Donald DeMarco, Ph.D.

The fall of icons

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D.
By Donald DeMarco Ph.D.

May 30, 2012 ( - A writer who practices his art at home does not want to turn his place of residence into a library warehouse. And so, every so often, in order to maintain a dynamic equilibrium between acquisitions and dispersals, he must sift through his material and separate the transitory from the enduring. It is a practice akin to gardening in which one separates the weeds from the perennials. Some material remains stubbornly attached to time, while other material becomes the stuff of history. Or so one believes. It is not an exact science.

I was engaged in such sifting recently and enjoyed the serendipitous feeling of discovering literary items that seemed to improve with time. One item, however, arrested my attention in a jarring manner. It was the cover feature for the July 17, 1989 issue of Time: “Death By Gun: America’s Toll in One Typical Week.” Why would I hold onto this issue for more than two decades? I surmise that it was to remind me of the many mature souls who die violently before their time, their lives coming to an end in great numbers, like falling leaves. The words “before their time,” convey a piercing sadness: what could be, will not be. There can be no turning back.

Time dedicated a 28-page portfolio in this issue to memorialize the deaths of 464 Americans who were killed by gunfire over the course of a single week. In order to further humanize this harrowing statistic, it provided the faces of most of these casualties. Re-visiting this issue is like walking through a cemetery, but even more poignant because one knows that all these deaths were unnecessary. Each face evoked a shudder. The old Roman, Terence, was right: “I am man, I consider nothing human alien to me” (Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto). It is the nature of any genuine pro-life sensibility to moved by the death of anyone.

The more I studied the specific causes of these deaths, however, the more I realized that these tragedies were not so much the result of guns, but from a loss of the will to live and the inability of people to get along with each other. A large proportion of the deaths were by suicide. How many suicides took place that week, I wondered, in which the gun was not the instrument of death? The real enemy of life lurked deeper than the gun.

On page 18 I saw a face that I recognized. It belonged to Thomas Stallcup who, at age 67, turned a shotgun on himself. In his heyday he played shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds under the name Virgil Stallcup (what a great name!). I was once the proud owner of his baseball card. He was No. 108 in the 1951 Playball series. His portrait displayed the epitome of joy and confidence. The fact that his career stats were indeed modest (his lifetime batting average is .241) did not matter. To young baseball card collectors, he was an icon, a success story, a hero larger than life. And now, Time informs me, this erstwhile role model is now a grim statistic who has been absorbed by an even grimmer statistic — 464. The fact that the photo that Time selected was the same one that appeared on his card, made the pictorial announcement of his death morbidly ironic. Icons are not supposed to fall!

Hollywood stars are also regarded as larger than life, though the disparity between their image and their behavior is the embarrassing grist for tabloid journalism. We believed in Virgil Stallcup, we youthful, naïve baseball card collectors. It is shocking to learn that there came a time in his life when he may not have believed in himself.

Life, as the poet John Keats describes it, is “A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way from a tree’s summit” (Sleep and Poetry). The great paradox is that our greatest value, life, travels with fragility as its constant companion. Hence, the profound poignancy of human existence. “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea,” wrote G. K. Chesterton, “and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

Why, we may ask, does society view those who try to prevent suicide as humanitarians, and those who try to prevent abortion as fanatics? Both these cohorts are defending life. No “seamless garment” here. It is fair to conclude that our society is ambivalent about life. The fragility can be fearful, and the storms can be startling. And that’s the core of the problem. Life demands courage, support, faith and hope. It does not arrive without its challenges. And who amongst us can meet these challenges alone?

We have detached “choice” from community and are now paying a heavy price on a community level. We have been duped by the myth of autonomy. Yet, not even Major League baseball players are autonomous, though they may appear to be when looking invincible on their bubblegum cards. None of us is larger than life. Nonetheless, each of us is larger than being a mere individual. We are communal beings called to love each other. That’s not how we get ourselves on baseball cards, but that may be the best way to avoid being part of the kind of grim statistic that Time assembled more than two decades ago.

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. He is Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He writes for the Truth and Charity Forum.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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