Supreme Court Dumps DOMA; Tosses Prop 8

The Supreme Court said that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act is not Constitutional. It also held that the proponents of Proposition 8 did not have merits, which means they tossed the appeal and Prop 8 along with it.

A spokesman for gay marriage advocates said after the decision was handed down that this ruling effectively legalizes gay marriage throughout the United States. What it does by essentially remanding Prop 8 is let a California court ruling legalizing gay marriage stand. In the case of DOMA, it tosses the question of how to define marriage back to the states.

In actual practice, there are big unanswered questions about how the federal government and its many interventions into state government will be affected by this ruling. It think it will call a lot of things into question as they pertain to married couples and children in the various states.

It is no exaggeration to say that this a landmark ruling. I need time to read the decisions and think it through before I say more.

For that reason, I am going to hold off analysis for a while.

Feel free to comment below, but do it in a way that does not attack other people.

Texas Senator Filibusters for 13 Hours to Defeat Pro Life Bill

Senator Wendy Davis, Texas

I’m a pro life legislator, but I tip my hat to State Senator Wendy Davis of Texas for her dedication and incredible courage.

Senator Davis succeeded in blocking passage in the Texas legislature of what sounds like an important pro life bill by the exhausting tactic of standing on the Senate floor, mike in hand, and making a speech that lasted for 13 hours. Evidently, the Texas State Senate allows unlimited time for debate, which is necessary for this procedure to block a bill.

Why 13 hours?

Because the Texas legislature was in a special session that was set to adjourn at the end of those 13 hours.

Senator Davis succeeded in blocking passage of the legislation.

As I said, I don’t agree with her position on this issue, but I applaud her courage and sacrifice for what she believes. As one legislator to another, I know full well that what she did was exhausting and stressful to the point of being sacrificial.

All this points out one thing: There are pro choice people who believe absolutely that what they are doing is the right thing. I know this for sure because I was once one of them. That means that we need to pray for them with all our hearts, because they aren’t evil. They are just wrong.

That also means that those of us who are pro life need to continue in our efforts to save the babies by helping the mothers. I read an article a few days ago about the ways that pregnant women are discriminated against on the job. If you are pro life, then you have to be against that.

There is no place in the pro life philosophy for indifference to rape or violence against women. Likewise, we have to take forceful stands against the exploitation of women in pornography, prostitution and medical abuses such as paying women to undergo egg harvesting and surrogate pregnancies.

The pro choice movement tries to maintain their position by creating the entirely fallacious fiction that an unborn child is not a human being. Many of them also support the exploitation and degradation of women in pornography, prostitution, and the abuses of commercialized medicine such as paid egg harvesting and surrogacy.

I tip my hat to Senator Wendy Davis, one legislator to another. I don’t agree with her position on this issue, but I respect courage wherever I see it. My prayer is that she will one day see that her devotion to women’s rights can better be served by supporting the humanity of all people — born and unborn.

As for Pro life people, we are called to be all-in for the humanity of both the baby and the woman. I believe with all my heart that this is what God has called us to do.

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What Will the Supremes Do with Gay Marriage?

SCOTUS pix 2011

Tomorrow is the day that the Supreme Court is scheduled to hand down rulings that will affect how America deals with the definition of marriage for decades to come.

The legislation in question is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

The Court can do anything. It can remand the whole question back to the states. Or, it can issue a ruling of sweeping proportions similar to Roe v Wade. It can even announce that it isn’t going to rule at all.

People on both sides of the question studied the Justices’ every twitch and cough when the cases were presented earlier this year. We all wanted a crystal ball so that we wouldn’t have to endure the suspense of months of waiting before we found out which way and how far the Court was going to jump on this issue.

Tomorrow, the waiting and guessing will be over. The Court will make its ruling.

After that will come the dissecting and rejecting of whatever they rule. I am reasonably certain that no matter what the Court does on this issue, a large segment of the American population is going to be unhappy and angry about it. I am equally certain that no matter what the Court does, the debate about how we will define marriage under the law will continue.

Which leads me to the question of how we should behave tomorrow and on into the months and years ahead. Much of the debate concerning this issue has devolved into slander of people who hold opposing views. I think part of the reason why this happens is that both sides of the argument believe that their position is a moral imperative. Another part of why we behave so terribly when we discuss how to define marriage is that the temper of our times has taught us that bullying, slander, smear tactics and mud-slinging are legitimate tactics.

Instead of dealing with the issues at hand and talking about the arguments being made, we tend to try to discredit the people making the arguments.

My feeling about this is that if you are a Christian, you have a moral responsibility to forgo this kind of behavior. It does not matter what they call you, you may not slander them back. Let the other side have the low road.

Slander

We are defending home, family, life. We are defending the core institution on which Western civilization is built. We do not need to attack anyone to do that.

Also, we need to remember that homosexuals are just people. More importantly, they are children of the same God whose teachings we are trying to defend. No matter what they say or do, they are our brothers and sisters in creation. We should try to convert them, not destroy them.

The other side of public debates involving Christian values of any sort always seems to try to base their arguments on Christian bashing and degrading our faith. It can be hard to take; especially when they defame the name of Jesus. But do not reply by degrading or defaming them. Do not do it.

That does not mean that we should back away from saying the truth of things. It just means that we should forgo attacking people. We can talk about issues and even bad behavior all we want. Just don’t attack a person while we do it.

I believe that no matter how the Court rules tomorrow, the fight will go on. I also believe that no matter how the Court rules or what detours or setbacks we suffer, the victory will ultimately be ours. All we have to do is our part, and do it in a way that lets everyone who observes us know that we serve a Risen Lord.

Michael Hastings’ Life and Death: Who Ya Gonna Believe?

Hastings crash

Michael Hastings sent this email at 1 pm, Monday, June 17:

Hey [redacted] the Feds are interviewing my “close friends and associates.” Perhaps if the authorities arrive “BuzzFeed GQ,” er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.
Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the radat for a bit.
All the best, and hope to see you all soon.
Michael

By 4:30 am, Tuesday, June 18, Michael Hastings was dead.

Staff Sgt Joseph Biggs, who knew Hastings in Afghanistan, said of the email, “It alarmed me very much. I just said, it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had a gut feeling, and it really bothered me.”

The FBI issued this statement soon after Hastings’ death denying that they were investigating him:

“At no time was journalist Michael Hastings under investigation by the FBI,” agency public affairs specialist Laura Eimiller told CBSNews.com and other outlets, after the organization WikiLeaks suggested as much in a tweet.
This statement was a departure from the FBI’s policy of neither confirming or denying investigations, and earlier statements from FBI representatives, refusing to comment.

The video below contains a reaction from The Young Turks concerning Mr Hastings. The speaker gets worked up and both he and the commenters go off into the weeds. However, I think their points concerning Michael Hastings are well taken.

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Was Michael Hastings the Last American Journalist?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Bill of Rights, United States Constitution

Was Michael Hastings the last American journalist?

Given the all-in-for-the-government way the press has approached the “security breach” that allowed American citizens to know that their government had them — almost all of them — under surveillance, I think that is a fair question.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

A J Liebling said, “Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.”

Has the corporate-owned press ceased to be free? Is it just a mouthpiece for various interests and ideologies? Why would the free press be so completely in support of putting millions of innocent Americans who have committed no crime and have not been accused of committing a crime under government surveillance?

Are they stupid? Do they not see the parallels between this kind of draconian government surveillance of its citizens and every police state nightmare of both history and fiction?

Why are they taking the government line like a bunch of trained chimps instead of asking questions and digging for facts like reporters? Do they ever leave their studios and go out and find the news, or do they just wait for the news to come to them and then “report” (read) it as it comes in? Getting together with a few, carefully selected, “experts” to comment on the latest press release that you just read on the air is not reporting.

The CSPAN interview below gives a glimpse of Michael Hastings and the kind of work he did. It makes no difference what conclusions you draw from the information Mr Hastings gave you. The point is that he gave you the information. That’s a journalist’s job. Deciding what to do with the information is your part of the free press equation.

All this leads me to ask again: Was Michael Hastings the last American journalist?

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Media Bias, Lost Souls and Inconvenient Truths

Cartoon media bias

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, wrote a post that echoes one I published a few days ago discussing a Pew Research study that indicated media bias in the reporting of gay marriage.

It seems that Pew Research is not alone in its assessment that there is a media bias in favor of gay marriage. As I’ve said in the past, the media is not so much “biased” in favor of gay marriage, it is hard-selling it.

The post about the Pew study engendered a plethora of irate comments on this blog. It appears that at least some people who favor gay marriage do not want to hear anything that even tangentially disagrees with it. That seems to include statistical studies by reputable research firms that simply state what is obvious to almost everyone: The media is biased in favor of gay marriage.

The comments on that particular post rolled downhill until we had people from atheist blogs jumping over here to inform us that God is genocidal and Christians are … some of the usual Christian-bashing things they call us. I deleted quite a few comments, particularly those that said ugly things about either homosexuals or Christians. I also deleted the nasty slams at me, my family, faith and heritage because I had deleted the insulter’s previous comments, as well as the suggestions that I perform anatomically impossible sex acts.

All these angry comments came because I put up a post talking about a Pew Research study saying the press coverage of the Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage was biased.

Now Frank Weathers has jumped into the fray with one of his excellent posts. Frank, unlike me, does not suffer fools. He only allows comments that advance the Kingdom. I’ve been wondering if perhaps he’s not on to something. After all, the purpose of Public Catholic is to do exactly that: Advance the Kingdom.

So why do I continue tolerating these invidious comments? I do it in the hope that there will be an educational component in letting the Christians who read this blog — and from what I can tell, my readership tilts decidedly toward the Christian — see a bit of what’s out there.

I encounter Christians all the time who are living in a fool’s paradise about what the world is like vis a vis their faith. They live inside a circle of Oklahoma protection where they seldom encounter a flat-out Christ hater. I, on the other hand, get pummeled and attacked on my job for my faith on a regular basis. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that I almost never hear a nasty comment, lie, or name applied to me that I haven’t already heard countless times before.

I want to open the door on this reality for other Christians just a bit because I think it’s important for them to learn about it and understand it.  We are in danger of losing our freedoms and being pushed into a Christian ghetto where our thoughts, ideas and values are not allowed in open discussion. A big part of the reason why is that we are so passive about our faith.

That’s what these attacks are about. They are designed to force people of faith into silence, and then to push us all into the corners of life. Jesus specifically told us to refuse to allow that:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit,” He told the Apostles and through them, all of us.

“He who denies me before men, I will deny before the holy angels.”

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, I will be ashamed of them when I come in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”

Christians do not have the luxury of going along to get along. We must, on peril of our souls, stand for Christ. Hiding in our safe little bubbles of faith-filled people only encourages and strengthens those who attack our Lord. One thing I hope these comments show you when you read them is the sad lostness of these angry people and the totally unoriginal quality of their thinking. There is nothing to fear from their thinking, which is probably why they work so hard to overawe us with their nastiness.

I allow a good bit of the repetitive nonsense Christians bashers say onto this blog. I do it for teaching purposes, in the hope that being exposed to it here will both motivate and educate my Christian readers.

We need to know what these lost people are saying. We need to understand how their thinking works. We also need to pray for them, for they are truly and terribly lost. That perhaps is the worst of reading these comments for me. It is reading the comments of lost souls; like witnessing a terrible car wreck and seeing people trapped inside who will not let you help them get out.

Here is Frank Weathers’ take on the media bias concerning gay marriage. As usual, he says it all with wit and charm.

The Miraculous Incident of Balanced Media Coverage On Same-Sex Marriage…

This is the week when the Supreme Court will spill the beans on what will become of same-sex marriage in California, and perhaps in the entire country. Lots of folks are on pins and needles waiting for the decision that will be handed down.

Over at Get Religion, Terry Mattingly notes the stunning fact that at least one mainstream media outlet stood up recently to give voice to gay folks who are not in the camp as being for same-sex marriage.

And you thought unicorns were rare!

Would it shock you that this particular news outlet isn’t based stateside? I’ll let Terry explain, (Read the rest here.)

Our Holy Rolling Pope

There’s a new Harley motto: Never go faster than your guardian angel.

I don’t know what is more fun: The Pope blessing Harleys, the many accents talking about Harleys, or the image of the Holy Father smokin’ down the road, wearing his leather jacket, riding his hog.

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Conversion Story

And oldie, but a goodie.

Enjoy.

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What Do Priests Do All Day?

What do priests do all day?

After all, it only takes half an hour to say daily mass.

What do they do the rest of the time?

This entertaining video shows one day in the life of Father John Muir. Unlike the priests I know, he doesn’t live alone in the rectory and he isn’t assigned to a neighborhood parish. He is a priest in the Diocese of Phoenix and is currently the assistant director of the Newman Center at ASU.

A lot of the things he does, such as praying a morning prayer with the priest he lives with, are things we could do at home with our families. If you live alone, you could use an iPad or other electronic version for company, if you want. I pray parts of the Daily Office, in particular the night prayers, this way.

One thing Father Muir says: I figure if God wanted me to be a priest, God wanted me to be a priest.

That’s a good way to look at Christian life for any of us. God didn’t call perfect saints or pious sad sacks, He called you and me to the Christian life. (Unless, of course, you are a perfect saint or a pious sad sack.) I would guess that God loves us for our individual foibles the same way all parents love their children.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the daily life of a priest.

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Jesus First: Reflecting on Life with JP2

Blessed John Paul II is one of my favorite thinkers. He said quite a few things which I think are worth pondering. I’ve listed some of them below for your prayerful reflection.

Have a blessed Saturday.

 

Jesus first

Following Christ in Daily Life

“When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.”

“True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement.”

“The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.”

“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.”

 

Elderly hands

The Value of Human Beings and Human Life

“The commandment you shall not kill even in its more positive aspects of respecting, loving, and promoting human life, is binding on every individual human being.” ~Evangelium Vitae-Gospel of Life Pope John Paul II-1995

“While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in it’s final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of ” the strong” against the weak who have no choice but to submit”.~Evangelium Vitae

“Man’s life comes from God: it is his image and imprint, as sharing in his breath of life. God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: Man cannot do with it as he wills.” ~Evangelium Vitae

‘The Gospel of life must be proclaimed and human life defended in all places and all times.” ~Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics- National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) 1998

 

Family on beach

The Family and Same-Sex Marriage

“It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this [gay marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church. ”

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”

“The family, as the fundamental and essential educating community, is the privileged means for transmitting the religious and cultural values which help the person to acquire his or her own identity. Founded on love and open to the gift of life, the family contains in itself the very future of society; its most special task is to contribute effectively to a future of peace.”

 

26weeks

Abortion

“The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.”

“Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the per missive society, which confuses freedom with licence to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace. There are many examples of this mistaken idea of freedom, such as the elimination of human life by legalized or generally accepted abortion.”

“Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were!”

 

Euthanasia

Euthanasia

“Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.” ~Evangelium Vitae, 1995

“Similarly, euthanasia and assisted suicide are never acceptable acts of mercy. They always gravely exploit the suffering and desperate, extinguishing life in the name of the “quality of life” itself.”

~Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics-National Conference of Catholic Bishops(United States)-1998

“Those who advocate euthanasia have capitalized on people’s confusion, ambivalence and even fear about the use of modern life-prolonging technologies. Being able to choose the time and manner of one’s death, without regard to what is chosen is presented as the ultimate freedom.” ~Statement on Euthanasia- National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) 1991

“The sickness of a family member, friend or neighbor is a call to Christians to demonstrate true compassion, that gentle and persevering sharing in another’s pain.” ~Ad Limina Apostolorum to Bishops of the United States-John Paul II -

 

Dollar Bills 600x401 zpsf00b5f25

The Economy

“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power … Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.”

“The distinctive mark of the Christian, today more than ever, must be love for the poor, the weak, the suffering.”

“I cannot fail to note once again that the poor constitute the modern challenge, especially for the well-off of our planet, where millions of people live in inhuman conditions and many are literally dying of hunger. It is not possible to announce God the Father to these brothers and sisters without taking on the responsibility of building a more just society in the name of Christ.”

“Hence in every case, a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the economic system… It is not the only means of checking, but it is a particuarly important one and in a sense the key means.”

“Wages must enable the worker and his family to have access to a truly human standard of living in the material, social, cultural and spiritual orders. It is the dignity of the person which constitutes the criterion for judging work, not the other way around.”

“Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.” ~Evangelium Vitae

 

Will JP2 Become Saint John Paul Next October?

 

I didn’t pay much attention to Pope John Paul II before I converted.

To be honest, I pretty much bought the attitude of the secular media that the Pope was just another politician, pushing his agenda. I did not understand the papacy as a religious institution so much as I thought of it as a political power.

JP2 changed that.

I came into the Church because the Eucharist called me. It was a hunger for Jesus that would not let me rest until I acceded to it. I did not anticipate the radical change that the graces of the sacraments would have on my soul. No one told me that I would experience what amounted to a conversion within a conversion or that the writings of certain Catholic thinkers would change my understanding of what it means to be human.

I found the call of the Eucharist irresistible. But I still struggled with questions of all sorts. Those questions led me to read the Encyclicals to John Paul II which, in turn, led to a reevaluation of the Papacy itself.

What he wrote was not the thinking of a politician. It was the thinking of a shepherd.

When I read that Vatican officials have approved a second miracle granted through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, I didn’t find it surprising. So far as I am concerned, JP2 had already worked a miracle on me back when he was alive.

From CNA:

.- Theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a second miracle granted through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, moving him closer to being declared a saint.

“The proclamation of his sainthood needs only the approval of the commission of cardinals and bishops and the final signature of Pope Francis,” Italian news agency ANSA reported June 18.

Before Blessed John Paul II can be canonized, the Congregation must formally approve the miracle and present it to Pope Francis. Pope Francis would then promulgate and celebrate the canonization.

… ANSA speculates that Pope Francis might canonize him on Oct. 20.

 

Why are the Bishops Doing This?

Fortnight 4 freedom logo montage

In honor of the Fortnight for Freedom, I am going to limit today’s quick picks on Christian persecution to the United States.

The list below comes from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. None of these examples involves burning down churches or mass murders of Christians. They do, however, show a huge change in the way that religious liberty is viewed by the government from just a few years ago.

I believe that this change has come about primarily through the almost non-stop Christian bashing that takes place in our media, academia and on websites. Christian bashing has become so popular that those who practice it as a profession, such as certain authors, speakers and bloggers, are not only able to continue their practice of Christian bashing without facing objections, they make an excellent living at it.

The rise of professional Christian bashers and the aggressive way that they ply their trade has certainly contributed to a cultural situation in which Christians must constantly be on the defensive. I think it has also fueled the attitudes which have led to the discriminatory practices listed below.

I’ve said a number of times that discrimination is a continuum. People do not move to violent persecution in one step. They work themselves into it by moving along a progression of prejudice and hatred. I believe that America is, as a nation, moving rather rapidly along that progression where Christians are concerned.

From the USCCB:

Current Threats To Religious Liberty

An Overview of Specific Examples

Pope Benedict XVI spoke last year about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened.  He called religious liberty the “most cherished of American freedoms.”  However, unfortunately, our most cherished freedom is under threat.  Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching.  Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. 

  • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. 

  • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.

  • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues. 

  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services.  After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. 

  • Christian students on campus.  In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

  • Forcing religious groups to host same-sex “marriage” or civil union ceremonies.  A New Jersey judge recently found that a Methodist ministry violated state law when the ministry declined to allow two women to hold a “civil union” ceremony on its private property.  Further, a civil rights complaint has been filed against the Catholic Church in Hawaii by a person requesting to use a chapel to hold a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat?  Yes, Pope Benedict XVI recognized just last year that various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S. are particularly concerning.  The threat to religious freedom is larger than any single case or issue and has its roots in secularism in our culture.  The Holy Father has asked for the laity to have courage to counter secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

Fortnight for Freedom 2013: Meatless Fridays and Prayer for our First Freedom

Today is the first day of Fortnight for Freedom 2013.

The American bishops have asked Catholics to refrain from eating meat on Fridays during the fortnight as a fast for religious freedom.

I would suggest that we also pray the Rosary for the intention of religious freedom on Fridays during the fortnight.

You can sign up for text alerts on religious freedom from the USCCB here.

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Pope Francis Invites Boy with Down Syndrome to Explore the Popemobile

Celestino di Tullo choked up when he saw Pope Francis approach his 17-year-old son, Alberto, during the Pope’s general audience yesterday.

Pope Francis walked up to the boy, who has down syndrome, and embraced him. When Alberto pointed to the Popemobile, the Holy Father invited him up to take a look. Alberto looked it over and took a brief spin in the Pope’s white chair before returning to his family.

 

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If It’s Not Prostitution, Take the Money out of It

MH900448636 I knew when I posted The New Prostitution: Surrogate Pregnancy that I would get a flurry of indignant responses and lies from people who buy and sell women’s bodies in this new, medical form of prostitution.

I’ve been to this particular rodeo before. What I encountered then and now is what people who stand up for the human rights of women always encounter: Lying attacks from their exploiters, self-destructive defenses of their own dehumanization by self-hating women, and stories of the “benefits” of the prostitution from their purchasers.

Just for the record, I don’t put pimps’ testimony on this blog. That includes pimp husbands who take money from their wives selling their bodies to medical science and doctors who buy and sell women’s bodies. I also don’t put johns’ excuses for their behavior on this blog. You’re wasting your time, trying to comment here.

My experience with this began when I went through infertility treatment to have my first child. I know a lot of about these drugs they give people. I know about their side effects and how they make you feel. I do not have first-hand knowledge of the irresponsible medical practice of egg harvesting.

My doctor was treating me for a diagnosed medical condition. The dangers and miseries I endured were part of a legitimate treatment for a bodily disfunction. She never over-stimulated my ovaries to try to make as many eggs as she could. She also never lied to me about the risks. She told me everything before we ever started, including the fact that the treatment could kill me.

The doctors who perform egg harvesting in Oklahoma lie about the risks. I know they lie because when I introduced a bill to stop them from paying women to undergo egg harvesting, they lied to other legislators and to the press. One of them said that egg harvesting was no more dangerous than riding in a car, among other flat-out lies.

They also claimed that they had not ever had a single complication. Another lie. One of these docs was part of the infertility clinic I went to. He wasn’t my doctor, but I knew him. While I was undergoing treatment, one of his patients lost an ovary. Call me crazy, but I think that qualifies as a complication.

These doctors are misrepresenting the risks and exploiting young women, endangering their lives, future health and fertility. They are reducing women and children to things to be bought and sold on the marketplace. They are also turning medical practice into an exploitative and dangerous profession that people cannot trust. 

If doctors can subject people to dangerous treatments that the patients have no medical need of in order to make money, if they can lie about the risks and use their professional associations’ political clout to create an environment that allows them to do this with impunity, then how can anyone ever trust their doctor?

We rely on these medical people to tell us the truth. We rely on them to give us treatments that we need because we are sick and need those treatments to get well. We rely on them not to inflict unnecessary medical treatments on us to make money.

These doctors are preying on women. They are buying and selling babies. All the lies in the world won’t change that.

There is one simple solution. Take the money out of the equation. If a woman wants to undergo a surrogate pregnancy for someone out of the goodness of her heart and she knows the risks and freely undertakes them, ok. But do not allow anyone to pay her to do this.  The same should go for egg harvesting. 

There is a reason we have laws that do not allow people to sell their bodily organs. The same laws should to apply to egg donation and surrogate pregnancies.

What I want to do is,

TAKE THIS:

Donor page masthead

 

AND THIS

  • First-time surrogates receive a base payment of $23,000, paid in installments throughout the pregnancy.
  • Additional payments total $4,000 or more, which increases the total compensation to $27,000. These payments include money for maternity clothes, payment for completing the embryo transfer, and a monthly expense allowance beginning when the surrogate signs the contract with the intended parents.
  • Surrogates who carry twins receive an additional $5,000, raising their total to at least $32,000.
  • Women who become surrogates a second time have their base payment increase to $28,000. This means they receive at least $32,000 total, or $37,000 if they carry twins. (see here.)

AND THIS

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OUT OF THE EQUATION. 

Give women and children their human dignity under the law. 

Otherwise, stop lying and call it what it is: The new prostitution.

The story below comes from a young doctor. She gave me permission to use her testimony when I was working to pass a bill to make it illegal to pay for egg harvesting in Oklahoma. I never used it, even though she gave me permission. She was still a student and afraid of what public use might do to her medical career. I didn’t think she understood how vicious and slandering these people really are, and I did not want to harm her in any way. I left her out of that fight.

However, she is in a different place in her career now.  She has offered her story as testimony to the Kansas State Senate and it is published at the Eggsploitation web site.

I reprint it here with permission. From Eggsploitation:

 

Sindy’s Testimony

Testimony by Sindy, M.D., Ph.D. to Kansas State Senate on Senate Bill 509, “Women’s Health and Embryo Monitoring Program Act,” March 2010

My name is Sindy. I have an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Biology with specialization in the field of real-time live imaging of the early immune response. With my strong background in basic science research and publications in top scientific journals such as Nature and Science, I have always been an avid supporter of biological research using live subjects and donated tissue, both animal and human. However, my experiences have taught me that at times, even a scrupulous medical scientist may be tempted to make erroneous assumptions, cut corners, or risk safety in order to save time or achieve success. In my medical and research training I have learned the importance of certain principles whenever attempting a procedure or study. These include: 1) ethics, 2) subject safety, 3) informed consent, and 4) patient autonomy. I am testifying today as a former egg donor on the dangers posed to women by the egg harvesting industry. I believe that all four of the above key principles had been violated in my case. Even though I suffered immediate life-threatening complications from the process, it wasn’t until many more years of medical training that I was able to understand the full scope of how I had been taken advantage of, mislead, and abandoned by the egg harvesting industry. As a medical professional it is still difficult to accept that such abuses are allowed to exist in my profession. Meanwhile, players “behind the scenes” such as the egg donation agency and the egg brokers have left the issues of ethics, health, and safety to the doctors, so that they can concentrate on profit. It is my assessment that the egg donation industry cannot be allowed to continue without regulations aimed at preventing unethical recruitment, substandard practices, and inadequate monitoring of women for the purpose of egg harvesting.

The goal of my testimony is to illuminate the importance of placing regulations on the way that the egg harvesting industry is run — from ethical, legal, and medical standpoints. 1) The health and safety of women must be protected first and foremost in any procedure related to ovum production, and should never be superseded by concerns of profit, costs of screening and monitoring the subject, quantity of eggs produced, quantity of eggs retrieved, or completion of the cycle. 2) Furthermore, like any other industry, the egg harvesting industry must be held accountable for reporting adverse effects and for tracking the long-term health of donors. 3) Ethically, informed consent must be properly obtained, with an admission that more research is needed to illuminate the long-term risks to donors. It is also an ethical responsibility for those who profit from egg harvesting to track the health of donors, including conducting large scale research in order to study risks.

I will now relate my experience. In 2001, while still in the combined MD/PhD program, I signed up for egg donation after seeing a university newspaper advertisement for egg donors. The monetary compensation of $6,500 seemed like a lot to me at the time, as I made barely enough to live on. Though I had a desire to help an infertile couple, money was definitely a major driving factor in my decision. Before I started, I searched the medical literature with a fine-tooth comb to verify that this procedure was indeed as harmless as advertised by the egg donation agency. I did not find any hard evidence in the literature of future infertility and cancers, and it seemed that the risks of other complications were extremely low. However, I was not told that the egg donors were rarely followed after the donation, and that doctors were under no obligation to report adverse events.1 Like many other women egg donors, I was bound by legal contracts to remain anonymous and therefore even if late complications occurred, they would be difficult to report.

At this point I had a normal gynecologic history, including normal age at first menses, regular menstrual cycles, and nothing significant on pelvic ultrasounds. It was assumed that I was healthy enough to undergo the egg harvesting protocol. Then I submitted my photographs, passed my genetic screening as a “quality assurance” for the tissue purchaser, and submitted myself to a psychological screen and IQ test administered by a psychiatrist. Based on these results I was chosen as the egg donor, from whom a “designer offspring” would be created.

The legal contract stated that the creation of these eggs were for the purpose of in vitro fertilization. The recipients of my eggs would retain all rights to my eggs and any subsequent embryos created from my eggs, “including but not limited to the ability to make all decisions regarding disposition of embryos.” The literature given by the egg donation agency outlined the possible risks of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), as well as some other theoretical risks that they assured me were rare. What I did not realize at this time was that there were other hidden players in the egg industry who could potentially make money off my eggs, and that there were no laws in place to discourage hyperstimulation of many more eggs than reasonably needed for the goal of helping the infertile couple. My contract did not guarantee that third parties would not be involved in the trading or selling of these eggs, though it specifically forbade donations to other infertile couples without the donor’s consent. My eggs could have been a high-value commodity for profiteers who had nothing to do with the infertile couple, and I was not made aware of this possibility in a forthcoming and direct manner.

The below was part of the information provided to the public by the egg donation agency:

Q: How many eggs are removed during the retrieval? A: The average is 10-15 eggs aspirated per cycle, but donors can produce 16 or more eggs.

Q: Can a donor not produce enough eggs in a stimulated cycle? A: Yes, if the doctor cancels the cycle for poor response the donor will be compensated between $650.00 — $750.00.

According to my agency, failure to produce more than 4 eggs qualifies as “not enough eggs”. Four is typically higher than the target for women who are receiving fertility treatment using oral medications. However, note that there is no upper limit for the number of eggs a donor may safely “produce”, indicating that safety of ovum overproduction is being ignored. This illustrates that the drive to produce a higher number of eggs is extremely high, and failure to produce “adequate” eggs is linked with reduced financial compensation for the donor. Needless to say, this concept of “more is better” brings up ethical questions concerning the use of financial compensation for the recruitment of egg donors. This is especially alarming when no standards are in place to prevent an agency from overproducing eggs. The agency also told me that if I had a successful donation and become a proven donor, I may receive more compensation for future cycles, upwards of $8,000 (on paper) to $20,000 (verbally) – more than I would make in a year of intensive lab work. When “successful” production cycles are linked to increased financial compensation and “failures” are linked to a decrease in financial compensation, women will become more likely to tolerate untoward side effects, including those of OHSS, for fear of losing this compensation. This payment structure poses an obvious ethical conflict.

After signing my legal contract I began to administer all the medications as directed by the egg donation agency. These medications arrived by mail. I already knew how to mix and administer the medications but I don’t recall being instructed by medical personnel. At no point did they adjust my dosage. I remember receiving follow-up early on with a local doctor, and more exams after I travelled by plane to Northern California for the harvesting. Imagine my surprise when they told me that I was producing approximately 60 egg follicles! A mature follicle measures ~2 cm in diameter. The normal ovary measures approximately 4 x 2.5 x 1 cm, and is analogous to the testes. Therefore, you can imagine how 30 mature follicles of 2 cm diameter clustered within each gonad must look like and feel. I was concerned, but the doctors and nurses assured me that this was within the reasonable range for a fertile young woman.

A couple of days before the retrieval the nurse emailed me that my blood estrogen (estradiol) levels came back much higher than they had anticipated (~10,000 pg/ml). A woman in her 20s has an average estrogen level of ~150 pg/ml, with a peak of ~400 pg/ml prior to ovulation. In late pregnancy, the levels may rise 100-fold, but this rise normally occurs over a 6 month period. I asked the fertility specialist to consider altering the timing and course of this process. I was concerned because the drugs I received were probably tested on Caucasian women of average weight. I am a thin non-Caucasian woman. Studies have shown genetic differences in liver drug metabolism for ethnic populations; the examples are too many to reference and are beyond the scope of this topic. Despite my concerns, the doctor told me that even though my hormone levels were extremely high, they would not make any adjustments to the protocol because they did not want to risk failure. I continued to follow all their directions, as it stipulated in my legal contract that I “[understood] it [was] imperative” that I “not deviate from [the protocol] unless instructed to do so by the IVF physician.” Therefore, I proceeded to finish my ovarian stimulation, finishing off with a shot of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to help release the eggs for the harvesting. The next morning, I underwent transvaginal needle retrieval of the eggs.

What was unknown after the surgery was that the doctor had punctured an artery during the harvesting. When I woke from the anesthesia I became weak, nauseous, and dizzy. I was scheduled to catch a plane that afternoon, to return home. They told me that I looked good and was ready to go home, even though I had problems maintaining my blood pressure. At this point I refused to leave, because I could not stand without getting dizzy – orthostatic hypotension after an invasive procedure typically raises the suspicion of blood loss. A few hours later they started giving me intravenous fluids because they thought that the anesthesia was causing my low blood pressure. Then I developed pain and difficulty breathing. An ultrasound showed that everything was fine except for fluid in my pelvis, which they said was normal (later, this was documented as “fluid pocket near the right kidney”. During this entire time the doctor and nurse persisted in trying to get me to leave, which would mean hours of traveling by car and plane. The pain in my belly became unbearable and I became convinced that I was bleeding internally; something was irritating and pushing on my diaphragm. When I asked if I could be bleeding internally, they told me that it was unlikely. My blood pressure was even lower at this time, so they gave me medication to raise it. Unfortunately giving pressors in a bleeding patient increases the bleeding rate. At 6pm, after 8 hours of slowly and painfully bleeding out, they FINALLY admitted me to the hospital. To me it seemed like they had done just about everything to get rid of me up until that point. The fertility doctor ordered me to eat something. As soon as I sat up in bed to eat, I developed sudden distress and difficulty breathing. They took my blood pressure and called out “40/20″. At that moment I feared that I was going to die. In my medical records the blood pressure reported was 61/29. At this point they finally began to realize that something was terribly wrong, that I was going into shock from blood loss, so I was taken into the operating room for an emergency exploratory laparotomy to find the source of bleeding. The surgeons flipped through my bowels three times to ensure that no other organs were punctured.

During the harvesting of ~60 eggs, which I assume required 60 passes of the needle through my ovaries, the fertility doctor had punctured a high pressure artery in my right ovary. This tiny bleeder was easily fixed with a touch of electrocautery. I had an emergency blood transfusion to replace the 1.5 liters of blood lost. There is absolutely no reason why they should have waited so long to properly diagnose me, thus turning this into an emergency surgical situation when they could have done a small laparoscopic procedure to diagnose and fix a small bleeding artery. Had I followed their directions and gone home, I would have died. Unfortunately their disregard of the signs of OHSS, low index of clinical suspicion for post surgical complications, and their extremely slow response resulted in a horrific clinical outcome.

After the surgery, I had to be kept on a breathing machine in the intensive care unit (ICU) and treated for acidosis throughout the next day. After I was stabilized enough to move to the regular medical wards, the fertility doctor came to see me. She told me that the bleeding was probably due to a genetic bleeding disorder (i.e. my own fault) and that this has never happened before. Then she proceeded to check me for rare genetic bleeding disorders – nothing. I found the doctor’s reluctance to accept that a simple, clear-cut complication had occurred to be highly disturbing. A few days after I was admitted, the 9/11 attack occurred and all planes were grounded for a week. Despite not being able to walk or tolerate a 10 hour car ride home, the doctor told me I needed to free up medical resources and go home now. She tried to get me to leave by stating that when she had her C-section it only took her 3 days to start walking again. However, she neglected the fact that I had gone into prolonged shock caused by her own negligence, spent time in the ICU, underwent a massive surgical procedure, and had emergency blood transfusions. There were no apologies from beginning to end. I was shocked by this dismissive attitude from a top doctor of a top fertility treatment center, a medical expert who has published many articles on safety evaluation and recommendations for egg harvesting. At the same time, I was afraid to launch any complaints because I was a student in the same hospital system with plans to pursue the same field – Ob/Gyn; years later I decided on another medical specialty for unrelated reasons.

I am thankful to be alive, but I know that it was not because the doctor caught the post surgical complication. It was because I finally took a stand, and refused to go home when I knew that something was wrong. If I had died I would not be here to tell my story. I fear that cases like mine are buried deep by the fertility centers who do not want to lower their reputation. While I was in the hospital the fertility doctor told me that she would write a case report on the complication I had. When I searched the medical literature for all of her publications some years later, I wasn’t surprised to find that there was no such report. I have no way of knowing if this incident even made it into a statistical analysis somewhere in the medical literature. It makes sense that an industry thriving on profits and reputation has little incentive to report adverse events, for fear of driving away potential IVF clients and egg donors.

The $6,500 I was given has long since evaporated into medical treatments for multiple late complications caused by this incident. I developed an infection inside my incision site and required multiple steroid injections into the scar to stop it from growing out of control. I suffered from post traumatic stress for months because of my near-death incident, and was unable to work for two months due to both physical and mental deterioration. When I came off birth control a few years later I discovered that my previously normal menstrual cycles and hormone levels had become irregular. My previously normal ovaries took on a polycystic appearance, with more than 25 small follicles in each ovary. I developed occasional incontinence and pelvic pain likely as a consequence of the emergency surgery causing adhesions (fibrotic bands, analogous to scarring) around my organs.

The worst part of this is my current struggle with infertility, requiring continued exposure to the very same types of fertility drugs that I had already been overexposed to in the past – exposure whose link to cancer has not been adequately studied and may take decades to emerge.1 I may need more surgeries in the future to determine if the emergency surgery that was done had damaged my reproductive organs. I fear that the procedure may have harmed the quality of my eggs, even if the fertility experts are certain (at least theoretically) that quantity of eggs remains unaffected. Because of the high hormonal exposure during my egg donation cycle and multiple anecdotes from other egg donors, the development of early cancer is always in the back of my mind. Though a large study has found no evidence linking IVF to ovarian cancer, there is a generalized, undeniable causal relationship between transient exposure to female hormones and transient risk of rapid-growth gynecologic cancer.2 I believe that is absolutely necessary for egg donors to be followed and studied, especially if they had experienced hyperstimulation during the process. No follow up has ever been offered to me. Nobody from the egg donation agency, fertility clinics, or hospital has contacted me since, except to obtain my insurance information so that they could pass my hospital bill to my own health insurance company.

Summary and Conclusion:

1) Ethical considerations:

Financial compensation for eggs disproportionately targets college women with financial hardships. These women usually have long academic careers ahead of them and have not considered childbearing yet, so any infertility caused by the procedure would cause more psychological and physical damage to these women. Docked pay for failure to produce a target number of eggs and escalating pay scales for subsequent cycles are factors that may encourage underreporting of adverse side effects by the egg donor.

2) Subject safety:

Subject safety is variable, being highly dependent on the individual clinician’s practice. This is why there needs to be standardized safety practices and mandatory reporting of complications. In the article “Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research: Workshop Report (2007)”, one fertility expert advocated the following:3

By working from such information as a patient’s age, weight, and follicle count… a doctor can begin with an FSH dose based on those factors and then modify it as necessary. We monitor during the course of the stimulation to further decrease the dose if too many follicles are developing or the estradiol levels are too high.

To reduce risk of hyperstimulation, these actions were also recommended:

  • •Modify stimulation protocol
    • ◦Decrease gonadotropin dosage
    • ◦OCP/Lupron/Low dose gonadotropins
  • •Reduce the ovulatory dose of hCG
  • •Delay administration of hCG: “Coast”
  • •Cancellation of cycle eliminates the risk of OHSS
  • •Withhold hCG administration

Basically the safety recommendations for egg donors include determining the initial dosing of these powerful drugs on the weight and age of the patient. If there is any evidence of producing more eggs or hormones than expected during routine monitoring, then the drug dosage should be reduced, the administration of stimulating medications delayed, or the cycle cancelled. None of these recommendations were followed in my case. In fact, it was one of my own egg donation doctors who was consulted and quoted in the above article.

Regarding the risk during surgical retrieval of the eggs, the perceived negligible risk of complications is likely due to incomplete data:2

It is difficult to know, however, exactly how often such complications occur . . . Although excellent statistics are kept on such things as how many viable eggs each procedure produces, the statistics are not so complete on the complications that ensue during and after.

As my case illustrates, this perceived near-zero risk is inherently dangerous because it will not raise red flags when complications do occur, resulting in delayed intervention and a poorer-than-expected outcome. When a complication does occur, the denial of medical responsibility based on statistical rarity is a faulty and circular argument. This denial of responsibility would also prevent egg donors from obtaining monetary compensation for treatment of complications and appropriate follow-up. As my case illustrates, poor management of retrieval complications can be a problem even in the hands of the most experienced clinician.

Lastly, I received no follow up after my procedure. It is the ethical duty of the fertility industry to conduct timely follow-up and research studies in order to promote safety. This is true of any other industry especially pharmaceutical – so why make fertility an exception?

3) Informed consent:

Many are improperly informed about the risks of the egg harvesting process. Verbally I was told that risk was virtually non-existent and that studies have not linked the procedure to cancer and infertility. I should have been told that there were not enough studies or long-term follow up to determine risk.

It should be made abundantly clear if embryos or stem cells may potentially be secondarily sold, traded, or gifted. The amount of profit potentially generated from each transaction and the purpose of each transaction should be transparent to everyone involved, especially the donor. Without this information, the egg donor cannot possibly make an informed decision.

4) Patient autonomy:

I was hyperstimulated with approximately 60 eggs retrieved. During the procedure I expressed concerns about not using weight-based dosing of fertility medication, the excessive number of follicles produced, and skyrocketing estradiol levels. Nothing was done to personalize my procedure based on clinical findings, which is clearly incongruent with the standard of care. After the procedure my concerns about internal bleeding were not adequately acknowledged until I went into shock and had to undergo an emergency laparotomy. In my experience, the pressure to complete a successful cycle became stronger as I became more invested in the process, and thus I progressively lost my right to make decisions regarding my own body.

Final thoughts:

Even the tiniest risk of complication needs to be taken seriously especially when dealing with perfectly healthy young women, who have no need to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure. Procedures with risk are performed on sick patients with the understanding is that the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks or the consequences of doing nothing. In egg donation there is no medical benefit, only risk. It represents a conflict of interest when the physician does not perceive the egg donor as a patient for whom they have the responsibility to minimize risk. This aspect must be considered when treating healthy young women with everything to lose.

References:

1. Nature. 2006 Sep 7;443(7107):26. Health effects of egg donation may take decades to emerge.

2. American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 153, No. 11 : 1079-1084.

3. Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research: Workshop Report (2007).

Thursday Prayer for Priests

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Margaret Rose Realy, who blogs at Morning Rose Prayer Garden, is one of those people who always touches the soft part of your heart.

Her blog is a gift, especially on the days when you need that warm and loving contact with a really good person.

Margaret Rose posts a prayer for priests every Thursday. It’s a wonderful idea, which we should all follow in our own way. Priests need prayer. As things get worse for Christians, we are going to need strong shepherds who will not run away or cow-tow in the face of pressures to deny Christ in one way or another.

We need them. They need us. We all need Jesus.

Here is Margaret Rose’s prayer. You can find other wonderful posts here, at her blog.

Divine Savior Jesus Christ, who has entrusted the whole work of your redemption, the welfare and  salvation of the world, to priests as your representatives, through the  hands of your most holy Mother and for the sanctification of your  priests and candidates for the priesthood, I offer you this present day  wholly and entirely, with all its prayers, works, joys, sacrifices and  sorrows.  Give us truly holy priests who, inflamed with the fire of your divine love, seek nothing but your greater glory and the salvation of  our souls.  And you, Mary, good Mother of priests, protect all priests  in danger of their holy vocation and, with the loving hand of a mother, also lead back to the Good Shepherd those poor priests who have become unfaithful to their exalted vocation and have gone astray.  Amen.

Pope Francis Calls for Christian Unity During General Audience

“We Catholics should pray together,” Pope Francis said in his Wednesday audience, “but we should also pray together with other Christians.”

This is a message every Christian should take to heart. We don’t have to give up our doctrinal differences to know that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and Life. The most important thing is that we put Him at the center. When we do that, the differences we think are so important fade into the background where they belong.

We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christians. That makes it all the more important for Christians to support and stand by one another.

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The Land of Opportunity and Our Three-Tier Public Education System

Public education is a three tier system. 

The top tier of public education provides a top-flight education that feeds its students royal jelly. Kids from these schools are expected to go on to the top tier universities.

Diplomas from top tier universities are tickets to entry into a distant ruling class that sends other Americans’ children to wars it doesn’t fight, passes laws that destroy other people’s lives and creates social mores that undercut the institutions by which their “lessors” create community. 

Board meeting room

How many members of powerful boards went to the same schools?

The middle tier of public education provides a so-so, mid-level state university education to suburban students. They are slotted for workman type jobs that will provide a comfortable life for them, but will not allow them access to the decision-making levers of our society.

Middle tier public education inculcates the social mores of those who inhabit the top tier, encouraging the students to drink a bit of social arsenic along with their education. If they drink too deeply, their children will inevitably end up in the bottom tier.

Occasionally, a student from one of these schools will, by dent of massive work and high intelligence, hit a bell-ringing test score that gives them the option of attending a ticket-punching top tier university. However, since these students don’t usually fit the “profile” of politically-correct desirability, they are often blocked at this juncture by money, including the money for clothes, entertainment, meals and all the rest of what it takes to fit in at a top tier university.

Added to that is the fact that they are from a different social strata with different mores and beliefs, and you have a recipe for misery if they do accept the call to a top tier school. Everything they are, including the people know and love is, lies outside the world they will enter. The choice is painful. Turn down the offer and stay on the lower tiers of society, or accept it and condemn yourself to a chameleon life. 

Prison

How many kids from bottom tier schools end up in prison?

The bottom tier of public education is designed for what people seem to love to call “throw-away kids.” The schools themselves are throw-away schools. They are usually ugly, institutional-looking edifices that make one think of a prison. They are also usually over-crowded, with huge class sizes, as well as dirty and in need of paint and repairs.

Students at these schools usually encounter two kinds of teachers: Incredibly dedicated teachers with a mission, and the failures of the educational system who were parked here to serve out their time until retirement. 

I’ve known teachers from bottom tier public schools who care deeply and passionately about the students they teach. On the other hand, I’ve known teachers in these schools who have contempt for their students, the students’ parents and the whole school. They can’t understand what someone as wonderful as them is doing here in this slum.

A student who gets a series of the missionary teachers has a chance at life. But a child who goes through a long string of the bitter bad ones is pretty much doomed. Unlike in other schools, it’s all in the luck of the draw. 

Supplies 0007

How many families from bottom tier schools can afford to buy school supplies?

Students in bottom tier schools don’t have enough textbooks. They also do not have the money to buy supplies, or lunches or even to dress well for school. 

Every destructive social experiment you can imagine is dumped on these kids. Their families are systematically shut out of the process. Educational professionals will deny this, but I have seen first-hand the dismissive, insulting way that parents are ignored and patronized in these schools. 

Children who attend top tier schools are being groomed to rule. Children who attend middle tier schools are being groomed to work. But those in the bottom tier are being groomed to fall through the cracks and die young. These bottom tier schools are the places where we recruit our soldiers to use as cannon fodder in unnecessary wars that are being fought to enhance the bottom line of those at the top.

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How many graduates of top tier schools fight and die in our endless wars?

Those who graduate from top tier universities populate the board rooms, the senate offices, sound stages and courtrooms where decisions are made. Most of them have never had meaningful contact with people from the bottom tier in their entire lives. They create wars, sell them through their media, and then send other people’s children to fight and die in them. 

I have sat in a roomful of a young people and listened while an army recruiter said to them: It would be better for you to go to Iraq and die a death with honor, than to stay here and die on the streets for no reason.

I am here to tell you that this statement resonated with those young people. In its own way, it resonated with me, too. Is this the new recruiting slogan? Is it the new way America fights its wars, by offering up young people from the lower tiers as living sacrifices to the “way of life” of those in the upper tier?

Public education was once an opportunity. But in our brave new world it has become a gatekeeper. 


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