Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Science, Faith, and Embryonic Stem Cells

From time to time I run into discussions on the topic of embryonic stem cell research.  Specifically I am typically chastened for being a pro-life Catholic Christian who is once again opposing something “wonderful” in its scientific possibilities because of my “backward” faith.  Yes, ignorance abounds, but as is typically the case, the ignorance is not on the behalf of my Catholic faith.

First, for those that may not know, stem cells as per the Wikipedia definition are defined thusly: 
Stem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms, that can divide (through mitosis) and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells. In mammals, there are two broad types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, which are isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and adult stem cells, which are found in various tissues. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all the specialized cells (these are called pluripotent cells), but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues.”
Now adult stem cells can be harvested with very minor ill effects from a living person or even from one’s self through relatively simple means.  Harvesting of embryonic stem cells, however, results in the destruction of that embryo.  It therefore destroys that nascent human life.

Now let’s stop and look at a few facts.  Embryonic stem cell research over the past thirty years has been unable to cure a single human disease.  Not a single solitary one.  Not one more than the combined scruples of Reid, Pelosi, and Obama together.  Zip.  Nada.  Zero.  Nothing. 

Adult stem cell research, on the other hand, has proven to be wildly successful over the years.  By the way, it is also fully supported by the Catholic Church.  Indeed ADULT stem cell research has been successfully used to cure certain types of ovarian cancer, testicular cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia.  It has similarly seen wonderful success in curing lupus, treating blindness and vision loss, placing severe Crohn’s disease patients into remission, curing rheumatoid arthritis, healing diseased hearts, and even putting brain tumors into remission.

So this brings us to a very troubling question:  Why would some people continue to champion morally unethical life-destroying embryonic stem cell research, which has shown to have no tangible positive results over the course of three decades, over that of adult stem cell research which has been wildly successful without having any ethical complications whatsoever? 

It confounds logic to think that adult stem cell research has greatly advanced medicine, while embryonic stem cell research has nothing to show for its case except the destruction of human embryos.  In fact, even the state of California has ended its funding of embryonic stem cell research as being ineffective accordingly.  When even the morally questionable state of California realizes the futility of throwing additional tax payer money at embryonic stem cell research, that should definitely be a red flag to those with a modicum of common sense remaining.

And yet there are still those that think us pro-life Christians are anti-science.  Indeed, if that is the best example of anti-science Christian bigotry to which they can point, I think the world could use a whole lot more of that kind of “backwards Christianity”.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Presidential Election Post-Mortem Analysis

"These are the times that try men's souls," so wrote the great man from whom I borrowed my nom de plume, Thomas Paine, in his entreaty The American Crisis.  It would seem that we have nearly come full circle once again into trying times that threaten our very liberties.  Instead of King George III though, this time it is in the guise of a  majority of the American  people themselves that are bound and determined to destroy what is left of our nation in hopes of obtaining more of the tax payer's lucre for themselves.

Everybody and their mangy cur dogs have put in their two cents as to why Obama won re-election and why the Republicans faired so poorly.  I decided to wait a week or so before doing my post-mortem on the election debacle so that I could be more objective in my analysis and not let my fear, frustration, and deep concern overly color what would likely have been a much more emotional response from me otherwise had I done so on the day right afterwards.  

That said, I have read what many of the pundits, bloggers, and political insiders have had to say regarding the reasons for the Democrats’ success.  Typically there is indeed some truth in what each one had to offer as for the reasons, and yet nobody quite captured the real bottom line answer; at least not to my mind. 

Was Romney the strongest conservative candidate?  No way!  Did Republicans reach out to Hispanics as well as they could have?  Not even.  Did Hurricane Sandy help Obama by giving him a chance to “look presidential” and thus save the day and cause the despicable Chris Matthews to give thanks for the storm accordingly?  Undoubtedly so.  Did many hard core conservatives and fundamentalist Christians stay home on election day.  For certain many did.  Were Libertarians and disaffected conservatives upset with the “moderation” of our presidential candidate and not vote for Romney accordingly.  Yes, and I know too many friends and acquaintances that fall into this category.  Did Obama and his surrogates lie and demagogue unabashedly regarding Romney and his policies and past.  You betcha, and some of the more candid Democrats even admitted this.  Did the sycophantic statist media all but ignore the highly troubling issues such as the death of four Americans in Libya that Obama could have prevented and the entire Fast and Furious program?  Disgustingly, yes they did.  Did Romney lay out a specific plan that was attacked by the left, while Obama’s platform was more vague and offered just more of the same?  Of course.  Did voter fraud on behalf of the left help Obama.  Almost certainly so; particularly in areas around Philadelphia where in 59 different districts not a single solitary vote went to Romney.  (A nearly 20,000 to 0 edge for Obama was the result there.)

All of the above did indeed play roles in the results of the final tally, but no one issue in and of itself captured the real reason why Obama and the Democrats soundly defeated Romney and the conservatives on November 6th.  I would submit it is something greater and more insidious because the root is now so entrenched in the American electorate.  The real reason that Obama won is because people today are ignorant.  I don’t use that term as a pejorative but rather as a definitive term that describes the root problem.  Most Americans today are not familiar with our history as a nation.  They are unfamiliar with our Constitution and the necessity of the rule of law in abiding by its dictates and defending those rights for us laid out within.  Most Americans are unfamiliar with basic economics.  They are too caught up in their day to day lives to let their own common sense prevail and tell them what they should already know.  Basically it all boils down to the inarguable fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Somebody has to pay for that.  The bottom line is that with a majority of Americans’ overwhelming ignorance comes their desire to get something for nothing.

Romney was scourged during the campaign for decrying the fact that 47% of Americans are dependent upon government and net benefactors of the tax payers accordingly.  The media and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) used that comment to mercilessly attack Romney as cruel and uncaring.  Now granted, there are significant portions of that 47% that are retirees living on Social Security, military retirees living on their government pensions, and those small few that are genuinely unable to work that are dependent upon our tax payer funded safety net.  Many of the others though are capable people that are simply wanting to take all that they can get from Uncle Sam.  They want something for nothing… and their chicks for free, I suspect.

John Kennedy famously asked during his inaugural address in 1961, “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”   Nearly 52 years later, a majority of Americans and seemingly all Democrats are asking what the country can do for them, and to hell with what a person can do for the country or their fellow Americans.  The mindset has totally changed.  Government, instead of providing only necessary functions as specifically outlined in the Constitution, is now looked to for support and the solving of nearly any problem one encounters daily.  No longer is there a sense of personal responsibility and rugged individualism.  Instead there is a desire to grow an already overbearing nanny state so that one’s needs and desires can be taken care of by the “greedy and evil rich” in this country.

This means that for this problem to be fixed, Americans must learn exactly what it means to be an American once again.  The progressive and often incompetent teachers unions have done us no favors in this regard.  History and civics have been replaced with revisionist and politically correct diatribes of our past.  The importance of voting for candidates that respect and will defend our constitution is an amusing and archaic notion, if it is even considered at all.  And this has metastasized into the problem it has because parents typically are aloof or disconnected from their kids and the quality of the education they are receiving.  They are unaware or don’t care enough over the last two generations that we are raising a country of whining and ignorant people that want to be taken care of rather than being strong and self-sufficient.

The culture as promulgated by many of our movies and music also reflects this ignorance and further entrenches us into this selfish “gimmee mine” nation that we have become.  Unfortunately it has now manifested itself by how a majority of us vote.

I have seen many of the left cheer and jeer that “their side” won the election and that we conservatives should just buck up and deal with it.  To many of them, it was a triumph of party politics.  To me, and I dare say to many conservatives, it was not a loss for the often incompetent or corrupt Republicans but rather a loss of American ideals.  We cannot afford to continue on with the spending that Obama and the progressives of both parties have saddled us with over the last decade in particular.  We cannot and should not be funding more entitlements simply to further entrench Americans in their dependency upon government.  It is not mere political hyperbole when I say that I fear for the end of America in Obama’s next term.  Our spending is unsustainable.  We are foolish if we think we can continue unabated.  There will be consequences to printing or digitizing our currency by the Federal Reserve.  There will be consequences for the usurpation of our God-given rights as codified in our Constitution. 

Many Americans are very afraid what the next few years hold in store for us.  It is not a matter of if we can wait until 2016 to try again with a better conservative candidate for president.  The fear is that there won’t be a recognizable America left by 2016.  I noticed yesterday that petitions for secession from the union have been started in 31 states thus far.  This fear is real and almost palpable.  America has never been so dangerously divided amongst its people.  The only solution is to clearly articulate our philosophies as grounded in our history and constitution, and to do it continuously until it seeps into the very fabric of the American culture.  We must do so NOW in our classrooms, from our pulpits, and throughout our culture so that we can change this seemingly inexorable tide of selfishness and desired dependence that we have fomented within our population.  If we fail to do so starting right now, it won’t be the feckless Republican party that will perish.  It will be far more destructive to humanity and freedom than that.  It will be the end of the United States of America. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Of Orphans, Widows, and Heroes

In light of recent happenings and the dreadfully frightful ramifications they portend for America’s future, I thought I would forsake commenting on politics for the time being and instead turn my focus to some of the good I see in the world on a personal level.  As I have written in the past, our materialistic world tends to uphold many celebrities and sports stars as its heroes.  My heroes are considerably different.  They are the ones that put themselves in harm’s way for other’s sake.  They are the ones that sacrifice for the good of others.  They are the ones that pray and try mightily to listen to God and then do His will, regardless of how difficult that may be.  Those people are my heroes. 

God tells the world in the book of James, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  Some of my heroes have taken this to heart and have lived their lives accordingly in order to make the world a better place for others.  I wanted to share briefly the stories of three of my heroes specifically that have inspired me greatly and renewed my faith that there is great goodness still in this world today.

First, I met my friend Annie back in high school long ago.  She and her entire family are remarkably good God-loving people.  And they are sincere and strong in their faith as they try daily to live it.  Now Annie and her wonderful husband (who both are Portland Trailblazers fans like myself, I might add!) have taken in two girls as foster children into their home some years ago for a little while.  Those girls  benefitted from Annie’s loving home and eventually returned to their mother.   Annie already has a son and daughter which are now grown and living their faiths as strongly as their parents have.  That said, and I speak from experience, when one’s kids are grown and have left the house there is a certain quiet and comfortableness that overcomes one’s home.  While we miss our grown children, it is nice to have the house to just one’s self and our beloved spouse.  Many folks in such a position would be thankful and try to keep that peacefulness accordingly.  Not Annie and her husband.

Their sweet daughter met a young girl at camp this summer.  They each became very fond of one another.  Well, come to find out the girl has a younger sister also.  The sisters are in a foster home currently and have had a difficult life thanks to the neglect and drug use of their “parents”.  Anyway, over the course of the ensuing months, Annie and her family have discussed, thought about, and prayed continuously as to whether they should adopt these two young sisters in need of a loving home.  The fact that Annie and her family would put themselves through so much turmoil and distress in order to give these two girls a home that is safe and full of love is something that is so selfless, so caring, so loving, and so faithful to God that I am inspired and proud to count Annie as a friend.  I am sure these sisters will have some difficult times ahead, and thus so will Annie and her family that will care for them.  Years from now though, I am certain that these young girls will look back and be so grateful for the love and willingness that Annie and Chris showed by adopting them and bringing them into their family.  If only more people would follow Annie’s example for us!

Next, I had the great pleasure of meeting Marie nearly two years ago.  Marie lost her husband decades ago and had been living in her own modest home ever since.  Marie was a feisty lady and despite being severely diabetic, was still driving at the age of 92.  In fact it was due to her diabetes that I came to know her.  She was driving one day and her blood sugar was such that she blacked out and wrecked her car.  She broke her back because of this. 

Now Marie was not always the easiest person with which to get along.  Indeed she could be downright cruel and nasty to some people, especially in her own family, which brings me to my second hero.  Marie was blessed, and I do mean blessed in every sense of the word, to have a wonderful daughter named Lynn.  Lynn used to be a flight attendant and was always traveling accordingly.  The fact that her mother was getting older and was not in great health made Lynn consider her options.  Now Marie was often extremely critical of her daughter Lynn… painfully so.  That makes Lynn’s sacrifice all the greater in  my mind, because she gave up her autonomy and decided to work from home.  You see, Lynn’s home was attached next door to her mother’s which they purchased specifically so Lynn could help her mother.  Lynn sacrificed her own wants and desires in her life so that she could be next door to and take care of her cantankerous mother.  Lynn’s selflessness by putting her life on hold to care for her mother is inspiring to me.  This is how things used to be in America.  We used to take care of our elderly parents, even when inconvenient or even downright difficult.  Lynn’s selfless love for a mother that was not always seemingly grateful makes her a hero to me accordingly.

My third hero is my beloved wife.  My wife began work as an in-home care provider as a certified nursing assistant a few years ago.  When Marie broke her back in her car accident nearly two years ago, her daughter Lynn was no longer able to provide her mother the constant care that was needed.  My wife was asked to come take care of Marie and provide around the clock care for four days of the week.  After the first full shift there, with Marie being in ornery form, Lynn was surprised and grateful when my wife returned for her next shift.  Well, over the course of the next year, my wife and Marie became fast friends.  My wife’s love, patience, and perseverance with Marie paid off.  Marie softened her hardened demeanor.  She let her guard down and became the loveable person she always had kept inside.  Over the course of that year, my wife always ensured that Marie’s house was decorated for each holiday and was a constant friend and companion to Marie.  Indeed, we all went over to share a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner with Marie, Lynn, and my family as we had grown very fond of Marie.  Last Christmas, my wife brought little Christmas presents during each of the final days in December and placed them in a stocking for Marie.  It was the highlight of Marie’s day to see what “Santa” had brought each day.  On Christmas eve, we once again all had Christmas dinner together and exchanged presents. 

In June of this year, Marie’s money that she had saved over the years finally ran out.  And while Marie’s son was fairly well-to-do, Lynn was not, and the son said that he was not able to financially provide for his mother.  That said, the only option was going to be to place Marie into a nursing home paid for by Medicare.  Marie was heartbroken and flat out stated that she would not live like that there and would refuse to eat accordingly.  She would end up dying within a week, if that was what was to become of her.  Well, after having spent the past year with her and coming to love her dearly, my wife was heartbroken that this was the only option.  My wife came to me and asked if we could move Marie into our home so that my wife could take care of her free of charge.  We discussed this and prayed about it and decided that this was the right thing to do.  Marie’s son was flabbergasted and couldn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing with nothing to gain by it.  My wife’s employer thought it was foolish and simply an over-attachment to the patient on my wife’s behalf.  No one could understand that my wife did this because she loved Marie and to not do so would be the same as to condemn Marie to death.

Now lest anyone think I am telling this for my own credit, let me assure you I am not.  I am a selfish person and very much appreciate my privacy.  I, like Marie’s son, would never have thought of such a thing on my own.  It was through the love and kindness in the heart of my wife that I simply could not deny that persuaded me.  Any and all credit for this loving act rests firmly with my beloved wife. 

Our Marie passed away early this last July.  She was happy and at peace when she left us, and Lynn, Marie’s son, and all those that had known Marie over the years agreed that this last year of Marie’s life was the happiest they had ever seen her.  Had it not been for my wife’s loving heart, we would have missed out on meeting such a wonderful lady as Marie truly was.  Marie added so much to our lives and we are all richer for having known and loved her! 

My beloved wife is my third and greatest hero accordingly! 

Annie, Lynn, and my wife all are wonderful and loving people.  Their selflessness and caring for others is a wonderful thing and something that is sorely lacking in today’s world.  They are true heroes.  They are my heroes.  And they all have made the world a better place by their love and kindness accordingly.  I thank and praise God for people such as these that seek to do His will!  Heroes.  All of them!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Reason-based Appeal to Sincere Catholic Voters

With the presidential election just next week, it has become readily apparent to me that many good and faithful Catholics these days can feel torn between adhering to their faith and a sense of loyalty to the Democratic Party.  Indeed Catholicism and the Democrat Party have had very strong ties that have gone back for many generations in this nation.  That said, today’s Democratic Party has shifted its platform to the point where, in my humble opinion, a faithful Catholic would be hard pressed to vote for most Democratic candidates today.  With that assertion, let’s take an honest look and assess where the Democrat Party stands now in relation to Christ’s Church. 

First, our last two popes and the bishops have taught that there are certain non-negotiable issues for faithful Catholics which trump and over-ride any and all other considerations when voting.  Those non-negotiable issues as stated by the Church are:

Abortion:  It is intrinsically evil and must never be promoted or condoned.
Embryonic stem cell research:  It is intrinsically evil and must never be promoted or condoned.
Euthanasia:  It is intrinsically evil and must never be promoted or condoned.
The traditional understanding of marriage:  It is the union of one man and one woman and must always be upheld.
Education: The right of parents to educate their children must always be upheld.

Any and all other issues, even of a social justice nature are trumped by the preceding five non-negotiable measures.  That includes issues such as immigration, environmental issues, affordable housing, and health care.  Those are considered as policy issues and as such are considered matters of prudential judgment in which faithful Catholics are free to disagree.  However, faithful Catholics are not able to disagree on the five non-negotiable issues.

Phoenix’s Bishop, Thomas Olmstead, clarified this dictate in a guide for Catholic voters called “Catholics in the Public Square”.  The good Bishop stated,

“On each of these [policy] issues, we should do our best to be informed and to support those proposed solutions that seem most likely to be effective. However, when it comes to direct attacks on innocent human life, being right on all the other issues can never justify a wrong choice on this most serious matter.”

Indeed, the right to life is the sine qua non of all other rights.  That is, without that right, there can be no others.

Pope John Paul II wrote:

 “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with the maximum determination.”  (Christifideles Laici, 38)

In his letter, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,” Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote:

“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

In a 2006 speech to European politicians, Pope Benedict XVI said the following:

“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:  Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;  Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
The protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.”

So it seems that the Catholic Church is pretty clear on what issues, and candidates that support those issues, for which faithful Catholics absolutely cannot cast their vote. 

So now let’s look at how those teachings coincide with the Democratic Party today.

The 2012 Democratic Platform as it pertains to abortion states the following:  (my words in white) 

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion [the word "rare" was removed by the Democrats in 2008], regardless of ability to pay [this means taxpayer-funded abortions]. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

When it comes to embryonic stem cell research the Democratic Party Platform of 2012 states:

[T]he President issued an executive order repealing the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research….

Where does the Democrat Party stand on euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide?  Well, the Democrats in the States of Washington and Oregon (which are both blue states) were the first to legalize physician-assisted suicide for their citizens. The drive for legalization in other states is also led by Democrats, including the current ballot initiative in Massachusetts (another deep blue state). A growing number of state Democratic platforms explicitly call for the legalization of physician assisted suicide.

Next, let’s look at the Democrat Party's take on marriage.  Again, the Democratic Party Platform of 2012 regarding marriage states the following (my words in white):

We support marriage equality [this is the euphemism for gay "marriage"] and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples….  We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act [the federal law that defines marriage as one man, one woman which President Obama, in violation of his oath of office, has dictated to his Justice Department to not enforce this duly passed law ] and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act [which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and give "federal benefits and protections" to same-sex "married" couples].

The support for gay "marriage" was added into the 2012 platform and was reportedly a "non-controversial" addition.  Already great harm has been done by Democrats in states where gay “marriage” laws have been passed.  Because of these laws, adoption and foster care programs that have placed thousands of children into homes for 100 years, in one case, were shut down.  No longer can Catholic adoption and foster care programs operate in Rockford, Illinois or Boston, Massachusetts or in Washington D.C. because of these laws.  Unfortunately myriads of children are the ones that are harmed by these laws accordingly.

Finally, let’s look at a parents right to educate their children as they deem best.  Democrats and the liberal teachers’ unions to which they are beholden go to great lengths to deny parents a real choice in their children’s education, not only opposing school vouchers for private schools, but also discouraging the growth of public charter schools, which often deviate from the leftist model. Laws that seek to limit or end the legal rights of homeschooling parents also come overwhelmingly from Democrats.

So after evaluating each issue, it seems pretty clear that on every non-negotiable point for Catholics, the Democrats take the wrong side.  When Obama first took office I never fathomed the threats to our religious freedoms that his often times unconstitutional governance would entail, particularly in the guise of his deplorable HHS mandate. I knew that in certain states, Democrat policies had tragically forced the closing of Catholic foster care and adoption agencies that had stood for generations, but I never expected a stroke of the pen to threaten the very existence of all Catholic charities, schools, hospitals, and businesses in the nation.  And that will indeed become a reality if Obama is re-elected and his Obamacare Act is fully implemented.

The normally milquetoast US bishops were so alarmed that every single one of them voiced a protest and later organized a nationwide Fortnight for Freedom, encouraging organized prayer, adoration, and fasting. Anti-HHS religious liberty rallies have been held in hundreds of cities across the land, attended by tens of thousands of concerned Catholics and other Christians. Even Pope Benedict himself publicly warned of the "grave threat" to religious freedom in America -- a threat which was not even on the radar screen until Obama, the head of the Democrats, came to power.

The trend in the Democratic Party holds not a shred of hope for its future, as it's trending all one way: Toward radical secularization, with a marginalization of and hostility toward Catholicism that is snowballing to the point where this election cycle showcased multiple Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate reassuring their Democratic base that if elected, they would force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions! And at the Democratic National Convention this year, Democrats removed the last remaining reference to God from their Platform. Only after the public got wind of the removal did they famously stage a bogus voice vote to reinstate it. For now.

Catholics, as unpleasant as it may be, it's time to wake up to the reality of what has happened. A once-proud party in which faithful Catholics could feel comfortable is now positioning itself as an enemy of the Church. The Democratic Party of 2012 is nothing like the Democratic Party of our grandparents, which still had a solid moral grounding. Catholic Democrats today are being used for votes, and they are either unaware or unwilling to admit that the party they love no longer exists -- and is not coming back.

To all sincere and faithful Catholics who have not yet left the Democratic Party: Please consider that the Democratic Party has long ago left you.