Mercy and defending life

My dear friends in Christ,

The inauguration of the Year of Mercy should be for all apostles and defenders of human life an impetus to live more faithfully and fully the message of the Gospel of Life in which Christ our Saviour calls us to be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.  (Lk.6:36)

Whenever one faithfully practices the Christian life by acting mercifully towards one’s neighbour, one’s concern actually encompasses Christ personally (Mt.25:40).  As such, any act of mercy becomes fruitful and blossoms into eternal life.  In order to be merciful, it is necessary to know specifically in what mercy consists.  St. Augustine defines mercy as a “heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to help him if we can.”

By exhorting us to be as merciful as is our Heavenly Father, Christ invites us to take a path, which is intrinsic to the nature of mercy, that is, a path leading to divine greatness manifested by our generosity in dealing with others.  A simple act of mercy, then, may bring solace in a time of great need. (Prov.22:9)  Since this generosity is, however, a characteristic chiefly belonging to persons of influence, authority or power, it is a distinctive feature of God, who being all powerful, manifests His goodness by being, Himself, all merciful. (Ex.34:6-7)

The ultimate formula for governing our lives is found in God’s greatest commandment, which obligates us to love Him above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. (Mt.22:35-40)  The guidelines for keeping this greatest commandment are the avoidance of doing evil by observing the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-17) and earnestly doing good by practising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  St Paul, while encouraging the performance of the works of mercy, nevertheless, pointed out that they should originate from a love for God Himself: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”.  (Col.3:12-14)

This love for God, which consists in keeping His commandments (Jn.14:15) finds concrete expression in the seven corporal and in the seven spiritual works of mercy.  These specifically are

The corporal works of mercy

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To shelter the homeless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To visit those in prison;
  • To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To comfort the sorrowful;
  • To exhort sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.

Both the natural and the divine positive law impose a strict duty on us to carry out the works of mercy.  Whilst the natural law requirement is based upon the principle that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us (Mt.7:12), the positive divine law comes from Christ under the supreme penalty of eternal damnation (Mt.25:41).  The corporal works were each directly and explicitly stated by Christ.  The spiritual works, however, are all implied in scripture and deal with a distress whose relief is of even greater imperative as well as more effective for the grand purpose of our creation, which is, eternal life.

The intrinsic character of both the spiritual and corporal works reveals that ‘we are our brother’s keeper’. (Eph.4:25)  In the case of the spiritual works, Christ enjoins fraternal correction (Mt.18:15) as well as the forgiveness of injuries (Mt.6:14).  A certain degree of tact and prudence is required in fulfilling the first four of the spiritual works as each case depends largely on the degree of distress to be aided, and the competency or condition of the one to whom the responsibility falls. (Col.4:6)  However, the last three, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly and to pray for the living and the dead, are within the reach of all and, consequently, one may not dispense oneself on the plea that one lacks some special array of gifts required for their observance.

In this Year of Mercy, all of us, as apostles for the Gospel of Life, are invited to redouble our efforts in order that the teachings of the Gospel of Life may bear greater fruit.  For example, today, there are many people in our world who are genuinely misled the ignorant in regard to the life issues; they are unable to accept that abortion is nothing other than child killing and, that euthanasia, fatuously called called mercy killing, is murder in disguise.  Imbued with a love of God, we must courageously embrace the task of instructing and guiding our ill-informed brethren.  Likewise, we should counsel the doubtful, that is, those, for instance, who are considering IVF or surrogacy and are uncertain as to what is the correct thing to do.  True compassion requires that we give comfort to those who are depressed or are grieving because of mistakes they may have made, such as those, for example, who are contemplating suicide, or whose suffering arises from post abortion trauma or a broken marriage. (2Cor.7:10)  It is always difficult to call sin by its proper name but, in charity, we must encourage the sinner who may be trapped in a situation of sexual cohabitation, of a same sex relationship or, of pornography addiction to look to Christ as their model and move towards a life of virtue (Jam.5:20).

In bearing witness to the teachings of Christ, we should be prepared to bear opposition patiently and, no doubt, we will suffer misunderstanding, abuse and even persecution for our witness to the Gospel of Life. (2Tim.2:10)  Whatever offences and injustices we experience we should, in imitation of Our Lord (Lk.23:34; Acts.7:60), forgive readily and willing.

The application of the teachings of Christ in regard to the corporal works of mercy may include contributing to or providing a safe refuge or home for women in a crisis pregnancy situation.  Equally, by visiting and praying outside places where pre-born children are killed is a work of mercy, regardless of the outcome.  Praying for the living and the dead includes those who, while living are spiritually dead. (Apoc.3:1) That is, we should pray for the conversion of those working in the industries that promote the Culture of Death.

In all of this, it must not be forgotten that Mercy is Love’s response to suffering and that the works of mercy demand more than a humanitarian basis if they are to serve as instruments in bringing about our eternal salvation.  For the works of mercy to be salvific for us, their animating spirit must belong to the supernatural order, that is, must be rooted in the love of God above all things.

May the Mother of mercy and Refuge of sinners intercede for us that we may in this Year of Mercy courageously live the message of the Gospel of Life more faithfully and fully for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. (Is.56:1)

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Planned Parenthood shooting deplorable

Family Life International NZ deplores the shooting which took place outside Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in the United States on Friday.

Three people were killed when a man, Robert Lewis Dear, allegedly opened gunfire outside the Planned Parenthood facility.  Another nine were injured.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims killed by this senseless act, and also to those who have been injured” said Family Life International NZ’s spokesperson, Michelle Kaufman.

According to their website, the facility performs abortions up until 18 weeks and 6 days.

It is not known what the motive for the shooting was at this time.  However, if it was opposition, even in part, to abortion, then Family Life International NZ wants to make it clear that “violence in order to oppose violence is never, ever right.”

“Abortion brutally takes the life of a pre-born child and it harms women, it harms families, but our response must always be one of love, of concern and care.”

Family Life International NZ, which organises vigils outside of abortion facilities, wants to emphasise that their approach is peaceful and prayerful.  “We want to reach out to pregnant mothers who think they have no other choice than to have an abortion” said Mrs Kaufman.

“Often, abortion seems to be the best solution at the time, that once it is done they’ll be able to get on with life.”

While that might be true for some, and often relief is the initial feeling, the ongoing repercussions of the abortion often stay with a woman for a life-time.   Some will suffer physically, many will suffer emotionally.

In 2014, the Abortion Supervisory Committee reports that six New Zealand women had their uterus perforated during the abortion procedure; 27 women haemorrhaged;   and 41 suffered other complications.

Family Life International NZ provides support for pregnant women facing an unexpected pregnancy so that they are empowered to follow their dreams and choose life for their baby.  The organisation also walks with women who regret their abortion and now seek healing and forgiveness.

Kaufman also emphasises that they wish to reach out to abortion facility workers, and hospital staff who assist in whatever way in the abortion process.  “People who work in abortion facilities matter too.  We want them to know that we care about their well-being.”

Abortion is a violent act.  Violence in order to oppose this violent atrocity will never be the answer.

Celebrating the family

Celebrating the FamilyOn Sunday, more than 100 people gathered in Auckland for an afternoon to celebrate and pray for the family.

The event was organised by Family Life International NZ to recognise the importance of the natural family as a vital cell in society, which must be protected, celebrated and nurtured.

Beginning at the Carmelite Monastery in Royal Oak, the afternoon kicked off with activities for the children – the highlight being a large skipping rope (it seems some things never change!).  There were a few short speeches about marriage, the family as a domestic church, the World Meeting of Families and the Synod on the Family.

Families had the opportunity to make their own family banner, decorating it with symbols and words that held significance for them.  Some families had already prepared a family banner which they brought along.

Then, as a public witness, both to the faith and to the family, those present participated in a rosary procession from the Carmelite Monastery to St Therese’s Catholic Church in Three Kings.  The procession drew attention from passers-by who were curious as to what was happening.  A number of people beeped their car horns in solidarity as they saw the beautiful banner with the icon of the Holy Family.

The day concluded with Benediction and a sausage sizzle with time for fellowship.

Sunday was Mission Sunday and Fr John Airey, CSsR mentioned prior to Benediction that the most important mission we have is to protect and speak up for life.

It was also the day that a married couple, Louis and Zélie Martin, were declared Saints by the Church.  Best known for their role as parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Saints Louis and Zélie Martin were are also wonderful examples of pro-life and family witness.   St Thérèse was a Carmelite, bringing the significance of the event into sharper focus.

Marriage and family is under attack in these days.  We must not be afraid to bear witness to God’s plan, while at the same time acknowledging our own brokenness and in obedience and humility, following the Church’s teaching on marriage and family while asking for God’s grace.

As St John Paul II reminds us in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (#59)

“The dignity and responsibility of the Christian family as the domestic Church can be achieved only with God’s unceasing aid, which will surely be granted if it is humbly and trustingly petitioned in prayer.”

Let us not be afraid to ask God for His help as we celebrate and respect the wonderful gift of family.

IMG_1342Celebrating the Family Banners

 

 

 

David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill

Say no to euthanasiaDavid Seymour, the sole MP for the political party ACT, submitted a new “End of Life Choice” Member’s Bill to Parliament on Wednesday.

The submission was not a surprise as he had announced earlier this year, after the high profile High Court case of Lecretia Seales, that this was a project he was working on.

Seales, who had terminal brain cancer, had sought approval from the Court to have her doctor assist her suicide.  However, the judge decided that it was not his role, but that of Parliament to decide whether euthanasia and/or assisted suicide should be legalised.

This new End of Life Choice Bill will, if it is selected from the ballot, force MPs to discuss the issue and decide if this is a path they want New Zealand to take.

“This Bill gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying” the explanatory note says.

Using emotional language, the Bill talks about “compassion” being the “motivation” so that “people who so choose, and are eligible under this Bill, to end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.”

It is attempting to hide the reality of what it is legalizing by using emotional and illusionary language.  Using terms like assisted dying, compassion and choice appeal to the sentiment, to the emotion, and not to reason.

What Seymour is proposing is a law which allows doctors to assist someone to commit suicide or to actually directly kill their patient!

A doctor’s role is one of care for their patients – not one of deliberate killing.

The Bill, if enacted, would allow people over the age of 18 to request euthanasia or assisted suicide if they:

  • Have a terminal illness and natural death is likely within six months or
  • Have a medical condition that is “grievous and irremediable”
  • Is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability
  • Has “unbearable suffering” that is not able to be relieved or is considered “tolerable”
  • Has the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of what they are requesting.

Like its predecessor, Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill, these qualifications would allow anyone to put forward a case.

Of particular concern is that a person can have a medical condition that is “grievous and irremediable” and be eligible for assisted suicide/euthanasia.  This is exacerbated by the clause that says the person must have “unbearable suffering” which cannot be relieved or is perceived as not “tolerable”.

People with any number of conditions could fall under this category…  Those with Multiple Sclerosis, depression, diabetes.

And if you think that is far fetched we only need to look to these cases in Belgium to see how the law can be stretched to allow for any case:

Seymour claims that “analysis of overseas jurisdictions where assisted dying is permitted demonstrates that concerns, including concerns about abuse of the vulnerable, have not materialized and that risks can be properly managed through appropriate legislative safeguards.”

But the safeguards only make people feel better about the legislation.  They don’t work in practice to protect the vulnerable at all.

A timely example of how vulnerable people can be at risk occurred just days ago when a 12-year-old girl in Spain was starved to death by her parents.  The law in that region allows “every person suffering from irreversible, incurable diseases, and in a terminal state, the right to reject surgical procedures, including hydration, feeding and artificial resuscitation.”

In Belgium, euthanasia is now legal for all children and also for patients with dementia.  In the Netherlands, under the Groningen Protocol, babies under the age of one and often presenting with Spina Bifida or hydrocephals, can be killed.

Also of serious concern is the clause that states “a person is immune from liability in civil or criminal proceedings for acts or omissions in good faith and without negligence in providing or intending to provide assisted dying.”  This clause makes it very difficult for anyone who has acted outside the law to be brought to justice.

This is the fourth attempt by MPs to legalise euthanasia and/or assisted suicide in New Zealand.  The first attempt was in 1995.  That Bill was defeated at its first reading 61 to 29.  A second attempt in 2003 was also defeated at the first reading 60/58.

A third Bill, also called End of Life Choice, was introduced in 2012 By Labour MP Maryan Street.  However, she was forced to withdraw the Bill from the ballot in 2013, as it was seen by her party to be too contentious a topic to be debated in an election year.

While the new End of Life Choice Bill has many similarities to Street’s original, it is not the same Bill.

It comes at a time with the Health Select Committee is investigating public attitudes toward euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The terms of reference for that inquiry are:

  • The factors that contribute to the desire to end one’s life
  • The effectiveness of services and support available to those who desire to end their own lives
  • The attitudes of New Zealanders towards the ending of one’s life and the current legal situation
  • International experiences

All New Zealander’s are able to make a submission on this need to be made prior to Monday 1st February 2016.

Submissions can be made to:

Committee Secretariat
Health
Parliament Buildings
Wellington

Phone: +64 4 817 9541
Fax: +64 4 499 0486

Submission can also be made online.  Details on how to do this can be found on the NZ Parliament website.

The value of accepting suffering

Alison Davis and Colin Harte
Alison Davis and Colin Harte

 

One of the most inspirational people I have ever met came in the form of a very fragile woman, Alison Davis.

What a grace and wonderful moment to meet her and her devoted caregiver of more than twenty years, Colin Harte.   Motivational speakers and leaders of all manner and kind can speak eloquent words and bring societal change about through their social and verbal skills.  They can take thousands and even millions of people on a journey in their life that brings a perceived hope and bring change to the world in which they live.  BUT this lady, reached to the very soul of my being.   The only other person in my life having this profound effect was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The very moment I first met Alison, I knew deep within my soul that I was in the presence of a very holy and very grace-filled woman.  Alison suffered with many illnesses in her life including Spina Bifida and being confined to a wheel chair all her life. She required a caregiver – a companion – twenty four hours, seven days a week to assist her with her personal cares.

Alison’s story is a testament to the real value of accepting suffering in our lives.  Alison was always a very joyful and thoughtful woman, full of love and compassion for all those she met. Despite being in constant pain and discomfort a lot of the time and despite not having any physical independence in her life, Alison championed the rights of the disabled and handicapped to be respected and assisted where needed.  Above all she fought for the rights of her fellow disabled community to have the right to life.  She founded the UK Disability Rights group, No less Human and travelled internationally (including New Zealand), to speak on disability rights and against voluntary euthanasia.

Alison grew up as an atheist.  She wanted to die on several occasions and almost succeeded. It was the care and determination of a true lady friend who helped her break the cycle of wanting to die. She would sit with Alison, removing all instruments within reach that she could use to harm herself.  It was this friend who persisted and who remained a faithful and true advocate for Alison’s life, that eventually gave her the hope and trust and a desire to live her life in a happy and meaningful way.

Then Alison was blessed with a new caregiver, who was destined for the priesthood.  He was to take care of Alison for just a few weeks, but continued on, staying at Alison’s home and providing her with the most loving an devoted care imaginable until Alison died in 2013.  She was 58 years old.

In the midst of intense suffering, Alison discovered the existence of God and His great love for her. She became a Catholic.  She accepted completely the Catholic Church as the repository of truth and the giver of life.  With the integrity of much experience she spoke of suffering with Christ as “the greatest privilege possible in the world.”

We had become good friends from the start, and the absolute love and joy given out from Alison to our own three special needs children surpassed any eloquent inspiring preacher or speaker I have ever heard.

From a wretched, unhappy, pain ridden young woman, who had despaired and had so much wanted to die… to a woman of hope, joy, and expectation and simplicity of heart.  Alison had a very intelligent and great mind, and spent her life writing and  speaking to advocate for the most vulnerable, in particular those in danger of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

I will always remember Alison for her amazing capacity to love – always with a gentle smile, regardless of the suffering she was enduring internally.  In her weakness she was very strong.

Whom do they serve?

It appears to be generally understood by the public that aborted foetal cells are absolutely necessary for research. There is a benefit to taking the life of a child – all for the greater good we are told. “Similar to organ donation” would be a comparable explanation to justify and placate the curious. But is this really the case; that using the cells, tissue and body parts of an unborn child is advantageous to medical research? After all, who wants to see somebody suffer with a debilitating illness such as Parkinsons when there’s a potential cure just waiting to be found? It could even sound cruel to deny an expert the opportunity to investigate a pathway that is “life-saving”.

Underpinning though unspoken is that in order for a life to be saved or a cure for an unbearable illness found, a life must be taken. A life for a life; somebody gives their life in order to theoretically save the life of another. Generally, we refer to a person who makes the decision to sacrifice their life for another, as heroic. But with an unborn child, they do not make this decision. This brutal decision is made for them; the sacrificial lambs.

Apart from taking these claims at face-value, does this assertion hold up to scrutiny? Based on the strength and regularity of these claims, there should be overwhelming evidence to validate the advantage of utilising aborted tissue. According to Deb Vinnedge, Exec. Director of Children of God for Life, research on foetal tissue has not produced any great advances in medicine. She adds that utilising moral sources accomplishes the same result as using harvested foetal tissue to the extent that there is not one single use of aborted foetal tissue or cells that has not been accomplished using moral sources as well. The question that arises is why do these research organisations persist in utilising these “sources of promise”?

Research on aborted foetal tissue generally falls into 3 areas: Transplantation to treat diseases and injuries; Development of vaccines and Basic biology research. Foetal research is not new, having being conducted from as early as the 1930’s. What is chilling is that this research was conducted on foetuses at gestational ages at which science now proves, feel pain. Furthermore, conditions that were treated unsuccessfully by aborted tissue, are now routinely treated by adult stem cells.

However, most widely-known is the usage of aborted cells in the manufacture of vaccines. Popular claims are that this area has been the main benefit to society as a result of foetal tissue research. Again Deb Vinnedge states that with the exception of chickenpox, moral alternatives are available for every other vaccine – derived from animal cell lines. Even with the recent Ebola virus scare, statements were made that foetal tissue was “absolutely critical” for the development of a vaccine. Firstly, we note again the use of emotive language by an ‘expert’.  Secondly and most important, this claim proved to be incorrect in that Merck developed a vaccine derived from an animal cell line which reports state, showed promise in clinical trials. In fact, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has ruled out the usage of foetal cells to make vaccines “now or in the future”. So why do these scientist persist? Not hard to fathom the reason why – money.

A recent NZ Herald article states that prior to research, a mother must give consent for the aborted tissue to be used. Further; that the matter can’t be raised until after she has decided to have an abortion. One wonders if the abortion-facility staff ever let mothers know that some of their children will be deliberately born alive and then killed so as to harvest their organs; this claim made by a lab technician in the recent video a first-hand witness to these barbaric acts. This claim is not isolated with research documenting these horrific acts since the 1930’s – including development of the polio vaccine.

I am reminded of how children especially, were killed in certain parts of the world and their organs harvested for the diabolic activity of ‘black magic’. The organs were removed many a time with the child still alive and used to make potions or even to bewitch another person. Sounds far-fetched? This diabolical targetting of one person over another has recently publicly surfaced in the USA.

It is said that the potency of these diabolic concoctions are directly linked to whether a child is alive or not. In other words, the screams of a child as their organs are removed increases the effectiveness of these diabolic ‘medicines’. As if to reinforce the diabolical aspect of abortion, a former satanist states that he had participated in ritual abortions, diabolic sacrifices – including those inside abortion facilities. Our Lords words “Some demons can only be driven out through prayer and fasting” remind us of the urgent need to pray outside abortion facilities.

As the late and holy Fr John Hardon says, abortion is a pagan sacrifice. Recall that when pagan societies were Christianised; when the Light of Christ entered their land, sacrifices of children to false gods was eradicated. Fast-forward to the 21st century, paganism is back in vogue. And darkness descends; child sacrifice, again to insatiable blood-thirsty ‘gods’. When Christ is dethroned from society, He is replaced by idol worship. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI pointed to the modern idols of individualism and materialistic consumerism as holding sway. He affirms that within this ‘mindset’, a person is devalued and if devalued, one could add, ready to be exploited or treated as less than human. Vulnerable elements of society then become as the title of David Daleiden’s project is known, “Human Capital”.

 

 

The dignity of the human person, abortion… and us

Life Rocks!The ongoing scandal in the United States over Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby organs has caused many to sit up and take notice to the tragedy of abortion.  Five US States have defunded Planned Parenthood in the wake of this scandal.  People are now questioning whether they can really say they are “pro-choice” after seeing the reality of the abortion industry, and the harsh truth that abortion kills a human being – a child.

The videos which have been made public are powerful witnesses to the humanity and the dignity of the human person, from the very first moment of existence.   A dignity that many today wish to cast aside in the name of convenience, autonomy, choice…

The rhetoric has become old.

When people wish to seek the truth, they will find it.

I believe that people need to actually see what abortion does to an unborn child to shake us out of our complacency.   Obviously there is a time and a place, and a way to do this that shows sensitivity.

Abortion is horrific.  It is heinous.  Arms and legs are torn off, tiny fingers and toes are visible among the crushed and mangled bodies.  It is a sight that no one wants to see, or even read about, because it is something so gruesome that it cannot be forgotten.  But they are images that give us fire in our belly to speak up in the face of this grave injustice.  It is a reality that cannot be ignored.

So what does this mean for us?

It means that every individual, every family, every Church, every person of good will must seek to make a stand for what is right and true in the face of this grave injustice.  As St John Paul II exhorted us: we must never tire, we must never give up, we must never be discouraged and we must not be afraid.

We have an obligation to speak up for our pre-born brothers and sisters – the most vulnerable among us – simply because they have dignity.

We must recognize the dignity of every human person from the very first moment of existence to the very natural end.  Every life is worthwhile.  Every life is precious.

A final word of encouragement from St John Paul II:

“Life will triumph: this is a sure hope for us. Yes, life will triumph because truth, goodness, joy and true progress are on the side of life. God, who loves life and gives it generously, is on the side of life.”

Let us pray with hope and work with a great sense of urgency for the sake of our brothers and sisters!