Archive for the ‘Pro-Life’ Category

Realism about the Supreme Court and Abortion

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

The President is about to announce his nominee to fill the newly vacant seat on the Supreme Court. That will set off a bruising confirmation battle that will stretch into September at least. The rhetoric will be heated and likely ugly, and may even include a large dose of religious intolerance. As this maelstrom kicks off, it’s important that we have realistic expectations about what this will mean for legalized abortion.

It is a clear sign of the debasement of our American political society that so much energy and effort are going to be devoted to a Supreme Court nomination. The loss of a proper understanding of natural law and the dominance of a sense of moral agnosticism have left our government and courts without a moral and legal compass to guide them in interpreting and making civil law. The centralization of power in Washington, which was never envisioned by the Founders of our nation, has given the federal government and especially the courts a disproportionate control over public policy, when compared to the states. One consequence of this has been the constitutionalization of what should be political questions, as we have seen in the issues of abortion and marriage. Another consequence has been the increasing intrusion of politics into areas that are rightly protected personal liberties, such as the freedoms of speech, religion and association.

The worst consequence has been that the Supreme Court — and particularly the “swing vote” that was exercised by the retiring Justice Kennedy — has become our de facto ruler when it comes to essential questions of the separation of powers between the branches of government and crucial social issues relating to life, family and religion. It is truly bizarre that the last few weeks in June is a time of great anticipation, as the Supreme Court’s term comes to an end and we citizens passively wait for rulings that will define our lives. This is why I often derisively refer to the Court as our “Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers” — a role that Washington, Hamilton and Madison would be horrified to see.

These trends are so deeply rooted that we have to have realistic expectations. None of the nominees to the Court will change this sorry situation. None will restore the correct separation of powers or the federalism that were built into our constitutional structure as a defense against the abuse of power. None will stop the trend of constitutionalizing political questions.

We particularly have to be realistic when it comes to the momentous issue of abortion. There is no question that Roe v. Wade decision was wrongly decided as a matter of morality and legal reasoning, and that it has had a corrupting effect on the law, the legal profession and the judicial confirmation process. It is imperative to see it and its progeny overruled (particularly Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which really is the controlling law now, not Roe), and for the constitutional rights of unborn children to be recognized and protected. But that isn’t going to happen any time soon, no matter who the President selects.

Regardless of who the nominee is, it is far from clear that that there would be enough votes on the Court to overrule Roe and Casey. Of the current judges on the Court, four are certainly never going to vote to overrule or even meaningfully limit abortion; only one, Justice Thomas, has ever said that he would vote to overrule; Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch both called Roe “settled law” during their own confirmation hearings, and Justice Alito has said that it has added strength as a precedent because it has survived prior challenges and people have come to rely on it. So it’s not as if Roe and Casey are hanging by a thread and just need one more vote to be overruled.

It’s also important to understand that the “conservatism” of some of the Justices would suggest that they may actually shy away from overruling Roe and Casey, even if they believe that it was wrongly decided. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, and it would already appear Justice Gorsuch, have a strong tendency to minimalism in their rulings — deciding questions on the most narrow grounds available, and choosing, as Justice Alito once wrote, to “leave broader issues for another day.” You can see that trend in some of the major decisions of the last term, for example the Masterpiece Cakesdecision, where the “conservative” justices supported a narrow ruling and completely ducked the critical free speech issue.

This minimalism is particularly important when one realizes how deeply embedded Roe and Caseyare in Supreme Court jurisprudence. Roe didn’t spontaneously emerge fully formed from the brow of Justice Blackmun, nor did the infamous “mystery of life” passage in Casey come out of nowhere. They were the result of decades of prior decisions, reaching back to the 1920’s, in which the Court recognized or invented “privacy” and other rights that are nowhere enumerated in the Constitution, many of which have no basis in history, tradition or natural law. Some of these decisions were actually correct, but many were perverse (like the contraception decisions Griswold and Eisenstadt), and all of them laid the groundwork for Roe and Casey. They also stemmed from a theory of absolute personal autonomy that evolved from the political liberalism on which America was founded and that produced the culture of sexual libertinism and moral relativism that we currently inhabit.

Overruling Roe and Casey would thus mean that the “conservative” Justices would be repudiating an entire body of law and a political and moral philosophy that is so deeply entrenched in our society that most people find any alternative view virtually incomprehensible. They would also set off a political explosion that would undermine the legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of a large number of Americans and many powerful elected officials. Such a momentous decision would be virtually unprecedented in American history, with the only prior examples that I can think of being Brown v. Board of Education and Roe itself.

Even if the Justices mustered the fortitude to overrule Roe and Casey, abortion would not suddenly be made illegal across the United States. The issue would then return to the states for regulation. A number of states already have laws on the books that would essentially permit abortion on demand for some, if not all of pregnancy. New York’s statute, for example, permits abortion on demand prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy. According to one expert on abortion law, if Roe and Casey were overruled, only eleven states have laws that would completely outlaw abortion, and over 80% of Americans would live in states where the situation would be essentially unchanged — abortion would still be legal for all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason and with little effective regulation.

It is also likely that state courts would step into the breach and declare a constitutional right to abortion. Iowa’s Supreme Court did so just last week, and as many as twelve other states had previously done so. We would also expect increased pressure in solid liberal states like New York to expand abortion rights through legislation.

This is not to say that we should expect that nothing will change for the better. I fully expect that the new Justice will be a legitimate constitutional originalist, which means that they would interpret the Constitution according to its actual original meaning. I also expect that they will show greater respect for the separation of powers and federalism. And I believe that at least in the short term they will vote to permit states to have greater leeway in regulating abortion, and to protect religious liberty and freedom of expression. Those would all be good developments, and may begin the process of rolling back Roe, Casey, and the terrible decisions that underlie them.

A new nominee to the Supreme Court will not be a magic bullet that will make all things new. Our challenge is to continue to press for social and legislative change that would increase respect for human life. We also have to work harder to create a social infrastructure that would replace the culture of contraception and abortion and promote a vision of women’s health that truly respects her fertility and genuine freedom. We still have a lot of work to do.

How Can We Even Be Talking About Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Monday, June 11th, 2018

The recent suicides of celebrities has caused a sensation. One of the valuable side-effects of this is that our nation is being forced to realize that there is a genuine public health crisis that has been happening, mostly below the radar.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2016, 1 million U.S. adults made plans for death and attempted suicide. Read that again — 1 million adults. The Centers for Disease Control just put out a report highlighting the alarming incidence and increase in suicides. Some of the key conclusions:

  • Suicide rates have risen in every state but one.
  • In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.
  • The suicide rate has increased 25% in the US since 1999.
  • In half the states, the suicide rate increased over 30%. One state, North Dakota, saw a 57% increase.
  • New York’s suicide rate increased 28.8%.
  • 54% of people who died by suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.

So how can we even be talking about legalizing physician assisted suicide?

The message sent by legalizing assisted suicide is precisely the message that is leading more and more people to kill themselves. According to one expert interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, there are “key variables” that make a person more vulnerable to suicide:

  • Perceived burdensomeness, “this idea that my death is more valuable than my life.”
  • Thwarted belongingness, “meaning I try to make meaningful connections, and they just don’t work out.”
  • Hopelessness, “OK, I have this, and it’s never going to get better.”
  • Acquired capability, the ability to set aside normal psychological and physical constraints and perform an act that may be painful or horrifying.

The first three key factors are precisely the messages that assisted suicide sends to people who are terminally ill or disabled. The last factor is what assisted suicide hands to that vulnerable person at their bedside — a deadly prescription from their doctor that will make the act seem easy.

The normalization of suicide is also a major factor here, no doubt fueled by celebrity suicides and prominent examples like Brittany Maynard, who has become the “poster girl” of the assisted suicide movement. Here’s what one expert said to the New York Times about the growing social acceptance of suicide:

“It’s a hard idea to test, but it’s possible that a cultural script may be developing among some segments of our population,” said Julie Phillips, a sociologist at Rutgers. Prohibitions are apparently loosening in some quarters, she said. Particularly among younger people, Dr. Phillips said, “We are seeing somewhat more tolerant attitudes toward suicide.” In surveys, younger respondents are more likely than older ones “to believe we have the right to die under certain circumstances, like incurable disease, bankruptcy, or being tired of living,” she said.

In other words, there is a growing culture of suicide, thanks to the same attitudes that lead to the demand for assisted suicide. Any rational person would realize that the current crisis would only be made worse by legalizing assisted suicide.

Our nation’s current response to the threat of suicide is woefully inadequate. Funding for prevention is stagnant and there is a dire shortage of mental health professionals and facilities, particularly for poor people who depend on Medicaid. The addiction crisis, which is largely the result of the mental health crisis, is also not being addressed adequately. It is also likely that suicides are seriously undercounted because many are seen as accidental overdoses.

There is a relentless push by advocates of assisted suicide to push legislation in the states, including in New York. They are facilitated by a compliant media, who regularly publish puff pieces about terminally ill people who kill themselves, and rarely allow opponents of assisted suicide — particularly people with disabilities — to voice their concerns. The medical profession is under particular pressure, as evidenced by the American Medical Association’s consideration of a resolution to go “neutral” about legalization. There is no such thing as neutrality on this issue — if you don’t oppose it, you’re de facto in favor of it.

The tragic suicides of prominent people have been a wake-up call to our nation about the suicide crisis. This is no time to be talking about legalizing suicide for anyone.

A Time of Decision in Ireland

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

A momentous decision is looming in Ireland. They have a choice between life and death. Once made, there will likely be no going back.

At issue is a referendum on May 25th that would repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution.  The amendment currently guarantees the right to life for the unborn child and ensures equal legal protection to both the mother and the unborn child. It reads: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” This is a humane and sensible expression of the natural moral law that every human life deserves to be protected in law, and that no life is more valuable than another.

The amendment was originally adopted by referendum in 1983, with an approval vote of almost 67%. One would have thought that the matter was settled, but that wouldn’t account for the relentless pressure of pro-abortion organizations in Europe and elsewhere. Ireland has been consistently targeted by pro-abortion groups, who cannot stand the notion that a nation in the supposedly enlightened West could possibly believe that an unborn human being has human rights and deserves legal protection.

They have pushed forward other referenda that have weakened the 8th Amendment by guaranteeing the right to travel for an abortion (which primarily means to the UK, which has very liberal laws) and the right to receive information about foreign abortions. Other referenda to expand abortion were defeated. Advocates have turned to the courts, and won decisions that guaranteed the right to an abortion if the mother’s life was in danger — but the court included the notion of a risk of suicide, which just invites cynical manipulation by the amoral abortion industry to create a de facto right to abortion on demand.

They have now pressed the issue with this referendum, which would repeal the 8th amendment and permit the government to enact legislation regulating abortion.

This point is essential to remember. The referendum isn’t the only thing at stake here. The pending legislation is what ultimately matters the most, because it shows what repeal will really mean  to unborn Irish children. The government has released the bill that it proposes to enact if the 8th Amendment is repealed. It is a radical bill that would give Ireland among the most liberal abortion laws in Europe, and arguably as liberal as the United States. The bill would allow abortion:

  • Prior to 12 weeks for any reason;
  • Prior to viability “when there is a risk to the life of, or of serious harm to the health of, the pregnant woman”;
  • At any time when “there is an immediate risk to the life of, or of serious harm to the health of, the pregnant woman”; and
  • At any time when “there is present a condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before birth or shortly after birth”.

The bill defines “health” as “physical or mental health”, without any further specificity. The courts in Ireland, or subsequent legislation, could easily interpret “mental health” as broadly as our Supreme Court has interpreted the term “health”. This means that the bill could legalize abortion on demand at least prior to viability and it could also open the door to abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy. And nobody could possibly believe that the pro-abortion advocates will ultimately be satisfied with any limits — as we’ve seen here in the US, they countenance no limits on abortion, no matter how reasonable.

The campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment is supported by the Irish Prime Minister, most of the major political parties, and major Irish and international abortion rights organizations (such as Amnesty International). Prominent celebrities such as Liam Neeson and U2 have come out in favor of repeal. The traditional media (print, television and radio) are very heavily in favor of repeal — they have been notably biased against the opponents and have even frozen them out of advertising and news coverage. None of this should surprise us here in the United States, since we face the same monolithic opposition of our supposed betters in the media and government.

The pro-life effort opposing repeal is a real David v. Goliath battle. It is led by the major pro-life organizations, particularly the Pro-Life Campaign (using the slogan “Love Both”) and the Life Institute ( “Save the 8th”). The Irish Bishops’ Conference, as well as dozens of individual bishops, have issued strong and eloquent statements urging a “no” vote, but their influence has been badly damaged by past scandals. No major political party has come out in opposition to repeal. That is a truly remarkable and tragic state of affairs — not a single major Irish political organization is willing to defend unborn children.

The campaign for repeal is generally considered to be far better funded than the anti-repeal campaign. Both Google and Facebook have suspended any advertisements about the referendum, which will unduly hurt the pro-life side. The lack of any outrage over this effort by powerful American corporations to interfere in a foreign election to remove legal protections for human life should be noted any time anyone suggests that corporations aren’t legal “persons” or that they are forces for social good. This is the kind of thing that the Holy Father is referring to when he speaks of “ideological colonialism”.

There is little that American pro-lifers can do to impact this election, since Irish law bans foreign money from their political campaigns. Of course, that’s only because we respect the law, and it hasn’t stopped pro-abortion groups like Amnesty International from pouring money in.

But we can and should certainly pray for wisdom for the Irish voters, that they will uphold their nation’s honorable and admirable protection for all human lives. Since the vote is on the 25th, perhaps people could join me in praying a special Novena to Our Lady of Knock, the Queen of Ireland, beginning on May 17th. Here is the prayer:

Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to your divine Son, remembering His promise, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find”. Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to Heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick, lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the Holy Mass. Give me a greater love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Pray for me now and at the end of my death. Amen.

Hope and Assisted Suicide

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Ascension. That naturally should lead Christians to contemplate the virtue of Hope. The Catechism summarizes the basic principles: “Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him forever.” (CCC 666) And again, “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1817)

I am particularly struck by the importance of this virtue because of recent experience. Last week, I gave testimony on behalf of the Archdiocese and the Catholic Conference at a hearing held by the Assembly Health Committee in Manhattan. The legislation at issue was the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

It was a very long hearing. I sat in the hearing room for over eight hours before I testified, and the hearing went on for at least another hour and a half. By the end, almost 50 people testified – the majority in favor of the bill. I had also attended a previous hearing in Albany on the legislation, which lasted about three hours. So I’ve heard a lot of arguments in favor of legalizing assisted suicide.

Most of the witnesses who favored the legislation spoke of their desire to avoid suffering at the end of life, particularly the loss of autonomy, the effects of diminished capacity to perform basic tasks and enjoy favored pleasures, the fear of unbearable pain, and the desire to “end life on my own terms”. The tales of sadness and suffering were very heart-felt, and I deeply respect them for their sincerity.

But what made the stories most sad was that they lacked any sense of hope.

The subtext of their testimony was the bleak meaningless of suffering and even of life itself, the sense of loneliness and abandonment  of so many people with grave illnesses, the illusion that one can control one’s life though an exercise of will, and a utilitarian view of life that equated value with usefulness or function. I remarked to a colleague afterwards that the view of life of so many of the witnesses was flat and  almost two-dimensional – as if this visible life is all that there is. If that’s the case, then it makes a certain kind of sense to favor suicide as an answer to suffering.

In contrast, the testimony by many of those who opposed the bill showed a richer, deeper sense of the inherent dignity of life. The best exemplars of this were the persons with disabilities who gave inspiring accounts of the meaning and value of their lives, despite their daily difficulties. Particularly impressive was the poignant testimony of Kristen Hanson, the widow of J.J. Hanson, who was such a warrior against his own deadly cancer and against the legalization of assisted suicide.

What made these opposition testimonies so powerful, I think, was the virtue of hope. That makes perfect sense. If you believe that there is a higher dimension to life, and particularly if you trust that Jesus is good to his word and that we have a chance for eternal life with God, you will look at sickness, pain and suffering in a different light. You will see it as a transitional stage in our lives, unpleasant to be sure, but part of a long continuum that we all have to travel and that can actually have a happy ending.

Hope rejects the idea that our loved ones are annihilated by death, but instead believes that they have entered into a new and glorious life – and that we hope to join them there. It helps us to see that suffering can have a kind of power, as St. Paul pointed out – “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10). It can also lead us to understand that a death infused with hope can be a beautiful experience for those left behind.

The depressing testimonies by the proponents of assisted suicide stand in such bold contrast to the confidence that the virtue of hope offers us. I couldn’t help but think of the strong exhortations by St. Paul in Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 15 to reject the view that death is the end, and understand the significance of the victory of Christ over death and the joyful hope that it gives us.

The fight against assisted suicide, as with all the other incursions of the Culture of Death, is long and difficult. It can be tiring to battle for so long against so many opponents and with so few allies. But we have one great advantage on our side – the virtue of hope that comes from our faith in the power and glory of God. With that, we can take to heart St. Paul’s advice: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor 15:58)

How the Law Kills

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

The world was transfixed over the last week by the tragic case of Alfie Evans. This poor young boy, not yet two years old, was the center of a legal dispute in which his life hung in the balance. His case has a greater significance, though, because it is a demonstration of how bad law can kill.

A quick synopsis of the basic facts of Alfie’s case will help put us understand this bigger picture. Not long after he was born, he started showing symptoms of a neurological disorder and had to be hospitalized. The condition was never diagnosed, but it progressed and left Alfie in a coma and dependent on assisted food, hydration and breathing. After over a year of treatment, the doctors decided that further treatment of Alfie was futile and that his recovery was impossible. I am sure that they made that diagnosis in good faith. But his parents disagreed, and searched out other options for continued treatment or, failing that, they wanted to bring Alfie home.

Here is where the bad law makes its appearance. In the UK, the law gives the court authority to overrule parental decisions if there is a dispute between the doctors and parents over life-sustaining treatment for their child, based on his assessment of the “best interests of the child”. And that’s what happened here. The court overruled the parents and gave permission to the doctors to remove Alfie from life support.

So without any proof of abuse or neglect or any other misconduct on the part of Alfie’s parents — in fact, all the evidence was that they were devoted to him — their parental rights were stripped from them simply because they disagreed with the doctors about how to care for their son. The court actually went even further, and forbade Alfie’s parents from choosing any other kind of treatment, and even forbade them from taking him home. This is an astonishing result. Alfie had the right to have his care decided upon by his parents, not by doctors or judges. I can only describe this as judicial kidnapping.

As bad as that law is, the underlying principles are even worse. The initial court that ruled on Alfie’s case gave great authority to a document called “Making Decisions to Limit Treatment in Life-limiting and Life-Threatening Conditions in Children: A Framework for Practice”, issued by the Royal College of Paedriatics and Child Health in 2015. This “guidance” sets out the standards under which medical decisions will be made for critically ill children who are dependent on “life-sustaining treatment”. In that document, there are two fatal errors that inevitably distort the way that doctors will approach the care of children on life support, and that create a significant bias in favor of death.

The first error is this astounding statement: “The principle of the sanctity of life is not absolute.” All the errors in Alfie’s case, and all those like it, stem from this tainted source. If the sanctity of life isn’t absolute, then of course courts and doctors will put conditions on preserving it. When that decision is made in the context of our society’s fear and even disgust for disability and diminished capacity, this guarantees that imperfect lives will be systematically devalued and discarded. And that’s exactly the calculus that the court was making, applying the principle set out elsewhere in the document that life-sustaining treatement can be ended “when life is limited in quality”. Operating from these premises, it makes perfect sense that a misguided court will reach the horrific conclusion that a patient like Alfie is better off dead.

This is the evil doctrine of “lives unworthy of living”, the wicked notion that “It can in no way be doubted that there are living human beings whose death would be a deliverance both for themselves and society, and especially for the state, which would be liberated from a burden that fulfills absolutely no purpose”. This discredited principle from the infamous 1923 book Permitting the Destruction of Life Not Worthy of Life , which led to the involuntary euthanasia program of the Nazis, keeps coming back under different guises. Pope Francis called it by another name: “the throwaway culture”.

Along with this fatal flaw comes the second error, which can be found in this key definition: “Life-Sustaining Treatments (LSTs) are those that have the potential to prolong life. They may include… Clinically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration”. Considering assisted nutrition and hydration as “treatment” is very common in the medical world. But it is utterly misguided.

Food and water are not medical treatments but basic human needs, like shelter, clothing, air and sanitation. They are fundamental human rights, and caregivers have an obligation to provide them if a person can’t do so for themselves. This stems from their inherent dignity as a human person, which is never lost because of condition or prognosis. This is a foundational perspective of sound medical morality. By rejecting this norm, the UK doctors ensured that some of their patients, whose lives are no longer considered worth preserving because of a negative prognosis, will be killed by starvation or dehydration.

These distorted principles produced the regime of law that killed Alfie Evans and betrayed his parents: a law that permitted a judge to substitute himself for Alfie’s parents; an underlying bias against the value of life with a disability; and an erroneous notion that a fundamental human need can be denied if the overall prognosis is bad. All of that adds up to a law that leans in favor of death.

We are dangerously close to following it here. It’s true that our Supreme Court long ago recognized the natural law principle that “the child is not the mere creature of the State” and that parents have the authority to oversee their health and upbringing. But we have already seen courts and laws interfere with that sacred family relationship. For example, children can get contraceptives and even abortions without their parents even being notified. That is a dangerous path, and it is even more treacherous when combined with trends in the medical world like increasing approval of assisted suicide and euthanasia, futile care theory, cost pressures, and the invidious social fear and disdain for disability. It leads inexorably to euthanasia, the fancy word for murder by doctor.

The Alfie Evans case is a test study for how the law can kill. This is why we cannot give an inch in our resistance to assisted suicide and euthanasia, and why we can never surrender to the Culture of Death.

The Obscenity of the Culture of Death on Display

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

If anyone wonders where the Culture of Death leads, it is there before our eyes — the government of the UK is planning on starving a toddler to death against his parents’ fervent wishes, for no other reason than that he has a disability. The government and the courts have prevented his parents from moving the child to another hospital, and have decided that he is better off dead.

The story is about little Alfie Evans, who will be two years old on May 9 — if he survives. Not long after he was born, he started showing symptoms of a neurological disorder and had to be hospitalized. The condition still hasn’t been diagnosed, but it has progressed and left Alfie in a coma. His parents have been with him the whole way and have not given up hope for him.

In December, the hospital decided to go to court to terminate the parents’ rights to determine Alfie’s health care. The reason was that the hospital considered Alfie’s case to be hopeless and that he would be better off dead. The legal battle over Alfie’s life has engulfed the UK and Europe. Court after court refused to grant his parents the right to continue his treatment or to take him elsewhere.

Others have stepped up to offer help to Alfie. The Holy Father has pleaded for him. The Vatican-related Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome has offered to take him, and another hospital in Munich has done the same. Italy granted Alfie citizenship in hopes that this would convince the UK courts to release him to be transported to the Bambino Gesu.

The courts have remained adamant that Alfie must die.

On Monday evening the hospital took Alfie off life support. To their surprise, he didn’t die, but breathed on his own. Undaunted, the hospital withheld food and water from him for a day. Try to wrap your brain around that. The hospital tried to murder Alfie by starving him to death. Fortunately, they renewed life support and feeding when a new round of court appeals began.

Awaiting the final ruling of the court, the Holy Father arranged for a military helicopter ambulance to transport Alfie. But again, the courts were unmoved. The latest judge ruled that dying was in Alfie’s best interests and that he could not be taken from the country.

It’s difficult to even think about this case without crying and becoming enraged. I’m a parent and I can’t even imagine the pain Alfie’s parents are going through. I’m a lawyer and I can’t comprehend the mind of a lawyer and judge who can be so heartless in his rulings.

This is the product of a culture where every life is not valued for its own worth, regardless of function, capability, and usefulness. This is the product of a “throwaway culture”, as Pope Francis calls it, where the answer seems to be to discard troublesome life. This is the product of a huge structure of sin created by and fed by abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, violence, indiscriminate war. This is the product of a society with a very, very deep spiritual sickness.

Alfie is a victim of the Culture of Death at its most obscene.

Tomorrow, April 26, we will be having a Mass and prayer vigil for Alfie. We will start at Holy Family Church on East 47th Street with noontime Mass, and we will walk up the block to the UK Mission to the UN on 2nd Avenue between 47th and 46th Streets, where we will pray. Please join us in prayer if you can’t join us in person.

Reading the Holy Father Correctly on Life Issues

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

There is an unfortunate tendency during the current papacy to seek confusion and controversy where there really is none. All too often I see in my email and online Catholics complaining about various statements by the Holy Father, saying that they are unclear or confusing or contrary to the statements of earlier popes.

My favorite recent pope is Benedict XVI. His clear and powerful writings resonate with me. Perhaps it’s the legacy of my German ancestors. Benedict gave us a key tool with which to look at statements from popes and bishops, so that we can always “think with the Church” as St. Ignatius of Loyola put it. Speaking specifically about the Second Vatican Council, he contrasted two ways of looking at teachings of the Church over time: “On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform”, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.” The word “hermeneutic” is a fancy term for the way we look at things.

In that spirit, let’s look at one passage from Pope Francis’ new document, his apostolic exhortation on holiness Gaudete et Excultate (nos. 101 and 102):

The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the “grave” bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him (cf. Mt 25:35)? Saint Benedict did so readily, and though it might have “complicated” the life of his monks, he ordered that all guests who knocked at the monastery door be welcomed “like Christ”, with a gesture of veneration; the poor and pilgrims were to be met with “the greatest care and solicitude”.

Some people have looked at this passage through the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”, thinking that Pope Francis has broken with the teachings of his predecessors and saying that abortion should no longer be seen as a paramount issue and that migration issues are just as important. The secular media has been guilty of spreading this misinterpretation, obviously because they wish that we would spend less energy fighting abortion and they love to sow disunity among us. Unfortunately, some Catholics have fallen for it, and think that Pope Francis is going soft on abortion.

Actually, not. When we look at this passage through the “hermeneutic of continuity”, we see that what the Holy Father is saying is that all the issues on which we do advocacy stem from the same source — the inherent dignity of every human person. He recognizes that abortion requires “clear, firm and passionate” defense, but urges us to make sure that other violations of human dignity are not ignored. The Holy Father is personally very concerned about migration issues, and he wishes that we all were too, but he is absolutely not telling us to desist from fighting abortion. He particularly is warning us against pitting one issue against another, as a cynical politician might do in order to get our votes. We can all cite examples of that.

If this advice sounds familiar, it should. Here is what St. Pope John Paul II said in his great pro-life encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (nos. 3 and 10):

The Second Vatican Council, in a passage which retains all its relevance today, forcefully condemned a number of crimes and attacks against human life. Thirty years later, taking up the words of the Council and with the same forcefulness I repeat that condemnation in the name of the whole Church, certain that I am interpreting the genuine sentiment of every upright conscience: “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”….

And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes? And what of the violence inherent not only in wars as such but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood? What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the world’s ecological balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity which, besides being morally unacceptable, also involve grave risks to life? It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today!

St. John Paul went on in that encyclical to focus on abortion and euthanasia as particularly grave threats to life, but he made sure that we recalled that there are many other threats to life and dignity as well.

There is clearly nothing wrong with responding when the Holy Spirit is calling us to prioritize our efforts on one issue or another. So many people have dedicated their lives to fighting for the rights of unborn people, and others have done so on behalf of prisoners, migrants, victims of human trafficking, the environment, and so on. But what Pope Francis, and St. John Paul and Pope Benedict before him, is warning us about is our natural tendency to ignore other issues, or — even worse — to denigrate them or oppose Church teaching about them, out of a misguided devotion to the particular issue that we favor or that is favored by our preferred political party.

Serving the common good, which is at the heart of Catholic social teaching, requires that we work to eliminate all threats to human life and dignity, since all lives are equally sacred in the eyes of God. That requires each of us to focus our energies on particular issues, and to be grateful that other people are working on other issues. All of this is good — after all, “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord” (1 Cor 12:4-5).

The Governor’s Cruel Abortion Bill

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

All abortions are acts of terrible cruelty. Late-term abortions are particularly barbaric – they are typically done by dismembering the child while she is still alive and capable of feeling pain. There is no civilized way to kill a child in her mother’s womb – or anywhere else, for that matter.

Our laws do little to temper this cruelty. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s perverse jurisprudence, there is virtually no effective ban on any abortion at any stage of pregnancy. The one ban that has survived judicial nullification, the partial birth abortion ban, has likely had no real effect, since it left abortionists free to choose another method, equally cruel, to kill the child.

The innate cruelty of the abortion mentality has been brought into clear view by Governor Cuomo’s proposed abortion expansion scheme. This is the same approach he unsuccessfully tried a few years ago, which was thwarted by sustained opposition by pro-lifers. This time, the Governor has gamed the legislative system by squirreling his abortion expansion bill in one of his budget bills. This corrupt and anti-democratic maneuver makes it very difficult to eliminate the abortion proposal, which would remove any restrictions on the reasons for late-term abortions, permit non-doctors to do abortions, and eliminate any protection for the unborn child against a direct assault. I’ve outlined elsewhere the dangers of this proposal.

There is one provision in the Governor’s bill that is so cruel and so inhumane that it deserves separate attention and special condemnation.

In our current Public Health Law, there is a section that is called the “Baby Doe Law” (section 4164). Enacted in 1974, this law requires that whenever an abortion is performed after 20 weeks, a second doctor must be present whose responsibility is to take care of the child in case she is born alive. This should surely be uncontroversial – it is an element of basic humanity to provide care to a helpless vulnerable person. In fact, a related federal law, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act was passed in 2002 by the House by a wide margin and the Senate by unanimous consent.

Yet the Governor’s bill would repeal the Baby Doe Law. In other words, he would deny health care to a vulnerable helpless child, crying for her mother and struggling to survive. He would leave her fate in the hands of an abortionist, whose primary job is to kill her.

This is not an academic discussion. Babies are born alive after abortions and abortionists do nothing to care for them. Some abortionists, like the infamous Kermit Gosnell, deliberately murder them. A study published by a highly respected medical journal has estimated that over 5% of babies survive abortion at 21 weeks and almost 10% survive a 23 week abortion – at a time when many of them would be able to survive if they were given proper medical care. According to official New York statistics, there were 2,106 abortions after 20 weeks in 2015. That means that there could be over 100 and perhaps as many as 200 babies born alive in New York after abortions, many of whom were viable. There’s no way to know how many of them received decent medical care.

This horrifying reality was brought into the light in the recent Congressional investigation into the alleged sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood. One Planned Parenthood doctor testified:

I can tell you that none of our Health Centers provide obstetrics care. So they don’t deliver babies. So they don’t have anyone who can provide care, nor do they know what that care is. . . . We don’t deliver babies at Planned Parenthood. . . . [O]ur affiliates don’t provide obstetrical care. So therefore, they don’t know how to manage a term infant or a premature infant. (emphasis added)

Another doctor from a university hospital in New Mexico, who performs late-term abortions and trains other doctors to do so, testified:

Q: So does your curriculum call for training of doctors of what to do if a child is born alive because of an induced abortion?
A: No.
Q: No training at all?
A: No.
Q: There’s no resuscitation training?
A: OB/GYN doctors do not resuscitate neonates. (emphasis added)

Reflecting on this and other chilling testimony from abortionists, the Congressional panel concluded,

The testimony… suggests a lack of medical training and of any sense of obligation to be trained to preserve the life of an infant that survives the abortion procedure. It reflects a philosophy that a right to abortion somehow carries a guarantee of the death of the infant expelled during the procedure.

This is what the Governor wants to enshrine in New York law. The deliberate killing by neglect of babies who have already been born and who can survive with basic care. To bring us back to the level of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who left unwanted children out in the woods to die of exposure and neglect.

Infanticide is the technical term.

It is cruel and barbaric by any name.

New York’s Insatiable Abortion Appetite

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Today is the 45 th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s tragic Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the nation. New York had previously legalized abortion, so this year is the 48 th anniversary. Both of these statements are an indictment of the inhumanity of our contemporary society.

Here are a few numbers to contemplate (all are from 2015 except the last three, which are from 2014):

  • 86,627 – the total number of abortions in New York State. So in a little over two years, the equivalent of the population of my hometown of Yonkers is aborted.
  • 367 – the number of abortions per 1,000 live births in the state. In other words, over a quarter of all pregnancies in our state ends with an abortion.
  • 505 – the number of abortions per 1,000 live births in New York City. In other words, over a third of all pregnancies in the City ends with an abortion.
  • 1,038 – the number of abortions per 1,000 live births for African-Americans in New York City. So there are more abortions than live births among African-Americans. If that number doesn’t appall you, then I fear for the state of your soul.
  • 2,106 – the number of abortions in our state after 20 weeks – after the time when unborn children can feel pain. How much more inhumane can we be, than to dismember a living human being who feels the pain of it?
  • 48,345 – the number of cases in which the abortion was not the woman’s first. This shows that in many cases, abortion is a backup form of contraception.
  • 3,998 — the number of cases where the woman had at least 5 prior abortions. The pathos of this number is too great to express.

Will our state’s insatiable appetite for abortion ever be satiated?

Apparently not, if you pay attention to what our Governor is doing.

In his State of the State Address, the Governor called for the incorporation of Roe v. Wade into our laws and constitution. That would put the right to an abortion on the same plane as the right to free speech and the right to vote. If that’s not extreme enough, he included in his annual budget bill a proposal that would eliminate all criminal penalties for abortion. This would eliminate key protections for women and unborn children: the requirement that only doctors perform abortions, the requirement that abortions after 24 weeks be done only to save the life of the mother, and the ability to prosecute persons who deliberately attack and kill a child while still in her mother’s womb. Even worse, this bill would also repeal a section of the law that protects a child who is born alive as the result of an abortion.

Consider for a second the corrupt dishonesty of including in a budget bill such a proposal — which has nothing whatsoever to do with government finances. The only purpose of doing so is to make abortion a negotiable item, and to put increased pressure on the legislature to pass the abortion expansion measure as part of the overall funding of our state government. Since nobody wants to repeat the government shutdown fiasco we’ve seen in Washington, it’s like a hold-up – expand abortion or else.

Gone are the days when “pro-choice” advocates put up the front of regretting the demand for abortion. Now they are openly “pro-abortion” and are celebrating abortion as a positive good. Just look at the rhetoric at the various Marches for Women from last weekend and the clear “not welcome” signals they sent to pro-life women. Just look at how ferociously they oppose all common-sense regulations of abortion. Just consider the shame of most House Democrats voting against a bill that would have guaranteed health care to any child lucky enough to survive an abortion and be born alive.

New York already has the disgraceful distinction of having the highest rate of abortion in the United States, according to the CDC. The insatiable appetite for the death of unborn children is a stain on our society.

And if our Governor has his way, there will be more, more, more.