Friday, December 31, 2010

Thoughts to ring in the New Year!



I wanted to end/begin the year with a joyful post, because the Good Lord knows that I have lots of controversy waiting in the queue! ;)
First, I am so grateful for all the wonderful friends I've made this year in the Bubble! "Bubble" is a fun and fanciful blog name (sometimes repeated derisively by detractors), which to me refers to community. I am in love with our little community here in cyberspace -- all those who cherish Mother Church as I do, as well as those who challenge her. I am so humbled by your presence here! Thank you!!
Second, one cannot go wrong by quoting G. K. Chesterton on New Year's Eve (or any other day of the year), so here's a fitting entry for December 31st:
With all the multiplicity of knowledge there is one thing happily that no man knows: whether the world is old or young.

Lastly, today's Gospel reading is from St. John the Evangelist, one of my all time favorite saints. He was Jesus' best friend, "the beloved disciple"; he was profoundly Eucharistic; he was the only Apostle present at the foot of the Cross; and, at Jesus' command, he took Mary into his home after the Crucifixion. John's Gospel is my favorite, and my favorite verse comes from one of John's epistles ("perfect love casts out fear" 1 John 4:18). I even named one of my sons after John the Evangelist. Today's Gospel reading is one we all know and love, and perhaps the most sublime and glorious passage of the New Testament:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John*. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 
(John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.’”) And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. (John 1: 1 – 18)
God bless you all in 2011! Happy New Year!!
*John the Baptist, another incredible St. John! :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Miscellaneous stuff and a Just Curious

Just a few quick things I want to throw out to you:

1) We continue to have a fascinating discussion on this post. If you have some time, grab a cup of hot cider and start reading. The conversation turned to the situation at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, which was stripped of its "Catholic" status by my courageous bishop, Thomas Olmsted. (Heads up: the comments go on to a second page -- it's easy to miss that).

2) If you have any interest in science vs. religion, you must become a regular reader of Stacy at Accepting Abundance. Stacy is an amazing Catholic convert, wife and mom, who just happens to be a Ph.D. in chemistry. I am not a science person myself, so I appreciate that she puts things in simple terms, so that even I can follow! I am learning something new every time I read her entertaining posts. She deserves a wide audience!  Go Stacy! (Don't miss her "About Me" here.)

3) A lot of you already read Jen's Conversion Diary, but in case you missed her latest, she has posted her "12 Best Links of 2010". When Jen says they're good, I listen. :)

4) Which leads me to a Just Curious!! What is your "best link" from 2010? It can either be from your own blog, or from someone else's (or both, if you'd like). Post the link(s) in the comments section so that we can all have a chance to enjoy them!


Hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dissenting Catholics and the question of conscience







This is what I will call a "reference post" -- bookmark it and refer to it anytime a Cafeteria Catholic tells you that as long as one follows his conscience, he is in good standing with the Church.


Ummmmm, not exactly.


We've had a fascinating discussion in the comments section of a previous post. At one point, atheist commenter Tony linked to an anti-Catholic article* riddled with errors, which put forth this (commonly accepted) falsehood:
In any case, Catholic theology tells individuals to follow their personal conscience in moral matters, even when their conscience is in conflict with hierarchical views. 
Again, not exactly.


Let's briefly discuss what the Catholic Church actually teaches about conscience, beginning with this statement about moral conscience from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which quotes the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (16):

"Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."  [emphasis mine]


So, our conscience is where we hear the law of God which has been written on our hearts. Our conscience moves us to do good and avoid evil, and judges whether an act is moral or not. 


Another Vatican II document says:

In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.     Dignitatis Humanae (3)


Okay, so we must follow our consciences in all things. We must not be forced to act against our conscience, nor must we be stopped from acting according to the dictates of our conscience.


That sounds about right to me!


But wait.... Then don't those dissenting Catholics who reject the moral teachings of the Church have a point? They claim that their conscience is the final authority, after all.

Actually, the dissenting Catholics always leave something out. They like to talk about always following one's conscience, but they forget to talk about one's obligation to correctly form one's conscience in the first place! That's a pretty big omission.

Okay, so what happens if someone (perhaps a dissenting Catholic) wants to be ignorant of the moral law? Well, willful ignorance is itself a sin:

This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. (Catechism, 1791)


In other words, if one has a poorly formed conscience because he refuses to seek truth, or if he has deadened his conscience by repeated sins, or if he willfully rejects Church authority -- then he is culpable.


The dissenters who say that Catholics may follow their consciences with impunity "even when their conscience is in conflict with hierarchical views" are actually ignoring Church teaching, which states explicitly that personal conscience "should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church." (Catechism, 2039)


We are responsible for seeking truth. Then, once we have found truth, we are responsible for conforming our lives to it. To the extent that we decide not to seek truth in the first place, we are accountable for that unfortunate decision.


I have personally known Catholics who have declined to learn more about Catholic morality precisely because they don't want to be held accountable for their actions. But of course, God doesn't play games like that. He knows every human heart and its intentions. And a soul who is willfully clinging to "ignorance" is not truly ignorant at all.


If, on the other hand, a soul is invincibly ignorant of the moral law (i.e., their ignorance or poorly formed conscience exists through no fault of their own), then they are not culpable for those sins, even though their actions are still objectively sinful.  


One can only be responsible for what he knows or what he should know. He cannot be responsible for what he is incapable of knowing. That's justice. Wouldn't you agree?


From the Catechism (1793)

[If] the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

That last sentence is why we Catholics must learn and then teach our Faith. 

So, to sum it up, there are really two parts to the discussion of conscience: 

1) We are obligated to form our consciences properly. 
2) We are obligated to follow our consciences.

Pretty simple, huh?



The end!



*The source of the article is the well-known and misleadingly-named "Catholics For a Free Choice." This is not a Catholic group and it has been roundly denounced by the U.S. Bishops. It's sort of like if there were a group called "Vegetarians For Meat-Eating" -- are they really vegetarians? Commenters should always consider the source and please use only authentically Catholic sources when attempting to represent Catholic teaching.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christ's Mass, and Prayer Buddy Reveal!!

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas Day!

A teeny-tiny teaching from the Bubble: The word "Christmas" is derived from Christ's Mass -- a reminder of the Catholic character and origin of this beautiful Holy Day. I am grateful that our Protestant friends keep two of the great Feast Days of the Church (Easter being the other).  Not everything Catholic is so bad after all!  ;)

(Hey, in light of the above, I just realized that "Christmas Mass" is actually redundant!!)

Another little teaching regarding this wonderful Christmas season is that Christmas is... a season! The four weeks leading up to Christmas is the season of Advent, and Christmas itself begins on December 25! So, you don't have to stop celebrating Christmas just because it's December 26, or even January 1. You can continue celebrating up until at least the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6), and some say till the following Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord!  So, now is the time to start the festivities, not end them! Merry Christmas!

**************

The big prayer buddy reveal is here!!

I was so excited when I learned who my prayer buddy was going to be this time around! I love this sweet young woman, and I long ago crowned her and her dear husband "the cutest couple on the blogs" (yep, that's a dead giveaway right there!). She radiates joy and faithfulness, and she gives me such hope for the future of the Church!

The best part is, she is expecting her first sweet little one in just a few weeks, and I was so honored to pray for her intentions, offering masses and daily sufferings (there have been a few big ones and a lot of little ones)!

I couldn't be more thrilled that my prayer buddy is..............


I will continue to pray for you and that (inevitably cute) baby you will soon meet face to face!!

Thanks for always being such an inspiration!

Friday, December 24, 2010

This one's for you, Grandpa! Merry Christmas!

This post is personal.  It's for me, and it's for my late maternal grandpa, Al Thomas.

My mother had wonderful parents -- a Protestant mom and a Catholic dad. Their three daughters were raised Protestant (my mom, the middle child, converted to Catholicism as an adult).

Sadly, my mom's father died when I was seven years old, in December 1974. I don't remember much about Grandpa Thomas, as we lived in different states, but all the memories I have of him are good ones. He was a loving, gentle man.

Once I came fully into my Catholic Faith, I felt a new closeness to my late grandpa. I began to appreciate that he was not just any old Catholic, but a Catholic after my own heart. He helped physically build the current St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Medina, Ohio; he was a devotee of Archbishop Fulton Sheen; he delighted in great spiritual books (some of which I now possess from his library); and he wrote a local newspaper column which often touched on issues of faith. He was also a lover of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a faithful Mass-goer and a frequent daily communicant until his untimely death from cancer at age 55.

Grandpa's Catholic identity was not of any real interest to me until 21 years after his death. Now, I think of him as a kindred spirit: Both of us writers, both of us with newspaper columns, both of us desiring to grow ever deeper in the Catholic Faith we love. I have no doubt that his prayers from Heaven were instrumental in bringing me back to the fullness of the Church. I truly love the man I hardly knew, and I cannot wait to meet him again one day.

In his honor, I reprint this column that he wrote for the Medina County Gazette in 1972, 38 Decembers ago:


"Doubting Thomas" 
[The name of his column]


Christmas: Thrilling or Monotonous?


"I hate Christmas," the fellow grumbled. "Same old story. Shopping, parties, drinking, and those old songs in the department stores."


Well, one must concede it's the same old story. The tale of a young girl giving birth in a cave-stable in Palestine some two thousand years ago. Then, there was the star, the shepherds and the wise men. That's about all.


And yet the excitement of that monotony, seemingly a contradiction in terms, has endured for those two thousand years, undiminished in its dramatic impact and its spiritual influence. And millions of us experience the spine-tingling sense of inner joy as we listen to the joyful strains of the angelic message of the arrival of the Messiah.


What great story ever lost anything in the re-telling?


What reader ever gets tired of the re-telling of the Dickens' tale of Sydney Carton dying on the scaffold for his friend, Charles Darnay? "Tis a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done...."


What lover has not thrilled at Romeo's "It is the East, and Juliet is the sun"? Or lamented with with Hamlet's "taking up arms against the sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep..."?


Does not the dream of a bright, vibrant "Camelot" continue to thrill and inspire? Do not the exploits of Hannibal, Napoleon and the courage of Joan of Arc still excite the imagination, in spite of 1,000 re-tellings?


Tell the children the tale of Cinderella or the Wizard of Oz, and not a tot will complain, "Oh, I've heard that before; tell me another story."


Even God is repetitious, with his constant re-creating of the rose, the tree, the green grass, the rain, the gentle breezes of spring and the other endless beauties and surprises of nature.


So, why the surprise or downgrading of the most profound, and the most simple tale of all ages?


Even without its spiritual implications to billions of Christians throughout two millennia of the world's history, the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph would still stir the soul of anyone with a jot of emotion, sensitivity or tenderness.


Just imagine a chilly Palestinian night, with one bright star, overshadowing all others. And three wise men trudging from the East, and crude, unlettered shepherds descending the hills on which their docile sheep grazed and dozed.


And what did they find in that rough-hewn stable but a peasant Jewish girl who had just given birth to a squirming baby boy?


A few animals breathing mists of warmth into the make-shift crib; a harried Joseph stroking up a glimmering fire at the mouth of the cave; a few passers-by, on their way to the Inn which rejected immortality and exchanged it for wine and ribaldry and the barrenness of frivolity on that first Christmas night.


The same old story? Certainly. Just as it will be 1,000 years hence. The most exciting, poignant and profound tale ever told.






Merry Christmas, Grandpa! You are loved and missed!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My correspondence with an abortionist, Part V and Conclusion

(Continued. Read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.)


A couple of days later, abortionist Brian Finkel contacted us one last time:

4 October 1995


Dear Manning and Miller:


Thanks for your letter of October 2, 1995. It was funnier than the first one. Nothing brings me more pleasure than hearing the rantings and ravings of indignant Pro-Life harpies.


I read your previous letter in toto; contrary to your allegations in the October 2, 1995 letter. I suggest that if you want to see someone who is hostile and uses a mocking tone when they correspond with a political opponent that you should look in the mirror. There was nothing polite or civilized in either of these letters. Your political position is that of a mean spirited, disingenuous ultra-conservative.


I will share this letter with my Pro-Choice peers. I am sure they will get a good laugh out of it, as I did.


I wish I could spend more time writing this letter to you, but I am very busy here at work, helping the women of Arizona that want, need and seek out abortion services. And I will be watching for another abortion article before year's end, because I know that you are fixated on this subject, and that your zealotry will prevent you from writing about other topics.


Sincerely,


The Big FINK  [This is actually how he signed his name on the last letter.]


Brian L. Finkel, D.O., F.A.C.O.G.

We never responded; by this point, we were fairly certain that this man was incapable of rational thought or discussion, and that there was something seriously wrong with him. We had heard disturbing things about Finkel from other pro-lifers, things like his penchant for brandishing guns both inside and outside his abortion clinic (which he nicknamed the "Vaginal Vault"), mocking the Catholics praying the rosary on the sidewalk, wearing fake devil's horns, peppering his everyday speech with vulgarities and sexually demeaning insults, and other bizarre behavior. There were also allusions to the fact that something unsavory (besides abortion) was going on inside the clinic -- something which troubled even Finkel's own staff.

Our friend John Jakubczyk, a local pro-life attorney, former president of Arizona Right to Life, and Finkel's nemesis, hinted to us that it was just a matter of time before some earthly justice came Finkel's way.

Seven and a half years later, justice finally caught up with Brian Finkel. In 2003, the self-described "much loved and highly respected physician" was convicted on 22 counts of of sexually abusing his patients, and sentenced to almost 35 years in prison. Over 30 women and four members of his own staff testified against him. More than a hundred women in all came forward with similar allegations.

Shockingly, there was a 20 year span between the first allegations of abuse by Finkel and his ultimate conviction (with evidence that he abused women even before that time). So, why did it take so many years to punish this predator?

Finkel might well have been stopped in the early 1980s when formal allegations of sexual misconduct were brought against him. The Board of Osteopathy reviewed and then dismissed those cases. I asked John Jakubczyk today why that might be, and he speculated that "they were dismissed perhaps because the executive director of the Board of Osteopathy was the former president of Arizona Right to Choose." With Finkel performing 20% of Arizona abortions, could abortion rights and the bond between abortion colleagues have trumped protection of women? I'll let you be the judge. [Update: Please be sure to read the fourth comment, below.]

After the Board's dismissals, Finkel's abuse of women continued on and on. If you have a strong constitution, you may be able to stomach this shocking and repellent 1999 interview with Finkel. By that time, Jakubczyk had filed several suits on behalf of women against the abortionist. None of them stuck, until finally one patient's complaint to the police in 2000 caught the media's attention.

To this day, Brian Finkel is unrepentant and arrogant. He's still blaming his victims and pro-lifers for his incarceration, and fancies himself far superior to his fellow inmates. You can read more about that in his recent, sad request for penpals.

In his years as an abortionist, Finkel ended over 30,000 unborn lives and systematically assaulted scores of vulnerable women. The more I read about him, the more I realize how desperately he needs all of our prayers -- that is what I take from this revisiting of our correspondence. Here is a man who hated his parents, hates women, hates unborn children, hates religion and God, who seemingly has no conscience and no remorse... and yet he is redeemable. We must not concede even one soul -- even his soul -- to the devil. If you think to offer a prayer for Finkel's victims, born and unborn, please offer a prayer for him today as well, for he is the most pitiable of men, in most need of God's mercy.

"I am a servant of woman. I provide them with service that they want, need, and seek out... I take a great amount of pride in being there for the women of Arizona when they need a physician and a friend. My only regret is that their are so many women that need my help, and that there is so little time to help them."

The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy. (Diary of St. Faustina, 723)

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.



My correspondence with an abortionist, Part IV

Okay, you all have been very patient! Just one more post after this one. For the first three posts, go here, here and here.

In his second letter, abortionist Finkel became more mocking; he even seemed somewhat divorced from reality, frankly. By now, Kim and I were tired of being insulted. Here's how we responded:


October 2, 1995


Dear Dr. Finkel:


Well, it really is difficult to maintain a civilized dialogue with someone who openly and personally mocks others' deepest beliefs. Telling us that you laughed out loud at our letter says a lot about the kind of man that you are. One with no manners to be sure, but never mind that.


We read over the letter that we sent you, and we can only conclude that you skipped over most of it. We have read your letters over numerous times to make sure we understand exactly what you're trying to explain. You might have extended us the same courtesy. But if it's more comfortable for you to dismiss pro-lifers as radical nut cases instead of reasoned, concerned, and intelligent people who don't fit your ridiculous stereotype, then so be it. But if you want to be intellectually honest, why don't you try reading over our letter again. the pro-life stereotype obviously means a lot to you, and by hearing our words, you'd have to let it go. That's never easy.


You seem incredulous that we would view your generous offer of an abortion as comparable to euthanizing our toddlers. Apparently, it is hard for you to understand or believe that women might love the children they carry as much as the children they give birth to. How sad for you.


But we are glad that you care so much about your  patients that you counsel them about adoption. Can we assume, then, that you support the enactment of informed consent laws? (And on what points exactly are you willing to "negotiate" regarding abortion?) Strange, though, that you see nothing illogical or troubling about these women who love their unborn children so much that they can't bear to give them up through adoption, so they have them "terminated" instead. If this was supposed to be your example of  a mother's love, then again we say, how sad. [Note to Bubble readers: In the years since this letter was written, I have learned that most women who procure an abortion do so under serious pressure from others (usually a boyfriend or their own mother). Also, I am absolutely certain that Finkel did not engage these women in long, anguished discussions of the very real adoption option.]


A couple of things need addressing. First, you must've skipped over the entire section of our letter where we carefully explained that we already know about the desperation and suffering of some women who seek abortions (and really, this is no great mystery that would somehow be "revealed" at your clinic). We explained that Kim worked daily with battered, drug-addicted, poverty-stricken, emotionally damaged women. She is a social worker and a Gestalt therapist and has worked with many, many women in crisis. You also must have skipped the part where we said she put her own life on the line for them. You also must have skipped the part where we said that they deserve help, support and empowerment, but that their tragic circumstances cannot justify or excuse the taking of a life.


You didn't address the question of when, medically, human life begins. You didn't explain how the embryo or fetus is genetically any different from the newborn, or you, or us. Just when did you begin to exist as a human being, and if it's at any time other than conception, how is such a conclusion anything other than utterly arbitrary? If you believe that there are degrees of humanity, then just say it. Be honest at least.


And apparently, you're no hero in the largely "pro-choice" medical community.You've seen the 1993 survey of 285 abortionists, which reports that (among other things): 69% of the nation's abortion providers say they aren't respected in the medical community; 65% feel ostracized because they perform abortions.


And we wonder if you are beloved by all of your patients as you claim. An abortionist writing in John Pekkanen's M.D. -- Doctors Talk About Themselves (Delacorte Press, 1988) says: "Some patients turn on you. They say, 'Let's get out of here,' after the abortion, as if you're some dirty person. It's vicious." Among his other insights: "Nobody wants to perform abortions after ten weeks because by then you see the features of the baby, hands, feet. It's really barbaric." Do you agree? He's honest enough to admit that doing abortions "turned into a significant financial boon," and that the only way he can do them is to "block out the baby." Is that what you do, as well? He claims that he doesn't want to do abortions anymore "because you can do them to a certain point, and then you get overloaded. I'm at that point." Yet, despite the contradiction in his own words, he says he does abortions "with a clear conscience." Amazing. People can justify and rationalize just about anything.


Let's be honest here. You destroy human lives for a living. You may not believe unborn lives have value, and yes, what you do is definitely legal. But give us all a break and don't try to pass it off as something noble or heroic.


We anticipate that you will skip right through the parts of this letter that don't fit your comfort zone, and we are sorry that you chose to continue your hostile and mocking tone in your second letter, even when our letter to you was polite and civilized. It answers a lot of questions for us though.


Very Sincerely Yours,


[signatures]


Leila Miller        Kim Manning


P.S. We are disappointed that you didn't answer our very pointed and sincere questions to you at the end of our last letter. And as far as being in an ivory tower, we've been to the Republic's building exactly ONCE, over a year ago, to get our picture taken. We are not employees of the paper, and we don't know anything about the newspaper business; we are moms. And be sure to watch for another abortion article before year's end.

Coming next: Finkel's final response to us, and a poetic, explosive conclusion.

To be continued....

Monday, December 20, 2010

My correspondence with an abortionist, Part III

(Continued. For Part I and Part II, read here and here.)

I won't keep you in suspense! Below is the response that we received from abortionist Finkel. It does make one wonder: Did he read the same letter we wrote?? The saga doesn't end here, but for now, read on....

(Note: I have left all of the typos intact.)

7 September 1995


Dear Manning and Miller:


I am receipt of your letter of September 6, 1995. I read it with great interest and with amusement. I have always found that Pro-Lifers find my secular comments concerning their mystical beliefs to be hostile. It seems that an objective appraisal of your "relatively mild Pro-Life statement" has upset your apple cart, resulting in more parroting of the Pro-Life mantra.


Hippocrates, in the Hippocratic Oath, proscribes giving a woman a pessary for an abortion. Hippocrates does not proscribe abortion, but only a technique of an induced abortion. This polytheistic physician knew then what contemporary physicians know now. They placement of a non-sterile foreign object in a woman's uterus to induce an abortion would result in sepsis and death of the woman. The Pro-Lifers have edited Hippocrates' admonition to their political viewpoint, and claim that he has admonished all abortion procedures. I feel quite confident that this ancient physician, if he had access to sterile instruments and sterile technique, that he too would be a proponent of contemporary abortion practices.


Mainstream Arizonan's do not view me with as much suspicion and distaste as Pro-Lifers. The working Jane Doe of Arizona and my peers in the medical community view me as a valuable community asset. I am a much loved and highly respected physician in this state. It is only the Pro-Life bigots in this community that marginalize, demonize, and vilify my good works. I laughed out loud at your "offer to euthanize our toddlers". It made me want to polish my horns and my cloven hooves!


For your information, I do advise my patients about the adoption option. Each and every one of the women who comes to my office for abortion services has anguished over that option, and has found it too painful to even consider. The women who most condemn the adoption versus abortion route are those women who have already placed a child into adoption. Each and every one of these patients advises me that placing a child up for adoption was the most painful decision they have ever made, and one they will never make again.


I am not at all surprised that you have refused my invitation to visit my office and witness the circumstances that compel the women of Arizona to seek abortions. Your Pro-Life sand castle would have been washed away by the sea of reality. It is easier for you to stay in the ivory towers of the Republic Editorial Board, where your spiritual beliefs are unchallenged. Your mewling and whining about how you avoid or even dread writing articles on abortion is hypocritical to the point of nausea.


In your arrogance, you tell me that you find what I do reprehensible. I am a servant of women. I provide them with service that they want, need, and seek out. I am a physician; not a prosecutor. I do not project or inflict my personal spiritual beliefs into the personal tragedies of my patients. They seek me out because other physicians in the community will not provide or are afraid to provide abortion services to the women under their care. I take a great amount of pride in being there for the woman of Arizona when they need a physician and a friend. My only regret is that their are so many women that need my help, and that there is so little time to help them.


I agree that there is satisfaction in civilized discourse. When you stop peppering your antiabortion editorials with inflammatory and pejorative noun, I will know that you are ready to negotiate.


Once again, I offer you an opportunity to come to my office. My office is not an abortuary, and I am not the big, bad evil boogy man of your Pro-Life nightmares. I will continue to read your column every two weeks. I wan to see how long it takes you to put aside your avoidance and dread of writing articles on abortion, and once again begin your tirade as a third party who has no standing in the interaction between me and my patients.


With best personal regards.


I remain very truly yours,


[signature]


Brian L. Finkel, D.O., F.A.C.O.G.



(Stacy, you were right on!)

If you like poetic justice, stay tuned for the next two posts.

To be continued....

My correspondence with an abortionist: Part II

(Continued. Read Part I here.)

After receiving the unexpected letter from abortionist Brian Finkel, Kim and I sent him the following response (edited for length). Despite the insulting nature of his initial letter, we tried our best to be courteous, hoping to start a rational dialogue:


September 5, 1995


Dear Dr. Finkel,


Thank you for your letter. We were certainly surprised to hear from you, and your words certainly beg a response. We have to say right off the bat that we have received many negative letters from detractors, but your hostility toward the relatively mild pro-life statement we made in our August 27 column was unexpected, and in our opinion, unwarranted.


Since you opened up the dialogue, we will continue it. First, we'd like to tell you a little about ourselves. We do not fit the stereotype of the pro-life women you describe. For one thing, as we are young and products of our culture, we both have spent time as pro-choicers. We both have friends who are staunchly pro-choice, and we have friends who have had abortions. Kim, in particular, spent all but the last 2 years as a pro-choice feminist. There was no religious conversion that accounted for her switch; in fact, Kim was into New Age philosophies when she became a pro-lifer. The implications of her pro-choice position simply began to gnaw at her, and she felt compelled to get all the information and analyze both positions objectively. Pro-life won.


Leila came to a pro-life position as much out of an analysis of the medical and biological facts of pregnancy and abortion as from religious beliefs (i.e., the belief that there is an objective right and wrong). Her father is a surgeon and her mother a nurse, and she acquired a great respect for human life from the medical background of her youth. Her father took the Hippocratic Oath and its admonishment against abortion quite seriously, and if memory serves, Hippocrates was neither close-minded nor a religious cultist. Leila's husband is a secular Jew. He was an uncomfortable pro-choicer until he took a hard look at the issue during his undergraduate years. As a Jew, he is keenly aware of what happens when some would classify certain others as less than fully human. When he realized the danger of denying or qualifying another's humanity, he switched to the  pro-life side of the debate. He won't accept the pro-choice position that there are degrees of humanity.


Can you not acknowledge that we who believe abortion is inherently wrong might actually be rational, educated and coherent? Might we have come to our conclusions based on years of reasoned debate? We ourselves have arrived at our position after tortuous debates based on biology, logic, civil rights, and philosophy. A belief in God only solidifies what these other arguments yielded.


Most pro-lifers we have encountered in everyday life (and they are perhaps of a different personality type than the ones you see at your clinic) are afraid, as we once were, of admitting to being pro-life. [Note to Bubble readers: This was written well before we were part of a strong pro-life community of friends who are unafraid to be openly pro-life!] As we've written in our column before, it's much easier to declare oneself to be pro-choice in today's culture of political correctness. Pro-lifers are sometimes viewed with as much suspicion and distaste as are abortionists.


You said something that, to be honest, really chilled us.You said you would be there for us should we (Kim specifically) ever "require" an abortion. We loved all five of our children well before they were born, throughout our entire pregnancies. Birth didn't change them genetically or inherently, it simply brought them into our full view. You might have extended us an offer to euthanize our toddlers should they become too much of a burden financially, physically or psychologically, and our reaction would have been exactly the same. To one who loves her child from conception onward, there is no distinction. So your offer was lost on us, as we would never deny our own children, whether they sleep safely in our womb or in a crib. You may believe that every woman would submit to an abortion if the circumstances were right, but you would be wrong. And how much more loving and civilized it would have been had you offered to help us with an adoption instead. There are families waiting to adopt every new infant, including that small percentage born with serious debilitating defects.


We appreciate your invitation to visit your clinic and witness the circumstances that compel women to seek abortions. But we've already witnessed those circumstances firsthand. You see, Kim worked for over 5 years at domestic violence shelters in two states. These were not shelters run by a church, but rather shelters that operate under a strident pro-choice feminist philosophy. Many of the battered women Kim counseled were poor, ending relationships, drug addicted, afflicted with STDs and/or terrified. Many had several children, and some were pregnant. Some of those left in the mornings to get their abortions. Kim cared about these women and dedicated years of her life to helping them. As a domestic violence counselor, she even put her life at risk for them. We hurt for these women and we believe they deserve help, love, support and empowerment; there are ways to help them. But their tragic circumstances cannot excuse or justify the taking of a life.


Dr. Finkel, we have never been on a picket line [Note: I was shocked to read this recently, as it would never occur to me now to call sidewalk counseling or praying at a clinic a "picket line"! We didn't have any active pro-life experience at that time.], we are not loud or obnoxious, and we do not wave the Bible in people's faces. We are just two moms who are lucky enough to have a column in the local newspaper. Should you meet us at a party, you would not find us in the least bit offensive. Since you initiated contact with us and gave us the opportunity to correspond with you, we want to be candid with you here.


We don't know you personally, so we neither like nor dislike you, but it will not surprise or shock you to know that we find what you do reprehensible. Though abortion is a big issue to us personally and though we periodically feel the need to address the subject in depth in our column, we avoid (even dread) writing articles on abortion, because the subject so disturbs and drains us. As mothers, both the idea and the reality of abortion wrench our hearts; we are truly trying to understand how you can be a part of what we see as an attack on the most innocent and voiceless among us.


As a physician, you know that from the moment of conception, the unborn child is genetically unique, a completely separate being from its mother, with all the chromosomes that define it as a human being. Any qualification of the definition of life past the point of conception is, as you must realize, utterly arbitrary. So, we turn the question to you, with truly no accusation or self-righteousness intended (we may never have the same opportunity to ask such a question again): Do you ever have any sense of regret, or even perhaps a nagging moment of doubt, about performing abortions? Do you ever wonder, just for a moment, if you are doing something that is inherently, terribly wrong? Do you feel any obligation, responsibility or anything for the unborn child whose life you're ending? We have no intention of using your name in a column [and we never did], and if you want to correspond off-the-record, we welcome it.


We harbor no illusions that we will ever change your heart or mind, but maybe you'll agree that there is some satisfaction in civilized discourse. We are willing to maintain a dialogue.


Sincerely,


[signatures]


Leila Miller             Kim Manning


PS: Our editor at the Republic attached the "Generation X" label to our columns; we would never hold ourselves up as spokespersons for our generation.


Next: Abortionist Finkel's response to this letter. Oh, and believe me, you will want to read this series of posts to the very end; it ends with a bang not a whimper.

To be continued....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My real life correspondence with an abortionist: Part I

Well, I've got about 55 drafts in my Blogger, and I am experiencing a mean case of writer's block. So, I thought I'd go to something in my past that might be as compelling to you as it was (and still is) to me.

Fifteen years ago, my friend Kim Manning and I wrote a regular editorial column for The Arizona Republic. We were youngsters then, in our twenties, and how we landed the column is a great story in itself, which I hope to tell another day.

Kim and I had written a piece or two about abortion, representing the pro-life position. We also included the following bullet point in our column wrapping up our first year:
The pro-abortion crowd has one standard but illogical trump card that it pulls out whenever a pro-lifer calls for less government. The rhetorical "gotcha" line goes something like this: "Aha! You stand for individual freedom over the authority of the state, yet you want the government to have authority over a woman's most private right to her own body!" Here's the logical answer: Pro-life folks believe that an unborn child is an individual human being with an unalienable right to life. The government is legitimately called to defend that right. Nothing inconsistent here. Can we please put that old, tired argument to rest?
Apparently, that fairly mild pro-life statement caused great offense to a certain someone. We didn't have internet or email yet, and a few days later a letter arrived in the mail with a "Metro Phoenix Women's Center" letterhead and a postage meter bearing the slogan "THERE IS NO LIBERTY WITHOUT CHOICE." I felt a bit creeped-out opening the envelope. Inside was a letter from a notorious local abortionist, Brian Finkel, as typed by his secretary. Here is the unedited body of the letter (addressed to Kim with a cc to me), dated August 28, 1995:

Dear Ms. Manning,


Your editorial in the 27 August 1995, "The Arizona Republic", demands a response. I have been interacting with so-called "Pro-Life" women for years. The ones that interact with the press, or are members of the press share the following same characteristics: They immediately claim the moral high ground because of their position, and arrogantly abuse anyone or any organization that does not share their myopic view point. Their rhetoric is as vituperate, arrogant, and inflammatory as the rhetoric of any self serving bigot. Every phrase that passes through their greasy lips is but the petty mimicry of a proficient parrot. Few, if any, of these women use original thought processes in their diatribe. 


You and Ms. Miller hold yourselves out to the public as  members of Generation X. It is unfortunate to see that two young women such as yourselves have chosen to be spokespersons for a Pro-Life religious cult. I have been trying to reason with women of your ilk for over 13 years. You cannot objectively argue with a person with a closed mind. It is far easier for me to have an objective secular conversation with a fence post. A mind truly is a terrible thing to waste.


No woman wants an abortion, but circumstances demand it. And women will do it. Every day I provide abortion services to Pro-Life women such as yourself. Militant Pro-Life harpies who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy all of a sudden change their tune when they are the woman that needs an abortion. All of a sudden the care that they would deny other women must be provided to them, because their circumstances are special.


Ms. Manning, I want you to know that I will always be here for you, should you ever require an abortion because of rape, incest, a failed interpersonal relationship, drug abuse problems on your part, when your financial circumstances deteriorate to the point that you will not be able to care for the children you already have, and for when you decide you are just too old to have more children. I would also like to invite you to come down to my office, and visit with me at your convenience. Leave your blinders in the parking lot and come into my office with an objective eye, and I will let you see why women so desperately want, need, and seek out abortion services.


With best personal regards.


I remain very truly yours, 


[signature]


Brian L. Finkel, D.O., F.A.C.O.G.


cc:  Ms. Leila Miller


My next post will be our response to Dr. Finkel.

To be continued....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just Curious: Christmas trees and shows!


It's time to lighten things up once again, with a new Just Curious! Feel free to answer one or both!

1) Is your Christmas tree fake or real?

2) What was/is your favorite childhood TV Christmas special?

My answers:

1) Well, this year and last year we've had one fake tree and one real tree.

Growing up, my family always had a real tree. Dean and I always got a real tree as well, until a few years back when we decided that it was sort of a pain and a mess to deal with. So, we got one of those fiberoptic fakies, and we were mesmerized!! It lasted a couple of years, then we tossed it because it got ugly.

So, back to real trees it was, for a couple more years. However, we are not good at aesthetics here in the Miller home, so our real trees were truly.... sad looking. Small, thin, sorta Charlie Brownish, which is not good with a high ceiling. After successive years of hearing complaints (now there's the Christmas spirit!), Dean surprised us with a brand new fake tree last year, and it was... not impressive. We all demanded humbly requested that the poor man get us a real tree. After much defensive annoyance thoughtful reflection, Dean agreed. We decided to move the fake tree to the dining room, and I bought a bunch of cheap, pretty Target ornaments to gussy it up! With the lower ceiling, it looked great! The new, real tree went up in the living room and also looked good! So, now we have a brand new tradition of having two trees -- one fake and one real.


2) When I grew up, it was ABC, NBC and CBS -- and that was pretty much it. But back then, programming was still okay for families, and so it was enough. I loved, loved, loved the Christmas specials! I loved Rudolph, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the SnowmanThe Grinch Who Stole Christmas (cartoon version, of course!), and the one with Mr. Heatmiser and his icy brother. But the one that really got me in the heart was Nestor The Long-Eared Donkey. It seemed to disappear over the past couple of decades, and although I almost forgot about it, I still had a vague memory of Nestor now and again. To my delight, I found it again last year! Even though it is a tear-jerker, I have to give it top prize!

Sorry, those were long answers.

Okay, how about you?

I rarely do this...

... but I am doing it now. I am writing a post that is really just a link to something else. I cannot get past what I have read.

This is Adam, and he was three years old when he was martyred last month in a Baghdad church, during Holy Mass:




His parents were murdered before him, along with many other Christian worshippers. 

It's what little Adam did during the killings that will live forever in my memory. 

My friend Lisa Graas wrote a piece on the incident over at NewsRealBlog.  Please go here and read it now. It's short. Be sure to read it to the very last sentence (on page 2) which says it all. 

May little Adam of Baghdad pray for us, and may God have mercy on us all.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sterilization: Is it getting "fixed" or getting broken?

I've promised a contraception post for a long time.

For the moment, let's forget about condoms, diaphragms, spermicides, birth control pills, birth control patches, birth control rings, birth control sponges, birth control implants, birth control injections, IUDs... and whatever other contraceptives I am forgetting (I am sure the scientists are working on more ways to thwart fertility as we speak!).

Let's start with an easy one: Surgical sterilization.

Specifically, vasectomies and tubal ligations.

First, some background. When my husband and I were first married, we wanted approximately two children. Maybe three, but that was pushing it. We liked the first two so much that I talked him into number three (and quickly at that, so that we could be free to "have fun and travel in our forties" -- ha ha ha!).

After number three, it was time to get serious about getting sterile. My husband and I had agreed that he would get a vasectomy. I joked to friends that I surely wouldn't be the one getting sterilized because "it was against my religion [Catholic] but not his [agnostic Jew]!" As a lapsed Catholic at the time, I guess I thought that was pretty clever.

But a funny thing happened on the way to our "planned barrenhood": We both had profound conversions of heart. And one of the easiest things to see when we took the secular blinders off was the immorality of surgical sterilization. What once seemed responsible now seemed perverse.

Think about what surgical sterilization is: It's the deliberate mutilation of healthy organs.

Even from a secular standpoint, the very concept should be repellent: Paying a doctor (a healer!) to cut up, burn, disconnect, or otherwise destroy healthy organs, for the express purpose of destroying their normal, healthy functioning. In other words, there is nothing wrong with Jane's reproductive organs; in fact, they are working as designed (this is called "health"). But Jane will pay someone to go in to surgically mutilate her organs so that they don't work as they are intended to work. From a Natural Law standpoint, this is clearly disordered.

What an irony that we call this getting "fixed" when we're literally getting broken.

Now, this is a bit more painful, but let's look at it from a Christian standpoint: We know that our bodies are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by the Lord, and that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. The gift and blessing of fertility is mind-boggling in its goodness. In giving us the gift and blessing of our fertility, God has designed us to bring forth His children. What an unspeakable honor, of which we are not and could never be worthy! And yet instead of being awestruck with gratitude or even trembling in reverence for the gift and blessing of fertility, most Christians see no problem with taking this most precious gift and destroying it without a thought. (As one now regretful Christian told me, "I had a tubal without batting an eye.")

Please understand.... I don't think that most Christians intend to throw the gift of fertility back in God's face when they sterilize themselves, and I could never weigh in on the culpability of any individual. Our culture long ago replaced the Judeo-Christian view of sexuality with the Planned Parenthood view, so the confusion is understandable, if tragic.

But if we step back and give it a moment's thought, the truth should hit each Christian like a ton of bricks. God did not make a mistake when He designed our bodies. His design for our bodies, and for bringing His children to life, was perfect and deliberate. To reject it, to take a healthy body and willfully destroy its most incredible function, should be unthinkable.

Thoughts?




.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why is the God of the Old Testament so mean?



I am very excited! In a post last week, I asked for topic suggestions, and got some great questions about Scripture. 

Now, I'm not a Scripture scholar... far from it! But I do have a dear friend who teaches Scripture, and I always run to her like a little child when I have a question that's too much for me! She is the same dear friend that I shoved out of the way to get to Fr. Tad last month! She graciously forgave me, because she is a super-classy broad!!

Anyway, I'm doing a dance, because this dear friend, Gayle Somers, has kindly agreed to be the honorary Bubble Scripture lady!! She will help us when we need answers regarding a question of Scripture!! I am giddy, aren't you???

Here's a small peek at her many credentials: Gayle was an evangelical Christian for nearly thirty years of her adult life. She has her Masters in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, taught Scripture and lectured for decades as a Protestant, and was a contributor to The Women's Study Bible. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1995, and she's been leading parish Bible studies since 1996. Gayle is the author of three published Bible studies, she blogs on the Book of Romans at Catholic Exchange, and is a research fellow with the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, which promotes biblical literacy for laymen. She also has her own website, Cor Ardens Catholic Scripture Study.

Whew! And that's just for starters!! So, she's got the killer credentials, and now she has...................... 

her own Bubble icon!!!!!


What more could a woman achieve in one lifetime?!


So, let's get to it. 


Our first question comes from God Alone Suffices, who asks about the harshness we see from God in the Old Testament, a harshness we don't find in the New Testament, "almost like there are two different Gods": 
Why would God give the Jews such a harsh Law? The stoning and burning people just disturbs me. I had a history professor tell me that God created the Law and it was impossible to follow, and that's why they needed Jesus. Well, why would God give them a Law that was impossible to follow in the first place? I'm sorry if I'm not making any sense! I've just never really received a satisfying answer to this question, and it keeps bugging me! :) 


Gayle's answer:


There seem to be two questions here:  (1) Why were OT punishments harsh?  (2) Why did God give the Jews a law they couldn't keep?


(1) First, we want to remind ourselves that punishment from God is a sign of His love, not His hate. Parents know that punishment is an important part of taming a child's natural self-serving (and often destructive) impulses. A parent is willing to inflict temporary suffering on his beloved child (a spanking, a time-out, a grounding, etc.) in the hope of sparing him a greater suffering should his impulsive behavior continue and become a habit. We should be happy to see God punish His people in the OT, for it proves they are His children and not chattel. 


Second, it helps to know that God had to give His people a "second law" (Deuteronomy) in the wilderness because they proved, by their infidelity to the covenant He made with them, that they were not ready to live as a kingdom of priests as He intended (read Ex. 19:4-6), spreading the knowledge of Him throughout the world.  


The Mosaic (deuteronomic) Law was given after the 10 Commandments (God's unchangeable moral law) in recognition that Israel could only live like the other nations at that time in their development, and not in fulfillment of their original vocation.  


Their civil law looked much like the civil laws of the surrounding nations. Whatever harshness it contained was a taste of what life is like outside covenant life with God, although it should be noted that Israel's civil law was far more just and humane than the laws of its neighbors. It was going to take time for Israel to be ready to live by the law of love -- they had to live their history to reach the place of humility and longing for God to be in their midst. Jesus was born in the "fullness of time." They were ready.  


Thirdly, before we lay any charge against God for His punishments in the OT, we need to read the entire OT with a yellow marker, noting all the places of His forgiveness, mercy, provision, protection, and guidance. When we get the final tally sheet of punishment/kindness, we can figure out if the God of the OT is the same God of the NT. My prediction: We won't get beyond Genesis 3 before we realize that God's love for us is "crazy love," as St. Catherine of Sienna said, the self-same Love we see on the Cross.  


Lastly, we must recognize that there is always a tension in the OT between God's justice and His mercy. We are supposed to feel it when we read it. Harsh punishment tells us that sin is serious; God's forbearance tells us He is merciful.  Only in Jesus does the tension get resolved: Sin is serious and is punished (justice), but Jesus takes it for us (mercy).


(2)  The problem with the 10 Commandments wasn't in the Law -- it was in the heart of man. When parents make rules for a household, do they expect children to always perfectly keep them? When a society writes laws for its citizens, does it expect them to be perfectly kept? We could ask, "Why bother?"  Yet we know why we bother -- we all need a standard of behavior that is explicit and preserves the idea of both moral and civil order.  


God's law for Israel was simply a codification of what is inscribed on all our hearts: We should love God and man. If we are not able to keep the law (as Israel wasn't), we find out something very important about ourselves.  Something is wrong with us! Humility replaces pride. We are ready to ask for help. We need forgiveness and can freely accept the help of a Savior. The law was a "tutor" until grace arrived, as St. Paul tells us. Never underestimate the importance of self-knowledge in life with God.


I don't know about you, but I learned a lot from this answer!! If any of you have a Scripture question you'd like Gayle to address, either email me or put it in the comments, and I will pick one to give her for the next installment of "Ask Gayle Somers"! (a.k.a., "Gayle in the Bubble"!)


Thanks so much, Gayle!!