Friday, September 28, 2012

"Consent" to One's Own Homicide?

We have previously talked in this space about the ethics of organ donation, and what the Church teaches about it.  We also talked about how the Church's teaching in this, as in so much else, is ignored, and questioned whether there can be such a thing as a moral vital organ transplant.  Item: vital organs are useless for transplant after the donor's death; and some unpaired vital organs, like the heart, cannot be taken without killing the donor.

Now comes another item from Staten Island, New York: after being fired as a transplant coordinator for the non-profit New York Donor Network, nurse practitioner Patrick McMahon claims, in an action for wrongful termination, alleges that the Network isn't even waiting for donors to fit the criteria-du-jour of brain death before pressuring hospitals to call a death on a potential organ donor.  McMahon alleges in his lawsuit that the Network pressured medical staff to declare patients brain dead; hounded the patients' families to consent to donation before brain death was declared; and that transplant procedures were initiated on patients notwithstanding that they showed signs of life.  He cites, among others, a case from November of last year, when he claims to have seen a transplant team administer a muscle paralyzing agent to a donor during a full organ harvest, because the woman was moving and jerking while they cut into her chest.  McMahon says that the procedure went forward in the face of his vehement objections.  In another case, McMahon says that the Network browbeat a doctor for refusing to declare a 19-year-old patient brain dead.  In two other cases, he says that patients had donor paperwork processed even though one showed brain activity in neurological tests, and the other showed responses in pain-stimuli tests.  McMahon claims that he was fired from his job days after approaching the Network's CEO with his concerns.

The Network, on the other hand, says that McMahon's allegations are baseless and insulting, denies that it plays any role in declarations of brain death, and cites its 35-year record of saving lives.

But the following questions are worth considering:

-- Does not the concept of "brain death" date back only to the immediate aftermath of the first successful heart transplant in 1967?

-- Are there not multiple definitions of "brain death"? 

-- Since death is the moment the soul leaves the body, how is it of any avail to administer life-preserving treatment to a corpse whose soul has departed?

-- Does not society increasingly consider many human beings to be more valuable dead than alive, especially before birth and near death?

-- Is it not true that society holds more and more that the ends justify the means, and that it is permissible to do evil in order to achieve good?

-- Is it in fact the removal of vital organs that proximately causes the death of the donor?  (Nota bene: you cannot lawfully consent to your own homicide, under either the natural law or the civil law.) 

-- Is the medical profession imbued with the true Spirit of Christianity, or with the grim spirit of materialism and utilitarianism?

-- If the answer to that last question is the latter, do I want to commit myself, in a helpless condition, to the hands of such a profession by consenting in advance to the harvesting of my organs?

The Catholic has a duty to seek the answer to temporal questions in the light of eternity.  

Even if he doesn't like the answer.

UPDATE: Further details on McMahon's lawsuit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Yesterday, I found myself at a Mass caught in the clutches of a sort of pop music "choir." The guitars, tambourines, mics, and bee-boppy quality of the repertoire destroyed all meditation and recollection.  I couldn't look at the priest through most of the Mass, because he was on the verge of dancing to the beat.  Despite the presence of a perfectly good choir loft, the oversized group and their many accoutrements were parked next to the altar.  The sight of even the best-behaved musicians next to the altar is a major distraction; even more so when they are dancing around and/or dressed outlandishly or immodestly.

Yet, for some reason, this circus is still considered by many to be preferable to sacred chant, in Latin (I don't think chant and English are a good fit), sung from the choir loft, or at least from the back of the church.  I never cease to be amazed at the visceral hatred of and prejudice against sacred chant -- all of a piece with the irrational hatred of the Extraordinary Form Mass, often on the part of people who have either never attended one or only remember it as a distant childhood memory. I guess the problem with chant is (a) it takes effort, talent and discipline to master; (b) it suffers no mediocrity; (c) one cannot imprint one's own idiosynchratic stamp on it. 

But the reality is that there is true freedom in chant. Once I have mastered a piece of chant, singing it makes me feel as though I am soaring. Not being metrical, it is free of time, which is a prison; it is thus, in its own way, a little taste of eternity, which is beyond time.  Which, maybe, come to think of it, is part of the problem with chant: (d) it embodies too much freedom, the unbearable lightness of being.  That's a threat to our taskmasters, the liberals in both the religious and political spheres, who live in dread lest we develop a taste for true freedom, as in the freedom of the sons of God.  

So now would be a good time to dig through our old trunks and pull out the much ballyhooed non-conformity of our youth.  Remember that?  Now we can press it into the service of something really worthwhile.  Try chant.  Get used to singing it, or at least listening to it, and you find that it quite puts the lie to the idea that it and other aspects of traditional worship represent repression and hide-bound uptightness.  On the contrary, it opens our eyes to the difference between the banal and the transcendent.  The discipline of chant is itself freeing: one is only free to create or convey beauty with discipline, because true beauty must be orderly, as Truth is orderly.  Freedom without order is really chaos, and chaos is another prison, the prison of ugliness and insecurity.  That is what we have had in our worship for far too long, and our faith has suffered on account of it.  We no longer recognize chaos for what it is, and we fail to embrace Truth and Beauty, which, as Keats said, are the same.

We need to break out of this prison.  But when we've grown up not knowing anything else, it's hard.  Freedom is dangerous and frightening in our increasingly regimented, collectivist, atheistic age.  Yet we have the tools we need to make our escape, if we just use them.  Consistent exposure to sacred chant and traditional worship are the files that Pope Benedict has baked into the cakes of Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae and smuggled to us in our cells.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Equinox!

At 08:49 MDT (just under an hour ago, as this post goes up), the Sun crossed the celestial equator heading north.  It's autumn!  Today there will be more or less equal periods of daylight and darkness, and from then on, the hours of night will exceed the hours of daylight.

The first days of the other three seasons carry spiritual significance.  The Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) coincides with the Vernal Equinox, marking the end of the winter of Satan's dominion over man.  The Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24) coincides with the Summer Solstice, when the days begin to grow shorter -- the decrease of John the Baptist, while Christ increases.  Thus, Christmas (December 25) coincides with the Winter Solstice, when the days begin to lengthen.

What about the Autumnal Equinox?  There are no cataclysmic events commemorated at this time (though the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy does fall on the 24th).  But autumn is the season of harvest, so perhaps -- and this is only my speculation -- the Autumnal Equinox stands for the end of time, when the harvest of souls is consummated.  Perhaps this is an opportune moment for each one of us to consider whether we are ready for that unknown yet inevitable moment when we are to be harvested.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fast for Vocations

The most evident mark of God's anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds.  Instead of nourishing those committed to their care, they rend and devour them brutally.  Instead of leading their people to God, they drag Christian souls into hell in their train.  Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they are its innocuous poison and its murky darkness....
When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them.  That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, "Return, O ye revolting children...and I will give you pastors according to my own heart" (Jer. 3:14-15).  Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge visited upon the people in consequence of sin.
St. John Eudes, The Priest, His Dignity and Obligations
Go back and read that quote four or five times.

Let's face facts: the Church is in a deep crisis, and it starts with the laity.  There are not enough faithful Catholics.  The traditional nuclear family is giving way to  promiscuity and concubinage; the lives of the children born into such situations are a house of cards.  Catholics divorce at the same rate as the rest of the population.  Parishes are closing, not only because there are too few priests, but because so few of us in the pews actually attend Mass and support the Church anymore.  Many Catholics do not keep Sunday as a holy day, filling it full of unnecessary servile work or less-than-wholesome recreation.  Many Catholics do not know that theirs is the True Church, or even care whether there is such a thing as the True Church.  Many Catholics do not know the content of the Catholic Faith; many do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; many think the Church's stance against intrinsic evils like abortion, contraceptives and gay "marriage" is stupid.  More than half of Catholics in the U.S. voted for Barack Obama, probably the most pro-abortion, anti-Catholic president in the history of our country.

In short: we, the laity, are a mess.  And since it is from the ranks of the laity that clergy and religious are drawn, it should come as no surprise to us to find that they, too, are a mess.  Congregations of women religious have gone off the rails, kicking the habit and embracing feminolatry, socialism, lesbianism, Eastern mysticism and all sorts of other poisons.  Catholic worship has degenerated to little more than a fourth-rate night-club act, with dreadful music, improvised rites and ham-handed attempts at humor.  Bishops run their dioceses as if they were middle-management bureaucrats instead of shepherds of souls.     Many priests give themselves over to worldly, and even sinful and downright disgusting, pursuits; the faithful ones are persecuted by their own brethren.  Many clergy of every rank are mired in modernism: rejecting the supernatural; accepting only the gray, the flat-footed, the pedestrian, the ugly as reality; regarding the Church as just another political institution instead of as the pure and spotless Bride of Christ; and reducing the miracles recounted in Scripture to mere psychological or meteorological aberrations, and God to a mere impersonal force, secondary in importance to Man.  And, of course, there are not nearly enough priests and religious, thanks in no small part to liberal chancery staff and superiors who assiduously weed out orthodox candidates.

The laity in the world, the religious, and the clergy all react upon one another: none of them can be corrupted without also corrupting everyone else.  Shrink the pool of faithful lay Catholics, and you shrink the number of faithful priests and religious.  When religious abandon their charisms, they are not obtaining conversions or supporting the work of the clergy with their prayers.  When priests go off the reservation, they are not forming faithful Catholics.  And the results spill over into the world at large: because we Catholics have ceased to be Catholics in more than just name, the Catholic faith is far less of a force to be reckoned with: indecency reigns in advertising and entertainment; our schools and universities are centers of leftist, atheist indoctrination; our economies are turning socialist; and our governments are filled with assorted crooks, grifters and totalitarians.

How do we begin to reverse this trend?  Step number one must be prayer and penance.  We must begin to make reparation for our sins and pray for help.  We cannot expect help unless we ask for it.

Accordingly, the Bl. Margaret of Castello Chapter of lay Dominicans in Boise, Idaho is undertaking a novena of fasts for vocations.  For nine consecutive Fridays, beginning next Friday, the chapter will fast for the following intentions:

1. For more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

2. For good and holy bishops and priests and religious.

3. For the conversion of bad bishops and priests and religious.

We urge you to join us in this endeavor.  If you are also a Dominican, get your chapter or your house to join us.  If you cannot fast, please pray or substitute some other penitential act in union with the fast.  Since vocations come from us, the laity, we must act and not sit around waiting for the priests and religious to come to our rescue.
Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out?  Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.  But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.  
Matthew 17:18-20

P.S. Supertradmum is also putting together a fast on Friday, September 21st for a new President and a new America that puts God first.   Even if you are not an American citizen, go over and pledge your support!  Remember that America has always been the refuge of the downtrodden and oppressed from all over the world; if she falls, where shall we run to? 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Holy Father in Lebanon

Stop now and say a Memorare for the Holy Father, visiting the war-torn Middle East.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.  Inspired with this confidence, we fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, our Mother.  To thee do we come, before thee we stand, sinful and sorrowful.  O Mother of the Word Made Flesh, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer us.  Amen.
Also say a Memorare to St. Joseph for him.
Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who implored your help and sought your intercession were left unassisted. Full of confidence in your power I fly unto you and beg your protection.  Despise not, O Guardian of the Redeemer, my humble supplication, but in your bounty, hear and answer me. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dies Irae: 9/11

Dies irae!  Dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla.
Teste David cum Sybilla.

The day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the sibyl!

The shadow of a bugler playing "Taps" at Ground Zero.

I don't suppose anybody who is old enough to remember 9/11 will ever forget where they were and what they were doing on that awful day.  Unimaginable things, about which we had no idea, were going on while we went about our ordinary lives.

Then, as today, on the 11th anniversary, I was a deputy public defender, though in a different shop.  Then, as today, I had a day of court ahead of me.  Then, as today, I rolled out of bed at the last possible minute I could get away with.  I was in the Pacific time zone then, so by the time my feet hit the floor, the planes had all crashed, the fires were raging, and the nation was reeling.

While I slept, just one hour away from the alarm going off, the drama began to unfold on United Flight 93, whose passengers were already aware that passenger airliners were being used as missiles.  In New York, firefighters, police, port authority officers and other first responders were rushing into the tottering Twin Towers to try to save trapped civilians.  Many who had no hope of rescue, and perhaps were driven out of their minds by the intense heat, were leaping to their deaths.  I turned over in bed.

Just before my alarm went off, the doomed, heroic passengers of Flight 93 were fighting to take back the aircraft.  In New York, the South Tower of the World Trade Center was collapsing in a cloud of dust and debris that swept through the streets like a tidal wave.  Just after the alarm went off, while I entertained the temptation to hit the snooze button, Flight 93 was crashing near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, prevented by the passengers from taking out the Capitol or the White House as planned.  About the time I was fixing my hair, the North Tower collapsed.  

None of this drama penetrated my daily routine.  I got into my car and left for work, turning on a radio station that specialized in '80s music.  While I headed down the main drag through town toward the office, listening to the crappy tunes that were the soundtrack of my high school career, dazed people covered in soot and ash and dust were picking their way away from the wreckage in Washington and New York, while fires raged and rescuers searched for survivors.  I was oblivious to these cataclysmic events until, just as I was pulling into the parking lot, the announcer on the radio said something to the effect that they would do their best to continue with their eight-song-'80s marathon, but they were just as shaken up as they were sure the rest of us were at what just happened.  Not being a morning person, I thought this odd, but didn't think to turn on a news station.  I went into the office through a back door and found a bunch of people huddled around my secretary's desk, listening to the radio.

"What happened?" I said.

"The World Trade Center is gone," she replied.


"The World Trade Center is gone."

Immediately in my mind arose the memory of the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, and I do not now recall whether I spoke aloud the first thought that came into my head: "So they finished the job."  There was all sorts of speculation that day around the courthouse about who had been responsible for the attacks -- the Oklahoma City bombing and its domestic pedigree were still fresh in the mind, even after six years -- but that first thought turned out to be right.

Of course, most of us had court, and court must go on, national calamity or no, so there was no question of huddling around radios or televisions to follow the news all day.  But in between hearings and other business, the attacks were pretty much the only subject of conversation.  It was said that 50,000 people worked in the Twin Towers; were all 50,000 dead?  So few people were rescued alive from the wreckage.  And of course there were rumors of still more hijacked planes in the air, aimed for any number of targets of national importance.  When would it be over?

September 11, 2001 was my last day wrapped in my cocoon of workaday obliviousness.  That was the day I knew the enemy was on my turf, ready to strike me just for going about my everyday business.  The homeland had escaped two world wars with barely a scratch; but now, people with no compunction about murdering innocent civilians by the thousand were over here, taking flying lessons.  I myself had just been in Tampa, Florida two weeks earlier, where these maggots apparently had some ties.  The time for feeling secure and complacent was over -- for all of us.

Or so it seemed then.  The attacks galvanized us, but the galvanization didn't take; we soon got back to our stupid squabbles and divisions.  Pretty soon, we were lulled again, unduly comforted by the fact that no major terrorist attacks have stricken us since that awful, lovely September morning 11 years ago.  So deep are we in the stupor of complacency that we don't even miss the freedom we have surrendered for the sake of "safety," or think twice about the indignities to which we submit at airports, where rubber-gloved gorillas paw through our luggage and uniformed lechers leer at us through the naked scanners.  We have emasculated our military and all but opened our borders.  We didn't even raise an eyebrow three years ago, when a jihadist disguised as an Army major opened fire at Fort Hood, in a place he knew the soldiers would be disarmed, shouting "Allahu akbar!"  Except for the men and women in uniform who volunteer to place themselves in harm's way to protect us, we just go on doing exactly as we please, when we please, how we please, because we please, right or wrong.

More people died in 9/11 than in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor sixty years earlier.  Yet 9/11 was just a shot across our bow.  We didn't pay attention.  We just cruise cluelessly toward -- what?   Something too awful to contemplate.

Friday, September 07, 2012

What We Are Up Against, Part II

Times have gotten pretty tough in this country since Obama was elected.  Unemployment is up to 8.1%.  Gas prices have gone through the roof, and with them, the price of groceries.  (Seen tonight at my local Fred Meyer: $9.00 and change for a single 12-pack of root beer. !!!!)  Government has used billions in taxpayer money to bail out banks and take over the auto industry.  Government has taken over health care.  The administration has declared war on the Catholic Church.  The Democrat party has come out against God and in favor of abortion and gay "marriage."  But even all this doesn't mean we can count on Obama being voted out of office in November.

And our friends at Charleston Thug Life gives us some insight into why.  Study the outpourings of the children of the welfare state juggernaut.  And then consider that they, too, vote (felony convictions or not).  And they don't want anybody messing with their "free" stuff.

What we have with some of the commentators featured in these posts is a major subset of the Obama constituency.  They know next to nothing about history or economics or any other aspect of how the world works, but they feel really good about themselves and consider themselves entitled to be supported for free, so they can devote all their time to hedonistic pursuits.  When people of their mindset get to be the majority in this country, we're done.  Kaput.  Finito.  If indeed we're not already done, kaput, finito.

The other major subset of the Obama constituency is the elitists who dole out the bread and the circuses to the first major subset, convincing them that they belong at the bottom, so that the elitists can more easily run their lives.  Their natural enemies are those who are productive and who own property, because these are still mired in the old-fashioned, "natural law" superstitions about the rights that flow from the ownership of private property.  The goal of the elitists is to accumulate so much power that they needn't care what the children of the welfare state or anybody else think or want.  At that point, they can just kill anybody who opposes them.

Before you get all mad and start throwing around accusations of racism, remember that it is unsafe to assume the following: (1) that the people who run Charleston Thug Life are a bunch of whites; (2) that blacks and other minorities are happy about having to bust their humps to so that those who don't work can have luxuries working stiffs must deny themselves.  And before you dismiss all this as hysterical right-wing ravings, consider the appalling things our culture is now full of that would have been unthinkable just a quarter-century ago: obscene language and soft-core pornography on prime-time television; same-sex "marriage" legalized in many states; the gay lifestyle being taught to grade-schoolers; child molesters lobbying to declassify pedophilia as a mental disorder.  Now that we have cut ourselves loose from our Judeo-Christian moorings, ours is a society in which the unthinkable quickly morphs into the commonplace.

And the time to begin reversing this trend is running out.  

Thursday, September 06, 2012

What We Are Up Against

The Democrat National Convention is a good occasion to stop and think about Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals -- the primer of today's generation of Democrat leaders.  Supertradmum and Fr. Z have posted them -- in the interest of stimulating as much though as possible at this critical time, I hereby jump onto the bandwagon.  In contemplating these rules, it is important to consider their ultimate origin, and how susceptible we all are to the techniques they describe, no matter smart or educated or well-meaning we may be.  In fact, it is precisely the highly-educated and the intellectuals, long on degrees and short on humility, that are in most danger of being overmastered by these techniques.

RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.

RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.

RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.

RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.

RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.

RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.

RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

So what are we to do in this war of nerves against Alinskyite assaults?  The most crucial thing, surely, is to possess sanctifying grace.  Sanctifying grace comes from participating in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.  We can't hope to resist evil without it.  We are in a war against devils who still possess their native angelic intelligence and powers, and we cannot hope to defeat them on our own, without grace.  We can have brains, we can have courage, we can have skill, but without sanctifying grace, we are marching into battle, starving and completely naked, armed with nothing but a pocket knife and a trash can lid.  And I greatly fear, based on the way I see people living their lives, that many of us -- maybe even most of us, and even many Catholics -- do not possess sanctifying grace.  That is why our country is collapsing.  That, surely, is why so many people at the Democrat convention booed the resolution to put God back into the party platform.  It is a foretaste of hell on earth.

Any hope we have of pulling our country back from the brink of the abyss lies in doing the two things so many of us will do anything to avoid: repent and convert.

Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.  For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.  Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: in all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.  And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).  Ephesians 6:11-17