Building a culture of life with love

Imagine a culture where every human life was respected from his or her natural conception until their natural end.  Imagine how it would be if the natural family was upheld as the essential element of a stable society and the best protector of children.  Imagine the day when every person works in unity for the common good.

Today, in the name of freedom, so many are working against life, faith and family, and the culture of life that we work for seems so difficult to attain.

Just this week NZ Doctor revealed the results of their survey on euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Out of 110 respondents, 13 doctors admitted to having helped a patient to die.

Family Planning have been very busy promoting their sex education programmes at a Physical Education conference for teachers.  Sex education (otherwise known as sexuality education) is taught under the Health and Physical Education curriculum in New Zealand schools.  Teaching young people about how to obtain pleasure is now a fundamental aspect of their programmes.  This is taught alongside the concept of consent (which outside of marriage, is consent to use one another, and is the opposite of real love).

All around the world traditional marriage and the natural family is under attack as governments continue to redefine marriage and children are denied their fundamental right to a mum and a dad.

What must our response to the chaos be?

We have to respond with love and humility.  As we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13, that means with patience and kindness and it means always seeking the truth, even if that truth seems harsh.  Truth gives us real freedom to be the people that we were created to be.

We must pray for those who work to build a culture of death.  Many are misguided.  They really do believe that it is right to promote and participate in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, sex education, the distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients.  We must pray for their conversion.

Bernard Nathanson, who performed over 60,000 abortions and was very much involved in the push for legalised abortion in the United States, had a change of heart, and ultimately a conversion to Catholicism, because people of faith prayed for him and treated him with dignity and respect.

All things are possible for those who have faith.

We can work tirelessly on our own steam, but those efforts, while producing some results, will never provide lasting fruitful change.  The only real lasting solution is a turning of hearts and minds to God – including our own.  As each of us conforms our own will to that of God’s perfect plan, then we will experience lasting peace and a culture that embraces life as a most precious gift to be respected and cherished from its beginning, and where the natural family is recognised as the fundamental cell of society.

There is hope.  All throughout New Zealand and the world, there are people faithfully living the Gospel of Life and witnessing to the hope that is within them.  From their continued faithfulness the culture of life will be realised.

 

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Father Shenan Boquet: Building a culture of life

Father Shenan Boquet, President of Human Life International, recently addressed participants of the Auckland Eucharistic Convention on Building a Culture of Life.

In his presentation, Father Boquet speaks of the need to transform the culture.  Drawing on Scripture, he explains how God has given us building blocks to do this, saying:  “The building blocks that help us understand the language we speak begins in the family.”

“‘If you love me, you keep my commands’ (John 14:15).  And where does a child learn that?  Learns it from mum and dad.  Learns it when mum and dad are living that love.  Not only just for eachother, but the love for God.  The love of God’s teaching.  The dogmas and the doctrines and all the teachings that have been revealed to us through the Church, through revelation and how God is teaching us his commands.  And are we responding to them?”

Watch Father Boquet’s presentation to learn how and why we must work to build a culture of life, beginning in the family.

Father Shenan Boquet: Speaking a language of life and family

Father Shenan Boquet

Over the weeks of April 9th to 24th, it was our privilege to host Father Shenan Boquet, the President of Human Life International.

While here in New Zealand, Father Boquet gave a number of talks throughout the country.  The first of these was “Speaking a Language of Life and Family” at the Auckland Eucharistic Convention, held at Sacred Heart College.

“This thirst that God has for us, is from the fountain from which we draw the language he wants us to speak in this world.  This language of life and love.  This language of transformation.  This power that comes from this genuine source outside of ourselves.”  Father Boquet

11 things you can do to build a culture of life

Two brothersWe all have an obligation to be at the service of life, St John Paul II tells us in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae.  Sometimes it can be hard to know where to begin, the task can seem so huge and insurmountable.

But just by choosing to do one new thing at a time, we can start making change for the better – to really build a culture of life, where each person, no matter how small or how old, is given the dignity they deserve.

Every single person can make a difference – no matter how big or seemingly small their contribution is.

So here’s 11 things you can begin doing today to help build a culture of life.

1.  Visit the elderly and the sick

Take time out of your busy days and weeks to visit the elderly and the sick.  Older people particularly enjoy having a short visit from children!

2.  Donate items to your local pregnancy centre

Pregnancy centres are always in need of good quality newborn to six-month-old clothing, nappies, baby wipes, strollers and other baby care items.  Gifts for mothers are also lovely and appreciated by the recipients.

3.  Encourage and support families

Look for opportunities to encourage and support families.  Congratulate mothers when they announce they are pregnant.  Cook meals or offer practical help for families with new babies, the ill, the elderly and the disabled.

4.  Attend events and invite a friend

Pro-life events happen throughout the year.  awesome speakers, training programmes, conferences and seminars, pro-life vigils and Masses, Marches for Life…  All of these are opportunities to get out there learn more, meet like-minded people and give a strong message that human life matters from the very beginning, to the very end of life.

5.  Share pro-life, pro-family content on social media

Follow pro-life organisations on social media and share their content – news, images, videos.  You can follow Family Life International NZ on Facebook here.

6.  Volunteer

Pregnancy Resource Centres and pro-life organisations are always looking for people to give of their time and skills.  All sorts of jobs need doing such as answering phones, graphic design, tending to the garden, cleaning, social media, website design, video making, event organisation…  However you are able to help, your practical support is always welcome.

7.  Donate to your local pro-life organisation

Unfortunately it costs money to run pro-life organisations and your generosity means that people can work day in and day out for the cause of life.  Different organisations focus on specific aspects of pro-life work.  Each has an important role to play in building a culture of life.

8.  Participate in 40 Days for Life

Praying outside abortion facilities is a powerful witness and acknowledgement of the spiritual battle that exists in the great injustice of abortion.  The fruits are evident – almost 10,000 lives have been saved since 2007 in this worldwide effort to end abortion.  Your presence is also a final act of love for the unborn children who will be killed in that facility.  It may be the only love given to them in their short lives here on earth.

Find out more about the New Zealand vigils here or visit the 40 Days for Life website for more general information and to sign up!  The next vigil is February 18th to March 29th, 2015!

9.  Write letters to the editor

When subjects come up in the news, write letters, or leave comments, that affirm life and the natural family.

10.  Promote St John Paul II’s Prayer for Life.

At the end of the Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), John Paul II gave the world a prayer for life.  This is a beautiful prayer that can be prayed daily for the protection of all human life from conception to natural death.

11.  PRAY.

Pray every day for an end to abortion.  Pray for the conversion of every person involved in the culture of death.  Pray for those tempted to have abortions or support family and friends in having an abortion.  Pray for the grace to always be able to speak the truth in love.  Ultimately the battle against the culture of death is a spiritual battle.  It can only be won by placing our trust completely in God, submitting ourselves in obedience to His will.

Life affirming ultrasound

Ultrasound PhotoI recently had the experience of sitting in on a 19 week pregnancy scan. For my wife and I it was the first chance to see our new child and as such, we were both looking forward to it.

For many couples, the first pregnancy ultrasound is the first bonding experience they have with their new child.  Before the days of ultrasound, a mother’s first bonding to the new baby was started when she first felt the baby moving, but increasingly, the ultrasound is the first experience that mothers and fathers have with their new child.  This is recognised by medical researchers. It’s also probably been a factor in society’s increasing recognition of the humanity of the pre born child.

Forming this relationship between parents and the child is important. The strength of the bond will affect many outcomes for the child, particularly for the child’s education.

I have personally found a great deal of difference between sonographers.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing Shari Richard at work, and seen her infectious enthusiasm for the unborn child, and the positive effect it has on the child’s parents.  Few sonographers can match her enthusiasm.  I’ve seen other sonographers at work, including one working on me, although she wasn’t going to find a baby and wasn’t looking for one!  They differ greatly in the way they interact with parents about their new baby.  The most recent sonographer we had always referred to our child as ‘baby’, e.g. “This is babies head” etc.

But this isn’t always the case.  We had a scan in a previous pregnancy when the sonographer became very quiet.  Later we found out the reason – she had found a medical problem with our child.  Although it was potentially very serious, a couple of surgeries fixed the problem before it could do any serious damage, and our child now enjoys excellent health.

But why the difference in the response of the sonographer?  Our baby didn’t stop being our baby because he had a medical problem. We certainly didn’t love him any less.

But sonographers and other medical professional are influenced by abortion.  Abortion is considered a solution to many birth defects, so it’s natural for sonographers to moderate their enthusiasm for the baby during scans.

But this could affect the start of the formation of the bond between baby and parents. Crisis Pregnancy Centres have known for a long time the benefit of an expectant mother seeing her baby by ultrasound.  It encourages the bond to form between mother and child.  But ultrasound can be used in a way that doesn’t encourage this bonding.  Clinic profit motives and abortion quotas can affect the way ultrasound results are presented and interpreted.  A recent study of 15 500 women attending Planned Parenthood abortion clinics showed that viewing ultrasound images had very little effect on the mothers decision to abort her child.  It’s hard to imagine the ultrasound technicians in these abortion clinics wanted to present the humanity of the pre-born child and facilitate bonding between mother and child.

Similarly, using ultrasound as a search and destroy mission to eliminate less than perfect is not a good way to encourage bonding. It’s important for the sonographer to show the beauty and humanity of the pre-born child.  This is the start of a relationship that will last a lifetime.  It’s the most important relationship, and it deserves a good start.  Children do better when there is good bonding with their parents.  It’s here that the sensitivity to the minority that have abortions, affects the rest of us – and our children.

It is one of the ways that abortion affects us all.

 

The Edges of Life

Grandpa and baby

The edges of life are controversial. On one side there are the debates about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of life the debates are about euthanasia, organ transplantation, and its cousin, brain death.

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee is rewriting the rules on brain death. Normally when we see this, it’s someone wanting to declare people dead sooner so their organs can be harvested for transplantation into other sick patients. Peter Rhee is taking the definition in the other direction.

While Dr Rhee’s name might not be that well known, some of his patients are. He was one of congresswoman Gabby Giffords doctors. Dr Rhee knows about death. He’s a trauma surgeon who has seen mass shooting patients in the United States. He’s also been to Iraq and Afghanistan to save the lives of soldiers, even going behind enemy lines to treat the injured. He’s even been selected as a personal surgeon to the president of the US on an overseas trip.

But it’s patients in the US that might be rewriting the rules on when death occurs. He’s part of a team that’s been experimenting on ‘suspended animation’, to save trauma patients. The team has permission to start human trials on trauma patients who have gone into heart failure and can’t be resuscitated by current techniques. The team will rapidly cool the patient’s body to 10°C (50°F), where metabolic activity slows almost to a stop. In this state, the heart is stopped, there is no breathing, and no detectable brain activity. This would be normally be considered clinical death. But the surgeons have 2 hours to repair their patient’s injuries before slowly warming them up and reviving them. If their prior work holds up in human trials, up to 90% of patients could survive the cooling and rewarming procedure itself.

And that 2 hours is time the surgeons wouldn’t normally have for life saving surgery. This technique will only work if they are able to apply it to the patient in the minutes after heart failure before brain damage starts to take place. Previous work has so far shown no brain damage or impaired function from the cooling and rewarming procedure. The team will be following their patients closely to see if this is also the case in the human trials.

Some of Rhee’s comments on the research and his clinical work are telling, “Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution”.

Dr Rhee is saying that the current definition of death is inadequate and often premature. We often see that definitions of life and death are based on what is convenient. Some organs can only be ‘harvested’ from a ‘dead’ person where there is a heartbeat. Some of these ‘dead’ people have woken on the operating table, moments before their organs were going to be harvested.

Definitions also chip away at the other end of life too. Many medical and legal organisations now define ‘established pregnancy’ as starting at implantation, not conception (fertilisation). Once pregnancy is defined at implantation, and abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy, then emergency ‘contraception’ doesn’t cause ‘abortions’. And if you jump through the same linguistic hoops, hormonal contraceptives don’t cause abortions either. Despite the words and definitions, human embryos are still being destroyed by so called ‘contraceptives’.

The extreme view of this is held by Australian ethicist Peter Singer, and Nobel prize winning molecular biologist James Watson, who have stated that new-born infants shouldn’t be declared alive straight after birth. These frightening ideas were put forward to allow new-borns to be left to die, or even directly killed. Pro-abortion organisations have even opposed regulations that protect the life of a child born alive after abortion.

Given these developments, we should applaud the efforts of scientist and doctors where they are true to their profession and work to save lives, especially when they are able to save the life that couldn’t previously be saved.

IVF as exploitation

baby-17369_640

I think the Catholic Church’s opposition to IVF is well known. It’s based on the principle that IVF separates intercourse from procreation. In some ways it’s like contraception, only in reverse. It’s also very costly in terms of human life at the stage of the human embryo.

But it has a very human side too. The desire for children can be very strong. And many couples find it difficult to conceive. For many of these couples, that realisation doesn’t come until the last years of their fertility, which adds a sense of urgency.

If these couples are blessed to live in a part of world where there is good fertility treatment which is morally acceptable, then they have the option for a treatment that works with a woman’s natural cycle. In other areas, there are less options, typically only IVF.

IVF is hard on the couples who go through it. The scientific literature documents cycles of anxiety which the women experience during cycles and depression after failed cycles. The hormones used to stimulate the ovaries into releasing eggs are not kind to women. The process of collecting eggs is physically painful, but this pain is described as less than the emotional pain. Each cycle of treatment brings more anticipation and anxiety.

Men feel disconnected from the whole procedure, as if they are passive observers in the creation of their own children. I’ve even heard of one father who wasn’t even present in the same country as his wife when his child was conceived.

Approximately 40% of infertility is due to male problems. Is it right that the women should be exposed to all the risk and pain of IVF to overcome the male’s infertility? And a male’s infertility can be a symptom of serious disease. The failure to fully investigate this can be the lost chance to treat a potentially serious problem.

Some centres will not accept older couples, as they have a lower chance of success. This is to improve the success rating of the treatment centre, rather than for the benefit of the couple.

The cost of the treatment is very high. Here in New Zealand there is some public funding available for those who meet the criteria. For those that don’t, it’s upwards of $10 000 per cycle, and nearly $30 000 for a typical 3 cycle treatment.  This is far more than many can afford. Is it just that only the wealthy can have children?

The heartache doesn’t stop when the treatment ends. For couples who are unsuccessful, there is no clearly defined end of treatment. Would one more cycle give them the baby they want? And often there is no reason found for their inability to have a baby.

There is immediate relief for couples who get a baby. But frequently there are ‘leftover’ embryos. Currently in excess of 10 000 in New Zealand alone. Many couples end their treatment with no intention of having more children. But frequently they correctly identify these embryos as being the siblings of the children they already have at home. They don’t want to bring them to birth, but they don’t have any morally acceptable alternatives. They see them as theirs, so they don’t want to donate them to others. And because they have some understanding of their humanity, they don’t want them destroyed by the clinic or by medical researchers. So every time the bill for cold storage arrives, there is a repeat of the anxiety. In the past many couples just paid the bill and put off making a decision. But now they will be forced to make the decision after 10 years. These dilemmas aren’t adequately considered before starting IVF.

There are new morally acceptable fertility treatments available under the banner of NaProTechnology. These treatments diagnose problems with fertility, and then treat them and work with a women’s natural cycle. The babies that result are born from an act of love, rather than a medical technique in a petri dish. For New Zealanders, the closest doctors are in Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia. But there are several practitioners in New Zealand who can start couples off with charting their fertility. That information can later be used by the overseas doctors. NaProTechnology is very successful helping couples with fertility problems to become pregnant. It also helps with many other gynaecological problems. And even for the couple who it can’t help to have a baby, at least it often tells them what the problem is with their fertility. For many, this can be a comfort. After 3 years of practising natural family planning 55% of subfertile couple conceive naturally. NaProTechnology results in even more couples having babies, and sooner.

It there is one last solution for those who wish to have children, who are infertile. It’s adoption. With the queues of people lining up for fertility treatment, how can we say that the more than 14 000 children aborted last year were “unwanted”?