Month: March 2005

The Inspiration of St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese and the Bohemians – Santiago (of Causa Belli and the newer, less politically-oriented blog Constantly Risking) has written a post on the attraction of the Little Flower, St. Therese:

An interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed in my reading is that of the hip, young, radical writer encountering the meek St. Therese of Lisieux. I guess it’s fair to say that I don’t have enough evidence to claim that this phenomenon constitutes a universal pattern, but it’s happened more than once, maybe three times. It usually goes like this: a young writer says, “What could this little bourgeois girl possibly know about God and the plight of the modern believer?” Then the young writer reads her work and is a bit astonished to find out the answer: Quite a lot.

Santiago cites as three examples: Thomas Merton (Seven Storey Mountain); Tony Hendra (Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul) and Michael Novak (who discusses his encounter in “Controversial Engagements” First Things 92 (April 1999): 21-29.).

It is an interesting phenomenon, and one other bohemian comes to mind — Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, who was introduced to The Story of a Soul by her confessor, Father Zachary, in 1928:

. . . an unbound book which had a tan cover with a not too attractive picture of a young nun with a sweet, insipid face, holding a crucifix and a huge bouquet of roses. I was by now familiar with the statutes of this little sister which were to be seen in every church. . . . I wasn’t looking for anything so simple and felt slightly aggrieved at Father Zachary. Men, and priests too, were very insulting to women, I thought, handing out what they felt suited to their intelligence; in other words, pious pap.

I dutifully read The Story of a Soul and am ashamed to confess that I found it colorless, monotonous, too small in fact for my notice. . . . Joan of Arc leading an army fitted more into my concept of a saint, familar as I was with the history of labor with its martyrs in the service of their brothers. “Love of a brother is to lay down one’s life on the barricades, in revolt against the hunger and injustice of the world,” I told Father Zachary, trying to convert him to my point of view.

At that time, Day was working for the Anti-Imperialist League, a Communist Party affiliate. Eventually, with the encouragement of Fr. Zachary, she came to distance herself from Marxism (although remaining committed to the poor and least among us). Likewise, she gradually came to discover — along with Thomas Merton, Michael Novak, and other young bohemians — the power and glory of The Little Flower.

Dorothy came to write her own book on St. Therese, detailing those aspects of Theresa’s life that touched her most, as a way of introducing the saint to the rest of the Catholic Workers. She closes the book with the following passage from Pope Pius XII:

The dazzling genius of Augustine, the luminous wisdom of Thomas Aquinas, have shed forth upon souls the rays of an imperishable splendor; through them, Christ and his doctrine have become better known. The divine poem lived out by Francis of Assisi has given to the world an imitation, as yet unequaled, of the life of God made man. Through him legions of men and women have learned to love God more perfectly. But a little Carmelite who had hardly reached adult age has conquered in less than half a century innumerable hosts of disciples. Doctors of the law have become children at her school; the Supreme Shepherd has exalted her and prays to her with humale and assiduous supplications; and even at this moment from one end of the earth to the other, there are millions of souls whose interior life has received the beneficient influence of the little book, The Autobiography.
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Nat Hentoff: "Judicial Murder"

Via I. Shawn McElhinney of Rerum Novarum, Nat Hentoff weighs in on the murder of Terri Schiavo, calling it for what it is:

For all the world to see, a 41-year-old woman, who has committed no crime, will die of dehydration and starvation in the longest public execution in American history.

She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists.

Among many other violations of her due process rights, Terri Schiavo has never been allowed by the primary judge in her case — Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, whose conclusions have been robotically upheld by all the courts above him — to have her own lawyer represent her. . . . READ MORE

Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder Village Voice March 29, 2005.

Net Hentoff, who was a friend and biographer of Cardinal John O’Connor, describes himself as a “Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer” and is heralded by others as “the last honest liberal”. As such, he is something of a curiousity on the usually militantly pro-abortion Village Voice. You can find a collection of his other articles here.

So much for the defense of Terri Schiavo being a sole manifestation of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

Is Terry Schiavo a Person?

Is Terri Schiavo a person? — Not if the intellectuals have anything to say about it. In “Human Non-Person” (National Review Online, March 29, 2005), Wesley J. Smith examines the “personhood theories” propogated in the halls of academica by so-called “bioethicists” like Peter Singer of Princeton U., and Tom Beauchamp of Georgetown University. The same line of thinking that motivates some to call for Terry’s death leads these kind of professors to deny personhood to newborn infants as well as suffering victims of Alzheimer’s.

Even worse, patients who are thus “cognitively impaired” are, in the minds of such intellectuals, prime candidates for organ-harvesting or human research subjects. The kind of talk that was once the inspiration for medical horror films, or the fevered speculations of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, are now, according to Smith, no longer on the fringe in bioethics:

Personhood theory would reduce some of us into killable and harvestable people. [Bioethics professor John] Harris wrote explicitly that killing human non-persons would be fine because “Non-persons or potential persons cannot be wronged” by being killed “because death does not deprive them of something they can value. If they cannot wish to live, they cannot have that wish frustrated by being killed.”

And killing isn’t the half of it. Some of the same bioethicists who have been telling us how right and moral it is to dehydrate Terri Schiavo have also urged that people like Terri — that is, human non-persons — be harvested or otherwise used as mere instrumentalities. Bioethicist big-wig Tom Beauchamp of Georgetown University has suggested that “because many humans lack properties of personhood or are less than full persons, they . . . might be aggressively used as human research subjects or sources of organs.” . . .

If organ harvesting from the cognitively devastated were legal today — thank goodness, it isn’t — Michael Schiavo would be the one, no doubt sanctioned by Judge Greer, who could consent to doctors’ “stopping” Terri’s heart and harvesting her organs. . . . there is a direct line from the Terri Schiavo dehydration to the potential for this stunning human strip-mining scenario’s becoming a reality.”

Mr. Smith is an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He is the author most recently of Consumer’s Guide to a Brave New World.

Cardinal Ratzinger – Meditations on the Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross, the ‘filth’ in the Church and the ‘decay’ of ideologies AsiaNews on the meditations of Cardinal Ratzinger:

Jesus’ own words in the eight station, when he reproaches the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him, should be seen as “directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith”.

“It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgment. Can it be that, despite all our expressions of consternation in the face of evil and innocent suffering, we are all too prepared to trivialize the mystery of evil? Have we accepted only the gentleness and love of God and Jesus, and quietly set aside the word of judgment? ‘How can God be so concerned with our weaknesses?’ we say. ‘We are only human!’ Yet as we contemplate the sufferings of the Son, we see more clearly the seriousness of sin, and how it needs to be fully atoned if it is to be overcome. Before the image of the suffering Lord, evil can no longer be trivialized. To us too, he says: ‘Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves . . . if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?'”

“Amid the decay of ideologies,” writes Ratzinger by way of conclusion, “our faith needs once more to be the fragrance which returns us to the path of life. At the very moment of his burial, Jesus’ words are fulfilled: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John, 12:24). Jesus is the grain of wheat which dies. From that lifeless grain of wheat comes forth the great multiplication of bread which will endure until the end of the world.”

Terri Schiavo – A Roundup of News & Commentary

  • Background info on Michael Schiavo and Terri’s “condition”. — “The following documents have been collected from case evidence, testimony and other sources in the public record. These items give significant illustration that the circumstances surrounding Terri’s collapse may be suspect and that the following actions by the guardian should be investigated.”

    (Via Victor Lams @ Et Cetera).

  • Thomas More Law Center: Governor Bush Has Authority Under State Criminal Laws to Prevent Death of Terri Schiavo

    Former prosecutor of Jack Kevorkian, Richard Thompson, reaffirmed Thursday morning the authority of Florida Governor Jeb Bush to utilize state criminal laws to prevent the death of Terri Schiavo. Pointing to two legal memos prepared by the Thomas More Law Center which were delivered to Governor Bush in October of 2003, Thompson again urged Bush to launch a formal criminal investigation into the facts surrounding the disability of Schiavo. . . .
  • Last year around this time, Pope John Paul II affirmed obligation to feed patients in the “vegetative” state. (Via Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam).
  • Day-by-day commentary from Earl E. Appleby and company at LifeMatters, the blog of Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia.
  • Neurologists Say: Recording of Terri Shows She’s Not PVS – Fr. Rob Johansen @ Thrown Back asked several neurologists to review the audiotape of Terri responding to her father. The verdict? “Three of the four neurologists reported that they believed that Terri was responding to her father, and was attempting to form words. The fourth, Dr. Peter Morin, demurred, saying that he did not want to venture an opinion based on an audio recording without accompanying video. The remaining neurologists all expressed confident opinions regarding what they heard in Terri’s recording.”
  • Theophilus @ Vivificat believes our “justice system” is courting illegitimacy.
  • William Luse (Apologia) says “Goodbye, Terri”, Apologia, March 24, 2005.
  • Dr. Oswald Sobrino (Catholic Analysis/ Catholics in the Public Square) describes Terri as a “a new kind of martyr”, and in “Martyrdom and Legal Positivism”, has strong words for those who would make an idol of the law:

    . . . many in our society insist on bending the knee to law even though it is the obviously imperfect creation of imperfect and yes, even corrupt, legislators. The fancy term for all of this is “legal positivism,” the view that the dictates of the law must be followed at all costs regardless of morality. Legal positivism made the Nazi project of Hitler possible in a highly cultured country like Germany. Legal positivism–the mania for legalities as ends in themselves–is now making America the scene of a Nazi-like execution by starvation of a life deemed unworthy of life.
  • Can you spare a dime? — The Old Oligarch reports that BlogsForTerri.com could use some help paying for its server fees. They’ve been a big help in organizing bloggers across the net, not to mention hosting videos of Terri to prove to the misinformed public that, contrary the reporting of the MainstreamMedia, she’s neither “brain-dead” nor a “vegetable.”

  • Of course, we have a dissenting opinion from Fr. John Paris, SJ, professor of bioethics at Boston College, says “This has nothing to do with the sanctity of life” and that Michael Schiavo is a “a caring, loving spouse whose actions were in Terri’s best interests.” (Salon.com January 24, 2005. Via Bettnet). Wouldn’t you just figure it’d be a Jesuit?

On the secular front . . .

  • The whole Terri Schiavo story, World Net Daily has “the 15-year saga of brain-injured woman no clear-cut, right-to-die case,” which it has been covering since the very beginning. The Michael Schiavo, who appears so utterly convinced that Terri wanted to die, is a far cry from the one who, when asked about treatment in 2001, responded: “How the hell should I know? We never spoke about this. My God, I was only 25 years old. How the hell should I know? We were young. We never spoke of this.”

    Likewise, the husband who is now living with his mistress with the intent on remarrying just as soon as Terri is “put away” is a far cry from the one who once proclaimed in 1992: “I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I’m going to do that.”

  • A Doctor with Religious Beliefs? Must Be “Bogus, a Pro-Life Fanatic” – documenting and exposing the liberal bias of the New York Times, TimesWatch reveals how Thursday’s story on Terri Schiavo by John Schwartz and Denise Grady (“A Diagnosis With a Dose Of Religion”) suggests a doctor’s religious beliefs make him an unreliable person to diagnose Schiavo.
  • Not Dead at All, Slate March 25, 2004. Disability rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson explains why “Congress was right to stick up for Terri Schiavo.”
  • Ann Coulter muses:

    “Given the country’s fetishism about court rulings, this may be a rash assumption, but I presume if Greer had ordered that Terri Schiavo be shot at her husband’s request — a more humane death, by the way — the whole country would not sit idly by, claiming to be bound by the court’s ruling because of the “rule of law” and “federalism.” President Bush would order the FBI to protect her and Gov. Bush would send in the state police.
  • “Slanting the News Against Terri Schiavo” – The Media Research Center finds that “[ABC, CBS and NBC] newscasts have tilted their recent coverage of the Terri Schiavo case in ways that bolster her husband Michael’s arguments that the severely disabled woman is in an irreversible vegetative state and had clearly expressed a desire to die.”

  • “So: Where Did It Come From?” Powerline has more about that curious “GOP talking points” memo produced by ABC News. Michelle Malkin has a roundup of blogs on the issue and asks “Did the MSM learn nothing from RatherGate?”.

Cardinal Ratzinger – Meditations on the Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross, the ‘filth’ in the Church and the ‘decay’ of ideologies AsiaNews on the meditations of Cardinal Ratzinger:

Jesus’ own words in the eight station, when he reproaches the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him, should be seen as “directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith”.

“It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgment. Can it be that, despite all our expressions of consternation in the face of evil and innocent suffering, we are all too prepared to trivialize the mystery of evil? Have we accepted only the gentleness and love of God and Jesus, and quietly set aside the word of judgment? ‘How can God be so concerned with our weaknesses?’ we say. ‘We are only human!’ Yet as we contemplate the sufferings of the Son, we see more clearly the seriousness of sin, and how it needs to be fully atoned if it is to be overcome. Before the image of the suffering Lord, evil can no longer be trivialized. To us too, he says: ‘Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves . . . if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?'”

“Amid the decay of ideologies,” writes Ratzinger by way of conclusion, “our faith needs once more to be the fragrance which returns us to the path of life. At the very moment of his burial, Jesus’ words are fulfilled: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John, 12:24). Jesus is the grain of wheat which dies. From that lifeless grain of wheat comes forth the great multiplication of bread which will endure until the end of the world.”

First Things – An End to Democracy

Articles on “judicial arrogance” and the “judicial usurpation of power” are not new. The following symposium addresses those questions, often in fresh ways, but also moves beyond them. The symposium is, in part, an extension of the argument set forth in our May 1996 editorial, “The Ninth Circuit’s Fatal Overreach” The Federal District Court’s decision favoring doctor-assisted suicide, we said, could be fatal not only to many people who are old, sick, or disabled, but also to popular support for our present system of government.

This symposium addresses many similarly troubling judicial actions that add up to an entrenched pattern of government by judges that is nothing less than the usurpation of politics. The question here explored, in full awareness of its far-reaching consequences, is whether we have reached or are reaching the point where conscientious citizens can no longer give moral assent to the existing regime . . .

Those were opening words of “The End of Democracy? – The Judicial Usurpation of Politics: (First Things 67 November 1996: 18-20), a controversial symposium of Robert H. Bork, Russel Hittinger, Hadley Arkes, Charles Colson, and Robert P. George, in which they discussed the rise of judicial tyranny:

The government of the United States of America no longer governs by the consent of the governed. With respect to the American people, the judiciary has in effect declared that the most important questions about how we ought to order our life together are outside the purview of “things of their knowledge.” Not that judges necessarily claim greater knowledge; they simply claim, and exercise, the power to decide. The citizens of this democratic republic are deemed to lack the competence for self-government. . . .

and the divorce of law from morality, and consequent failure of trust, that comes as a consequence:

Law, as it is presently made by the judiciary, has declared its independence from morality. . . . [M]orality — especially traditional morality, and most especially morality associated with religion — has been declared legally suspect and a threat to the public order. Among the most elementary principles of Western Civilization is the truth that laws which violate the moral law are null and void and must in conscience be disobeyed. In the past and at present, this principle has been invoked, on both the right and the left, by those who are frequently viewed as extremists. It was, however, the principle invoked by the founders of this nation. It was the principle invoked by the antislavery movement and, more recently, by Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the principle invoked today by, among many others, Pope John Paul II.

The stated purpose of the symposium was not to advocate “noncompliance to resistance to civil disobedience to morally justified revolution,” but to question the future prospects of a country host to “a growing alienation of millions of Americans from a government they do not recognize as theirs . . . an erosion of moral adherence to this political system” and “the displacement of a constitutional order by a regime that does not have, will not obtain, and cannot command the consent of the people.”

Mind you, this was written in November 1996. With the life of Terri Schiavo (and others in similar circumstances) literally at the mercy of our courts, it seems fitting to consider this symposium again.

See also: The End of Democracy? A Discussion Continued, First Things 69 (January 1997): 19-24.