Saturday, August 30, 2008

KC Star Calls for Regulation of 'Bodies' Shows

Excerpt from their editorial today:

The recent revelation is one more reason to urge Congress to investigate the traveling exhibits that display plasticized human skeletons and body parts. . .

The Catholic Key informed station officials in March that the form was actually from an unrelated business.

Udris said he consulted with Premier Exhibitions, which produced an affidavit from the supplier insisting that all of the bodies in the Union Station exhibit were obtained with donor consent.

That now looks like a questionable basis for trust. As the “Bodies Revealed” exhibit prepares to close its Kansas City showing on Monday, it’s dismaying that new doubts have arisen about the cadavers.

See the whole editorial.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Key 'Bodies Revealed' Story Gets Star Coverage

Tha Kansas City Star reports today that the consent form provided to the press as proof of consent for corpses at 'Bodies Revealed' was fake. That story first broke here on August 14 and the Star duly gives us credit.

Here's the backstory on this curious claim in the Star report by Union Station chief Andi Udris:

Union Station CEO Andi Udris said officials learned of the mistake in March, shortly after the exhibit opened, and prepared a statement of explanation then. But the station did not release it, because questions about the form were not raised publicly at the time, he said.

“We frankly plumb forgot about it,” Udris said. “I don’t want it to appear that we were trying to hide or mislead anybody on it.”

They found out the form was fake in March, because the Key told them. Here's an excerpt of my email to an official at Union Station on March 20:

Thank you for taking my call the other day.

I’ve attempted by phone and email to contact Katherine Morgenstern at Premier Exhibitions without success.

I have asked her for a copy of the consent form in the original Chinese. There is serious purpose in that request. The form she provided you is word-for-word the same form written and used by Anatomy Gifts Registry of Hanover, Maryland. They are a non-profit seeking organs and bodies for medical research. I spoke with the person who wrote the form. He confirmed it is his language and not a standard form in broad usage. They have no affiliation with Premier or any organization in China. The form was written specifically to comply with Maryland law and the desires of their clients. Anatomy Gifts Registry has no idea how or why their form would be in use in China.

It is possible, though unlikely, that the recipient institution in China got hold of this form, translated it into Chinese and used it for body donations. If Premier will not produce a Chinese language form with the name of the receiving institution, the obvious conclusion of any article we publish would be that Premier lied to Union Station about its procurement of bodies for “Bodies Revealed”. Given the suspect nature of their procurements for “Bodies . . . The Exhibition,” it would be particularly damaging if they were guilty of outright deceit in this matter.

Soon after sending this email, I got a phone interview, not with Katherine Morgenstern (Premier's pr person), but with Brian Wainger, general counsel for Premier Exhibitions. Union Station sent him my email and he had read it, as well as the original Catholic Key article questioning the origin of the bodies.

Wainger confirmed that the form was not theirs and was not signed by any of the bodies at Union Station. He also gave an explanation as to how Union Station might have gotten the form as reported by the Key here.

At the end of our conversation, I asked Wainger if he would contact the Kansas City Star to set the record straight. He said he would consider it. That was March 24.

At this point, presumably expecting my article to appear in The Catholic Key, Union Station prepared a press release explaining the issue. When the article did not appear for some months, apparently Union Station felt no need to release it and "plumb forgot about it."

So much did they forget about it that Union Station continued putting out responses to inquiries repeating the unfounded claim, like this email received by a friend of mine in July:

Premier Exhibitions has always been upfront about admitting that Bodies: The Exhibition uses unclaimed bodies and that Bodies Revealed uses donated bodies. At this point, we have no reason to doubt what they are telling us regarding Bodies Revealed.

I did not put a story in The Key in March, because I decided to try to investigate exactly where the bodies did come from. This proved extremely difficult, in part because I do not read or speak Chinese. What I did finally find is that it is extremely unlikely that the bodies came from Chinese medical schools as claimed, as well as a flat denial from the medical university closest to the plastination plant in China that they ever provided bodies for plastination. That story is here.

It is interesting to note, that when New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo felt that patrons of Premier's show in New York may have been deceived about the origin of bodies in that show, he investigated and finally came to an agreement with Premier Exhibitions to refund tickets to anyone who would not have gone to the show had they known the truth.

Is Missouri AG Jay Nixon listening?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nancy Pelosi's Theological Sources

As I mentioned in a previous post, Nancy Pelosi has been using her Augustine argument on abortion for several years. It struck me as highly unlikely that the congresswoman would, on her own, have made an investigation of the more obscure writings of the Church Fathers in order to form her conscience on abortion.

Daniel C. Maguire is a theologian at Marquette University who has for years proposed that there are valid pro-choice and pro-life "traditions" in the Catholic Church. He argues that one can be in either camp and still be a good Catholic.

An early work of his on this topic was published in 1983 in Christian Century. Therein he states something remarkably close to the Speaker's view:

"On the other hand, the teachings about abortion contained some remarkable scientific premonitions, including the insight that the early fetus could not have personal status. Said St. Augustine: "The law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide. For there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation when it is not formed in flesh and so is not endowed with sense." As Joseph Donceel, S.J., notes, up until the end of the 18th century "the law of the Roman Catholic Church forbade one to baptize an aborted fetus that showed no human shape or outline." If it were a personal human being, it would deserve baptism. On the question of a rational soul entering the fetus, Donceel notes that Thomas Aquinas "spoke of six weeks for the male embryo and three months for the female embryo." In Aquinas’s hylomorphic theory, the matter had to be ready to receive the appropriate form. According to such principles, as Rosemary Ruether points out, "Thomas Aquinas might well have had to place the point of human ensoulment in the last trimester if he had been acquainted with modern embryology.

"If the bishops and other negative absolutists would speak of tradition, let them speak of it in its full ambiguity and subtlety, instead of acting as though the tradition were a simplistic, Platonic negative floating through time untouched by contradiction, nuance or complexity."

Of course, Maguire is a quack, but the view he espouses is not unheard of from theologians at Universities merely "In the Catholic tradition."

When I was editor of Catholic San Francisco, I received many calls over my tenure from readers challenging any article espousing "official" Catholic teaching on life issues as representing only one view within the tradition. When challenged with authoratative magisterial teaching some callers remained unfazed saying that either a theologian or a Jesuit at the University of San Francisco ('with better credentials than you') had told them the opposite.

Plenty of culpability for the culture of death can be laid upon those moral theologians who preach their own gospel as the gospel of the Church.

'Let us be Catholic schools!'

This blog received quite a bit of traffic from around the country looking for Bishop Finn's recent column on The Purpose of Catholic Schools.

Readers may also be interested in Bishop Finn's inspiring homily recently given to educators in the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph. The whole thing is posted below. (I'll try to figure out how to make expandable posts soon):

Homily for Diocesan Teachers Convocation Mass
St. Therese Parish, North - August 19, 2008
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Dear friends in Christ,

Much of our time in the classroom we are bombarded with pressing questions that flow from the hearts of our students:

“Teacher: Is this important?”
“What time does this class end?”
“Will this be on the test?”
“Was that assignment really due today?”
“Can we go outside for class?”

Jesus Christ, the teacher, is approached in today’s Gospel. St. Matthew tips us off concerning the intention of the Pharisee - to test him. “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest?”

Our Lord responds first from what is probably the best known statement of the Jewish law, the great command in Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.” He adds the second command – taken from a lesser known citation in Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In responding to the question, Jesus the teacher, gives his would-be student more than his money’s worth, more than he bargained for. He gives him the summary of all God’s law. He passes on to us the order of the whole godly life. His answer is central to the Gospel and is worth much meditation.

I recently heard an anecdote from the Kansas City-born humorist and writer, Calvin “Bud” Trillin. He shares something from his late wife, Alice. She developed a great love for disabled children and worked at a camp every summer she could get away.

“Alice wrote about one of the campers, a sunny little girl she called L. At camp, Alice had a tendency to gravitate toward the child who needed the most help, and L. was one of those. ‘Last summer, the camper I got closest to, L., was a magical child who was severely disabled,’ Alice wrote. ‘She had two genetic diseases, one which kept her from growing and one which kept her from digesting any food. She had to be fed through a tube at night and she had so much difficulty walking that I drove her around in a golf cart a lot....One day, when we were playing duck-duck-goose, I was sitting behind her and she asked me to hold her mail for her while she took her turn to be chased around the circle. It took her a while to make the circuit, and I had time to see that on top of the pile was a note from her mom. Then I did something truly awful, which I'm reluctant now to reveal. I decided to read that note. I simply had to know what this child's parents could have done to make her so spectacular, to make her the most optimistic, most enthusiastic, most hopeful human being I had ever encountered. I snuck a quick look at the note, and my eyes fell on this sentence: “If God had given us all the children in the world to choose from, L., we would only have chose[n] you.” Before L. got back to her place in the circle, I showed the note to Bud, who was sitting next to me. “Quick. Read this,” I whispered. “It's the secret of life.”’”

When our students ask us their questions – even those that show their boredom or their intention to hold off the necessary work of teaching and learning – even if they are testing us like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, we may take our example and lead from the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, who as the Gospel reveals was engaged in the full-time business of handing on “the secret of life.”

The mystery which Jesus came to reveal was the gift of a supreme and eternal love that has been extended to man from God. This love is so potent and life-giving that it is capable of creating us, holding us together in being, redeeming and forgiving us, and transforming us into the very children of the Father.

Jesus, the Scriptures make clear, called God “Abba – Father” – a term of great intimacy and endearment, and He told us that God is Our Father: I dare say, the kind of Father or parent that says – ‘If I had everyone in the world to choose from, I would have chosen only you.’

In the Gospel today, our Lord extends the command that will make us whole and entire: namely that we must allow ourselves to give all our heart, soul and mind to this love. Jesus would eventually illustrate this mystery of love in the total giving of Himself on the Cross in love of us whom He had determined to choose as His own.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. He did. He loves us still with all His heart, soul, mind – even to the destruction of His Body – even to the point of giving His Body and Blood to us as food to be consumed.

We don’t need to know much more than that. It is the “secret of life” and we must spend hours and hours – a whole lifetime - letting it seep into our hearts so that we can hand it on. The privilege and opportunity to do this is especially clear and well-provided for in the mission of the Catholic school.

Now, when we teach good science; when we show our students how multiplication works; the parts of a sentence; what lives in pond water, or how far it is to the nearest star, these things are good and necessary. This learning must happen in our schools and in every school.

However, in carrying out the mission of the Catholic school we have a greater challenge. When we examine, together with our students, the arts and sciences and skills, we are participating in the revelation of the truth as it is at work in the world around us – God’s order and plan, and the art of being human. We are delegated to impart nothing less than the mystery of living – and even the mystery of dying. And we are supplied with the sufficient matter – everything we need - to provide it to our students. We have excellent knowledge and skills, and we teach them in a manner second to none. We also have the Gospel, the Holy Eucharist and the Sacraments, the Communion of Saints, the life of virtue and grace, the apostolic succession focused in the Successor to Peter, the deposit of the Faith.

In the program of our Catholic schools we are witnesses to a dimension of life that is capable of transforming each of our students, and, collectively, the world. We are witnesses to Jesus Christ and sharers in His own ministry of teaching. He kept revealing the truth in all its splendor. Don’t be fooled - He was tough on untruth! He was death on sin. He rebuked what was wrong, and went to every length to bring back the erring sinner.

What a grace we have, my friends and fellow teachers, to be able to join Him in unveiling the deep mysteries sought by every human heart. We have the freedom to profess our faith openly and break apart its meaning in every dimension of every study and program we undertake. We can humanize every task and sanctify each activity. To stop short of this is to give our students partial and frivolous answers - snack food rather than the full balanced meal - that cannot satisfy the hungers of their hearts.

So we will be Catholic schools! And you and I will be faith-filled stewards of a work that bears in its every authentic dimension the answer to the everlasting mystery – to the secret of life. I have said at other times that we must be unabashedly Catholic, unashamedly Catholic. Why? Because anything less is to be embarrassed about possessing the key to everlasting life. To stop short of handing over this truth – is to withhold a life-saving medicine from our own beloved children. Yes – Let us be Catholic schools!

Today is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. One week after her glorious Assumption, body and soul into heaven, we mark her Coronation as our queen and mother. Let us go to her: the woman “clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of stars.” (Rv 12:1) Mary, pray for us: our homes and communities and schools. Help us to be teachers who, like you, bring Jesus Christ and the mystery of His love to the world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pelosi Clarifies by Repeating Herself

Here is an excerpt from a statement issued by Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly:

“After she was elected to Congress, and the choice issue became more public as she would have to vote on it, she studied the matter more closely. Her views on when life begins were informed by the views of Saint Augustine, who said: ‘…the law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation…’ (Saint Augustine, On Exodus 21.22)"

Let's be clear. Nancy Pelosi was elected to Congress in 1987 - 14 years after Roe v. Wade and longer still than abortion had been legalized in California. It's hard to believe she started investigating this after she was elected to Congress.

Second, if she were sincere in wanting to explore the issue, she could have investigated "abortion" proper rather than the euphemistic "choice issue."

Last, Augustine and Nancy Pelosi do share one thing in common - They would both fail a fifth grade biology exam. No one in the world looks to Fourth Century Catholic bishops for lessons on embryology. Why would she trust Augustine's faulty biology and not his still sound moral judgment which condemned abortion at all times. Augustine agreed with what the Christian Community has always held on abortion. In determining just how culpapble one guilty of abortion is he relied on the science available to antiquity. In the 21st Century, it is most peculiar to base one's judgements on what people knew of human development in the 4th.

Cardinal Egan of New York has put it best today:

"What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being 'chooses' to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mrs. Pelosi lies again

I wasn't going to post on the subject of Mrs. Pelosi's misrepresentation of Catholic teaching on abortion on Meet The Press this weekend, since so many more capable bloggers have done so. See Amy Welborn here and the reaction of Archbishop Chaput(pdf).

The only thing I have to add is that as a former constituent of Mrs. Pelosi, until my blessed move to KC last year, I know that she has made the same misrepresentation of Church teaching over and over again in San Francisco. And she has also been corrected in letter and personal conversation with lay friends of mine who know her.

And yet, she still says it. So I can't see how her reiteration of the falsehood is simply an indicator of a lack of knowledge, rather than an intentional misleading of the public.

Here's the USCCB's response to Speaker Pelosi:

Bishops respond to House Speaker Pelosi’s misrepresentation of Church teaching against abortion

WASHINGTON--Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, have issued the following statement:

In the course of a “Meet the Press” interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.

The Church has always taught that human life deserves respect from its very beginning and that procured abortion is a grave moral evil. In the Middle Ages, uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church’s moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development.

These mistaken biological theories became obsolete over 150 years ago when scientists discovered that a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization. In keeping with this modern understanding, the Church has long taught that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Bodies Revealed" Posts

We're still getting a lot of referrals here from sites talking about the "Bodies Revealed" posts.

For ease of use, here's the first(and most important),


and third posts.

More may follow next week.

You Must Inseminate

Barbara Shelly has a piece in The Star today applauding the California Supreme Court's unanimous decision determining that a lesbian's right to artificial insemination trumps the First Amendment rights of a physician to refuse on grounds of religious belief.

If that sounds like a biased characterization on my part, here's what the court actually wrote (as quoted by The Star):

“The First Amendment’s right to free exercise of religion does not exempt … physicians from conforming their conduct to (a California law’s) antidiscrimination requirements."

The California law in question is a 2005 amendment to California's Unruh Civil Rights act, and in the Golden State it carries more legal weight than the First Amendment. Or so thinks the court.

For another perspective, Catholic News Service reports on the California Catholic Bishops' response to the decision (excerpt):

"No one has the right to demand a nonemergency medical procedure from someone who finds that procedure morally unacceptable -- or religiously objectionable," said Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles following the court's Aug. 18 ruling in North Coast Women's Care Medical Group v. Guadalupe T. Benitez.

"This case did not involve a life-and-death situation but only a possible inconvenience -- one which required the patient to 'walk across the office,'" added Bishop Curry, who chairs the conference's Religious Liberty Committee.

James F. Sweeney, legal counsel for the California Catholic Conference, agreed. "To even suggest that a physician's religious and moral conscience must yield to the directives of a patient regarding a nonemergency procedure is so clearly contrary to traditional notions of individual liberty and religious freedom that there should have been no question that the court would defer to the constitutional rights of the involved doctors," he said.

The full article is available here.

California certainly serves as a warning for other states considering extending non-discrimination language or marriage rights to same-sex couples.

What many people of good will who support such measures as a gesture of tolerance fail to understand is that these laws quickly become tools of coercion by the state.

Blogger and Key columnist Mark Shea has frequently observed that for today's tolerance activists, "Tolerance is insufficient. You. Must. Approve!" We are already at the point now, however, where approval is insufficient and actual participation in what you hold wrong is being required by courts.

Catholics Urged to Assemble in Jeff City

By Kevin Kelley
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Free round-trip chartered bus transportation will be available from St. Joseph, Kansas City and Warrensburg to the annual Missouri Catholic Conference Assembly, Oct. 4 in Jefferson City.

The assembly, first held at the State Capitol in 1996, gathers hundreds of Catholics from throughout Missouri for a day of learning about issues from a Catholic moral perspective.

San Antonio Archbishop Jose H. Gomez will deliver the keynote address on the role of the church regarding immigration.

Morning and afternoon workshop sessions will spotlight Catholic teaching on a variety of issues including health care, pornography, gambling, prison ministry, abortion, stem-cell research, the home mortgage foreclosure crisis, racism and poverty.

The assembly also includes a free box lunch. Activities for youth, from age 5 through high school, include a mock legislature and a scavenger hunt.

Whitney Zoubek of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocesan Human Rights Office said that buses will leave St. Joseph and Kansas City at 6 a.m. Oct. 4. The St. Joseph bus will depart from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, 4503 Frederick Blvd., and the Kansas City bus will depart from the diocesan chancery, 300 E. 36th St.

The Warrensburg bus will depart from the Wal-Mart Supercenter, 301 E. Cooper St. (Missouri Highway 13) at 7 a.m.

All three buses will board for the return trip at St. Peter Church, across from the capitol building, following the closing 3 p.m. Mass concelebrated by the state’s bishops.

Those wishing to reserve a seat and register for the assembly can call Zoubek at (816) 756-1858, ext. 532, or toll-free at (800)-246-1850. Registration for the assembly and more information is also available by clicking the button in this story, or by contacting the Missouri Catholic Conference toll-free at (800) 456-1679.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Execution Stay, Doctors and Hippocrates

Shortly after making this post on the upcoming execution of Dennis Skillicorn, I received word from the Missouri Catholic Conference that his execution has been stayed by the Missouri Supreme Court.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an excellent rundown and commentary on the situation today. Please know that this is only a stay and that vigils mentioned in the previous post to be held at the Sisters of St. Francis chapel in Independence and the St. Francis Chapel in Savannah will go on as scheduled. The vigil at the Plaza in KC is postponed.

Among the interesting items in the St. Louis Review article is information that executions will now be assisted by a Board-Certified Anethesiologist, a licensed practical nurse and a pharmacist. Given that this is a provision to ensure that the executed are dispatched with the least amount of discomfort, it is still rotten.

The name of the Anesthesiologist will be kept confidential because according to The Review, "The ethical guidelines of the American Medical Association and the American Society of Anesthesiologists forbid physicians from participating directly or indirectly in executions."

Well so does the Hippocratic Oath and without the oath, the physician is not due the respect or trust of the community. How many of you would be comfortable going into surgery putting your life in the hands of an executioner? Would you trust the life and death advice of practitioners who violate their oath to do no harm, their professional rules of conduct, and do so in shrouded secrecy?

Here's what the oath reads in part:

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death.

Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.

But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.

In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.

All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

We dropped the second bolded item a while back and I'm sure that's why we feel free now to drop the first. Watch out women (and uh men), be you free or slave, next might be the love doctor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bishop Finn's Statement on Abuse Settlement

Several news organizations today reported on a tentative agreement between the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph and 47 plaintiffs in clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. The agreement settles all known cases against the diocese and covers allegations of misconduct occuring between the early 1950s and early 1990s.

Following is a statement by Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph made during a press conference at the chancery this afternoon:

"We apologize for the fully unacceptable behavior that prompted these lawsuits to be brought against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. With compassion for the victims of this behavior and with sadness over any failure by the diocese to serve as a proper steward of safety and security for our young people and our parishioners, I am here as an individual leader of the diocese to demonstrate institutional accountability for these sad events. I pray that with the settlement of this matter, the healing for all may truly begin.

In reaching a settlement with lawyers representing the families involved in this case, we took painstaking steps to fully vet all issues enabling thoroughness to be the hallmark of this process. Assured that we have met that standard, we have agreed to fund $10 million in payments to the victims and to adhere to a number of nonmonetary stipulations that should assure our community, our congregation and these families that the diocese will continue in its exercise of vigilance and in its devotion to training and education so that we may be confident there will never, ever be a repeat of the behaviors, the offenses, or the claims that have been associated with this matter.

A priest is ordained with the privilege of celebrating the Church’s sacraments by nothing less than a holy order. The behaviors attributable to certain priests involved in this matter not only betray those holy orders, but diminish the stature of the faithful and responsible priests who dispatch their ministry effectively and faithfully day in, day out. For that reason, although the statute of limitations prevents man’s law from moving forward with
any criminal proceedings here, I—as bishop of this diocese—will present to the Diocesan Tribunal and ultimately to the Vatican the recommendation that these priests see their holy orders removed from them. In the church’s vernacular, this is called laicization.

For the victims involved in these cases, this moment certainly represents a significant catharsis. But I do not wish to speak for the victims. For the diocese, this moment represents a significant moment of sadness. For all of us, though, I hope this moment can represent a new beginning that starts first and foremost with the highest devotion to healing.

Although we may apologize for any responsibility the diocese might have had for its insensitivity to conditions that may have created the opportunity for these incidents, we cannot change what may have happened in the past. Nor, I must add, should we ever forget it.

We must today devote ourselves to the present, to our continued concentration on right-shaping and formation of our church leaders, our teachers, and our volunteers regarding the safety of those who are vulnerable and, of course, respect for all of humanity. We must resist the temptation to be either defensive or accusatory, but should instead strive to the higher purposes and good enabled by compassion and forgiveness. We must not stigmatize victims as we endeavor to bring about justice against perpetrators. We must get on with our lives without being infected by the poison of resentment or regret.

As bishop of this diocese, I pledge my commitment to our parishes and our community encircling those parishes that we will and can recover from these dark moments of our history, that the light of God can prevent such darkness from ever eclipsing us again, and that the church will remain an inviolate sanctuary for healing, for spiritual renewal, and for love."

Bishop Finn Opposes Execution of Skillicorn

As reported in The Catholic Key, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City - St. Joseph has joined other Missouri Catholic Bishops and faith leaders in seeking clemency for Dennis Skillicorn.

Unless Skillicorn's sentence is commuted to life without parole by Governor Matt Blunt, he will become the first person executed in Missouri in three years. His execution date is set for August 27.

Skillicorn never faces the possibility of parole and has been a model prisoner posing no threat to his fellow inmates. In a situation such as his, Catholic teaching is clear:

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."
- Catechism of the Catholic Church #2267

Catholics wishing to join Bishop Finn in his witness to the sanctity of human life are encouraged to contact Governor Blunt's office directly by calling (573) 751-3222 and asking that Dennis Skillicorn's death sentence be commuted to life in prison. They can also sign a petition to Governor Blunt by emailing with their name and address.

In addition, a number of vigils will be held throughout the diocese where people of faith will gather to pray for Dennis Skillicorn, those harmed by his actions, and for an abiding commitment to the sanctity of all life.

Independence, Missouri -- Eucharistic Adoration and Overnight Vigil, 7:00 p.m., Friday, August 22 to 7:00 a.m., Saturday, August 23., at Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist Chapel. Please contact Sharon Echols to sign-up for a specific time for this overnight vigil, (816) 304-7518.

Kansas City, Missouri -- Vigil, Tuesday, August 26, 5:00 - 6:00 pm, J.C. Nichols Fountain in the Plaza. For more information, please call Donnie Morehouse, at (816) 756-3113, ext. 234.

Savannah, Missouri -- Vigil, Tuesday, August 26, 7:00 pm, LaVerna Heights Building, St. Francis Chapel. For more information, please call Sister Christine Martin, at (816) 324-3179.

Prostitutes, Stem Cells and Same-Sex Insemination

Not related except all these stories are coming out of California.

The California Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that doctors who provide artificial insemination services may not refuse treatment to homosexuals even if doing so is opposed to their religious beliefs. The decision may have wide ranging implications for conscience rights in California - and not just for doctors.

James Kushiner over at Mere Comments rightly deplores the ruling and just as rightly points out that Christian doctors shouldn't have been in the business of in-vitro fertilization in the first place.

Meanwhile, even California's $6 billion stem-cell behemoth, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is subtly changing its priorities away from embryo-desctructive technologies and cloning. Not for any moral reason, but like stem-cell researchers around the world now know, cloning and ESCR are now relatively fruitless paths.

Since the introduction of a new technology (called iPS or reprogramming) that creates pluripotent stem cells out of adult body cells, that's where all the scientific excitement has been. Cloning hasn't yet created even a single stem cell line to study. Scientists still claim they want the availability of embryo destructive research, but that's clearly not where the action is.

Bioedge has the story on this fascinating development. Missourians who are woefully short on local news sources for actual stem cell developments should read up on these links.

No additional evidence is required to demonstrate that the heartland is saner than my old hometown, San Francisco, so this last item is just for fun.

There's a quote once attributed to a prominent San Francisco politician that (paraphrasing), "If an initiative proposing to build the sewers out of glass and run them at eye-level along the sidewalk got on the ballot, San Franciscans would vote for it."

Well, fresh off enjoying the benefits of same-sex marriage, an initiative is on the ballot in San Francisco to legalize the loving relationship between a "John" and his "sex worker."

Whatever one thinks the benefits of legalizing prostitution, this particular initiative goes well beyond that. Debra Saunders, the sole voice of sanity at the San Francisco Chronicle, explains the:

"San Francisco ballot measure completely ignores the prostitution of children."


"The measure prohibits city law enforcement from applying for grants to prosecute human traffickers. That's right, this measure gives a free pass to the human sex-slave trade - in a city that is a central stop for international sex-trade rings. "

But the measure still has a good chance of passing. Here's a partial list of sponsors:

La Raza Centro Legal

San Francisco Bike Messengers Association

Sex Worker Outreach Project East

Bay Area Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World

SEIU 1021

The Lusty Ladies Theater

Axis of Love Women's Collective

It may seem like a collection of moonbats to a midwestern audience, but in SF these folks represent the political mainstream. Proof? Also on that list is The San Francisco Democratic, Green and Libertarian Parties, which pretty much covers everybody.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

California Senate Passes Bill Regulating Corpse Shows

Both houses of the California State Legislature have now passed a bill regulating corpse shows in that state. Sponsored by Assemblymember Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), AB 1519 demands actual, verifiable proof of consent for each body on display in cadaver exhibits in California.

Premier Exhibitions, producers of a Bodies Revealed show now touring California, opposed passage of the bill in a letter to legislators claiming it would outlaw their shows since, "It will be impossible to retroactively provide written authorization to display human remains of an unclaimed body or from human remains obtained years ago."

The bill passed with strong bi-partisan support by a vote of 62-5 in the State Assembly and 24-10 in the State Senate. The bill now awaits Governor Schwarzenegger's signature. Story is available here.

On a side note, LifeSite News has a report on The Key's coverage of Bodies Revealed today.

Si, Se Puede! - Archbishop Chaput says 'No, You Can't'

Archbishop Chaput of Denver has a rather pointed article on Catholic responsibility in the upcoming election over at First Things today. Excerpt:

We should remember that one of the crucial things that set early Christians apart from the pagan culture around them was their rejection of abortion and infanticide. Yet for thirty-five years I’ve watched prominent “pro-choice” Catholics justify themselves with the kind of moral and verbal gymnastics that should qualify as an Olympic event. All they’ve really done is capitulate to Roe v. Wade.

Third and finally, national campaigns—of every political party—always run on the language of hope, change, and the American Dream. This makes sense. Our leaders should inspire us; they should stir our hearts and call us to live the ideals that make America great. But sometimes the answer to the realities we face is not “yes, we can,” but “no, we can’t.” No, we can’t spend money like hedonists and outrun our debts forever. No, we can’t ignore the poor of the Third World and expect to be loved abroad. No, we can’t allow the killing of roughly one million unborn children a year and then posture ourselves as a moral society. No, we can’t make wicked things right by spinning them in a clever way.

Read the whole article.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More "Bodies Revealed" Revelations, Update 1

Last week we posted an item demonstrating that contrary to published reports, no documentation of consent exists for the Chinese cadavers on display at Union Station. The story also raised additional questions about the limited availability of legitimately donated bodies in China. The Kansas City secular media continues to ignore the story.

This week, we'll be further fleshing out the story.

Few bodies in China . . . Glut in the U.S.

When publicity for the Bodies Revealed show claimed the bodies on display came from accredited medical universities, The Key decided to contact the medical university closest to Nanjing Suyi Plastination Laboratories, where the bodies were received and prepared.

Googling for a contact, the Key found a March 2008 article from a journal of the American Association of Anatomists authored by anatomy faculty at Nanjing Medical University. Titled, "An Ethical Solution to the Challenges in Teaching Anatomy With Dissection in the Chinese Culture," the article documents and laments the shortage of bodies available for medical education at Chinese universities.

The authors also explain steps taken by Nanjing Medical University to increase body donations in a culture where they say, "One of the many factors limiting cadaver donations is traditional Chinese views of the body." The Nanjing authors claim that 80 bodies are needed per year for teaching purposes at Nanjing Medical University while they receive fewer than 30 per year.

How, we wondered, could there be a shortage of bodies available for medical education in China when there are hundreds of Chinese cadavers touring the U.S.? Why would a medical university in need of bodies for teaching be handing them over for foreign entertainment purposes?

We asked Dr. Jiong Ding, a co-author of the journal report and Chair of Anatomy at Nanjing Medical University, to explain the discrepancy. As we reported in our earlier post, he said:

"I declare seriously, the bodies of volunteer donors we received are only used for anatomy teaching in our Nanjing Medical University. We have never provided any body to any companies for making plastinated bodies or for any commercial behavior. The plastinated bodies showing in the United States from Nanjing has no relation with our university."

Beyond throwing cold water on the claim that bodies exhibit specimens come from medical universities, the Nanjing authors make several other pertinent points.

In their introduction to the journal article, the authors state:

". . . ethical issues pervade the methods used to study the human body, primarily cadaver dissection. It raises questions about the appropriate treatment of the human body in both death and life. A cadaver represents not only a scientific model of human anatomy, but a person that lived and deserves proper dignity and respect."

In order to increase medical donations in a culture that frowns upon the practice, Nanjing Medical University has taken several steps to alert the public of the need and value of medical donations and to ensure them that the deceased are treated ethically and with respect:

"Most recently, Nanjing University created a body donation website as well as a ‘'memorial forest’' for those who have donated their bodies to medicine. When a volunteer body donation occurs, the University invites relatives of the donor to plant an evergreen tree on campus, signifying the life-giving gift of the donor. There are also plans to construct a permanent monument in the forest as a tribute to donors who have dedicated their bodies to medicine. All incoming freshmen at the University will be encouraged to pay their respects to past donors at the memorial as one of their first acts as part of the University community. From the memorial forest, every student will sense the nobility of body donation and further contemplate the moral and ethical issues involved in body donation."

Nanjing Medical University has also instituted a program to integrate medical ethics into its anatomy program:

"As anatomy teachers, we are responsible for integrating a medical ethics education into human anatomy instruction. It is our duty to encourage students to adapt a proper attitude of respect and gratitude for the donators who have supplemented their medical education. . .

"Because of the anonymity of the cadavers and the inherent stress of the situation, perhaps some students may ignore or trivialize the humanity of the cadavers. To address this problem, the Department of Hunan Anatomy holds formal memorial services for the cadavers at the beginning of the anatomy course. Relatives of the deceased are invited to attend, and appreciation is shown for use of the deceased’s remains. Holding memorial ceremonies for the relatives and students are an additional way to honor cadavers and recognize the nobility of body donation."

One wonders what sort of memorial was held to honor the cadavers on tour in the U.S.

The Chinese view here of the respect to be accorded to their own dead is certainly at odds with that of the American gawker who shells out $24 to see a man "respectfully" posed standing and split down the middle with (to use an Austin Powersism) his "bait" hanging off one half and "tackle" off the other. Or the fellow "respectfully" sliced in dozens of cross-sections and laid out on a table. Or the one riding a bicycle, as the dead are wont to do.

In the next update, we'll look at conflicting accounts of the origin of the consent form that never was and how it was altered before being presented to the public.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bishop Finn on Humanae Vitae

Bishop Finn met with pro-life coordinators throughout the diocese last Wednesday at St. Therese Parish in Parkville. He preached on the subject of the 40th Anniversary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae.

He opens with some words about the challenge of fidelity:

"In fidelity and wisdom the Church listens to the Sacred Scriptures, the clear representation of revealed truth. She does not spare us the challenges of the Gospel, by which our Lord constantly calls us to conversion of heart and to conscientious living. The Magisterium of the Church, is clear and consistent about the demands of the Gospel of Life.

It is true, and also tragic, that individual baptized Catholics embrace positions across a wide spectrum of issues and values. We variously describe ourselves as pro-life, or even “pro-choice.” Catholics are against Capital Punishment, and yet some support the application of the death penalty enthusiastically. Catholic men and women who practice their faith and would never think of missing Sunday Mass, will nonetheless take stands contrary to the Church’s teaching against human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.

For Ezekiel, it seems clear, our alliance with such “abominations” has an impact on our eternal salvation. The judgment concerning our eternal destiny is God’s, who alone knows and reads hearts. But God writes on the human heart an immutable law. Through the Holy Spirit promised to the Apostles He provides us the substantive guidance we need for the formation of a right conscience."

A petition we never forget in our family prayer is for the priests and bishops we know. They lead a difficult life and it is not for nothing that the Church insists we remember them, the bishops even by name, in all of our liturgies. Even one like Bishop Finn is not unaffected by the expectations of our culture and needs our prayers for support as he reveals later in his homily:

"I remember, years ago, summoning up my resolution to preach, for perhaps the first time in my priesthood, about Humanae Vitae and the meaning of married love. I began to speak of the vocation of husbands and wives to find meaning in their love and union by participating in God’s creative love. God wanted to share His goodness and called man and woman to give themselves to each other completely and forever. . .

When couples come together in intimacy, but say a defiant “no” to God’s plan for life, they are holding back something necessary for the full flowering of their married relationship: They are giving themselves only partially and without full trust, and they are consciously excluding God from their plans. . .

When I had preached this message, I was a bit sheepish about people’s response, but something wonderful and unexpected happened. Several couples, of varying ages, came up to me and said “Thank you, Father. We have been trying to live this. It has not been easy at times. But we have wanted someone to help us – by a few words of encouragement – to reassure us that we were on the right track.”

I remember thinking, “Well, now this is something!” I don’t have to think only about getting people to stop using artificial contraception. All I have to do is realize and exercise my responsibility as a spiritual Father and a teacher to give couples who are trying to be faithful the support and encouragement they deserve.

Yes, friends, we deserve the joy and the light of the truth, and we want to hear it from one another as an inspiration and encouragement to persevere in faith."

You can read his whole homily at The Catholic Key.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More "Bodies Revealed" Revelations

This is a picture of the footstep fireworks which isn't actually from the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony:

This is a picture of the girl who didn't actually sing at the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony (The actual singer who wasn't cute enough for TV is in the inset):

This is a anatomical gift form provided by Union Station that none of the cured and sliced Chinese on display at Bodies Revealed actually signed in their lifetime.
donation form
The form above was provided to The Catholic Key by Union Station months ago with the representation that it is a translation from Chinese and that all the bodies on exhibit at Union Station had signed it.

In fact, the form belongs to a legitimate medical donation non-profit called Anatomy Gifts Registry. Their name has been excised from the form provided by Union Station. The Key spoke with an official at AGR who wrote the form in English well after the bodies on exhibit at Union Station were deceased and diced. AGR is not affiliated with Bodies Revealed producer Premier Exhibitions and did not provide the form to them.

Brian Wainger, General Counsel for Premier, told The Catholic Key the he specifically explained to Union Station that Premier was not in possession of consent forms for bodies in the Bodies Revealed show. How then did Union Station President Andi Udris get hold of this form and tell the Kansas City Star that it was used for the bodies at Union Station? Here's what the Star reported February 16 (and has not retracted):

"I have no reason to believe these people (in "Bodies Revealed") didn't willingly donate their bodies," Udris said. "It happens every day."

But anticipating a meeting with local Catholic officials -- and before the ABC report -- Udris already had decided he wanted a greater comfort level.

"I went back to my people and said, 'OK, what we need here is some additional evidence,' " Udris said. "And what they have provided us is the donation form, in English, explaining this is what these people supposedly signed off on. What they have not revealed to us is the actual copy signed by the person."

Udris isn't sure Union Station can demand that information.

Roy Glover, chief medical adviser for Premier, has previously told The Star that privacy considerations prevent the company from identifying the donors.

Wainger told the Key that he never represented to Union Station that a consent form was used. Rather, an employee of Premier, perhaps Dr. Roy Glover according to Wainger, had shown the form to an employee of Union Station as an example of a form that can be used for body donations. Glover himself has signed such a form, Wainger said.

Somehow that message got garbled in translation by the time it hit the Star.

What Premier does have, Wainger said, is an affidavit from their supplier of the bodies, Taiwan-based Genlife Biomedical, stating that the bodies are of willing donors.

But Genlife neither acquired the original corpses nor plastinated them. They acquired the already plastinated bodies from Nanjing Suyi Plastination Laboratories in Nanjing, China. So it is difficult to see how an affidavit from Genlife has any probative value.

Other material provided to the press by Union Station claims that the bodies received from Nanjing Suyi Plastination Laboratories came from "accredited medical universities in the People's Republic of China."

However, in response to an inquiry from the Key, Dr. Jiong Ding, Chair of the Department of Anatomy at Nanjing Medical University, wrote:

I declare seriously, the bodies of volunteer donors we received are only used for anatomy teaching in our Nanjing Medical University. We have never provided any body to any companies for making plastinated bodies or for any commercial behavior. The plastinated bodies showing in the United States from Nanjing has no relation with our university.

In fact, Dr. Jiong Ding recently wrote an article in a peer-reviewed anatomy journal lamenting the shortage of bodies available for the teaching of anatomy at all Chinese medical universities.

There is plenty here to be investigated and body shows are being investigated by the press, law enforcement and legislatures in other states. Following an investigation of another Premier Exhibitions show in New York, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo concluded:

The grim reality is that Premier Exhibitions has profited from displaying the remains of individuals who may have been tortured and executed in China. Despite repeated denials, we now know that Premier itself cannot demonstrate the circumstances that led to the death of the individuals. Nor is Premier able to establish that these people consented to their remains being used in this manner.

Despite repeated representations in the pages of Bodies Revealed co-sponsor, The Kansas City Star, the level of proof available as to the origin of bodies in the Kansas City show is no better that the New York show.

Bodies . . . The Exhibition in New York must now offer refunds to patrons who were misled to believe there was consent for the bodies they paid to view. Premier also must provide this disclaimer for the show:

-This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.

-This exhibit displays full body cadavers as well as human body parts, organs, fetuses and embryos that come from cadavers of Chinese citizens or residents. With respect to the human parts, organs, fetuses and embryos you are viewing, Premier relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners and cannot independently verify that they do not belong to persons executed while incarcerated in Chinese prisons.

If Kansas City had an independent secular media that was in the business of investigation instead of sponsorship, you might be reading about this there, instead of a last minute push to boost ticket sales.

UPDATE: For readers visiting from outside the KC Metro Area, the original context of this article is available here.

NEW UPDATE - If you came to this post directly, please visit a newly updated post on this story. The Key will be posting additional updates throughout the week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More on Archbishop Naumann and Catholic Political Responsibility

Archbishop Joseph Naumann was interviewed in Quebec this week by Catholic News Agency. He was there for the Knights of Columbus convention.

His comments are relevant to an earlier post I made and to a recent discussion started by Mike Hendricks over at Prime Buzz.

Excerpt from the interview:

Archbishop Naumann also addressed the claim made by some politicians that they can hold a view in accord with Church teachings privately but publicly advocate an opposing position.

“I think that they either purposely or unintentionally confuse the issues. Certainly a Catholic in public life should not be trying to impose doctrines of belief and faith on others. So, what we believe about the Eucharist or what we believe about the teaching authority of the bishops or the Pope, these are not things that we should be attempting to enshrine in law. That’s what is legitimately meant about separation of Church and State.”

“But I think where the confusion comes in—the politicians that I think you’re referring to—they bring these [objections] up on not issues of doctrine but of moral values, which also coincide with fundamental human rights.”

For the Archbishop of Kansas City, the labeling of decisions on human rights as doctrinal impositions holds no water.

“When you talk about protecting innocent human life, this is something that we need to do as human beings. And the fact that the Church has a voice on this issue and a position on this issue, doesn’t mean it’s an imposing of our beliefs or values, anymore than the effort to break down segregation by the Church was an effort to impose some kind of religious doctrine on the culture or society, but it was us standing up for a fundamental human right,” said the archbishop.

Read more . . .

Anglican Use is Coming to Kansas City

Father Ernie Davis, administrator of St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Kansas City, has announced that an 11:15 a.m. Anglican Use Liturgy of the Word from The Book of Divine Worship will be held every Sunday beginning September 7 at St. Therese.

Earlier this year, an Anglican parish in Kansas City approached Fr. Davis about "coming home" to the Catholic Church. This development dovetailed well with Fr. Davis' interest in the Anglican Use. Fr. Davis is a former Episcopal priest who entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church about ten years ago and was ordained by Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland in 2002.

The Anglican Use is a provision the Church makes available to former Anglicans and Episcopalians who, in Fr. Davis' words, "(are) nostalgic for the beauty and grace of the Anglican liturgy." Our Lady of the Atonement is an existing Anglican Use Parish in San Antonio and they've posted the Order of the Mass for those interested in what it looks like.

Well, everything is coming together quickly now and the Anglican Use Liturgy of the Word will be prelude and preparation for those former Anglicans seeking Confirmation from Bishop Finn. When that occurs, St. Therese will be home to a regular full Liturgy according to the Anglican Use.

We'll post more information when it is available. In the meantime check out Fr. Davis' new blog, and the website for the newly formed Kansas City Chapter of the Anglican Use Society.

Bishop Finn on the Purpose of Catholic Schools

The following column by Bishop Robert Finn appears in the upcoming issue of The Catholic Key:

We Want Authentic Catholic Schools that Help Form Saints

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption, our schools begin to open. Students all over the diocese get their back packs together, some put on uniforms, and everyone begins getting up a bit earlier and ready for school. The studies, sports teams, and school clubs will soon be in full gear. The new year begins and our Catholic schools remain a big part of it: for many generations — and for thousands of students.

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is blessed with Catholic schools from early childhood through university. The mission and goals of our schools overlap in a variety of ways with the educational targets of the public schools. But there is something more that must define our schools.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his visit last spring to the United States met with Catholic educators from all over the country in Washington, D.C. He challenged the leaders of our schools to make "Catholic identity" something more than the numbers of Catholic students or even the particular excellence of certain fields of study.

Catholic identity, the Holy Father said, "demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith." Our schools must be defined by a unique culture of faith, hope and charity.

Catholic identity certainly starts with sound, authentic presentations of the teaching of the Church. This is that "without which" we would not be providing helpful formation in the tradition and life of the Church. Living and life-giving Christian Faith is also necessary: faith in God the Holy Trinity, and faithful participation in the life of the Church. Our students should know the sacraments, not only from having studied them in coursework. They must live them, and practice them as the foundation stones for their Catholic lives.

Pope Benedict, himself a university professor for many years, had a special challenge for the leaders of our Catholic universities. Acknowledging the importance of academic freedom, the Pope insisted that appeals to academic freedom "to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission." This is the very core of the challenge extended to Catholic universities in the document "Ex Corde Ecclesia" which — some years ago — called all teachers of Theology to seek the "mandatum" or license of the local bishop to teach.

Schools sponsored activities and organizations, as well, must reflect the meaning and dignity of the human person. Secular or spiritual in focus, such opportunities must be totally consonant with the life of authentic faith and help the student in his or her healthy and holy development.

Catholic schools exist for a supernatural purpose. They are not only about measurable outcomes, or even helping students learn essential facts and marketable skills that prepare them for employment. They are about the formation of men and women in all aspects of life and living. Each student must be what God intends him or her to be. They must be helped toward their eternal salvation. It would seem to go without saying that "salvation" is discussed and taught in Catholic schools, but education in our schools must lead to the development of men and women who live virtue, understand better the mystery and meaning of life, and who will be set on a path which acknowledges the mystery of the Cross and has heaven as its ultimate goal.

Catholic schools must be based on a Catholic anthropology, that is, an authentic vision of what a person is and what his or her eternal destiny entails. We are not made ultimately for material success or sexual gratification, or just any kind of relationship. Rather, we are made for life-long faithful commitments that appropriately express our gender, our vocation and utilize our talents generously. Because we are called to holiness we must be helped to see how our daily work can be sanctified and sanctifying. Our moral life must take precedent over personal satisfaction or partisan political tendencies. The transcendent and unchanging truth of the value of human life must animate our convictions and guide all our decisions.

Catholic schools are a catalyst for growth in communion. We are more than individuals. The building block of society is the family which has the primary responsibility for the formation of children, and which must be safeguarded for the good of all society. We are beings — social and interactive by nature — who are incorporated through Baptism into a community of believers. We must be helped to see the differences and complementarity by which we actively make up the Church. We are meant to contribute; to give of ourselves as a response to the love and life we have received — first from God, and also from others. Obedience to God’s law and cooperation for the good of the whole are necessary in any society. In the Catholic community our giving has a supernatural motive and is infused with Christian faith, hope and charity. Service toward others and a strong sense of mission and apostolate marks us as members of an apostolic Church which has been entrusted with the message of the Gospel for all to hear.

In our schools we pray. We need to pray. Prayer is a response to our sense of God’s presence with us always, our readiness to be intercessors for one another, and the realization that we are persons constantly in need of God’s light and grace. God is first, and when we put Him first, all the other good things find their proper place. We worship him in the community of the Church and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the font and highest expression of our life.

I pray that in our schools — from early childhood to university — we will be forming saints. Through obedience to the Holy Spirit, and His light entrusted to the Apostles, may our students begin to be more like Jesus Christ to the glory of the heavenly Father.

As we celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven, let us entrust ourselves, our students and teachers — the whole mission and work of our schools — to her maternal love.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's the matter with Kansas Bishops?

KC Star columnist Mike Hendricks has an interesting post on Prime Buzz today. He expresses a view about the Catholic Church held by many non-Catholics and not a few Catholics as well.

The subject is a 2006 statement by the Catholic bishops of Kansas on a Catholic’s obligation to vote and to vote with an informed conscience.

The first misunderstanding is Hendricks’ headline, “Kansas bishops say a vote for pro-choice Dems is a vote for ‘evil’”. The implication of the headline and the post is that Catholic bishops are contriving reasons for Catholics to vote Republican (or at least against Democrats). The bishops are rather warning against voting for candidates who support abortion on demand and other intrinsic evils. They have not said anything about candidates of particular political parties. Hendricks has imposed “Dems” into their argument, but the bishops’ warning applies equally to Republican candidates.

There are plenty of Republican candidates who support intrinsically evil acts, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York Governor George Pataki, Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani and current NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg. There are many more. If the list of Democrats is even longer, that is a problem with the vetting process of the Democratic Party, not a prejudice inherent in the bishops’ teaching.

Truth be told, it is a personally distasteful duty for most bishops and priests to speak out on a Catholic’s duty regarding voting and intrinsically evil acts, precisely because most of them are by culture, rearing and continuing disposition, Democrats. A cursory look at any state bishops’ conference’s priorities shows that they support Democratic sponsored bills by a very wide margin over Republican bills and oppose Republican bills much more than Democratic. Where I come from (San Francisco) and in many big cities, the priesthood is equal to being Irish which is equal to being congenitally Democrat. And yet these men speak out for life and other non-negotiable moral positions even when they are regrettably at odds with their natural party preference.

Hendricks’ second problem is to belittle the Kansas bishops for distinguishing between “intrinsically evil” acts and acts which may or may not be evil depending upon circumstances. This he regards as “hair splitting”.

I submit that Hendricks likely believes in the same sort of “hair splitting.” His disagreement is one of political implications and not against the virtue of good moral reasoning.

Murder, I’m sure Hendricks, the Kansas Bishops and you and I agree is always wrong. That is the definition of an “intrinsically evil” act – one that doesn’t depend on circumstances or our intentions.

Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre may or may not be evil. It is not always wrong to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre. If you shout “fire” in a theatre because there is a fire, it is licit (although a calmer evacuation plan may be more desirable). If you shout “fire” in order to cause panic, then your act is evil. The evil in shouting “fire” depends on circumstance and prudential judgment therefore and not on the intrinsic evil of shouting fire.

If Hendricks and others decide that they disagree with the bishops as to what is and is not an “intrinsically evil act,” they ought to say so, rather than demeaning the perfectly sensible distinction between acts that are always wrong and those that depend on circumstances.

Diocese Hires New Associate Superintendent

The following article appears in the next issue of The Catholic Key

Career in Catholic education has been Holy Spirit directed

'It all boils down to bringing children to Christ'

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY - Sheri Dishong moved to Kansas City from Nebraska just a year ago to assume the principalship of St. Peter School. But she feels at home.

The new associate superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is quick to credit the Holy Spirit as the driving force behind her career in Catholic education.

"Education is my second career," Dishong said. She grew up in Valley, Neb., a small community right outside Omaha. After earning a degree in recreational therapy, she moved to Lincoln, and worked in nursing homes. After her son was born, she decided to remain at home with her daughter and new baby until they both were in school.

"Then I went back to school," she said. "I received my teaching certification from Nebraska Wesleyan University. I taught 10 years in the Diocese of Lincoln, and received my administration certification from Doane College."

She served as a school principal for three years in Lincoln and then decided to network other dioceses. "Honestly, I think the Holy Spirit was at work," Dishong said. "And that's not said flippantly. I had been networking in Kansas, and had gone to a couple of interviews. Then a friend told me about the principal opening at St. Peter's. So I contacted them and was fortunate enough to be offered the position."

During her term as principal at St. Peter's, Dishong met and got to know the newly-named diocesan Superintendent of Schools, Marlon De La Torre. "The more I got to know about the direction Marlon and Bishop Finn are taking with Catholic education, the more I got excited about possibly being a part of it. When the associate superintendent position opened up, the Holy Spirit was directing me again. It started with a conversation and ended with my getting the job."
Dishong is impressed with the professional development programs offered to principals and teachers in the Diocese, as well as the academics offered to children in the schools.

"It's all good," she said, "and if we continue to integrate faith into the academic program, it'll be a win-win situation. It all boils down to bringing children to Christ. That's what Catholic education is all about."

Dishong and co-associate superintendent Pat Burbach oversee the schools in their "pods;" in Dishong's case, the Southeast Pod and the Northland Catholic Schools, a total of 12 schools.

"I want to get to know the principals and the schools I'll be working for. I'll be working with federal programs, title monies, curriculum mapping. I plan to do more than just classroom walkthroughs. I want to take it step-by-step; you have to do it that way: get to know the teachers and the kids."

She also is very interested in the growth of inclusive education in the schools and plans to work more closely with F.I.R.E, the Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education which grants funds to help schools pay for paraprofessionals and equipment so special needs children can attend Catholic schools with their siblings and peers.

Dishong's daughter, a 4th generation teacher, recently welcomed her first class of first graders. "She called me that night and said, 'Mom, what if I make mistakes?' I said, 'You will. But that's how you learn. Challenges help you grow.'"

Dishong said she was amazed at how quickly she grew to like Kansas City. "I went on vacation a few weeks ago, and when I got back, my first thought was 'It's good to be home.'"

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ethical Stem Cell Breakthrough

AP reports today that Harvard scientists "have created stem cells for 10 genetic disorders, which will allow researchers to watch the diseases develop in a lab dish."

One of the great promises of embryo-destructive cloning or SCNT (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer) research, beyond "cures, cures, cures," is the potential ability to create disease-specific stem cell lines for the purpose of studying their development and better understanding the disease. (For readers of the Kansas City Star, and nowhere else in the world, the technology is known as 'copying cells in a petri dish'.)

It should surprise no one who has followed the science that these new and valuable stem cell lines which will be shared with scientists throughout the world were not created using SCNT. Not a single stem cell line, much less a cure, has ever been developed using SCNT in humans.

These new stem cell lines were created ethically and without cloning or the destruction of embryos. The Harvard scientists used a new technique called iPSC which coaxes a person's own skin cells to morph into cells essentially like embryonic stem cells without ever creating or destroying an embryo.

Well, no one should be surprised except people who have their understanding of stem cell science from the anachronistically pro-cloning, Stowers-cheerleading Kansas City Star. So the first comment by Claude to the Star's AP version of this story reads:

Quick, Republicans and religious nuts! Call your congressmen and make this illegal! Isn't this playing God? We wouldn't want to give people any hope that their dreaded diseases might be curable through stem cell research."

Another reader quickly corrects the fellow:

"If you would put your own prejudice and name calling down for a minute and actually READ, you would see this just proves what those opposed to embryonic stem cell research have said all along -- there are plenty of alternatives that do not require the taking of a human life."

Confused as he is, Claude is simply repeating a mantra put out by the Star and Stowers-paid spokespersons. He can be easily forgiven for believing that all stem cell research involves embryos and "religious nuts" hate cures, because that's what he's been told.

If Missouri really does want to have some role in the future of stem cell science, it's past time for Missourians to get past the deceptive and political rhetoric of the Amendment 2 sponsors and learn what actual scientists are doing now.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Barb Nicolosi on Brideshead Revisited

The Key recently printed a negative review of the new film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece novel, Brideshead Revisited. I wished at print time that a more negative review was available.

The book and the original, faithful and gorgeously produced BBC film adaptation are two of the most beautiful instances of 20th Century Catholic imagination. I've read the book and seen all 11 hours of the BBC production a number of times. Nearly everyone I know who's been introduced to either has fallen in love with them, regardless of their original position on the Catholic faith.

Perhaps because the novel and original film production speak so effectively to modern man, the devil figured it needed to be remade - and so it was. Barb Nicolosi sums up the deceitfulness of the Julian Jarrold's new screen adaptation, screen-written by anti-Catholic Andrew Davies,
"Imagine if someone did a new adaptation of
To Kill a Mockingbird and it ended up savagely racist? That's what they've done here. A profoundly Catholic novel, in this 'adaptation', Brideshead Revisited is viciously anti-Catholic."

You can read her full post here.

Barb has a number of other very interesting recent posts on her blog as well.

I'm often asked why The Key prints positive reviews of films containing vulgarity. Barb was asked a related question recently (emphases mine):

HG: How can Christians get beyond curse word counting and overtly pious themes to determine if the message of a movie is Christian or not?

Christians need to view movies and television with a sense of context. That is, when considering a movie or television show, the questions need to be who is this show for, and what here is true? And then, what is there in this show that is a sign of the times that I can use as a means to talk to people about the Gospel? Too many Christians are not even reading the signs of the times. We are so engaged in ducking and running, and wishing we lived back in the 1830s. No, this is our time. This moment with its post-modern confusion, with its 24 hour chattering news cycle, its post-Sexual Revolution cynicism and vulgarity, and with the incipient sloth which is the ultimate gift of all our modern conveniences.

Christians need to grow up and understand that this is a very dark world which is locked in a high stakes struggle. What I mean by that is, we have people on one side thinking homosexuals can make a marriage, and scientists over there are experimenting on baby humans, and folks over there are wanting to euthanize grandma. This is not a moment in which a Precious Moments style message and apostolic approach is going to help anything. Christians should be the ultimate realists who are not shocked by the ravages of sin. An old nun once said to me, "Only fools are scandalized." The Scriptures say that Jesus knew what was in the heart of man, and so must we if we are going to tell stories that will lead people to compunction, and then grace.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Obituary - Msgr. Richard M Dierkes

The following obituary appears in the next issue of The Catholic Key:

By Kevin Kelly

Catholic Key Associate Editor

ST. JOSEPH — The entire city of St. Joseph didn’t come to the funeral of Msgr. Richard M. Dierkes. It only seemed that way.

Thirty minutes before the Mass of Christian Burial on a sweltering Saturday morning Aug. 2, every pew in the Cathedral of St. Joseph was filled. Late comers were seated on folding metal chairs in the side aisles, and on plastic chairs in the back of the church.

There still wasn’t enough, so some stood for the two-hour liturgy as the co-Cathedral parish and the city said good-bye to their rector, their pastor, their priest and their friend.

“He was one of the best,” Bishop Emeritus Raymond J. Boland told his parents, Thomas and Dorothy Dierkes, and Msgr. Dierkes’ five brothers and three sisters.

“When people die young, we often talk about the potential we have lost,” he said. “But I think of the potential we have gained” recalling the promise of St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower” to “spend my heaven doing good works on earth.”

“He served in such a beautiful and exemplary way,” said Bishop Robert W. Finn, the principal celebrant, noting the years he served as priest through the blood disorder that would claim his life.

“Thank you for giving us your son and brother to be a great pastor of souls,” he said.

Msgr. Dierkes, 53, died July 27 at the University of Chicago Medical Center where he had received a bone marrow transplant. Though he had been ill and weakened for a decade, his death still came as a shock.

He frequently had to receive treatment, said his seminary classmate, Father Michael Roach, who was ordained on the same day — April 25, 1981.

“But he always came back to us,” he said.

In the gathering space outside the sanctuary, his family presented a collage of photographs from Msgr. Dierkes’ life — from toddler to man. At every phase of his life, including the pictures of the gaunt, ailing priest, the shock of red hair, the bright blue eyes, and the easy smile were obvious.

Also on display were condolences from a handful of the thousands of people Msgr. Dierkes had touched as an associate pastor at St. Therese Parish in Parkville, at St. John LaLande Parish in Blue Springs, at St. Peter Parish in Kansas City, and as pastor of St. Patrick Parish and the co-Cathedral in St. Joseph, where he served 17 of the 27 years of his priestly ministry.

Anne Kerner wrote of the time she was volunteering at St. Joseph’s Heartland Hospital and a dying man, not from St. Joseph, asked for a priest.

“I called Father Rick and in no time he was consoling the family,” she wrote. “He would drop everything if someone needed spiritual help.”

More than 50 priests, their schedules filled with summer weddings and weekend Masses, dropped what they were doing to concelebrate with the bishops.

That’s the kind of priest and friend Msgr. Dierkes — “Rick” to everyone who knew him — was, Father Roach said in his homily.

“Rick never feared death. He lived life to the fullest,” Father Roach said. “He looked to life, but not as we know it. That’s what gathers us together today. The most important role to him was serving people. One of his biggest fears in life was that people would be left behind.”

Msgr. Dierkes not only believed, but lived the Paschal Mystery, fully trusting in the promise of eternal life, but making every minute of his time on earth count.

“He knew he would not live a long life, so he never wasted a moment,” Father Roach said. “He never failed to ask people how they were, regardless of what his physical condition was. He knew what the priesthood was about, not standing on the sidelines but being in the middle of the pain and suffering. Wherever Rick served, he gave his life to the fullest.”

Even among his large circle of priest-friends, Msgr. Dierkes was the servant, more concerned with their well-being than his own.

“Rick would always challenge us to find the good in whatever challenged us. Then that smile would come upon his face, and we knew he was praying for us,” Father Roach said.

“Now he knows that eternal holy place God has for us,” he said.

The family suggests memorial gifts to the St. Joseph Cathedral Capital Campaign, the St. Joseph Cold Weather Shelter, the Cathedral food pantry or the St. Joseph School Endowment Fund.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bishop Boland Gives a Push to Indian School Project

An Irish school teacher just finished riding his bike across the U.S. to raise money for a school in India from benefactors around Tipperary, Ireland. It sounds like a needlessly complicated fundraising scheme, but at the end of his ride, Richard Walsh has ensured two or three years education for 200 of the poorest children in northeast India – children who otherwise would have no recourse to education.

Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland met with Walsh as the very fit, 62-year old teacher was passing through St. Joseph on his way to Providence, Rhode Island from San Francisco. Bishop Boland stopped by to lend moral support and also chat about people and places in the town of his birth.

Though raised in Cork, Bishop Boland was born in Tipperary Town and even spent his second year in the Irish equivalent of high school there while living at his grandmother’s house. Walsh is a teacher in the same school Bishop Boland attended from 1945-1946. Supporting the education of children in Shilong, India is both an outreach and an immersion program for Tipperary’s Abbey Christian Brothers’ School.

The Tipperary school’s outreach in Shilong began as a small, part-time tutoring program for the poor in 2000. Now a full-time educational institution, Providence School of Shilong educates 200 in a regular academic program along with vocational training.

Walsh completed his trip on July 28 and blogged about it all along. You can find his final post here. Scroll down and click for older posts to see about his ride through Missouri and meeting with Bishop Boland.

Information about supporting the school is at the bottom of this page. Lots more information about the project is available at the Abbey India main page. Inquiries about supporting the school can also be made by emailing Richard Walsh.