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Culture Project

The Culture Project envisions a world where the dignity of the human person is at the forefront of every relationship, law and societal structure.
 
In collaboration with The Culture Project, the respect life and youth and young adult ministry offices of the Diocese of Burlington are offering a series of retreats on the topics of human dignity and chastity at five locations in Vermont during November. 
 
Please contact the individual parish hosts for information about their retreats:
  • St. Jude Parish, Hinesburg, Nov. 4, 2017 (morning), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • High School Youth Retreat, Dumaine House Retreat Center, Jacksonville, Nov. 4 (evening), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Christ the King Parish, Rutland, Nov. 5 (morning), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish, Bennington, Nov. 5, (evening), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Holy Angels Parish, St. Albans, Nov. 11 (afternoon), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The series is the result of a survey last spring conducted by Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington. She questioned directors of religious education, youth ministers, pastors and confirmation teachers about several areas of pro-life ministry and their needs. “One thing that came up repeatedly was the need for help bringing effective chastity/pro-life speakers to talk to high school aged students,” she said. “Parishes indicated a willingness to collaborate either regionally or by deanery, and this is the project that emerged.”
 
According to its website, The Culture Project International is an initiative of young people set out to restore culture through the experience of virtue. “We proclaim the dignity of the human person and the richness of living sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive,” it states.
 
Members of the team make a commitment of at least one year of their life to enter into a program in which they themselves live and pray in community, receive formation and are sent out on mission nationally and internationally. They give presentations to youth about the dignity of the human person and about sexual integrity.
 

The 'grave evil' of assisted suicide

By Caitlin Thomas
 
In the Church's efforts to teach about the grave evil of assisted suicide and the threats it poses, we must use clear and vigorous language. And it is always, always important that we do so with love.
 
Assisted suicide is suicide. In the few states where it is legal, physicians willing to do so prescribe lethal drugs at the request of patients seeking the drugs to end their own lives. Proponents of assisted suicide use terms like "death with dignity" and "aid in dying." But these are misleading. They are the sickly-sweet phrases of a poisonous ideology that attacks our full dignity and worth as human beings.
 
These phrases go beyond word games and become flat-out contradictions carefully etched into law. In fact, every state law (and proposed bill) legalizing assisted suicide in this country follows Oregon's law, proclaiming, "the actions taken in accordance with [the law] shall not, for any purposes, constitute suicide [or] assisted suicide." So, according to the law itself, assisted suicide isn't assisted suicide? The only sensible response to this legal blustering must be something like this sentiment from a wise character in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce: "Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on having jaundice."
 
We should not be seduced by slippery language into ignoring hard truths. The dying process can be painful, messy, full of uncertainty and difficult questions—just like life. But there is death with authentic dignity: dying at peace with God and our loved ones. Dying or terminally ill persons deserve the best care we have to offer, including appropriate treatment of symptoms and pain relief. There is a way to face this process with peace, not by hastening death, but by experiencing the support and loving care that our society should offer to those preparing for death. Assisted suicide, on the other hand, hurts the individual and the entire human family, sending a message that some lives are "completed" or not as valuable as others. We should kill the pain, not the patient.
 
Truth always walks hand-in-hand with love. It is not enough to say, "suicide is bad." We must also say, "life is good"—especially when life is old, fragile, differently abled, so young and so small our eyes cannot see it, or of a different skin color or place of origin.
 
We should learn how to best love those who are close to death. We should pray for holy deaths for them and for ourselves, recognizing that Jesus brings us to new life with Him through His death and resurrection. We should pray for the grace to build a true culture of life. And we should affirm the goodness of life in all that we do and say.
 
Caitlin Thomas is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S. bishops' 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit www.usccb.org/toliveeachday.
 
 
  • Published in World

Life Issues Forum: Of Strollers And Walkers

By Mary McClusky
 
The parents of a 3-month-old recently wrote to The Washington Post food critic's online chat to ask about dining etiquette in a city where many restaurants are inaccessible to strollers. 
 
The critic responded by complaining about "strollers the size of Zipcars," but then admitted he wasn't the parent of an infant and invited readers to discuss the topic. Reader comments varied and expanded the topic to include people who use walkers. The chat provided much food for thought on the many ways that we can welcome those whom others might consider burdensome while we are out and about at restaurants, churches, parks, on transportation and in public. Our loving welcome may help others soften their hearts and change attitudes toward families with young or elderly members.
 
The first commenter suggested that parents eat at off-peak hours to avoid "consternation" from fellow diners. As hard enough as it is to raise children in a city, are we now asking parents to eat dinner out with children only from 2 to 5 p.m.? Perhaps as fellow diners we could be patient and understanding and help when we see a parent struggling with a stroller or a temperamental child. Or suggest that a restaurant have a secure place to stow strollers and walkers.
 
Recall God's creation of each of us "in His image" (Gn 1:27), meaning that every one of us is made to be in loving relationship with others. Even the smallest community of love, sometimes as small as two people, mirrors the Divine Trinity. Members of a loving community patiently accommodate one another's needs.
 
My parish during high school displayed this loving acceptance each week as everyone kindly greeted my grandmother making her slow but steady way into church with her walker. On the other hand, I've been present at Mass when a priest stopped during a homily and asked a parent to take a slightly noisy child out of the church.
 
How we treat the defenseless and vulnerable among us not only impacts our salvation but also sends a powerful message to those around us. Our acceptance of others can bear witness to their very existence as God's gift. By our attentiveness and loving assistance, we proclaim that the person in front of us, no matter how young, frail or in need of assistance, is an unrepeatable and precious creation from God. And in turn, we grow in character and virtue each time we choose to sacrifice for another.
So, ask yourself, how accessible is my parish to strollers and wheelchairs? Could we install a wheelchair ramp or elevator to be more welcoming to the elderly or disabled? Is there a place to stow walkers or canes safely? Are there diaper-changing tables in women's and men's restrooms? Or accommodations for parents to participate in the Mass as much as possible if their children become distracting?
 
Perhaps I could smile understandingly when I see a mother and her crying child walking down the airplane aisle toward me, instead of silently praying that they're not seated next to me. Or learn to be more grateful for the gift of children and families being present in our celebration of the Eucharist.
 
Through better accommodations -- but more importantly, through open hearts and loving attitudes -- we can build up a culture that truly welcomes every life in all situations, even a situation as seemingly insignificant as accommodating stroller storage in a crowded restaurant.

Mary McClusky is assistant director for Project Rachel Ministry Development at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For confidential help after abortion, visit hopeafterabortion.com or esperanzaposaborto.com.
 

 
 

Charlie Gard dies

Charlie Gard, the British baby whose legal battle caught the attention of the world, died July 28, just over a week before his first birthday, his family announced.
 
Connie Yates, the baby's mother, issued a brief statement saying: "Our beautiful little boy has gone, we are so proud of you Charlie."
 
Charlie, who would have turned 1 year old Aug. 4, had been transferred to a hospice for palliative care after Yates and his father, Chris Gard, said July 24 they had decided to drop their legal battle to pursue treatment overseas.
 
The couple wanted to take Charlie home to die, but a High Court judge decided it was in the child's best interest to spend his final hours in the care of a hospice. He suffered from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.
 
The situation had caught the world's attention, including the attention of Pope Francis. The day the parents dropped their legal battle, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the pope was "praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering."
 
After news of Charlie's death, Pope Francis tweeted: "I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him."
 
Charlie's parents, who live in London, had fought for eight months for medical help that might have saved the life of their son.
 
They raised 1.3 million pounds (US$1.7 million) to take him abroad for treatment, but the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that Charlie was beyond help and that it was not in his best interests to be kept alive, triggering a protracted legal battle with the parents that led to interventions from U.S. President Donald Trump and from the pope.
 
At a news conference July 25 in Rome, Mariella Enoc, president of the Vatican children's hospital, Bambino Gesu, said the hospital had partnered U.S. neurologist, Dr. Michio Hirano, to study Charlie's case. In July, the hospital agreed with Hirano that the child's illness had proceeded too far for treatment, which might or might not have worked six months earlier.
 
But "the plug was not pulled without having tried to respond to a legitimate request by the parents and without having examined fully the condition of the child and the opportunities offered by researchers on an international level," the hospital said in a statement.
 
  • Published in World

Baby Charlie Gard

The national director of Priests for Life in New York welcomed a London court's decision allowing a U.S. doctor to go to England to examine a 10-month-old terminally ill British infant at the center of a medical and ethical debate.
 
The baby, Charlie Gard, was born with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness, brain damage and respiratory or liver failure; it is typically fatal.
 
The baby's parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, lost their legal battle to keep Charlie on life support and to then take him home to die. They also were denied permission to take the baby to the United States for evaluation and possible treatment. The couple had raised $1.8 million through crowdfunding to cover the cost.
 
Doctors at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital said transferring the baby to a U.S. hospital would prolong his suffering. On July 14, England's High Court ruled he could be examined by Dr. Michio Hirano of Columbia University.
 
"News that an American doctor with experience in treating Charlie's disease will travel to the U.K. to examine him is certainly welcome," Father Frank Pavone said.
 
News reports July 17 said Hirano, a neuorologist, had arrived in London and a second U.S. physician, who has not been identified, also will be allowed to examine the infant.
 
Hirano has treated other children suffering from the same extremely rare condition that Charlie has, and he has stated he thinks there's a 10 percent chance that Charlie's condition could improve.
 
"Ultimately, the decision about further treatment should be made by Charlie's parents in consultation with the doctors they choose, and not by any court," Father Pavone said in a statement.
 
"Where there's life, there's hope," the priest said, "and we will continue praying for Charlie and his parents."
 
Pope Francis called for respecting the wishes of a terminally ill child's parents to accompany and care for their child "until the end." A Vatican spokesman said July 2 that the pope has been following "with affection and emotion" the events concerning the baby.
 
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a July 6 statement that Charlie's parents "understand that the odds are against him, but like all great parents, they are not only willing but are anxious to take those odds and fight for the life of their child."
 
The parents "want to truly care for their child in the way only parents can. They love him in a way an institution -- a hospital and government -- cannot," Dannenfelser said.
 
She called it "dangerous utilitarianism" for Charlie's parents not being allowed to put their baby in the care of those who do not see such "parental love in action as an act of futility."
 
A petition urging the hospital to allow the baby to be taken to the United States was signed by more than 350,000 people.
 
  • Published in World

Praying in secret

By Carrie Handy
Respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington

 
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus exhorts His listeners: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them,” and, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who love to stand and pray … so that others may see them.” Commenting on this, a priest I know said in a recent homily, “Most of us are pretty good at obeying this part of the Sermon on the Mount; it comes pretty easily for most of us.”
 
Pondering his statement, I wondered why that would be. Is it because in our modern culture, we are perhaps a bit too happy to have an excuse to hide our faith from the world? Here in Vermont, ostensibly the least religious state in the nation, being a Christian is often conflated with being a bigot and a hater. No one relishes that kind of calumny, but shrinking from our responsibility to be Christian witnesses to our faith may be helping to dilute its power in the wider culture and allow such error to flourish. Jesus didn’t intend for us to use His words as an excuse to let our faith disappear from the landscape.
 
Sadly, Catholic principles rapidly are disappearing from the landscape. Where they do exist, they are often the subject of criticism and ridicule. Opposition to abortion is translated into oppression of women; opposition to assisted suicide is framed as indifference to suffering. Believing in the complementarity of the sexes and that our sexuality and our physical bodies have a God-given purpose which must be respected, and which obviates abortion, sterilization, contraception, homosexual acts and same-sex marriage, to name a few examples, makes us judgmental haters.
 
Catholics today are called as never before to become informed about the truths of our faith in order to be able to explain the “why” behind the teachings that seem increasingly at odds with modern society. Unless we can articulate these truths within the wider culture, we run the risk of being swept up into a secular mindset that runs counter to basic Christian principles. As I’ve heard Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne say on more than one occasion, “The number-one purpose of the Church is to save souls.” Saving souls in today’s world means standing for truth, in charity, even when it’s hard.
 
We are called to be salt and light and leaven in the world. Standing for pro-life truths in particular can be extremely challenging in a state where abortion on demand and assisted suicide are legal. It is incumbent upon us to spread the pro-life leaven amid a culture of death and to help reignite our determination to protect the most vulnerable lives among us.
 
How to do that? Here are a few ideas:
 
* Educate yourself. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has a wealth of material covering a range of topics related to human life and dignity.
 
* Educate others. Bring pro-life speakers to your parish and community. The Respect Life Speakers Bureau can help.
 
* Speak up. If putting yourself out there is uncomfortable, start small: Something as simple as occasionally sharing a pro-life article or quote on social media can signal to others that you are pro-life.
 
When someone in your midst displays ignorance about, or disdain for, your faith or pro-life views, “out” yourself as a believer. Don’t be afraid to let them know you disagree.
 
* Pray. Join or begin a digital pro-life prayer chain such as 9 Days for Life; volunteer for 40 Days for Life or Cenacles of Life.
 
* Participate. The Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January and the Vermont Rally for Life in Montpelier offer opportunities to show the strength and breadth of the pro-life movement.
 
* Help. Donate to Birthright, Carenet or another pro-life pregnancy care center; reach out to an unwed mother in need; become a hospice volunteer.
 
In short, put your toe in the waters: Identify yourself as “pro-life” and follow the Spirit where it leads. Above all, while you pray to your Father in secret, do not be afraid to be a witness for life in the world.
 

Natural Procreative Technology

In this age of astonishing advances in medical treatments, not all progress comes in the form of pharmacological discoveries. Some innovations, in fact, are as old as time itself.
 
This is the case with Natural Procreative Technology (NaProTECHNOLOGY), a holistic approach to women’s healthcare where diagnoses are made in concert with a woman’s intimate understanding of her own body and where treatments do not disrupt or suppress natural reproductive function. NaProTECHNOLOGY uses the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning to identify underlying causes and provide natural solutions for a range of gynecological issues, including infertility, miscarriages, ovarian cysts, premenstrual syndrome and postpartum depression.
 
In February, a NaProTECHNOLOGY practice opened at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., under the leadership of Dr. Sarah Bascle and assisted by Nancy Malo, a certified fertility care practitioner, as well as a registered nurse and a certified nurse midwife, who will all be dedicated to the philosophy. The practice is the first, not just in New Hampshire but in all of New England and much of the East Coast, that is solely dedicated to Natural Family Planning and NaProTECHNOLOGY.
 
Because NaProTECHNOLOGY is effective, science-based and in complete accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the staff at the medical center is excited to welcome Bascle to their medical team to provide a regional natural procreative practice that will be able to serve patients from far beyond the West Side of Manchester.
 
Nicole Pendenza, director of Maternal and Child Health Care, conveyed the enthusiasm of her colleagues. “We have been looking to open a practice like this at CMC for many years now but have had difficulty finding the right practitioner.”
 
When Bascle entered medical school at Tulane University, she requested that she be able to fulfill her residency “without having to leave my faith at the hospital door, and they accommodated this,” she said. She also began doing her own research and became acquainted with alternatives to birth control and hormonal treatment for fertility, respectively known as the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTECHNOLOGY.
 
The Creighton Model and NaProTECHNOLOGY was developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers while working at the St. Louis University and Creighton University Schools of Medicine. Hilgers, who is now currently a senior medical consultant in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine and surgery at the Pope Paul VI Institute and a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Creighton University School of Medicine, published “The Medical and Surgical Practice of NaProTECHNOLOGY” in 2004.
 
Malo had been looking forward to welcoming a NaProTECHNOLOGY practice to the hospital. “Now we will host the only practice in the region with full service OB/GYN care that is couple-centered and morally acceptable to people of all faiths. I’ve been told repeatedly by women ‘This is an answer to my prayers!’”
 
For more information visit cmc-womenswellness.org, naprotechnology.com or call 603-314-7597.

---------- 
By Gary Bouchard, originally published in Parable, magazine of the Diocese of Manchester, Nov./Dec. 2016 
 
  • Published in Nation

Against assisted suicide

By Greg Schleppenbach
 
The campaign to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide has been wisely rejected by most policymakers in our society.
 
Most people, regardless of religious affiliation, know that suicide is a terrible tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent. They realize that allowing doctors to prescribe the means for any of their patients to kill themselves is a corruption of the healing art.
 
But assisted suicide proponents like the deceptively named group “Compassion & Choices” have renewed their aggressive nationwide campaign through legislation, litigation and public advertising, targeting states they see as most susceptible to their message. So the battle against doctor-assisted suicide continues to rage on many fronts.
 
In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. The assisted suicide campaign has since advanced to legalize the deadly practice in Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado and the District of Columbia.
 
Montana’s highest court, while not officially legalizing the practice, suggested in 2009 that it could be allowed under certain circumstances.
 
Assisted suicide advocates got similar legislation introduced in 27 states this year. Thankfully, many of these bills have been, or likely will be, defeated. But several states still face serious threats, including Hawaii, Maine, New York and New Jersey. They are also turning to courts to overturn laws banning the practice, with lawsuits pending in New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts.
 
The U.S. Congress was drawn into the debate when Washington, D.C.’s City Council passed a law legalizing assisted suicide in November 2016. Our Constitution gives Congress ultimate control over District laws and efforts to nullify are underway. But since Congress has not addressed assisted suicide for many years, members need basic education from constituents about why assisted suicide is dangerous for patients and their families.
 
Another battleground is in the medical profession itself. Long-held opposition to assisted suicide by medical associations has been essential to preserving laws against the practice. That is why C&C is infiltrating medical associations and urging them to abandon opposition and adopt a position of neutrality. The move to neutrality by medical associations in Oregon, Vermont and California helped pave the way for legalization of assisted suicide in those states. And now the American Medical Association is considering whether to change its decades-long position against assisted suicide to one of neutrality.
 
One way to counter the C&C effort is by asking our doctors their position on assisted suicide. If they oppose it, thank them for their stance and urge them to speak out against the practice with their medical associations, their state legislature and with Congress. If the answer is “support,” try to change their minds—and if they won’t, find a new doctor, letting your former doctor know why you left.
 
Euphemistic terms like “aid in dying” “compassion and choice” cloak the reality that assisted suicide is a deadly act: Doctors prescribing a lethal drug for suicide by overdose. Far from fostering compassion or choice, assisted suicide fosters discrimination by creating two classes of people: those whose suicides we work hard to prevent and those whose suicides we assist.
 
Evidence shows that legalizing assisted suicide can reduce access to quality end-of- life care, put pressure on patients and their families and open them up to abuses from insurance companies, among many other dangers. Your help is needed to expose these and other dangers. Equip yourself with fact sheets, videos and other resources available at usccb.org/toliveeachdaypatientsrightscouncil.org and patientsrightsaction.org.  
 
Greg Schleppenbach is associate director for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S. bishops’ 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit usccb.org/toliveeachday.
 
  • Published in Nation
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