The return of Alan Keyes

Thanks to a commenter, I was directed to a site belonging to the newly established America’s Independent Party, which has just nominated Alan Keyes as its presidential candidate. There’s a backstory here that I don’t have time to go into, and others could do a much better job of it. Suffice it to say that Keyes, a faithful Catholic, is solid on the most critical issues. Furthermore, I really like the AIP platform – a huge improvement over that of the Constitution Party.

New McCain-Palin Radio Ad: Stem Cell Research

Well, it is getting increasingly difficult to give McCain-Palin the benefit of the doubt on pro-life issues. Today they came out with a new radio advertisement promising millions of dollars in stem-cell research, ignoring the all-important distinction between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Anyone who has been paying attention can read between the lines: this ad is a campaign promise to aggressively fund ESCR. Here’s the text:

They’re the original mavericks. Leaders. Reformers. Fighting for real change.
John McCain will lead his Congressional allies to improve America’s health.
Stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease.
Stem cell research to help free families from the fear and devastation of illness.
Stem cell research to help doctors repair spinal cord damage, knee injuries, serious burns.
Stem cell research to help stroke victims.
And, John McCain and his Congressional allies will invest millions more in new NIH medical research to prevent disease.
Medical breakthroughs to help you get better, faster.
Change is coming.
McCain-Palin and Congressional allies.
The leadership and experience to really change Washington and improve your health.
Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee.

“My personal opinion”

Here’s what Governor Palin said about abortion in her interview with Charlie Gibson:

GIBSON: In the time I have left, I want to talk about some social issues.

PALIN: OK.

GIBSON: Roe v. Wade, do you think it should be reversed?

PALIN: I think it should and I think that states should be able to decide that issue… I am pro-life. I do respect other people’s opinion on this, also, and I think that a culture of life is best for America… What I want to do, when elected vice president, with John McCain, hopefully, be able to reach out and work with those who are on the other side of this issue, because I know that we can all agree on the need for and the desire for fewer abortions in America and greater support for adoption, for other alternatives that women can and should be empowered to embrace, to allow that culture of life. That’s my personal opinion on this, Charlie.

GIBSON: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. Do you believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is in danger?

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered. Please understand me on this. I do understand McCain’s position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about this issue who have a differing.

GIBSON: Embryonic stem cell research, John McCain has been supportive of it.

PALIN: You know, when you’re running for office, your life is an open book and you do owe it to Americans to talk about your personal opinion, which may end up being different than what the policy in an administration would be. My personal opinion is we should not create human life, create an embryo and then destroy it for research, if there are other options out there… And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we’re getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult stem cell research.

Sarah Palin refers to her “personal opinion” five times in this brief segment. I think this rivals Joe Biden’s usage in his interview with Brokaw. She seems very anxious to drive home the point. It’s personal, not political. She also strongly hints that we should not expect her personal opinion to have any influence over the policies of a McCain administration.

TRANSLATION: “Don’t worry, pro-choicers, my personal opinions are no threat whatsoever to your cherished right to kill unborn children. Neither will my strictly personal opinions have any influence over the policies of John McCain. Please vote for John McCain despite my personal opinions, which don’t matter in this election, because they’re just personal.”

Thoughts on Assisted Living Homes

WestHaven Assisted Living here in town is run by the Orland Evangelical Free Church. The kids performed there again yesterday, and almost the entire community was gathered to listen. The residents were very friendly and most seemed happy. They clapped and made eyes at the baby while listening to the music. They thanked us profusely when it was over.

Our children have also performed at another home in Orland, and the atmosphere there was completely different. There was no joy. Only a few residents showed up. They were non-responsive. There wasn’t even a caregiver present. The kids weren’t asked back.

What’s the difference? The biggest difference is that WestHaven is a community of faith. It’s classic American evangelical protestantism at its most fervent. Every staff member agrees to a statement of religious belief. In addition to the spiritual element, it is obvious that the administration and staff care deeply about the residents. The caregivers are kind, pleasant, and devoted. Lots of smiles. They engage the residents in conversation. This isn’t just a job for them. I happen to know the administrator personally, and it isn’t just a job for him either. One of his primary goals is to serve not only the residents, but the employees as well. “We’re building a culture here”, he told me. Also, the facility is well-kept and aesthetically pleasing. Although it is an institution of 27 beds, it feels as much like a regular home as is possible under the circumstances. There is lots of sunlight and space for the residents to go outdoors. I’ve dropped in on them when they were gathered together singing hymns. Their activities for September include “shopping trip”, ” youth choir”, “tea party”, “picnic”, “matinee movie (‘High Noon’)”, “massage with Nadaline”, “ice cream social” and “wild west day & bbq”.

As for the other home? I’ve never been inside, but the outside looks thoroughly depressing. There is very little outdoor space, for one thing, and I doubt that much sunlight makes it through the windows. No flowers, no potted plants, no interesting landscaping whatsoever. The building and the surrounding foliage are dark. There is a large satellite dish in the yard. I can only speculate as to what the residents watch on television in their rooms – that alone is enough to poison the atmosphere of an entire community. The building is for sale, by the way. Probably an indicator that the owners have lost any enthusiasm they may have once had for the enterprise, and this undoubtedly affects the morale of the residents.

What might a Catholic assisted living home look like? Hopefully, it would look a lot like WestHaven in many respects, but would be quite different in others. There would be Catholic art (though not exclusively) and sacramentals throughout; daily recitation of the rosary and other devotions; readings from the Scriptures and the lives of the saints; a staff of Catholic caregivers; an outdoor shrine and Mary garden; and regular visits from a priest to hear confessions, provide spiritual direction, and celebrate Mass.

In addition, the food would be healthy and locally grown – perhaps from a vegetable garden right there on the property! (Is that legal?) Those who can’t help in the garden, can watch. Even I enjoy watching gardeners at work. I wonder, too, if it might be possible for at least some of the residents to do a little productive work. Perhaps making scapulars and rosaries, or even just stuffing envelopes. My guess is that everyone benefits from using their abilities to the fullest.

Sadly, there is no such home for elderly Catholics in this part of the state …

The Sarah Palin Effect

As of 11:23am, Pacific Standard Time, Stony Creek Digest has received 1,442 page views today.

What brings so many visitors to this obscure internet backwater? Two words: “sarah palin”. 955 searches. And that doesn’t include searches for “women against sarah palin”, “sarah palin’s shoes”, “sarah palin’s kids”, “palin women feminists”, etc., etc., and an endless variety of misspellings.

I need to add a PayPal button.

Elder Care: The Coming Crisis

Once again, I want to thank everyone who has said a prayer, left a comment, sent an e-mail, or made a helpful job suggestion in the last 24 hours. I resist the very idea of the blogosphere as a “community”, but sometimes, I have to admit, it comes pretty close. God bless you, one and all, and be assured that I have remembered you all in my own poor prayers.

To have actually written “we will consider relocating for an opportunity that has serious long-term potential” indicates the desperation I was feeling. I suppose we’re not quite that desperate yet. I need to try harder – and pray harder – to find a solution here in the north valley so that we can build on the foundation we already have.

I drove into town around noon today. I needed to stop by the church and pray that novena, pick up some fence equipment at the feed store, purchase some wire at the hardware store, and grab a sandwich at the new cafe. At two of the businesses I ran into several people I know, and at the third I ended up in a friendly conversation with a neighbor I had never met. The town is familiar now, the sights and sounds and smells, and even, at last, many of the people. In December we’ll have lived here for four years. The thought of starting over somewhere else is not a pleasant one.

*******

For the last several years, since my grandmother became ill, the thought of nursing homes and elder care has haunted me. So many lonely and suffering people, so many with no family to care for them, no saintly nuns at their bedsides, no sacramentals in their sterile rooms, no priests to hear their confessions. This has motivated us to visit assisted living facilities so that our children can play some music and bring a little cheer to these folks. During the evening rosary one of the children usually mentions “for the people in nursing homes” as a prayer intention. My wife, too, is a pharmacy consultant for nursing homes and is developing a soft spot for those whom she serves.

Of course, many people in elder care facilities have good families who visit often and do everything they can for their aging relatives. It sometimes happens that a nursing home, or an assisted living facility, really is the best solution – even when there are loving family members willing and able to help. Increasingly, however, the children of the elderly do not live nearby, or they are estranged for some reason, or they don’t exist at all. The generation now entering nursing homes is one that embraced contraception. Their children, if they had any, didn’t usually stay close to home. They were taught to pursue their careers no matter where they ended up, and often enough, they didn’t have much of a choice.

Additional signs of estrangement between today’s elderly and their children can be found on the backs of recreational vehicles, whose bumper stickers proudly proclaim “We’re spending our children’s inheritance”. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to live in “active adult” retirement communities, which exclude families with children, placing yet another psychological barrier between the generations.

A recent NY Times article reflects the anxiety of those who have chosen to remain single and childless, and who are now facing the hard realities of old age:

As a single childless woman, I share the fear of my readers, above, and no amount of financial preparation for a prolonged old age calms me. For sure, my long-term care insurance policy will buy me a home health aide and pay to retrofit my house if I’m able to remain here, or contribute to care in another setting. I have the luxury of savings and a mortgage that will be paid off by the time I’m 70. If I need a geriatric case manager, I’ll probably be able to afford one. I count my blessings.

But, having witnessed the “new old age’’ from a front-row seat, I’m haunted by the knowledge that there is no one who will care about me in the deepest and most loving sense of the word at the end of my life. No one who will advocate for me, not simply for adequate care but for the small and arguably inessential things that can make life worth living even in compromised health.

This modern phenomenon of childless adults is going to have serious consequences for nursing and elder care. The need for workers in this field will be acute in the very near term. An alarming study titled “Life Without Children” reveals the data:

“In 1970, 73.6  percent of women, ages 25-29, had already entered their childrearing years and were living with at least one minor child of their own.  By 2000, the share had dropped to 48.7 percent.  In 1970, 27.4 percent of women, ages 50-54, had at least one minor child of their own in the household.  By 2000, the share of such women had fallen to 15.4 percent. A growing percentage of women today are not having any children.  In 2004, almost one out of five women in their early forties was childless.  In 1976, it was one out of ten.”

“We are in the midst of a profound change in American life.  Demographically, socially and culturally, the nation is shifting from a society of child-rearing families to a society of child-free adults.  The percentage of households with children has declined from half of all households in 1960 to less than one-third today—the lowest percentage in the nation’s history. Indeed, if the twentieth century aspired to become the ‘century of the child,’ the twenty-first may well become the century of the child-free.”

Every cloud has a silver lining. Economically, of course, the elder care “industry” is going to explode. That’s good news for healthcare workers, who will be in great demand. It is also good news for Christians who are serious about holiness. Caring for the aged, the sick and the dying is a time-tested road to sanctity. Many a saint has been perfected in the school of love now known as “elder care”. Perhaps, if Catholics begin now to flock to the health professions, we can both ease the suffering of the elderly and stem the tide of harrassment that has lately besieged Catholic institutions due to the Church’s pro-life ethic.

What a pro-life president looks like

“More than a decade ago a Supreme Court decision literally wiped off the books of 50 states statutes that protect the rights of unborn children. Abortion on demand now takes the lives of up to one-and-a-half million unborn children per year. Human life legislation ending this tragedy will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must never rest until it does.”

– Ronald Reagan, March 8, 1983

“I know what I’m about to say is controversial, but I have to say it. This nation cannot continue turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the taking of some 4,000 unborn children’s lives every day. That’s one every 21 seconds … We cannot pretend that America is preserving her first and highest ideal – the belief that each life is sacred – when we’ve permitted the deaths of 15 million helpless innocents since the Roe vs. Wade decision.”

– Ronald Reagan, January 30, 1984

An unforgettable speech. Please listen.

The pro-life section of this speech begins at 5:00 and ends at 8:00.

Ronald Reagan’s pro-life tract: “Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation.”

President Reagan’s “Emancipation Proclamation for Unborn Children.” Beautiful!

Misrepresenting Reagan’s pro-life views.