Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Three Meditations

Father John J. Lombardi

1. Obvious Warning Signs and Reasons to Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Last week brought reports of a Korean doctor who fraudulently made claims of cloning human beings. These claims were made in the highest scientific journals-Science and Nature, publications in the U.S. Further, the doctor was propelled by the South Korean government-- eager to gain a glitzy-good reputation in burgeoning biotechnological field; and was also wooed by the public there, and by others in the scientific field. Additionally, some of his female understudies donated eggs from their bodies to him for usage in the studies.

This is a disaster on many levels. Stem cell research is being touted by many-scientists, powerful politicians, Hollywood elite-as a possible "savior" for many diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc. The above lessons should warn us that when we tamper with human beings-which is what stem cell research does, then we are on a path of manipulation, ethical demise and a Frankensteinian nightmare.

Put simply: embryonic stem cell research and therapy depends on using human beings (in this case, fertilized eggs-which is a human in a nascent state "created" in a laboratory) and then stripping cells from it, the body, to allegedly heal sick persons-whether they are elderly or young children. This is not only counter to Catholic teaching but also against human dignity. People, however "nascent," are not"test cases" or repositories of harvesting for other's proposed good. (A form of stem cell therapy, allowable by the Catholic Church, includes using grown persons stem cells from their internal organs which do not require the person being killed, discarded, etc.)

President Bush's Committee on Bio Ethics (originally chaired by Leon Kass, who has been critiqued and castigated, and now is in the private sector) always taught nothing less than a total ban on embryonic stem cell research as there is always a victim in supposed, unproven results of stem cell technology-a baby/fetus that is manipulated, thrown away. . As last week's news story shows us, there are many dangers to this field-and bio ethics in general, and some in the scientific, journalistic and ethical fields, will do almost anything to promote "science," "truth," "healing" and, further, claim these as their provenance of expertise to the exclusion of anyone else's interest or critique. .

Ergo/therefore: We need Catholic medical professionals (doctors, researchers, etc.) to learn, teach and promote truth, ethics which promote human dignity-and also be wary of the extreme temptation today in bio-medical fields to denigrate life at any cost. We need all in the scientific community to watch out for the steam roll of mantras like "healing" and "therapy"-especially when they promise help and yet capitalize on living human beings, however disguised. We need scientific publishers and journalists to be more on guard against proposals of truth and scientific breakthroughs-so we, laypersons, may fully be protected and knowledgeable about what the "real deal" is. (As it turns out, the only verifiable cloning procedure the Korean doctor did was upon a cow). All these aforementioned entities can conspire together for good, for true healing and human dignity, or for evil. Let us be both on guard and also pro-actively seek true medical liberation.

II. The Year that Went By Thoughts on some of the top events of A.D 2005 and Premonitions of Upcoming 2006 …

Katrina-This was the worst natural disaster to hit the U-S- of A. On the one hand we are supremely sad at the devastation and suffering; and, on the other, as some asked, how could a city so warned before not prepare? Meanwhile, some meteorologists are forecasting more hurricanes because of alleged global warming. Remember about the spiritual life and also, "everyday life", too: Semper peratis: always prepared. Popes John Paul II ("The Great") died and we got another Holy Father-Benedict the XVI. Okay, not an Italian (!) but a holy, smart German and strong perceiver of the moral relativism that adversely affects us today. (Bumper sticker seen at the Grotto with Pope Benedict's montage on it: "I Love my German shepherd"). Pray for your spiritual leaders! Anniversary: The Grotto's Two Hundredth founding, by Fr John Dubois, when he planted a cross where our Corpus Christi chapel now stands, was celebrated with joy and festivity. Mother Seton came in 1809, and Fr Brute (now under study for possible canonization) arrived in 1821. These and many other saintly folks have trod our beautiful Garden-Grotto, and we should be thankful for, and promoting this Blessed Mountain and haven of peace and miracles! Intelligent Design (ID) was dismissed by a Harrisburg judge in December-saying it was not a valid scientific theory and possibly purporting to be a vehicle of religion, and therefore cannot be utilized in schoolrooms. ID got a blow but it has powerfully challenged alleged scientific Darwinism and won't easily go away, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, Pope Benedict, somewhat subtly said that there is an intelligence and not chance- randomness behind the glory of the universe. Internet pornography--there were, and will be many stories upcoming about this unfortunate, pervasive phenomena wrecking souls and families, and also how the young are being targeted thru the internet to be sexually abused: Technology can help or hinder us-so watch out! Same sex unions-many US states passed laws defending and defining marriage as between two adults of different genders. However, many cities passed laws enabling same sex unions to either occur ("legally") or for "partners" to receive financial benefits. Once again: the Catholic Church and Christians have been vigilant (defending the dignity of all individuals while prohibiting legislation against God's natural Law) but need keep so more in the future as various groups continue the assault on marriage and family life…Iraq-the war continues with the mark of 2,000 American soldiers dead. This brought up yet again another round of debates about the war, and, bringing the troops home. In this election year 2006 we will pray for peace to prevail and bloodshed to cease.

Supreme Court Catholics: John Roberts, Catholic, was approved overwhelmingly as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (after premonitions of doom and gloom battles); and Judge Samuel Alito, Catholic, was nominated as possible Justice, and has been pursued and pilloried because of his past statements on pro-life issues: stay tuned. Vatican policy on homosexuals and non-admittance to seminaries if they have not been chaste or committed was issued. This variously turned off and turned on many-the storm came and went, as you see, and hopefully, this sound, sensible spiritual policy will help Catholics trust in church leaders and bring more candidates who were possibly, previously shut out from the priesthood…Book of theYear (?)-one them, at least, was New York literary star Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking," which was hailed by many critics (I've not read). The book detailed her difficult thoughts and feelings about the deaths of her husband and child in one year. This may indicate a further acceptance or plausibility of dialogue about depression and darkness in life-that we Americans are not always sunny or, at least don't need to be.

Vocations to the Convent: In the fall of 2005, Teresa Graupner left Mt. St. Mary's, Fairfield, PA, her family and the Grotto Choir, and became Sister Teresa in the Michigan Dominican Order of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I just saw a picture of her and she looks radiant in her habit-her religious one and her sacrificial and spousal ones, too. Let us keep her and her family in our prayers and thank her for her heroism and witness!

Limbo questioned-Thirty theologians met in Rome and expressed doubt in the validity of the alleged spiritual realm, which means "border"-originally intended by medieval theologians as a theological opinion (it has never been taught as anything but this). Limbo was originally thought of as a "place" where unbaptized babies went, those who neither merited Heaven or Hell. Last year the then Cardinal Ratzinger's thought was that it needn't be a doctrine, and what is unnecessary shouldn't be kept or promoted.. "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays"-okay, now, which greeting did you say? This is an ongoing symptom of the culture wars, and especially indicative of the Battle against Faith and Christianity in the Public Square. When in doubt, just remember the "greetings" of the Dollar Bill: "In God We Trust." Stay tuned. Favorite Meal of the year (besides Mass) I had a fun lunch with a "democratic operative" (first, for me) at Christmastime. Dave and I talked about, well, politics, religion, abortion (he's pro life), and just how and why people can believe so intensely and differently about approaches to poverty, government and promoting the social good. My favorite quote from my lunch-friend: "God loves both democrats and republicans." Amen. And let's keep up the dialogue. O, by the way, he picked up the tab from the lunch! Let's wisely mix politics, food and religion.

Now, for some excerpts taken from one of my favorite books of last year: "Lincoln's Melancholy"-by Joshua Wolf Shenk (Houghlin Mifflin/2005). I enjoyed this book immensely, especially because it proved and illustrated (to many and all human beings) that, if this great, man, Lincoln-can overcome internal, dark obstacles-then we all can, and do great things!

Suffering as teacher: "In his mid-forties, the dark soil of his melancholy began to bear fruit. When Lincoln threw himself into the fight against the extension of slavery, the same qualities that had long brought him so much trouble played a role in his great work…The suffering he endured taught him clarity, discipline and faith in hard times-perhaps especially in hard times. It was not what we call a recovery, and certainly not what we would call a cure…. (His suffering) resonates with those who see suffering as a potential catalyst of emotional growth. What man actually needs, the psychiatrist Victor Frankel argued, 'is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal.'"

On being human: "If Lincoln were alive today, his depression would be considered a 'character issue'-that is, a political liability. But in his time, it may have helped more than it hurt. While many found his moods odd and curious, the most common reaction was positive interest. Even as he rose to great heights, people tended to feel sympathy for him. As Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald has observed: 'Many of Lincoln's advisors viewed him as a man who needed to be encouraged and protected.'"

On regarding prayer to God during the Civil War: "Once a minister remarked to Lincoln something along the lines of 'I hope the Lord is on our side.' Lincoln said he didn't agree, adding in substance: 'I hope we are on the Lord's side."

On relationships: "'Lincoln loved Anna Rutledge better than his own life-and… by claiming that the grief over her loss was a major factor in his lifelong melancholy. It was a fire, (Hernodon said) that forged in Lincoln his mature character."…So, go deep, embrace the deep, and then help others.

III. The Gospel (St Jn. 1: 35-42): Three titles and descriptors are given to Jesus by three different persons. They see spiritually and thus reveal the Savior in all His variety and Love. Let's meditate upon these descriptors: Lamb of God means He is our

"ransom"-that we, in some way mysteriously participated in the sin of Adam-deserve punishment, but Jesus-as-the Lamb took it on for us. Put simply: we shoulda' gone to the slammer but He did for us. Nay, He went to death for us, since the crime and punishment were so great and grave and we could have never fulfilled our debt. Though this "satisfaction theory" is sometimes disparaged today as outdated (perhaps seen to exclude the Love of God) it is still biblically rooted and helpful for us to begin to plummet the mercy and sacrifice of God without which we, sometimes take-it-for-granted-humans, would forget.

Rabbi-this means "teacher". Jesus teaches many things-about life (it is hard Jn 16:31-); about Eternal life; about becoming enslaved to sins; about suffering: about enemies (love them); about heroic virtue and saintliness (Mt. 5:1-12) and…

Christ-means "anointed," meaning God's Son, Divinity-come-to-earth. Many people today are looking for enlightened persons, illuminated ones, those who have wisdom, beings who show transformed life; paranormal reality, transpersonal beings. Jesus shows us He can transform our lives just as He changed the famous sinner St. Augustine into a tremendous saint; Christ can change our being into a Paranormal-like state: He went thru doors and overcame death; Padre Pio read hearts and received the Stigmata. Jesus shows us the Transpersonal-He taught us that we can rise above our imprisoning-bad-or-limiting-person-aspects: After all St Paul said: " I live no longer I but Christ within me" (Gal 2:19-20). We should always remember-Jesus isn't just a good guy, but a Savior of Souls; he is not only fantastic-he is supernatural; He is not only smart-but Supernally Wise. He knows the Way to Heaven and Holiness- How can you entrust yourself more to Him, to His Way, and allow God, Him, to live in you-in all your thoughts, words and deeds?

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi