On the Home Front: The March for Life 2014

Yesterday was the March for Life.

On Monday, I watched over 400 of my fellow students here at Benedictine College load into 8 buses. For part of the process, I stood on a balcony overlooking the crowd. It was a frenzy of excitement below. It took about an hour to get everyone organized, the busses loaded, and get people their warm hats, itineraries, and sack lunches. There was also a prayer led by the abbot and a blessing of all the Marchers. When they weren’t praying, music–everything from “Some Nights” to “The Circle of Life”–blasted through a sound system. I helped where I could, but mostly wandered between different vantage points watching the scene, jealous.

I wanted to go on the March. So many of my friends were going, traveling more than 24 hours to DC on those buses. Despite my initial skepticism, our pro-life club had met their goal and signed up enough people for 8 buses. Almost a quarter of the student body was going, along with professors, staff, and monks & priests from the abbey. But I wasn’t going.

I was lucky enough to be able to go last year. But this year I stayed back. And I was a little bummed. Then I saw a friend’s post on Facebook saying that those of us on the “home front” would be praying for those on the March (or something to that effect).

And we did. We had a 24 hour period of Eucharistic Adoration and I’m sure many people here sent up a prayer or two for their friends and classmates who were gone. Professors, in my experience, were mostly understanding and allowing of students being gone on the March. I’m proud of everyone who missed classes and took time away to go to DC and show the government what we believe. And I’m proud of everyone who took part in the adoration or in some other way prayed for those who were gone.

We need both action and prayer. Without prayer our actions are flat and meaningless. St. Benedict has a phrase “ora et labora”, prayer and work. Both individuals and groups need action and prayer combined. This is something that’s been brought up in my work with Campus Ministry this year. And reaffirmed this week with the March for Life.

I think, at different times we’re called to different things. Perhaps this year you were called to go on the March. Or perhaps you were called to stay back and pray. Either way, you were supporting the pro-life movement. And I hope that those who marched also prayed and that those who prayed will also being acting and working for the pro-life cause.


Is it Moral to Shop at Walmart? ~or~ On Cooperating with Evil Through Everyday Purchases

Sometimes the number of companies I should be boycotting because of their support of abortion, contraception, or gay marriage seems overwhelming. Is there any store I can buy from without supporting something immoral? This has been something I’ve been thinking about since I got home. At school, I simply made my weekly trip to Walmart (the only superstore in our town of 10,000) and didn’t think too much of it. But does shopping there, or perhaps another store, mean I am cooperating with evil or in some other way sinning?

There are many facets to the issue of “ethical consumerism” and I probably don’t know them all. Neither do I pretend to be a theologian. These are just my thoughts and questions. I’ll be drawing a lot from this article and its discussion on immediate vs mediate material cooperation in evil.

To start, I want to talk about Walmart.
Plenty of people shop at Walmart regularly, even good Catholics, and never think anything else about it. I did. I mention this because of something obvious yet often overlooked: Walmart sells contraceptives. I don’t know this for definite fact but they do have pharmacies and no reason not to stock your basic supply of the pill, and probably Plan B as well. That is to say, they sell “medications” that can kill an unborn child. Moreover, I know for a fact that Walmart sells condoms (and other things). A quick look around the sexual health page of the pharmacy section on their website reveals that. This all leads to the question: is it morally acceptable to shop at Walmart? Aren’t we then supporting a company that supports things that we as Catholics see as immoral?

According to the above-linked article mediate material cooperation means that “[w]hile doing something that is in itself good or indifferent, a person…gives an occasion to another’s sin, or contributes something by way of assistance.” and this can only be done if the principle of double effect is met. Double effect means, among other things, that the evil is not intended and that there is “sufficient reason”.

Now, honestly, when I’m at school Walmart isn’t my only option and the prices at the other stores (there are 2 within walking distance) certainly aren’t exuberant. They could also give me most of what I need. So any argument that Walmart is my only choice or that there’s “sufficient reason” for me shop there seems invalid.

In a way this leads to my next topic.

Money vs. Support
I used to think that buying something from a company that took a pro gay marriage stance was immoral. But really, when you think about it I’m not sure if this makes sense, after all no money is going towards, say an LGBT activist group, right? But it may not be that simple. So, does shopping at a store that takes an immoral stance (but doesn’t give money in that direction) equal mediate material cooperation?  Well, are we providing an occasion for sin or contributing something that assists another in sinning? Well…if this business keeps getting customers they’ll stay in business, and if they stay in business they can continue to publicly promote immorality. Right?

Now what if the company did give money to something immoral, say Planned Parenthood (the country’s largest abortion provider), but we weren’t buying from that company directly? Let’s say they had a how-to video up on youtube. If we watched that video (and thereby gave them a view) would we be giving occasion for sin or assisting in some way? Would we be giving occasion for someone else (another consumer) to sin?

What about lesser sins?
We tend to make a big deal about what companies are supporting abortion or what TV show is featuring a set of lesbian moms. But what about the shows that constantly encourage cohabitation and the messed up hookup culture? Or just a show where people lie all the time and get away with it? Or what if we have a company that doesn’t support abortion but provides insurance benefits for contraception or unmarried couples living together? Or what about a company that in some way could be seen to support the horrible labor conditions in China?

Where do we draw the line?
Now what if we have a company that gives to an organization, like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who in turn donates to Planned Parenthood? Do we stop shopping there too? What about (follow me) a company that is partnered with a company that donates money to an organization that donates to Planned Parenthood? Odds are I’ve described most major companies. They are all interconnected right? So how can we know where we should shop, who we should buy from? If a store sells items from a company that has a connection (direct or indirect) to abortion, gay marriage etc can we shop at that store?

I don’t have all the answers. Not by a long shot. And I’ve certainly got plenty of questions. I will offer some advice my priest gave me regarding this once: not to become zealous. Also, you should know, I have a tendency to be scrupulous so please consider that in regards to what I’ve said. In fact, set what I’ve said aside for a moment and read this piece from the National Catholic Register. It’s a lot more reasonable than my rant. As the author notes “ethical consumerism is a field ripe for scrupulosity, and a miserable, hysterical, paranoid [person] can’t follow her vocation.” So where ever we shop or don’t, whatever we choose to boycott, we shouldn’t make ourselves hysterical.

I wish there was a way to wave a magic wand and change the world, to eliminate evil so we don’t have to have these dilemmas. But this is the world we live in. And, as I have been reminded recently, we are called to be in the world though not of the world. I must remember this even though my introverted and contemplative soul can kind of hate the world sometimes. The world is wrong and it’s confused. But this is where God put us, and not so we could run away and go live in a cave surrounded by no one but fellow faithful Catholics (though that sounds pretty amazing). No, we mustn’t turn our back on the world. It needs us because it needs the message we are meant to share with it. We must work to change the minds and hearts of others, while always working on perfecting our own hearts and minds. That is how we change the world…rather than with a magic wand.

The House Passes The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act HR 1797

Today, the pro-life movement won a small victory. HR 1797 The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passed the House of Representatives.

The vote mostly followed party lines. But 6 republicans noted nay against the bill. 6 democrats, however, voted yea. To them, I say thank you.

The final tally was 228 yeas and 196 nays. 

from clerk.house.gov

See the full roll call here and see how your rep voted.

This was a small step. The bill must still go to the senate. And to the president, who has threatened to veto it. The veto can be overturned however, if there is a 2/3 majority in both houses. The house has just over 30 more republicans than democrats but the senate is controlled by the democrats.

Still, we must go on fighting.

As I watched the live streaming from inside the chamber, I saw attempt after attempt to derail this bill. Nancy Pelosi asked if her colleague ever wondered what people think when they tune into C-Span to see the debates going on at the House. This bill, she argued, wasn’t important. There was jobs and the economy and other more important things to debate, apparently. This bill was futile.


I guess she way saying that because of Obama’s threat to veto it should it make its way to his desk. But you know what? As long as there’s a snowball’s chance in Haiti that it will pass, we have to keep fighting for the lives of our unborn brothers and sisters. And even if there is no chance we can not sit by and be quite. We will not sit down and shut up. Because this is important. This is lives on the line. Human lives. #Theyfeelpain!

Even if this bill never becomes law, if it changes the heart and mind of one woman faced with the decision of abortion, then I think this debate was well worth it. It is the lives and souls of others that we are fighting for. If we can save just one, then we have done something great. Isn’t a human life worth more than a debate about jobs or the economy, Ms. Pelosi?

Until the other side believes in what we are fighting for, they can not understand our stubbornness, our zeal, or our commitment.

This was a step in the right direction. But there’s still a long way to go if we’re to see this bill become law.

Keep informed.
Keep praying.

The senate is up next.


*#theyfeelpain image courtesy jillstanek.com

They Feel Pain–Spread the Truth

There are so many important political situations right now. Among them is the bill HR 1797: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which is currently making its way through the House. If the bill passes, it would be illegal to abort unborn children after 20 weeks gestation in the US. These are infants, who, science has shown, are capable of feeling pain.


This NRLC fact sheet explains how an unborn baby’s ability to sense pain develops. According to the fact sheet, at 20 weeks “all anatomical links needed for pain transmission to the brain, for feeling pain, are present.” It also quotes Dr. Paul Ranalli a neurologist at the University of Toronto:

“At 20 weeks, the fetal brain has the full complement of brain cells present in adulthood, ready and waiting to receive pain signals from the body, and their electrical activity can be be recorded by standard electroencephalography (EEG)”

Everything that is physically needed to feel pain is there in the unborn child by 20 weeks. The same brain cells and neurons that allow us to feel pain can be found in that baby. 

Doctors On Fetal Pain also explains:

“By 20 weeks post-fertilization, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human—for example, by recoiling. Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on unborn children have seen those babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions.”

These babies not only have all the anatomical features necessary to feel pain but they have also been seen reacting to painful stimuli. If they react like this to procedures meant to help them, how would they react to the painful stimuli of abortion? (I’ll get into this a bit more in a moment.)

Dr. Colleen Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, testified on fetal pain  on an earlier version of this bill  (HR 3803). She “confirmed that the ability of the fetus to feel pain was the ‘majority view’ of those in the field of neonatology.” (from this lifenews.com article).

These unborn babies can feel pain. They have been seen reacting to it. Yet, we abort them in methods which we might shutter to describe because of their sheer gruesomeness. Many abortions involve tearing the baby limb-from-limb. This link will take you to medically accurate drawings of such a D&E abortion at 23 weeks. WARNING: you may find these images graphic.

Dr. Levatino MD gave testimony regarding this bill before the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. His testimony includes a description of a D&E abortion from the perspective of an abortionist.

These babies can feel pain, yet we do this to them. If someone did this to an adult can you imagine how the world would react? Or what if a mother gave birth to a preemie at say, 24 weeks. Would a doctor be allowed to tear the child apart? So why is it different inside the womb?

The unborn need protection. The bill is a step in that direction. It helps to show the humanity of the unborn. They feel pain. They are human. They deserve to be protected from abortion.



For more on the bill see here and here. The first link will take you to the house.gov page for hearing information regarding HR 1797. On the right is a column with links to witness testimonies. the other is a list of all the representatives co-sponsoring the bill. Is your rep on the list??

These children feel pain. Yet we subject them to horrors we would never tolerate for anyone else. Spread the word about HR 1797! Work to protect these unborn babies! Share on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc.

Please comment below and tell me what you think of this bill or what you’re doing to support it.


*images courtesy jillstanek.com http://www.jillstanek.com/2013/06/pro-life-help-needed-to-push-fetal-pain-bill/

Pro-Life Options: 2 Stories, Different Choices

Today I read two very different news articles. They were both about unwanted babies. Both about Asia. But while one horrified me the other gave me hope.

The first story is this one about a baby boy who was discovered inside a sewage pipe in China. Apparently the mother didn’t want her child, just a few days old, and attempted to flush him. Some people heard the baby crying and called the fire department. They were able to rescue him and get him to a hospital. He is reported to be in stable condition.

This is sad. It’s disturbing really. As I first looked at the article I wondered if it was true. I mean really, this happened? When I saw that it happened in China the story suddenly became less surreal. Yes. This happened. Thankfully, the baby was saved. But the fact that this happened at all…it just shows how little our society respects life.

The second story, is a much better story to tell. It’s about a pastor in South Korea who is saving the lives of unwanted babies. In South Korea, many babies are simply abandoned, similar to how the baby boy in China was abandoned. In response, the pastor installed a box on the side of his home. Mothers can drop babies who are unwanted for any reason in the box which is warm, lit, and layered with a thick towel. There is a sign that translated reads  “place to leave babies”. Many women have taken advantage of this “drop box” for babies. And consequently these babies have been saved. A documentary has even been made about it. (I haven’t watched it, but it’s supposed to be good.)

Isn’t that a happier story? It brings me joy to see people helping the most vulnerable: unwanted babies. Now these little ones have a chance at life.

What changes a situation like the baby in China, one full despair and abandonment, to that of the baby drop box, so positive and brimming with an all-accepting love? It’s the people. Those mothers in South Korea might have abandoned their children, as the mother in China did, had they not seen that box. It’s thanks to that pastor and those who work with him that those babies are alive. They were the ones who gave those mothers the opportunity to love their children.

This is what saves babies: options and the people behind them. This is why pregnancy resource centers, adoption agencies, and caring, helpful friends are so important in the pro-life movement. I think sometimes a woman in a crisis pregnancy feels trapped. But if you open the door–or box–she can make the choice to save her child. This is hope. This is love.

Thoughts on Gosnell’s Sentence

Have you been following the Gosnell trial? Yesterday, the jury finished their deliberations and found abortionist Kermit Gosnell guilty of 3 counts of murder involving babies born alive and a count of involuntary manslaughter involving a patient who was overdosed at his clinic. The next thing the jury would do was decide whether Gosnell would be sentenced to life in prison or get the death penalty. I was just about to write on this when the news broke that Gosnell gave up his possibility for appeal in exchange for two life-in-prison sentences. He’s avoiding the death penalty. And I couldn’t be happier.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

You see, I don’t believe in the death penalty, at least not in most cases. It’s simply not needed most of the time, especially in a country like ours where we have the resources to keep a dangerous person in prison for the rest of their lives. Why do we need it? In this case of Kermit Gosnell it would only serve one purpose: revenge. We would be playing God, just as Gosnell did.

So, I should be happy right? Gosnell is not going to die a senseless death that restricts the possibility that he will repent. Neither will he be wasting taxpayer dollars seeking appeal after appeal. Gosnell will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will no longer be able to hurt babies and women at his filthy “house of horrors” clinic. That’s what I wanted, yes.


Those 12 jurors never got to make the decision as to whether Gosnell deserved the death penalty; they didn’t even have much of a chance to consider it. (Let me pause here to say that the jury would not have had the final word in my mind. Their decision does not dictate what is morally acceptable. They are human and fallible. ) However, their decision would have shaped much in the abortion debate. It might have been looked to, years in the future, as a standard to which all other decisions should be held. But that won’t happen now.

We’ve sidestepped all that with this bargain. We’ll never know what those jurors, those people, would have decided in the case of their fellow human being. Would they have considered him worthy of the death penalty the prosecutors sought? What would that have meant for the abortion debate? The pro-life movement? If we are truly pro-life we would not have cheered to hear that another life was being unnecessarily ended. Would the jurors have considered that Gosnell was doing what the women wanted by killing their babies? Would they have considered his advancing age? His ? Would they have considered the state of his soul? Would they have considered that in killing Gosnell, they show themselves little better than Gosnell?

Would the jury have considered that Gosnell’s death would have sparked a whole new chapter among pro-lifers and pro-choicers? Some pro-lifers would have cheered at “justice”, others would have recognized the truth of what was happening: that another human life was being taken. Some pro-choicers would have been content with the decision, after all, what that man didn’t wasn’t abortion in their eyes, it was nothing like abortion. Other pro-choicers might have some strong words to throw at hypocritical pro-lifers and all those right-wing extremists.

The point is we will never know for certain what those 12 people would have done if they had the life of Dr. Kermit Gosnell–a fellow human being and an atrocious murderer–in their hands. That decision would have reflected on us all. While I am pleased and relived that Gosnell will not be killed for his crimes (as it is unnecessary in this situation) I wonder what those 12 representatives of our nation, our society, and our world would have decided and how their decision would have impacted us all.

We have avoided these questions and their answers by this bargain. But we’ve left an even bigger question hanging in the air, unanswered: what would have happened?

Just some thoughts…

Pro-Peace Means Pro-Life

“Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.” –Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2013: Blessed are the Peacemakers.

Normally, we tend to think of hippies and the like when someone says pro-peace but actually the Catholic Church itself is pro-peace. And so are true pro-lifers. You see, if you value peace how can you tolerate one human killing another?

Sadly, this isn’t what many people think of when they consider the pro-life movement. It’s not the face they see. Even for me it struck me as odd to call pro-lifers peaceful. Dedicated, loving, enthusiastic–yes. Peaceful?

Perhaps it’s my definition of peace though, that needs review. I suppose what I was thinking of was a utopia of tranquility, a place where everything is calm all the time. But that’s not exactly what peace is. When you ask Google “define: peace”  you get back the definition “freedom from disturbance”. This definition works two ways: globally and personally. Peace can mean tranquil individuals who are content in and of themselves, or it can mean a world without violence, injustice, or grave immorality. A peaceful world is one where no individual has any reason to not be at peace. So, in a truly peaceful world no human being would kill another. But we do not live in that world…not yet, at least.

If that is truly the world we want in the future, we should act like it and work towards it. That means ending all murders, including abortion. That is how being truly pro-peace means being pro-life. All true pro-lifers want peace: an end to the deaths, the violence, and the struggle. The simple fact is abortion causes strife, which is the opposite of peace, not just in that it kills the child but that it harms the mother and can shatter her peace, and that it harms the world by preventing it from being truly peaceful.

In the end, it seems to me the world would be a lot more peaceful without abortion.