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Priests for Life Newsletter

Volume 12, Number 6
November - December 2002

Counseling: I'm Pregnant, but my Child is Not Expected to Live
Mark your Calendar: March 25 in Washington!
Quotable Quote
Action Item: Mobilize the Professionals
Prayer Intentions
Bishop Wuerl on the Priest and Pro-life
Recommended Reading
A Word About Wills and Bequests
Charitable Remainder Trusts

Counseling: I'm Pregnant, but my Child is Not Expected to Live

The question of how to respond to a medical problem with an unborn child has become more real in our day because it is more possible to find out that there is a problem before birth. Modern methods of visualization of the unborn child have increased our ability to diagnose medical conditions in the womb. In an increasing number of cases, we are able to intervene to treat and sometimes cure these problems. At the same time, many such conditions cannot be cured.

These issues arise more frequently than ever in pastoral counseling. We therefore continue our series on counseling by providing reflections, from a philosophical and medical perspective, that can help us counsel those pregnant with a child who is dying.

Philosophical response: Why Carry a Dying Child?

The diagnosis that an unborn child has a life-threatening disease or anomaly is a particularly heavy cross for a family to bear. The hopes and dreams that accompany a pregnancy are thrown into chaos, and the joy of the anticipation of the child's birth becomes intense anxiety.

But there is one factor that does not change: the love which the family -- and the rest of us -- can give to that child.

Some wonder why a baby who will die shortly should even be brought to term.

But are we not all to die shortly? How are we to evaluate what is long and what is short when we compare life to eternity? Nobody knows how long he or she is to live, nor do we measure the love we give based on the length of life.

Why should a baby who will die shortly be brought to term? Because we love that child for as long as that child lives, whether life be measured in decades or minutes. Why should we be there for anyone who is suffering? Why should we share in their pain? Why should we stay up all night for a sick toddler? Why should we wait by the bed of a loved one in the hospital? Why should we accept death for anyone, including ourselves?

The alternative to accepting death is to try to control it by giving ourselves the authority to take life before life will make too many demands on us. Hence we have abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Just take control. Don't let life hit you too hard. Eliminate the suffering by eliminating the person.

The late Terence Cardinal Cooke wrote a beautiful letter for Respect Life Sunday in 1983. Its eloquence was enhanced by the fact that he was dying of cancer as he wrote it, and died two days before it was read in all the parishes of the Archdiocese of New York. He wrote, "The 'gift of life,' God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra splendor as it requires our special care, concern and reverence."

His words are true no matter how old or young we are. Love means welcome -- that is, I open my heart to you as you are -- not wanting -- that is, you must meet my needs and expectations.

One of the most beautiful examples of this in our day is Karen Garver Santorum, whose book, "Letters to Gabriel," tells the story of her medically complicated pregnancy and her child whose life was so short. She and her family loved their child in his frailty in the womb. Describing his birth, she writes, "As sad as it was, the time with you gave us a chance to love and care for you." And that is the very meaning of life.

Medical response: Perinatal Hospice

There is a new appreciation for the grief of parents who lose a child before birth. While the tragedies of stillbirth and neonatal death are common, the first studies investigating maternal responses to these tragedies were not published until 1968 and 1970, respectively. Before that, these losses were often viewed and handled by society as "non-events."

Now there is a growing acknowledgement these are losses of a real person. Whether that real person is in the womb or outside the womb, he/she deserves our best care, he/she can be loved, and he/she is grieved when lost.

The response to the terminal illness of adults and children has led to the development of hospice care (adult and neonatal), providing holistic physical and emotional support for dying patients and their families. More recently, the concept has extended to the unborn child, giving rise to "perinatal hospice."

Dr. Byron Calhoun, President of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), is a key advocate of this concept. He writes, "Perinatal hospice…focuses on the persons involved…and places the family in the central arena of care. It provides a continuum of support for the family from the time of diagnosis until death and beyond. It is marked by a cognizance that 'dying involves real people, even unborn fetuses; [and that] significant relationships are disrupted and familiar bonds are severed.' Hospice allows time -- time for bonding, loving, and losing; time so that the entire course of living and dying is a gradual process that is not jarringly interrupted" (Nathan J. Hoeldtke, MD, and Byron C. Calhoun, MD, "Perinatal Hospice," American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 185 no 3 [Sep 2001]; internal quote from Knapp RJ, Peppers LG. Doctor-patient relationships in fetal/infant death encounters. J Med Educ 1979; 54:775-80).

Dr. Calhoun reports that among a group of 32 patients whose children had lethal fetal anomalies, 27 (84%) chose perinatal hospice care. All are all positive about the experience and grateful for the time they were able to spend with their infants before they died. The time of death ranged from 20 minutes to 2 months after birth. There were no maternal complications.

We at Priests for Life are grateful for the work of Dr. Calhoun and for his friendship. He is eager to consult with those in the medical community who want to set up perinatal hospice programs. He is also working with us at Priests for Life to enable priests to more knowledgeably refer people to these options. For more information, visit www.aaplog.org/perinatalhospice.htm

 

Mark your Calendar: March 25 in Washington!

Join Priests for Life and Human Life International for a special day of prayer and celebration for the Unborn Child on March 25, 2003, at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. This is part of an effort to respond to the convictions of so many people that the Feastday on which Jesus became an unborn child should be marked by more explicit pro-life celebrations.

At our invitation, numerous Catholic leaders have signed a statement that reads in part, "As Catholic leaders at a time when our society is beset with the evil of abortion, and when the human embryo is treated as a mere object for scientific research, we believe that the celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation is more important than ever. By celebrating this Feast with special solemnity, and by spending more time meditating on its doctrinal and spiritual lessons, the faithful can be even more solidly rooted in their pro-life convictions, and spurred on to effective action in defense of life."

If you cannot come to Washington, we encourage you to mark the day with special celebrations in your parishes and schools. For suggested prayers and activities, as well as for the full text and signers of the statement mentioned above, visit www.priestsforlife.org/annunciation.htm.

Details: Noon Mass (Upper Church) -- Fr. Tom Euteneuer; afternoon talks in Crypt Church by Fr. Tom and by Fr. Frank Pavone; Mass at 7:30pm (Crypt Church) -- Fr. Frank Pavone. Come for part or all of the day! No registration necessary -- No fees.

 

Quotable Quote

"The procedure changes significantly at 21 weeks because the fetal tissues become more cohesive and difficult to dismember. This problem is accentuated by the fact that the fetal pelvis may be as much as 5cm in width…A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus…." (Warren Hern, Abortion Practice, p.134)

 

Action Item: Mobilize the Professionals

One of the greatest services that can be rendered to the pro-life movement by the local parish is to mobilize the professionals in the parish. If a parish priest, for example, called together all the medical professionals in the parish, he could discuss with them the moral challenges they face, as well as invite them to lend their services to the local pro-life effort.

The priest can also gather all the legal professionals in the parish to discuss legal dimensions of pro-life efforts and to invite their assistance. The same is true for many other professions.

Priests for Life is willing and able to direct priests to national pro-life organizations that are built around people in specific professions. Such contacts can help us all in guiding these professionals on a local level.

 

Prayer Intentions

You are encouraged to remember the following intentions as you pray the Liturgy of the Hours:

November intention: For an increase in pro-life attorneys and judges.

December intention: For a greater awareness of pain management options for the terminally ill.

 

Bishop Wuerl on the Priest and Pro-life

It is said that evil exists when good people do nothing. We must find a way to make our convictions known and effective. For Catholics, the parish community is an ideal context in which to do this and the role of the priest, as leader, places him in a perfect position to reiterate this most basic principle of respect for life. In particular, the homily at appropriate times can be an effective means for communicating this truth. Other opportunities include the regular intentions of the general intercessions, the use of the parish bulletin, parish newsletters and increasingly web sites. The United States bishops offer guidance and a starting point: "We must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem."

-- Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, STD, Bishop of Pittsburgh, "God's Good Gift of Life," Pastoral Letter, September 14, 1999

 

Recommended Reading

Pro-life Today and Always

In this short booklet, Fr. Frank Pavone shares his reflections on the pro-life movement 30 years after Roe vs. Wade, and what we must do to reach our goal of ending abortion.

ISBN 0-7648-0906-7

Published in 2002 by Liguori Publications, 1-800-325-9521, www.liguori.org

My Journey into the Catholic Church

By Norma McCorvey, with Fr. Frank Pavone

This short booklet describes how Norma McCorvey, the woman who was the plaintiff in Roe vs. Wade was led into the Catholic Church. It is a supplement to Norma's book Won by Love.

You may order it through Priests for Life, 888-PFL-3448, ext. 239, Fax 718-980-3900, Email orders@priestsforlife.org.

Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing

By C.T. Coyle, Ph. D.

Men are hurt by abortion, and need healing from it. This book is based on research on case studies, from which a program of healing has been developed. The book is useful for post-abortion men, their families, and those who counsel them.

ISBN Number 1-894169-87-5
Published by Life Cycle Books, LPO 1008, Niagara Falls, NY
14304-1008 Phone (800) 214-5849 Fax (888) 690-8532 E-Mail:
orders@lifecyclebooks.com Web Site: www.lifecyclebooks.com

 

 

A Word About Wills and Bequests

Recently, one of our long-time benefactors passed away and left Priests for Life a generous sum of money. Her bequest helped make it possible for us to go forward with several incredibly important, life-saving projects. And it came at a time when we needed it most—when donations were lagging due to the tragic events of September 11th and to the general downturn in the stockmarket and the economy.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all our friends and supporters to remember Priests for Life in their Wills, as did this humble lady.

It’s so important to you and your loved ones that you have a well-thought-out Will in place at the time of your death. Having consoled hundreds of grieving families, I can assure you the last thing your loved ones will want to deal with at the time of your passing is the red-tape that comes with having a court-appointed stranger trying to manage your personal affairs.

Please take the time to write out your Will as soon as possible. And when you do, I ask you to please remember Priests for Life. Through your generosity, you can continue to help fund our fight to end abortion after you have been called to your eternal home. The names of those who include Priests for Life in their Will are permanently inscribed in our Friends of Priests for Life Memorial Book. This book is kept in our chapel at the foot of the altar. Every one of our priests - Fr. Quinn, Fr. West, Fr. Wilde and I—remember these friends at every Mass we say. And for years after you have gone on to your heavenly reward, our future priests will be praying for you too!

God bless you!

Fr. Frank Pavone

 

Charitable Remainder Trusts

If you are a benefactor of Priests for Life in your 50’s or older, nearing or already in retirement, and in a financial position to assist Priests for Life with a gift of highly appreciated securities, we ask that you consider setting up a charitable remainder trust with us this year. Please contact Priests for Life Vice President Jerry Horn, who works along with our financial securities advisor, Morgan Stanley, at (540) 785-4733.

 

 

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org