"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New film shows dramatic revival of Omaha parish

By Carl Bunderson

Omaha, Neb., Apr 28, 2013 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new documentary tracks the gripping journey of how a priest and his community – through fidelity to Church tradition and Vatican II – turned a church with dwindling numbers into a thriving parish.

“We're trying to do everything as faithfully as we can, as beautifully as we can, to what the Church has given us,” Father Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Omaha, told CNA April 24.

St. Peter's is “dedicated to the restoration of the sacred,” he said, with Masses sung with Latin and chant, liturgies celebrated both facing the people and facing the altar, altar boys, Eucharistic adoration, evening prayer sung every day, processions, and distribution of Communion at the altar rail.

“This is what we should do, if we're going to be a fully faithful church according to Vatican II and the whole tradition of the Church,” said Fr. Cook.

“Where Heaven Meets Earth” is a 30 minute documentary produced by the StoryTel Foundation, which will be premiered on EWTN on Tuesday, April 30. A DVD of the documentary is also available for pre-order at the foundation's website.

Don Carney, the director of StoryTel Foundation, told CNA that his family began attending St. Peter's in 2006 because “we were completely blown away by Fr. Cook and his approach to the liturgy...the music really grabbed us.”

“I had no plans to do a story on this place, but as we attended Mass, and then they had their annual Corpus Christi procession, I was so amazed by this huge outpouring of people...it's a really beautiful thing,” Carney said.

St. Peter's Corpus Christi procession attracts over 1,000 people, including for the second year in a row, Omaha's archbishop, George J. Lucas. The procession goes through the parish's downtown neighborhood, which has drawn people back to the Catholic Church.

“If the truth is the truth...we want everyone to find and embrace that truth. It does them no act of kindness to keep the very truth that will free them, from them,” Fr. Cook explains in the documentary.

St. Peter's was founded in 1886 and did well until the 480 freeway was constructed within a block of the church in the early 1960s. The construction razed many homes and businesses, and Omaha experienced a massive population move to the suburbs and west Omaha.

The parish was impoverished and experienced dwindling attendance until Fr. Cook was assigned as pastor in 2004.

Fr. Cook says he didn't come to St. Peter's with a program or plan to bring more people in. Instead, he asked the question of himself: “What do I think it means to be a priest, and a pastor?”

Although this includes “all components of charity and catechesis,” he said, “first and foremost it has to start with the liturgy...it's the source and summit. So the first thing that happened, that I could do, was liturgical formation.”

The decisions Fr. Cook made “drew a lot of people back to the Church, which in turn re-vitalized our ministries, so now we've got all kinds of outpourings.”

The parish is home to a vibrant Catholic culture, with a St. Vincent de Paul society, a food pantry, Boy Scouts, music ministry, four choirs, lay Carmelites, and a host of other organizations.

“People get drawn by the liturgy, and they've then given back to the Church in terms of evangelization, charity, and fraternity...it's beautiful to behold.”

“It's been a real blessing. I always pinch myself that I'm here, because I keep thinking God must not love me very much because there's very little suffering,” Fr. Cook jested. “The people are really nice, and very passionate about their faith.”

The beauty Fr. Cook has brought to the liturgy at St. Peter's is not about “spectacle for its own sake, but to convey the grandeur of God.”

“We can only desire to give God our best. So it's not so much to give back to us, in the sense of that's a nice concert or that's so pretty, but what can we give back to God,” he said.

“This is the worship of Jesus to God the Father...so it deserves that our display be its best with our meager resources, to convey what's happening invisibly.”

“That is absolutely beautiful, and liturgical rites are ordered towards truth, so there's a goodness and symmetry to them.”

Fr. Cook believes beauty is particularly important in our age, because “we've lost so much in this very functional age, in terms of idolizing efficiency.” He said the Gregorian chant sung at the parish transcends cultures and “brings people back to beauty.”

Between the chanted psalms at the Mass and the gorgeous stained glass windows made in Germany in the 1920s, at St. Peter's “everything goes together to make this beautiful symphony of truth, of goodness.”

The adoption of chant has even affected the reverence of parishioners at St. Peter's. “I'm blessed with the congregation that comes,” Fr. Cook said. “We have a lot of big families, in both the English and Spanish-speaking communities, so they make noise, but I don't have to get up and remind them after Mass to be quiet.”

“They stay in the pew for their thanksgiving, and go outside to the vestibule to talk. And even the dress, what people wear has really changed. Guests comment on how nicely people dress for Sunday Mass.”

Fr. Cook reflected that “you never realize how much one person affects the person next to them, and we can bring each other down or really raise each other up.”

“Even if we're not physically talking to someone, but just by what we wear and by deciding to stay after and pray at the altar rail or in our pew, it really reminds people. It really has helped here.”

Each Sunday, the parish has two Masses in English and two in Spanish, before and during which confessions are heard, with the assistance of Fr. Cook's parochial vicar, Fr. Rheo Ofalsa.

St. Peter's is also host to a Vietnamese community which has a Mass there each Sunday. Were the parish more than its 1.6 miles away from a church dedicated to the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite – how the Mass was said prior to 1962 – Fr. Cook would be offering that as well.

Some parishioners attend Mass at both parishes, he said, and his people appreciate that he celebrates the ordinary form by “following Vatican II as best we can – still using Latin, chant, organ, the communion rail, all those kind of things, even ad orientem. I think people do experience beauty in that.”

Fr. Cook also made a conscious decision to allow altar serving to be done by boys, in an effort to provide the young boys of the parish with “some solidarity” and to promote vocations. From the nine altar servers the parish had when he arrived in 2004, the parish is now served by 75 altar boys.

The altar boy program is divided into degrees, so the children can experience accomplishment and progress in their time there. The boys start out wearing albs, and once they have proved themselves as reliable, they receive a “Seraph Server” award and they are allowed to wear cassock and surplice.

Some of these then become masters of ceremonies and take on responsibilities in training the younger boys. The ethos at St. Peter's has already inspired one parishioner, already an adult, to pursue a consecrated vocation. Nathan Hall is a seminarian of the Omaha archdiocese now studying theology.

Fr. Cook also wanted a “motherly role” at the parish, and said God granted him two religious sisters, who are beginning an order of “active Poor Clares,” in the Franciscan tradition.

The Seraphic Sisters of the Eucharist bring the “poverty, joy, and love” of Saint Clare to St. Peter's. The sisters serve as sacristans, teachers, give retreat days, and do counseling work with the parish's Latino population.

“It's great to actually have two sisters here who day in and day out are praying for the parish and working with the youth,” said Fr. Cook. “Even if they don't have vocations here to the Seraphic Sisters, I know it's inspiring the girls to look for consecrated life in a particular way.”

StoryTel Foundation's mission is to create compelling films which tell of those who work to restore the sacred in their communities, and their goal with “Where Heaven Meets Earth” was to share how establishing reverence for God has helped a parish that was going under to now do well.

“If your parish is suffering in any way, maybe you might try some of the things that Father's doing here that might help the parish, and bring people closer to their faith,” Carney said.

The non-profit spent $100,000 producing the documentary, which shows in its high quality. Carney said that a positive message is not sufficient for Catholics to make a great film. Quality imagery, sound, and story, still matter.

StoryTel strives to produce excellent documentaries because “everything you put on the screen is in competition with everything a viewer has seen on the screen. So you're competing with Lincoln, and with Lawrence of Arabia, so you need to take that into account,” Carney explained.

“What's really good, true, and beautiful is timeless, so it's always new.” He said Fr. Cook's restoration of the timeless elements of the Church's tradition is “like rediscovering buried treasure of the Church.”

St. Peter's church building is in the process of being restored. It suffered damage in its years of dwindling parishioners and money, and Fr. Cook has already had the roof replaced.

The parish is in the process of further restoration, switching from carpet to marble flooring, getting new pews, painting and brightening the church, and getting new lighting, all to “make a vision of heaven,” Fr. Cook said.

All the efforts made at St. Peter's have been in conformity with the heritage of the Church and with Vatican II.

Fr. Cook explained, “I've done nothing that wasn't prescribed in Sacrosanctum concilium (the council's constitution on liturgy) and the documents since. It's not because of me, because I like it...but this is what the documents say.”

He would like to see the reforms made at the church “in any parish. St. Peter's shouldn't be unique.” The priest added that he is glad that the people of St. Peter's have been open to the beauty that was asked for by the Second Vatican Council.

They didn't condemn the changes, or have preconceptions about it such as “this is old, or won't be interesting,” he said,“but they let themselves experience what this creates in the Church – the music, the altar rail, the incense, all these things – you do really do associate them with reverence and the sacred.”

“The experience itself teaches people,” Fr. Cook reflected, “if they allow themselves to experience the beauty, and be open to it.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sigrid Undset on St. Catherine of Siena

Monday, April 29, 2013

The opening pages of Catherine of Siena | by Sigrid Undset, the Nobel Prize winning author of Kristin Lavransdatter | Ignatius Insight

In the city-states of Tuscany the citizens—Popolani—businessmen, master craftsmen and the professional class had already in the Middle Ages demanded and won the right to take part in the government of the republic side by side with the nobles—the Gentiluomini. In Siena they had obtained a third of the seats in the High Council as early as the twelfth century. In spite of the fact that the different parties and rival groups within the parties were in constant and often violent disagreement, and in spite of the frequent wars with Florence, Siena's neighbour and most powerful competitor, prosperity reigned within the city walls. The Sienese were rich and proud of their city, so they filled it with beautiful churches and public buildings. Masons, sculptors, painters and smiths who made the exquisite lattices and lamps, were seldom out of work. Life was like a brightly coloured tissue, where violence and vanity, greed and uninhibited desire for sensual pleasure, the longing for power, and ambition, were woven together in a multitude of patterns. But through the tissue ran silver threads of Christian charity, deep and genuine piety in the monasteries and among the good priests, among the brethren and sisters who had dedicated themselves to a life of helping their neighbours. The well-to-do and the common people had to the best of their ability provided for the sick, the poor and the lonely with unstinted generosity. In every class of the community there were good people who lived a quiet, modest and beautiful family life of purity and faith.

The family of Jacopo Benincasa was one of these. By trade he was a wool-dyer, and he worked with his elder sons and apprentices while his wife, Lapa di Puccio di Piagente, firmly and surely ruled the large household, although her life was an almost unbroken cycle of pregnancy and childbirth—and almost half her children died while they were still quite small. It is uncertain how many of them grew up, but the names of thirteen children who lived are to be found on an old family tree of the Benincasas. Considering how terribly high the rate of infant mortality was at that time, Jacopo and Lapa were lucky in being able to bring up more than half the children they had brought into the world.

Jacopo Benincasa was a man of solid means when in 1346 he was able to rent a house in the Via dei Tintori, close to the Fonte Branda, one of the beautiful covered fountains which assured the town of a plentiful supply of fresh water. The old home of the Benincasas, which is still much as it was at that time, is, according to our ideas, a small house for such a big family. But in the Middle Ages people were not fussy about the question of housing, least of all the citizens of the fortified towns where people huddled together as best they could within the protection of the walls. Building space was expensive, and the city must have its open markets, churches and public buildings, which at any rate theoretically belonged to the entire population. The houses were crowded together in narrow, crooked streets. According to the ideas of that time the new home of the Benincasas was large and impressive.

Lapa had already had twenty-two children when she gave birth to twins, two little girls, on Annunciation Day, March 25, 1347. They were christened Catherine and Giovanna. Madonna Lapa could only nurse one of the twins herself, so little Giovanna was handed over to a nurse, while Catherine fed at her mother's breast. Never before had Monna Lapa been able to experience the joy of nursing her own children—a new pregnancy had always forced her to give her child over to another woman. But Catherine lived on her mother's milk until she was old enough to be weaned. It was all too natural that Lapa, who was already advanced in years, came to love this child with a demanding and well-meaning mother-love which later, when the child grew up, made the relationship between the good-hearted, simple Lapa and her young eagle of a daughter one long series of heart-rending misunderstandings. Lapa loved her immeasurably and understood her not at all.

Catherine remained the youngest and the darling of the whole family, for little Giovanna died in infancy, and a new Giovanna, born a few years later, soon followed her sister and namesake into the grave. Her parents consoled themselves with the firm belief that these small, innocent children had flown from their cradles straight into Paradise—while Catherine, as Raimondo of Capua writes, using a slightly far-fetched pun on her name and the Latin word "catena" (a chain), had to work hard on earth before she could take a whole chain of saved souls with her to heaven.

When the Blessed Raimondo of Capua collected material for his biography of St. Catherine he got Madonna Lapa to tell him about the saint's childhood—long, long ago, for Lapa was by that time a widow of eighty. From Raimondo's description one gets the impression that Lapa enjoyed telling everything that came into her head to such an understanding and responsive listener. She told of the old days when she was the active, busy mother in the middle of a flock of her own children, her nieces and nephews, grandchildren, friends and neighbours, and Catherine was the adored baby of a couple who were already elderly. Lapa described het husband Jacopo as a man of unparalleled goodness, piety and uprightness. Raimondo writes that Lapa herself "had not a sign of the vices which one finds among people of our time"; she was an innocent and simple soul, and completely without the ability to invent stories which were not true. But because she had the well-being of so many people on her shoulders, she could not be so unworldly and patient as her husband; or perhaps Jacopo was really almost too good for this world, so that his wife had to be even more practical than she already was, and on occasion she thought it her duty to utter a word or two of common sense to protect the interests of the family.

For Jacopo never said a hard or untimely word however upset or badly treated he might be, and if others in the house gave way to their bad temper or used bitter or unkind words he always tried to talk them round: "Now listen, for your own sake you must keep calm and not use such unseemly words." Once one of his townsmen tried to force him into paying a large sum of money which Jacopo did not owe him, and the honest dyer was hounded and persecuted till he was almost ruined by the slanderous talk of this man and his powerful friends. But in spite of everything Jacopo would not allow anyone to say a word against the man; Lapa did so, but her husband replied: "Leave him in peace, you will see that God will show him his fault and protect us." And a short while afrer that it really happened, said Lapa.

Coarse words and dirty talk were unknown in the dyer's home. His daughter Bonaventura, who was married to a young Sienese, Niccalo, was so much grieved when her husband and his friends engaged in loose talk and told doubtful jokes that she became physically ill and began to waste away. Her husband, who must really have been a well-meaning young man, was worried when he saw how thin and pale his bride was, and wanted to know what was wrong with her. Bonaventura replied seriously, "In my father's house I was not used to listening to such words as I must hear here every day. You can be sure that if such indecent talk continues in our house you will live to see me waste to death." Niccolo at once saw to it that all such bad habits which wounded his wife's feelings were stopped, and openly expressed his admiration for her chaste and modest ways, and the piety of his parents-in-law.

Such was the home of little Catherine. Everyone petted and loved her, and when she was still quite tiny her family admired her "wisdom" when they listened to her innocent prattle. And as she was also very pretty Lapa could scarcely ever have her to herself; all the neighbours wanted to borrow her! Medieval writers seldom trouble to describe children or try to understand them. But Lapa manages in a few pages of Raimondo's book to give us a picture of a little Italian girl, serious and yet happy, attractive and charming—and already beginning to show that overwhelming vitality and spiritual energy which many years later made Raimondo and her other "children" surrender to her influence, with the feeling that her words and her presence banished despondency and faint-heartedness, and filled their souls with the peace and love of God. As soon as she left the circle of her own family, little Catherine became the leader of all the other small children in the street. She taught them games which she had herself invented—that is to say innumerable small acts of devotion. When she was five years old she taught herself the Angelus, and she loved tepeating it incessantly. As she went up or down the stairs at home she used to kneel on each step and say an Ave Maria. For the pious little daughter of a pious family, where everyone talked kindly and politely to everyone else, it must have been quite natural for her as soon as she had heard of God to talk in the same way to Him and His following of saints. It was then still a kind of game for Catherine. But small children put their whole souls and all their imagination into their games.

The neighbours called her Euphrosyne. This is the name of one of the Graces, and it seemed that Raimondo had his doubts about it; could the good people in the Fontebranda quarter have such knowledge of classical mythology that they knew what the name meant? He thought that perhaps, before she could talk properly, Catherine called her something which the neighbors took to be Euphrosyne, for there is also a saint of that name. The Sienese were however used to seeing processions and listening to songs and verse, so they could easily have picked up more of the poets' property than Raimondo imagined. Thus for example, Lapa's father, Pucio de Piagnete, wrote verse in his free time; he was by trade a craftsman—a mattress maker. He was moreover a very pious man, generous towards the monasteries and to monks and nuns. He might easily have known both the heathen and the Christian Euphrosyne. Catherine was for a time very much interested in the legend of St. Euphrosyne, who is supposed to have dressed as a boy and run away from home to enter a monastery. She toyed with the idea of doing the same herself. . . .

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Book Excerpts:

Chapter One of The Living Wood: Saint Helena and the Emperor Constantine (A Novel) | Louis de Wohl
Chapter One of Citadel of God: A Novel About Saint Benedict | Louis de Wohl

Sigrid Undset (1882-1949), a renowned literary author and one of the most acclaimed novelists of the twentieth century, won the Nobel Prize for literaturein 1928 for her epic work Kristin Lavransdatter.

Posted by St. Ignatius of Loyola on Monday, April 29, 2013 at 12:03 AM | Permalink

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The case for the Latin Mass…

Dietrich von Hildebrand, called by Pope Pius XII “the 20th Century Doctor of the Church,” was one of the world’s most eminent Catholic philosophers. Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) wrote about Dietrich von Hildebrand in the year 2000: “I am firmly convinced that, when at some time in the future, the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century is written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time.” The following is an article he wrote on the Latin Mass that appeared in the October 1966 issue of Triumph magazine:

The arguments for the New Liturgy have been neatly packaged, and may now be learned by rote. The new form of the Mass is designed to engage the celebrant and the faithful in a communal activity. In the past the faithful attended Mass in personal isolation, each worshipper making his private devotions, or at best following the proceedings in his missal. Today the faithful can grasp the social character of the celebration; they are learning to appreciate it as a community meal. Formerly, the priest mumbled in a dead language, which created a barrier between priest and people. Now everyone speaks in English, which tends to unite priest and people with one another. In the past the priest said Mass with his back to the people, which created the mood of an esoteric rite. Today, because the priest faces the people, the Mass is a more fraternal occasion. In the past the priest intoned strange medieval chants. Today the entire assembly sings songs with easy tunes and familiar lyrics, and is even experimenting with folk music. The case for the new Mass, then, comes down to this: it is making the faithful more at home in the house of God.

Moreover, these innovations are said to have the sanction of Authority: they are represented as an obedient response to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. This is said notwithstanding that the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy goes no further than to permit the vernacular Mass in cases where the local bishop believes it desirable; the Constitution plainly insists on the retention of the Latin Mass, and emphatically approves the Gregorian chant. But the liturgical “progressives” are not impressed by the difference between permitting and commanding. Nor do they hesitate to authorize changes, such as standing to receive Holy Communion, which the Constitution does not mention at all. The progressives argue that these liberties may be taken because the Constitution is, after all, only the first step in an evolutionary process. And they seem to be having their way. It is difficult to find a Latin Mass anywhere today, and in the United States they are practically non-existent. Even the conventual Mass in monasteries is said in the vernacular, and the glorious Gregorian is replaced by insignificant melodies.

My concern is not with the legal status of the changes. And I emphatically do not wish to be understood as regretting that the Constitution has permitted the vernacular to complement the Latin. What I deplore is that the new Mass is replacing the Latin Mass, that the old liturgy is being recklessly scrapped, and denied to most of the People of God.

I should like to put to those who are fostering this development several questions: Does the new Mass, more than the old, bestir the human spirit–does it evoke a sense of eternity? Does it help raise our hearts from the concerns of everyday life–from the purely natural aspects of the world–to Christ? Does it increase reverence, an appreciation of the sacred?

Of course these questions are rhetorical, and self-answering. I raise them because I think that all thoughtful Christians will want to weigh their importance before coming to a conclusion about the merits of the new liturgy. What is the role of reverence in a truly Christian life, and above all in a truly Christian worship of God?

Reverence gives being the opportunity to speak to us: The ultimate grandeur of man is to be capax Dei. Reverence is of capital importance to all the fundamental domains of man’s life. It can be rightly called “the mother of all virtues,” for it is the basic attitude that all virtues presuppose. The most elementary gesture of reverence is a response to being itself. It distinguishes the autonomous majesty of being from mere illusion or fiction; it is a recognition of the inner consistency and positiveness of being–of its independence of our arbitrary moods. Reverence gives being the opportunity to unfold itself, to, as it were, speak to us; to fecundate our minds. Therefore reverence is indispensable to any adequate knowledge of being. The depth and plenitude of being, and above all its mysteries, will never be revealed to any but the reverent mind. Remember that reverence is a constitutive element of the capacity to “wonder,” which Plato and Aristotle claimed to be the indispensable condition for philosophy. Indeed, irreverence is a chief source of philosophical error. But if reverence is the necessary basis for all reliable knowledge of being, it is, beyond that, indispensable for grasping and assessing the values grounded in being. Only the reverent man who is ready to admit the existence of something greater than himself, who is willing to be silent and let the object speak to him–who opens himself–is capable of entering the sublime world of values. Moreover, once a gradation of values has been recognized, a new kind of reverence is in order–a reverence that responds not only to the majesty of being as such, but to the specific value of a specific being and to its rank in the hierarchy of values. And this new reverence permits the discovery of still other values.

Man reflects his essentially receptive character as a created person solely in the reverent attitude; the ultimate grandeur of man is to be capax Dei. Man has the capacity, in other words, to grasp something greater than himself, to be affected and fecundated by it, to abandon himself to it for its own sake–in a pure response to its value. This ability to transcend himself distinguishes man from a plant or an animal; these latter strive only to unfold their own entelechy. Now: it is only the reverent man who can consciously transcend himself and thus conform to his fundamental human condition and to his metaphysical situation.

Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?

The irreverent man by contrast, approaches being either in an attitude of arrogant superiority or of tactless, smug familiarity. In either case he is crippled; he is the man who comes so near a tree or building he can no longer see it. Instead of remaining at the proper spiritual distance, and maintaining a reverent silence so that being may speak its word, he obtrudes himself and thereby, in effect, silences being. In no domain is reverence more important than religion. As we have seen, it profoundly affects the relation of man to God. But beyond that it pervades the entire religion, especially the worship of God. There is an intimate link between reverence and sacredness: reverence permits us to experience the sacred, to rise above the profane; irreverence blinds us to the entire world of the sacred. Reverence, including awe-indeed, fear and trembling-is the specific response to the sacred.

Rudolf Otto has clearly elaborated the point in his famous study, The Idea of the Holy. Kierkegaard also calls attention to the essential role of reverence in the religious act, in the encounter with God. And did not the Jews tremble in deep awe when the priest brought the sacrifice into the sanctum sanctorum? Was Isaiah not struck with godly fear when he saw Yahweh in the temple and exclaimed, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips . . . yet my eyes have seen the King?” Do not the words of St. Peter after the miraculous catch of fish, “Depart from me, 0 Lord, because I am a sinner,” testify that when the reality of God breaks in upon us we are struck with fear and reverence? Cardinal Newman has shown in a stunning sermon that the man who does not fear and revere has not known the reality of God.

When St. Bonaventure writes in Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum that only a man of desire (such as Daniel) can understand God, he means that a certain attitude of soul must be achieved in order to understand the world of God, into which He wants to lead us.

This counsel is especially applicable to the Church’s liturgy. The sursum corda–the lifting up of our hearts–is the first requirement for real participation in the Mass. Nothing could better obstruct the confrontation of man with God than the notion that we “go unto the altar of God” as we would go to a pleasant, relaxing social gathering. This is why the Latin Mass with Gregorian chant, which raises us up to a sacred atmosphere, is vastly superior to a vernacular Mass with popular songs, which leaves us in a profane, merely natural atmosphere.

The basic error of most of the innovations is to imagine that the new liturgy brings the holy Sacrifice of the Mass nearer to the faithful, that shorn of its old rituals the Mass now enters into the substance of our lives. For the question is whether we better meet Christ in the Mass by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our own pedestrian, workaday world. The innovators would replace holy intimacy with Christ by an unbecoming familiarity. The new liturgy actually threatens to frustrate the confrontation with Christ, for it discourages reverence in the face of mystery, precludes awe, and all but extinguishes a sense of sacredness. What really matters, surely, is not whether the faithful feel at home at Mass, but whether they are drawn out of their ordinary lives into the world of Christ–whether their attitude is the response of ultimate reverence: whether they are imbued with the reality of Christ.

Those who rhapsodize on the new liturgy make much of the point that over the years the Mass had lost its communal character and had become an occasion for individualistic worship. The new vernacular Mass, they insist, restores the sense of community by replacing private devotions with community participation. Yet they forget that there are different levels and kinds of communion with other persons. The level and nature of a community experience is determined by the theme of the communion, the name or cause in which men are gathered. The higher the good which the theme represents, and which binds men together, the more sublime and deeper is the communion. The ethos and nature of a community experience in the case of a great national emergency is obviously radically different from the community experience of a cocktail party. And of course the most striking differences in communities will be found between the community whose theme is supernatural and the one whose theme is merely natural. The actualization of men’s souls who are truly touched by Christ is the basis of a unique community, a sacred communion, one whose quality is incomparably more sublime than that of any natural community. The authentic we communion of the faithful, which the liturgy of Holy Thursday expresses so well in the words congregavit nos in unum Christi amor, is only possible as a fruit of the I-Thou communion with Christ Himself. Only a direct relation to the God-Man can actualize this sacred union among the faithful.

The depersonalizing “we experience” is a perverse theory of community

The communion in Christ has nothing of the self-assertion found in natural communities. It breathes of the Redemption. It liberates men from all self- centeredness. Yet such a communion emphatically does not depersonalize the individual; far from dissolving the person into the cosmic, pantheistic swoon so often commended to us these days, it actualizes the person’s true self in a unique way. In the community of Christ the conflict between person and community that is present in all natural communities cannot exist. So this sacred community experience is really at war with the depersonalizing ‘we-experience” found in Mass assemblies and popular gatherings which tend to absorb and evaporate the individual. This communion in Christ that was so fully alive in the early Christian centuries, that all the saints entered into, that found a matchless expression in the liturgy now under attack–this communion has never regarded the individual person as a mere segment of the community, or as an instrument to serve it. In this connection it is worth noting that totalitarian ideology is not alone in sacrificing the individual to the collective; some of Teilhard de Chardin’s cosmic ideas, for instance, imply the same collectivistic sacrifice. Teilhard subordinates the individual and his sanctification to the supposed development of humanity. At a time when this perverse theory of community is embraced even by many Catholics, there are plainly urgent reasons for vigorously insisting on the sacred character of the true communion in Christ. I submit that the new liturgy must be judged by this test: Does it contribute to the authentic sacred community? Granted that it strives for a community character; but is this the character desired? Is it a communion grounded in recollection, contemplation and reverence? Which of the two–the new Mass, or the Latin Mass with the Gregorian chant evokes these attitudes of soul more effectively, and thus permits the deeper and truer communion? Is it not plain that frequently the community character of the new Mass is purely profane, that, as with other social gatherings, its blend of casual relaxation and bustling activity precludes a reverent, contemplative confrontation with Christ and with the ineffable mystery of the Eucharist?

Of course our epoch is pervaded by a spirit of irreverence. It is seen in a distorted notion of freedom that demands rights while refusing obligations, that exalts self-indulgence, that counsels “let yourself go.” The habitare secum of St. Gregory’s Dialogues–the dwelling in the presence of God–which presupposes reverence, is considered today to be unnatural, pompous, or servile. But is not the new liturgy a compromise with this modern spirit? Whence comes the disparagement of kneeling? Why should the Eucharist be received standing? Is not kneeling, in our culture, the classic expression of adoring reverence? The argument that at a meal we should stand rather than kneel is hardly convincing. For one thing, this is not the natural posture for eating: we sit, and in Christ’s time one lay down. But more important, it is a specifically irreverent conception of the Eucharist to stress its character as a meal at the cost of its unique character as a holy mystery. Stressing the meal at the expense of the sacrament surely betrays a tendency to obscure the sacredness of the sacrifice. This tendency is apparently traceable to the unfortunate belief that religious life will become more vivid, more existential, if it is immersed in our everyday life. But this is to run the danger of absorbing the religious in the mundane, of effacing the difference between the supernatural and the natural. I fear that it represents an unconscious intrusion of the naturalistic spirit, of the spirit more fully expressed in Teilhard de Chardin’s immanentism.

Again, why has the genuflection at the words et incarnatus est in the Credo been abolished? Was this not a noble and beautiful expression of adoring reverence while professing the searing mystery of the Incarnation? Whatever the intention of the innovators, they have certainly created the danger, if only psychological, of diminishing the faithful’s awareness and awe of the mystery. There is yet another reason for hesitating to make changes in the liturgy that are not strictly necessary. Frivolous or arbitrary changes are apt to erode a special type of reverence: pietas. The Latin word, like the German Pietaet, has no English equivalent, but may be understood as comprising respect for tradition; honoring what has been handed down to us by former generations; fidelity to our ancestors and their works. Note that pietas is a derivative type of reverence, and so should not be confused with primary reverence, which we have described as a response to the very mystery of being, and ultimately a response to God. It follows that if the content of a given tradition does not correspond to the object of the primary reverence, it does not deserve the derivative reverence. Thus if a tradition embodies evil elements, such as the sacrifice of human beings in the cult of the Aztecs, then those elements should not be regarded with pietas. But that is not the Christian case. Those who idolize our epoch, who thrill at what is modern simply because it is modern, who believe that in our day man has finally “come of age,” lack pietas. The pride of these “temporal nationalists” is not only irreverent, it is incompatible with real faith. A Catholic should regard his liturgy with pietas. He should revere, and therefore fear to abandon the prayers and postures and music that have been approved by so many saints throughout the Christian era and delivered to us as a precious heritage. To go no further: the illusion that we can replace the Gregorian chant, with its inspired hymns and rhythms, by equally fine, if not better, music betrays a ridiculous self-assurance and lack of self-knowledge. Let us not forget that throughout Christianity’s history. silence and solitude, contemplation and recollection, have been considered necessary to achieve a real confrontation with God. This is not only the counsel of the Christian tradition, which should be respected out of pietas; it is rooted in human nature. Recollection is the necessary basis for true communion in much the same way as contemplation provides the necessary basis for true action in the vineyard of the Lord. A superficial type of communion–the jovial comradeship of a social affair–draws us out onto the periphery. A truly Christian communion draws us into the spiritual deeps.

The path to a true Christian communion: Reverence . .. Recollection . . . Contemplation

Of course we should deplore excessively individualistic and sentimental devotionalism, and acknowledge that many Catholics have practiced it. But the antidote is not a community experience as such-any more than the cure for pseudo-contemplation is activity as such. The antidote is to encourage true reverence, an attitude of authentic recollection and contemplative devotion to Christ. Out of this attitude alone can a true communion in Christ take place. The fundamental laws of the religious life that govern the imitation of Christ, the transformation in Christ, do not change according to the moods and habits of the historical moment. The difference between a superficial community experience and a profound community experience is always the same. Recollection and contemplative adoration of Christ–which only reverence makes possible–will be the necessary basis for a true communion with others in Christ in every era of human history.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Where Has the Catholic Funeral Mass Gone?


Make no mistake about it: The Church in our day is in the midst of a terrible,and in many ways unprecedented, crisis of faith. This objective reality, however, is largely lost on the overwhelming majority of Catholics, both clerical and otherwise.

While some Catholics, with deliberate intent, actively promote the various agendas that underlie the situation, others simply choose to downplay the magnitude of the crisis out of sheer weakness, as acknowledging the problem suggests a certain responsibility for contributing to the solution.

The majority, however, simply don’t know any better after having been lulled into accepting as “Catholic” the rather comfortable, undemanding, and protestantized spirituality that has been served up in so many parishes over the last several decades.

It is with this latter group in mind that I would suggest that all one needs to do in order to remove all doubt as to the extent of the current crisis is to attend, with eyes opened wide, just about any Novus Ordo Mass of Christian Burial.

While I have been to many such funeral Masses over the years, I can honestly say that I haven’t experienced even one, single, solitary liturgy of this sort that is truly reflective of Catholic doctrine regarding last things, much less the very purpose of said liturgy.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that so many of our priests, and even bishops, seem incapable of resisting the urge to twist the meaning of the funeral Mass into a “celebration of the life” of the deceased that effectively serves as a quasi-canonization, particularly in the minds of those most deeply in mourning, who by tragic coincidence also just happen to be the very people upon whom the dearly departed should be able to rely for prayers of intercession going forward.

As widespread as this situation is, I am more concerned with the problems that are inherent in the actual rite itself.

Take, for instance, the text of the “Final Commendation and Farewell,” beginning with the “Invitation to Prayer” of which there are two options (a hallmark of the post-conciliar liturgy, options, options, options… but more on that later):

“Before we go our separate ways, let us take leave of our brother/sister. May our farewell express our affection for him/her; may it ease our sadness and strengthen our hope. One day we shall joyfully greet him/her again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.” (Option 1)

So, can we really be assured that we will one day “joyfully greet” our deceased loved ones once again? Maybe we will, but then again, maybe we won’t.

Sure, those in mourning may experience a fleeting moment of comfort thanks to such reassurance, but it’s based less on the truth than on mere sentimentalism, and besides, providing comfort to mourners isn’t the primary purpose of the funeral Mass in the first place.

The bottom line is this: it is an undeniable disservice to the deceased to downplay the need to pray, and to offer sacrifice, for the repose of their souls.

Furthermore, this prayer seems to suggest that we await some future event wherein the love of Christ will “one day” destroy “even death itself,” an apparent convolution of those Catholic doctrines that concern the general resurrection, the efficacy of the Our Lord’s saving act, and the work of redemption that continues in the life of the Pilgrim Church in the present age.

Apart from sound catechesis, the likes of which would be inappropriately given in the liturgy, pastors using this text invite confusion, especially when one considers the Second Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy:

Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath destroyed death and hath brought to light life and incorruption by the gospel (2 Tim 1:10).

Option 2 isn’t any better:

Trusting in God, we have prayed together for (N.) and now we come to the last farewell. There is sadness in parting, but we take comfort in the hope that one day we shall see N. again and enjoy his/her friendship. Although this congregation will disperse in sorrow, the mercy of God will gather us together again in the joy of his kingdom. Therefore let us console one another in the faith of Jesus Christ.

Again, there is a false (and dare I say, highly protestantized) sense of confidence being expressed in the suggestion that God’s mercy is such that everyone, without distinction, can be assured of one day being gathered “in the joy of His kingdom.”

And yet we wring our hands wondering why so many reject the very notion of Hell!

Moving on, in the “Prayer of Commendation” (Option A) in the post-conciliar rite, we find (excerpt):

Into your hands, Father of mercies, we commend our brother/sister (N.) in the sure and certain hope that, together with all who have died in Christ, he/she will rise with him … help us who remain to comfort one another with assurances of faith, until we all meet in Christ and are with you and with our brother/sister for ever.

“Sure and certain hope” that “we all” will rise with Christ?

Well, OK… all of us shall rise in the general resurrection; some unto glory, others unto eternal damnation, but “assurances of faith” that we will meet again in Christ for all eternity? There’s no use in sugarcoating it; this simply is not a Catholic proposition.

And please, spare me any hair splitting analysis wherein the singular word “hope” allegedly makes this prayer a plausible representation of Catholic doctrine. It does not. In fact, there isn’t even a hint of a doctrine in these prayers that a Purgatory-rejecting protestant minister wouldn’t be comfortable proclaiming.

And that, my friends, is precisely the impetus behind these tepid and only marginally Catholic texts.

Looking to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) we find:

Moreover, pastors should take into special account those who are present at a liturgical celebration or who hear the Gospel on the occasion of the funeral and who may be non-Catholics or Catholics who never or hardly ever participate in the Eucharist or who seem even to have lost the faith. For Priests are ministers of Christ’s Gospel for all. (cf GIRM 385)

This portion of the GIRM is often used, not surprisingly, as an excuse for watering down the Faith, as if presuming to affirm the salvation of a non-Catholic’s deceased loved one is an act of mercy.

And what exactly does it mean to take nonbelievers “into special account” anyway? Does it mean emulating St. Peter who took special account of the circumcision party in the way he treated gentiles, an act for which St. Paul rightly rebuked him? (cf Gal 2:11-12)

What’s more, one wonders in what sense a Catholic priest “ministers” to non-Catholics apart from proclaiming the fullness of the Faith (i.e., everything whatsoever that Jesus commanded) with neither ambiguity nor attenuation, ultimately with an eye toward their conversion?

In sum, the Novus Ordo Mass of Christian Burial is destined to project a less-than-Catholic imageregardless of the celebrant’s mindset; i.e., the best the priest can do is perhaps offset some of the extraordinary deficiencies in the rite with an extraordinarily strong homily, a difficult position in which a priest should never be put.

Indeed, I personally know of a priest who has taken it upon himself to do just this, and it has landed him in hot water not just with the loved ones of the deceased, but with his bishop as well.

By contrast, the traditional Requiem Mass of the Roman Rite is simply the Mass, albeit with certain minor alterations and propers that are fitted to the occasion. And guess what, none of them are designed to give non-Catholics that “feel right at home” level of comfort.

For brevity’s sake, following is just a sampling of those parts of the traditional rite that stand in sharp contrast to the “once saved, always saved” overtones woven throughout the text of the post-conciliar version:

“Absolve, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from every bond of sin. And by the help of Thy grace, may they be enabled to escape the judgment of punishment.” (From the Gradual)

“Day of wrath, O day of mourning, Lo, the world in ashes burning – Seer and Sibyl gave the warning. O what fear man’s bosom rendeth, When from Heaven the Judge descendeth, On whose sentence all dependeth! … Guilty, now I pour my moaning, All my shame with anguish owning: Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning.” (From the Sequence; the thirteenth century hymn, Dies Irae)

“O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of Hell and from the deep pit: deliver them from the mouth of the lion, that Hell may not swallow them up … Hear us, O Lord, we pray, and let the soul of Thy servant (N.) profit by this sacrifice, by the offering of which Thou didst grant that the sins of the whole world should be loosed.” (From the Offertory)

In light of all that is highlighted here, I have done my best to secure the assurances of my wife and close friends that, in the event they survive me, they will make every attempt to arrange a Traditional Requiem Mass on my behalf, and I would suggest that all would do well to do the same.

At the very least, it may be a good idea to include in one’s final will and testament the following request:

If during the course of my funeral Mass, the priest dares to give those who are mourning my passing even the slightest impression that I am enjoying the Beatific vision in Heaven at that very moment, please give him the following message from me:

Get behind me Satan!

Louie Verrecchio is a Catholic speaker and the author of Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II; an internationally acclaimed adult faith formation tool, endorsed by George Cardinal Pell, that explores the documents of the Second Vatican Council. For more information please visit: www.harvestingthefruit.com.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hell Exists And We Might Go There!

When I am invited to preach, I remember the words of Christ: “the Holy Spirit will speak in you and through you.” And when I think about the Apostles, I do not imagine them going from town to town with their computer, their microphones, their recording machine, their filing cabinet. They go and they let the Holy Spirit speak. Because it is the Holy Spirit that changes the heart of sinners, I put all my trust in the wisdom and the strength of the Holy Spirit.

I preach everywhere the message of Our Lady of Fatima. What will I preach? I preach what I think is the most important. I preach what is the most important teachings of Our Lord Jesus and when Jesus Christ came on earth, He came for one reason, to save souls from Hell.

St. John Chrysostom, a beloved Father of the Church, used to say and repeat that the Lord Jesus preached more often on the Catholic Dogma of Hell than any other subject.

Some people say it is better to preach on Heaven. I believe that the more a person meditates on that truth which we call Hell, the more that meditation produces many fruits of conversion.

St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictines, was in Rome and the Holy Spirit told him, “You are going to lose your soul.” He left Rome and he went into solitude to meditate on the Holy Gospel. He meditated, prayed and did penance, and the Holy Spirit spread the word and people flocked to him. Holiness attracts souls.

Why do you think St. Augustine changed his life? Because of the fear of Hell. I preach often on Hell because the Lord Jesus and Our Blessed Mother asked me to preach on Hell and when I preach on Hell, you feel, you know, that I believe in the reality that we call a Roman Catholic Dogma, Hell.

Pope Pius IX, who gave us the Roman Catholic Dogma on the Immaculate Conception; Pope Pius IX, who has given us the Syllabus, used to preach and ask preachers to please, please, preach more often on Hell.

The thought of Hell makes saints. Curiously, saints are afraid to go to Hell. The Curé of Ars was afraid to go to Hell. St. Therese of the Infant Jesus was afraid to go to Hell. Saint Simon Stock, the Superior General of the Carmel priests, said that his monks were even afraid to go to Hell despite the fact that they were fasting, praying and living out of the world.

Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, appeared to Saint Simon Stock and told him: Don’t be afraid anymore, I’m giving you Carmelites a special vestment; all those who will die wearing that vestment will not go to Hell.

I wear the Brown Scapular inside my vestment, and I have another one in my pocket because I never know when people will ask me to preach, and when I preach, I preach the Holy Rosary and the Brown Scapular.

Mary said, “Through the Rosary and Scapular I will save the world.”

One cannot specialize and preach everything, but the Lord Jesus invited me to preach on Hell. A monsignor said to me, “Marcel, don’t preach on Hell. People don’t like that, you scare them.” And in a very friendly way that Monsignor said to me, “Marcel, I have never preached on Hell and look at the position I have. I will never preach on Hell.”

After a long silence, I looked him in the eye and said, “Monsignor, you are on the road to Hell for all eternity. You preach, Monsignor, to please the crowd, instead of preaching to please Christ.”

When God sent prophets in the Old Testament, it was to remind the people to come back to the truth, to come back to holiness. Jesus came, Jesus preached. He sent His Apostles into the world to preach the Holy Gospel.

The serpent came and spread his poisons of heresy, and the Lord Jesus decided to send His Beloved Mother, the Queen of Prophets, to earth to destroy heresies. And it is written by the Fathers of the Church that the Mother of God is the hammer of all heresies.

On July 13, 1917, Mary came to Fatima as a prophet of The Most High to save souls from Hell. Our Lady lowered Her hands and suddenly, the three children saw a hole in the ground.

That hole, says Lucy, was like a sea of fire in which she saw the forms of humans, men and women, shouting and crying in despair. And she saw demons in the forms of ugly animals. The vision was so horrible that the children feared that they would die from fright.

And Mary said to the three children, “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go.”

Each time you say the Rosary, my children, do say after each decade, “O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy Marcy.”

Mary came to Fatima to save souls from Hell. The Curé of Ars, the patron of all parish priests, used to preach that the greatest act of charity towards your neighbor is to save souls from Hell. One day when he was hearing confession in a little church, the devil, in the form of a man, raged and screamed, “I hate you. I hate you because you stole from my hand 85,000 souls.”

You Excellencies, Cardinals and we priests, when we come to the judgment, Jesus will ask one question. “I made you a priest, a bishop, a cardinal, a pope. How many souls have you saved? How many souls have you saved from Hell?”

The Curé of Ars saved more than 85,000 sinners. How many souls have we saved? When you read the Fathers of the Church, the Doctors of the Church, the Saints, you are struck by one thing: they all preach the Holy gospel of Jesus; Heaven, Purgatory, and they never fail to preach on the Roman Catholic Dogma of Hell.

Read the Fathers of the Church, the Doctors of the Church, all those priests, magnificent apostles of Jesus Christ. They all preach on the Catholic Dogma of Hell because when we meditate on Hell we become a saint.

I don’t want to criticize the bishops, but it is sad for me to say that in my thirty years of priesthood I have never heard a bishop, my bishops or any other bishop, preach on the Roman Catholic Dogma of Hell. I suppose in India and elsewhere they do, but in America, we don’t preach on Hell.

Preach to save souls not to please

In many dioceses I have often heard bishops recite the Rosary, but they decline to add the little Fatima prayer after each decade because “the people don’t like that.”

We are not there preaching to please the crowd but to save souls, to prevent them from going to Hell for all eternity. And I think the little prayer of Our Lady of Fatima given to the children on July 13, 1917, is more powerful and more pleasing to God than any kind of meditation. The meditations that we priests write down and pronounce, they might be nice, but after each decade do you know a meditation more powerful, more holy than the prayer given by Our Lady of Fatima? Please, after each decade, do recite it.

I preach often on Hell. My friends, you have received your catechism, you have received your gifts from God. For me, Jesus wants me, Jesus asks me, Jesus begs me, Our Lady of Fatima begs me to preach Hell.

There are many revelations that we can read in the holy books and some souls in Hell have spoken, given the privilege by God, to help us in our faith. And those souls in Hell say, “We could accept to be in Hell a thousand years. We could accept to be in Hell a million years, if we knew that one day we would leave Hell.”

But no, my friends, we must meditate, not only on the pre-destination of seeing God in Heaven, we must also meditate on the eternity of Hell. I heard a priest in the charismatic conference with about 10,000 laypeople and 300 priests present. He was preaching, “My friends, God is love, God is mercy and you will see His Infinite Mercy at the end of the world, delivering souls from Hell.”

What heresy! Yet his bishop did not remove his faculties, and he was allowed to continue to preach such heresy. With our little human intelligence we make a little “philosophic reasoning”. God is love, God is our Father. How can a loving Father take His little Peter and throw him in to the furnace of Hell? Why that would be an insult to God, Who is love.

How many times have you heard that hypocrisy? My friends, Hell exists. Hell is eternal. I can go into Hell. You can go into Hell. And if God had called me to my eternal reward some years ago, I would have gone to Hell for all eternity, weeping, crying. Not for a million years, not for a thousand million years, but for eternity.

And in gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity, to Our Blessed Mother, I go to Confession every week, I recite my 15 Mysteries of the Rosary every day, my breviary, I wear my Brown Scapular, and I preach the Rosary and the Brown Scapular to everyone. I preach to bishops like I preach to everyone because bishops too have a soul to be saved.

The Lord Jesus has chosen us among men to make us priests for one reason, to offer sacrifice to the Almighty Father and save souls from Hell. When I preach at parish retreats, I always end with the preaching on Hell.

Devotion to the Rosary is a great sign of pre-destination

I am not holy but I pray my Rosary, I wear my Scapular, I say my breviary, seven days a week. I say my Mass every day, I go to confession every week and I hope (I’m not sure, nobody is sure) to go to Heaven.

Nobody is sure unless they have a private revelation from God. Why not take all insurance Our Lady of Fatima has given us: “Devotion to My Rosary is a great sign of pre-destination.”

She has given us another insurance, “that anyone dying in this habit [the Brown Scapular] shall not suffer eternal fire.”

If only one bishop among you would come to Fatima and go back to his diocese and beseech his people, “I am your bishop. I am here to save your souls from Hell. Please accept my teaching today, listen to my teaching today. Meditate on my teaching today. And please, my priests, imitate your bishop, preach on Hell.”

If only you would do this, you will be doing the greatest act of charity of your priesthood, of your episcopal apostolate.

Preach Hell and Jesus will bless you, Jesus will forgive you your weakness, Jesus will forgive your sins if you do preach Hell. By preaching Hell, you are making a terrific act of charity because those that will hear you, they will believe, they will change their lives and they will go to Confession.

Saints go to confession, Saints go to confession! And those that go to confession frequently become Saints.

Originally posted at: www.olrl.org Note: Courageous Priest does not support all of the views on this site.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Abortion In Cases Of Rape, Deformity, Mother's Health

Is Abortion Permissible for Fetal Deformity?

[Today's guest post is by SPL member Clinton Wilcox.]

Now we get to the really tough questions about abortion. Can we justify abortion in the really hard cases? Some might say that certain situations are so bad that even if we grant that the preborn are full human persons, we should still allow abortions to be legal (either for the sake of the woman, or because it is assumed that a child would not want to grow up in one of these situations).

Each of these situations are powerful emotionally. These are all very tragic situations in which we really feel for the woman and/or the child in this situation. However, the preborn are full human beings. Therefore, what the question really boils down to is can we justify killing a human being in this situation?

A couple of things need to be said. From a philosophical point of view, these arguments all fail because they commit a very specific logical fallacy, the appeal to pity. An appeal to pity is made when someone tries to win support for an argument or idea by exploiting your feelings of pity or guilt. An appeal to pity does not address a legitimate argument made. Despite this, I don’t recommend shouting out “appeal to pity!” whenever you encounter someone who asks one of these questions. First, if you’re out on the street it’s not really a formal debate setting, but second, the person bringing this up may be asking due to some painful event that occurred in their past or in the past of a loved one. Winning the person should always be more important than winning the argument, so we must use tact whenever we discuss these issues.

Additionally, if any of these hard cases justifies abortion, then we should note that abortion would only be justified in that case alone. None of these cases justifies abortion on demand being legal, which is what we currently have in the United States. [1] In this article I’ll respond to the case of fetal deformity. In a future article, I’ll respond to rape/incest and life of the mother cases.

I. Fetal Deformity

If we were to justify abortion for cases of fetal deformity, that would only justify it for cases of fetal deformity. So this argument does not justify the general right to abortion.

Even given that, this argument does not work to justify abortion. As I have written previously, the preborn from fertilization are living human organisms (even those who have some kind of deformity). So if we can’t justify killing a human outside of the womb due to having a handicap, then we can’t justify abortion for that reason, either. The issue is not whether the preborn entity in question is handicapped or how severe the handicap, but whether the preborn entity is fully human or not.

As Frank Beckwith writes, “...it is not clear that we can make sense of the notion that certain human beings are better off not existing...how can one compare non-existence with existence when they do not have anything in common? How can one be better off not existing if one is not there to appreciate the joy of such a ‘state’ (whatever that means)?” [2] Beckwith further notes that Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who worked for years with severely deformed infants as a pediatric surgeon at Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital, observed that ‘it has been my constant experience that disability and unhappiness do not necessarily go together.’” [3]

The simple fact of the matter is we don’t know what constitutes happiness for others. We have no right to kill a preborn child because we assume that they would rather die than live with that deformity, even if we, ourselves, would rather die in that case (though it’s really impossible to accurately make that claim, not actually being in that situation). Indeed, as Randy Alcorn notes, doctors’ diagnoses are even sometimes wrong: “Many parents have aborted their babies because doctors told them that their children would be severely handicapped. Others I have met were told the same thing, but chose to let their babies live. These parents were then amazed to give birth to normal children.” [4]

Of course raising a handicapped child is difficult. They require special care and attention. But we cannot morally justify killing someone just because they are a burden. It is better to suffer evil rather than inflict it. [5] If this moral precept were not true, then in our world the antidote would be worse than the poison, for people would have the right to harm another if it relieved them of a burden. All moral dilemmas could be solved by appealing to one’s own relief from suffering. [6]

But what about a preborn child with a very serious handicap, like anencephaly? According to the American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine, anencephaly is the “absence at birth of the brain, cranial vault (top of the skull), and spinal cord. Most affected infants are stillborn or survive only a few hours.” It is important to remember that even in tragic cases like these, the preborn anencephalic human is still a fully integrated human organism (albeit a severely damaged one). Stephen Krason compares an anencephalic fetus to someone who has had their head blown off by a gunshot (a gruesome analogy but an apt one). This person is human and remains one until he dies. [7] As such, we are not morally justified in aborting this unfortunate child. The ethical thing to do is to allow nature to take its course.

As Edwin C. Hui notes, “In the event that such an unfortunate one is born alive, she is born a human person, and her short life as a person must be respected and treated with dignity as we would treat any irreversibly dying person. No heroic or futile treatments need to be provided, but neither should her organs be harvested for transplant. She dies and rests in peace as a person.” [8]

Christopher Kaczor would add that the expected lifespan of a human does not justify our killing them. We are not justified in killing death row inmates before their scheduled date of execution (be it for harvesting organs or other reasons). “The fact that a person at the end of life may have only a short time to live does not imply the permissibility of killing that person.” [9]

The solution to a serious medical problem is not to kill the patient, but to study the problem and come up with a solution. The problem should be eliminated, not the human (born or preborn) who suffers from it.

In my next article I will address the circumstances of rape and incest.

[1] Due to Roe v. Wade and its sister case Doe v. Bolton, abortion is legal during all nine months of pregnancy for essentially any reason.

[2] Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against

Abortion Rights, (Cambridge: Universtiy Press: Cambridge, New York, 2007), p. 101.

[3] C. Everett Koop as quoted in Bernard Nathanson (with Richard Ostling), Aborting America, (New York: Doubleday, 1979), p. 235, as quoted in Beckwith, p. 101.

[4] Randy Alcorn, Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Questions: Expanded & Updated, Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2000, p. 223.

[5] Peter Kreeft, The Unaborted Socrates, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1982), p. 40.

[6] Beckwith, p. 102.

[7] Stephen Krason, Abortion, p.387, as cited in Beckwith, pp. 103-104.

[8] Edwin C. Hui, At the Beginning of Life: Dilemmas in Theological Bioethics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), pp. 366.

[9] Christopher Kaczor, The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice, (Routledge: New York, New York, 2011), p. 181

Is abortion justifiable in the hard cases? Part II

[Today's post is the second in a three-part series on "hard cases" by SPL member Clinton Wilcox. For the first post, on fetal disability, click here. And for an argument by an SPL member in favor of the rape exception, click here.]

As I have previously shown, abortions because of fetal disability or deformity cannot be morally justified. But now we’ll look at another hard case, the cases of rape and incest.

Perhaps the most emotionally charged questions that come up when discussing abortion revolve around rape and incest. Certainly the circumstances surrounding a woman obtaining an abortion after she is raped is, at the very least, understandable. Rape is a terrible crime, one which no woman should ever be subjected to. It’s one of the worst things a human being can ever do to another human being. Approximately 54% of rapes are never even reported, and of the remaining 46% only about 3% of rapists ever serve any jail time. [1] Women need to be encouraged to come forward and prosecute the rapist to the fullest extent of the law. I also believe that rapists aren’t punished severely enough.

But while rape is a horrible crime, why should the child be punished for the crimes of her father? In a just society, we don’t punish the family of criminals. We punish the criminal him or herself.

The unborn are living human organisms from fertilization [2], so the circumstances of their conception do not change their nature or value. To illustrate this, suppose there is a woman who is tragically raped. She decides to carry her child to term and deliver. The child reaches the age of two years old and suddenly starts to take on the features of the rapist. She now looks with hatred on her child every time she sees him. Is she justified in killing the child? Of course not. We can’t justify killing someone just because they remind us of a painful event.

The woman will always remember the rape. It’s never going to go away. If she aborts, that’s not going to help her forget about it. It just compounds one act of violence on top of another. And considering that research suggests abortions can cause psychological problems, too, she might even be worse off if she does abort. [3]

In fact, abortions may not even help these women at all. Dr. Warren Hern, one of the nation’s leading abortionists, wrote the following in his textbook Abortion Practice,

“Victims of sexual abuse and rape deserve special care. However, the abortion counselor should recognize that the emotional trauma experienced by the rape or incest victim cannot be treated adequately, if at all, in the abortion clinic setting. All rape and incest victims, as well as victims of physical abuse, should be referred for appropriate psychological counseling and support.” [4]

Feminists for Life [5] president Serrin M. Foster recounts that while she was giving a lecture, a medical student who had been raped had told other students present that the abortion was worse than the rape. She also recounts another time a woman conceived in rape met her birth mother. The mother told the daughter that she was the only good thing to come out of the rape. [6]

Perhaps we, as a society, should not be so hasty to recommend abortion if a girl or woman finds herself the victim of rape.

It should be noted that instances of incest usually involve rape (except in societies in which incest is not considered taboo). So I have included it here because it can involve rape, so the arguments against rape can be used against incest, as well. But incestuous relations also result in a much higher risk of genetic disorders and other problems, due to increased homozygosity, which increases the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. As such, the arguments against abortion in this case are the same as in my previous article regarding birth disabilities or defects. [7]

So there is some evidence that suggests getting an abortion following a rape may not be the best thing for a woman who finds herself pregnant, all things considered. But I’d like to take this a step further. I would argue that the woman has a moral obligation to care for the child that she finds herself with, regardless of how the child was conceived. To borrow an example from pro-life philosopher Tony George, suppose you’re out at sea on your boat for a few days. A day into your journey you discover a stowaway. You would not be morally justified in casting that person off your boat into the water to drown or be devoured by sharks, even though that person will be consuming your resources. You must wait until you get back to land to cast him off, and possibly call the authorities.

Or consider another example used by my friends Steve Wagner and Josh Brahm. Consider Pixar’s fairly recent movie Up. The crotchety, cantankerous old man attaches dozens of balloons to his house to fly it away so that the government can’t take his property away by eminent domain. About thirty minutes later while airbound for South America, he hears a knock on his door. He opens it to find a rather annoying, but terrified, Boy Scout hanging on for dear life. The man obviously didn’t want to take him in. But would he have been justified in kicking him off his porch, or closing the door and letting him fall to his death? No. The man begrudgingly let the kid inside his house.

So what about those who take a pro-life position with an exception for abortions in the case of rape? I’ve never seen a good argument for the pro-life position that leaves an exception open for rape. Either unborn humans are intrinsically valuable or they’re not. The only difference between a child conceived in rape and one not conceived in rape is the circumstances of their conception. If a pro-life advocate is to be consistent, they can’t leave an exception for rape. As pro-life advocate Josh Brahm has noted, pro-choice bloggers often point out the inherent contradiction when well-meaning pro-life people declare that abortion is justifiable if the woman was raped. They declare that this seems to be evidence that the pro-life person doesn’t really believe what he claims to believe: that the unborn are intrinsically valuable human beings.

As Frank Beckwith points out, “to request that [the unborn’s] life be forfeited for the alleged benefit of another is to violate a basic intuition of ethical judgement: ‘we may never kill innocent person B to save person A.’ For example, ‘we cannot kill John by removing a vital organ in order to save Mary, who needs it. This is not a lack of compassion for Mary; it is the refusal to commit murder, even for a good cause.’” [8] We can’t justify killing an innocent human to relieve someone of a burden. And as Dr. Michael Bauman has observed: “A child does not lose its right to life simply because its father or its mother was a sexual criminal or a deviant.” [9]

In fact, as Christopher Kaczor mentions, sometimes (as in the case of a woman who becomes pregnant from rape), there is no morally permissible option. There is only the choice between the morally wrong option or the morally heroic option. Faced with the choice of torturing your mother to death or facing the firing squad, one is morally wrong (torturing your mother) and one is morally heroic (facing the firing squad instead). In the same sense, since abortion is morally wrong (as I have argued previously), then to abort a child in the case of rape is morally wrong (that is, impermissible) and carrying the child to term would be a morally heroic action, if not simply the morally permissible action. [10]

So what about a woman’s right to bodily autonomy? Don’t women have a right to bodily autonomy, even if abortion is usually morally impermissible? Perhaps whether or not the woman consented to sex is the relevant factor. Some pro-life people argue that if a woman consents to sex she waives her right to bodily autonomy so that she now has to raise the child she was partially responsible for conceiving.

Remember that no one has complete right to bodily autonomy. I may not strike someone without proper justification. I have control over my body, as long as it does not harm or kill another human. The same is true in pregnancy. A woman may exercise her right to bodily autonomy, as long as she does not harm or kill another human (i.e. the unborn child). Even if she does not consent to sex, this does not change the fact that she can’t do absolutely anything she wants with her body, especially harming or killing another human. If I’m in a crowded room that suddenly catches on fire, I may not shoot other people to increase my chances of making it out alive.

To reiterate, even if abortions in the case of rape were justified, they would only justify abortions in the case of rape. Not to mention, appealing to a tragic situation doesn’t suddenly make something that is immoral moral. It’s called an appeal to pity, which is a logical fallacy. But as we can see, there’s just no way to justify abortion if the unborn are valuable human beings.

Two kinds of people will bring up rape when you discuss abortion. One will be someone genuinely interested in what you think about rape. The situation must be handled with care. As pro-life people, we care about all humans, including women in bad situations and the human standing right in front of us. The question of rape must be handled with care. The other kind of person will be someone trying to trap you by bringing up a hard situation to justify abortion on demand. It’s worth pointing out that you have to be a horrible person to exploit a tragedy for your own political agenda. Not to mention, as Scott Klusendorf notes in The Case for Life, it’s just intellectually dishonest.

In my next article (to finish off the trilogy), I’ll look at abortions regarding the life and health of the mother.

[3] Ashton, “The PsychoSocial Outcome of Induced Abortion,” British Journal of Ob&Gyn, 87-1115-1122 (1980). It should be noted that pro-choice advocates and pro-abortion organizations fight the research that indicates there are psychological problems which plague some women after their abortions. While I’m not sure it deserves its own name (Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real psychological condition which can follow any tragic event -- even abortion. I think in the interest of honesty and women’s health, these organizations and advocates should start accepting that abortions do, in fact, have negative consequences. However, abortion is not immoral because of possible complications -- it is immoral because it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. All surgeries have risk of complications. Pro-abortion organizations and pro-choice advocates gain nothing by refusing to admit risks and complications, and in fact hurt women by keeping this information from them.
[4] Dr. Warren Hern, Abortion Practice, p. 84.
http://www.feministsforlife.org/Q&A/Q2.htm The entire article is worth reading.
[8] Beckwith, Francis J., Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: New York, 2007), p. 106.
[9] Bauman, Dr. Michael, "Verbal Plunder: Combatting the Feminist Encroachment on the Language of Religion and Morality," paper presented at the 42d annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana, Nov. 15-17, 1990, 16.
[10] Paraphrased from Kaczor, Christopher, The Ethics of Abortion, (Routledge, 2011), pp. 184-185.

Is Abortion Justifiable in the Hard Cases? Part III

[Today's post is the third in a three-part series on "hard cases" by SPL member Clinton Wilcox.  For the first post, on fetal disability, click here.  For the second, on pregnancy from rape, click here.]

One of the most tragic things in life is when a woman or a child dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Thankfully, technology has advanced to the point where the death rate from a pregnancy-related complication is extremely low. [1]

In fact, Alan Guttmacher, past president of Planned Parenthood, acknowledged: “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.” [2] A powerful quote, especially considering Dr. Guttmacher wrote it in 1967.

But what about the rare cases in which the pregnancy does become life-threatening? The most common example of this is an ectopic pregnancy, in which the human zygote implants itself somewhere other than the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. If the zygote implants itself in the fallopian tube, thi
s is highly dangerous to the mother. Once the embryo grows big enough, the fallopian tube will burst, causing the mother to hemorrhage internally. This is an extremely dangerous situation for the mother, and almost always fatal for the embryo.

Some pro-choice advocates claim that we should keep abortions legal because abortions are always an act of self-defense -- the pregnancy may end up threatening her life. However, very few women die in childbirth and pregnancy. Additionally, we can’t justify abortions because of the extremely unlikely possibility of the pregnancy becoming life-threatening, otherwise we could justify infanticide in the off chance they may grow up and kill their parents.

I take the position that life-saving abortions are morally permissible as long as the child is not yet viable. Once the child becomes viable, a caesarian section should be performed to save both mother and child. This is not only the ethical choice, it is also faster and safest for the mother. Late-term abortions are a three-day procedure, and a c-section takes about thirty minutes. This is a position consistent with my pro-life views. The mother and child are equally intrinsically valuable human beings. The mother and child should both be treated as patients, and it’s not always possible to save both.

Ectopic pregnancies don’t always implant in the fallopian tubes. If the embryo implants elsewhere and it is generally safe to continue the pregnancy, I don’t think abortion would be justified in that case (although constant physician observation may be required). But if the unborn implants in the fallopian tube, I believe that abortion is justified. There has been a case in which a zygote implanted inside his mother’s fallopian tube, later bursting the tube and implanting himself in the uterus, later to be born completely healthy. [3] However, I don’t think we can justify leaving ectopic pregnancies in the fallopian tube hoping that the woman and child will both survive. What would you think of a father who learns his son has pains in his appendix, waiting until the appendix bursts to finally seek medical treatment? With technology the way it is now, there’s a good chance of surviving a burst appendix. But the father would be negligent in waiting until his son’s appendix bursts to seek medical help. Since tubal pregnancies are dangerous and potentially fatal, I don’t believe a doctor is justified in leaving the embryo to develop there.

It is a tragedy when this happens, but to the best of my knowledge there is no way to transfer the developing embryo from the fallopian tube into the uterus for it to implant. If that were medically possible then that would be the ethical course of action. Since there is little evidence that this transfer could be done right now, abortions are justified in that instance. Sometimes the embryo dies on its own, before putting the tube at risk. In that case, there is no moral dilemma.

Life-saving abortions can be justified through three lines of reasoning.

Triage -- Triage is when two people are mortally wounded and only one can be saved. Say two soldiers are on a battlefield, dying of bullet wounds. The medic will survey the two dying soldiers, determine which one stands a greater chance of survival, and save that person.  If he works on the more severely injured person he may lose them both. By saving one he is not declaring that the other is not human or not valuable. In the case of a life-threatening pregnancy, the child can’t survive without the mother and the mother stands a 100% chance of survival. Since it is better to lose one life than two, the doctor will save the mother who has the best chance of survival.

Double effect -- Double effect reasoning is a set of ethical criteria that we can use for evaluating the permissibility of acting when one’s otherwise legitimate act would also cause an effect one would normally be obliged to avoid. [4]

In this case, the legitimate act is saving the life of the mother and the act one would normally be obliged to avoid is the death of an innocent human being. Essentially, four conditions must be met before an act is morally permissible:

1) The nature-of-the-act condition. The action must be either morally good or indifferent.
2) The means-end condition. The bad effect must not be the means by which one achieves the good effect. (This is because the ends do not justify the means.)
3) The right-intention condition. The intention must only be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an unintended side effect.
4) The proportionality objection. The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect.

Most life-saving abortions satisfy all four conditions. 1) The action is saving the mother’s life, which is morally good. 2) In most life-saving abortions (removing a cancerous uterus or the fallopian tube in which a zygote implanted itself) you don’t achieve the saving of her life by directly killing the embryo, itself. 3) The intention is only to save the mother’s life, not to kill the unborn human. If there were a way to save the unborn human, that would be the ethical course of action. And 4) The good effect is equal in proportion to the bad effect. You are saving the woman’s life although the unborn child will die, and the unborn child will die even without doctor intervention.

If the woman has a cancerous uterus and can’t wait for the child to become viable, the ethical thing to do would be to remove the uterus, with the unintended (but foreseen) side effect that the unborn child will die. This would only justify one method of action during ectopic pregnancy (though the other methods can be justified using the other lines of reasoning -- triage and third-party defense of an innocent aggressor).

Third-party defense of an innocent aggressor -- The preborn human has no intention of implanting itself in the wrong place or threatening the mother’s life. They have become an innocent aggressor. If the woman were to have the abortion herself, this would be justified by self-defense. But does the doctor have a right to step in? I would argue that he does.

Consider the case of a man at a bar who, unbeknownst to him, has his drink spiked with a hallucinogenic drug. He flips out and next thing you know is aiming a gun at five people, threatening to shoot. The police arrive and an officer has a shot, but a fatal one. I think the police officer would be justified in taking the fatal shot to protect the people whose
lives are at risk.

As I indicated earlier, pregnancies are generally very safe. Most abortions cannot be justified as self-defense. But in a case where the woman will die if the pregnancy is left alone, then defense measures are justified.

Let’s have a look at the three different methods used to treat ectopic pregnancies. Some pro-life people I have talked to justify these by claiming that they are not really abortions, since medically they are called something else (Methotrexate, salpingectomy, salpingostomy). However, this does not affect the morality of the situation. They still result in the death of the preborn human. Plus, we can make the argument that all abortions are called something else (e.g. Dilation & Evacuation, RU-486, etc.). Even miscarriages are called “spontaneous abortions.” Shakespeare once wrote, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” [5] Well, that which we call an abortion by any other name would still result in the death of an innocent human being.

Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy may correct itself. If it doesn’t and if no intervention is taken the embryo will grow large enough that the tube will rupture, causing hemorrhaging in the woman and a severe risk of death. I do not believe a doctor is justified in waiting around to see what will happen, since the tube rupturing severely harms the woman (possibly fatally). To expound on an analogy I used earlier, suppose a boy approaches his father complaining of pain in his abdomen. The father realizes his son may have appendicitis, but decides it’s not an emergency so he waits. The son’s appendix soon bursts and his father rushes his son to the hospital. With today’s technology his son has a good chance of survival, but the father was still negligent in his parental duties by waiting until the son’s appendix burst to seek medical attention.

Salpingectomy -- In this procedure, the section of the tube with the zygote inside it is removed and the embryo dies on its own. This is seen as satisfying double effect since you are not directly killing the embryo, you are allowing it to die on its own. This satisfies the second criteria, where the bad effect (the death of the embryo) is not used as a means to bring about the good effect (saving the woman’s life).

Salpingostomy -- In this procedure, an incision is made in the fallopian tube and the embryo itself is removed. This has the added advantage of preserving the woman’s fertility. Christopher Kaczor actually argues that this procedure likewise satisfies double effect. The effect of removing the embryo itself from the fallopian tube is not an intrinsically evil act, otherwise we would have to oppose removing it to attempt to transfer it into the uterus, if such a procedure ever becomes perfected. [6]

Methotrexate -- Methotrexate is a drug that inhibits the cellular reproduction in rapidly growing tissue; it is also used to treat some forms of cancer. It works by inhibiting the growth of the trophoblast, the forerunner to the placenta and the embryo proper. [7]

Now, I personally believe that salpingectomy does not, in fact, satisfy the principle of double effect. Even if you are not directly killing the embryo itself, you are still the agent responsible for its death by removing the fallopian tube. You are removing it from the only environment in which it can live, which will result in its death. Someone might respond that you are simply removing the tube, which has been damaged and will result in hemorrhaging if left untreated. But I find this unconvincing. The reason the tube is damaged and will burst is because the embryo has implanted itself there and will burst it when it grows large enough. The embryo is the agent, not the fallopian tube, that is threatening the woman (albeit unintentionally).

I would actually argue that salpingectomy is morally impermissible in treating ectopic pregnancies. First, it is causing unneeded harm to the woman. By removing the fallopian tube, you are reducing the chance of her conceiving another child in the future by 50% (and if she had one before, you are effectively sterilizing her). Second, the embryo will die regardless of which method you use. Even if you don’t kill the embryo itself, you are still responsible for its death by removing it from its natural environment. So you are effectively responsible for the embryo’s death in any case. It seems that due to the unneeded harm and the fact that the embryo will die anyway, salpingectomy is actually morally worse than salpingostomy and using Methotrexate.

There’s some evidence to suggest that transferring an embryo implanted into the wrong place may be possible. [8] If this is correct, then this may change the ethics of the situation. Some may argue that this course of action would be morally required to be taken. Others, like Christopher Kaczor, argue that, as with saving other humans, this action may not be morally required. As he writes, “we need not make use of every treatment available in every circumstance. In each case, the burdens and benefits of the treatment must be considered, and treatments that are more burdensome than beneficial may be foregone.” [9]

So I would argue that abortions are morally permissible if the woman’s life is in immediate jeopardy but the child is not yet viable. Regarding the other hard cases, fetal disability/defect, rape, and incest, abortions are not morally permissible. On top of that, even if they were, they could not be used to justify general abortion-on-demand. Saying that we should make abortion legal because of a rare instance it may be justified is like saying we should eliminate all traffic laws because you may have to break one rushing a loved one to the hospital. [10]

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/womens-health/articles/2012/01/23/abortion-safer-for-women-than-childbirth-study-claims While this article claims that abortion is safer than childbirth, this is still a misleading figure. Abortion is safer than childbirth in the first trimester, and then it’s only marginally so. Less than 1% of women die from abortion (0.6 in 100,000, according to the study), and less than 1% of women die in childbirth (8.8 in 100,000, according to the study). A woman’s risk of dying by having an abortion rises exponentially as the pregnancy continues.
[2] Guttmacher, Alan F., “Abortion -- Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now (Berkeley, CA: Diablo Press, 1967).
[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/443373.stm[4] Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica IIa-IIae Q. 64, art. 7.
[5] Shakespeare, William,
Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II.
http://myweb.lmu.edu/ckaczor/ectopicpregnancyLinacre.pdf See the article for a much more thorough examination of the methods of resolving an ectopic pregnancy, and the ethics involved in each of the methods.
[7] See Kaczor’s article for more on this.
[8] L. Shettles, “Tubal Embryo Successfully Transplanted in Utero,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 163 (1990): 2026.
[9] See Kaczor’s article.
[10] Scott Klusendorf makes this observation in The Case For Life, (Crossway Books: Wheaton, Illinois, 2009), p. 175