John Jalsevac

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'Seamless garment' theory has been abused to ignore life issues: top Vatican official

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac

John Jalsevac reporting from Rome last week

ROME, February 25, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Intellectually dishonest” theologians and politicians have abused Cardinal Bernardin’s famous “seamless garment” image of Catholic moral teaching to “justify turning a blind eye” to injustices such as abortion, contraception and public funding for embryonic stem cell research, according to the head of the Vatican’s number two office.

Speaking at the Vatican to the annual meeting of the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position previously held by Pope Benedict, said that, viewed properly, the seamless garment image is valid.

But where some adherents of the theory have gone wrong is by emphasizing more popular “social justice” issues such as economic or environmental issues, while dismissing life issues such as abortion and euthanasia as being of lesser importance, or even putting them outside the scope of social justice altogether.

“There is a beautiful coherence to the Church’s moral teaching, but that coherence can only be demonstrated, and its truth apprehended, when the moral teaching of the Church is taught in its entirety and lived out integrally,” said the archbishop.

(Read the complete talk here.)

According to Archbishop Müller, this abuse of the seamless garment theory appears to stem from a desire on the part of some to look for “common ground” with the surrounding culture. But while this approach may at times be appropriate, it risks overlooking the differences between the values of the culture and some of the “profoundly counter-cultural” teachings of the Church.

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Teachings of Humanae Vitae must be restored to the ‘seamless garment’

In particular, the head of the CDF highlighted Pope Paul VI’s famous encyclical, Humanae Vitae, in which that pope reiterated the Church’s long-held teaching on the immorality of artificial contraception. The encyclical also drew a connection between contraception and other evils such as abortion and divorce.

In the days and months before the release of Humane Vitae, many had expected the Roman Catholic Church to follow the lead of other Christian denominations and approve contraception. The document remains widely unpopular in many “liberal” Catholic circles.

But according to Müller, once the teaching of Humanae Vitae is ignored, and sex is removed from the context of a life-long marriage open to life, the seamless garment “begins to unravel.” The result, he said, is nothing short of disastrous.

In the first place, the widespread adoption of a “profoundly distorted” view of sexuality, in which sex is denied any “intrinsic value” and “reduced to a merely pleasurable pursuit or a morally irrelevant activity,” is “at the very core of many of the bioethical problems which confront us today.”

The “prophetic” teaching of Humanae Vitae “is so important that without it we cannot engage our faithful—to say nothing of the larger society—in a coherent discussion of the problems and moral evil presented by techniques of artificial fertilization, preimplantation diagnosis, cryogenic freezing of embryos and ‘embryo reduction’, human cloning and the therapeutic use of stem cells,” said Archbishop Muller.

In the second place, he said, wherever the teachings of Humanae Vitae have been downplayed or ignored, “we have witnessed a collapse of family life, an increase in extra-marital infidelity and a diminishment of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.”  At the same time, this approach has failed to lead to any corresponding increase in social acceptance of the Church, or “to a renewal in her own life.”

The solution, said the archbishop, is to return the Church’s teachings on sexuality to pride of place within the “seamless garment.”

Given the widespread unpopularity of the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the broader culture, and even among many Catholics, this may seem a daunting task. But according to Archbishop Müller, restoring the proper balance is not as difficult as it may seem, since many Catholics have not actually rejected the Church’s teachings, but rather a “caricature” of them.

The truth is that many have never heard the fullness of the Church’s teaching, the profound “yes” to the sanctity of sexual love lived-out in marriage and the family; the “yes” to responsible parenthood; the “yes” to the dignity of the woman against manipulation by a process that views her body as a problem to be overcome or circumvented.

The first step, he said, is to begin talking about the Church’s teachings everywhere possible – in diocesan newspapers and offices, in homilies, and in marriage preparation programs.

“[T]he only response of the Church to modernity has to be one which is completely faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium, above all on matters of sexual morality because this is precisely where doctrine touches life,” said the archbishop.  

“Yes, we fight for peace and justice in the world, and at the same time we need to set forth persuasively the Church’s vision of life, love and sexuality, including the intrinsic immorality of abortion and contraception.” 

Why is the Church so concerned with sex? Because sex has ‘everything to do with love’

The archbishop acknowledged that the Church is often accused of having an excessive focus on sex. But, said the archbishop, this is natural, particularly in a culture that has deviated so far afield from what constitutes a healthy sexuality, since the Church is the only institution with the means to provide a long-term remedy.  

“The Church is so concerned with sex because sex has everything to do with love, and God is love!’” said Archbishop Müller. “There is plenty of loneliness, brokenness, and unhappiness in the world.  Yet often the Church is the only voice speaking to the cause of that existential loneliness and unhappiness.” He added:

The degradation of the sexual act, reducing it to a function of pleasure, power, or control, demeans the human person. The great lie of the sexual revolution is that sex always leads to happiness and personal liberation.  The sexual union of a man and a woman does lead to integral fulfillment in its authentic context, which is when it is open to new life within the life long bond of marriage. However, without this context it invariably leads people into the desert of meaninglessness.

The archbishop said that within the “stark simplicity” of the Church’s teachings on sexuality there is “tremendous power for liberation and happiness.” The only thing necessary is to “communicate to people the intrinsic meaning of sex within the Christian vision of love.”

“Only through an integrated and enthusiastic presentation of our teaching can we begin to reclaim the language and concept of human rights as it relates to family life and especially to marriage as constituted by one man and one woman,” he said.

Read the complete talk here


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Michelle Kaufman, New Zealand Correspondent

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Abortion group targets pro-life doctors, nurses with new website: New Zealand

Michelle Kaufman, New Zealand Correspondent
By Michelle Kaufman

Pro-life health practitioners and crisis pregnancy centres in New Zealand are the target of a new website designed to intimidate those who choose not to refer for abortion or prescribe contraception.

The website, My Decision, is created by the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ). 

The site lists health practitioners and crisis pregnancy centres which they believe women should avoid.  The incomplete list includes the names of individuals or organisations, the region and town, and whether they are a doctor, nurse or other provider. 

Women are asked to submit their stories of “hostile or unhelpful health professionals.”  The stories are non-identifying and can be edited for length or clarity.  At the time of writing only two stories had been posted.

In an earlier blog post, ALRANZ mentioned that the new website, which was still under construction at the time, is “aimed at shining the light on ‘conscientious objectors’… who deny people the reproductive healthcare they want or need.”

Right to Life NZ says they believe the site is “denigrating the good name and reputations of health professionals who believe that abortion is a harmful choice.”

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Under New Zealand law, health practitioners can object to providing reproductive health services according to their conscience.  However, there is one caveat – they “must inform the person who requests the service that he or she can obtain the service from another health practitioner or from a family planning clinic.”

 “Sonscientious objection is a fundamental right and one that must be preserved if we are to continue to live in a free and civil society,” said Chris O’Brien, Vice President of Right to Life NZ. “We risk tyranny if this right is taken away.”

“There are very good doctors that appear on that website” said Dame Colleen Bayer, whose Dunedin Family Life Crisis Pregnancy Centre is also named.  “These doctors speak truthfully and have real care and concern for their patients.  Women do themselves a disservice to discount them based on this information.”

The resource section on the My Decision website links to ALRANZ, Family Planning (an affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation and an abortion provider), and the website Abortion Services in New Zealand. 

The Abortion Services website is sponsored by ISTAR Ltd, a registered Charitable Trust which is the sole importer of mifepristone into New Zealand.  ISTAR also provides Manual Vacuum Aspiration equipment for early surgical abortions.

ALRANZ, was instrumental in the writing of the Greens abortion policy, which was unveiled earlier this year.  That policy aims to take abortion out of the Crimes Act making it more accessible.  The policy also targets health professionals who may conscientiously object to ensure they refer patients on to a “neutral practitioner”.

More information about freedom of conscience in healthcare 


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The government is proposing allowing the killing of pre-born babies suspected of being disabled and those conceived through rape or incest.
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Northern Ireland considers allowing killing disabled unborn babies: pro-lifers condemn

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Northern Ireland’s leading pro-life group, Precious Life, has condemned this week's announcement by Justice Minister David Ford that a consultation on changing the abortion law will be "ready by autumn." The government is considering allowing the killing of pre-born babies suspected of being disabled and those conceived through rape or incest.

“Abortion is a serious criminal offence in Northern Ireland,” said the director of Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth. “The law here protects unborn babies, and David Ford as Minister for Justice must ensure that all children are legally protected."

Last December, Ford revealed he would be undertaking a consultation to consider changes to the law after he heard the stories of two women, who complained that they had not been allowed to abort their babies who had been diagnosed with anencephaly. Instead, they said, they had traveled to Britain for abortions.

Abortion was refused under Northern Ireland’s laws because the diagnosis of anencephaly for the child poses no medical threat to the mother.

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On Monday Ford told the BBC that the Department of Justice would bring forward its consultation paper on changing Northern Ireland's abortion laws by the fall.

However, Smyth warned that “the core ethical principle which must underpin this discussion is that every child deserves the right to life regardless of how short their life may be, and regardless of the circumstances of their conception."

She vowed that Precious Life will launch a public campaign in support of the life of all unborn babies.

“We all feel enormous sympathy for parents in these traumatic and distressing cases," Precious Life stressed in a statement. "But parents in these difficult situations deserve much more than our sympathy – they need a professional support system in place, which will provide them with help, support and resources.

"Precious Life are resolved to work towards a solution that loves and protects both mother and baby. Once again we call on the Health Minister to immediately establish perinatal hospice services for parents who have received a poor or difficult prenatal diagnosis for their baby,” said Smyth.

 

Contact:

Justice Minister David Ford
Department of Justice
Stormont Estate
Belfast, Northern Ireland
BT4 3SG
Phone:(028) 9076 3000
Email: via website (http://www.dojni.gov.uk/contact-us.htm)


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80% of parents who have an unborn child with spina bifida choose abortion. But Chad Judice (pictured with Eli) knows that life is worth it.
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Abortion? No way. Dad says son with spina bifida is a ‘gift’ to the family.

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By Dustin Siggins

What is the most pro-life, pro-God influence in your life? According to Catholic author and speaker Chad Judice, his five-year old, disabled son has been a tremendous source of happiness and faith for even the hardest of hearts.

In an op-ed published in The New York Post, Judice writes that when he and his wife found out their unborn son Elijah had spina bifida, they were offered the option of abortion. While they chose life, it didn't stop them from fearing the worst for their careers, eldest child, and Eli.

"That evening...Ashley cried as she read to me from the literature we’d been given," writes Judice. "It said 80 percent of parents who receive a spina bifida diagnosis choose abortion."

"And it told us that our son might have learning disabilities and be paralyzed from the waist down, unable to ever walk."

According to WemMD.com, the two most common forms of spina bifida have few, if any effects, on those who have them. However, the most rare and most aggressive form of the disability can result in significant problems for life:

  • Little or no feeling in their legs, feet, or arms, so they may not be able to move those parts of the body.
  • Bladder or bowel problems, such as leaking urine or having a hard time passing stools.
  • Fluid buildup in the brain (hydrocephalus). Even when it is treated, this may cause seizures, learning problems, or vision problems.
  • A curve in their spine, such as scoliosis.

Eli's form of spina bifida was severe, but -- as it turned out -- manageable, writes Judice. Despite surgeries and "medical challenges," he was out of the hospital within thirty days, though seizures and surgeries would continue to challenge the family. At five-and-a-half, he is entering kindergarten, learning to walk with modern technology, and "his intelligence is at or above average, and he's very talkative."

But perhaps the greatest miracle of all, Judice says, is the effect Eli has had on those who are outside of the family. His story has helped "some pregnant mothers...to reject abortion," and "rekindle the dormant faith of some...drawing them into a life with more room for God and family."

One of those rekindled Christians was a man who, after years in prison, prayed for Eli "as he recited The Lord's Prayer." According to Judice, "it was the first time he’d prayed in 30 years."

Since Eli's birth, Judice has written two books about his son and their family. "Waiting for Eli: A Father's Journey from Fear to Faith" was the first, and has received praise from Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. According to Pavone, it is "an inspiring story of faith, hope, love, and the power of prayer."

"The world judges the value of human life by physical perfection, but God sees things differently. To Him, we are perfectly lovable in our imperfection. Uplifting in its reverence for human life in its most fragile stages, WAITING FOR ELI will encourage pro-life activists everywhere, from the most seasoned to the newly initiated."

Also unstinting in praise was the Chair of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Daniel Cardinal Dinardo, who writes for Judice's website that the book "chronicles [Judice's] spiritual journey from fear of one’s personal limitations to self-abandonment to the divine mercy of God’s providence."

The second book, "Eli's Reach: On the Value of Human Life and the Power of Prayer," received the "Best Book by Small Publisher" award in 2013 by the Catholic Press Association.

"I think of Eli as God’s special gift to my family," Judice wrote in the Post. "And as I share about him, Eli’s story softens hearts and brings people to a greater appreciation of the beauty and sacredness of life."


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