Denise J. Hunnell, MD

Authentic compassion: that sad murder-suicide of the Snellings

Denise J. Hunnell, MD
By Denise Hunnell MD
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Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

The closing prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet was on my mind when I read about Charles D. Snelling and his wife Adrienne. The Snellings were deeply devoted to each other for over sixty years of marriage. They were blessed with five children and eleven grandchildren. They were both well educated and came from socially prominent families. Yet on March 29, 2012, Charles Snelling killed his wife and then took his own life. According to the Washington Post, Adrienne Snelling had Alzheimer’s disease and did not want to live after all hope of a “good life” was over.

She wrote to her children:

All of our lives, Dad and I have talked over our end of life beliefs. We are both in agreement that neither one of us wants to live after all reasonable hope for a good life is over. … We have had such a great life together and with all of you.

The portrayal of this murder-suicide as understandable, reasonable and even desirable is perhaps more distressing than the deaths themselves. Many of the online comments posted in response to the Washington Post article label the murder of Mrs. Snelling as euthanasia and declare it a work of mercy. They applaud the Snellings for seeking “death with dignity.”

But there is nothing dignified about either euthanasia or suicide, for each declares that life is utterly undignified and disposable. The value of the person is reduced to an arbitrary metric of productivity or pleasure. This utilitarian perspective holds that suffering diminishes the value of life and finds it is better to end life when suffering cannot be abolished.

Yet suffering is part of our human condition. In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI states:

We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater.

The word compassion actually comes from Latin, and means “to suffer together.” We show authentic compassion when we suffer with someone, not when we get rid of him because his suffering makes us uncomfortable. There is no doubt that it is agony for a husband to watch the woman he married fade before his eyes due to physical or mental disease. This infirm woman is far different from the woman he married. Yet this suffering provides an opportunity for heroic generosity. Offering love to this woman who can no longer reciprocate imitates the love of Christ who took our suffering, weaknesses and sins upon His shoulders when He carried the Cross. Christian charity calls us to embrace opportunities to selflessly care for the weak and vulnerable even though they may never repay our love and kindness.

Likewise, the afflicted must not view their declining self-sufficiency as a diminishment of their worth. Admittedly, it is both humbling and frightening to envision oneself with an addled mind, foul breath, unkempt hair and the most intimate details of daily hygiene being beyond our capabilities. Yet, such images should not drive us to despair. Rather, we should see this as a transition from doing to being: our purpose in life at that point is to be the recipient of compassion, generosity and love. Our disabilities can be the occasion for another’s sanctity.

What greater cause can we serve than enabling holiness in others? How sad if we reject this calling out of either pride or fear.

It would be unfair to minimize the challenges posed by both authentically compassionate care and the humble acceptance of dependency and blithely say, “Offer it up.” But Christ did assure us that whatever we do for the least of our brothers, we do for Him. Whenever we pick up our cross and suffer with the sick and disabled or we allow others to care for us in our own infirmity, it is as if we are Simon of Cyrene and sharing Christ’s cross on the road to Calvary.

Blessed Pope John Paul II expounded beautifully upon this in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris:

Following the parable of the Gospel, we could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one’s “I” on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer. The world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love; and in a certain sense man owes to suffering that unselfish love which stirs in his heart and actions.

Again looking at the words of Pope Benedict in Spe Salvi we see that authentic compassion, or suffering with another is not just an option to be encouraged, but rather our Christian duty:

The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society.

It is clear that a Culture of Life welcomes those who suffer. While we seek to alleviate suffering when we can, we recognize that sometimes suffering is inevitable. We are called to respond to those who suffer with generosity, empathy, holiness, and love. May the poignant prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet be answered, and may the despair of all those who suffer be replaced with hope.

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Denise Hunnell, MD, is a Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. She writes for HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum, where this article originally appeared.

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Dan Guernsey

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Where’s the tolerance in San Francisco?

Dan Guernsey
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April 20, 2015 (CardinalNewmanSociety.org) -- Proclaiming their values of tolerance, inclusion, and non-judgment, 100 “prominent” San Francisco Catholics last week took out a full-page ad in the newspaper to tell the Pope and the world that they will not tolerate or include and indeed soundly condemn the archbishop of San Francisco.

His crime? Following Canon law, which requires him to ensure that “Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life” (Canon Law, 803, § 2). He is also condemned for following the teachings of the U.S. Bishops, who have consistently taught that “all members of the faculty, at least by their example, are an integral part of the process of religious education…. Teachers’ life style and character are as important as their professional credentials” (1976, Teach Them, p. 7), and the bishops’ National Directory for Catechesis which requires Catholic school leaders to “Recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals” (2005, National Directory for Catechesis, p. 231, 233).

Archbishop Cordileone and all U.S. bishops are bound by Canon law and Church teaching to do what he is doing: ensuring that Catholic schools in his diocese are Catholic. And indeed, he is not alone in this effort. He is joined by similar significant efforts underway by bishops in the dioceses of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Santa Rosa, Honolulu and Oakland, among others.  He is just currently the biggest target in a bastion of the fully-empowered tyrannical Left who will not tolerate any deviance from their liberal orthodoxy.

The sexual dogmas of the liberal orthodoxy are so confused and so consuming that any other understanding of the nature and purpose of human sexuality and marriage, even those views held by the vast majority of humanity throughout all ages, must be condemned and ultimately silenced. To state the clear and unequivocal Catholic teaching that the only proper and moral exercise of the marital act is exclusively in the context of a committed natural marriage in the service of both love and life is viewed by some as a type of hate crime.

These “anti-bully” bullies are doing what bullies do. They are seeking to gain in their own social status and self-concept by belittling, shaming and humiliating someone outside their local social norm. As the authors admit, the social sexual norms in the Bay Area are completely supportive of sex outside of natural marriage. Those who control the culture are dead set on humiliating and eliminating anyone who would not fully support their power and the status quo.

Many other dioceses have stipulations in their employee handbooks and in their contracts related to the need to uphold Catholic teachings in word and action as terms of employment. This is nothing very new. A challenge has occurred more recently, because of the rapid deterioration of social norms related to human sexuality, and because so many Catholics and Catholic school employees are so poorly catechized regarding human sexuality and complex but critical human life issues.

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It is possible that some employees can unwittingly jeopardize their employment by running afoul of the expectations of their employment agreements. In a preemptive effort to avoid such suffering and embarrassment, a number of dioceses are striving to clarify and publicize these expectations of Catholic teachers in a spirit of truth and charity and to ensure that folks do not unwittingly join in an evangelical enterprise they cannot advance, support or—even worse—work against. Charity demands clarity and truth. Justice to one’s employees demands clarity and truth as well. Justice to ones’ employer demands that one should not work against his interests or intent. The more clearly we can all be about what we intend and believe, the better.

It is also important in a pluralistic society, where we should not all have to agree with each other on complex issues and matters of faith, that we leave room for dissent and marginalized thinking and thinkers—especially in the realm of religious thought. Our country was founded by religious dissidents whose religious views and practices did not fit in with the dominant cultures and beliefs of the powerful in their home countries. They came here seeking freedom of religion—freedom to practice their faith as they saw fit without governmental persecution. Archbishop Cordileone has sought no retribution or even disparagement against those in San Francisco who clearly disagree with the Church; he only seeks to protect his right not to hire them to do the work of the Church, a reasonable and just freedom.

While these wayward Catholics seek to drive their archbishop out of San Francisco in the name of the dominant culture, but not the Catholic faith, we must be aware that many more of us are endangered from attack as well in this rapidly declining culture. These same bullies demanding that Archbishop Cordileone lose his job as a bishop for teaching the truths of the Catholic faith will next deem it critical that Catholics lose their jobs for agreeing with him and the Church.

Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society

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Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 7, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Rubio: I’d attend a gay ‘wedding’. Walker: I have. Santorum: I wouldn’t. Cruz: Pass.

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Are you now, or were you ever, willing to attend a same-sex “wedding”? That seems to be the question lighting up the Republican presidential field, as GOP hopefuls who may one day have their finger on the nuclear button are asked the query over and over again.

So far, the Republican hopefuls' answers are yes, no, I have (sort of), and...unclear.

The media began by asking Florida's U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, if he would attend a homosexual 'wedding' ceremony, especially if he were invited by a relative or close friend.

“If there’s somebody that I love that’s in my life, I don’t necessarily have to agree with their decisions or the decisions they’ve made to continue to love them and participate in important events,” Rubio told Jorge Ramos of Fusion TV's America program.

Rubio, who became the third Republican to throw his hat in the ring last week, likened attending a same-sex “marriage” to attending the second marriage of a divorced friend. “If someone gets divorced, I’m not going to stop loving them or having them a part of our lives,” he said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – who has not yet formally announced his candidacy yet is considered a front-runner – said that he attended a same-sex reception, but not a ceremony. “I haven’t been to a [homosexual] 'wedding,' that’s true,” he said, “even though my position on marriage is still that’s defined between a man and a woman, and I support the Constitution of the state.”

“But for someone I love, we’ve been at a reception,” he added.

A series of candidates and potential candidates have faced similar hypotheticals.

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, a libertarian-leaning Republican who strongly supported Mitt Romney in previous primaries, asked two contenders “a meta-question.” Is it more important to know whether a candidate would attend a homosexual wedding or whether a president will “destroy the Islamic State before it throws hundreds of thousands of gay men to their deaths”?

Former Pennsylvania senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has said he is considering another presidential run, said it was “amazing that the Left has not risen up” against Islamic Shari'a law. “They don't focus their energy on anything except the attempt to gather more power in this country by using this issue of same-sex 'marriage' as a tool to do that.”

Then he addressed the direct question: Would he attend a gay “marriage” ceremony?

“No, I would not,” he replied curtly. When asked why not, he said, “As a person of my faith, that would be something that would be a violation of my faith. I would love them and support them, but I would not participate in that ceremony.”

Ted Cruz, the first Republican to say he will seek the GOP's presidential nomination next year, gave a more roundabout reply.

“That's part of the 'gotcha' game that the mainstream media plays, where they come after Republicans on every front, and it's designed to caricature Republicans to make them look stupid or evil or crazy or extreme,” he said. “Sadly, most media players are not actual, objective journalists. They're active partisan players.”

He called reporters “the praetorian guard protecting the Obama administration” now gearing up to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Cruz said he had not attended a gay “marriage” ceremony but made no commitments about the future.

“Well, I will tell you, I haven’t faced that circumstance,” he said. “I have not had a loved one have a gay wedding. You know, at the end of the day, what the media tries to twist the question of marriage into is they try to twist it into a battle of emotions and personalities. So they say, 'Gosh, any conservative must hate gays.'”

The Texas senator said that he is a conservative Christian and also “a constitutionalist.”

“What we’ve seen in recent years from the Left is the federal government and unelected federal judges imposing their own policy preferences to tear down the marriage laws of the states.”

“And so if someone is running for public office, it is perfectly legitimate to ask them their views on whether they’re willing to defend the Constitution, which leaves marriage to the states, or whether they want to impose their own extreme policy views like so many on the left are doing, like Barack Obama does, like Hillary Clinton does,” he said.

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Lesbian teacher Pam Strong teaches a classroom of elementary students at Ellengale Public School on Day of Pink in 2012. http://etfovoice.ca
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Lesbian teacher: How I convince kids to accept gay ‘marriage’, starting at 4-years-old

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By Pete Baklinski
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Some of the pro-gay children's books Strong uses with her students. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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The chart Strong uses to show her students that same-sex partnerships are the same as male-female families. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews

TORONTO, April 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A primary grade lesbian teacher from an Ontario public school revealed in a workshop at a homosexual activist conference for teachers earlier this month how she uses her classroom to convince children as young as four to accept homosexual relationships.

“And I started in Kindergarten. What a great place to start. It was where I was teaching. So, I was the most comfortable there,” Pam Strong said at the conference, attended by LifeSiteNews.

The conference, hosted by the homosexual activist organization Jer’s Vision, now called the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, focused on the implementation of Bill 13 in Ontario classrooms. Bill 13, called by critics the ‘homosexual bill of rights,’ passed in June 2012 and gave students the right to form pro-gay clubs in their school, including Catholic ones, using the name Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).

Strong, who is in an open relationship with another woman and who has been a teacher for about five years, focused her workshop on what she called the “power of conversation” for promoting LGBTQ issues in an elementary classroom. She began her talk by relating how she reacted the first time one of her students called another student ‘gay’ as a putdown.

“With [the principal’s] encouragement, we decided that I would go from class to class and talk about what ‘gay’ means, what does ‘LGBTQ’ mean, what do ‘I’ mean,” she told about 40 attendees, all educators, at her workshop.

Strong related how she began with the junior kindergarten class.

“And I read a [pro-gay child’s] book [King and King], and I started to realize that conversations can be very difficult, and they can have the most power when they are the most difficult.”

“But difficult conversations are a part of what we do as teachers, right? And when these conversations are properly supported by teachers within the safety of the classroom, they provide a rich environment for our students as they unpack these complex social issues and they reflect on their own preconceptions, right, of gender, sexuality, love, all these different things,” she said.

Strong related that as she was reading “King and King” in the junior kindergarten class as a springboard to discuss her sexuality with the kids, she got to the part where the two princes become ‘married’ when one of the boys suddenly shouted out: “They can’t do that! They can’t get married. They’re two boys.”

Recounted Strong: “And I said, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, they can. It’s right here on page 12.”

To which the boy replied, according to Strong: “Oh, yeah, I know Mrs. Strong, but that’s just a story. That’s not real life.”

“And I said: ‘It happens in real life too. I am married to a woman. I am gay. And I am in love with my wife.”

Strong said the young children “just all kind of went silent.” She then told them: “That may seem different to you, how many of you have heard of that before?”

“Not one hand went up,” she related. “And so I said: ‘That may seem different to you, but we’re not that different. Would you like to know about what I do with my family?”

“Yeah, tell us,” she recounted the children enthusiastically saying. 

“I said, you know, we take our kids to the park. I swing them on swings,” she related, telling conference attendees that she could share things she did with her own children that “mostly likely all of their families did with them.”

Then she told the children: “We laugh together. We go grocery shopping together. I read to them. I tickle them, sometimes until they scream and laugh and when they cry, I hug them until they stop.” 

Strong said that at that point, the boy who had used the word ‘gay’ looked and her and said: “Well, you’re a family.”

“And I said, yeah, we are,” she related. “And off I go to the next classroom.”

Strong said that she went from “class to class to class and continued with these conversations, and they were very powerful.”

‘It’s normal in my classroom’

Strong related an incident that happened last fall involving a new boy who had recently entered her grade 5 classroom. The new boy had not yet been made aware of Strong’s sexual preference for other women.

“All my class is very used to who I am. My family picture is very proudly in my room now. On Mondays they quite often will say, ‘What did you do with your wife?’ It’s normal in my classroom.”

Strong said that a conversation between herself and the students came up one day where it was mentioned that she was a lesbian. The new boy put his hands over his mouth and said, according to Strong: “Oh, my God, I think I’m going to puke.”

“As I took the abuse — personally, as an individual – of those words, I also saw half of my class look at me with incredible concern. One student who was right in front of me already had tears in her eyes. And I noticed several other students who were looking at him. They were just very, very upset with this kid,” she related.

Strong said the boy instantly became aware that “something he had said had just created this unbelievable tension in the room.” She related how she addressed the boy, telling him: “I think that what you might not be aware of is that I am gay, and I am married to a woman, and my family has two moms.’”

“His eyes just started darting around, and he was incredibly uncomfortable,” she related.

“I looked at the other kids and I said: ‘Ok guys, what I want to ask you is: Am I upset with him?’ And the one little girl in my class put up her hand — that doesn’t usually get into these conversations very much in my classroom — and she said, ‘Mrs Strong, I know you’re not upset with him, because he hasn’t had the benefit of our conversations.”

“And I looked at my little friend, my ‘new’ friend, and I said: ‘But, we’re going to have one now,’” she related.

Strong said that she then directed her class to the board and asked them to write everything she had told them related to LGBTQ.

“And my class all of a sudden popped up. ‘LGBTQ’ was on the board, ‘lesbian,’ and all the different words coming out there. And I sat back and said, ‘Let’s review.’ So, the last year and a half of ‘inclusive’ education came alive in my classroom.”

Strong told her workshop attendees that her “new little friend” is now a devoted champion of diversity. She boasted how he was the one in her class to count down the days to the pro-homosexual Day of Pink that took place earlier this month. When Strong took a photo of all the children wearing pink shirts in her classroom, she said the boy requested to be in the front.

“For me, that is the power of conversations. That’s the power of sharing our stories,” she said.

LGBTQ classroom ‘conversation starters’

Strong called it “key” to develop a “positive classroom culture” — and she mentioned it often takes months — before getting into what she called “difficult conversations” with students about convincing students of the normality of her sexual preference for women.

She mentioned how she spends time “building a common vocabulary” in her classroom of words like “stereotype, prejudice, discrimination” so her students will be able to more readily conform to her pro-LGBTQ message.

“Sometimes with these big ideas there are also very big words that are very hard to understand. I find that whether it’s kindergarten, right up to grade six, visuals help a lot,” she said.

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The lesbian teacher has amassed a collection of “conversation starters” that she says helps get her started when presenting to her students the LGBTQ message. She said pro-gay children’s books are one of her favorites.

“I use current events, news articles, advertisement are great for gender, especially with Kindergarten kids, pink and girl toys and all the rest of it. Commercials are great, I use one right now, the Honey Maid commercial.” The 2014 “Dad & Papa" commercial depicts two male same-sex partners engaging with their children in normal family activities such as making s’mores, eating dinner around the table, and walking in the park.

Strong says she watches the commercial with her students up to three times, asking them to make a list of all the similarities between the gay-partnership and their own families.

“Of course they think it’s going to be so different, [that] this family is going to be so different,” she said.

Strong said the kids notice dozens of similarities, but usually only one difference, namely that the commercial has “two dads.” Other than this, she said the students “could not find one thing in that commercial that was different than their own families.” In this way she convinces the kids that a gay-partnership is identical to a family made up of a male and female. Strong called it a “fantastic lesson for kids of all ages.”

“There was nothing left for me to teach at the end of it. It was a huge learning for some kids,” she said.

‘Recruiting children? You bet we are’

Though homosexual activists their efforts in the schools as a way of combatting bullying, a number of homosexual activists have highlighted that the movement’s goal is in fact to “indoctrinate” children into accepting the normalcy of the homosexual lifestyle.

“I am here to tell you: All that time I said I wasn't indoctrinating anyone with my beliefs about gay and lesbian and bi and trans and queer people? That was a lie,” wrote Canadian gay activist Sason Bear Bergman, a woman who identifies as a transgender man, in a March 2015 piece titled “I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children Into My LGBTQ Agenda (And I'm Not a Bit Sorry).” Bergman holds nothing back, stating she wants to make children “like us” even if that “goes against the way you have interpreted the teachings of your religion.”

In 2011 U.S. gay activist Daniel Villarreal penned a column for Queerty.com stating that the time had come for the homosexual lobby to admit to “indoctrinating” schoolchildren to accept homosexuality.

“Why would we push anti-bullying programs or social studies classes that teach kids about the historical contributions of famous queers unless we wanted to deliberately educate children to accept queer sexuality as normal?”

“We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality. In fact, our very future depends on it. Recruiting children? You bet we are,” he added.

Homosexual activist Michael Swift wrote in 1987 in the Gay Community News that school children would become explicit targets for homosexual indoctrination. “We shall seduce them in your schools…They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us,” he wrote at the time. 

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