Donald DeMarco, Ph.D.

Freedom is about much more than simply removing restraints

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D.
By Donald DeMarco Ph.D.
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July 9, 2012 (HLIAmerica.org) - As any horticulturalist knows, you cannot cultivate roses merely by plucking weeds and killing aphids. One must plant rose seeds. No matter how hospitable the garden is for the cultivation of roses, if there are no seeds, there will be no roses. Negative horticulture is, in itself, unproductive.

This simple, incontrovertible notion has direct applicability to human beings and their desire for freedom. No amount of negative freedom, removing barriers that would inhibit the cultivation of freedom, will ensure the cultivation of positive human freedom. This latter freedom must grow from an interior seed which is the human will.

What do we mean by ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ freedom? The modern world has expended considerable effort in its attempt to clear away various barriers that appear to be obstacles to freedom. The Enlightenment sought to free reason from faith, believing that faith is an obstacle to freedom. The Marxists, also enemies of faith, were further committed to liberating man from the oppression of the ruling class. Freud wanted to free man from his restricting inhibitions, Darwin from the illusion that man was unique among animals. Friedrich Nietzsche was passionately dedicated to ridding the world of a non-existent god whose specter prevented man from becoming truly himself. None of these attempts to enlarge human freedom, however, all being negative, contributed one iota to the cultivation of positive freedom which is indispensable for the proper fulfillment and flourishing of the human person.

The distinguished theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar made the observation that “human beings only become truly human when they have chosen and actuated themselves in freedom; when the ‘nature’ in them has been totally and freely appropriated and responsibly worked through.” No one can choose freedom for us. Freedom must be willed from the inside in order for its seed to germinate. Yet, the modern apostles of negative freedom continue to have their appeal since they promise to deliver an automatic freedom, one that can be attained without personal effort.

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The notion of “freedom fifty-five,” therefore, has become a popular idea because it represents the anticipated enjoyment of freedom simply because one has been emancipated from the work force at 55 years of age. Modern emancipatory movements will continue to have more influence than is justified as long as people neglect the more important freedom that requires effort and discipline, along with a realistic sense of one’s self and one’s place in the world.

The issue of freedom is being hotly contested at present in American society. In order to shed some valuable light on the issue, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has produced an eBook entitled, True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Liberty. Central to the book’s thesis is the argument that there can be no freedom without recognition of the positive value of human dignity. The Cardinal refers to a number of examples that indicate a “rampant disregard” for human dignity:  the approval of embryonic research, the torture of prisoners, abortion, the dismissal of the meaning of marriage, and the federal contraception mandate. “We can see,” writes the Cardinal, “that there is a loss of a sense of truth and objective moral norms—rules of conduct that apply always, to everyone.” Instead of grounding morality in the Natural Law, which is valid and liberating for all people, society has substituted “pragmatism, utilitarianism, and consumerism,” all of which have no higher goal than the satisfaction of individual preferences.

Human dignity is an essential value. It cannot be disregarded. Indeed, justice demands that the human person be accorded his appropriate freedom. Human dignity is a moral value. Laws that violate human dignity are not just. Citing Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Dolan points out that the separation of law from morality “fails to recognize the full breadth of human nature, and in fact both diminishes man and threatens humanity.” Cardinal Dolan is indicating that laws that violate human dignity, no matter how much they appear to make people free (the freedom to be relieved of an unwanted pregnancy through abortion, for example), contribute to the Culture of Death.

If negative freedom continues unchecked, there comes a point when there is nothing left to remove. Removing every factor that appears to be a restriction on freedom–the Natural Law, faith, inconvenience, any reference to God, and unwanted human life–does not allow the person to flourish, it suffocates him. Roses will not grow, as we mentioned at the outset, by plucking weeds and killing aphids. But here, the negative horticulture is at least opposing the enemies of roses. We are not talking about their benefactors: water, soil, and sunlight. In our present situation in America, what is at risk is actually beneficial to the flourishing of the human being – the positive freedom that is concomitant with human dignity.

People would be gravely mistaken if they viewed the Cardinal’s eBook as exclusively Catholic: He is addressing all human beings and underscoring the essential importance of their human dignity. He is appealing to the interior core of the human person, that capacity to choose the positive freedom that allows him to flourish precisely as a person. It is a journey worth undertaking.  As G. K. Chesterton once said, “If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars?”

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of Human Life International (HLI). He is Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He writes for HLI’s Truth and Charity Forum, where this article first appeared.


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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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