Archive for the ‘abortion’ Category

This little movie rocks

November 3, 2009

Doesn’t seem to be embeddable.  See it here.

(Thanks to The Anchoress for pointing it out.  If you don’t read her regularly, you should.)


Votive Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life

June 19, 2009

Kudos to the U.S. bishops for (finally) approving a new votive Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life. 

(Feel free to avoid the National Catholic Reporter article on the topic, not because the article is bad, but because so many of the (we’ll use the adjective disappointing, to be charitable) comments could make you bang your head against a wall.  “Are we trying to convince God to join the anti-abortion cause?” one asks.  Yeah, that’s what “thanksgiving for the gift of human life” means.) 

Votive Masses are celebrated on weekdays (never Sundays, unless the local bishop gives permission for some particular reason) at the discretion of the presiding priest.  I very much look forward to seeing the actual texts, which haven’t been made available yet, as far as I can tell.  But the standard parts of a votive Mass would be:

— a particular entrance antiphon

— opening prayer

— specially chosen Scripture readings

— a prayer over the gifts

— a preface of the Eucharistic Prayer

— and a closing prayer.

As the CNS article notes, it’s one more aspect of the great pro-life legacy of Cardinal John O’Connor.  (Did you notice how many times Cardinal O’Connor’s words were quoted, by the way, when Dr. Tiller, the abortion provider, was killed recently?  I saw his words condemning such actions quoted in several fairly prominent places.  Here and here, for example.  And the guy’s been dead nine years.) 

Sidenote: A couple of years ago, I spent many months of intense and very interesting work researching and writing a biography of Cardinal O’Connor.  To my amazement and befuddlement, I found no publishers or agents interested in it.  The Catholic publishers I contacted told me biographies don’t sell well, and the secular publishers/agents I contacted told me I don’t have a significant enough “platform” (in others words, I’m not well-known enough as an author).  And so the large pile of material I gathered sits in a box; I imagine one day I’ll donate the most significant of it (such as the dozens of interviews with people who knew him during the various stages of his very interesting life) to the archives of the New York archdiocese.  Maybe next year, on the tenth anniversary of his death, I’ll post some of that material here.

“Happy Birthday”

November 25, 2008

Mentioning my DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS: OPPOSE ABORTION bumper sticker (above) reminds to mention this.

So one unit of the eleventh grade morality course I teach is on Human Dignity / Human Rights.  One assignment for that unit that I give every year is on “The Music of Human Rights.”  Students pick one song from popular/rock music that deals in some way on the topic of human dignity or rights (there are dozens and dozens of them).  They play the song (usually the video on Youtube, which I can project on our movie screen) and then explain to the class in two minutes what the song has to do with human dignity/rights. 

I get to hear a lot of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and John Lennon over a period of two or  three days.  And that’s fine.  There’s a lot of good music that has come from socially conscious artists. 

But the other day, one of my students got up and played this video, which I had not heard before.  “Happy Birthday,” by an artist called Flipsyde.  It’s excellent, particularly for the high school audience.  And it was great to have it being played in my classroom by one of the students, who pointed out bluntly to her peers in her commentary, “If you don’t have a right to live, what good is any other right at all?” 

(By the way, the student who chose this song for her project was, until this year, homeschooled.  Doesn’t surprise me at all that she’s the one able to make the human rights connection to abortion and is also willing to stand up and say so.)

Take a look.

I Said, They Said … what can we say?

November 10, 2008

So I visit this blog for writers every once in a while, run by the horror writer M.J. Rose, on the topic of book promotions.  Rose has an occasional feature on her blog, offering the advice of a clinical psychologist who, the blog says, specializes in addressing the psychological aspects of writers’ issues (like writer’s block).  In her guest appearance on the blog the other day, she declared a break from the standard psychological advice in order to “after eight years of shame and fear … savor the blessings of being an American at this particular moment.”  She offered a list of “advantages I’m grateful for,” which included these at the top:

Despite repeated challenges, the First Amendment has not been overturned.

Neither has Roe v. Wade. (If you are unsure why this is a writing issue, consider Virginia Woolf’s hypothetical Judith Shakespeare, and all the women she represents whose voices have been muted or lost through the lack of body autonomy most male writers take for granted.)

Of course, I’m not one to count Roe v. Wade as a blessing for anybody, but I was struck by her choice of words, and so I decided to say so in the comment box.  I decided being succinct and noncombative would be the best route, and so I left this:

There’s something ironic about emphasizing the value of Roe v Wade by invoking muted or lost voices, no?

It seemed like a reasonable and fairly incisive comment to me, but of course, different people come at this issue from very different directions, so I was interested to see what responses the comment might draw.  As of now, three people have responded to it in the same comments box.

The first:

 I agree with Barry, but the issue is so complex, and has been so oversimplified and radicalized by its opponents, that I understand what Dr. Sue is saying. Telling women that they are prisoners of their bodies, that they cannot take safe, expeditious measures to terminate accidental, unwanted, pregnancies even if they are due to rape has an oppressive effect—even if, God willing, a woman never has to make that difficult decision. It’s a short step from that to limiting other freedoms for a segment of society.

The second:

Barry: no. Not at all.

(Now there’s a writer who doesn’t struggle with word count.)

And the third:

Barry, the irony I see is that in a supposedly “post-feminist” culture women’s status as full, autonomous human beings is still considered a debatable topic.

Is it not amazing how different people can approach the same issue, presumably understanding the same underlying facts and circumstances, and arrive at such radically different perceptions and conclusions?  Must I presume “ill will” in order to explain the way these people perceive it, as if they really do see the injustice of abortion but are only trying to justify it in the name of convenience?  I tend to think not.  I think I can presume they’re “people of good will” (can’t I?).

So what then?  They understand the same human biology that I do (which tells us that we’re human and alive from the first moment of conception).  And they see the same frightening aspects of our cultural and political history (that any time we’ve defined certain humans out of the category of being full persons with dignity and rights, it has always turned out disasterous).

How is it, for example, that the third responder doesn’t see the sad and disturbing irony of protecting the “full autonomy” of some human beings at the expense of the “autonomy” of another group? 

How is it that suggesting a woman ought not kill her unborn child makes her a “prisoner of her own body” any more than suggesting that she ought not kill her toddlers or teenage children makes her a “prisoner of her own home”?

I’m not trying to be argumentative.  I’m struggling, not for the first time (abortion, after all, is one unit I cover each year with my high school juniors — an essay I wrote about that experience that was published a couple of years ago in Touchstone is here), with questions about how we can ever have a productive dialogue about this when we seem to be looking at the same issue with such different eyes?  What sort of reasoning can convince reponders like those above of things that seem so obvious to someone else?

I know someone might say, Well, they’d say the same thing about you — how can you be missing something so clearly true and important?  But the thing is, I don’t believe I’m missing it at all.  I do see the truth they’re trying to uphold: Women are free persons with rights and personal dignity that permits them to control their own lives.  And they’re correct.  It’s accurate and important.  I have five daughters, and want every one of them to be strong, independent, respected, etc.  So I do see it.

But that’s not the only truth to be taken into consideration here.  Wanting my daughters to be strong and independent does not mean teaching them to make their way through life by taking down anyone and anything that stands in their way for whatever reason.  I expect them to show others the same respect I want shown to them.  Isn’t that, after all, the only way to build a society where anyone gets any respect?

So the truth that the pro-choice folks like those who responded to me are missing is, Unborn people are people, too. 

My questions: Why are they missing it?  And how, effectively and respectfully, to help them see it?


40 Days for Life

September 24, 2008

Today begins the 40 Days for Life campaign.  There is no public observance of it in my local area that I’m aware of.  In many American cities, there will be a 40-day protest outside abortion clinics going on.  Check the website to see if there is one happening in your area

If there’s not, consider participating on a personal and spiritual level.  Make it a period  of personal prayer and fasting for the intention of greater respect for human life, in our culture and in our laws, almost a quasi-Lent direted toward the specific intention of respect for human life.  (In fact, the video introduction to it below provides an excellent argument for the appropriateness of the liturgical season of Lent in the calendar of any Christian church.)

I did this last year and found it to be very worthwhile on a spiritual level.  Obviously I have no idea of the practical consequences in the world of my prayer and fasting, but I can be sure they were there.  Was a baby saved as a result of the grace that flowed from my prayer and fasting into a frightened mother’s heart?  Did such a grace begin working in the heart of a doctor who has provided abortions or a medical student making decisions about whether he will? 

But I do know that it was good to have a sense that I was doing something concrete, one thing that’s within my power, to help the situation.  It also made me more consciously aware of the issues, more sensitive to the need for prayer and action.  As so many of us know from our Lenten experiences, giving up eating between meals or avoiding chocolate for 40 days can be a challenging thing.  When you’re doing it, perhaps especially outside of Lent, you tend to have to remind yourself repeatedly why you’re doing it and the value it has. 

Having started my day this morning reminding myself that the 40 Days starts today, I showed up at work to find two tables full of homemade cookies and other treats in the faculty room, provided by the generous parents’ club of our school.  Wow, didn’t take long to be challenged and to remind myself why I’ve decided to participate in the 40 Days for Life again this year.  “For the babies,” I thought and prayed silently.  “For the babies!”

Dang, those cookies looked good.  I wonder what the grace of my sacrifice achieved this morning?  What could the grace of yours achieve today?  Of ours together?

My letter to Nancy Pelosi (sent Tuesday)

September 18, 2008

Dear Madam Speaker:

I enjoyed watching (on C-SPAN’s Book TV) your recent appearance at a Washington synagogue, talking about your book Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters.  As the father of five daughters, a Catholic, and a religion teacher at a Catholic high school, I was very interested in what you had to say. 

I was particularly impressed by how comfortable you clearly are in speaking about your Catholic faith and how it intersects with your public service.  You invoked St. Francis and didn’t hesitate to speak of him as the patron of your hometown, or to quote his important maxim, “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.”  You invoked Catholic social justice principles and cited them as a foundation for your own work in working for policies and laws that respect all people.  You even spoke of a “spark of the divine” that is in each person, to which we must respond with laws that protect and respect them, regardless of who they are.  You cited examples of care for the environment, living wage, health care, and other policies that have been put in place in San Francisco, and said you prefer to speak of respect rather than tolerance, because speaking of tolerance belittles those who are different from us (I agree; it’s a good distinction.)  You said these matters are not political issues to you, but values to be upheld.

Ms. Pelosi, while I admired and agreed with all of this as I listened, I write today because it’s difficult to understand why you are willing to leave out one important piece from that beautiful mosaic of thinking about personal integrity in public service: working for laws that protect and respect the unborn. 

I am one of those who has been disappointed with your recent public comments about abortion, as well as those of Senator Obama and Senator Biden, all of which seem intentionally to ignore the very clear fact that when human life begins is not, fundamentally, a matter of faith at all, but of science.   

But having watched you at the synagogue event, I’m more confused still, since you so clearly do not hesitate to stand by the principles of human dignity in other cases, despite the fact and even because of the fact that they are rooted in your own faith tradition.  And you do it even regarding issues that are controversial, about which many people disagree with you.  (I applaud you for that.)

An illustration of what I mean, then I’ll finish: Obviously, some of the San Francisco policies you cited with approval – access to health care for every child and a living (rather than “minimum”) wage, for example – are not universally embraced with enthusiasm.  Suppose someone objected to these by saying, “I saw you on C-SPAN defending these policies by saying there’s a ‘spark of the divine’ in every person that must be respected, and these laws do that.  But I don’t believe in God or any divine spark, so don’t you force your faith on me by enacting laws that suggest there is.” 

I bet (and I’d hope) that your response would be something to this effect: “Though my faith tells me that divine spark is there, I needn’t be a person of faith to understand that we must respect every single person, and our laws must protect every single person.  Human dignity and human transcend any religion.”  And you’d be right.

So why is abortion different?  

In both cases we’re talking about an issue of human dignity (one that is part of the teaching of your religious faith, but transcends it, because we’re dealing with human life and human rights), and an issue that not everyone agrees upon.  Why is it so hard to stand up here and say, “You may disagree with me, but this is a fundamental issue of human dignity to which I must be true”?

In closing, Ms. Pelosi, I have to say that I agree with you and most of your Democratic colleagues about many things – including the crucial matter of the War in Iraq.  I think this war was a mistake in the first place, and that it was mishandled throughout.  And yet I won’t be able to vote for Senator Obama in the upcoming election, because abortion, to me, is an even more fundamental issue.  How could it be otherwise: over 3000 Americans have died in Iraq in the past six years – that’s how many died by abortion in the last day or two.   

A comment I read on the internet recently reflects my own thinking: “Don’t the Democrats realize if they’d drop their passionate commitment to abortion rights, they’d win every election?”  Ms. Pelosi, I can tell you they would have my vote, every time.


Barry Michaels 

The Catholic Vote

September 10, 2008

The Doctor of the Church and the Speaker of the House

August 28, 2008

Here we are on the feast of the great St. Augustine, smack dab at a time when his name is being invoked in American politics with a frequency and intensity like it almost certainly never has before! 

The Nancy Pelosi issue is being very well covered elsewhere in the Catholic blogosphere (like here, here, and here) so I won’t rehash it here, other than to say that our bishops are making me proud this week. 

I only want to point out one piece of commentary that could be overlooked, but shouldn’t be.  Though several American bishops have been holding their own this week, this piece in the Chicago Tribune by columnist Kathleen Parker could serve as a fine example of a sober and clear explanation of the most relevant facts.   

Happy feast of Augustine, the Doctor of Grace!

St. Augustine, pray for us.

Positive reading on abortion

June 27, 2008

Two worthwhile things to read:

Late-Term Abortion Facility in Dallas To Close – Eighth Closure Since Bishop Began Prayer at Clinics
24 hours a day, 7 days a week ecumenical effort was organized, with more than 800 people from 89 churches and several denominations

A Sexual Revolution
One woman’s journey from pro-choice atheist to pro-life Catholic

I think I’ll include the latter one in the packet of readings we use in my 11th grade Religion class. It’s thoughtful and clear without being antagonistic.

Reason for real hope.

January 24, 2008

I’ve seen it mentioned all over the internet, as I tried to get caught up on what went on in Washington on Tuesday. Here’s the stat, and it doesn’t surpries me: of the 200,000+ people who gathered for the March for Life, what is easily the nation’s largest annual public demonstration of any kind, at least 75 percent of them were under the age of 25.

It’s easy to reach for facile explanations that diminish the significance of that, to say perhaps, yeah, they’re the ones who have the time and opportunity to travel, they don’t have to work, etc. But don’t miss the fact that this March has been going on for 35 years now, and a statistic like this was not always the case. It has, though, become increasingly the case for several years now.

Lest you think that’s just hopeful thinking seeping into the observations of enthusiastic participants, note that it is noted prominently throughout the Washington Post‘s coverage of the event, which carried the headline, “A Youthful Throng Marches Against Abortion.” See also their article, “Movement Gets a Youthful Infusion,” which they published the previous day.

Also heartening is this article, with cool photos, about the vigil Mass held at the National Shrine on the campus of Catholic University of America, attended by an overload crowd of 8000+:
videos here.

“But far and away the bulk of the congregation was youth, youth who also filled the crypt of the church below the main floor.”

Check out the

Think about what that bodes for the future. It’s good.