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Compassion in medicine

Compassion has a moral quality; it is not just a fine bedside manner or a capacity to have a physiological empathy with the patient... Every human experience is unique, especially the experience of illness. No one can fully experience another person's experience of illness. Nevertheless, if we are to arrive at a medical decision that fits as closely as possible a patient's experience, we must penetrate that unique experience to some degree. That's what compassion means. To feel something of what it is to be ill: not in general, not in society, not in one's family, but in this person here and now. Compassion becomes a moral requirement because a truly healing action requires some comprehension of what this illness means to this person. Objectivity required by medical science is a stepping back, which is absolutely necessary for the technical decision. But with compassion we step back into the patients experience in order to make a good, morally defensible decision.

Edmund D. Pellegrino

Toward a Reconstruction of Medical Morality

Jules van Schaijik

Bonus wisdom from Alice von Hildebrand

Mar. 12, 2012, at 1:38pm

Saturday morning, over breakfast, Alice von Hildebrand began telling me things she had meant to mention the evening before in her lecture on the role of the heart in human life, but hadn't. Thinking others might like to hear what she was saying, I started recoring. I captured two nuggets I thought especially worth sharing.

The first is on sentimentality as a perversion of the heart, and on Jean-Jacques Rousseau as a perfect example of it: click here to listen

The second, a bit longer than the first, is a beautiful philosophical and scriptural reflection on the meaning of nakedness: click here to listen

Another point came up in our conversation, which I didn't record, but want to add

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Josef Seifert

Does Freedom of Conscience not Matter if Obama pays? - AND Socrates’ Advice to Cardinal Dolan

Mar. 11, 2012, at 10:40pm

Socrates’ Advice to Cardinal Dolan: it is better for man to suffer injustice than to commit it.

Many concerned citizens, Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, and even some atheists, have voiced their deep concern over the attack on the freedom of conscience and religion that we now suffer in the USA. Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in his impressive letter of March 2, 2012, expressed his deep concern and shock, alluding even to the hard times which may expect the Catholic Church in view of the unbending and frontal attack on religious freedom by the Obama government. Also Pope Benedict has shown signs of deep alarm, saying to some US bishops during their ad limina

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Anna Halpine

What is authentic healthcare for women?

Mar. 9, 2012, at 12:27pm

Women’s reproductive health is a hot topic and claims about it are made freely. Given that, it’s worth pausing to reflect about the nature of the woman at the heart of these rights, and the type of health care that can best serve her and her needs.

Women’s health begins with respect for women. Caring for her reproductive health should not be a political agenda, manipulated to serve ideologies or ends. It should not be an agenda driven by profit, in order to sell women pills and commodities. It should not mask contempt for women, in an attempt to encourage her to give in to the urges or demands of men who do not care for her or treat her as a subject with dignity and rights. Authentic

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Katie van Schaijik

Mark Steyn, secular prophet

Mar. 8, 2012, at 10:54am

If you read anything about current events this week, let it be Mark Steyn on The Church of Big Government


Katie van Schaijik

The JP II generation

Mar. 8, 2012, at 10:30am

Another John Paul II priest takes on the crisis of relativism overwhelming our society, this time by way of personal testimony.  

I grew up in the Bernadine years.  The years of consensus leadership, of being welcoming and tolerant.  Dialogue was the way to address any disagreement, any difficulty.  

I don’t recall hearing anything about principles, about virtue, about sacrifice, about the truth.  It seems that a whole generation, the generation before me, had been turned off by such things.  They distained talk of objective right and wrong.  Of good and evil.  Of virtue and sin.  And they pointed out continually that such dichotomies were either the mark of simplistic and naïve thinking,

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Katie van Schaijik

A priest lays out the wrong of the HHS mandate

Mar. 6, 2012, at 9:13am

Saturday Jules and I went to a "Newman Night" gathering of local friends.  We meet several times a year for a potluck dinner, lively debate and discussion over a selection of readings, then night prayer.  The readings this time were all about the HHS mandate.  They included this short article by fellow personalist Peter J. Colosi. The debate was about our focus.  Should it be on protesting the violation of religious liberty, or should it be on explaining the evil of contraception?  Or both?

One of those present and participating was our friend, Fr. Philip Forlano.  Sunday evening he sent around the homily he had given at Mass.  I asked him if I could publish it and he said yes.  Here it

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Michael Healy

Two Thoughts on “One Flesh”

Mar. 5, 2012, at 2:11pm

According to recent polls the pro-life cause seems to be winning its argument with the younger generation; yet, the defense of traditional marriage seems to be losing ground.  Why is this?  I’m sure there are many reasons, but one may be that the pro-life argument is basically simple and strait forward (it’s a human being, quite obviously, in the womb) while the “pro-choice” argument has to get extremely convoluted to try to justify itself.  On the other hand, the “homosexual marriage” argument is simple (if people want to marry, let them), while the traditional marriage argument gets complicated (technical definitions of marriage involved, intimate physical details required, objections

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Josef Seifert

What is “Totalitarian” and Totalitarianism? Is the USA really moving to become a totalitarian state?

Mar. 4, 2012, at 9:39pm

The comments and questions posed on my post on the danger of the USA moving to become a totalitarian state have prompted me to ask the underlying question what a “totalitarian state” is.

By this term we can of course refer to kinds of states and regimes which are very different from the USA. Let us briefly survey the characteristics through which totalitarian states or regimes can be characterized and then ask which of these are present and which are absent in the USA:

  1. A total state control of public and private life that eliminates as far as possible opposition, other parties, private education, Church schools (up to persecuting critics and, if we speak of an atheist totalitarian state,
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Josef Seifert

Has the USA become a Totalitarian State? Grave Attacks on the Freedom of Faith Conscience and Creed

Mar. 3, 2012, at 2:54pm

Americans are used to believing, and have thought since their beginning in 1776, that they are the freest country in the world—nay the very embodiment of freedom, and the firmest column of the “Axis of Good”, opposing the forces of the “Axis of evil,” and quite especially all totalitarian states in which human rights go without the unconditional respect they command, and in which freedom and liberty are trampled upon. It is certainly true that the US has in many situations, most notably in the disarmament of one of the most diabolical totalitarian states, Nazi Germany, lived up to the great historic mission of this country. (And I, as Austrian who was born just three months before the end

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Katie van Schaijik

Persons vs. Power

Mar. 2, 2012, at 11:08am

Increasingly over the years I have been understanding the essential truths of Christian personalism as being radically opposed to the master/slave hermaneutic of human relations established at the fall of Eden.  We are framed for love.  We come from love; we're made of love; we're called to give ourselves in love and service.  That's how we are fulfilled as persons, as individuals and as communities.  It's how we realize through our freedom our being made in the Image and Likeness of God.

The fall of Eden was essentially a refusal to love and serve.  A preference for domination and servility.  

It's interesting to consider the nature of the temptations Satan posed to Jesus in the desert.

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Jules van Schaijik

The negative effects of ‘thinking the unthinkable’

Feb. 29, 2012, at 9:31am

The already-infamous article recently published by the Journal of Medical Ethics, defending the option of infanticide or "after-birth abortion" for pretty much any reason whatever—since, no matter how slight the reasons of the parents, "they will always trump the alleged interest of potential people" (the newborn babies) which "amounts to zero"!—is horrible not only because of its content, but also for the brazen, unembarrassed tone in which it is written. The authors clearly think that their position is perfectly respectable: controversial, to be sure, but as legitimate as any other that might be taken up in an ethical debate.

It is a deplorable side-effect of utilitarianism that no

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Michael Healy

Blessed Are They Who Mourn

Feb. 28, 2012, at 11:46pm

In continuing reflection on the wonderful mystery of  “Holy Sorrow” (again with the help of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Transformation in Christ), Christ tells us “Blessed are they who mourn…” even though we are commanded to “Rejoice always!”  

This means that the aspect of our lives in this world which makes it a valley of tears is truly valid, even though not the final truth, “for they shall be comforted:” 

To all those who have to suffer on earth—the oppressed and disinherited, the sick and the poor, the lonely, the downcast, the afflicted—this word reveals that the valley of tears is not reality ultimate and definitive.  It implies that they are to come into their own in that final home

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Michael Healy

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow

Feb. 26, 2012, at 5:36pm

In my recent post on the superficial treatment of sex on TV, I ended up expressing basically just the natural emotions of annoyance and disgust at the situation.  While valid, such responses are nonetheless inadequate from a Christian perspective.  As Dietrich von Hildebrand points out in his classic work Transformation in Christ, “supernatural life represents something radically new, apart from other new aspects it introduces, in that its fullness reveals certain vestiges of that coincidentia oppositorum—that union of apparently irreconcilable opposites—which is the privilege of divine life.”  In this case, the seeming opposites which the Christian is meant to combine are a deep sorrow

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Katie van Schaijik

Holy cosmetics

Feb. 26, 2012, at 11:15am

One of the earliest lessons I learned from Alice von Hildebrand came from a talk she gave in Steubenville in my undergrad days.

"You are not responsible for the face you were born with. You are responsible for the face you die with."

Often in the years since I have heard her speak of "holy cosmetics": the beauty the human face acquires over time, by living in right accord with "the hierarchy of values."

It's the opposite trajectory to the horrible one depicted so vividly in Oscar Wilde's insightful novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. A life of evil and indulgence over time renders a person ugly, even if he was originally endowed with great physical beauty. The body displays the debauched

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Katie van Schaijik

The lie underlying the culture of death

Feb. 25, 2012, at 2:30pm

Theodore Dalrymple, who is also Anthony Daniels, professes to be an atheist.  He is, in any case, a true philosopher—a man with rare powers of insight and expression, who reflects deeply and fruitfully on human experience, its moral meaning and implications.  A doctor and psychiatrist by training, he spent many years serving badly messed up people in horrible places, in Africa and in English inner cities.

He has an article about sex selection abortion in the Telegraph today, pointing out the moral incoherence of the current outrage over the discovery that it is practiced fairly routinely in England. 

The Abortion Act provides, de facto, abortion on demand, and this has been so for many

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Jules van Schaijik

Do we want our politicians to be consistent?

Feb. 23, 2012, at 8:11pm

In last night's Republican primary debate, candidates were asked to describe themselves with one word. Ron Paul answered firmly: "Consistent." That struck me as both apt and telling. I haven't been paying very close attention to the race, but I gather that Ron Paul is a principled libertarian. His positions hang together in a coherent way and follow logically from the first principles to which he subscribes. He has defended virtually the same positions throughout his political career. He is not beholden to any person or any party, and not swayed by public opinion. He seems to have the integrity so needed and yet so often lacking in a politician. He can't be bribed into supporting things he

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Michael Healy

On the Unbearable Lightness of Sex on TV

Feb. 22, 2012, at 2:19pm

I have always liked detective stories.  I started with The Bobbsey Twins, graduated to the Hardy Boys and the Ken Holt Mysteries, then began to pick up more adult fare.  I read almost all of Earle Stanley Gardner (lawyer Perry Mason), Dashiell Hammett (hard-boiled detective Sam Spade), Raymond Chandler (harder-boiled detective Philip Marlowe), and even Mickey Spillane (hardest-boiled detective Mike Hammer)—I must confess with a mea culpa—who went further than the others in hardboiled sex and violence. 

I’ve also always enjoyed TV detective stories, like the old Perry Mason series.  Alternatively, on TV, I’ve always enjoyed a good comedy.  I can go back to classics like the Dick van Dyke

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Laurence

The Abuse of Language and the Dehumanization of the Person

Feb. 22, 2012, at 10:25am

This article was submitted to the member forum.  Since it touches on the issue of language, which Jules raised below, we're moving it here.

Language is the most powerful tool ever invented. Its simultaneous precision and malleability provide infinite possibilities of expression, whether it’s through poetry, mathematics, music, or W-2 income tax forms. People use language to define their world, explore their reality, and share in the human experience. The English language is especially fun. With over a billion words at their disposal, acrobatic English speakers can tell the same story a million different ways, exploring alternative nuances and subtle meanings all the while. Using

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Jules van Schaijik

Deceit and coercion: different means, same end

Feb. 21, 2012, at 2:10pm

The recent HHS contraceptive-coverage mandate, and the lying, manipulative rhetoric surrounding it, has exposed once again the close connection between the abuse of language and the abuse of power. And maybe that's a good thing. We've become so accustomed to political spin, campaign rhetoric, partisan platitudes, etc., that it is easy to miss the manipulative and coercive elements in these forms of sophistry. But those elements, though usually hidden, are always there.

Deceit and violence are in fact very closely related. Sissela Bok calls them "the two forms of deliberate assault on human beings." They are both modes of dominating people; of using them in ways, and for ends, they would

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Michael Healy

“Forgiving Oneself”—What Might It Mean?

Feb. 14, 2012, at 11:33pm

In my earlier post on forgiveness, an interesting tangential point arose in discussion about the (possible) nature of "forgiving oneself" or "self-forgiveness."  Some would deny such a thing is even possible, others would say it has a meaning, though only derivative or secondary.  Herewith, a further attempt to sort out a few thoughts on the topic.

It might seem at first glance that “self-forgiveness” is a dangerous concept.  Why?  First, is it not substituting a relation to self for what is by its very nature an interpersonal act?  Does this not imply an encapsulating self-centeredness?  Second, don’t we have to ask for forgiveness and be forgiven by the one we have wronged?  Otherwise,

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