Friday, February 15, 2013

God Be With You, Holy Father

Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Monday, and I, along with Catholics all over the world, am sad and distressed. I never thought Pope Benedict would resign - I always believed he, like his predecessor, would die in office. And I'm already frustrated at the endless speculation that this is because of the sex abuse scandals or some other "coverup." Don't even get me started on the utter silliness of the mainstream media and its calls for "modernization," i.e. laxity on all the pelvic issues they're fixated on.

 I have a special place in my heart for Pope Benedict because of his election at a time in my life when I was pretty lax about faith. I was a college sophomore in 2005 and not particularly devout. I went to Sunday Mass, but it was mostly just a habit. I was your average poorly catechized and apathetic college student. The death of Pope John Paul II was earthshaking. He'd been Pope for my entire life - I almost couldn't wrap my mind around the election of a new one. I didn't know very much about the various Cardinals who were speculated to be the next Pope. It all seemed fairly obscure stuff. I remember watching a TV in the student union, seeing the white smoke and watching the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI waving to the crowd. The news anchors threw around phrases like, "doctrinal conservative," "head of the Inquisition," "God's Rottweiler." Now this was interesting. I didn't know anything about Cardinal Ratzinger but I knew how hostile the media were to the Church just from the press coverage. If the world didn't like this guy very much...there must be something to him.

 That summer I did an undergraduate research program at Purdue University. There was a bioethics component to this research program. The program directors asked another professor from Purdue, who happened to be a Catholic, to come and give us an ethics seminar every week. I didn't know it at the time but this was an enormous paradigm shift for me. I'd sat in church every Sunday and gone to CCD classes too, but this was the first time I'd ever heard about the concepts of natural law and objective morality. But I was much more receptive to these ethical and moral ideas than any of my fellow students. The general consensus seemed to be "this guy is nuts! What kind of person doesn't accept that morality depends on culture, on the particular situation? He's just some religious fanatic!"

 I was intrigued though. I'd stay behind and talk to Professor Krane after our lunch seminars. He recommended books for me to read and encouraged me to attend the Latin Mass at his parish. I felt this enormous hunger for the "meat" of the faith - for real truth, real teaching instead of mealy-mouthed moral relativism. I didn't even know what I didn't know. But I was drawn to the writing of our new Holy Father, whose books were all over the place in the wake of his election. I bought Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith (at Wal-Mart, of all places) and dived right in.

 So when I think about 2005 I'm filled with enormous gratitude to Professor Krane and to the Holy Father. I've always had such affection for Benedict because of the role his writings played in awakening me to the beauty of my Faith. Thank you for everything, Papa. Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Introducing Miss L

Out for a walk!

I apologize for not posting for so long! This is our little L, born in February. :) She is almost six months old now, which is hard to believe. It would be impossible to sum up the trials and joys of our first six months with her in less than a page - so I will just say, it has been both difficult and amazing. She has a big personality for such a little baby.

I will be going back to school full-time in August. I have very mixed feelings about this. I long for the intellectual stimulation of research, but also feel sad that I won't have my baby by my side all day. We will see how it goes. I have promised my husband that I will finish out the fall semester and then decide where we should go from there. I think I owe myself and my work that much at least.

Hopefully you will see more posts from me as I get back on campus and get ready to comment on whatever the latest campus scandal happens to be ;). Motherhood has had the wonderful effect of making me oblivious to both Church and national politics. I didn't realize how much until I had some friends over and we got into a huge political discussion in which I was unusually out of my depth. (Debt ceiling? I'm more concerned about introducing solid foods.) I think I'm almost ready to jump back in to the wonderful bundle of contradictions that is the University of Notre Dame. I see from my blogroll that I haven't been the only one long absent. I hope some of you are still around and reading my musings.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy New Year!

Wishing a Happy New Year to all - just a little bit late! My days have been very quiet recently. I managed to wrap up the fall semester with a fair amount of success. My grades weren't exactly stellar, but I did manage solid B's, so I am officially done with the coursework portion of my degree. Now I'm at home waiting for my little one to arrive. She should be here any day now. I am a little anxious, but very excited to meet her!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Of Nobel Prizes and Playing God

The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded today to the man who invented in vitro fertilization (IVF). I had been paying closer attention to this Nobel Prize this year because of my Advanced Cell Biology class. There was a class "contest" to see if anyone would be able to correctly predict the winner of this year's Nobel for Physiology and Medicine. Most people guessed that stem cell research of some type would win the prize.

However, it is an interesting coincidence that the prize was awarded for IVF. Why? The class I'm taking consists primarily of analysis and discussion of various scientific papers relating to important topics in cell biology. We read and discussed a number of papers on embryonic stem cells - mostly mouse embryonic stem cells, but inevitably the discussion turned to the ethics of human embryonic stem cells. During the discussion, our professor acknowledged that scientists have not done themselves favors by appearing to be "tinkering" with nature merely for the sake of tinkering. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. But he also seemed to be under the impression that opposition to HESC research was based primarily in ignorance. For instance, he stated that many HESC opponents believed that aborted fetal tissue was an HESC source. I don't know how true that is for the general population, but I don't know any educated Catholic who labors under that mistaken assumption! For my part, I'm fully aware, and have been for a long time, that HESCs are sourced from "leftover" embryos resulting from IVF, and that fact doesn't make the destruction of small humans any less a violation of the moral law.

He also made a point which I found interesting, even if I strongly disagreed with the assumption that this would be a good thing: if HESC research is able to produce a cure for a disease like diabetes, the moral opposition to the use of HESCs will eventually break down. He used IVF as an example: opposition to IVF has eroded, because who could possibly be against something that produces cute little babies and gives infertile couples their dearest wish? And thus we have a new morality in which the ends justify the means, and the Catholic Church is increasingly seen as outmoded and even cruel in its insistence that the creation of human life not be artificially divorced from the union of man and wife.

IVF is now so widely accepted that a lady at my knitting group whom I barely knew had no problem announcing to the entire group that she and her husband had just conceived a child through IVF. Her obvious excitement signaled to me that I was meant to react with squeals of delight and overflowing enthusiasm. How does a Catholic react in such a situation? I think I congratulated her briefly and excused myself to go to the ladies' room. Too much information from a total stranger, too much temptation to ask, "So how many of your leftover babies are going to stay on ice forever?" I sadly lacked the courage and wisdom to respond in a way that showed my compassion for her struggle with infertility while pointing out the moral perils of IVF. I did not wish her ill in any way whatsoever, but I did feel a profound sadness at the whole situation.

So I cannot rejoice or celebrate that IVF is being acknowledged by the Nobel Prize committee as a major scientific breakthrough. To me it was a milestone of a different kind: the point where it was no longer considered a violation of moral law to manipulate the very beginnings of human life at will and "play God." Nowadays it's a race to the bottom -- science may and should do as it pleases, ethical objections and frozen embryos be damned. These small human lives are considered merely a commodity. Please join me today in praying for an increase in respect for all human life, from conception to natural death.

ETA: Via the Irish Rover blog, a short article on a researcher who was passed over for the Prize. Many of my fellow students felt that this work on induced pluripotent stem cells would get the prize, and it's worth noting that these biology graduate students showed a great interest in and excitement about this alternative to embryonic stem cells.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"As long as it's healthy"

In a few weeks I will be going for an ultrasound and if baby cooperates, Matt and I will find out whether we are welcoming a boy or girl in February. Of course, a lot of people have already asked me whether I have any preferences as to gender. I tell them that I'm convinced it's a girl, while my husband thinks it's a boy, and then I wind up with the standard canned response, "We'll be happy as long as it's healthy."

Having repeated this several times, I've started to stop and think about what I'm really saying. What if baby isn't healthy? I have no reason to believe he or she won't be, but then, one never knows. I went for a screening test on Monday, and while I know some Catholics have moral objections to prenatal testing, my motto is and has always been "knowledge is power." But it really got me thinking, what happens if I get back my results and something is wrong?

I thought and prayed about it some and I realized that if my baby isn't healthy, it will still be OK. I realized that nothing could change my love for my baby. I have to believe that no matter what, God brought this little life into being for some reason. God would never give me anything that He and I could not handle together. With great difficulty comes a great outpouring of grace.

So I am still praying for the blessings of health for my baby, but I will respond instead to people's questions, "We'll be happy, no matter what. This is a blessing!"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An interview with Mother Dolores Hart

Here's a great interview in the National Catholic Register: Tim Drake talks to Mother Dolores Hart. What a beautiful soul she is. It was a privilege to hear her speak here at Notre Dame at this year's Edith Stein Conference.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Truth about the Pill

Heard this story on NPR today: With Birth Control Pills, New Isn't Always Better

A 16-year old with a blood clot that could have easily killed her...this is scary stuff. And yet the makers of birth control pills would have you believe that these side effects are "rare" and that the benefits of the Pill far outweigh the risks. It's good to see that Yaz has been exposed as dangerous, but the story also obscured the fact that these side effects are common to all types of birth control pills. We women pump these artificial hormones into our bodies every day for decades and expect there to be no problems. It's unrealistic to say the least.

I was also annoyed to see that not a single doctor challenged the assumption that this 16-year old girl needed to be on the Pill. Acne and irregular periods are inconvenient, yes, but they are common problems in all teenage girls and usually go away as women move into their 20s. There are plenty of other treatments for acne, and the idea that every woman must have a 28-day cycle every month or she's "abnormal" is quite absurd. Now, conditions like severe pain during the menstrual cycle are a different story. But doctors seem unwilling to address the underlying causes when it's so much easier just to prescribe the Pill. Hopefully stories like this will make some doctors rethink that approach.

A hopeful sign: in the comments, a handful of people are actually being open about the emotional and physical side effects of the Pill instead of touting it as a panacea. I'm starting to observe a wider acceptance of NFP/FAM in secular circles, which is fantastic. There are still plenty who scoff at it, of course, but there is an increased openness to the idea of natural birth control. Finally, people are waking up to the absurdity of an approach that suggests that our bodies are inherently "broken" and that the normal functioning of our reproductive systems is something to be "fixed."