politics and culture: March 2005 Archives

Francophone blogger Renaud on polling and truth.
The provided translation (via Yahoo) is a little bit awkward, but one can still get the gist of what he says. The French is poetic and oh so true.
« La Vérité, c'est ce que l'intelligence voit quand elle regarde la réalité. ».
Je n'ai pas fini de méditer cette phrase.

Opus Dei

| | Comments (1)

The times that try men's souls


I am not much of a political person. Most of my personal political energy has been spent in a far different arena, that of trying to preserve my profession (midwife) from attack. I've fought for the rights of women to have the birth that God intended, I've fought to protect them and their babies from conception on, I've fought for the right to give care that I know is safe and humane. Along the way, I've had to learn a lot about law, medicine, medical ethics and a whole bunch of other stuff that I initially thought was irrelevant to providing safe and compassionate midwifery care.

I learned about civil disobedience from other midwives, including the two who attended the births of my two middle children. In attending my births, they were breaking the laws of the state of California, which at that time forbade any but a licensed physician from attending a birth except in emergency. I picketed at courtrooms when a friend and midwife was arrested and charged unjustly.

I learned that it is illegal to indict for a criminal act if a law is passed after the fact making that action illegal. It is called an 'ex post facto' law. I read recently that the Floridal law which allows Terri to be starved to death was not passed until 1999. It is too bad that she hasn't been charged with a crime - she would have more rights as a convicted criminal than she does as a disabled human being.

I don't know where our country, indeed our world, is headed. I can but hope and pray that God will indeed pull good from evil. I must confess to twinges of doubt and despair. I'm not into walking. on water, and it is getting harder all the time to keep my eyes on Jesus.

What follows was posted to a much earlier blog post on Terri Schiavo. I thought it worth bringing forward. It opens with a phrase that will be eerily familiar to most if not all of us.

Now, I'm off to Good Friday services. Will be praying and praying and singing and crying and praying some more. The wood of the Cross - let us worship, let us adore.

from my inbox today


Where is America Going?

Life and death choices (in which they also quote a midwife).

one sleepy mommy


checks in

And regina posts just about how I am feeling lately

I haven't blogged much the last few days. Part of it has been that I have been busier than a one armed paper hanger with fleabites, but more of it is that I have been feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Terri's fight for life seems to have been lost. Pundits in law, medicine, and social policy have spoken, and it seems that they have all banded together against the will of the people.
The will of the people, as clearly expressed in our efforts to influence our elected representatives, was that the courts start again from the beginning and examine the evidence. I think the legal term for this is 'de novo'.
The legal status for imposing the death penalty on a criminal is that the crime be proved beyond a reasonable doubt - and that the crime be so horrendous that society as a whole believes that justice can only be served by meting out this ultimate penalty. But suicide has become so socially acceptable that we now justify suicide by proxy and even extend that 'right' to where there is not even a preponderance of evidence that the proxy has an accurate knowledge of the victim's wishes.
The New England Journal of Medicine (A rag I am coming to dislike more and more these days, I think that their editorial staff has incredible bias in more than one area) did an early release of two articles commenting on Terri Shiavo. NEJM doesn't usually make full-text available to non subscribers, but these articles are currently available (you will need Adobe Acrobat to read them). They will probably not be available after the print publication date, so I suggest that you print them and save them if you are likely to need them later.
Attorney George Annas writes an article "Culture of Life" Politics at the Bedside -- The Case of Terri Schiavo. He is oh so reasonable (to the point that I am reminded of the speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - "So are they all, all honourable men"
The other article, by Timothy Quill M.D. Some of my correspondents have pointed out to me that Dr. Quill is no stranger to these kinds of controversy. Here he writes about 'Terminal Sedation and the Voluntary refusal of foods and fluids'. I always thought that there was ahuge difference between voluntary and involuntary, but what do I know?

The best responses I have read to date on these kind of patronizing attitudes toward this profoundly disabled but (as of right now) still alive woman is found in this article from (of all places) Slate.com.
Not Dead at All
Why Congress was right to stick up for Terri Schiavo.
By Harriet McBryde Johnson
Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2005, at 4:50 AM PT
The Terri Schiavo case is hard to write about, hard to think about.

She really does say it, and well.

There are several posts I would rather be writing now. I have a couple of recipes that I would like to share - but I feel enormously guilty that I am even able to eat right now. Survivor guilt I think it would be called. I am sitting at the keyboard with my cup of tea at hand, and I am so grateful that I am able to sip it when I feel dry. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like to be dehydrated to death. I've never been sick enough in my life to even need a couple of liters of IV fluids to get me back in balance. I know what my hyperemesis patients tell me about being so parched and yet being physically unable to take even a sip of fluids. But I can't comprehend it. And don't tell me that Terri can't feel this. How can you, how can anyone know this? We don't know what she does or doesn't feel.

I have one other nightmare thought. After they have succeeded in murdering Terri through deprivation of food and water, what next? I can see that the misguided compassion that allows this will go to the next step."See" they will say," You forced us to torture her to death because you would not allow us to make her passing quick and painless. We should have been able to just give her a quick injection of painkillers in a lethal dose. You pro-lifers have no compassion at all." Is this not where the Nazis started out?

May God have mercy on us all.

BTW - If I am ever in a bad state physically, I want my care managed according to the basic principles of Catholic care as outlined in the CCC. When in doubt, choose life.

There is a chilling line in The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
"Only in Nazi Germany was sterilization a forerunner of mass murder..."
Given the widespread prevalence of contraceptive sterilization (permanent and temporary) in our culture, I can only hope that this is a true statement. But given the increasing acceptance of first abortion and now euthanasia, I have my doubts.
also worth reading (if you have a strong stomach):
The War Against the Weak
Mentally and Physically Handicapped
The Origins of Nazi Genocide
Medicine under the Nazis

we all need some comic relief


This was posted a week ago but I just got around to reading it. We have been stressed and solemn lately, and for good cause. But I remember hearing that one of the sainted Teresas implored God to save us all from sour-pussed sisters, so I have taken the liberty to share this gem from the Curt Jester, once again.

I've been thinking

| | Comments (2)

(that I really wish I could have my headlines written by Dawn Eden!)

A few days ago, I posted a link to an article about a Catholic midwife at Auschwitz. I also sent the link to the midwife listservs to which I belong. The response was generally positive (hey, midwives are like any other group - we like to hear and read good stuff about our fellows). But there were a couple of disturbing comments made along the lines of "the Catholic church did nothing at an official level to save jews (midwives or not) from camps." Pope Pius XII, who was in the chair of Peter before and during WW II, has gotten a lot of bad press recently alleging that he, and the Church as a whole, did little or nothing to stop Hitler and his methodical genocidal activities. Patrick Sweeney has a list of books defending the Pope, and I think that most are also aware of the defamatory book Hitler's Pope and its like. My intent here is not to go into detail on the events of 60 + years ago - they are very important and I urge all to study them. My intent is rather to reflect just a little bit on how we have learned from history (or tried to) and have chosen to speak out here and now, trying to prevent the forces that enabled the Nazi death camps, the Soviet gulags, the many other genocides of the past from being re-established in our day.

The first step to annihilating a group of humanity is to declare that somehow, members of that group are somehow less than human and are therefore not entitled to the protections to which the rest of us are entitled. The other tactic that might be employed is to acknowledge that this group of "others" may in fact be human and as individuals possessed of those rights and protections, but that as a group they constitute such a threat to the well being of the 'whole' that their rights mus be sacrificed "for the greater good". It is a sick game that has been played out repeatedly throughout history.

Two thousand years ago, the Roman empire attempted to annihilate both Christians and Jews. The government believed that their refusal to make even a perfunctory obeisance and sacrifice to the deified Caesars was a grave threat to the well-being of the whole empire. Two hundred years ago, it was widely held that even the slightest amount of African heritage made one innately inferior, and hence less that fully human - subject to being owned and abused. Racism, ethnocentrism, cultural prejudices are sadly a part of the human condition, an inheritance of Original Sin, and often as well become occasions of actual sin. Seventy some years ago, a group of men with a belief in 'racial purity' and eugenics founded a political movement whose effects are still reverberating on our culture today.

The Nazis did not start out with wholesale genocide. If they had, I think (at least I hope and pray) that all institutions around them, from the various churches to the various social and governmental agencies, to the governments of foreign countries, would have risen up in protest and stopped them. No, they started out small, with appeals to ideals of perfection and improvement, and their allies on other shores were blindsided. Eugenics, for example. "Let's improve the welfare of all of us by preventing the burden of the unfit!" It started with appeals for voluntary birth restrictions from 'the afflicted', campaigns for birth control among the poor, the ill, the ethnic minorities. It moved on to court-ordered sterilizations despite the lack of scientific evidence to support the idea that these afflictions were actually inherited. The Nazis developed methods of abortion (intrauterine injection) and sterilization (tubal ligation) that are still in use today. In this country, Margaret Sanger and others widely supported the ideals, if not the methods, of the "Race Improvement" movement. Planned Parenthood's founder was well known for her racist views. "Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated" is a direct quote from some of her earlier writing. Her 134 page booklet "The Pivot of Civilization" includes the statement that among the aims of the American Birth Control League (predecessor of Planned Parenthood) is:
"Sterilization of the insane and feebleminded and the encouragement of this operation upon those afflicted with inherited or transmissible diseases..."
The Catholic church fought against these concepts throughout the world, including in Nazi Germany. The church spoke out then as it does now against abortion (especially forcibly performed abortion), sterilization (especially eugenic sterilization) and euthanasia. The church denounced the attitudes that ultimately led to the atrocities of Nazi Germany, but in hindsight might have been able to do more. On the other hand, the physical administration of the church (in the Vatican) was geographically and ideologically trapped, surrounded by Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and its satellites, robustly anti-clerical France - to say nothing of the anti-Catholic countries of Scandinavia and Great Britain.

Today, the Catholic church continues to speak out against the cultural forces that she believes are evil. In an extremely rare intervention on behalf of an individual, the Vatican has pleaded for the life of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. The church has argued against all forms of euthanasia, from the abortion of disabled and dying unborn babies, to the 'mercy killings' of handicapped children, to the intentional lethal overdoses of Oregon's "Right to Die" act, to the intentional starvation of those who are disabled and brain damaged. Seventy years from now, if our culture comes to its senses and begins to repent these crimes as we now repent the many unspeakable atrocities of Hitler's Germany, will the church be derided for having done too little to save the helpless? Will JP II be vilified as Pius XII is currently being vilified?

My other question - are we, as individual Catholics and Christians (and whatever other faith persuasions - or none) doing enough? Are we acting on our convictions? Are we helping and supporting those who are the most helpless? Is there something more that we could do that would be the equivalent of those heroic persons who risked themselves and their families to try to rescue Jews and others from the death camps?

I am not calling for an unthinking vigilanteism, although the helplessness one feels when hearing about Terri (and like cases) could easily lead to vigilante action. The battle is for hearts and souls. Storming the castle walls, no matter how tempting, is not likely to be of avail. We have pulled out our weapons. We are praying. Some of us are fasting. We are using the tools of democratic government. We are appealing to the good sense and ethical core of those in power. Yet on many levels we are still as helpless as the first century martyrs before the jeering crowds in the coliseums.
addendum - Christopher Blosser has this about the history of Euthanasia and the Nazis

Crown of creation?

| | Comments (2)

I've been listening my way through a 10 CD set of Christopher West expounding on the Pope's Theology of the Body. I keep hearing humanity referenced as the "Crown of Creation". Does anyone know from whence that reference originates? I am sure that it has been around for a while, but the phrase is not to be found in the Bible. Is it used in some of the early Church Fathers? Or maybe some more recent theologians?
Part of what piqued my interest is that I have been thinking about euthanasia, especially of the perinatal sort. It has become so very common in our culture to commit prenatal euthanasia (aborting babies with birth defects) that even many who are otherwise opposed to abortion find nothing objectionable in this. It is often included in the 'hard cases' that also usually include rape, incest, and maternal health issues.

addendum - sorry about the bad link, will try to redo later
Article on the new SAT
NY Times op-ed on the writing component of the SAT

From the Times UK

| | Comments (1)

petitions for terri

| | Comments (2)

I haven't blogged much on Terri Schiavo, but it isn't because I don't care. I do care, terribly so. I am at a loss for words, actually. What can I say that hasn't been said so many times already by so many others? Mr. Luse's excellent article in Touchstone, (which even caught the bishops eyes), and so many others out there. But here is a list of various petitions that you might want to check out.
Center for Recaliming America
Conservative Petitions
Presidential Pardon
Petition Online
Protective Custody

February 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28    
The WeatherPixie

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the politics and culture category from March 2005.

politics and culture: February 2005 is the previous archive.

politics and culture: April 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.