Puzzles to Ourselves

I appreciated Michael Augros’ concise satire on the law that governs secular society (“New Law,” In Depth, Jan. 21). Sometimes in this complex world, we encounter situations that seem incongruous to us, a contradiction of facts, out of touch with reality. As Mr. Augros explains, we are puzzles because we ourselves are out of tune with the sentiments that animate secular society. To keep our bearing straight as Catholics, we need to develop fluency in the gospel of our secular culture. Otherwise we’ll always be mistaking oranges for apples and night for day.

I particularly appreciate his comments on the rule of profit and the use of cosmetics. We live in a culture as obsessed with perfection as appearances as were the classical sculptors of Rome and Greece. America today is beginning to idolize the pagan worship of human perfection of classical art. This utilitarian and superficial view of the human person contributes greatly to the culture of death. It also makes it very difficult, at times, to ascertain anyone’s true age. I would rather see a few lines on someone’s face and know whom I’m talking with.

His comments on profit were also illuminating. Our culture is immersed in a labyrinth of indecipherable legal jargon. Lawyers have become opaque and scary beings more intimidating than a rowdy bunch of Hell’s Angels. By and large (there are always exceptions), they propagate the gospel of profit. The worship of money demeans all human relations. I thank Mr. Augros for an article well worth reading.

Matt Terranova

Hackensack, New Jersey

Editor’s note: We have received a number of compliments on this column and regret that we didn’t have space to include a bio line identifying its author. Here’s the blurb, a little late: Michael Augros is a professor at the Legionaries of Christ Center for Higher Studies in Thornwood, N.Y. (His writings have appeared in our pages before — and we hope they will again.)

The Amniotic Answer

Regarding “Congress vs. Science” (Jan 21-27):

On Aug. 9, 2001, President Bush signed an executive order limiting federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to those lines then in existence. While receiving scathing criticism (for not doing enough), President Bush is the first and so far only president to federally fund stem-cell research. Under President Clinton the feds spent exactly nothing.

Democrats made a pledge to expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research beyond Bush’s limits in their first 100 hours, but it turns out that an even more promising source of stem cells is to be found in a baby’s first nine months — not in the embryo itself, but in the fluid that surrounds it. Bush was right. Michael J. Fox was wrong.

Scientists at Wake Forest University and Harvard have found another new and plentiful source of stem cells in the amniotic fluid that cushions these embryos in the womb. Researchers were able to extract stem cells from the fluid without harm to the mother or the fetus and turn them into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.

Dr. Anthony Atala, head of Wake Forest’s Regenerative Medicine Institute and senior researcher on the project, says the research published in the journal Nature Biotechnology goes beyond similar work by Swiss researcher Simon Hoerstrup, who managed to turn amniotic-fluid stem cells into heart cells that could be grown into replacement valves.

Dr. George Daley, a Harvard stem-cell researcher, said the finding raises the possibility that, someday, expectant patients might freeze amniotic-fluid stem cells for future tissue replacement in a sick child without fear of immune rejection.

It is a mystery to me why embryonic stem-cell research is so fervently supported — while research involving adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood and, now, amniotic fluid stem cells, is virtually ignored.

Daniel John Sobieski


Press the Issue

I read “We Won’t Go Away” (Editorial, Jan. 21-27) and I pray that you will publish it in every university, in every newspaper, in every pro-life organization, and to every legislator — after you correct one sentence.

The sentence I refer to is this one: “Those of us who have had an abortion know the guilt at what we’ve done and the anger at those who made it seem inevitable, who refused all help except the kind that kills.”

 It is not “helpful” or “kind” to kill, and so those words troubled me.

The rest of the article — the message that pro-lifers cannot quit and will not quit — is essential because the wicked pro-aborts think they will wear us down and/or provoke, aggravate and harass us enough that we would quit. But we won’t. We pro-lifers cannot quit, must not quit, and we must constantly reiterate the message that it is wrong to kill innocents, always and everywhere.

We must also constantly expose the pro-aborts’ use of euphemistic words to propagandize school-age children and, indeed, the nation as a whole.  We must demand to be heard and we must press the issue in the faces of every man, woman and child in America. I include children because they must be taught the truth of God, because the opposing side is attempting to propagandize children starting in kindergarten. 

Lies and propaganda must be counteracted with truth. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

Gloria Poole Pappas

Aurora, Colorado

God: Not Mocked

Relevant to “Debating Iraq” (Feb. 4-10):

Since the beginning of the Iraq War, 3.8 million babies have died. Every day in America, 3,200 babies die by abortion.

God’s precisely crafted treasures are wiped out like some kind of bad germ. Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa both said that the evil of abortion is at the heart of the mess today’s world is in. Once you legalize such atrocities, then any lesser evil is perfectly okay.

In both the Old and New Testaments, whenever God’s chosen people strayed from his Ten Commandments of love, he was forced, as a loving Father, to take drastic measures to being them back. He used their enemies to punish them and bring them to their knees in repentance.

In Chronicles 2:7-14 we read: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Dan Naber

North Providence, Rhode Island

Shortsighted on Seminaries?

I used to subscribe to the Register at my last assignment, and I was looking to find the address to be able to subscribe again. Then I saw Tim Drake’s article, “Vocations Surge” (Jan. 14-20) on successful campaigns for vocations. I agreed with most everything he said, except with regard to seminaries. The largest seminary in the United States, by far, is Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.

Why is it so difficult for the Catholic press to recognize that? If numbers mean something, then they mean something across the board, not just when they conveniently prove the points you want to make. Mundelein flourishes because it has solid academic, spiritual and pastoral formation programs — just like the others you mention. Stop with the bias against Mundelein Seminary.

Father John Regan

 Roselle, Illinois

Mary and Vocations

Regarding “Vocations Surge” (Jan. 14-20):

Your article about vocations was great. The only thing that wasn’t stressed was the praying of the Rosary. Our Blessed Mother has stressed it in all her messages. It is such an effective tool for all occasions — peace in families, healing, conversions — and especially for vocations.

I only want to point out our own parish as an example. At present we have four candidates studying for the priesthood. I’m sure that our perpetual Eucharistic adoration plays a big part in this, and the beautiful families that make up our parish, and our holy priests and the example they set.

We also pray the Rosary twice a day during the week and before the 8 a.m. Mass on Saturday and Sunday.

Jesus gave us his mother when he was dying on the cross. At the wedding feast at Cana she told the waiter: “Do whatever he tells you.”

She’s asking us for the Rosary. Why aren’t we listening to her? She’s our mother. Let us do what she asks.

Peg Sopchak

Syracuse, New York

Mrs. Pelosi’s Politics 

Your article “Pelosi Triumphant,” in the Jan 14 issue of the Register, very poignantly displays how arrogant she is with a smile on her face arriving at a Catholic Church for Mass while the signs in the background boldly announce the truth, “You Can’t Be Catholic and Pro Abortion.”

She continues in this very overt manner to flaunt her Catholicism for political purposes, boldly defying Church teaching which is blatantly scandalous. Yet the archbishops of Washington and San Francisco are hesitant to take any disciplinary action.

This is very confusing to Catholics when Canon 915 of the Catholic Church requires that disciplinary action be taken for such scandalous behavior.

What is the future of the Catholic faith in this country when we have bishops who are reticent to deal with the hard challenges?

Thomas J. Magner

Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

San Antonio, Texas