Sunday, August 9, 2015

Inside the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9)

The Tower of Babel.  Lucas van Valckenborch, 1595
Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba'bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Gen. 11:1-9)
So what is the meaning of this strange account of a giant tower that reaches heaven? Why does it seem at first glance that God is against the people being "one"?

Let's rewind a chapter earlier:
Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD." The beginning of his kingdom was Ba'bel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. (Gen. 10:8-10)
Nimrod is the ruler behind this kingdom which included Babel. It is Nimrod who commissions the construction of the Tower. Let's look at a few characteristics of this ruler.

The ancient Jewish Talmud collects traditions by Rabbis who devoted their lives to studying Scripture. Much of the value in this work includes Judaism's understanding of the Old Testament, itself written through inspired Jewish authors. The Talmud sometimes elucidates on Scriptural stories with related oral traditions passed through the centuries. Some of these teachings expound on the life of Nimrod.
Cush, the son of Ham and grandson of Noah, married in his old age a young wife, and begat a son whom he called "Nimrod," because in those days the people were beginning to rebel again against the Lord's command, and Nimrod signifies rebellion.  ... 
And Nimrod dwelt in Shinar in safety, and gradually became ruler over all the world; and at that time all the people of the earth were of one language and of one speech. Nimrod in his prosperity did not regard the Lord. He made gods of wood and stone, and the people copied after his doings. His son Mordon served idols also, from which we have, even to this day, the proverb, "From the wicked, wickedness comes forth." (The Talmud: Selections, translated by H. Polano, 1876)
This sheds light on the Genesis account why God might break up this people who were unified in "one language." The language of their unity was a "language" opposed to God, a language including idolatry.

The early Jewish text, 3rd Baruch, conveys a tradition of crude slavery during the construction of the Tower:
These are they who gave counsel to build the tower, for they whom thou seest drove forth multitudes of both men and women, to make bricks; among whom, a woman making bricks was not allowed to be released in the hour of child-birth, but brought forth while she was making bricks, and carried her child in her apron, and continued to make bricks. (3rd Baruch, 3:5-6)
The earliest Christians also viewed Nimrod as a wicked man. 
In regard of this, he says, it has been written that [Nimrod] was a mighty hunter before the Lord. And there are, he says, many who closely imitate this (Nimrod): as numerous are they as the gnawing (serpents) which were seen in the wilderness by the children of Israel, from which that perfect serpent which Moses set up delivered those that were bitten. (St. Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 5.11)
St. Thomas Aquinas reveals Nimrod as the possible culprit to have invented idolatry.
Further, those things which have a cause in man are found among men at all times. Now idolatry was not always, but is stated [Peter Comestor, Hist. Genes. xxxvii, xl] to have been originated either by Nimrod, who is related to have forced men to worship fire, or by Ninus, who caused the statue of his father Bel to be worshiped. (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2.Q94.4.O2)
Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, likewise includes Jewish tradition about the multitudes in that time and this character, Nimrod:
[T]hey, imagining the prosperity they enjoyed was not derived from the favor of God, but supposing that their own power was the proper cause of the plentiful condition they were in, did not obey him. ... Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. ... He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers! Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower... (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1.4.1-3, ca 94 AD)
You notice in this excerpt an attitude in which God cannot "win." When things go well, the people take the credit. When things go bad, they give God all the blame.1

Understanding the prideful, powerful earthly character Nimrod makes greater sense of the rest of the Tower of Babel account. The phrases "Let us build ourselves...a the heavens" and "let us make a name for ourselves" (Gen. 11:4) reveal the godless orientation of a people turned toward themselves.
The family of man bands together to build a secular civilization that glorifies human achievement and the strength of social and political unity. ... [A]s the broader context of Genesis shows, the "name" coveted by the sinners at Babel is never acquired; rather it is Abraham and his descendants whom God promises to bless with a great "name" (12:2) ... 11:5 the LORD came down: Implies that man's attempt at reaching the heavens (11:4) has failed... (Hahn, Scott and Mitch, Curtis. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Genesis. Ignatius Press, San Francisco. 2006. p. 32)
Notice in the Genesis account, we are not quite told how God confused the language of the multitudes. Perhaps the best understanding is what Catholic theology would call God's "permissive will." (cf. Discerning God's positive and permissive will by Emily Stimpson, Our Sunday Visitor). God's "permissive will" is the idea of crediting God for an action even if He merely allows it. In the case of the Tower of Babel, the confusion of the multitude could be understood as the development of their own factions, languages, and loyalties due to their own free wills. The Old Testament writers appear to have employed this literary construct regularly, by attributing to God actions He merely permits, but are positively committed by another. If the OT authors wrote in accord with how they experienced God in their lives, then we must interpret the text in light of that understanding, culture, and modes of communication. 

The Navarre Study Bible hints at this idea in its commentary on the Tower of Babel story:
We have here an instance of literary devices being used to expound deep convictions––in this case the view that disunion in mankind is the outcome of men's pride and sinfulness. (The Navarre Bible: Pentateuch. Scepter Publishers. Princeton, NJ. 1999. p. 80
[I]t will be in the Church, the new Jerusalem, that men of all nations, races and tongues will join in faith and love, as will be seen in the Pentecost event (cf. Acts 2:1-13). There the phenomenon of Babel will be reversed: all will understand the same language. In the history of mankind, in effect, the Church is a kind of sign of sacrament of the union of God and men, and of the unity of the whole human race. (Ibid.)
Consider: "[T]he multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language." (Acts 2:6b) Whereas at Babel, the multitude scattered unable to understand each other, at Pentecost, the multitude is reunited, able to understand each other. And, whereas the multitude at Babel sought to make a name for themselves, at Pentecost, Peter announces: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38b)

Thus, the message of the Tower of Babel story is to teach the futility of man seeking to achieve some "heavenly" goal without the assistance of God. The story also emphasizes the underlying sin behind the world's confusion. And the antidote is Jesus Christ.

1This is an easy trap in which to fall. It is easy to attribute an act of nature, like a flood, to someone else. Yet, the multitudes did not attribute other features of nature, such as the very fertility of the soil or the resources of the earth, which enriched their prosperous condition, to God. Likewise, the story of the flood is one of theological value. In Christian thought, this account is understood as a cleansing from sin (cf. 1 Pet. 3:18-21). According to tradition preserved in the Talmud, Noah even warned others of the coming flood, shouting to those who did not make it on the ark: "For a hundred and twenty years I entreated ye to follow my words; alas, ‘tis now too late." Even according to the Biblical text, the flood was understood as a consequence of sin:
And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh..." "For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground." (Gen. 6:12-13a, 7:4)
The "Nimrod interpretation" of the flood story denies any sin by the multitudes. It misses the theological message that sin leads to destruction. Both the Jewish and Christian understanding of the story uphold this view.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Replies to Planned Parenthood arguments

Recently, the Center for Medical Progress revealed undercover videos taken with Planned Parenthood executives and personnel revealing that the abortion-provider commonly sells baby body parts, allegedly for profit, and in potential violation of various laws. Since covered here on TCV, the Center has released more videos and has announced the release of more in the future. Evidence continues to mount that PP has been involved in trafficking baby body parts for much profit in some cases.

It should be noted, for the purpose of this thought exercise, the aborted victims, many of whose hearts, livers, brains, etc. were sold, will be considered human beings. Lest this article itself be accused of the fallacy of a False Premise, I welcome anyone to confront the question of when life begins and what rational basis can be used to identify that beginning (further reading: Human Personhood Begins at Conception by Dr. Peter Kreeft).

From radio, to the web, to social media, I have heard several common reactions to this PP scandal by PP supporters. Following are paraphrases of four arguments made in support of PP and responses to those arguments.

Studying aborted fetuses leads to cures for diseases, therefore it is a good endeavor.
  • This reaction is a Non Sequitur. It does not follow logically that if a "good" can be derived from any given action that the action therefore must itself be good. For example, it would be good if a random person, say Ted, does not rob a bank. Therefore, if we permanently chain Ted in a dungeon, we can achieve the good that he not rob a bank. However, the acquisition of the good in this case does not eliminate the moral violation inflicted on Ted. In the previous TCV post, we reviewed how Nazi laboratories made medical advancements by subjecting Jews to various tests that often resulted in that Jew's death. It razes the sensibilities to claim virtue in the subjection of unwilling subjects to fatal or maiming experiments.
  • If proponents of this argument suggest medical advancements can only be made by way of sacrificing babies, they commit the fallacy of a False Dichotomy. There are many ways to accomplish medical research without committing human sacrifice. Edit 8/2/15 to add: In unfortunate cases of stillbirths or miscarriages, this science could ethically find ground.
  • Proponents of this argument are essentially espousing the following maxim: the sacrifice of some is justifiable if we can advance medicine. As reviewed in the previous post, the Nazi scientists made this identical argument. However, these proponents are not willing to accept the role of the sacrificed person themselves. In other words, if it is "good" for a person to be sacrificed for the sake of medical advancement, why are these proponents not first in line to have their bodies destroyed and organs sold? It is a serious question. These proponents appear to be very willing to champion the destruction of a person for medical advancement as long as that person is someone else. The hypocrisy reveals that the original claim is not the "good" they claim it is. And there is no irony lost in the idea that the goal of medical advancements is to preserve life.
Planned Parenthood does a lot of good. If they were to close, we would lose all that good. Therefore, they should be left alone.
  • By "lot of good," those who espouse the above argument refer to things like cancer advice or STD treatment. (Some of what PP is alleged to provide, such as mammograms, are actually not provided by PP. For the sake of this reply, let's grant that some PP visitors do indeed receive "good" medical counseling or product of some kind.) Proponents of this argument commit the fallacy of the Halo Effect (or cognitive Splitting). This refers to a person whose psychology only allows himself to view a person or entity as "all good." The beholder is blinded to any evidence that contradicts the "halo" they have assigned to the person or entity. The slaughter of babies are not considered in order to uphold the "halo" assigned to PP. 
  • The argument likewise includes the fallacy of Appeal to Fear. Proponents of this argument also avoid confronting the human violation occurring by scaring listeners into thinking they will lose good medical service if PP's operations are jeopardized.
  • Finally, this argument contains a False Dichotomy. The availability of truly good medical care is not dependent on PP staying in business, nor continuing to provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood must be allowed to continue aborting babies because otherwise who will take care of all these children? There aren't enough adopters and we don't have money to put all these kids in orphanages.
  • Proponents of the "overpopulation" argument commit some of the same fallacies mentioned earlier. One is Appeal to Fear. We are to believe the destruction of babies is "good" because we can avoid the "frightening" idea of having to pay to raise them.
  • There is also here a False Dichotomy. Proponents of the argument assume the baby must be killed or sent to an orphanage/adopter. The option of encouraging the mother to raise the child does not cross their mind. There are at least three reasons why mothers should be encouraged to raise their children. First, is because children fare best in life when raised in a loving house by their mothers and fathers. Obviously, this is not always possible (which is one reason why the Church does not support extramarital sex and welcomes engaged couples to go through marriage encounters to properly prepare for marriage), but in many instances, it is a financially and stably viable option over abortion. Second, as evidenced by a February 2015 study by the Brookings Institute, "low-income women are less likely to...have an abortion once pregnant." This suggests that higher income women still have abortions despite the availability of financial resources. Third, even when the mother is in poverty, there exist a number of non-profits who help discourage abortion by helping those mothers pay to raise their children. For example, places like the Waterleaf Women's Center or Elizabeth's New Life Center help mothers with baby supplies, resources, and counseling.
  • Even in cases where children are adopted or raised in orphanages, it is also reasonable to encourage financial support for these options. It is not logically humane nor dignified to say to a person, "You're too expensive, so we're going to kill you." If money shouldn't be spent on life, on what should it be spent. Similar to the question posed above, should we not ask such proponents of this argument, if society can only afford x number of people, why do you not volunteer your own elimination? The question is provocative and intended as such to reveal that which they ask of the aborted child and to reveal the evil inherent in killing to save money.
The undercover videos are illegal!
  • This line of argumentation is a complete Red Herring from whether or not PP has committed atrocious crimes, whether illegal or immoral or both. Even if the recordings were illegal, it fails to address the morality or legality of what occurs within PP's walls.
  • But to address the Red Herring, the assertion certainly may not be factual. According to federal law:
It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for a person not acting under color of law to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication where such person is a party to the communication or where one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception unless such communication is intercepted for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States or of any State. (18 U.S. Code § 2511)
To me, this suggests a real possibility that the recordings were federally legal since the undercover parties were aware of the recording.  
  • State laws vary. As of May 2014, according to the Digital Media Law Project, 38 states require only one-party consent to record conversations. This means one of the criteria for a legal secret recording to occur requires at least one of the parties involved in the conversation to consent to the recording. An article at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press cites several case studies regarding secret recordings. Some of those cases seem similar to what has happened here in this PP scandal. One is Sussman v. American Broadcasting Co. in which an undercover reporter exposed the activities of "psychic" employees behind the scenes. Another is Desnick vs. ABC, in which ABC sent reporters posing as medical patients to secretly film interaction with a doctor. In both cases, the court found no legal consent violations in the undercover recordings. Even in some one-party consent cases, courts have accepted otherwise questionable recordings in a private home on the basis that the recording was not used to commit a crime or tort (cf. Cora vs. Weintraub LLP). In states that require all-party consent, such a recording may still be considered legal in court based, for example, on whether the conversation took place in public (such as the Dr. Nucatola recording in a CA restaurant). For their part, the Center for Medical Progress, with regard to a two-party consent state like California, said: "The recording was done in full compliance with the California recording statute."

Friday, July 17, 2015

Analysis of Planned Parenthood baby body parts scandal

Recently, the Center for Medical Progress released an investigation into Planned Parenthood, provider of approximately one-third of abortions in the United States. Undercover video footage features correspondence between Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Nucatola speaks with men posing as potential buyers of infant body parts for the purposes of medical research.

Excerpts from Nucatola garnering attention include:
Nucatola: I think every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.’ I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is gonna do that, they need to, obviously, they’re not—some might do it for free—but they want to come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money. They want to come to a number that looks like it is a reasonable number for the effort that is allotted on their part. I think with private providers, private clinics, they’ll have much less of a problem with that. 
Buyer: Okay, so, when you are, or the affiliate is determining what that monetary—so that it doesn’t create, raising a question of this is what it’s about, this is the main—what price range, would you—? 
Nucatola: You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100 [per specimen], depending on the facility and what’s involved. It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there who’s going to be doing everything, is there shipping involved, is somebody gonna have to take it out. You know, I think everybody just wants, it’s really just about if anyone were ever to ask them, “What do you do for this $60? How can you justify that? Or are you basically just doing something completely egregious, that you should be doing for free.” So it just needs to be justifiable. 
And later, in the interview, Nucatola explains methods of abortion used to accommodate a body part buyer's request:
Buyer: We need liver and we prefer, you know, an actual liver, not a bunch of shredded up— 
Nucatola: Piece of liver. 
Buyer: Yeah. Or especially brain is where it’s actually a big issue, hemispheres need to be intact, it’s a big deal with neural tissue and the progenitors, because those are particularly fragile. If you’ve got that in the back of your mind, if you’re aware of that, technically, how much of a difference can that actually make if you know kind of what’s expected or what we need, versus— 
PP: It makes a huge difference. I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps. The kind of rate-limiting step of the procedure is the calvarium, the head is basically the biggest part. Most of the other stuff can come out intact. It’s very rare to have a patient that doesn’t have enough dilation to evacuate all the other parts intact.
Buyer: To bring the body cavity out intact and all that? 
Nucatola: Exactly. So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex, because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end. So I mean there are certainly steps that can be taken to try to ensure— 
Buyer: So they can convert to breach, for example, at the start of the—” 
Nucatola: Exactly, exactly. Under ultrasound guidance, they can just change the presentation.
One of the first questions that comes to mind, what are the ramifications of this matter according to U.S. law? Peter Jesserer Smith, writing for the National Catholic Register, responds to Nucatola's descriptions as such: "much of it may actually be legal." The possibility of legally selling baby body parts concerns the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 which states:
It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce. (498b)
The phrase "valuable consideration" is said to exclude compensation related to the "transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.'." (498b)

In other words, it is lawful to accept money for donated "human fetal tissue" if that money is applied to the necessary handling and presevation of the "tissue." The question then seems to be whether or not Planned Parenthood, in selling baby body parts, exceeded compensation necessary to handle the body parts.

This very matter was considered in an interview conducted by Al Kresta of Kresta in the Afternoon radio show on July 14 with David Daleiden, project lead of the Center for Medical Progress' undercover investigation. Kresta asked Daleiden to address the matter of receiving costs associated with the handling of "human fetal tissue" and this is the reply:
Daleiden: The most important thing is that most of those ancillary costs that might come with trying to facilitate human organ donation or a tissue donation–– none of those costs are actually incurred by Planned Parenthood. Because in a situation that you have in Planned Parenthood and StemExpress, for example, StemExpress is an outside, middle-man, biotech company that comes into the Planned Parenthood clinic. They send their technicians into the clinic. The clinics consent the patients. The clinics identify the patients that they want to harvest from. The clinics receive the fetuses in the pathology lab after they've been aborted. The StemExpress technicians do the dissection. They package up the body parts. And they drive over to the FedEx and ship them off across the country at the end of the day. So literally, the only thing that Planned Parenthood is doing is they're opening the front door for them in the morning, or sometimes the back door. And they're carrying the fetus from the operating room to the pathology lab which is across the hallway which is in the back of the clinic. And that's something that they do every day anyway because that's their standard processing of specimens anyway when they're doing abortions. So the Planned Parenthood clinic doesn't have any cost with the tissue procuring. In fact, they're actually saving money already because it's less volume of medical waste that they have to dispose of. And on top of that, the procurement company is paying them 50, 75, 100 dollars per specimen extra. 
At one point in the undercover video, Nucatola communicated that she had "8 cases yesterday." Let's say that is a normative number, and if, as Daleiden asserts, PP incurs zero or negligible handling costs with regard to the fetuses, that would mean a PP clinic could make upwards of $800 per day, and that's if each fetus was only used for one body part. If such is the case, PP would be in violation of federal law. This amount is unnerving if one calculates the thousands of dollars that could be earned in a year, and the added incentive for clinics to steer clients toward abortion. The legality and dollar amounts could also depend on variations between PP affiliate to affiliate, as not all of them may necessarily be arranged in exactly the same way Daleiden describes.

It may also be legally suspect that the PP consent form, acquiring permission from a woman to use her aborted baby for medical research, does not disclose that the clinic receives money for the donated body parts. NIHRA, however, states a doctor must reveal any "physician's interest" in the research process, which may legally be considered to include financial compensation. As quoted above, Nucatola did suggest clinics attempted to "come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money." A lengthier quote from Daleiden in the next section expounds on this.

The NC Register article describes what may be a more definitive violation of federal law, which is the alteration of the abortion procedure for the purpose of harvesting body parts. NIHRA states:
[I]n the case of tissue obtained pursuant to an induced abortion-- ... no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue. (498a)
This law appears to have been violated as we see in Nucatola's words such as:
I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex...
These are explicit deviations in the "method" of the procedure for the purpose of harvesting suitable organ specimens. Such deviations could well qualify as illegal "methods."

The NC Register article also identifies one point in Nucatola's statements that potentially describes a partial-birth abortion, which was declared illegal in 2003.

Upon revelation of this undercover video, PP soon released a statement denying any illegalities and that the Center for Medical Progress unethically edited the video. Responding to that during the Kresta interview, Daleiden states the following:
Daleiden: Basically to summarize what was interesting about Planned Parenthood's response through Planned Parenthood's statement is that they make two really key admissions and then they tell three lies afterward. And the two important admissions are that they admit that some of their clinics supply aborted fetal tissue and they admit that there is money involved with supplying aborted fetal tissue.  The three lies that they tell are: Number one, that their patients asked for it and consent for it; Number two, that there is no financial benefit to Planned Parenthood, and; Number three, that there's nothing illegal going on there. Number one, the patients are consenting to donate tissue like we discussed in the previous segment with the consent form. But it's not being disclosed to the patient that there's money involved and that Planned Parenthood receives remuneration for the fetal tissue. So patients are consenting to donate. They are not consenting to selling. Selling is what's actually going on.  Point number two. In the document vault section of our website at we have actually a flyer advertisement from one of the main, real-life purchasers of Planned Parenthood baby parts. They're a company called StemExpress. They're a private LLC, for profit company in northern California that partnered with very many Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. … That flyer advertises four different times to Planned Parenthood clinics the financial benefits that they can receive if they supply fetal tissue. It uses the phrases "financially profitable," "financial profits," "financial benefits to your clinic," and "fiscal growth of your own clinic." And that advertisement to Planned Parenthood clinics includes an endorsement printed on it from another Planned Parenthood medical director.  And so then the third lie that nothing illegal is going on about this. It all hinges on Planned Parenthood's claim that there's no money involved. But that's patently false, because every other source that you can go to, other than their communications director, will prove otherwise.
A female caller in the second hour of Kresta's July 14 show says, "I'm very happy my father's dead because he [did] not live to see this. He would have felt that the Nazis had won. ... Mengele must have taught that doctor [Nucatola]." And the caller's reaction is not unique.

During World War II, Nazi scientists conducted a number of horrific experiments on prisoners in the name of scientific and medical advancement. Victims of the Nazis were subjected to such experiments as high-altitude tests to determine viable altitudes at which pilots could parachute, freezing experiments to determine treatments for hypothermia, as well as subjugation to multiple diseases in the name of finding a cure.
Victims of Dr. Josef Mengele's medical
experiments at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Poland, 1944. (Image courtesy of
 US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

That these prisoners were subjected to such violations of humanity, against their will, is all but universally held as evil. The sober philosopher recognizes the tragic irony of cruelly destroying mass human life in the name of preserving it. How did these scientists justify these crimes?

In the book The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremburg Code, authors George Annas and Michael Grodin identify 12 arguments made by Nazi scientists in defense of their actions. Argument #10 reads as follows:
Sometimes it is necessary to tolerate a lesser evil, the killing of some, to achieve a greater good, the saving of many. That the experiments were useful, the defense claimed, was evident by the use of the data derived from Nazi human experimentation by the United States and Britain in the war against Japan. (p. 133)
This argumentation is similar to those who now appeal to the "research" benefits garnered from the harvested body parts of aborted babies, as trafficked by the likes of PP (although many defendants of abortion for research deny it as an evil of any kind). Even PP-friendly media headlines have played this angle. This past week, the Washington Post actually altered their headline. It originally read "Undercover video shows Planned Parenthood exec discussing organ harvesting" but was changed to the more benign: "Undercover video shows Planned Parenthood official discussing fetal organs used for research."

The question comes down to this: If that which is in the womb is a human life,* then abortion, as well as the harvesting of that life's body parts for human experimentation, is murderous and horrific. And if that which is in the womb is a human life, then we are indeed living amidst the echo of Nazi concentration camps and human experimentation against unwilling victims, even if that reality is more difficult to see.

Our moral sensibilities recognize the violation done to an unwilling victim in these tragic events. Again, if that which is in the womb is a human life, the "consent form" used by PP is tantamount to asking Person A for consent to harvest the organs of Person B. The victim in question has granted no consent. The victim has been declared expendable in the name of science by someone else. (And, it should not be ignored that cures and medical advancements have been and will continue to be made in great strides without the mutilation and destruction of human victims.)

Furthermore, if that which is in the womb is a human life, as the Church and many allied souls recognize, then the victims of abortion have exceeded 57,000,000 since Roe vs. Wade in 1973. How can even the Nazi scientist, who would argue that the killing of "some" is worthy to save the "many," justify veritable infanticide and subsequent organ harvesting for human experimentation.

Related to this, the Catechism, in the section on abortion, offers what I think is valuable insight:
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation: "The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights...belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."  –– "The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined.
The tragedy of abortion and organ trafficking for research (or the Nazi human experiments) is at least twofold. First, the victim is violated in the most capital sense. Second, when these persons are classified as expendable subjects, the entire system of humanity incurs a seismic shift of injustice, effectively denying the equal dignity of all persons.

Staying abreast of the latest news on this issue may require active searching, as the media has not shown a historic propensity to expose that which validates Christian thought.From a legal perspective, time will tell whether or not PP and/or any of its affiliates will be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing. As the weeks pass, expect further details regarding PP nationally, as well as other individual PP clinics, which may be absolved or further incriminated in illegal organ trafficking or abortion violations. What will be PP's defense? Will they claim Nucatola exaggerated at times to land a sale? Will further incriminating facts surface?

Certainly, from a moral perspective, the spiritual crime of abortion has multiplied to an unnerving total. And the matter of dismembering aborted babies serves as a visible icon of the amputation of human consideration from the situation. Many prayers are warranted for this situation and all involved.

EDIT (7/21/15) TO ADD:
A second undercover video was released July 21, 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress. This video contains interview footage with Dr. Mary Gatter, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s for-profit Medical Directors’ Council.

The legal matters of altering the method, as well as profits, again, surface in this interview. At one point, Gatter begins a negotiation by tossing out the figure of "$75 a specimen." The buyer rejoins with, "That’s way too low." And Gatter admits:
I was going to say $50, because I know places that did $50, too. But see we don’t, we’re not in it for the money, and we don’t want to be in a position of being accused of selling tissue, and stuff like that.
Her claim about not being in it for the money could either be taken honestly or cynically. If honestly, PP should be able to substantiate the per-"specimen" dollar amount, that PP incurs that cost to handle the specimen. According to Daleiden's assertions above, PP incurs no such costs. If we are to take Gatter's words cynically, perhaps she is acting as a salesman, convincing the buyer that she is not out to overcharge them. As well, the cynical view would ask why there is a negotiation at all, if PP is not in it for the money. Later in the transcript, she also indicates she will increase the cost based on what her peers charge:
Well let me agree to find out what other affiliates in California are getting, and if they’re getting substantially more, then we can discuss it then.
And, as Nucatola states in the prior video, the goal is to make sure PP "doesn't look like they're making money."

As speculated above, a PP affiliate can collect tens of thousands of dollars per year from these sales. For their part, the Center for Medical Progress speculates a yield of over $86,000 for one affiliate. Whereas $30-$100 here or there may be easier to disguise than larger quantities, the sum total over time can prove lucrative. The accounting side of this matter appears quite pertinent to the investigation.

As for methodological red flags in this second video, Gatter candidly explains the legal concern of altering the procedure for the purpose of procuring intact body parts. The exchange goes as follows:

Buyer: The intact specimens, I wanted to touch on that. What I was trying to say is if the 10 to 12 week specimens, end of the 1st trimester, if those are pretty intact specimens, that’s something we can work with.
Gatter: So that’s an interesting concept. Let me explain to you a little bit of a problem, which may not be a big problem, if our usual technique is suction, at 10 to 12 weeks, and we switch to using an IPAS or something with less suction, and increase the odds that it will come out as an intact specimen, then we’re kind of violating the protocol that says to the patient,“We’re not doing anything different in our care of you.” Now to me, that’s kind of a specious little argument and I wouldn’t object to asking Ian, who’s our surgeon who does the cases, to use an IPAS at that gestational age in order to increase the odds that he’s going to get an intact specimen, but I do need to throw it out there as a concern. Because the patient is signing something and we’re signing something saying that we’re not changing anything with the way we’re managing you, just because we agree to give tissue. You’ve heard that before. 
Buyer: Yes. It’s touchy. How do you feel about that? 
Gatter: I think they’re both totally appropriate techniques, there’s no difference in pain involved, I don’t think the patients would care one iota. So yeah, I’m not making a fuss about that.

Later, Gatter admits:
[T]here are people who would argue that by using the IPAS instead of the machine, you’re slightly increasing the length of the procedure, you’re increasing the pain of the procedure...
You may notice that Gatter earlier said there is "no difference in pain involved" in the alternate procedure, yet here admits others say doctors using the alternate procedure are "increasing the pain." On this matter, Gatter ultimately implies she will defer to a doctor, Ian Tilley, on whether or not they will violate the patient agreement by changing the abortion method to which the client-mother agrees:
And then, if we want to pursue this, mutually, I talk to Ian and see how he feels about using a “less crunchy” technique to get more whole specimens.

*Just to clarify, I don't say "if that which is in the womb is a human life" to suggest the matter is unclear. I use this verbiage as a thought exercise, to invite even skeptics to confront the crux of the issue. I fully embrace the Church's and other philsophers', scientists', and religious persons' views that life begins––at the beginning. Thus, can a skeptic at least understand the perspective of a thoughtful pro-lifer, which reflects philosophical and quantifiable measures of the existence of life.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why do Christians eat bacon?
A look at natural law.

In recent times, there have been multiple accusations by opponents of Christianity that Christians are hypocrites for doing such things as eating bacon when it is declared forbidden in the Old Testament (Lev. 11:7-8). Particularly, the accusation includes the notion that Christians inconsistently choose which OT precepts to follow. One flow chart circulating social media claims to "destroy" Christians for appealing to the Bible regarding homosexuality (Lev. 20:13) since they suspend other teachings of the Old Testament like the prohibition on eating pork. A blogger who professes to think "critically," writes about several forbidden OT precepts Christians practice today by tagging the post with "hypocrisy."

However, these accusations are faulty. Here's why. Old Testament precepts often varied with regard to the permanence of their character. As commonly classed, there are three different varieties of OT precepts. St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the latter 13th century, expounded on these:
We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. "moral" precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; "ceremonial" precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and "judicial" precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men. (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2.a.99.4, ca 1270)
In short, the permanent precepts are the "moral," often compared to the "natural law." And, apart from containing overlap with moral precepts, the ceremonial and judicial precepts are not necessarily permanent.

Those familiar with Scripture can see these distinctions in some familiar stories. In fact, the accusations of "hypocrisy" made by today's skeptics are virtually identical to those made against Christ:
He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Silo'am and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. (John 9:11-16)
You see how the Pharisees make the same argument as today's skeptics, not understanding why Jesus could morally "make clay" and perform a miracle on Sabbath, a day held for rest in the Ten Commandments, no less! (Ex. 20:8-11) The teaching of resting specifically on Saturday is not a teaching of the "natural law," it is, rather, a teaching of the ceremonial law, i.e. the day especially reserved in the OT for divine worship. Such a precept does not have the inherent permanent quality as would a moral teaching discernible from the natural law.

So, for instance, Jesus affirms other of the Ten Commandments explicitly:  
And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 19:8-9)
These teachings are part of the natural law. They are discernible by the light of human reason. The late theologian Fr. John Hardon described this discernment thusly:
It is therefore called natural law because everyone is subject to it from birth (natio), because it contains only those duties which are derivable from human nature itself, and because, absolutely speaking, its essentials can be grasped by the unaided light of human reason. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, "Natural Law")
And, finally, the Catechism has a section on the natural law from CCC#1954-1960. Here is an excerpt:
The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties. ... The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history. (CCC#1956, 1958)
Reason tells us a person is rightly due life. Through the human experience, we can therefore recognize that murder is an immoral violation. Man did not suddenly become accountable to the teaching of murder only when the Ten Commandments were issued. In the OT, even Cain was held accountable for murder long before the Ten Commandments (Gen. 4:8-14). Stealing likewise violates a person's right to due belongings. Adultery is also recognizable as an offense to the idea of the marriage bond. Jesus upheld such natural laws while not insisting upon the Sabbath ceremonial laws, even though all are included in the Ten Commandments. Shall today's skeptic encounter Jesus and accuse him of hypocrisy for upholding certain OT precepts while suspending others?

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul specifically distinguishes the reality of the natural law regardless of whether it appears in the OT:
When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:14-16)
This phrase "written on their hearts" is often cited as a description of the natural law Paul references here. With reason, we can recognize certain laws "by nature." (v.14)

Let's look at a modern analogy to help clarify.

Let's say there are parents who teach their children the following "precepts."
  • Don't steal
  • Be in bed by 8 pm
Both are precepts for the children, but only one of them is a life-long moral obligation. Not to steal is a principle of the natural law. It is a violation against human dignity recognizable in the very lining of human experience. Even the most skeptical, atheistic person will cry foul if you steal his wallet. In saying this, the skeptic is appealing to the natural law. He recognizes that a person is capable of claiming ownership to belongings, and that it is to violate a person to steal his belongings. The concept is reasonably derivable without a higher authority explicitly articulating it.

Being awake past 8pm is not in and of itself immoral. The rule is given to achieve other advantageous results for the children, such as obedience, self-discipline, good rest for taking on the next day, etc. There's nothing about being awake at 8:30 p.m. that inherently violates one's humanity.

Hence, we can better understand why all the precepts in the Old Testament are not mandatory to today's Christian. Something like the marital law is naturally evident in the complementarity of the genders. It's not revocable because it is written in the very fiber of humanity. Something like murder is a violation of the life proper to other persons. The Church could not declare void the immorality of murder by arguing that all OT precepts are void. Natural laws would still apply because they transcend OT law.

Perhaps another analogy can help with the term "natural law." Sometimes, when we hear the term "nature" in this context, we think "occurring in nature." That is not the case. By natural law is meant proper to the nature of the subject in question. A person is naturally due his belongings. Hence, stealing is a moral violation of that proper nature.

I like to compare the idea of moral "health" to physical "health." Scripture does this repeatedly. For example, when the Pharisees asked Jesus why he associated with sinners, Jesus replied, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." (Luke 5:31) Spiritual health is comparable to physical health.

To recognize the sense in which the term "natural" is meant in the natural law, we can ask how do we determine that someone is sick or wounded? In order to do that, we necessarily must have an idea of what a properly healthy body is. We know that a healthy human arm is covered by intact skin. If that arm gets scraped by a sharp rock, that skin might incur a cut. We recognize that the bleeding should be stopped. A healthy arm does not bleed. Even after that, we recognize that it is healthy to treat the wound to prevent infection, which is also not ordered toward a healthy body. We might even apply ointment to prevent scarring. Such response is to restore the body to its proper order. If we do not know what the body's proper order is, we could not even identify what qualifies as a wound.

In the same way, we cannot call something immoral unless we have an idea of what a properly ordered person is. A properly ordered person is able to pursue life, is due his/her belongings, is defiled if sold against his/her will into slavery, etc. This is likewise where the Church would appeal to the proper use of the sexual faculties only within the context of a marriage because of the spousal, giving, fertile meaning of the body. Deviations from using the sexual faculties in this context are naturally identifiable as immoral. Like slavery, murder, or thievery, they violate human dignity.

Even a person who rejects the Church's view on any such issues must at least confront the discussion at this level of natural law. To make a case for spiritual health, one must successfully reason what is proper to a human being, just as one measures physical health by knowing what is proper to a human being. The dialogue must take place in this arena. Arguments otherwise often degenerate into basic fallacies of argument, such as appeals to emotion, appeals to modernism, or the like.

We have established here the varied types of "laws" in the Old Testament, which include permanent laws reflecting the "natural law," as well as ceremonial or judicial laws, which are not necessarily permanent to the human condition. The skeptic's next question undoubtedly asks what purpose a "ceremonial law," such as the prohibition on eating pork, would therefore serve in the OT, if it is not a law always applying to human beings. One could likely generate several good answers to this question, since Biblical truth is not always exhausted once one sound interpretation is attained. Nevertheless, here is one explanation.

It is critical to understand the principle of "divine accommodation" that permeates the condition of the ancient Jewish people. The theologian Dr. Scott Hahn expounds on this principle in this way:
[If] you’re inclined more towards earthly things than heavenly, God will use earthly things and invest them with heavenly symbolism, so that people will love these earthly things and discover in the objects they love a deeper heavenly meaning... (Dr. Scott Hahn, lecture for Theological Foundations course, 1999)
A PDF study guide from similarly says:
Divine accommodation refers to God’s fatherly condescension and how He first gives us what we want in order to then give us what we need. As loving Father, He stoops down to our level and speaks to us using natural earthly means (chiefly in the Old Testament), but then calls us to Himself and gives us through the sacraments the supernatural means to share in His divine nature through self-denial and sacrificial love.
In his famous work City of God, St. Augustine writes:
The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or, as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things, and from the visible to the invisible. This object was kept so clearly in view, that, even in the period when temporal rewards were promised, the one God was presented as the object of worship, that men might not acknowledge any other than the true Creator and Lord of the spirit, even in connection with the earthly blessings of this transitory life. ...  It was best, therefore, that the soul of man, which was still weakly desiring earthly things, should be accustomed to seek from God alone even these petty temporal boons, and the earthly necessaries of this transitory life, which are contemptible in comparison with eternal blessings, in order that the desire even of these things might not draw it aside from the worship of Him, to whom we come by despising and forsaking such things. (St. Augustine, City of God, 10.14, ca 420)
You see the basic principle of divine accommodation at work here: God uses earthly things, graspable to humans, to lead them to Himself. So, for example, gold, recognized by the Jews as precious, came to help them recognize that which was holy. God instructed Moses to forge the Ark of the Covenant, the place of His presence, with a structure of gold (cf. Ex. 25). Getting back to our concept of natural law, there is nothing inherent to gold that makes it a "holy" metal. But through the command to use gold, that audience more fully understood something holy must go within the Ark. They understood gold as that which was precious and pure. Purified precious metals were even used often to denote holiness (cf. Job 23:10, Ps. 12:6, etc.)

Now, let's return to the concept of pork. Why does Leviticus declare a pig "unclean"? What about killing and eating a pig would have significance to an ancient Jew? For one, they recognized the pig as a worshiping instrument to false gods.
Sometimes the uncleanliness of an animal has to do with how neighbouring peoples regarded that animal (they may have made it an object of worship or reserved it as something untouchable in honour of a god: the pig, for example, was used for sacrifices to the Babylonian god Tammuz. (The Navarre Bible: Pentateuch, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, 1999, p. 454)
From the ancient Jewish perspective, the swine had significance as something contrary to the one and true God.

Perhaps another example could help the modern ear. Consider the swastika symbol, known to modern Westerners as the symbol for Nazism. For this reason, it is considered offensive and banned in many places, including Germany. However, prior to World War II, especially in the East, this symbol often represented well-being or good fortune, even used in advertising. Is there anything inherent to the symbol that makes it evil? No. There is no "natural law" appeal against such an arrangement of right angles. Nonetheless, to certain cultures, its banishment has more significance than others.

In the same way, the prohibition on swine to the Jews would turn their focus toward God, since, in that culture, they understood the animal as unclean, something pagans used for sacrifices to false idols. Likewise, the concept of "uncleanliness," leads toward the New Testament where uncleanliness is associated with sin. Jesus expounds on this concept with the Pharisees, who, again, clung to ceremonial law when they were prompted to recognize the natural law to which it pointed:
While he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him; so he went in and sat at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Luke 11:37-41)
You see, again, the Pharisees concern themselves with the OT ritual. Jesus explains to them the typological truth behind those precepts. For instance, ritual "cleanliness" corresponds to spiritual cleanliness. Note that he refers to almsgiving as something that truly makes one "clean." If we read the OT precepts in light of the principle of divine accommodation, we can recognize that OT  precepts about "cleanliness" were ordered to guide a certain "epoch" of mankind, as Augustine says. These precepts directed their focus to be clean as God would have them be clean. At that stage in history, they were able to digest a visible, ceremonial cleanliness, which prepared them to the invisible, spiritual cleanliness of which Christ spoke.

And so, today, in this different epoch of human history, standing on the shoulders of those ancient precepts, we can see that one of the reasons for the prohibition on pork was to order man toward God, and to strive for holy "cleanliness." In light of Christ's fulfillment of Old Testament law, we convert the principle behind the prohibition on pork to one that teaches us to avoid sin. There is nothing specific about eating a pig versus, say, a fish, that would violate the natural law.

Hence, there is no inconsistency in the modern Christian who both upholds the moral laws of the Old Testament while not necessarily upholding some of the ceremonial or juridical laws.