Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Pope and Condoms *UPDATED*

"I've often said that if a sports reporter was as clueless about his subject as the typical religion reporter is about his, he couldn't keep his job for a week. The Pope and condom story is the latest confirmation of that observation."   -- Paul Thigpen

I have been asked to address the recent statement of Pope Benedict regarding condoms.

I will throw out some quick thoughts, but for far superior analyses, go here (Fr. Fessio), here (George Weigel), and here (Archbishop Chaput).

I don't have much to add to those pieces, but I will do what I usually do, which is to take my simple mind and put things in the simplest way I know how:

  • In the Pope's example, the person deciding to use a condom is already engaging in gravely sinful activity (prostitution). Using or not using a condom does not in any way change the morality of the act; the person is still committing a terrible sin, which can never be condoned.
  • In the Pope's scenario, the condom is not being used for contraception, but as (perceived) protection against disease. Is condom use a legitimate way to stop the spread of AIDS? According to the Pope: "[The Church] of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution"; however, the intention of not wanting to infect your partner with a deadly disease may be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." In other words, there may be a stirring of the conscience that sex is about love, and not merely "a sort of drug that people administer to themselves."
  • It's as if a drug addict was deciding if he should shoot up his partner with the clean needle, or if he should just use the dirty one that's more convenient. That moment of concern for the other might be a step towards morality. It's not the use of the needle that is good; rather, the good is found in the concern for the other. Christianity is all about love, and love is all about willing what is best for the other. Pope Benedict was musing on one of his favorite topics (and the subject of his first encyclical): Love. Even in the midst of a moral hell, there can be movement toward love.
  • It is expected by every faithful Catholic on the face of the earth that the media will distort the words of the Pope on any sexual issue, spewing sensational, ignorant or even intentionally misleading headlines all over the globe.
  • As in the past, faithful Catholics have looked past the erroneous headlines to uncover the actual story, which is a non-story: No new teaching was given, no changes were made to the moral law. Of course.
  • Finally, even if the Pope had waxed eloquent about the moon being made of green cheese, a philosophical musing by a Pontiff in the middle of a long and fascinating interview with a reporter does not rise to the level of an official Church teaching; it is not an exercise of the Magisterium. Not.even.close. 

So, here we sit, with the Deposit of Faith intact, as it has been for 20 centuries and will be forever more. But this latest papal interview sure did give the world something to talk about! I do think all the hoopla is ironic, given that the world was long ago supposed to have written off the papacy as an irrelevant, dusty old relic. Yet even the Pope's most nuanced, non-authoritative utterances seem to carry incredible weight and power, even with the secular media. Go figure.

UPDATE: Speaking of condoms, I just read this on my daughter's blog! I couldn't resist posting it here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

You're not a monster. And nobody called you that.

Here's my frustration. I write a provocative post, challenging abortion rights advocates to answer some uncomfortable yet important questions. A fellow Catholic blogger writes a response taking issue with what she feels is an unbalanced piece

Fair enough, so far. 

Then, Miss Gwen comments on the other blogger's post and includes the following:
I made the mistake of commenting on Leila's blog because it was an "open letter" to pro-choice people. Of course, it turned into a giant attack with tons of questions being fired away and, as always, the judgment that I am some sort of sick, twisted monster who runs around trying to kill unborn babies and supporting genocide.
I wonder if anyone else sees my frustration? 

Where was the "giant attack"? I don't see it, and I've looked. In fact, 51 comments into my post, an abortion rights advocate (Anonymous 11:11) wrote the following:
11:11 here again. First, I want to say that I am really impressed with how civil this discussion has remained. I haven't gotten into an abortion debate in years, because it rarely stays civil.
How does Anon 11:11 see the polar opposite of what Miss Gwen saw?

Also, the "open letter" I wrote contained over 20 questions itself, but Miss Gwen makes it sound like the "tons of questions being fired away" came only after she commented, and that they shocked her. But, how is that possible?

Miss Gwen then says that, "as always," we judged her as a "sick, twisted monster" who supports genocide. I'm not trying to be difficult, but huh? Can anyone show me any evidence of that? I have re-read the comments and I see none of it.

In fact, even when Miss Gwen stated (on the Peter Singer post) that she might support an occasional case of infanticide, no one called her a sick monster. 

Miss Gwen, I thought you knew how much we like you, and that we think you are beautiful and intelligent. We have been polite to you, we have enjoyed your participation, and yes, we have often vehemently opposed your philosophies and ideas (even to the point of thinking those ideas were horrific). But we Catholics can separate the value and dignity of a person from the value of her ideas. We can love and respect you as a human being, while even hating the positions you hold. 

I don't get why you take this all so very personally. 

Think of it this way: If you and I were having a rational discussion about abortion, and you said, "I think it's monstrous that you want to force a woman to carry an unwanted fetus to term," I would respond by saying, "Yes, I know that you think it's monstrous, but..." and then go on to talk more about the ideas. As long as you are not attacking me personally, it's perfectly okay with me that you think my ideas are monstrous. 

By the way, it's a sin for a Catholic to spew hatred or personal judgement at another person. So, if it happens that some Catholic attacks you personally (i.e., "you're evil" rather than "your idea is evil"), you can call him on it! Tell him to get to confession, because that sort of thing is not allowed.  :)

Anyway, thanks for hearing me out. And please let me know (anyone, on any side) if I've got it all wrong.

Blessed Advent everyone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Answer to Bible in the Bubble! Bubble Awards and Grand Prize Giveaway!

Hello Contestants!! I'm finally back!

Okay, I loved this question when I first read it in a fabulous book, because it's so dramatic when we see something in Scripture that occurs only one or two times. It's important to perk up and pay close attention when that happens.

The question was:

The Bible describes Jesus as being joyful only one time while He was on earth. What made Jesus rejoice?


In Luke 10:21, after Jesus greets the returning, rejoicing 72 disciples, He suddenly turns His heart to His Father:

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight."

It's possible to meditate on that passage for weeks (and the passages immediately preceding and following it) and not begin to plumb its depths. Certainly Our Lord was joyful at other times in His life, but because this was the only time the Gospel writers documented Christ's joy... well, it makes this verse incredibly special!

Now we must forge ahead and reveal the coveted BUBBLE AWARDS!! Here we go...

The Winners Never Cheat and Cheaters Never Win Award goes to someone who didn't win for obvious reasons...This Cross I Embrace!!

The Sew Always Gets an Award Just Because She is Sew Award goes to... Sew!! (Newbies, check out the old Doctrinal Quiz Shows to understand.)

The Best Attempt at Sucking Up Award goes to... Megan!! (Next time, just remember to put a few more compliments in and you might have a shot at the Big Prize...)

The I Got the Right Answer But I Was Either Too Slow, Too Busy With Thanksgiving Stuff, or I Live in the Wrong Time Zone Award goes to...Beth!! (And I am impressed with your knowledge of Scripture, young lady! Are you sure you were raised Catholic?)

Unfortunately, we have run out of Bubble Awards to give to all those who guessed the Lazarus scene. You all would have won big if the question was, "When did Jesus weep?" Clearly you were banking on the fact that His joy was recorded after His grief.... A good guess, but not good enough!

Now let it be known that the GRAND PRIZE WINNER and the recipient of the rosary of his choice from Trendy Traditions is a first time player and the first to answer....

CR Smith!!!

Mr. Smith, not only have you won a beautiful rosary (I'll contact you and tell you how to claim it), you have also won the amazing Bubble Award icon, which is highly coveted, almost to the point of ridiculousness. You may decorate your own blog with it as previous winners have done (our last winner, Paul, even made a blog of his own to have a place to put it), or you may simply gaze upon it every now and then when you want to feel joyful. Which would be fitting for this edition of Bible in the Bubble!

For all those of you who would love a Trendy Traditions rosary, Melanie is offering a 15% discount to all those who purchase before Dec. 5. Simply put littlecatholicbubble -- no spaces -- as the code. (I should have mentioned that in the original post... sorry!! If anyone already ordered, please let me know.)

And thanks to all the NEW players who joined in this time! Please play again! There are some more fantastic Grand Prizes in the near future, so stay tuned!

See you next time!

{applause, applause, applause... and, fade....}

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bible in the Bubble! With a fabulous Grand Prize giveaway!

This one's going to be fun! Not just because of the question, but because of the Grand Prize!

First, the question:

The Bible describes Jesus as being joyful only one time while He was on earth. What made Jesus rejoice?

I always put in the caveat that there is no cheating/googling allowed, but I reeeeaaallllly mean it this time! To win such an awesome Grand Prize, someone really has to earn it! Or, if nobody gets the right answer, I will award the Grand Prize to the contestant with the most clever, creative, heartfelt, inspirational and/or amusing answer. (Or, maybe I will just choose someone who has sucked up to me all these months.)

The Grand Prize for this edition of Bible in the Bubble is being donated by Melanie at Trendy Traditions! That's right, if you didn't win one of her rosaries over at Kaitlin's blog, this is another chance! Her best-selling rosary (and my fave!) is the hot pink and zebra rosary:

But the winner can pick from any item on her site (excluding the couples or custom rosaries)! In fact, if you want to search the site and beg me tell me why you desire or deserve any one particular item, it might just serve as a tie-breaker. (If you order an item, use the code littlecatholicbubble [no spaces] to get 15% off before Dec. 5.)

Previous Grand Prize winners who received the holey soap waste-reducing exfoliating cleanser, feel free to lodge your complaints in the comment box, or talk to your therapist about your feelings of being gypped.

Okay now, what are you waiting for? Tell me what made (and continues to make) Jesus REJOICE!!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I guess George Washington didn't get the memo about "separation of church and state"! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation 

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

G. Washington

The Original

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An open letter to abortion rights advocates

Dear abortion rights advocate:

I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to three precious human beings. These little people were born prematurely to a mother, Michele, who mourns the loss of her children. They lived only a short time outside of her womb. 

First, there are the twins, Nicholas and Sophia:


Nicholas was born at nearly 16 weeks, and he lived for 55 documented minutes. Sophia was born 15 days later, at 18 weeks. She lived for 5 minutes. They were both loved and baptized.

Next, I'd like you to meet their brother, Alexander. Today is his birthday. He would have been two years old. He was born at 17 weeks, and he lived for 5 minutes. He was strong, and kicked against his father's hands. He, also, was loved and baptized.


Now, dear abortion rights advocate, I know that you work very hard to make sure that children just like these are dehumanized and denied the right to life. 

And yet I wonder: Does it strike you as you look at their pictures that these tiny people are not "blobs of tissue"? I challenge you to look at these babies and then publicly (in the comment box) deny their humanity. Tell me, or tell their mother (who is reading this), that they had no human dignity and no right to life. Tell their mother that they are not her children.

Oh, wait.... You know that their mother loved them, so you would never publicly deny that they are her babies? It's only if she had not wanted them that they would go from being beloved children to being "products of conception"? If she had chosen to abort these very same little ones (that's what fetus means, you know, "little one"), you would have supported her right to have them dismembered, scraped out, and tossed in the trash as medical waste, correct? So, if I'm understanding you, it's "wantedness" that gives a human being value? Help me understand. 

Or perhaps you want to claim that these children (or those of like age and size) are a "part of the woman's body" and therefore not people? But hang on a second.... What about those fingers you see laying across Alexander's little chest and under his chin? Whose fingers are those? Are those his mother's fingers, or do those fingers belong to Alexander? They are attached to hands. Which are attached to wrists. And look at those ears, attached to a beautiful head! Whose body is that? Is it hard to say?

Well, what about Sophia's perfect nose and eyes, right there on her pretty face? And the elegant lines of Nicholas' fingers, arms, biceps? To whom do these parts belong? I know for a fact that their mother has her own fingers, her own nose, her own chin and eyes and ears and face and arms and biceps. You believe a woman has a right to control her own body, but are you sure these parts don't belong to someone else's body?

May I ask, do you see yourself as "more human" than they? Can there possibly be degrees of humanity? It seems to me that one group of people getting to determine the humanity of another group of people leads to, well, inhuman things. Check your history on that. And tell us why you get to determine who belongs in the human family and who does not. Do you call those shots because you are bigger and stronger than Nicholas, Sophia and Alexander? But that would mean that "might makes right" which makes you an oppressor of the weak. If not, show me how.

Oh, but you say that babies that age are not viable, and that they cannot live independently outside of their mother's womb. Their complete dependence on their mother makes them undeserving of human status. An interesting argument, but can you name any born baby who can live independently? Aren't all babies totally dependent on others? I haven't met one yet that isn't.

One day medical technology (maybe an artificial womb?) will be able to save babies as small as Nicholas, Sophia and Alexander. It's only a matter of time, and you and I both know it. What to do then, when the threshold of "viability" gets lower and lower? Will a baby attain human rights earlier, simply because technology is better? How does that work, exactly? Please explain.

Perhaps you think it's wrong to bring emotion to this debate by posting the pictures of these little lost babies. These are real pictures of real babies at a stage of human development when lives have no legal protection. When they are totally vulnerable and at your mercy. Looking at their pictures may bring up strong feelings. You bet it's emotional. I feel a lot of emotions when I look at these little ones and think of abortion. Remember, I've never said that emotions do not accompany truth, only that emotions do not determine truth.

It's true, dear abortion rights advocate, that I have asked a lot of questions. I want to hear your answers. Please answer even one or two, because I cannot wrap my mind around how you think as you do, and I want to understand.


A note of profound gratitude to the babies' mother, Michele. No human being created will ever be the same as Nicholas, or Sophia, or Alexander. They were irreplaceable and unrepeatable, just like every baby lost either by natural causes or the violence of abortion. Nicholas, Sophia and Alexander never had a voice, but they are speaking loudly now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quote of the day! Chesterton makes me giddy!

I have repeated time and again that if we cannot generalize, we cannot speak at all. Conversation shuts down, and those who shut it down fancy themselves quite intelligent.

So imagine the joy when I read the following quote, which perfectly addresses the Cranky Leila post! (There are no such things as "new ideas," but to see that none other than Chesterton had already nailed it a century ago, well, it makes me giddy!!)

From G.K. Chesterton ("The Suicide of Thought," from Orthodoxy) 
Then there is the opposite attack on thought: That urged by Mr. H.G. Wells when he insists that every separate thing is "unique," and there are no categories at all. This also is merely destructive. Thinking means connecting things, and stops if they cannot be connected. It need hardly be said that this skepticism forbidding thought necessarily forbids speech: a man cannot open his mouth without contradicting it. Thus when Mr. Wells says (as he did somewhere), "All chairs are quite different," he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them "all chairs".  

It's days like these that I love having a blog!

Hat tip to Monica for the quote! The Church is blessed to receive you, my dear!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

If you don't like Cranky Leila, then skip this post.

For the context of why I am writing this post, please go to the previous post and read the exchange of comments which follow it.

Sometimes I assume that people just get what I am talking about. I make every effort to write with almost absurd clarity.

And yet I guess I am not clear or precise enough. I've noticed, on multiple occasions, that certain liberals object when I call them liberals. Apparently, it doesn't do justice to the nuance of who they are. It is not 100% representative of what they believe on every single subject and subset of subjects that might be broached even tangentially. I am ignorant for using such a broad term. I am unjustly smearing them with a generalization. How could I not understand the complexity of human thought and the subtle layers of human experience?

Oh, my.

Where do I begin?

Since no two people on earth share identical views, then I guess we -- all of us -- defy description. I myself identify as a conservative, yet I have two or three liberal views. Can we continue talking? Can I still call myself a conservative? Or is that too simplistic? Maybe, since we all defy any pat definition, we should simply remain silent.

I've been informed that there are political distinctions (liberal vs. conservative) as well as religious distinctions (fundamentalist vs. atheist). And, that within those distinctions, there are more distinctions. Did the informer believe that I was unaware of these myriad distinctions? Is it possible that I already understand things that are... obvious? Isn't it sort of a given, and don't most people understand, that someone could be fiscally conservative and socially liberal? I don't usually state things that are a given; perhaps I need to start?

For the sake of extra-super-triple-dee-duper-bionic clarity, let me categorize a bit more, just to prove that I can see distinctions (wait, I am the girl who likes distinctions, remember?). Here is my little breakdown....

If you are fiscally liberal and socially liberal, I will call you a liberal or a leftist. Basically, these are the folks who are the "true believers." They are the movers and shakers of the Democratic Party in America, and they comprise its base.

If you are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, I will call you a libertarian. Are you for small government, fewer taxes and regulations? For abortion rights and gay marriage? This is you, baby.

If you are fiscally liberal and socially conservative, I will call you a populist. Why? I don't know, it's the best I can come up with. Catholics traditionally fell into this category, before the Democratic Party abandoned these blue collar principles.

If you are fiscally conservative and socially conservative, I will call you a conservative. I will call myself a conservative, too.

Now, I could keep on breaking down categories until this post fell off the page, just to prove that I actually do understand that people are not one-dimensional. You know, cuz most conservatives think people are one-dimensional, or so I've been told.

(As for religious categories? I haven't touched on that. That is for another post.)

And by the way, I lied. I am not going to use those terms after all. Unless you truly insist. But generally speaking (and I love to speak generally), if you are part of the Democratic base, then I think it's safe to call you a liberal or a leftist.

If you need every nuance of your thought process exposed before we can even begin a conversation, then this may not be the blog for you. Although I hope you will stay anyway, and realize that we can dialogue without all the complexity and complication you seem to require.

Now, before you instruct me in the ways of the world, please know that I understand the following:

Life experiences are complex.
Human emotions are complex.
Individual ideology and integration are complex.

But ideas?

Ideas are not complex.

This blog is about ideas.

Before the liberals (I said it!!) get all upset with my simple-minded approach to the vast complexity of....everything, just stay tuned. Because as soon as I get through Thanksgiving, I plan another post that will carefully, probingly address the simple idea that ideas are simple.

Whew. I feel better now. :)

I'll try to leave Cranky Leila home next time.

*Update: Chesterton's got my back on this!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

There's a Liberal Bubble, too.

I believe there is a Liberal Bubble. And it's not little.

I believe that a large number of secular humanists rarely, if ever, come into meaningful contact with conservatives or conservative ideas. 

Kick me for bringing up Dennis Prager again, but I think he is dead on with this observation: It is possible for a liberal in America to go through his whole life without encountering conservative thought in any depth or significance (though it will be presented to him in caricatured form).

By contrast, conservatives constantly come into contact with liberals and liberal thought. There is simply no avoiding it, since the major societal institutions -- schools/academia, arts and entertainment, the mainstream media, even the government and courts -- are bastions of modern liberalism and "progressive" activism.

A couple of things I've read recently brought this home for me.

The first was written by a regular reader and commenter, MaiZeke, on her own blog. She told her readers:
One of the reasons I’m following this other blog [Little Catholic Bubble] is to actually hear how conservative minds think (esp religious conservative minds). I just never meet anyone like this in real life...
And then, from Mrs. M, on the question of objective truth:
I have to be honest and say that the idea of 'truth' isn't something I've thought about too much in my life, so I can't guarantee that my position on it will be very clear.
Now, I think it's commendable that MaiZeke comes to this blog to find out how we think. I wish more liberals were as open-minded as she. I hope that she discovers over time that our conservative positions are reasoned and consistent, even if she doesn't ultimately agree with them.

And I appreciate Mrs. M's honesty. If she hasn't thought too much about the idea of "truth," it's because it isn't taught anymore. There has been a huge paradigm shift in education over the past few decades. Truth used to be the end of education. It was the goal. Today, it's entirely possible for an American student to go through the entire education system (kindergarten through graduate school) without having been taught to seek what is true, good and beautiful.

Living in a bubble is not good if it's about purposely insulating oneself from those who live and think differently. My "bubble" (a silly name I call my Catholic community) is a joy and a comfort; however, I venture out often to engage a spectrum of people and ideas. Some liberal readers have taken shots at me for living in a "Little Catholic Bubble" -- and then they've scurried away to bubbles of their own, never to be heard from (or challenged in their thinking) again.

I am grateful that MaiZeke and Mrs. M are not like those hit-and-run liberals. I am grateful that they have chosen to stick around and get to know us better.

Some days...

.... I just can't believe that this girl is my daughter. With the highly imperfect way that I parented her, I am not worthy of how she has turned out.

Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If Jesus didn't rise from the dead...

....then what happened instead?

We Christians believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, after he underwent a literal, bodily death.

Obviously, non-Christians don't believe this.

So, my question is aimed at any readers who do not believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

What happened to Jesus if he didn't rise? What happened to his body (assuming he really died on that cross)? Why did his disciples insist that they saw him risen?

Give me your best answers, and then in future posts we can talk about those options and debate their merits.


Just Curious: Your Name!

I find names (and naming) fascinating. The one thing that most clearly identifies us to the world is something we had nothing to do with! Our name is, in a sense, "who we are" and yet we didn't choose it, we received it.

Which brings me to the question(s) that I'm curious about:

How did you get your name? And, do you like it? 
(For those of you who want to protect your privacy, please feel free to answer as much as you can without revealing your actual name.)

My parents were going to name me Audrey (Mark if I was a boy). But when my mother was seven months pregnant, she saw a movie on TV called Flight from Ashiya. One of the characters was named Leila (pronounced "Layla"), and my mother loved it. It's an Arabic name, and my Middle Eastern father readily agreed to the name switch. So, Audrey was out and Leila was in!

I can't say that I love my name (partly because the way it's spelled makes it prone to mispronunciation, partly because I always have to spell it for people, and partly because I just don't really like the sound of it), but it is definitely me, and I can't imagine having any other name... even Audrey, which I actually prefer!   :)

Oh, but I do really love the song "Layla" -- the Eric Clapton Unplugged version. Baby Boomers usually assume that my parents named me after that song (well, the older version, by Derek and the Dominos).

Now, tell me about your name!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Silent No More: A friend's abortion story

I know many dear Catholic women who have abortions in their past. Some have had two or more abortions. All have found healing in God's great mercy, both through specific ministries in the Church such as Rachel's Vineyard, and through the Sacrament of Confession. Some of these women speak openly about their abortions. Many others are still keeping their painful secrets and have not told more than a handful of people.
Recently, I learned that yet another friend has experienced the horror of abortion. 

Karen Williams and her husband run the Catholic Edition website (it's like a Catholic Drudge Report!). They also were co-hosts for the recent Bioethics Defense Fund event which I blogged about hereKaren is one of the loveliest women I've ever met, both inside and out. Meaning, she is truly drop-dead gorgeous, but with a gentle, humble soul. She radiates the love of God. 
I received an email from Karen last week. Arizona women from Silent No More would be marching in Washington, D.C. at the annual March for Life. As I read, I immediately hoped that Karen herself had not lived through the pain of an abortion. I prayed that perhaps she was just "helping out" with the trip. I went to the link she provided in the email, searching for her name among the testimonies, hoping I wouldn't find it. Then I saw: 
Karen's Testimony
Karen Williams
Testimony-Test ID 5577

With a heavy heart, I read her story:
Conceived: October 1986 - Born to Eternal Life: January 1987
The youngest of three, I grew up in a small town about 20 miles south of large Midwestern city.  I had a relatively happy and somewhat normal childhood and can gratefully report that, as a family, we suffered from your more mild garden variety dysfunctions that were not atypical of any middle class suburban families living in the mid 1970s. My parents, though not church-going, were strict in their child rearing and had high expectations of their somewhat precocious and rebelliously defiant daughter.  “Sit up straight, act lady-like, speak when spoken to, little girls should be seen and not heard.” These were all well-worn and oft-spoken euphemisms that peppered my mental landscape.  Later, they took on a more explicit nature: “Do not date Catholics, Do not come home with a black boy and Do not, I repeat, do not, get pregnant.”  Corporal punishment was used and my father’s temper fueled an increasing fear that festered and grew in my bosom from a very young age.  I loved my parents and they loved me.  Our relationship was stormy in many intervals due to the power struggles that inevitably ensued from the fight for control of my life: from dress, to friends, to dating, to freedom.  Much of the time, I felt trapped and tempted to run from it all and I eventually got my wish when I left for college the fall after I graduated high school.
The university I attended presented itself as a huge, sprawling, beautiful drinking party and I wasted no time getting involved in recreational sex and alcohol.  I had relatively little sex education as a girl and what I wanted to know I discovered on my own from reading tawdry little spine-tinglers from the likes of Judy Blume (“Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret”) and the little steamy handbook that I stole from my big brother’s foot locker titled:  “Taking the Worry Out of Being Close.” I was, what I recalled, too big for my britches and too small to be taken seriously.  “On the wild side” was what most people saw of me, though I had the grades and desires to really make something of myself.  Deep within, I was in agony.  Poorly-formed spiritually; lacking self-confidence and suffering from gray, demoralizing depressions that I could not comprehend; I continued to look for love and acceptance in all the wrong places.  In college, my drinking took me to places that I knew in my heart of hearts, I should not be.  I was trying to fill up the void in my life with things that were not of God.
In my sophomore year of college, I was interviewed and hired as the incoming Resident Assistant of Armstrong Hall.  To me, it was a very big deal.  I would be in charge of a floor of 60 women providing guidance, academic assistance, collegiate support, and a listening ear to my young women peers.  Before my term commenced, my girlfriend and current RA of one of the floors of Armstrong Hall, introduced me to her then boyfriend and floor resident.  His name was Anthony.  It would be a matter of months before he and I would strike up a rather torrid love affair ignoring yet again established sensibilities and that elusive still, small voice that was clamoring for attention inside my head.

Ironically, I had two contrasting experiences with abortion during my first year as an RA.  Dee was a beautiful blonde freshman with a long-term boyfriend in tow.  When Dee told me through tears one day that she was pregnant, there was no question in her mind about what she wanted to do.  An abortion was scheduled.  I sympathized with Dee and even helped nurse her back to health after the “procedure.”  The situation passed and no one was the wiser.  Andrea, on the other hand, was more of an enigma.  She was an African-American and just finishing up her sophomore year when she heralded that she would be leaving school.  When I asked her why, she told me that she was with child and was dropping out to give birth and raise the child.  I was stunned.  Why would this bright girl with a promising future drop out of college to raise a baby?  It seemed foolish and wasteful to me to throw away one’s dreams.  It would be a decision, a choice that I would be personally confronting in my second year as an RA.
I began my third year of college and second stint as an RA full of my usual gusto and enthusiasm however, boyfriend and relationship took center stage in my life.  I found myself less attentive to my floor and more distracted by the freedom and escape of Anthony’s new apartment off campus.  We spent Halloween weekend at a friend’s parent’s home.  Anthony and I were sexually active and frequently gambled by not using any form of protection.  A few weeks hence and I had missed a period.  No big deal, I thought.  Must be stress from approaching midterms.  Christmas came and went…still no period.  By this time, I was flu-ish and eating everything in sight.  When I wasn’t working my Christmas break job at the music store, I was sleeping or eating.  The pictures that were taken of me then revealed a very pale, overweight, exhausted young woman who did not like herself at all.  I resolved to go to Womancare, an OBGYN clinic not far from campus.
It was a cold, bleak, January day when I first visited the clinic, peed in a cup and tested positively “preggers.”  Life as I knew it had just changed for the worse.  I sobbed when the technician gave me my results.  It was like I had failed a test.  I would have no part of a baby-limited future.  I was not willing to consider any other options other than abortion.  It was the baby or it was me.  I simply could not be pregnant and disappoint everyone by this horrific news.  I was scared and felt utterly alone.  How could a talented, bright, attractive and outgoing girl like me find herself in such a despicable condition?  This is what I actually thought.  I was trapped by my own irresponsibility.  There were too many dead-ends in having a baby.  The tech could tell by my reaction that this was not news that I wanted to hear.  I recall telling her that there was no way that I could have a baby.  They took me to a small, wood-paneled office away from the clinic-y looking rooms, where I was greeted by a very attractive woman dressed in business attire.  On her desk, she displayed photos of her three lovely children and her husband.  She appeared calm and reassuring and proceeded to tell me that abortion was my choice and that I did not need to feel afraid or guilty.  She told me about the “procedure” which seemed to me to be very quick and painless…NO BIG DEAL.  In fact, this woman reported that she had had three abortions to her credit and had no reservations in using abortion as a means to control the size and spacing of her family.  This was the final edification.
I conveyed all of this information to Anthony who had waited for me in his car in the parking lot.  Rising to the occasion, he calmly comforted me and told me that he would do whatever I thought was best.  Heroically, he offered to drop out of school, enlist in the military and support me and the baby.  My mind frantically wandered back to Andrea and Dee.  I dismissed any such notion of becoming a parent.  I told Anthony that I wanted to abort, set the appointment and steeled myself for the “fix”.  Antz borrowed the $250 needed from our friend, John.
I returned to Womancare a few days later at my scheduled appointment time.  I completed the paperwork and waited in the lobby for what seemed to be an eternity.  I passed out, was given Valium and about four hours later was situated on a table under the supervision of a masked “surgeon.”  He proceeded to tell me that my uterus was much larger than what it should be based on the conception-date info that I had relayed.  I listened in horror as he told me that I would need to get an ultrasound.
The next day I drove to the local hospital.  The words of the technician were still ringing in my ears.  “The gestational age of the fetus is important since it will determine if and how we can perform the procedure.”  Good Lord, I might be looking at a hospital stay if I’m more than 12 weeks along.  How could I afford this?  How could I cover it up?
As I look back on all of this now, I am struck by all of the pauses and delays that I seem to have been consciously ignoring: waiting so long for a pregnancy test; waiting to return to campus to go to the clinic; waiting on the reluctance of a friend with the $$ to pay for the abortion; Anthony’s willingness to parent the child and marry me; an enlarged uterus requiring ultrasound and another medical opinion.  I had many chances to reverse my choice and think things through differently.  I cannot help but think that my choice may have been affected if there were other options presented to me.  Would the outcome have been different if there was someone else to talk to?
The hospital ultrasound revealed a nine and one half week old fetus.  “Would you like to see it?” asked the nurse.  I turned my head toward the monitor.  For the first time and for the last time I saw his tiny frame.  It was small, but it was a baby—my baby—of this I had no doubt.  I turned away with tears streaming down my face.  I could not bear to gaze any more on the life I was choosing to end.
I returned to Womancare the following day with paperwork in hand.  This time the drill was for real.  I was given Valium.  I waited in the lobby with other scared-looking women.  I wondered if they had needed to go to the hospital for a second opinion like me.  I was ushered into the same sterile room.  Took my place on the chair and positioned my feet into the stirrups.  

The rest of my memories of this moment are sounds and images:
Cold steel feeling beneath my feet
Masked, expressionless medical workers
Machine apparatus on the floor with long plastic tubes
Loud ugly vacuum sound
Tugging, pulling scraping, cramping, pain
My baby’s name is Michael…I named him after St. Michael the Archangel.  I figured if he were to live in heavenly eternity, he ought to have the very best angel of them all.  I do also believe that this archangel in particular is helping to wage the earthly battle that may one day put an end to this horrible scourge.  I do feel his presence now more than ever, especially as I see more and more courageous men and women tell their story of how abortion has affected them.
It took many, many years before I started to feel the pains of my choice.  Anthony and I married and then divorced eight months after our wedding.  I married again and five years after the abortion I gave birth to our first son; four and a half years later, our second son was born.  Between the births, I drank heavily and started to notice the inability to control my drinking.  My relationships suffered and I dealt with untreated depression and anxiety for many years before turning to the help of a 12-step program.  The Church has been a stable hope and bastion of forgiveness and healing for me.  I joined the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 1996.  My first confession was my abortion.
There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of my now 22-year-old son.  Not a July goes by that I do not think of a birthday that never was.  I am forgiven.  I am absolved.  I am grateful to know the mercy and healing of our Lord.  God be praised.  I do regret my abortion with every fiber of my being.  When I see young girls emerging from the avocado green building where I sidewalk-counsel, my heart breaks for them.  I know exactly what they have done.  I know what lies ahead for them.  For me, pregnancy was a “win-lose” proposition.  Either the baby would live and win or I would abort and win.  It could not be both ways.  In this Baby vs. Me battle, my ignorance concluded that the life of the baby would kill the life of my future; conversely, the death of the baby, would ensure my future. I was driven by many varieties of fear, polluted thinking, and the very clear and present reality that God was not really in charge.  It was all me.  I was the God of my universe.  I was incomprehensibly lost, morally defeated, and in no place to make any good decisions.  I felt deserted, abandoned, alone, and out of options.  A strong, empathic, solution-oriented woman standing on the sidewalk may have made an impact for one lost, pregnant college student.
Or maybe it is the once lost pregnant post-abortive college student who might make the difference in the lives of others.  Only God knows these details.  All I know is that I can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch men, women and children suffer through the horrors of the abortion lie.  The truth must be told.
Today I am grateful to share my story.  I am still healing from the devastating effects of abortion, addiction, and untreated depression.  By the grace of a loving God, I feel that I have been given the courage to make a positive impact on the lives of others and I will continue to show up and suit up for the opportunities that God provides.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”    Jeremiah 1:5
“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that terrible moment of judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, ‘that it is a terrible moment of loneliness…you are alone, standing before God, and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine.’  I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone.  I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard very beautifully and very loudly in the next world; and I think they will plead for everyone who has been in the movement.  They will say to God, ‘Spare them because they loved us.’  And God will look at us and say not, ‘Did you succeed?’ but ‘Did you try?’”  —Henry Hyde, Illinois Congressman

Hoping to help other women avoid making the same tragic, irreversible decision, Karen graciously gave me permission to reprint her story here. She even agreed to make her email address available to anyone who would like to contact her: kwilliams@catholicedition.com

Karen, I wanted to wrap up with some brilliant final statement, but all I can come up with is, Thank you, and I love you.