Abortion: How It's Done

One thing I have always found odd about the abortion issue is that there is so much argument about this act that many people have never personally witnessed. It's hard to have an intelligent discussion without defining your terms. What does an abortion look like? How is it done?

In the following short videos, Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life uses plastic fetal models and actual surgical tools to demonstrate how an abortion is done, according to readily available medical textbooks. What he shows is disturbing but not graphic. (If you want to see the real thing, here is a link to some actual photographs of aborted babies. Not for the squeamish.)

If we're going to talk about abortion, let's make sure we know what we're talking about.

This is a dismemberment abortion:

This is a suction abortion:

Good Clean Illegal Fun

According to the affidavits, the hazing included an incident on Sept. 9, 2006, following UT's football game with Ohio State University, when the pledges were gathered in a University Towers dorm room. Bolding, the president at the time, required a pledge to hold himself on a table on his elbows and toes, a position referred to as "bows and toes," and then turned the table over, sending the pledge falling to the floor, the affidavit said.

Also during that meeting, Sherrill touched a hot clothes iron to the face of two pledges, causing minor injuries, and Evans made a pledge put his hand on a dart board while Evans threw darts at him, the affidavits said. The pledges with the burn injuries were told to skip classes until their burns healed, the affidavit said.

During one event, a so-called cactus run, the pledges were taken to a ranch and made to gather cacti with their bare hands for an upcoming party, the affidavit said. At the ranch, Evans made three pledges eat Crisco shortening, made two eat cat food, made one pledge sit on a cactus and shocked several pledges with a cattle prod, the affidavit said.

Later in the semester, the fraternity held what members referred to as "jungle week" leading up to an annual jungle-themed party, the affidavit said. During that week, the pledges were divided into two teams in a competition centered on building pools, the affidavit said. The competition required the pledges to carry large rocks across the fraternity house yard while fraternity members struck their backs and legs with bamboo sticks, the affidavit said. The losing team was told to enter a Penske truck parked in front of the house, where Bolding and Sherrill used an electric cattle prod to shock them, the affidavit said.

On Nov. 16, 2006, the end of jungle week, nine pledges were selected to participate in an activity called "Senior Boo" that began with the pledges climbing into the back of the Penske truck and blindfolding themselves with their shirts, the affidavit said. The pledges, one of whom was "hog-tied," were shocked with a cattle prod on their way to another location, the affidavit said.

There, the pledges, who were all under the legal drinking age, were given half-gallon sized bottles of tequila, whiskey and Rumplemintz liquor and encouraged to drink excessive amounts, the affidavit said.

Bolding again made a pledge get into the "bows and toes" position and then kicked the pledge in the stomach, the affidavit said. "The kick was described a field-goal kick," the affidavit said. Later during the outing, Bolding and Sherill "traded swats" with several pledges, meaning the fraternity leaders hit the pledges with a bamboo stick and then allowed the pledges to hit them with the stick, the affidavit said.

On the way back to the fraternity house, the pledges drank from a keg, the affidavit said. [MORE]

The next morning, 18-year-old pledge Tyler Cross was found dead on the ground below his fifth-floor balcony. Blood tests revealed high levels of alcohol. Not surprising, given the activities of the previous evening as described above.

What is surprising is how many otherwise decent folks think such things are perfectly fine, even normal. "They're just being kids," people say. "It's normal. Things just got out of hand this time."

In the state of Texas, it is illegal for an 18-year-old like Tyler Cross to possess or consume any amount of alcohol. You could make a case that this law is unreasonable and unjust. I might even agree with you. For now, though, it is the law.

Yet some of the very same people who have no problem with the widespread flouting of the laws about alcohol are outraged when a poor Mexican crosses the border illegally in order to work and support his family. "They're breaking the law! Criminals! Stop them now!"

I totally agree that we need to get control of the border, for a variety of reasons, but some of us are being mighty selective in our devotion to the Rule of Law. If we are going to have laws, they need to be enforced. If they can't be enforced they ought to be changed. Otherwise you end up with anarchy.

One final question: which is the greater long-term threat to the survival of our culture: 1) immigrants who mow our lawns and pick our vegetables for very low wages, or 2) native-born college students whose "education" seems to consist of abusing younger peers and ignoring laws they find inconvenient? Think about it.

Prayer at Ground Zero

Here is the text of the prayer Pope Benedict XVI delivered at the World Trade Center on Sunday.

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

Note carefully this line: Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred. Christ told us to pray for our enemies. Not many of us do it, and even fewer of us do it publicly. Another good example set by Benedict.

Here is another nice reflection from Time magazine.

"Truth Is Not An Imposition"

Pope Benedict XVI is now winging his way back to Rome. With the immediate excitement over, we are left to ponder the messages he brought. Smarter people than me will dissect every word he said. My guess is that his message at the Youth Rally in New York will go down as the highlight of his trip.

Early in the speech the German Pope made an unusual reference to his own life:

My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew – infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion – before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.

From there he went on to describe the dangers of darkness, the false promises of "freedom," and the hope that is Truth.

Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism.

But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

Benedict draws a distinction - too often forgotten in our culture - between freedom and license. Authentic freedom is not simply an escape from rules; it is the ability to move toward something positive, something good, something better than what we leave behind.

It's encouraging that thousands of young people listened to this message with rapt attention. Yet millions more did not. They need to hear the truth, because it is the only thing that will set them free. Here is the full transcript. I highly suggest you read it all.

The Rock Holds Firm

Those who expected Benedict XVI, aka "God's Rotweiler," to spend his time in the U.S. snarling at heretics must be sorely disappointed. He is instead doing something much more powerful, and in the end far more effective: speaking truth with love. Without compromising the truth, he has called all who listen to something higher, something that transcends the little squabbles we all get caught up in.

The squabble are still important, of course. By his very presence, I think the Pope demonstrates that on fundamental matters of faith and morals, the Church will never change. Some in the media recognize this:

But to ask Benedict to change the church's rules to suit modern appetites and lifestyles is to ask that he forsake the sanctity of human life for the benefit of earthly delights. Those are not his concerns.

Even for non-Catholics like me, there's something comforting about a stubborn pope in a world of moral relativity. Like a strong father, he ignores his children's pleas for leniency knowing that his rules, though tough, serve a higher purpose.

"Stubborn" is probably not the best word to use here. "Faithful" is more accurate. Yet the writer should not be surprised. The reason the Pope is as solid as a rock is that the Papacy is built on a rock.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." [Matthew 16:13-19]

Peter went on to become the first Bishop of Rome - the Pope. Almost two thousand years later, Benedict XVI is Bishop of Rome # 266. For all that time the Rock has held firm. Sure, it's been chipped, scratched, tarnished over the centuries. But is has not been overcome, nor will it be. The Lord Himself told us so.

Amid all of life's troubles, pain and disappointment, Benedict reminds us of one thing we know for sure: the Gates of Hell don't stand a chance.

IHOP Papal Special

What else? Eggs Benedict, of course.

Hat tip: Morning Air

Bush Greets the German Shepherd

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Washington today, with the unprecedented honor of a presidential airport greeting. This was a nice gesture by Bush, and shows how respect for the pontiff crosses all kinds of denominational and political lines.

B16 made a little news before the plane even touched down by telling reporters he was "deeply ashamed" at the clergy sexual abuse scandal. I think it was a heartfelt statement, and may have the added bonus of disarming some of the people who were determined to make that awful scandal the centerpiece of the entire visit.

There is a lot of speculation in the blogosphere on what the Pope will say about this or that problem. Everyone wants him to validate their pet issue. I liked what Archbishop Sambi, the nuncio to the U.S., had to say in a TV interview. He suggested - in a kind and loving way - that rather than tell the Pope what we want him to say, we should listen to whatever he thinks needs to be said. Sounds like good advice.

In that spirit, I intend to watch the various events on TV and pray that much good comes from the next few days. EWTN will, naturally, have extensive coverage. If you watch/read the mainstream media, remember to deduct about 50 IQ points from whatever they say about the Catholic Church and religion in general.

Recipe for Deception

Here's something rich. In an apparent effort to humanize John McCain's wife Cindy, the campaign published some of her favorite recipes. Unfortunately, they seem not to have been her recipes. Rather, they were lifted almost word-for-word from the Food Network web site. The McCain campaign has now removed the recipes from their web site but here are some comparative screen captures.

The McCain people explain that this was an unfortunate error by a volunteer intern. Apparently, it would have been acceptable for the intern to invent some recipes out of thin air and tell us they were from Cindy McCain. But plagiarism? We can't have that!

These efforts by politicians to make us think they are "regular people" say a lot about both them and us. Them, because they think we are stupid enough to fall for it. Us, because we usually do fall for it. Yet it is how we will pick the next leader of the free world. Ay caramba. We will get what we deserve.

Click here for a snarky look at Cindy McCain's cooking skills.

World's Largest Church

From Abu Daoud comes this strange and interesting story about the largest church in the world. I had no idea such a place even existed. It is the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, located in Ivory Coast, Africa. As you can see from the picture, it is very large and quite magnificent. There are 7,000 seats inside, room for 30,000 to stand in the plaza, and space for another 300,000 people outside. It origins are even more unusual. From Wikipedia:

Côte d'Ivoire President Félix Houphouët-Boigny chose his birthplace of Yamoussoukro to be the future site of the new capital city of his country in 1983. As part of the plan of the city, the president wanted to memorialize himself with the construction of what he called the greatest church in the world. As construction was nearly completed, the president commissioned a stained glass window of his image to be placed beside a gallery of stained glass of Jesus and the apostles.

This reminds me of the ancient kings and pharaohs who had vast memorials constructed in their own honor. No matter; it's still a magnificent church. You would think the local people, who are quite poor (and not even Catholic for the most part), would be aghast at such extravagance. Reports suggest they are actually quite proud of it, however. For now it gets little use, but I'll bet the Lord has something in mind for this place.

More photos and information here and here.

Greetings from the Pope

Benedict XVI, who will be visiting the U.S. next week, sends the following video greetings to the American people. I found it interesting to hear him speaking English for more than a few words. Given that he also speaks German, Italian, French, Dutch, Latin and reads Ancient Greek and Hebrew, I think we can excuse the accent. (Transcript) (Video at YouTube)

UPDATE: Peggy Noonan adds an interesting point about Benedict's accent:

Another small fear, born of hearing him last week at the mass. Benedict spoke in many languages including English, which he speaks fluidly and with a strong German accent. This is an accent that 60 years of World War II movies have taught Americans to hear as vaguely sinister, or comic. The nicer commentators may say he sounds like Col. Klink in "Hogan's Heroes." I hope he speaks even more than usual about love, for that may remove the sting, as love does.

Our Most Important Freedom

From Red Cardigan:

The one cultural value our current society elevates above all others is the notion that sex without consequences is the most important freedom we have, and if children or innocent spouses or unborn babies or anyone else has to suffer for this freedom to be paramount, then so be it.

This principle is not (yet) written into the Constitution, but for all practical purposes it might as well be. Most Americans certainly consider their pelvic freedom at least as important as the liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

It is beyond government's ability to guarantee that sex will have no consequences because those consequences are natural. They are programmed into us - biologically, psychologically, and spiritually. They cannot be eliminated by law. Yet people keep trying.

You Mean There Might Be Risk?

April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Embryonic stem cells may someday cure disease, reverse paralysis or restore memory. Scientists worry they also may trigger benign tumors, and even cancer.

Geron Corp. and Advanced Cell Technology Inc. plan this year to begin the first human tests of therapies created with stem cells extracted from human embryos. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which may soon approve the studies, is asking the companies to closely monitor whether the therapies can spur non-cancerous growths, as has been seen in animal tests.

The first human studies, by Menlo Park, California-based Geron, may start as soon as this summer in patients partly or wholly paralyzed. The FDA is convening a special public session April 10 to discuss the safety concerns. The agency scheduled the meeting to get help in balancing the pleas of patients with risks that may arise should the therapies gain wide use...

"You don't want a tooth growing in your eye, so we need to absolutely know what will happen,'' said Robert Lanza, the medical director for Alameda, California-based Advanced Cell, in a telephone interview. ``It's not in anyone's interest to have any risk whatsoever.'' MORE

Dr. Lanza's evocative image of "a tooth growing in your eye" makes me think of something our Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount:

"Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?"

The comparison in highly appropriate. Here we have a bunch of physicians, scientists and bureaucrats in a tizzy that the introduction of embryonic stem cells into humans might actually hurt those humans. They conveniently forget that there is a 100% death rate for the embryos who provide these stem cells.

"Ah, but they are only embryos," some will say. So? As Dr. Lanza surely knows, these embryos possess the unique DNA sequences that mark them as separate, individual members of the species homo sapiens. They are human beings. Granted, they are young human beings that are invisible to the naked eye and depend on others for sustenance and protection. Because they are unable to object, and because their fragile bodies possess materials that we think may prove helpful in our quest to live long and pain-free lives, the lives of these young people are snuffed out without regret.

Given all this, I am not a bit surprised if embryonic stem cells create tumors and other ill effects. These are the temporal consequences of the sin committed by those who kill helpless young people for their own enrichment and pleasure. Meanwhile adult stem cells - which do not require the death of the donor - are proving more promising all the time. I think the Lord is sending us a hint.

Too Much War, Not Enough Troops

WASHINGTON — Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond.

Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of soldiers’ mental health.

The stress of long and multiple deployments to Iraq is just one of the concerns being voiced by senior military officers in Washington as Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Iraq commander, prepares to tell Congress this week that he is not ready to endorse any drawdowns beyond those already scheduled through July. MORE

The New York Times is shocked to discover that combat is a stressful activity. They miss the real story. Exactly why is it that soldiers are having to serve three and four 12-15 month tours in Iraq? Could it be that we have bitten off more than we can chew?

Assume for a moment that everything Bush, Cheney and the most hawkish neocons tell us is correct. The U.S. faces an "existential threat," and installing a friendly regime in Iraq is critical to our national survival. I don't accept these points, but for the sake of argument let's go with them for a minute.

Why, then, is the United States not in a full wartime mobilization? The sad fact is that it's very easy for most Americans to forget we are at war. Other than longer lines at the airport, our lives are not terribly different. Something is wrong with this picture. If all our lives depend on victory over radical Islam, why is it that we aren't being called to share the burden? Following 9/11, President Bush had the perfect opportunity to rally the nation toward a great common goal. He did not. Instead, he suggested we all go back to watching TV and buying stuff at the mall.

Something is wrong with this picture. If we really face such a great threat, life should be different for everyone. That's how it was in World War II. Every able-bodied male not needed in the farms and factories was in uniform, and the home front lived with rationing and other hardships.

If, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union had every decided to invade Western Europe, I can promise you that life would have changed drastically in the U.S. I know this because I was in the Army back then, and I saw the contingency plans for REFORGER (Return Forces to Germany). Had we ever put the plans into motion, there would have been no lines at the airports - because there would have been no airliners. Every passenger plane was set to be drafted into the Air Force. Large parts of the Interstate Highway System (which was originally a defense project) would have been shut down so equipment could be rushed from inland military bases to seaports. Critical factories and natural resources would have been nationalized. Thanks be to God, we never had to execute these plans beyond small-scale annual exercises. It would have been something no one could miss.

The current war is a minor operation in comparison. Certainly it doesn't seem minor to the soldiers and marines who are under fire every day. Yet it is stretching our forces to the limit. The force structure now is about half the size it was when the Cold War ended. If, as we are told, we now face an equally serious threat, why are we trying to face it with an undersized military? This is why troops are being shipped back to Iraq for the third and fourth time.

It makes no sense, and I have yet to hear a Bush supporter give a coherent answer. You can't blame it on the Democrats - in the months after 9/11, Congress would have given Bush anything he wanted. Nor can you blame the generals - they warned Bush the forces available were insufficient for what he wanted to do in Iraq.

The root of the problem, in my opinion, is that this is a war of ideas, and it's not going to be won with bullets. Had we fought it on that basis, the current force level would be enough. Our "compassionate conservative" Christian president chose a different strategy, and then failed to see that his strategy didn't match the available resources. It is a mistake we will all live with for the rest of our lives.

Wisdom of the Saints XXIX

Teach us to be generous,
good Lord;
Teach us to serve You
as You deserve;
To give and not to
count the cost,
To fight and not
to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not
to ask for any reward
Save that of knowing we do
Your will.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Turning The Other Cheek

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:28-31

A man in New York City gave us a modern-day example to follow, according to this story from NPR. Confronted by a knife-wielding teenager, Julio Diaz handed over his wallet, offered his coat as well, and then invited the mugger to dinner with him. I'm sure many other people have tried this without the happy ending. It worked for Julio, though. (Hat tip: Mark Shea)

Not surprisingly, a Fox News loudmouth named Greg Gutfeld was not impressed. Nor were most of the people who left comments at this post on a New York blog. They make some good points: is taking your mugger really to eat the best way to help him change his ways? Did Julio simply make it easier for someone else to be victimized?

I don't know. What I do know is that the Lord was pretty clear in what He expects from us. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. These are hard teachings. I, for one, conveniently forget about them at the very times I need them the most. Julio's story is a good reminder that turning the other cheek may be the most powerful weapon we have.

Ending the Rule of Law

From the Washington Post:

The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president's ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes...

Sent to the Pentagon's general counsel on March 14, 2003, by John C. Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the memo provides an expansive argument for nearly unfettered presidential power in a time of war. It contends that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture or cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president's inherent wartime powers.

"If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network," Yoo wrote. "In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions."

This practical implication of this expansive interpretation is that the president, and anyone he/she designates, is not bound by any law whatsoever. He/she can do anything as long as it is done in the name of national defense. Why stop at torture? How about summary executions? Rape? Child molestation? If that's what it takes to defend America, it's legal. The logic applies equally well. This is Mr. Yoo's argument, made on behalf of his boss, President George W. Bush.

Many of the same Republicans who could not talk enough about the "rule of law" when Bill Clinton lied under oath think exempting George W. Bush from a few laws is no big deal. Here's the problem: the genie is out of the bottle. Every president from now on will have these same powers. That includes liberal Democrats. Anyone think either of them won't try to open the door even wider? It will be fun to watch Bushies try to argue that President Obama is overstepping his authority. I can easily imagine the Obama Justice Department finding some legal logic to justify the imprisonment and torture of pro-life activists, for instance.

A ridiculous thought? Maybe. But if it happens, you can thank George W. Bush and his enablers, who have made a mockery of the very Constitution they claim to protect.

The Anti-Life Mentality of our Culture

Earlier this week I noted the third anniversary of the Terri Schiavo murder. My blogging colleague Chelsea at Reflections of a Paralytic has an excellent post on the same subject. Being disabled herself, Chelsea takes these things personally:

In the wake of Terri’s death I heard many people say that they want to make it perfectly clear their intention to have their own feeding tube removed if they were ever in the same situation in order to avoid the conflict that erupted between the Schindler/Schiavo families. And because they would not want to be a burden on their families. This is the anti-life mentality of our culture, it is better to be dead than to live a life of hardship and suffering and it is better to bury a family member than to take the time to love and care for them.

Terri Schiavo was not in a coma and was not in a brain dead or “persistent vegetative state”. Terri was a severely handicapped young woman who suffered a life altering, not life ending, brain injury. Because of that many in our society, including her husband, concluded that Terri’s life was no longer worthy of being lived, though she was, in fact, “living”. This is the sentiment that is behind the push for euthanasia and the abortion of “unhealthy” unborn children.

Read more of Chelsea's post. She speaks with authority on this.