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When Your Child Turns Away: Dare to Hope

September 15, AD 2014 14 Comments

Dare to hope

By the time you read this, my firstborn will be a wife. She entered the Sacrament of Matrimony on Labor Day. To say this is a milestone is an understatement. I was a pregnant teenager. I raised her as a on-and-off single mother. I put my career before her because I thought I had to prove something to the world. I neglected her. Because of my poor choices, confused ideas about relationships were cemented in her mind.

She ran away at 17 and became a single teenage mother herself. Now she has three beautiful children. Like me, she is a convert, a woman who found the courage to turn her life around. She practiced the virtue of determination to get to her wedding day. My daughter is a living testament to the mercy of Christ, the embodiment of hope. In my most desperate moments, I never gave up hope. I dared to hope.

Since I write about faith and science and about my experiences as a convert and a mother of a convert, I get requests for advice from parents whose children have also turned away. Here’s the thing: There is no perfect answer, save faith, hope, and love in Jesus Christ.

Nonetheless, here are a few practical tips I’ve learned (the hard way).

Don’t argue. Pleading will only push your child further away. Conversion has to be a personal act of the will illuminated by grace, and we are all unique. Hold your child in your heart through prayer.

Don’t give reading assignments. No matter how objective any writing is, it passes through a subjective personal filter. If your child is not ready to open her heart, she won’t find the arguments compelling. A flawed understanding may even be detrimental.

Read and learn. This is a time for your intellect to grow; do it as an act of love. When your child wants answers, be ready to stand on the rock of truth and point to the light of the Holy Mother Church. Teachable moments can be fleeting, so strive for loving and precise articulation of the truths of faith.

Expect to suffer. It will hurt; you may panic. The thought of your child dying in a state of mortal sin will incite the worst fear. Desperation is a time for your faith to grow stronger, through endurance. Pray because your prayers are heard. Your tears are not wasted.

Be realistic. I know my daughter will still face hardship. She may still go through periods of despair, as may I. Life is like that. When you fail, admit it, pray for grace, and try again.

I could write so much more, but these are the sifted nuggets of wisdom. Any of my other six children could turn away one day too—I know that—and I dare to hope that should that day come, I will dare to hope all the more.

Originally published at The Integrated Catholic Life™ a few weeks ago.

Still floating.

Why Are Catholics Criticizing Dr. Theresa Deisher?

September 14, AD 2014 51 Comments

Red flag” critiques of Dr. Theresa Deisher’s work on fetal cell lines used in vaccines have gone around the Catholic blogosphere this week. Her work has been called a “conflict of interest” and a “sword” named “bad science.” She has been called a “fraud” and a “liar.” And these people have accused her of appealing fallaciously to emotion.

One: Deisher is not trying to get people to stop vaccinating. She’s conducting research to urge the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate unsafe manufacturing practices. She’s doing exactly what the Vatican asked us to do—find safer and ethical vaccines—and she’s doing it within the appropriate procedures of scientific research.

Two: The appropriate method of countering a scientific work is to do your own work, write up the paper, and submit it to a refereed journal for publication. If it is accepted, the research you refuted is still not considered fraudulent or deceptive. Disagreement is common and necessary in science, for the sake of progress.

Three: To say that forming a hypothesis, conducting research, and gathering data to support that hypothesis represents a “conflict of interest” and “bad science” is to reveal a fundamental ignorance of the scientific method. Standard and responsible procedure in new product development demands research of the products being improved.

Four: Accusing a scientist of perpetuating a “lie” or a “fraud” while framing yourself as an authority even though you have no training or experience in the area is not rational. If you encounter a rebuttal of a paper published in a scientific journal, and the rebuttal begins with, “The article is written with a whole lot of big, science-y sounding words and has a bunch of graphs,” then you have encountered an actual red flag that what you are about to read is bad science.

More information:

Here is the paper by Dr. Deisher recently published.

Here is her Curriculum vitae.

Here’s an interview Nature journal requested with her. Nature is one of (if not the most) prestigious science journals in the world. Note in the story how Dr. Deisher left her lucrative career to defend her faith. For this, I think she is a hero. It is remarkable that Nature solicited this interview.

Further, here is information about the CDC’s ongoing and comprehensive investigation about the causes of autism. Note the section under “Vaccines Safety.” The question about vaccines and autism is not settled science. It says that “to date” studies have shown no association. However, the association between contaminate DNA from fetal cells lines has only begun to be studied thanks to Dr. Deisher’s efforts.

To date, the studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.

However, CDC knows that some parents and others still have concerns. To address these concerns, CDC is part of the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), which is working with the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) on this issue.

This is how science works—you gather the data to support further research. Anyone who has ever written and submitted a proposal to a government or academic agency for support for further research knows this. Again, such research is not a conflict of interest or bad science. It is necessary groundwork in product development. Catholics ought to be supporting this accomplished and courageous woman and thanking her instead of trying to discredit her.

So here’s a video where she presents her findings.


And last, as a personal appeal, Theresa Deisher’s son was diagnosed with a very aggressive lymphoma on July 30. The people who chose this time to criticize her work know this. She has been conducting this research for years, and I don’t know why Catholic bloggers picked last week to criticize her as they did, nor do I wish to speculate. However, some of us who respect her and her work felt it necessary to defend her since she has much more important concerns to deal with right now. In your kindness and generosity, we ask you to please offer a prayer for her family.

Talking Science and Faith on the Sonrise Morning Show

September 11, AD 2014 4 Comments

Tomorrow morning, September 12, 2014, I will be chatting briefly with Matt Swaim on the Sonrise Morning Show at 7:35 a.m. while my kids and dogs are (hopefully) still snoring. The topic is my column this week, The Christian Worldview is Necessary for Science.

If you cannot tune in live, I’ll try to post a link to the podcast later.

The Christian Worldview is Necessary for Science

September 10, AD 2014 19 Comments

World is Ordered

The development of science is one of the greatest modern testimonies to the axiom, “Truth cannot contradict truth.” A Christian worldview was, is, and always will be necessary for a proper study of the natural world, i.e. for science, to develop. Consider the following.

The Christian worldview is not based on blind faith, as if everything is immediately dependent on the will of God. We do not believe that God is a puppeteer determining every behavior and action in disconnected instances in time, creating scenarios as He goes. Such strict fideism ultimately assumes we cannot know with any certainty what the guiding hand will do next, not in nature or in anything else. This view denies that objects and beings have their own intrinsic natures influencing their behavior. This view is unbalanced; it over-emphasizes the freedom of God but denies His rationality. There could be no science in such a world.

The Christian worldview is not strictly deterministic, as if God created the world like He built a clock, wound it up, and ignored it to tick away time the way He intrinsically designed it to do. Nor does the Christian worldview oblige God to create a necessary world that has to be the way it is and no other way. Both views are also unbalanced and inimical to science. They over-emphasize the rationality of God but deny His freedom. There is no need for experimentation in a strictly determined, necessary world because if that were the case, we would be able to deduce the entire necessary physical system by pure thought.

The Christian worldview is not pantheistic, as if the universe emanates from God and runs on an eternal cosmic Ferris wheel, with all of us caught up hopelessly in whatever part of the cycle we happen to have been born on. In such a world, how can there be any desire for innovation or escape? Those despairing at the bottom of the cycle as well as those complacently soaring at the top cannot have the motivation or the confidence to learn and dominate the physical laws of nature.

Our Christian worldview is realistic, based on Divine Revelation, faith beyond reason, a certitude that martyrs die for rather than deny. Our Christian worldview is biblical. Our view holds that the world is created by the loving and merciful Creator, God the Almighty, and that He created the world with an absolute beginning in time that marches consistently to an absolute end of time. Our view informs us that Christ is the only-begotten Son of God and Savior of mankind, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity become man. Our view assures us that all creation is through Christ, the Word, the Logos, and is therefore rational, good, contingent, and orderly, made for us to know so that, in our corporeal existence founded on free will and guided by the light of the Holy Spirit, we can know God better through the testimony of His handiwork.

Why does this matter? Because we live in a scientific age confused by the errors of flawed worldviews. People deny Christianity but praise science as the path to all knowledge. People talk about ‘chance’ as if it were the ultimate causal event. People declare that a Christian cannot do science. The thing is, we need more faithful, realistic scientists with correct worldviews. And we need more people to defend the very obvious fact that science itself—born of a reconciliation with Christian theology—is fundamentally Christian because Christianity is necessary in the search for truth.


Recommended reading:

I highly recommend Theology and Modern Physics by Peter Hodgson (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005). He explores these thoughts in Chapter 10, “Cosmology.” The late Dr. Hodgson (2008) was a friend and fan of the late Fr. Stanley Jaki (2009) and cited Fr. Jaki often. Dr. Hodgson served as a theoretical physicist at the University of Oxford from the age of 30 until his retirement and became the head of the Nuclear Physics Theoretical Group. He encouraged Catholic scientists to integrate their studies and belief and to publicize such syntheses, which I strive to do.

Originally published at The Integrated Catholic Life™.

What if St. Pio and Niels Bohr Had Met?

September 5, AD 2014 3 Comments

St. Pio and Bohr

I came across two unrelated stories and had a thought. What if St. Pio of Pietrelcina and Niels Bohr had met?

The brilliant Thomistic philosopher, Mortimer J. Adler, told a brief story in his book, Angels and Us. He had occasion in the early 1920’s to attend a luncheon at the University of Chicago and was the only philosopher at a table of eminent physicists, among them Niels Bohr who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. The physicists, Adler wrote, were marveling over the novelty of Bohr’s atomic model and the quantum movement of electrons. According to his atomic model, electrons move in circular orbits at fixed distances from the nucleus, jumping instantaneously among them without moving in between. It was like nothing they had ever heard before! Citing angelic motion, Adler pointed out that this idea was not novel at all.

The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote about instantaneous movement of angels some 650 years before Bohr’s atomic theory. Because they are spirits without bodies, angels can move discretely from one place to another instantly. An angel can “quit the whole place, and in the same instant apply himself to the whole of another place.” (ST.I.53.1) Angels move in what we might today call a “quantum leap.” Adler also noted that this reference made the physicists uncomfortable, which is not surprising since Niels Bohr was an atheist. Adler himself was, at the time, a self-described pagan.

Fr. Alessio Parente O.F.M. Cap., told another story in his book, Send Me Your Guardian Angel. A gentleman from England, who was one of St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s spiritual children, was seriously injured in a car crash. The injured man’s friend went to the post office to send Padre Pio a telegram to request prayers. Upon presenting the telegram, the clerk instantly handed him back a response from Padre Pio assuring him of prayers. Months later, the injured man having healed, the two friends traveled to see Padre Pio and thank him. Obviously, they wanted to know how he already knew of the need for prayers so as to, at the very instant the friend was at the post office, arrange for a telegram to be sent with his assurances. Padre Pio replied humorously, “Do you think the Angels go as slowly as the planes?” An angel communicated to him, faster than the friend, faster than a telegram, faster than a plane—instantly.

What was an abstract theory for one man was a reality for the other. One man changed the paradigms of modern science and went on to help develop the atomic bomb. The other man lies incorrupt, canonized a saint. By 1922, stories of Padre Pio’s spiritual gifts had spread around the world. It’s entirely possible that the two men knew of each other. While there is not much use in musing what-if’s, maybe it’s worth considering what insight might have been granted the genius physicist had he met the holy mystic who knew we are always in the presence of our celestial companions.

Originally published at The Integrated Catholic Life™.

This piece was also briefly discussed on the Sonrise Morning Show on August 28, 2014 (can’t find a recording though).