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Archive of October 9, 2010

Losing child prompts woman's spiritual search

Dover, Del., Oct 9, 2010 (CNA) - Life was rolling along right on schedule for Tamara Mack early last year. She and Harvey, her husband, had a nice new house on an acre of land near Leipsic, Delaware. She was pregnant, meeting her personal timeline to have a baby by age 30.

“I thought, ‘Perfect. I’m 29 and I’m going to have a baby,’” she said. “Life was going great, as we had planned.”

Her plan took a nightmarish turn in early April 2009. Mack was full term with her son, already named Harvey III and nicknamed Tré by his parents. During an exam she saw panic on her doctor’s face. He could not detect the baby’s heartbeat.

An ultrasound showed the baby was not moving. At 3:18 a.m. April 9, Mack delivered her stillborn son.

“I was numb,” she recalled. “I think I was in disbelief. Harvey was just heartbroken.”

Her son’s death triggered a series of events that drew Mack to the Catholic faith. The compassion and hospitality of priests and parishioners at Holy Cross Church after his death and a subsequent miscarriage prompted her to join the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults to learn more about becoming a Catholic.

“I was someone in need and they were there for me,” she said. “Losing my baby, how sad this is, but it brought me closer to God.”

Mack, 31, a native of Jamaica who moved to the United States at age 16, thought she had found God through the RCIA. “But you know what? I’ve realized that God had never left me; he was always there. I kept pulling away.”

She hopes to be baptized, receive her first Communion, and be confirmed at the Easter Vigil Mass next April.

Support amid grief

“A tragedy is what brought Tammy to RCIA; she was seeking answers to life’s questions,” said John Harvey, the RCIA leader at Holy Cross. “RCIA is not always the right forum for such an inquiry but I guess that is what has impressed me about Tammy’s journey. She sought the Lord and he heard her, and I believe RCIA has been the vehicle for this to occur.”

Shortly after Tre’s delivery, a nurse came into Tamara Mack’s room at Kent General Hospital. “Tamara, would you like us to have the father next door baptize your baby?” Mack recalled her asking. “Harvey and I, we said, ‘Yes, yes. Definitely.’”

Within 15 minutes Father John Gayton, then an associate pastor at Holy Cross Church across the street from Kent General, arrived. Nurses circled around Father Gayton, the Macks and Tré’s body. Father Gayton “prayed for us and then he baptized the baby,” Tamara Mack said. “Before he left, he gave me a hug and said everything’s going to be OK.”

The Macks spent the next day, Good Friday, planning their son’s graveside service. When the funeral director learned the baby was baptized Catholic, he called Holy Cross to see if the child could be buried in its cemetery. The parish agreed.

Another priest then serving at Holy Cross, Father John Gabage, presided at the interment. Afterward the Macks walked and walked around the cemetery.

About 30 minutes later, Father Gabage approached them and said, “I just want you to know that Holy Cross is here for you as a community. If you need any help let us know. If you need support, please, I’m here to give you support,” Tamara Mack recalled.

He arranged for Tamara to meet with Diane Dellinger, who heads the parish grief support ministry that promotes spiritual healing. “I always knew about God,” said Mack, whose mother is a Seventh-Day Adventist. “Mom always let us know about God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I took it for granted, did not take life so seriously.”

Soon she began praying every morning. She remembered how her mother sent her sister and her to Catholic schools in Jamaica to learn more about God and about Christianity. There she prayed “five times a day. At that time I felt I had to. It was an obligation.”

Now she chose to pray. She visited Holy Cross cemetery six months after Tré’s death. “I was just broken. I could find no comfort.” She decided to visit Holy Cross Church. As she arrived, she saw Father Gabage walking toward the church. He recognized her and said, “Your baby’s OK; he’s with God.”

“Father Gabage had no idea what I was going through that day,” Mack said. “But I know that God sent him in my path at the right time because I couldn’t find comfort.”

As she thought about Father Gabage’s words, about her son being with God, “I started feeling better, a comfort in my heart.”

‘Why me again?’

That comfort was shattered last April. Three months into a second pregnancy, she miscarried.

“After Tré, I felt like this would never happen again,” she said. “I said, ‘God, why me again?’ It was like my faith had been tested.”

But she kept praying. She decided she would begin her RCIA journey. She told her husband, “I have to go.”

She’s found solace off and on during her journey. Last Sunday, for instance, the first reading from Habakkuk stated: “Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?”

“I’m not alone,” Mack said. “All those prophets back then were going through it,” asking why.

She decided to learn more about the faith and joined RCIA. Fears that the classes might be boring quickly evaporated.

“The questions they were asking were intriguing, like ‘How do you know there is a God?’” Mack said. “I thought, ‘Why did I think that learning about God would be boring?’”

She started to attend daily Mass. One day as she walked out, an older woman struck up a conversation. That woman had lost two children, at ages 10 and 5. Tamara Mack came to realize many others faced situations as bad, and perhaps at times worse as her own.

Mack became an evangelist without realizing it. She would come home from RCIA sessions and tell Harvey what they had discussed. He listened, impressed. One day he told Tamara, “I want to come see what’s going on at your class.”

“He’s been there with me ever since. We’re doing our spiritual journey together as a couple.”

Tamara knows that journey will not end if she and her husband are baptized during the Easter vigil.

“It’s a stepping stone,” she said, noting that cradle Catholics who work on Holy Cross’ RCIA team mention how they continually learn about the faith through the sessions.

“This journey is a lifetime.”

Printed with permission from the Dialog, newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

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Reversing course, Council of Europe recognizes conscientious objection

Strasbourg, France, Oct 9, 2010 (CNA) - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an influential advisory body to European Union member states, voted on Thursday to make substantial changes to a resolution which could have curtailed health care workers’ rights to opt out of performing abortions. Representatives from Ireland and Italy pushed for amendments to protect conscientious objectors, forcing the resolution's original authors to vote against the final version of their own proposal.

The new resolution, adopted on Thursday evening by the assembly, represented an almost complete reversal of U.K. representative Christine McCafferty's draft recommendations. Her report had described “unregulated use of conscientious objection” as dangerous, and called for a set of controls intended to “oblige the healthcare provider to provide … treatment to which the patient is legally entitled despite his or her conscientious objection” in cases of emergency or severe inconvenience.

Irish representative Ronan Mullen, and Italy's Luca Volonte, led the opposition to McCafferty's report. Mullen pointed out in the debate that the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly recognizes the rights of unborn children. The Irish representative also reminded members of the parliamentary assembly that conscientious objection is a basic principle of human rights.

By the end of Thursday's debate, Mullen and Volonte's initiative had brought about a complete reversal of the U.K. representative's intentions. The resolution's new text struck out several paragraphs on the supposed danger of “unregulated” conscientious objections, replacing them with a strong assertion both of caregivers' rights, and the real nature of the procedures to which many object.

The new resolution recommends that “no person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.” Resolutions of the Council of Europe are not legally binding, but have considerable influence on the policies of EU member states.

Another item in the new text explicitly denied McCafferty's assertion that conscientious objection was “inadequately regulated.” Almost none of the recommendation's original language, such as its requirement that objecting physicians “ensure” an abortion has been procured elsewhere, survived to be voted upon Thursday evening. McCafferty and other supporters of the original resolution voted against the new text, but found themselves outnumbered by conscientious objection supporters.

Anthony Ozimic, a spokesman for the U.K.'s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, called the adoption of the new resolution “an incredible victory” for those medical caregivers who “refuse to be complicit in the killing of unborn children and other unethical practices.”

Marie Smith, director of the worldwide Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, described the vote as evidence that “the pro-life network in Europe is growing in strength daily,” galvanized especially “by radical groups” which deny even the right of a doctor not to perform abortions or assist in suicides.

“Today's debate on conscience has shown that pro-abortion lobby groups in Europe can no longer use false arguments and outright lies to win the vote,” Smith said. “The pro-life movement is alive, well and growing.” The French group “Alliance pour les droits de la Vie” (Alliance for the rights of Life) said it had gathered 26,000 signatures - including 4000 health professionals - for a petition against the original resolution.

 

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Democratic candidates using abortion to mobilize support

Denver, Colo., Oct 9, 2010 (CNA) - Recent analysis from the Associate Press (AP) and the New York Times show Democratic candidates in state races using the contentious issue of abortion against their opponents, hoping to boost what is feared to be sluggish support for the party in November's mid-term elections.

According to the AP's Sept. 30 report, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino was the subject of a heated pro-abortion commercial when, after winning the nomination from his party, told an interviewer that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Abortion advocates aired commercials last week claiming that Paladino wants to treat women as criminals by outlawing abortion.

"It became pretty clear to us we had the most anti-choice candidate the state had ever seen," argued Mary Alice Carr, spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice New York. The abortion supporting group has endorsed the state's Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo.

Additionally, in the race for U.S. Senate, hopeful Republican Joe DioGuardi – a longtime abortion opponent – was recently and publicly questioned on the issue by incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.

"I think the Democrats sense they are facing a turnout issue heading into election day. There's enthusiasm among Republicans and not much enthusiasm among Democrats," Siena pollster Steven Greenberg told the AP. "It is an issue that really appeals to Democratic voters."

New York attorney general candidate Democrat Eric Schneiderman, also touched on the issue of abortion on Sept. 28 to a crowd in Albany. Schneiderman, who has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York, told supporters that he will "aggressively defend" their rights to birth control, adding that at the age of 17, he worked at a Washington abortion clinic.

Commenting on the insight of pollster Steven Greenberg, the AP wrote that one aspect of candidates bringing up the heated topic of abortion “is the desire to rouse part of the Democratic base that may have become lethargic since President Barack Obama's win two years ago.”

On Oct. 7, the New York Times discussed a “bruising” Senate race currently underway in Colorado, where Republican candidate Ken Buck has been the focus of a controversial ad approved by his Democratic opponent, Michael Bennett. The ad features a female obstetrician in scrubs arguing that women will lose control of their bodies if Buck were to win.

Buck's campaign told the New York Times that the attacks are merely an attempt to deflect from other, more important concerns.

“The No. 1 issues are jobs and the economy, and Michael Bennet can’t run on that,” Owen Loftus, a spokesman for Buck, told the paper. “It’s a desperate effort by a desperate campaign.”

Bennett was appointed last year to replace former Democratic Senator Ken Salazar, who is now secretary of the interior. Earlier this week, Bennett presented a new agenda attempting to link advancements for women – specifically as business owners, workers and mothers – to abortion support.

Contrary to Bennett's stance, Loftus told the NY Times that Buck believes life to begin at conception and opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. However, he added, Buck's vision as a senator would highlight issues surrounding the economy.

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Academic dean echoes criticism of West’s treatment of concupiscence

San Antonio, Texas, Oct 9, 2010 (CNA) - Christopher West’s interpretation of John Paul II has merit, but criticism of his views on continence and concupiscence are warranted, theology of the body instructor David H. Delaney has said. Discussing the pitfalls of West’s application of the Theology of the Body, Delaney noted several points where he appears to contradict Catholic belief and tradition.

Delaney, the academic dean of the Mexican American Catholic College, has a doctorate in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America. He teaches the Theology of the Body at the undergraduate and graduate levels and presents it popularly at parishes. He is currently broadcasting a series on Guadalupe Radio and Catholic television in San Antonio.

On his blog “Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex,” he published a summary of his upcoming Homiletic and Pastoral Review article titled “Concupiscence in the West-Schindler Debate” about the “important” discussion over West’s work.

Commenting that West correctly identified concupiscence as the primary issue, Delaney said concupiscence underlies most of the concerns of West’s critics. In Catholic moral theology “concupiscence” is a term describing the human propensity to sin.

Delaney wrote that although West can find some support in the work of John Paul II for the claim that Christ’s redemption frees man from concupiscence, he wrongly believes that “mature purity” excludes continence. West’s idea of “mature purity” is an “achievement in which one no longer need turn away” from temptations, Delaney wrote.

Citing theologian David Schindler’s statement that concupiscence dwells “objectively” in the body and continues throughout the course of earthly life, Delaney clarified that concupiscence is not a created reality but a deprivation of a good.

“Concupiscence is parasitic upon some created good. West legitimately rejects Schindler’s criticism to the degree he understands him to be making this mistake,” he contended.

West sees that mankind must cooperate with grace to overcome concupiscent temptations and “demand self-mastery from ourselves in each and every temptation.” A man noticing the shape of a woman’s body must demand of himself that he not reduce her to her sexual value but affirm her as created by God for her own sake.
 
According to Delaney, West is right about what John Paul II explicitly teaches, but he “seriously errs” when he tries to concretely apply the Theology of the Body. While West cites Thomas Aquinas’ teaching that continence is not a virtue by itself, he uses this to claim that men and women must reach a state in which we no longer need continence.

The definition of continence comes from the pre-Christian Aristotle and does not take into account concupiscence. St. Thomas does take this into account, and clarifies that continence is a virtue “in a broader sense,” as does John Paul II.

“Holding too strongly to the precise definition seems to have misled West into his error about the ability to dispense with continence,” Delaney wrote. “Ultimately, West’s view about liberation from continence contradicts Catholic tradition; something John Paul II never does.”

The late Pope’s idea of liberation is from the “constraint of the body” to instincts which are “insuperable” until the coming of redemption. However, freedom from this constraint is not the same as “near immunity from concupiscence for those who have become ‘pure’.”

John Paul II saw that “immediate continence,” self-mastery and habitual temperance are all simultaneously needed. According to Delaney, while God provides all we need for purity he does not always heal us to the point that there is no struggle.

While West rightly sees the good news for the man of concupiscence, he is wrong to suggest one may reach a point where continence is unneeded, the professor said.

“This is not what John Paul II means by mature purity and it can lead to serious problems for some,” Delaney commented.

In a Thursday e-mail to CNA, Delaney said he was motivated to write the article because many of his undergraduate and graduate students to whom he teaches the Theology of the Body find a “good, popular” understanding of the topic from West’s work, but also acquire “problematic” interpretations.
 
Many seem to understand West to be saying that “one cannot consider himself to be spiritually mature until he can expose himself to temptations, in most cases this is men looking at women's bodies, without succumbing to the temptation,” he wrote. “This is quite troubling advice because it seriously underestimates the problem of concupiscence.”

The theology professor noted that the view that one’s maturity should be tested risks putting oneself into “the near occasion of sin,” an action “diametrically opposed to Church teaching.” He also recounted how a good friend recovering from a pornography addiction wrongly thought that he could not consider himself spiritually mature until he “overcame his temptations, without the recourse to continence.”

He added that he wanted to alert pastors to potential errors in the resources they use while also understanding what is good.

“I do not at all wish to undermine the great work that Christopher West has done and hopefully will continue to do,” he commented. However, he noted the need for “serious revision” and said he cannot recommend West’s work without “serious reservations.”

Delaney also referred to “at least one very extreme critic” who has begun to damage the possibility of “dispassionate discussion.” While many of West’s friends and colleagues want to defend him against “unfair criticism,” this defensive attitude has not allowed them to evaluate some valid criticisms.

“It is my hope that this article will contribute to demonstrating that such a discussion is possible,” he told CNA.

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