Sunday, December 31, 2006


For those of you who may be wondering, I am in the process of transfering some old essays from my old blog, Introibo ad altare Dei, to this new one, Catholic Medical Weekly. As you can see from the dates, the old one wasn't old at all (Nov 06) but I think the new title serves better. Same format, though: more or less weekly essays (havn't time for any more than that). I'll be putting new essays out most Mondays, and sprinkling the old ones in as well.

For those of you who been kind enough to leave comments, forgive me for deleting them when I have meant to post them, but I'm still unpacking this blog stuff.

God bless, happy new year, and happy Octave Day of the Nativity (or, Feast of the Circumcision).

The acorn and the oak tree.

First posted on Introibo ad altare Dei 6 November 2006

The Catholic Church has an official position regarding the unborn child, and it is this:

"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception..."[1]

Burt Prelutsky, writing in the online news journal WorldNetDaily, has a position on the matter and it is this:

"Those who contend that a human being exists at the very instant of conception lose me. So far as I'm concerned, that makes as much sense as suggesting that an acorn planted in the earth is the same as an oak tree. At conception, there is certainly the potential of a human being, a seedling if you like, but hardly a human being." [2]

Mr. Prelutsky's opinion, and in particular his imagery of an acorn and an oak tree, echoes that of the M.I.T. Philosophy Department professor Judith Jarvis Thompson. Dr. Thompson, writing over thirty five years ago, had this to say on the matter:

"It is concluded that the fetus is, or that we had better say it is, a person from the moment of conception. But this conclusion does not follow. Similar things might be said about the development of an acorn into an oak tree, and it does not follow that acorns are oak trees..."[3]

In essence, Dr. Thompson and Mr. Prelutsky base their assignment of personhood on a living, biological human being based on how closely the entity resembles us. Dr. Mary Anne Warren, Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, has enumerated some of the criteria by which we can tell if this human creature is a person. They include consciousness, ability to reason, “self-motivated activity”, capacity to communicate, and self awareness.[4] Dr. Warren makes it quite clear that some biological human beings do not meet her moral and legal criteria for personhood. In other words,

The suggestion is simply that the moral community consist of all and only people, rather than all and only human beings.”[5]

Thus there is, for these academicians at the most prestigious of our American Universities, no intrinsic “right to life”. A creature’s personhood is based on how closely the creature resembles us. Dr. Warren feels that the average mammal, “indeed, even the average fish[6] “resembles us” more than even a fully developed fetus. In fact, the newborn infant has none of those necessary characteristics of personhood defined by Dr. Warren, and for that reason she readily acknowledges that infanticide poses no moral problems. In this she is joined by her colleagues in the academic elite, including the well known Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton’s prestigious Center for Human Values, Dr. Peter Singer.

Mr. Prelustky’s argument is the same. An acorn doesn’t resemble an oak tree, and the seedling of a human being doesn’t resemble us, and due to this lack of resemblance the human seedling has no right to protection under the law. Likewise, a newborn infant doesn’t resemble Dr. Warren’s reasoning person, and also has no legal status of personhood. Mr. Prelutsky doesn’t define what his criteria for personhood are, but Dr. Warren did. A question: I suspect that my cognitive world, the beliefs and values that guide me, are radically different from Dr. Warren’s, or Dr. Singer’s. Perhaps the interior of my mind bears no resemblance to the interiors of theirs. Is it possible that I might forfeit my personhood based on this radical dissimilarity? After all, these writers keep referring to how little an embryo, fetus, or newborn baby resembles us, but who is us? Them? My view of the world doesn’t resemble their view of the world. Everyone says our newest baby looks like me, so do I look like a fetus, or a fish, and not like us? The Jews of Europe didn’t fit the Nazis’ definition of us, and were disposed of accordingly. Why is Hitler’s definition of who is “us”, and who is not, any worse than the definitions of the writers presented here? The simple fact is, all attempts to define a person as something other than, simply, a biological human being, are destined to culminate in the murder of innocent biological human beings, because these definitions, by definition, don’t include all biological human beings. And we think we’re progressive?

The Catholic Church states that all biological human beings must be treated as persons. There are two types of beings, teaches the Church, created in the image of God: angels, and men. The other inhabitants of the universe, animals, plants, what have you, reflect God, to greater or lesser degrees, but are not in His image. What makes men, and angels, in God’s image is this: both angels and men, possess immortal, non-physical, intellectual souls, with free will. Animals do not. Angels are spiritual beings, who had a moment of creation but are immortal. Likewise the souls of men: each has been created and infused into the human form. But the soul will never die. The Church does not know at what point the new human body is infused with the newly created soul. Perhaps it is at the moment of conception, perhaps some time later. But we do know that, at the moment of conception, a living, biological human being is present. You say you don’t believe that. Fine. Theology aside, this is the only practical approach for a civilized society to take. Even if the embryo is just a seedling, it is a human seedling. It resembles us - humanity - because it is one of us. This seedling will not grow into an oak tree or a fish, it will grow into a fetus, and from there a squalling infant, and from there a fine young lady. Where is the line drawn? When is she enough like “us” to be a legal person? At birth? The academic elite have no problems with infanticide. When she begins to talk? Third grade? Only if she gets into Princeton? The only rational place for a civilized society to draw this line is conception. Any other place is arbitrary and, frankly, barbaric.

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd Ed. United States Catholic Conference, Inc.-Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Washington, DC. 1997. Para. #2770. My emphasis.
[2] Burt Prelutsky, "The abortion question." WorldNetDaily, Wednesday, 18 October 2006, at
[3] Judith Jarvis Thompson, “A defense of abortion.” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1 No. 1, 1971. Excerpts reprinted in Biomedical Ethics, 6th Ed. T. Mappes & D. Degrazia (Eds.) McGraw-Hill Higher Education, New York, NY. 2006. See Chapter 7.
[4] Mary Anne Warren, “On the moral and legal status of abortion.” In Biomedical Ethics, ibid, Chapter 7.
[5] Ibid. Emphasis in the original.
[6] Ibid, pg. 463.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

POC, persons and the Court.

First posted on Introibo ad altare Dei 25 November 2006

Logic is rare.”
- Sherlock Holmes[1]

I am a physician with specialty training as a pathologist. When folks think of pathologists, they think of dead people and autopsies. But I, like most pathologists, spend my days looking through a microscope at bits of tissue from living people, and make interpretations about what I see.

A case came along recently, labeled, "POC". POC is medspeak for "products of conception" and denotes just that: material from a pregnant lady's womb. Since intentional abortions are not performed in the hospital where I work, POC pretty much always represents the following clinical question: "This lady is in early pregnancy, and is passing blood and tissue from her womb. Is she having a miscarriage?" Now, there are several possibilities. It may be that the POC is just blood and uterine lining, and the mother is still carrying her baby. It may be that the POC is a "blighted ovum". In this case, the egg, though fertilized, was defective; there may be an early placenta, but an embryo never develops. Blighted ova represent a goodly percentage of early miscarriages. Another possibility is that there, in the POC, are not only placental fragments, but a real, honest to gosh little tiny embryo which, for reasons which will never be known, spontaneously miscarried. I had such a case recently, where the little tiny embryo was less than a half inch in length. The case thus involved two biological human beings: the mother and a dead, miscarried embryo. But, did the case involve two persons?

That is the crux of the abortion issue: is the unborn child a person under the law?[2] United States Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, writing his opinion a generation ago in Roe v. Wade, said this:

"All this...persuades us that the word 'person', as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn." [3]

This was a critical point for Justice Blackmun, so critical that his entire line of argument to decriminalize abortion rested upon it:

The appellee… argues that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment… If this suggestion is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed…”[4]

It is also a critical point for us, today, a generation later, to keep in mind when discussing abortion or any of it's malignant progeny: embryonic stem cell research, cloning, in vitro fertilization, what have you. The question in front of us is not, "Is it human?" or "Is it alive?" Of course it's human, and of course it's alive. There's nothing else it can be. The entity in question is a biological human being, and no one - no one - seriously contests that. The question is this: "Is it a person, meaning, is this living biological human being entitled to protection under the laws of our land? Or, is it not?" The answer given by the Supreme Court of the United States is, "no, we have defined a class of living human beings who are not persons, and, therefore, are entitled to no protections whatsoever under our laws."

This is not, of course, the first time that the Supreme Court has defined a class of living human beings who have no protections under our laws. On March 6, 1857, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney handed down a decision regarding one Dredd Scott, a black slave suing for his freedom. The court's decision was this:

"A free negro, of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a "citizen" within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States."[5]

The question in Scott v. Sanford was whether blacks had any rights under the Constitution, and the answer was "no." The question in Roe v. Wade was whether the unborn child has any rights under our Constitution, and the answer was "no." In Scott blacks are acknowledged as "persons", that is, biological human beings yet, being chattel, they were denied legal protections. The 14th Amendment corrected this situation, stating that all persons - that is, all biological human beings - have equal protection under the laws. That's why Justice Blackmun saw the Amendment as the primary obstacle he had to overcome in Roe: he had to declare the unborn child, a biological human being, an unperson, otherwise "...the case, of course, collapses..." And that is what he did.

Twice in our history, our Supreme Court has defined classes of biological human beings who are not entitled to legal protections under our laws. The first time was the Scott v. Sanford slavery case. The second time it was the Roe v. Wade abortion case. Given that the law works on precedent, and given that there are two precedents for the Supreme Court to define a class of human beings who have no protection under the law, I can see no substantial reason whatsoever why, in the future, other groups of biological human beings might not also be excluded by the highest Court in our land.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception..."[6]

Theological reasoning aside, there is a great deal of practical wisdom in this position. If the line for legal protection isn't drawn at the moment of conception, then anyplace else the line is drawn is arbitrary. Yesterday it was blacks, today it's unborn children up to the moment the head comes out of the birth canal, and tomorrow, who knows? The old and expensively ill? Infants under a year of age? Teenagers unable to gain admission to Princeton? It's arbitrary. But the Church is very clear about that little embryo under my microscope: were it alive, it should be treated as a person. But to the Supreme Court, even if it were alive, it's still just POC.

[1] The full quote is, “Crime is common. Logic is rare.” in, The Adventure of the Copper Beaches, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, copyrights 1892-1922. This edition is Dorset Press, Doubleday & Co., 1988. Preface by Christopher Morely
[2] A longer version of the material in this section was published as T.P. Collins, "Dred Scott & Roe v. Wade", New Oxford Review, April, 2006.
[3] Legal Information Institute Supreme Court Collection, Roe v. Wade, available through Legal Information Institute,'html/historics my emphasis in all Court quotations. Hereafter referred to as LII. See para. 3.
[4] ibid, Roe, Section IX A.
[5] LII Collection, Scott v. Sanford, Syllabus, para. 4.
[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd Ed. United States Catholic Conference, Inc.-Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Washington, DC. 1997. Para. #2770. My emphasis.

Humans it is illegal not to kill.

First posted on Introibo ad altare Dei 7 December 2006.

I am an Anglophile. Or, more correctly, I admire what England used to be. The England I admire - the England of Queen Victoria and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the England that Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding's lads took to the air in Spitfires to defend - no longer exists. Sadly, just as today's United States would be barely recognizable to Teddy Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill would never know the land of his birth based on her current laws. For example. The Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Falconer, says that if a physician refuses to abide by a patient's "right to die" as expressed in a "living will", he, the physician, can be charged with assault. To quote the article from This is London directly, "An assault prosecution would mean that a doctor who refuses to kill a patient could go to jail."[1] Thus, in England, we now have two groups of human beings whom it is illegal not to kill. The second group is these patients who have a "living will". What constitutes the first group?

Human embryos used in research. Now, there are two basic ways of creating human embryos for research purposes: in vitro fertilization (IVF), and cloning. IVF has now been around for nearly thirty years, and is the major component of a huge and variegated industry generally known as "assisted reproductive technologies". To create an embryo in the petri dish, one first obtains an egg from a woman. How this is done is beyond the scope of this essay. Next, one obtains sperm from a man. In "conventional" fertilization, the egg is simply incubated in a droplet containing sperm. In an alternative method, known as "intracytoplasmic sperm injection," a single sperm is directly injected into the egg using micromanipulation techniques. Regardless of the method used, this is the moment of conception, the moment at which we have a new, genetically distinct, living, human entity which, the Catholic Church teaches, "must be respected and protected absolutely."[2]

The new embryo now begins to grow. From the moment of conception, and for the first thirty hours or so of her life, the zygote, as she is now known, exists as a single cell. She has her own unique, human genetic code, and part of that code is her sex, so I choose to refer to her as a she. Although a quiet little cell to all external appearances, the zygote is quite busy inside. At the beginning of her second day of life, she begins to divide, and soon is a compact little ball of a few dozen cells called a morula. At 5 or 6 days of life, this little ball hollows out, and becomes a blastocyst, consisting of an outer sphere of cells called trophoblasts, which will become the placenta, and an inner mass of cells called the inner cell mass. It is from this inner cell mass that the baby proper will develop.

The second way an embryo can be created is via cloning, formally known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. Instead of mixing sperm and an egg, the cloner first removes the nucleus of an unfertilized egg, leaving the cytoplasm of the egg intact. This is important, because the egg's cytoplasm houses all the specialized molecular machinery which unzips the DNA molecule, opening the blueprint, if you will, and gets the entire process of growth, differentiation and development going. Into this empty, annucleate egg the cloner now inserts the nucleus of a somatic cell, that is, a nucleus removed from a fully mature cell and which contains a complete set of genetic material. That nucleus, with it's complete set of chromosomes, is turned on by the egg's machinery, and it's DNA guides the growth of a new, genetically identical copy of the adult from whom the somatic sell was obtained. And, like the IVF embryo, this little embryo also goes through the same stages - zygote, morula, blastocyst, and so on. If placed in the surrogate womb of some animal (artificial wombs being as yet unavailable), she will grow to birth and adulthood. That's how Dolly the sheep was created.

So, now we have created a new human embryo, either by IVF or by cloning. There she is, in her little petri dish, dividing. As we have seen, at around five days, she has developed into two parts, the trophoblasts and the inner cell mass. It is the inner cell mass which is the source of embryonic stem cells, those cells which everyone wants, and they are obtained by destroying the5 or 6 day old embryo, and harvesting the inner cell mass. Interestingly, by day 7 or so, most of the stem cells disappear, as the embryo is now differentiating to the point of having the three embryonic tissue layers, which will give rise to all of our adult organs and tissues. By day 14 the "primitive streak" appears; it is the earliest precursor of the central nervous system. Thus, by day 14 or the appearance of the primitive streak (whichever comes first), the embryo created for research should be destroyed, according to the published guidelines of the National Academy of Sciences[3]. In the U.S. at this point, it is merely a recommendation. In England, this is actually a law, passed in 1990, and known as the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act of 1990.[4] It is this law which defined the first class of biological human beings whom it is illegal not to kill: living human embryos created in vitro for research purposes who have reached day 14 of life. The second class whom it illegal not to kill, apparently, will be those with living wills indicating a "right to die". What, one wonders, will be the next class of human beings whom it is illegal not to kill?

[1] "Doctors face prison for denying right to die." This is London, 17 Nov 2006, at Also available, with more details, at Life Site News, White, Hilary "UK Doctors face Jail if they refuse to euthanize patients." 21 Nov 2006,
[2] cf. 2000 years of Church teaching, as summarized in paragraph 2270 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997.
[3] Recommendation 3 (c), "Research that should not be permitted at this time", reads as follows: "(i) Research involving in vitro culture of any intact human embryo, regardless of derivation method, for longer than 14 days or until formation of the primitive streak begins, whichever comes first." Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, National published by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, National Academies Press, 500 Fifth St., NW Washington, DC. 2005. See page 57.
[4] United Kingdom law, Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 1990. The same Act stipulates that cryopreserved embryos must be destroyed after five years. Cited in Berkman, J. Gestating the Embryos of Others, National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly (NCBQ) 3(2):309-329, Summer, 2003.

Plan B.

First posted on Introibo ad altare Dei 10 December 2006

Plan B, so called "emergency contraception," is the registered trademark of the Woman's Capital Corporation, a subsidiary of Duramed Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which in turn is a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc. So, Plan B is marketed by a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a corporation. I suppose that's how these things go in the corporate world. Anyway, Plan B consists of two pills of a synthetic progestin, levonorgestrel. The first pill is to be taken within 72 hours of "unprotected intercourse" or "known or suspected contraceptive failure".[1] The second pill should be taken within 12 hours of the first. Now, the idea behind Plan B is really nothing new, as there have been any number of "off label" regimens around for "morning after pills" since at least the time I was in medical school (1980's) and, I'm not proud to say, I have had rare occasions in my former life to prescribe them. All the regimens involved giving mega-doses of birth control pills to the lady over a short period of time, a procedure which had the effect of making her really miserable: nauseous, vomiting, and generally wretched. The few of times I prescribed it, none of the women got pregnant, but since over 92% of the women in this situation don't become pregnant anyway, who knows if it was because of The Pills or simply because the odds were against it. Please note: Plan B is not the same things as The Abortion Pill, RU-486 (mifepristone, trade name Mifeprex). It's not even similar. Plan B is a different kind of drug, which works by a different mechanism. Plan B is just a glorified birth control pill. We'll take up The Abortion Pill some other day.

So, Plan B isn't The Abortion Pill. But, does it cause abortions? In a word, yes, just like regular birth control pills do. Before getting into it, though, let's talk some physiology. Fertilization takes place up in the fallopian tube, and the new embryo is gently milked down the tube by peristaltic action, to be squirted into the womb, where she then implants in the lush uterine lining, all set up to help her grow. This trip down the tube generally takes about five days. In other words, there's about five days, on average, between conception and implantation. Here is a question: when does pregnancy begin? With conception, of course, when an embryo appears. A standard embryology textbook definition reads like this:

"Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote." [2]

The National Bioethics Advisory Commission agrees. In 1997, they defined an embryo as the developing organism from the time of fertilization until differentiation has occurred, when the organism becomes known as a fetus.[3] Finally, to round out our definitions, we'll crack a recent dictionary. "Pregnancy (1a): the condition of being pregnant.[4] And, finally, pregnant (1a): containing unborn young within the body.[5] When is a woman pregnant? When she contains unborn young within her body. What is an unborn young? An embryo. What is an embryo? A human being which results from, and is present at the completion of, fertilization. A lady is pregnant when she has an embryo inside of her body, which occurs at the moment of conception. Simple, right?

Wrong. In the 1960's, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changed the definition of pregnant, canceling the old definition, and substituting the following: pregnancy begins at implantation.[6] ACOG even invented a new word for the pre-implantation embryo: preembryo. It's interesting to note that the term, preembryo, was actually not invented by ACOG. It was invented in 1979 by a frog embryologist[7] who coined it deliberately to "reduce the status of the early human embryo."[8] The purpose of inventing the term is the same as redefining the beginning of pregnancy: to legitimize contraceptives. A contraceptive prevents conception. An abortifacient causes an abortion. If pregnancy begins at conception, anything which prevents implantation is, by definition, causing an early abortion. However, if we redefine pregnancy as beginning at implantation, then something which prevents implantation is a contraceptive, not an abortifacient. Get it?

Birth control pills work by three major mechanisms: suppression of ovulation, thickened cervical mucous which impedes sperm travel, and prevention of implantation of the embryo by altering the uterine lining. The first two are contraceptive actions. However, the third is "contraceptive" only if pregnancy is defined as beginning at implantation. If pregnancy begins at conception, then this third mechanism by which birth control pills act is abortifacient.

This brings us to the claim that Plan B "is not an abortifacient".[9] Woman's Capital Corporation notes in their own brochure that the mechanism of Plan B can be either inhibition of ovulation or prevention of implantation,[10] just like any other birth control pill. Therefore, Plan B can function as an abortifacient, and the statement in the handout is an objective lie: Plan B is an abortifacient, or can be, just like any other hormonal method of contraception. Only by incorporating ACOG's lie that pregnancy doesn't begin until implantation can the Woman's Capital Corporation make their claim that Plan B isn't abortifacient.

In August, 2006, the FDA approved Plan B for over the counter sale, even though Plan B contains fifteen times the amount of hormone found in the usual birth control pill. There is simply no data out there on the effects of single or repeated mega-doses of oral hormones in Plan B, yet frequent use of the inexpensive, over the counter drug is what we can expect from the teenage and college age populations to whom it is targeted.[11]

A final word on the name, "Plan B". Nothing summarizes the relationship between contraception and abortion more succinctly than the pithy name that Woman's Capital Corporation chose for their billion dollar baby. In the contraceptive world, abortion is what you do when the contraceptive fails. It's Plan B.

[1] "About Plan B" available at
[2] England, M.A. Life Before Birth 2nd. Ed. England: Mosby-Wolfe, 1996, p.31 Cited in National Council of U.S. Catholic Bishops - Pro-Life Activities, "What is an embryo?" at
[3] Cloning Human Beings. Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Rockville, MD. Gov't Printing Office, 1997, Appendix 2. My emphasis.
[4] Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged Springfield: Merriam-Webster Inc 1993.
[5] ibid.
[6] Gold, R.B. "The Implications of Defining When a Woman is Pregnant" The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy. 8:2, May 2005. Available at
[7] Grobstein, C. "External Human Fertilization" Scientific American, 240; 1979, p.57-67.
[8] cited in "Doublespeak: False Term 'Pre-embryo' Re-emerges Warns Bioethicist Claudia Navarini" Orthodoxy Today, 20 Sep 2005.
[9] ibid.
[10] "Plan B Manufacturer Admits Morning After Pill Can Cause Death of an Embryo." Richard Stith, Ph. D. Life Site News, 7 September 2006, at It was this article that first directed me to the Plan B brochure website listed above.
[11] Worthington, M. "How Plan B Does Harm to Women." Ethics and Medics 31(12) Dec, 2006

Thanksgiving, 2006.

First posted on Introibo ad altare Dei 22 November 2006
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. Although in contemporary times it's associated with the Puritans in Massachusetts, every true daughter of the Commonwealth of Virginia (my wife, for example, falls into this category) knows that the real First Thanksgiving was in 1619 in Charles City County, Virginia. My wife has numerous elderly aunties who have the family lineages drawn out on old, yellowed folded up pieces of paper; family trees which date back to the 1600's. They know this stuff. One of my wife's ancestors was the notorious William Claiborne, a wheel in the Protestant colony of Virginia in the mid 1600's. Old Bill didn't think much of Papists, and he enjoyed attacking the neighboring, Catholic colony of Maryland and hauling off the Jesuit priests to England in chains. Other people in my wife's bloodline fought in the Revolutionary War, as well as the War of Northern Aggression. A few of those individuals actually spent time in damyankee prison camps, but I digress. The plot of land where the real first Thanksgiving was held later became Berkley Plantation, right across the river from another plot of land which became Maycock, the plantation of my wife's ancestors. Alas, both were burned by those same damyankees in the Late Misunderstanding, they carted off all the furniture, and now the homestead is a park or something. My wife married a mongrel of uncertain lineage, we live in a housing tract, and our children are Papists, in the Old Rite, no less. One can only imagine what Old Bill thinks. Which brings us to Thanksgiving, 2006.

Today, Thanksgiving is an amorphous day in an historically Protestant nation which no longer believes in God. For many people it involves traffic jams and long lines in airports; it did for me for much of my adult life, until my own family became of a size that I finally said, "They can come to us on Thanksgiving if they want, but we're staying right here". The people of our Nation believe, on this day, that we should give thanks to someone (or, perhaps, something) for the blessings we unarguably enjoy. Perhaps this is an outgrowth of Alexis de Toqueville's American exceptionalism, the notion that America is a unique entity in the history of the world. Regardless, I want it to be clear to whom I am thankful. I am thankful to God, the Creator and Lord of the universe. For what am I thankful?

First and foremost, I am thankful to Him for my creation. Without that, this would be a very short essay. I am thankful to Him for His sacrifice for me, upon the Cross, that I, inconsequential and miserable sinner that I am, might nevertheless have the hope of eternal salvation. I am thankful for the re-presentation of this sacrifice at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that I might have the courage to persevere unto death. I am thankful for His True Presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Eucharist, and in the tabernacles of the world, that I might eat His Precious Body in the hope of eternal salvation. I am thankful for the Sacrament of Penance, that He would provide for me the opportunity for forgiveness for those sins, habitual and sporadic, into which I in my weakness continually fall. And I am thankful for His Grace, that I might work out my salvation with fear and trembling.

I am thankful for my family, something which as I approach the latter part of middle age I never thought I would have. I am thankful for my blessed wife, who had the courage to marry me, and had the courage to convert to a Faith which was as alien to her as it was to me. I am thankful that she had the courage to choose the more difficult path of staying home to raise and school our snotty nosed children in that same Faith. Because of this, we do not need to stand in line for days to obtain a Playstation Three and, in fact, don't even have a Playstation One. Instead, because of my blessed wife, our children read, and sometimes, miraculously, they even read to each other. I am thankful for those children, even when I am hollering at them. In them I see hope for a future, when otherwise that future would seem very dim indeed. For they are souls, created by God, and entrusted to me. These little souls will live for all eternity, and where they will spend eternity will be influenced, in a very large part, by how well I discharge my sure and certain obligation to raise them in the Faith. I am, in a very real way, responsible for raising these little souls rightly, and that is a profound responsibility given to me by God. I do not deserve it, I am not worthy of it, but I am thankful for it. It keeps me honest.

Finally, I am thankful for living in this land. Today, de Toquevilles' American exceptionalism is a fluid term, and means many different things to many different people. Suffice it to say that America is unique. That does not mean, however, that I think America is somehow immune from being judged the same way by God as every other nation in history. If anything, our judgment may be all the more severe, because our blessings have been so very great. I truly fear for the future for our Nation; specifically, I fear God's judgment upon our land. God has blessed this land, and we, in turn, thumb our noses at Him, more rudely every day. How long will God strive with us? I do not know. But I pray for this land that I love, that we will turn to Him. And, I give thanks for the blessings He has given me.