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A tale of two sex hormones

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By Anthony Esolen
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March 19, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - In 1999, at the ripe old baseball age of 35, Barry Bonds, one of the five or six greatest players ever to carry the bat, was finally beginning to wear down. Even aside from the effects of aging, the long baseball seasons take their toll on the body: nagging little injuries, a pulled muscle here, a sprain there, a touch of arthritis, a fractured bone that never quite healed right. The muscles don’t contract with the same old lightning speed. You’re smarter, and you make fewer mistakes, but your batting average drops, you lose range in the field, and you’re out of the lineup more often. So it was with Bonds that year. He batted just .262 and played in 102 games, his lowest figures in a decade. What with his power and his batting eye, he was still a great player, but his best years were behind him.

Except that they weren’t, not exactly. Bonds arrived in camp the next year with a new body. He had put on weight, but lost body fat. And his bat speed was breathtaking, so much so that pitchers were afraid of leaving the ball anywhere over the plate. In 2001, the 37-year-old Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, 24 more than he had ever hit before, and slugged .863, almost 200 points more than his previous high. From 2000 through 2004, Bonds’ records are wholly unlike those of any other player in baseball history, as witness his unimaginable 232 walks in 2004, when he was 40 years old.

Well, we know the reason for these strange results, and for the sudden ability of otherwise ordinary infielders to slam the ball over the fence to the opposite field. It’s “steroids,” the popular term for artificial testosterone, ingested to repair and build muscle. Some of these steroids may be legally prescribed for certain medical conditions, normal aging not among them. Similar drugs that were legal at the time, like the androsterone taken by Mark McGwire in 1998 when he hit 70 home runs, meet with the reproach of fans anyway. Lovers of baseball have, with remarkable unanimity, decried these years as the “steroid era.” They accuse the players of a kind of cheating that goes far beyond the gamesmanship, say, of a pitcher “cutting” the ball on his belt buckle, or a man on second stealing signs from the catcher. In fact, they seem unwilling to elect any of the cheaters to the Hall of Fame, at least until many years pass by.

They are also not going to accept the argument that the ingestion of testosterone is a matter of individual choice. That is because of the nature of the game. It would give an advantage to the players who “juice”—a considerable advantage, as it turns out. It would also compromise the venerable history of the game, making it impossible to judge the worth of contemporary players against that of players past. In other words, to allow the use of testosterone would immediately immiserate those who do not use it; and it would alter the game itself. It would do so, moreover, by means of a tissue-growing hormone that poses obvious medical risks: the growth of cancerous tissue, for instance.

Yet, when one compares this sex hormone, testosterone, to the sex hormone now in the news, estrogen, it is hard to see why, on medical and social grounds alone, the one would be severely restricted and the other so freely dispensed that people are ready, not simply to affirm its legality, but to mandate that people and institutions violate their religious faith to purchase it for women who want it.

There are some medical uses for estrogen, as there are some medical uses for testosterone. These are not at issue. The Catholic Church does not oppose the use of estrogen to treat a disease. But there is also an immediate health-related benefit that testosterone secures. It builds and repairs muscle. That is, taken by itself, a good thing. If it helped Barry Bonds to swing a bat, it would help Barry the Miner to swing a pickax, or Barry the Infantryman to climb up a cliff, or Barry the Roadworker to heal from the battering his frame takes when he spends a day with the jackhammer. Yet we judge, correctly, that these Barries should not be ingesting testosterone. As I see it, we do so for three reasons: the benefit is not necessary; the benefit is outweighed by the risks of the drug; and the use of the drug by some men would put others at an unfair disadvantage—it would immiserate them. The first two reasons have to do primarily with the individual; the third, with society.

Now compare this drug to estrogen. Unlike testosterone, estrogen does not confer any obvious medical benefit upon a woman who ingests it. Its use when ingested for non-medical reasons is to fool the body into the condition of pregnancy when it is not actually pregnant. If anything, the drug is attended by a host of troubles, from minor annoyances to those severe enough that some women cannot use it. Testosterone will help Barry lift things up and put them down, and that, considered alone, is a good thing. We need strong men to lift things up and put them down. But estrogen enhances no such practical performance.

Someone might justify the use of testosterone on the grounds that our bodies are always repairing muscle; indeed the only way to build muscle is to tear it down and “persuade” the body to compensate by building even more. I do not buy the argument. I only note that it makes at least a superficial claim to being medical in nature: it has to do with a bodily function that needs repair. But the use of estrogen as contraception is not medical at all. Quite the contrary. A couple who use estrogen to prevent the conception of a child do not ingest the drug to enhance the performance of their reproductive organs, or to heal any debility therein. Their worry is rather that those organs are functioning in a healthy and natural way, and they wish they weren’t. They want to obtain not ability but debility. They want not to repair but to thwart.

Here it is usually argued that the drug is medical because it prevents a disease. But that is to invert the meaning of words. When the reproductive organs are used in a reproductive act, the conception of a child is the healthy and natural result. That is a plain biological fact. If John and Mary are using their organs in that way, and they cannot conceive a child, then this calls for a remedy; that is the province of medicine. It is also the province of medicine to shield us against casual exposure to communicable diseases—exposure that we cannot prevent, and that subjects us to debility or death. Childbearing and malaria are not the same sorts of thing.

Moreover, estrogen, like testosterone, is a tissue-growing hormone, and therefore subjects the woman who ingests it to a much higher risk of developing cancer, not to mention other serious medical troubles. Indeed, if it were not dangerous, drug companies would not be struggling to keep the dosage as low as possible. So the widespread use of estrogen actually involves widespread and grave medical harm. In a country as large as ours, with breast cancer as common as it is, even a smallish increase in the risk of cancer would mean thousands of deaths; and the increase in risk is not small.

And this brings us to the heart of the matter. The argument for the use of this drug is not medical (since it does not remedy anything, it does not shield against communicable disease, and it actually subjects the user to medical risk). It is social. It is simply this: Without the drug, many millions of sexually active women would become pregnant who do not wish to be so. But now we are not in the realm of individual choices alone. We must address the whole of society. We must address the common good.

Here is where the comparison with testosterone helps clarify matters. Again, if Bonds uses the drug, that immediately immiserates those who do not wish to use it. It helps this player, here, turn on the inside fastball. But no player is an island unto himself. The drug hurts everyone, because it hurts the game itself; it is destructive of the common good.

The same is true of the artificial estrogen. It “helps” this couple, here, do the child-making thing, without making a child. It “helps” that couple, there, do the marital thing without being married. But it immiserates all those couples who, in a healthier age, would not wish to do so. It alters everyone’s view of what marriage and sexual congress are for. The result is, as anyone with a little common sense could predict, that there are far more children born out of wedlock now than there were before the artificial estrogen changed the whole nature of the game. We have produced now generations of people who have never known an intact marriage. The sexual revolution has devastated the lower classes, and renders us ever less willing to practice the difficult and self-denying virtues, while we are ever more willing to surrender genuine liberty for the illusions of license.

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Anthony Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Ironies of Faith. He has translated Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
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Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

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By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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