Kathleen Gilbert

Scrooge, our favorite population controller

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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December 23, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Every time December 25 rolls around, I’ve made it a tradition to watch A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim. It’s such a great film. Unfortunately, it never fails to remind me of work.

This is because (as readers may remember) Charles Dickens cast Scrooge as the population control everyman: “If they would rather die, they’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population,” he says of the impoverished masses herded into prisons and workhouses.

Whether it’s for the “green” crusade or some other guess at the common good, top ethicists today have embraced Scrooge’s insight that there’s a shortcut to achieving that good: do away with the people who aren’t benefiting from it. Voila!

Scrooge makes a fine population controller because they are the very definition of Scrooge. It’s just that these days, when such characters show up in the flesh instead of a film, society’s anti-Scrooge alarm - a repulsion towards those who say others should do us a favor by not existing - sadly fails to go off. 

As Scrooge later beholds the ailing Tiny Tim, the Ghost of Christmas Present reminds him that according to his own theory, the little boy’s death would mark one step in the right direction. But the message doesn’t really hit home until Scrooge is prompted to consider leading by personal example with his own death. Now that, as other characters observe, the old man had never seen coming.

This is the plague that nearly all population misers must have in common: a ho-hum attitude toward their own end. Some probably have floating in the backs of their minds a soothing idea of slipping into a restful nothingness, while others may have more pessimistic or optimistic ideas, but they are just that: ideas. Especially in this world of near-miraculous health care, we run the risk of death remaining largely in the realm of theory. 

This isn’t healthy.

Not to get too depressing, but this is important: please, let’s not pretend death is anything short of a total disaster. Except on a supernatural level, death and life are pure enemies. The problem with death is that it’s impossible to represent it; it is nothing and absurdity. True appreciation is thus left to experience: life left to itself can lose its sense of its own throbbing energy, its own insatiable greed for more and more life. But nearness to the void provokes the most violent of natural instincts, the craving to be. 

We’d be better off getting in touch with this instinct again; it gives us insight into the problem with eliminating the “surplus population,” that is, with eliminating people. When someone else dies, a person vanishes. But if I die, everything else vanishes too, and that’s what is so terrible.

This is in fact accurate. Without people things are only things, or even less than things. Scrooge’s gold is a collection of atoms with seventy-nine protons that signify nothing more than those of compost. Trees and animals live and decay lacking the capacity to know their own beauty and poetry, and thus with no one aware, there is no beauty or poetry at all. The world, a huge mass of particles occasionally engaging in chemical reactions, would just be: and in the end, may as well not be. 

So the story of Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t the story of a man learning that people are worth more than money, but that worth means people.  People can’t be weighed in the scales because they are the scale. That’s exactly why we all love A Christmas Carol, and why population misers are wrong.

Whether conservative or liberal, green or not, stories that tell this tale are the ones we like best. Stories that tell the reverse are not stories at all.

In September we encountered a non-story like this in the extreme. James Jay Lee, the Discovery Channel gunman, met an absurd end as he held hostages while demanding that the network air programming to help us stop “breeding any more disgusting human babies.”

Lee was so alienated from the true common good that he thought people were not only not its purpose, but a hindrance to it. Who was the protagonist of his story? How could there be a happy ending? It’s hard to say, given that he himself was a member of that “filthy” race - and had strapped bombs to his own body.

This is where we come to the point, the one Lee sadly missed and that Scrooge nearly did. Death truly is the wrong ending to any story, for it steals both people and the meaning they endow - and had it not been for Christmas, all of human history would have been just such a non-story. 

Our frightful encounter teaches us just how great a rescue God pulled off by the birth of a tiny, impoverished child on Christmas Day. Death, the total disaster, has been forced into service as the gateway to life. Christ’s coming is another of those stories we like best, so much so that even modern secularists can’t quite seem to let it go: this one tells how the human soul will never vanish but can hope to conquer even death itself. 

It’s been a hard year: as we look on, people seem to go on finding ever more and more ways to suppress life. Steeping in these reports too long can be unhealthy, and make us forget the way things really are. To detox, find a comfortable spot on Christmas Day and listen to a story that ushers back to center stage the two things that really belong there: life, and the Child who made it abundant forever.


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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