Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Catholic Medical Association annual conference

Here's a press release about the upcoming Catholic Medical Association conference in October in Portland, Ore. Please let your physicians know about it and encourage them to attend. This group is the one really bright spot in Catholic health care in the U.S. today. If anyone wants more info, please put some info in the Comments section and I'll get back to you.

Catholic Medical Association

National Headquarters
1241 Highland Avenue
P.O. Box 920480
Needham, Massachusetts 02492
Phone: (781) 455-0259
Fax: (781) 455-0357
Email: info@cathmed.org

June 24, 2005

Children’s lives are of the greatest importance in public life since they are the future of the human race. How they are treated from their earliest days is of great concern to the medical professional.

The Catholic Medical Association, a group of physicians dedicated to upholding the principles of the Catholic faith in the practice of medicine, will be holding its 74th annual national conference in Portland, Oregon, on “The Biological and Spiritual Development of the Child.” Included in this conference will be discussions by a world-renowned child and adolescent psychiatrist about the latest research on the child’s brain development and the social environment needed to develop it. There will also be talks on “Sensory Development of the Fetus; Getting Started as “We, not Me”; the impact of sexual education on children’s brains; and on the child and the working mother.

“This conference will be looking at the rich connections between the physical development of children and their interactions with their families, families and the culture, and all of these with the Church,” said conference organizer, Thomas Pitre, M.D.

“This will be an important educational conference on the development of the human brain,” he added.

The gathering is taking place at the end of the Year of the Eucharist, proclaimed by Pope John Paul II, observed Pitre, a board certified urologist in private practice in Portland. “All of our topics relate to the Eucharist,” he said. “Our conference coinciding with the closing of this Year of the Eucharist will be a great source of reflection, blessing and grace for all of us.”

The Catholic Medical Association has guilds in various cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The New York Medical College has designated this educational activity for a maximum of 14.5 category 1 credits toward the AMA Physician’s Recognition Award.

The full program of events and registration materials are available on our website at www.cathmed.org.

What: The 74th annual national educational conference of the Catholic Medical Association

Who: Daniel Siegel, M.D., an internationally acclaimed child and adolescent psychiatrist and author from UCLA
David Fagerberg, Ph.D., a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago
Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix
Bishop John Nienstedt of New Ulm, Minn.
Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Ore., and Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Ore., will celebrate Masses and preach.
It will also feature the choral groups
Portland Cathedral Choir
Cappella Romana (superb!)
Cantores in Ecclesia
Actor, producer and film and stage director Leonardo Defilippis will also perform his one-man play, “Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz.”

Where: The Portland Hilton Executive Tower

When: October 20-22, 2005

Monday, August 22, 2005

A new book by Yours Truly (sort of)

At the end of next week, a new book should be out on the market called Dare to be Holy. It's by Bill Wegner and I'm the co-author (hence, the "sort of" in the title of this entry).

Bill is a New Jerseyite who was raised Catholic, left the Church when he went to college in the late 60's, made a whole bunch of life-type of mistakes, then made a whole bunch of money, lost it all, had a conversion experience, made a whole bunch of other money and then some, and then gave it up to go around the country and even to different countries to give lay parish missions. (He's been to my sister's parish in Jaffrey, NH and will be at St. Peter in Peterborough, NH, in October, along with a whole bunch of other places.)

The book is an easy read and is autobiographical as well as providing some challenging teaching on living the Christian life. It's been endorsed by Jeff Cavins, Ralph Martin, Johnette Benkovic, Joe Klecko (of New York Jets fame) and one other sports figure whom I can't remember at this time.

Here's Johnette's endorsement:
Pope Paul VI said, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers he does so because they are witnesses." How well these words apply to the evangelization efforts of Bill Wegner! In his book, "Dare to Be Holy," he recounts the unvarnished details of his journey from "would-be bookie" to real estate dynamo to full-time Catholic lay evangelist, and offers us a witness that truly teaches. With humor, insight, and inspiration, he gives us a window into his soul and convicts us in the process. This easy read packs a powerful punch as Bill Wegner all but "double dares" us to "be holy!"
Anyway, you can find more information about Bill at the website for Good News International. At some point in the next couple of weeks, there should be an order form available on that site as well as site for the book itself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On marriage vows

On marriage vows

For those of you who are married, I’m sure you remember when you took your marriage vows. Even if it was 50 or 60 years ago, that moment doesn’t fade from memory. It is one of those life-defining moments that you simply cannot forget. I know I certainly don’t forget it.

But there seems to be a crisis in vows today. A lot of people don’t seem to know what they mean. Vows are public statements that we are making a commitment for life. We don’t know what the future will hold, we don’t know everything there is to know about this particular person we are marrying, but by God’s grace, I will commit myself to him or her and by that commitment, I will help myself and my spouse get into heaven.

You know, I think that’s something a lot of people forget about marriage. Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. Sure, the Church recognizes that marriage is a natural institution made by God at creation, and so all marriages, whether Catholic or not, are presumed to be valid. But she also recognizes that marriage has been raised by Christ, for those who believe, to more than a natural state. It has been elevated to help the spouses get into heaven.

That’s right, folks, marriage is supposed to help you get to heaven; it is supposed to help make you holy. That’s what the sacraments are all about, isn’t it? When we get baptized or confirmed, when we receive the Eucharist or the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Confession, we know that we are receiving grace to grow in holiness. And we know that those who receive ordination are called to be holy and to help the rest of us become holy by administering the sacraments to us.

But when it comes to marriage, I’m afraid too many of us look at it as simply the Church’s blessing on our desire to live together. How much we’re missing when that’s what we think. Everyday you are married, you wake up and you are living in the grace of marriage. Think about that. Think about the fact that every time you engage in marital intimacy, you are renewing your wedding vows.

You know, I think that because marriage entails so much of the nitty-gritty of daily life, the grace that’s present in it is simply overlooked. But that’s really where the grace is – in the nitty-gritty of everyday life, of changing diapers, making meals, driving kids to soccer games, hashing out the money problems, going to the in-laws for Thanksgiving – all that stuff is to help make us holy.

So when we take those vows, we are committing ourselves to living in God’s grace with this particular man or woman. That’s why the Catholic Church only has two options for taking marriage vows. Today a lot of people make up their own vows and there are even websites that have sample vows. I was looking through some of those and you know what’s really interesting? A lot of those so-called vows don’t include a vow to a life-long commitment. And if doesn’t have that, then it’s simply not a vow.

A vow is a public statement that I will be committed to you for the rest of my life, no matter what happens. A vow is not a mere promise; it is much deeper than that. If I break a promise, that’s something between me and the person I promised. But if I break a vow, not only have I broken faith with my spouse, I have also broken faith with the people that I made that vow in front of, and in marriage, that means breaking faith with the Church.

Now, I know there are a lot of you who took vows but who made a mistake of one kind or another and I know that happens and it’s very painful when it happens. But I also know that very often we simply do not commit ourselves to the vows we took because we look at them as something less than they really are. If, however, we commit ourselves to those vows, then God will act and bless your marriage abundantly.

On liberal churches

Would you want to stay in a church that taught heresy? I know I wouldn’t. How about a church that taught less than the truth? I couldn’t go for that either. And it appears that many other Americans don’t like those kinds of churches all that much, too. Mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. have been steadily losing membership since about 1965. Churches like the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Methodists, United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ have all been losing members. Sometimes, as in the case of the Disciples of Christ, up to nearly 50 percent of their members have left or died without being replaced.

Contrast that with churches that are more faithful to the Gospel, or as the mainstream media like to say, conservative. Evangelical churches have seen an increase of at least 10 percent over the last 20 years, the Southern Baptists have increased 4 percent, Pentecostals have increased percent.

And even with the number of people leaving the Catholic Church for other denominations like the Evangelicals and Pentecostals, or leaving because of scandals, the numbers of those coming into the Roman Catholic Church have been steadily increasing.

Why is this happening? I think it’s because people are finding out that the liberal agenda is a dead end street. They’re realizing that a God who loves you where you’re at and then leaves you there isn’t much of a God. They’re realizing in their hearts that they need something more than to be told that they’re OK where they are, because they know they can’t go on sinning. They know in their heart of hearts that love is more than getting what I want when I want and how I want.

So they are looking for someone to serve. They are looking for a God who can take them out of their misery and bring them up to something they can’t get – divinity. Only God can give that to us.

So many churches today, and there are, unfortunately, a lot of Catholics who buy into this as well, have said we have to conform to the culture. We have to support people who want to contracept, who want abortions, who want us to bless homosexual “unions,” who want us to say, “It’s OK if you divorce and remarry even though Jesus himself said that to do so would be to commit adultery.”

And that’s what is happening in many of these churches. But what happens when the Church does that? The Church disappears. There is no need for it to exist anymore. If you say that the prevailing culture is good, then what purpose does the Church fulfill? The Church is there to call people to God, to call people away from sin and if the Church says, “Go ahead, sin all you want – it’s OK, we don’t mind,” then the Church has lost her reason for existence. And people know this in their hearts. Oh, sure they’ll grouse about how the Church says this and that and can’t they just shut up and leave us alone, but, like Herod before John the Baptist, they know the attraction of his words and their hearts are being pulled to the beauty of the truth.

On begging

Atlanta's City Council just passed an ordinance banning panhandling in a good portion of downtown. Here's what Drew had to say:

For a number of years in cities across the country, officials have been trying to “clean up” the streets. No, we’re not talking about picking up the litter; we’re talking about the poor and the homeless. The “clean up” that city officials want to do is to get the poor off the streets and, basically, out of sight and out of mind.

The poor and homeless out on the streets are embarrassing to everyone who’s lower middle class or above, to use our polite way of saying that those who are better off are simply better human beings. And since we’re better human beings, we don’t need these others around littering and cluttering up the streets.

But here’s the problem – we really do need these people around. I’m sure you’re asking yourselves now, What’s that, Drew? We need these people? Yes, we need these people. Let me ask you something – if everyone in the world was well off and well provided for, who would there be to do good to? If there were no handicapped people in the world, how could we be drawn out of ourselves and see people who are in much greater need than we are?

Jesus himself said that we would have the poor with us always and that we can do good to them whenever we want. This was a statement of fact, but it was also affirmed all that God had said throughout the Old Testament – we have to treat the poor with compassion and care.

Now, I’m not trying to romanticize the poor here. If you go to a downtown where there are people living on the street, you know as well as I do that they are an interesting group of people. Many of them have mental illnesses or addictions of one kind or another; they smell since they don’t get to shower very often, if at all; they can often be rude and demanding; and if you do something for them they can sometimes get the impression that you’re going to give them everything they need and become almost obnoxious.

But what of it? Don’t we all have our own faults and sins and bad habits? Of course, ours are a little more polite – instead of being obnoxious, we backbite. Instead of stealing, our checks bounce. Instead of begging, we hint at something we want. Our faults may not be as obvious, but they’re there and they’re no less wrong than those of the street beggar.

In other words, the poor remind us of our own poverty – and that makes us uncomfortable. We don’t like it that they remind us that if the company we work for went down the drain tomorrow or our spouse divorced us or some economic catastrophe struck the country, then we could end up like that.

But even more, they remind us of our spiritual poverty, and we have that in abundance. What did Blessed Mother Teresa say? “It is a great poverty that a child should die so that you may live as you wish.” Doesn’t that show how impoverished we really are?

When we don’t have the willingness to part with a couple of dollars to give to someone who is asking some help of us, even though Jesus himself said to us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Give to all who ask of you,” what kind of character are we displaying? That’s miserliness in my book, and certainly not a reflection of God the Father.

“Oh,” you say, “but they might go out and buy drugs or some drink with it.” OK, so? Remember what Jesus said about creation? How the sun shines on the just and the unjust and the rain falls on the just and unjust, too? So if God is so magnanimous that he does not withhold his blessings of creation on those who are unjust, who are we to be withholding the blessings God has given us simply because that beggar might spend it badly? Doesn’t God give us grace and don’t we misuse it? I know I do it all the time. But he doesn’t withhold it, does he? It would be awful if he did.

We who are well-off need the poor – and they need us. They need us to act like God the Father towards them, to be generous even though they might abuse what they receive. We need them so we can act like God the Father and learn to love as he loves – freely and without counting the cost.

So if your city starts talking about “cleaning up the streets” and wants to get an anti-begging ordinance in place, go and lobby your council member against it. Tell them we need the poor as much as they need us – and then watch them stare at you like you’ve got two heads.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The liturgy and EIFWAIL

How are the liturgy and EIFWAIL related you ask? It seems to me that those who think EIFWAIL is OK do not fully recognize the humanity of the child who is unborn. They do not recognize that that child is alive even if it is receiving all its life support from its mother. And, among Catholics, I partially blame ICEL.

The International Committee on English in the Liturgy was established after Vatican II to write up the English vernacular for the liturgy. That committee was dominated by people who thought a few interesting things:

1) Most people are too stupid to understand what's really going on in the liturgy and so we have to dumb everything down for them.

2) We don't want anyone to understand a whole lot about the Church's full tradition prior to 1965, so take out all references to angelic beings (hence the Prefaces no longer have references to angels, archangels, powers, principalities, etc.), Joseph being the most pure spouse of Mary, and so on.

3) English need not be poetic since most Americans aren't poetic, so we'll make the liturgical language as dull as possible.

Well, they succeeded in their task.

But they also succeeded in another task -- they succeeded in making people think that people do not become people until they are born. That came from the translation of the Creed in the section that reads, in Latin, "Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est." Literally, "By the Holy Spirit, he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and he was made man." But what we English-speaking Catholics get to say on Sundays is, "And by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man."

There are a couple of things wrong with this:

1) This is a horrible translation. My children could do a better job than these supposed professionals did.

2) He was not born by the power of the Holy Spirit. That was a natural process.

3) The most grievous fault is this: He was already a man while he was in the womb of his mother. Not a man, of course, in the sense of being grown-up, but in the sense that he was of the human race. But because we recite this every week and have been doing so for nearly 40 years, I contend that the thought has crept into our minds that since Jesus did not become man until he was born, what of the rest of us who are far less than he ever was?

I do not know exactly how to consider ICEL on this point. Did the committee members intend this or not? Let's hope not because if they did, their extreme insidiousness helped to brainwash many, many Catholics to think that Planned Parenthood and Peter Singer really are correct.

EIFWAIL among homeschoolers?

As readers of this blog know, I did a lot of work on early induction of fetuses with anamolies incompatible with life, otherwise known as EIFWAIL (scroll down to the entry of Feb 21 for links to all my pieces on the subject).

So when I got a link to a Catholic homeschooler's blog defending her decision to have this procedure done, it took me aback. I'm assuming from the tone of what she wrote that some of the things she received were written by people who spoke rather rudely to her condemning her decision. Such people should be ashamed.

However, I cannot pass this over nor write approvingly of her decision, no matter how difficult it was for her. I am not speaking in judgment of her, only writing based on what she has stated and what I learned in the course of my work on EIFWAIL.

When I talked with Drs. Thomas Hilgers and Byron Calhoun, both highly respected Ob/Gyn's and Calhoun a highly respected perinatologist, they made it plain to me that it is NEVER necessary to perform an early induction in the case of fetal anomalies, unless the mother's life is at risk. And even when the mother is at risk, that is something that can be closely monitored and taken care of when the need arises.

The important thing here is that the life of the child has to be given the utmost consideration. Anne argues that Sarah was going to die anyway. That is, of course, true. So are we all. But Sarah's life was not over yet. She still had life in the womb. Leaving "her in to cook," as Anne wrote, was not the issue. The issue was whether or not Sarah still had God-given life in her, life no one on this earth was entitled to take until her time had come. As I have said to other people, simply because we are all "going to die anyway" does not entitle me to shoot anyone on sight.

I can understand Anne's decision. All the medical experts she consulted were telling her it was the right thing to do. Indeed, I would say that they were probably expecting and setting up the atmosphere for her to do an early induction. Her reply to someone's comment that she did not want to see Sarah suffer indicates that they did a pretty good job at making that atmosphere permeate nearly all her thinking.

However, it seems to me from reading her blog that her heart told her something different. I only wish that someone who knew better could have been there to tell her that she could have handled it with the grace of Christ that comes from so many different sources -- her marriage, her friends, the sacraments, people who have been through it -- that she could have kept Sarah for as long as she was alive in the womb, that someone like St. Gianna Beretta Molla could intercede for her and give her inspiration to cling as much as possible to Christ's cross, no matter how difficult it is.

We all fail everyday in following Christ, so I make no judgment on Anne at all. But if only someone had told her that love for others, even to the point of sacrificing ourselves, is our highest good....

Commentaries coming up

On my way home from my father's funeral, I found out that I was being offered an independent contractor position with Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network based out of Green Bay, Wis. I am doing research and writing for the Drew Mariani Show, their afternoon drive-time talk show. I'm writing up some commentaries for Drew on various subjects. After the show for which I write them has broadcast, I'll post them here.

Obviously, I'm writing them for him and his style, so they're very informal and laced with radio-style talking. Of course, I can't completely imitate him -- only he can give his "Drew-isms," but you can get a flavor of what he's like.

Drew did a great service during the Terri Schiavo affair. He did four days worth of broadcasting from there at least three weeks before the rest of the media woke up to realize there was something going on in Clearwater. And since he was doing it from a Catholic perspective, he got it right.

This week he's broadcasting from World Youth Day in Cologne and yours truly is writing up a number of things for that.

You can listen to him live on the Internet by clicking on the Listen Live link on Relevant Radio's homepage. He's on from 3 to 6 Central. RR has stations throughout Wisconsin, in Chicago, Pittsburgh, somewhere in North Carolina, Naples & Fort Meyers Fla. Of course, a complete list is available at their site.

I'm back

I was on an extended hiatus for some good reasons, but have decided to end it. Part of the reason for the break was due to my father's death on July 15, the feast of St. Bonaventure, and his burial on July 20, the feast of St. Apollinaris. Walter Szyszkiewicz died of complications from cancer, a cancer which was manifested on December 12 of last year, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He went through six months of exhausting radiation and chemo therapies, none of which really helped a whole lot.

But it is partly a result of his funeral that I am writing again. While I was back home, my cousin told me something at the funeral home -- his wife had noticed that I hadn't updated my blog. When I asked her about after the funeral the next day, she said, "He wasn't supposed to say anything."

When I got back home, I had a bunch of things to do and didn't look at my blog. But this weekend was a family reunion of my wife's family -- with all but one of her eight brothers and their families. (Doing pictures at these events is always kind of interesting for me. We always get one with the brothers and sister with Mom and Dad, and then one with the sisters-in-law -- and me.) Yesterday morning at my in-law's home, one of my sisters-in-law said, "Tom, I've read your blog, but you haven't done anything on it." One of my nephews told me the same thing.

So, due to popular demand from the Szyszkiewicz and Gibson families, I'm back.