • "Planned Parenthood" - The very name of the organization itself belies the fact that abortion clients are already mothers. Its main product, abortion, and its other products like contraception, are designed to eliminate parenting. As some have noted, "unparenthood" more accurately describes their intentions.
  • "Anti-Choice" - As is often the case, including with a complicit media, the term "anti-choice" is used to describe pro-lifers who recognize the enwombed as a life. As Father Corapi often used to ask of the abortion industry's use of the word "choice": "Choose what?"
  • "Tissue" - The baby is referenced only as "tissue" that is not a baby "yet." In the film, we hear this used to convince a teen about the acceptability of having an abortion.
  • "Products of Conception" - A lesser known euphemism is the official term used by Planned Parenthood to refer to the remains of the aborted baby: "Products of Conception." In the P.O.C. room, pieces of the baby are "reassembled" and accounted for, so they can determine that they got the entire baby. As I said, the film is disturbing, but the information it reveals in this mass media format is important in combating the lies about the enwombed. Ancient Egypt wasn't the only sinful nation plagued with rivers of blood. 
  • "Reproductive Health" - Another phrase heard in the film and with frequency in media and from politicians is the term "reproductive health" to refer to the dismemberment or pulverizing of an enwombed baby. The reality is, a baby that would otherwise continue to live and grow, is terminated—the very antithesis of "health" and a diabolical lie.
  • "Her body" - Although the abortion industry has tried to sell the idea that abortion is ultimately about "her body," the nascent baby in the womb—left out of the abortion propagandist's equation—has his/her own unique DNA, distinct from the mother. Empirically and factually, the baby is not the mother's "body."
For eight years Abby Johnson worked up close and personal with the abortion of some 22,000 babies.  She was also not stuck at Planned Parenthood against her will and had family that consistently encouraged her to leave. But all those euphemisms and all Planned Parenthood's talk about health for vulnerable women serves as a veil, a means by which to deflect the public's attention, to avoid asking the actual question—is the enwombed a life?

Still, we have seen in modern days those who admit that from the moment of conception, the enwombed is by all reasonable measure a human life. Their justification for abortion comes in the the illogical idea that the baby's value is dependent on the mother's desire. If a mother considers herself "not ready" to raise a child or doesn't want to be connected to the father anymore (as was described in the movie about Johnson), the baby's very life loses value. This is to treat a baby the same as any other commodity, where market demand determines value. In this case, the mother is the market. This relativistic and perverse mentality deprives human life of objective worth.

Johnson has spoken at length about the blindness of sin she incurred. One takeaway for our own lives is to be on guard for what ways we might be deluding ourselves, falling for some seductive sales pitch on a particular sin.

One of the sins to which Johnson was blinded in her youth was her having obtained two abortions herself. She suffered terribly from the second, yet still pursued a career fostering abortions. The film especially brings to light the lie especially underlying her second abortion. She had filed for divorce and discovered she was pregnant. She didn't want to be "connected" to that man anymore and the termination of the baby was a "fix" for that problem. Of course, she merely sacrificed her baby for that separation and took on a different cross, knowing she offered no fight for her own child's life and paid someone to end it. This is not an uncommon story. It underscores the importance of treating the conjugal act with the utmost sacredness, and should discourage anyone from engaging in casual sex, and certainly not commit to someone of questionable character which is more difficult to avoid when engaging in sex with that person. But modern phenomena like abortion and contraception imply that one needn't be as careful or choosy with a partner. It's another dimension of abortion's lies.

The film mentions the type of powers that fund Planned Parenthood, explicitly naming George Soros, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet. The support from these multi-billionaires for an organization consistently caught lying and disguising its depraved work goes a long way in explaining its continued existence.

Soros and Gates have given over a combined $32 million to Planned Parenthood in recent years, dwarfed only by Buffet, who issued the abortion provider a deluge of over $230 million. (see LifeSiteNews.) Incoming donations such as these as well as Planned Parenthood's outbound political donations are reasons why many have questioned their reception of taxpayer funds and non-profit status. Their legal intimidation, also shown in the film, are important facts to know when understanding the entity that is Planned Parenthood. With such a concentration of influence from just a few donors, one rightfully must question how much of the organization's survival is due to ideology and paid propaganda. This is especially a fair question when one considers the euphemisms, that Planned Parenthood uses language to describe what they do other than language that actually describes what they do.

Despite such colossal funding, Planned Parenthood still vies for public funds. Politicians who support them are not apt to reveal the flow of income they already enjoy from other sources. They typically hide behind miswordings like "health" to market things like abortion and contraception that are properly defined as non-medicine or poisons.

Such political and corporate funding could also explain why Planned Parenthood has been caught multiple times in outright lies yet fail to incur any consequence of significance. We are witnessing the undeniably naked emperor and are told to look the other way and deny it.

The film seems to avoid Johnson's eventual conversion to Catholicism. It only mentions an earlier stage of her spiritual development when she attended a generally Christian service. There are shots of pro-lifers praying the rosary at times, but nothing overtly Catholic, even though that appears to be central in where Johnson is today. This might make the film more widely appealing to non-Catholics to support the pro-life movement, but it's worth noting that the whole story has a definite Catholic component.

Part of what I remember hearing about Johnson's exodus from Planned Parenthood was that one of the items she took with her when she left was a bowl full of Miraculous Medals left by pro-lifers. She had collected them over time. I think I might have seen a bowl on her desk late in the film that contained them, but it was hard to tell if that was an "Easter Egg" or just another prop. Perhaps a commenter can shed light. But, undoubtedly, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal lent her immaculate gaze to that day when Abby Johnson finally stood for innocent life in the womb.

Unplanned: Behind the Scenes is viewable over at There are a number of fascinating tidbits from this video and the phenomena behind the movie. But I'd like to focus on these three additional takeaways from this mini-film.

  • Providence. Lead actress Ashley Bratcher (whom was warned not to take the role because she would never find work again) discovered that her mother had almost aborted her after already having been post-abortive. Not only was abortion considered, but her mother was literally seconds away from permitting the deed against Ashley, having gone all the way to a "clinic," and was in the room for an abortion before she walked out. This story adds a providential mystique to the film and what it represents.
  • Opposition. Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life made a prophetic statement which will undoubtedly come true. There will be critics of the film who will avoid confronting the truth it exposes by seeking refuge in more euphemisms, claiming the film is the "anti-Planned Parenthood movie, the anti-abortion movie, the anti-woman movie, the anti-fill-in-the-blank..."
  • Revelation. Writer/Director Cary Solomon told an interesting story about how his father had seen the movie and experienced a conversion on the matter of abortion. He quoted his father as saying, "You've shown us what we didn't want to see." The statement superbly summates the theme of the film, from the power Planned Parenthood wields, to the truth about abortion itself.

Further resources:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Refutation of justifying abortion because of zygote mortality, historic infanticide, and more

Evolutionary biologist Heather Heying's recent argument for abortion makes appeal to zygote survival, historical periods of infanticide, and careers.

Often, arguments for abortion avoid the ultimate question: is that which is in the womb a human life? This article clearly concedes it is, stating that even zygotes "are human, by any usual definition of the term." The argument in this article is not whether the enwombed are "human." Instead, their level of sacredness is called into question. Let's look at the various arguments in the article, starting with this matter of zygotes.

The article says “most human zygotes throughout history never became children” because they were either “miscarried,” had “chromosomal abnormalities” that proved fatal to the zygote, or that “genetic and environmental conditions rendered the zygote non-viable.” The article then concludes of these zygotes:
They are human, by any usual definition of the term, but they cannot survive. This happens to most zygotes that have ever been conceived. This fact leaves me, a biologist, wholly unconvinced by arguments about the sanctity of life.
Before we parse this conclusion, let’s again pause on the point of agreement. Fertilized zygotes “are human.” The article is correct in this regard. From the moment of conception, the nascent life has its own unique DNA, and is the empirical beginning of human life that progresses unto death. Now, let's analyze this main premise.
  • Why should we question the sanctity of life of babies in utero on the grounds that “most zygotes” do not survive? Explanation for this foundational claim is absent. It is merely asserted. Later, we will address the claim that sacredness is attributed to varying stages of physical development.
  • The argument here resembles, but falls short of, a logical three-term syllogism. The argument in syllogistic form is: Most zygotes die, therefore they are not sacred; or: Most Z are D. Therefore no Z are S. Missing is a second (minor) premise, such as a statement about what constitutes sacredness. The argument is logically invalid without even addressing whether the premises are valid.
Ultimately, it's nonsensical to assert life isn't sacred regardless of the frequency of biological malformations. It would not matter if 99% of zygotes didn't survive. No statistical appeals are necessary once we recognize human life is sacred and human life begins at conception.

Keep that in mind when reading these next three bullets, which are not foundational rebuttals to the article's zygote argument. Remember, the statistics are inconsequential to sacredness of life. Where there is human life, the sanctity proper to human life is present. The following thoughts are rather an inspection of zygote mortality statistics.
  • What effect does the pill, which literally siphoned the life out of society beginning in 1960, have on the failure of zygote survival? The FDA's description of the "mechanism of action" of the oral contraceptive Ella admits: "alterations to the endometrium that may affect implantation may also contribute to efficacy." How many zygotes are counted that couldn't implant simply because the mother took an abortifacient pill? How many zygotes were deemed "flawed" because the mother had a virus, consumed too much alcohol, took drugs, used spermicides, had a bacterial infection, or an STD? Should we deny the sacredness of the nascent human on account of external forces? According to the article, which states "environmental conditions rendered the zygote non-viable," the zygote wouldn't even have to be "flawed" to lose sacredness. It only needs to fall victim to some unnamed environmental condition. This would be, of course, a nonsensical index to measure the sacredness of human life, for a baby could be speciously deemed unsacred on account of someone else taking heroin.
  • An examination of embryo mortality rate studies was published in June 2017 by Dr. Gavin E. Jarvis in the Cambridge Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience. He concluded current data is not reliable regarding the mortality of embryos, stating: "natural human embryo mortality is lower than often claimed and widely accepted." (e.g. A multitude of studies have widely disparate statistics, e.g. ranging from 46%-90% mortality for all pregnancies, from zygote to term.) 
  • Consider the following: According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the total "rate of pregnancy loss after implantation" is 31%—much less than half. If one denies the sanctity of life based on "most zygotes" not surviving, wouldn't one have to say life is sacred at the stage in which the gestational survival rate exceeds 50%? And, if not, the appeal to "most zygotes" is moot.

    But, again, the percentages are irrelevant. Life is sacred from conception, because, even as the article concedes, it is a "human" life. We needn't demand a certain stage of gestational development to elapse before we can attribute sacredness to the life. What these statistics demonstrate is that post-implantation abortion would be unacceptable even to someone who arbitrarily wishes to claim a greater-than-50% mortality statistic as the threshold for sanctity of life.
Another phenomenon to which the article appeals to justify abortion is the reality of historical infanticide. Granted, it does not endorse infanticide, at least not for modern cultures. The article states of America: "Society-wide, we have agreed on this much: once they are born, let us not kill our children."

That much is a relief (even though proponents of post-birth infanticide exist in the West, such as the notorious atheist professor Peter Singer). However, the article still appears to use the reality of historical infanticide as justification of abortion as a necessary evil:
There is a long list of behaviors and actions historically available to women who are trying to control their own reproductive lives. Infanticide is on that list. I am not arguing that this is good, but it is true. ... Evolution responds to circumstance. Most zygotes disappear before even making themselves known to their mothers. In many cultures, in which the environment was variable enough that many children were unlikely to make it to adulthood, infanticide has been acceptable. ... Indian and African slave populations in Surinam [used abortifacients] so that they would not bring children into a life of slavery.
And, in the opening paragraph of the article:
Sometimes, though, in the service of the greater good, abortions are necessary.
You see in these related excerpts several ideas. Let's examine them:

One must carefully read this section of the article to grasp exactly why historic infanticide is cited, ultimately, as justification for abortion. Although the article claims it is not arguing that infanticide is "good," it says it has at times in history "been acceptable." This ties into the opening claim that "in the service of the greater good, abortions are necessary." Essentially, this all amounts to arguing that, although abortion is not "good," it is something "necessary" to prevent something bad in the judgement of the mother. The "bad thing" ranges anywhere from the mother's judgement of saving a baby from growing up in slavery to the baby being an obstacle to the mother's career.
This brings us to a segue. Earlier in the article, we see reference to the career factor:
One of my friends escaped an abusive home, became addicted to heroin, and got pregnant very young, before aborting the fetus, getting her act together, and becoming a scientist. That part where she got her act together and became a scientist? Far less likely had she been a teenage mother.
To the devout pro-lifer, this is an atrocious razing of the ears and heart. One could imagine a paraphrase of the conclusion: "That part where the baby grew up to be a scientist? Far less likely since she was killed in utero." But, more to the point, the mother's potential future career is an irrelevant factor when determining the sacredness of the enwombed baby. It is not sensible to justify the killing of one's children on the grounds that one might enjoy a successful career without them. And, a baby is not more or less sacred if her mother eventually becomes a scientist, a seamstress, a homemaker, or whatever. We don't need to wait to find out what the mother's career aspirations are before we can determine if life in the womb is expendable. The life of the enwombed is sacred on its own merit. The mother's career is a diversion.

Scapegoating evolution
Let's return to "evolution." You see how evolution is cited as a scapegoat both for the unwilled death of zygotes and willed infanticide. This is not the first time we've seen evolution speciously cited as some unimpugnably good force to justify something outside its purview (Atheist evolutionary biologist professor Gad Saad erroneously argued that "morality" was strictly a "scientific" phenomenon of evolution). But the problem with such appeals to evolution is at least twofold.
  • First, what constitutes behaviors that are "evolution responding to circumstances"? Zygote mortality? Killing the young? These are the first two notions the article mentions in light of "evolution responding to circumstances." These are both unwilled and willed deaths, which are deemed beneficial for "evolution." But, if these are not "good" but "necessary" evolutionary responses, what other willed and unwilled phenomena is? What about the Black Plague that wiped out a third of Europe? What about the Titanic tragedy? What about 20th century smallpox? What about killing the weak? What about killing the neighboring tribe because one tribe wants the others' more fertile land? What about Aztec temple sacrifices? What about any genocidal regimes in history? What about prolific serial killers? Shall we argue these are all simply "responses of evolution" because afterward there were more resources available per remaining person? Shall we legalize related forms of terminating life on the grounds that "evolution" delivered similar deaths in history? And shall we call each a necessary evil for a greater good? Kind of like a recent movie villain did with the snap of a finger?

    You see the danger in grouping things like zygote mortality, infanticide, evolution's "response," and abortion as an argument for "greater good."
  • Second, let's say one wanted to attribute every action in human history as the work of "evolution." That wouldn't make any of those actions "good." Nor would it make any of those actions "bad," nor even a necessary evil. The study of evolution is in the purview of science. It deals with observable facts. It has no capacity to quantify good or evil. One cannot use evolution as an axiom to say that an action that was the response of "evolution" (if that can even be "observed) is automatically "good." Value judgements must be derived elsewhere.


The article then argues against the notion of a distinct “line” at which sacrosanct life begins. I emphasize sacrosanct because the article has conceded earlier that the fertilized egg is already a “human” life. This section of the article is really a thought exercise about what are acceptable stages of development it’s still okay to terminate that human life. The two most “obvious” lines, conception and birth, are both rejected.
  • First, conception is rejected in the article on the grounds of the main argument, that “most zygotes are not destined to survive.” But, again, it is illogical to deny the sanctity of human life on the grounds that unwilled malfunctions or external factors sometimes interfere with biological processes. 
  • Second, birth is rejected on the grounds that "for most moderns, the idea of abortion at nine months gestation, just before a full-term birth would occur, is a bridge too far." However, this is followed by another appeal to historic infanticide: "given the prevalence of infanticide in human history...this line has not always been considered sacrosanct." Two fallacies of argument are at work here:
    • First, the appeal to "most moderns," is the fallacy of ad populum. Even though the pro-lifer obviously agrees it is wrong to terminate a baby at 9 months (or any stage!), that view is not derived by submitting to "most moderns." Rather, the sanctity of life is intertwined with the value of humanity itself, a value necessarily beyond a human's biological cluster of subatomic particles, but in the human being's inherent participation in the image of the Transcendent. This idea is the foundation for all morality. Morality dissolves when one attempts to reduce humanity to biological functions alone or as a tool, as in the case of determining a human's value based on what effect one thinks that human will have on the determiner's career. 
    • The second fallacy is the appeal to historical "prevalence of infanticide." This is the fallacy of ad antiquitatem, which argues if something was done in history, it must have been correct.
So, if conception and birth are both inadequate "lines" to determine sanctity of life, when is it supposedly no longer okay to end a human life because it became too sacred? The article tosses out more than one suggestion.

One of the article's suggestions is that abortion could be considered acceptable up to the stage when the baby would survive outside of the womb. The viability argument has been refuted in prior articles: e.g. Notre Dame professor's flawed argument for abortion).

The article also posits the average age at which organs are laid down or when "brain development accelerates in utero" as a possible threshold to no longer allow for abortion.
  • But, the article has already conceded that the zygote is "human." Arbitrarily appealing to this or that normative and natural stage of development as an apparent consideration for sacredness is nonsensical. Why should a baby be killable when it is at the correct and normal stage of life development? We're not even talking about an abnormality in development here—which is neither justification to end a human life. These are normal stages of development. A cynic might not be wrong to think such abortion-supporters are merely citing stages arbitrarily in order to accommodate abortion.
  • As well, considering sacredness of life in view of something like level of organ or brain development also suggests that even adults' lives would be "less sacred" if they suffered from some setback of organ or brain development. It also begs the question: What other developmental drawbacks can compromise the sanctity of one's life? Poor vision? Deviated septum? Narcolepsy? 
The article does not actually define any of these considerations as the exact threshold of sanctity of life. Rather, it is ultimately arguing for a nebulous "continuum" for abortion instead of a definite line. From there, the article suggests the following unspecific solution:
If we recognize a trade-off between the positive social impact of keeping abortion available to women, and the problems of providing carte blanche for all abortions up to some very late date, perhaps we should seek a solution that renders barriers to abortion higher the farther along in the pregnancy a woman is, but allows free and easy access early in pregnancy, and so does not sacrifice a woman’s ability to choose her life’s fate.
Many readers were probably already aghast at the phrase "positive social impact of keeping abortion available."

  • To start with the obvious, estimates of over 1.5 billion babies have been killed by abortion in the last 40 years. It remains a vexing reality, the elephant to end all elephants in the room, that the lives of aborted babies are not counted, and often not considered, when the effects of abortion are discussed. The previous quote parrots the common abortion supporters' sole angle: "her life," never the baby's. 
  • Later, the article even claims that "[f]acilitating choices that allow people to live their highest and best lives is consistent with...a pro-choice...position." But, obviously forgotten in that statement is the bloody hemorrhage of lives intentionally lost in the womb. The idea that a supporter of abortion calls for "allowing people to live their highest and best lives" is one heap of irony. The babies aren't given a choice. They are dismembered or pulverized and killed. Only the woman who wants to pursue her science career gets a choice. And none of this even touches on the many statistics that show the psychological and social detriment resulting from abortion.
The article segues here to call anyone who is pro-life and believes the possibility of the death penalty a hypocrite. This is a common claim by abortion supporters and has been rebutted in numerous places (eg. CatholicVote, Jimmy Akin).

The article then attempts to justify abortion by claiming it is morally analogous to fixing a broken leg:
Furthermore, if you play soccer and break a leg doing so, it is not responsible to remain maimed simply because the playing of soccer brought with it the risk of breaking one’s leg. It is, in fact, responsible to have your leg fixed, not merely so that you can live to play soccer again, but so that you can go on to contribute maximally to society, living up to your potential, not just with regard to soccer, but in other regards as well. If you have sex and end up pregnant, it is not responsible to become a parent out of a sense of moral obligation, if you are not ready to do so. Responsible athletic and sexual behavior both involve a reduction, on the front-end, of the chances of undesirable outcomes. Setting a bone is not identical to aborting a fetus, but there is a moral analogy to be made, with regard to how a person should take responsibility for their actions.
There is actually no moral analogy to be made here.
  • Breaking a leg is a medical disorder that needs fixing. Pregnancy is the opposite of that. It is not a medical disorder.1 Pregnancy is the normative, correctly functioning, and proper order of gestation and human life. This analogy is exactly backward. Abortion corresponds to breaking a leg, not fixing it.
  • Also, the notion that it's okay to have an abortion if the mother is "not ready to" "become a parent" is an argument that entirely ignores due regard for the enwombed. The value of the life in the womb is not dependent on the mental "readiness" of the mother. And adoption is an option. The mother's "readiness" is an inexcusable and irrational barometer for determining the worth of enwombed life.
The final section of the article is called "A humane and reasoned response." But, this argument for abortion is neither.
There is a question of which of two lives we, as a society, preferDo we prefer the life of an adult who can make decisions for herself, and who has found herself in an unfortunate position? Or do we prefer the life of her unborn child—a child who has not yet had the opportunity to make decisions for itself, good or bad? ... The implicit moralizing that prefers the fetus to the woman has judged the woman guilty for needing an abortion in the first place.
This is a glaring fallacy of false dichotomy.
  • First, think about this statement: "prefers the fetus to the woman." We are talking about death for the baby. Death. The mother's "punishment"—if one has been conditioned and deluded enough to believe motherhood is a punishment—is a possible career setback or lack of "readiness" to be a mother. She might have to complete her science degree via distance learning. We're not being asked if we "prefer" vanilla or chocolate here. We're not being asked which of the two shall be killed. We're asked if one person's life is as valuable as someone else's ease of getting job.
  • Second, the reason there are pro-life organizations like Ireland's LoveBoth Project is because "the baby or the mother" is a false dichotomy. Love both. 
  • Third, one of the ways we can help women (and men) avoid situations where abortion is seductive is to discourage pre-marital and recreational sex, stop handing out "birth control" to teens, and start teaching that sex is a serious act that could result in another person who otherwise would never exist. Particularly, Western culture fosters promiscuity from entertainment to education. From such attitudes we have record STDs and articles promoting abortion instead of encouraging abstinence for those not "ready" to be a parent. Passing the culture's reckless norms onto babies by killing them in utero is an egregious injustice.
  • Notice the juxtaposition of a mother "who can make decisions for herself" versus the unborn child who cannot "make decisions for itself." The implication here is that, because only the mother is capable of making a choice in this situation, the choice should go to her. Apparently, the logic here is that the baby hasn't actually articulated a desire not to be dismembered or killed by suction machine. So let the mother chose because the baby can't decide yet! This ability-to-choose argument is utterly convoluted, and, much like most arguments for abortion, ignores the dignity of the enwombed human being.
Finally, let's look at one more excerpt from the article:
By preferring the future baby—who will need love and sacrifice, and lots of it—over the adult—who does not need that kind of support—you guarantee that our shared social fabric will be stretched ever thinner.
Consider the following reactions to this quote:
  • First, this assertion is actually a call for less love. Reread the statement to see. It says babies need lots more love than adults—therefore, it's better to kill a baby to save all that love effort. This brings us back to earlier in this blog post where we philosophized as to whether genocide or a massive plague is just evolution performing some good "response to circumstances." According to the this-requires-too-much-love theory, all such loss of life is good because now we can concentrate our "shared social fabric" of love on fewer survivors.
  • Second, according to this quote, a person who requires "lots of" love is expendable. The logical conclusion of such an attitude is to terminate the sick. What about a cancer patient that has a fair chance of recovery with months or years of treatment? What in the too-much-love theory suggests we should expend resources on such a person rather than salvage the "lots of" "social fabric" by killing them as soon as possible? Nothing,
  • Third, if even adults need some degree of love and support, proponents of too-much-love would commit suicide, no? This is not to be provocative. This is to let the trajectory of a claim play out of its own accord. The only thing in the article that suggests killing birthed people is bad is the statement: "Society-wide, we have agreed on this much: once they are born, let us not kill our children." But, not only is there is not full agreement on this matter as shown earlier, but leaving such a matter open to some implied majority has historically given rise in various cultures to cannibalism, human sacrifice, slavery, and more. 

The modern abortion movement is the bloody scandal of our time. All this brings us to an even clearer understanding of the evil of abortion. Neither evolutionary, nor biological, nor career-based arguments for abortion can withstand scrutiny. Each collapses under their own fallacies and self-contradictions. Proponents of life from conception until death should stand strong in these dark times, by being informed, praying and fasting, and continuing to contribute time and resources on behalf of the enwombed innocents, marriage, and stable families.

1In extreme cases where pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, see discussion of incident at Phoenix hospital in 2010—refer to paragraph beginning with "Brown's book is fraught with footnotes..."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

When Bishops embrace politics over pastoring

In January 2019, the diocese of Covington Kentucky, under direction of Archbishop Roger Joseph Foys, issued a condemnation one day after a viral video appeared to show high school boys harassing an older man at the March for Life in Washington. The archdiocese called the students' behavior "opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person" and issued an apology to the actual aggressor. The media had already politicized the issue, emphasizing race, and showing only a specious snippet of video that belied the story. The light-speed reaction of the archdiocese has left them embarrassed as subsequent footage of the incident revealed the older man to have been the aggressor. Even though the archdiocese openly condemned the students absent of further investigation, their most recent statement said it is "important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate." Lexington Bishop Stowe originally called the students a, "contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest." Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz tweeted a condemnation of what he claimed were "the shameful actions of the Covington Catholic High School students." Other bishops made similar premature condemnations. They wittingly or not worked in concert with an unethical media, hostile to the Church and the pro-life movement. And, once again, they showed themselves perfectly capable of crying out in unison when politically popular, but painfully mute when needing to champion unpopular, but true, teachings of the faith.

In February 2018, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich responded in a week to publicly condemn and sanction a priest who burned a flag promoting homosexuality that once hung in his parish. Meanwhile, after two priests in Cupich's archdiocese were arrested for committing a public sexual act with each other, Cupich said he would wait for an investigation. Neither originally, nor over four months later, has any public condemnation come from Cupich. Cupich is also the Archbishop who responded within 48 hours to the first ViganĂ³ letter about clergy abuse by say saying the Pope should focus on "other things" and that addressing the letter was to go down a "rabbit hole." Vexingly, the Pope still appointed Cupich to the organizing committee of the February abuse synod.

In June 2018, news media drew attention to the temporary separation of family members crossing the southern U.S. border while screening occurred. Although these detainments were temporary and complicated by such matters as child sex traffickers often posing as a child's parents, multiple bishops, in a unified, simultaneous voice, condemned the policy in the harshest language. Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger referred to the practice "In light of the canonical penalties that are there for life issues" and suggested the hierarchy consider "canonical penalties for Catholics who are involved in this". San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said, "To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil."  Brownsville Archbishop Daniel Flores said, "separating immigrant parents and children as a supposed deterrent to immigration is a cruel and reprehensible policy." Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said, "The forced separation of children from their parents, which is underway now at our southern border, is an unconscionable violation of human dignity." Chicago Archbishop Cupich also spoke out immediately (He did not wait for further investigation as with his priests in Feb. 2018), stating the policy was "nothing remotely Christian, American, or (sic) morally defensible..." These are just a small sample. But whatever one thinks of these detainment policies (the policy was since deauthorized), if the bishops were truly concerned about damage to families, where is their massive condemnation about ongoing issues that are destroying legions of families, in numbers no border detainments will ever approach? Where are the bishops' unified and sobering statements about family destroyers such as divorce, cohabitation, pre-marital sex, or contraception? These things have created a hemorrhage of destruction in the institution of the family. Obviously, the bishops have shown they have the ability to issue strong condemnations in a unified voice. Why not conduct a communication blitz on these other matters instead of something politically charged that does not even constitute objective immorality?

Jesus Chasing the Merchants from the Temple by Quentin Matsys, 16th cent.
Public domain image acquired from Wikimedia Commons.
These incidents are some among many examples. Meanwhile, scandals among the hierarchy themselves persist. The faithful are left vexed. Stories of infiltration abound. Neither Pope Francis nor any other named bishops have been able to rebut the content of Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ³'s letters detailing cover-up of sexual deviance within the Church. Pope Francis has neither replied to the 2016 dubia issued by four cardinals on the matter of Communion. Stories of priests teaching heterodoxy from the pulpit persist. Bishops consistently react fast when making popular political condemnations, but react glacially slow or altogether silently when upholding Church teaching or when condemning ills coming from their own ranks. The current state of bishops is unacceptable.

What are the faithful to do? Foremost, there is prayer. Another consideration some Catholics have suggested is withholding Sunday giving in favor of other faithful Catholic and non-profit organizations. In this scenario, dioceses are withheld funds until the true doctrines of the faith are promoted and opponents from within the Church are silenced or expelled. However, there is opposition to that view, such as from Catholic radio host Al Kresta from November 2018. Phillip Lawler, who has been instrumental in journaling scandal within the Church, also has suggestions in his recent book, The Smoke of Satan: How Corrupt and Cowardly Bishops Betrayed Christ, His Church, and the Faithful...and What Can Be Done About It.

Further resources:
Divorce Hurts Children, Even Grown Ones, Psychology Today (2011)
Unprotected movie, Don Johnson Evangelistic Ministries (2018)
Children falling short in school? Blame parental break-ups, Nicole M. King and Bryce J. Christensen (2018)
Kresta in the Afternoon, Jan. 25, 2019, hour 1, interview with Phil Lawler (on Covington Catholic incident)
The Patrick Madrid Show, Jan. 21, 2019, hour 1 (on Covington Catholic incident)