September 2016 Print

News from Tradition

A Mother’s Beautiful Response

Mrs. Courtney Baker of Florida has written a very beautiful letter, posted on social media, speaking about her 15 month old daughter who has Down Syndrome. While this may not seem to be a newsworthy item as touching as it may be, it takes on a different character when the mother of the child was writing to the medical doctor who encouraged her to abort her child and chastised him for his unwelcome and specious advice. Mrs. Baker’s letter is a magnificent antidote to those who view the value of a human life on a purely utilitarian plane: what can this baby or person do for me. The value placed upon each and every human life is based upon who a person is as a child of God, not what that person can or cannot do in relation to his or her family or society at large.

Mrs. Baker reminded her doctor of this fact among other things. She wrote: A friend recently told me of when her prenatal specialist would see her child during her sonograms, he would comment, ‘He’s perfect’. Once her son was born with Down syndrome, she visited that same doctor. He looked at her little boy and said, ‘I told you. He’s perfect’.

Her story tore me apart. While I was so grateful for my friend’s experience, it filled me with such sorrow because of what I should have had. I wish you would have been that doctor.

I came to you during the most difficult time in my life. I was terrified, anxious and in complete despair. I didn’t know the truth yet about my baby, and that’s what I desperately needed from you. But instead of support and encouragement, you suggested we terminate our child. I told you her name, and you asked us again if we understood how low our quality of life would be with a child with Down syndrome. You suggested we reconsider our decision to continue the pregnancy.

From that first visit, we dreaded our appointments. The most difficult time in my life was made nearly unbearable because you never told me the truth.

My child was perfect.

I’m not angry. I’m not bitter. I’m really just sad. I’m sad the tiny beating hearts you see every day don’t fill you with a perpetual awe. I’m sad the intricate details and the miracle of those sweet little fingers and toes, lungs and eyes and ears don’t always give you pause. I’m sad you were so very wrong to say a baby with Down syndrome would decrease our quality of life. And I’m heartbroken you might have said that to a mommy even today. But I’m mostly sad you’ll never have the privilege of knowing my daughter, Emersyn.

Because, you see, Emersyn has not only added to our quality of life, she’s touched the hearts of thousands. She’s given us a purpose and a joy that is impossible to express. She’s given us bigger smiles, more laughter and sweeter kisses than we’ve ever known. She’s opened our eyes to true beauty and pure love.

So my prayer is that no other mommy will have to go through what I did. My prayer is that you, too, will now see true beauty and pure love with every sonogram. And my prayer is when you see that next baby with Down syndrome lovingly tucked in her mother’s womb, you will look at that mommy and see me then tell her the truth: “Your child is absolutely perfect.”

In our day, when so many children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome while in their mothers’ wombs are routinely killed, it is important that we, as Mrs. Baker told her doctor, stand in awe at the beauty of each human life created by almighty God and give thanks to Him for that gift of life.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia to Close 
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

In early June, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that it was abandoning plans to reorganize and consolidate the buildings of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Instead, plans are being finalized to construct a new building on the campus of either Villanova University or St. Joseph’s University and leave the current location in Lower Merion (Overbrook), Pennsylvania.

According to the seminary’s website, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary is the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  The Seminary was founded in 1832 by Most Reverend Francis Patrick Kenrick , third Bishop of Philadelphia, at his home on Fifth Street in center city.  There were only five students.  After four subsequent moves, Saint Charles settled at its present location in Overbrook in 1871. The purchase of the Overbrook property by Archbishop Wood for $42,000 was criticized in the local newspaper as “Wood’s Folly” because the ground was considered to be located too far into the country to be a practical setting. Saint Charles occupies 75 acres of ground and is comprised of 19 buildings measuring 630,000 square feet.

Although the Seminary has 142 seminarians, not all are for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Represented in this number are seminarians from some 14 dioceses and religious orders. The current seminary rector, the Most Reverend Timothy Senior, has stated that this is a positive move aimed at improving the formation of the seminarians as well as the lay students who attend and receive degrees from St. Charles. However, given the current financial difficulties in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the overall decline in vocations throughout Novus Ordo seminaries in the United States, it is difficult to see this closure as anything other than a cost saving measure given the value of the property the seminary currently occupies.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is just the latest in a long line of major Archdioceses in the United States to consolidate and/or close their historic seminaries due to declining vocations, increasing costs and decreasing revenues.

Christians in the Middle East and the West’s Silence

While the continuing plight of Middle Eastern Christians living in the areas controlled by the self-styled Caliphate down as ISIS is routinely ignored by western governments and media outlets alike, the horrific killing goes on and on.

In February of this year, Father Yacob Boulos was publicly beheaded by ISIS murders for the crime of offering the Mass. Father Boulos, a Catholic priest from Syria, was arrested and later executed by Muslims, members of the “religion of peace.” While one may be tempted to assign this murder to the actions of a misguided few, the fact of continuing atrocities aimed at followers of Our Lord would make such assignation duplicitous.

In May, a 12 year old Christian girl burned to death in her own home by ISIS terrorists in Mosul, northern Iraq. ISIS militants had come to claim a religious tax from the girl’s mother, paid by all non-Muslims in ISIS-controlled areas, but when the mother delayed in paying, they burned down the family home. The mother and her daughter both escaped, but the 12 year old was so severely burned that she died a short time later in the hospital. According to reports, the young girls last words to her mother asked her to forgive the men who did this.

Also in May, An armed Muslim mob stripped an elderly Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets in an attack last week in which seven Christian homes were also looted and torched in a province south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo. According to the local security officials, the assault began after rumors spread that the elderly woman’s son had an affair with a Muslim woman, a rumor for which no evidence of its veracity was presented. The 70-year-old woman was dragged out of her home by the mob who beat her and insulted her before they stripped her off her clothes and forced her to walk through the streets as they chanted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “Allah is great”).

In June, suicide bombers attacked the Christian village of Qaa in Lebanon which is located very close to the Syrian border. Although very few were killed, this attack targeting Christians took place in a country with one of the largest Christian populations in the Middle East (40.5%).

Despite the mounting death toll and clear evidence of ISIS and Muslims trying to drive Christians from the Middle East, the silence of western governments is deafening. Saddest of all is that even the Holy Father himself has not noted the targeting of Christians by Muslims as a wholesale genocide. In a question and answer session given at a Roman university during the summer, the Pope said: “I want to say clearly, I do not like it when one speaks of a genocide of Christians, for instance in the Middle East”“This is reductionism! The truth is a persecution which leads Christians to have fidelity to the consistency of their faith… This “sociological reductionism” does not apply to “that which is a mystery of the faith, the martyr!” While one may see the point the Pope is trying to make (the intrinsic difference between martyrdom and genocide), the problem is that his words say nothing about the fact that Muslims are intentionally targeting Christians in order to drive them from their homes. It seems that his silence may well be part of his attempt to convince European governments to open their doors to more Muslim refugees. Noting that the “religion of peace” is intentionally targeting Christians would not sit well with many in the countries Pope Francis is trying to convince. In addition, when the Pope has intimated that Islam is working toward conquest of the world, he often does so in a way which is deprecating towards the Catholic faith. In an interview with the French newspaper La Croix, the Holy Father said: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest. To imply that the commission of Our Lord to “teach all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost” is in any way similar to the Islamic notion of “conversion by the sword” is insulting at best and blasphemous at worst.

Pope Francis Appoints Apostolic Administrator for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

On 24 June, Pope Francis appointed an Italian Franciscan, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, to serve as apostolic administrator of the Latin-rite Patriarchate of Jerusalem, following the resignation of Patriarch Fouad Twal upon having reached the mandatory age limit of 75. Fr. Pizzaballa has been serving as the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land for the past 12 years and so is very familiar with the area. The Custos of the Holy Land is the Franciscan Friar who is superior for all the Franciscans serving the Holy Sites in and around Jerusalem. The Franciscans have been staffing these sites for approximately 700 years from the time when St. Francis of Assisi first sent his friars to the Holy Land.

Some Arab Catholics have raised some concerns about the appointment of 
Fr. Pizzabella since he is not a native Arab and does not speak Arabic. Since 1987, the Patriarch of Jerusalem has been a native from the region. Although Fr. Pizzabella has not been appointed as Patriarch, there is still a sense among some Catholics that the appointment of an Italian may be a signal of declining support for the Arab Catholics in the Middle East.

More information about the Custos of the Holy Land can be found on the website: The site contains the history of the Custos and many photos of the holy sites.