Monday, September 28, 2015
We have an interim pastor at our local parish, someone to keep the trains running for a year until we get a new permanent pastor. He was introduced to us as a former accountant who found his vocation later in life, so I expected someone who would be focused on cleaning up the books. It turns out that the earlier part of his life included getting married and raising a family, and that he is one of the most joy-filled priests I have ever encountered. In his age, his looks, and his profound yet simple sermons, he evokes Pope Francis for me every Sunday.
I listened to and watched as much of what Our Holy Father was saying over the past week as I possibly could, and I'm looking forward to downloading & reading everything more carefully. What a powerful display of loving, joyful confidence in the truth of the Gospel, in every encounter he had with the multitudes of people he saw, in the most diverse range of settings! What a model for us all!
When I read Fr. Al's "column" in our Church bulletin this Sunday, I found it a fitting coda to Pope Francis' visit. It's a "new" version of the famous 'footprints in the sand' story. I've included it here, after the split.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
You know those stories you always hear about competitors in Special Olympics meets choosing cooperation and helping over competition -- like turning back during a race to help competitors who stumble? Well, if you wonder whether they're true, here's one I know is true -- it's about a teammate on my son's Special Olympics gymnastics team. This fellow, Jack Campbell, is an incredibly gifted gymnast, and was chosen to represent the U.S. at the Special Olympics World Games in L.A. this summer. Here's the story, from the gymnastics club that sponsors our team:
Jack Campbell, member of the Mini Hops Special Olympics Gymnastics team, returned from World Games Competition in Los Angeles last week adorned with medals and ribbons for his performance in the Artistic Gymnastics competition! Gymnasts from all over the world competed over four days striving to fulfill the Special Olympic oath: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” Jack was both brave and he won! He took home gold in parallel bars and floor; silver in vault; bronze in high bar; fourth in still rings and fifth in pommel horse. That added up to an All Around bronze medal in his Level Two division. It was an impressive showing and the U.S. fans loudly let him know he was a favorite.
But Special Olympics is not just about sports; it is about sportsmanship and friendship. Jack proved once again at the Games that he comes out on top there, too. As it happened, a Chinese athlete showed up at the World Games only to discover that he had learned an outdated set of routines and did not know the correct ones. What a potential disaster for any athlete who has trained for years to reach the height of the sport! But Jack came to the rescue. Working with the coaches during long practices, Jack taught the routines to his colleague. With this little bit of help from his friends, the Chinese athlete was able to compete and win in a different division. That kind of spirit shines through Jack, in sports and in life, and Mini Hops is proud to welcome him home.
Monday, August 17, 2015
I was truly surprised to read an editorial in our local paper this Sunday offering a counterpoint to Tom's recent post about the burgeoning 'liberal arrogance." To put my surprise into context, the Star Tribune is - how shall I put this -- not known for its favorable coverage of the pro-life perspective. Its coverage about the Planned Parenthood videos has been largely limited to publishing letters to the editor from people complaining about the videos, and stories about how local Planned Parenthood affiliates are "weathering the storm." One day I heard on the Relevant Radio that 100s of people had shown up to protest in front of a local Planned Parenthood. I checked the Star Tribune the next day, and found no mention of it. However, there was an extensive story (with a picture) of the protesters in front of the dental office of the guy who shot Cecil the lion.
(This reminded me of a game I sometimes play. Open up the website for CNN, and the website for Fox News. Are they even covering the same planet?)
So, imagine my shock to read this brave and honest piece by D.J. Tice, exploring this idea:
It would be surprising if our generation produced the first morally infallible era in history. Chances seem good that, like the people of every age before us, most of us today are doing and thinking certain things — or at least going along with certain things — that will leave our descendants more or less aghast, wondering how we could have been so blind.
And the nature of moral blind spots is that we can’t be sure what our era’s worst mistakes are.
I pondered all this uncomfortably when I broke down recently and watched the most, well, appalling of the hidden-camera videos documenting Planned Parenthood’s fetal-tissue donation program. It’s the one in which Planned Parenthood personnel and undercover activists posing as tissue buyers use tweezers to idly pick through a lab tray holding little arms and legs and livers and whatnot.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
I suspect that many of us are personally confronting the challenges of caring for aging parents. A recent intervention by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN's working group on aging cited Pope Francis' recent poignant comment on this topic: "“it’s brutal to see how the elderly are thrown away… No one dares to say it openly, but it’s done!” It's scary to see one's own personal situation as part of a worldwide trend -- rather like recognizing your own contributions to the global environmental situation described in Laudato si.
The description of the problem in the Holy See's intervention describes an impending global crisis as significant as the environmental one, one that ought to be getting more attention that it typically does:
In the West, data tell us that the current century is the aging century: children are diminishing, the elderly are increasing. Currently 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world’s population, are above 60 years of age. By 2050, it is estimated that this number will double, reaching 20 per cent of the global population.(2) This increasing imbalance is a great challenge for contemporary society. For example, this puts increased pressure on healthcare and social protection systems. Given these figures, my delegation would like to draw particular attention to the needs of elderly women who are often excluded or neglected.
Therefore, as the number of older people increases along with the rise in average life expectancy, it will become increasingly important to promote an attitude of acceptance and appreciation of the elderly and to integrate them better in society. My delegation would like to reiterate that the ideal is still for the elderly to remain within the family, with the guarantee of effective social assistance for the greater needs which age or illness entail.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Friday was one of my most favorite days of every year -- the day I get to watch my son and his fellow Special Olympians at the state gymnastics meet. As always, it was a day of witnessing what true joy and pride looks like, again and again. If you've never witnessed a Special Olympics competition of any kind, do yourself a huge favor and watch one.
When I got home, I saw that, while I was watching my son, Pope Francis was addressing the Special Olympics team from Italy who will be coming to Los Angeles for the World Games later this summer. Among his thoughts:
Please, remain faithful to this ideal of sport! Do not let yourselves be “contaminated” by the false sports culture, that of economic success, of victory at any cost, of individualism. It is necessary to rediscover “amateur” sport, that of gratuitousness, sport for the sake of sport. It is necessary instead to protect and defend sport as an experience of human values, yes of competitions, but in loyalty, in solidarity -- always dignity for every person!
And, on a somewhat related note, a very sweet message to all fathers from the Jerome LeJeune Foundation: My Dear Dad.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
I haven't had a chance to read Laudato Si yet, but a group of my colleagues at UST (including my co-director at the Murphy Institute, Billy Junker) just had a conference on these issues here last week, and had this to say in today's local paper. Their conference included a keynote by John Allen, in which he offered some of the predictions and cautions about likely reactions to the encyclical that appeared in this column of his (he calls it "getting ahead of the spin"). Today's column offers an informative historical survey of the evolution of Church thought on these issues.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Related to Rick's recent post about the advertising in Spain for a prenatal test for Down Syndrome called "Tranquility", here's an equally frightening essay by Renate Lindeman, a spokesperson for the Dutch parent group Downpride.
Denmark was the first European country to introduce routine screening for Down syndrome in 2006 as a public health-care program. France, Switzerland and other European countries soon followed. The unspoken but obvious message is that Down syndrome is something so unworthy that we would not want to wish it for our children or society. With the level of screening among pregnant Danish women as high as 90 percent, the Copenhagen Post reported in 2011 that Denmark “could be a country without a single citizen with Down syndrome in the not too distant future.”
... like other European governments, the Netherlands is currently considering permanently including the NIPT, primarily aimed at Down syndrome, in its prenatal screening program. An American-European-Canadian study on DNA screening for Down syndrome was published in the New England Journal of Medicine this year. Dick Oepkes, chairman of the Dutch NIPT consortium, called results “positive,” stating in a recent interview: “Surveys show women experience waiting for test results arduous. Offering the DNA test as a first step will allow women who consider terminating the pregnancy to make their choice before they have felt the fetus move.”
Lindeman has two children with Down Syndrome. She gets right to the crux of what's really at stake behind the rhetoric of the push for such testing, including what makes the "Tranquility" advertising approach that Rick found so horrifying:
Screening and selection say nothing about the inherent worth of people with Down syndrome. They say everything about the elevation of the capacity for economic achievement above other human traits. My children are fascinating, demanding, delightful, present, annoying, dependent, loving, cuddly, different, unpredictable and completely human, just like other children. They are not a mistake, a burden or a reflection of my “personal choice,” but an integral part of society.
If we allow our governments to set up health programs that result in the systematic elimination of a group of people quite happy being themselves, under the false pretense of women’s rights, than that is a personal choice — one we have to face honestly.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
My colleagues at the John Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, Michael J. Naughton, Jeanne G. Buckeye, Kenneth E. Goodpaster and T. Dean Maines, have written a book applying the principle of subsidiarity in a concrete context. This might be a good resource for those teaching or working with Catholic social teachings. Their description:
Respect in Action: Applying Subsidiarity in Business is a book addressed to business leaders committed to implementing sustainable organizational changes consistent with the key principles of Catholic Social Thought. It is directed to managers whose decisions and purposes influence not only the economy, but the lives of men and women around the world who work for them. Subsidiarity invites organizations to pursue the common good through practices that take the integral development of the human person at least as seriously as economic prosperity. We believe this book has something important to say to practitioners as well as to business faculty and students.
You can download it (for free) as a PDF or e-book here.
Friday, June 5, 2015
Monday, May 18, 2015
With Minnesota's Governor threatening to veto the bipartisan education funding bill later today, sending the legislature into a special session this summer, I'm happy to report that something positive came out of this past session. On Monday, Governor Dayton signed the Prenatal Trisomy Diagnosis Awareness Act. It passed unanimously in the House and 58-1 in the Senate. That doesn't happen much anymore!
Effective August 1st, health care practitioners in Minnesota who perform genetic tests on pregnant women for Patua syndrome (trisomy 13), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), or Downs syndrome (trisomy 21), will have to provide specific information if the results are positive. The information has to include "up-to-date and evidence-based information about the trisomy conditions that has been reviewed by medical experts and national trisomy organizations", including expected "physical, developmental, educational, and psychosocial outcomes", life expectancy, and contact information for nonprofit organizations that provide information and support services for trisomy conditions.
You'd think such information should be routinely given, but 20 years ago when I received a diagnosis of Trisomy 21 for my son, it certainly was not part of anything I got from our genetic counselor or doctor; anectodal evidence suggests things aren't much different now.
According to my friends (and a former student) at the Minnesota Catholic Conference, some of the key factors in getting passed were the diverse coalition of supporters, bipartisan authorship, pepole with disabilities serving as the principal public advocates, and message discipline (this is an information bill--and who is against more information? Well, based on the sole vote against this, apparently Senator Katie Sieben.)
Though similar bills have been passed in six other states [Massachusetts (2012), Kentucky (2013), Pennsylvania (2014), Maryland (2014), Louisiana (2014) Delaware (2014), and Ohio (2014)] Minnesota's is the first to include Trisomy 13 and 18. Anyone who wants information on this bill or the background of its passage, feel free to contact Jason Adkins, Executive Director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.