The ‘Whoville’ cases

Massachusetts’ most famous and now deceased writer of children’s books, Theodore Geisel, known otherwise as Dr. Seuss, immortalized the phrase “A person is a person, no matter how small,” in his 50-year-old story about how “Horton Hears a Who.” To the reported chagrin of first the author and then his family (Lifesite News, Aug. 10, 2007), the “no matter how small” line has become a potent sound bite for the pro-life movement.

The 1954 book involved an elephant named Horton that detects with his huge ears the tiny cries of the Who, a miniature tribe inhabiting a dust speck on a clover. Horton agrees to protect them, and begs his disbelieving friends in the jungle to “Please don’t harm all my little folks, who/ have as much right to live as us bigger folk do!” When his friends threaten to boil the dust speck in “a hot steaming kettle of beazlenut stew,” Horton pleads with the mayor of Whoville to enlist every Who’s voice so that the disbelievers could hear them too.

Just in time, the mayor finds “A very small, very small shirker named Jo-Jo,” and urges him to join in the other Whos’ shouts because “every voice counts.” Success was achieved when Jo-Jo’s added cry of “YOPP! . . . put it over!/Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover/Their voices were heard,” and Whoville was saved.

The fate of the Whos in Whoville has risen again to national prominence with the current success of a Broadway production called “Seussical,” of late making the high school rounds, and this year’s movie release of “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who.”

Two recent legal developments, one involving a South Dakota abortion law and the other concerning a Massachusetts woman who died from a legal abortion, might well be called the “Whoville” cases of 2008.

On June 27, 2008, in a lawsuit titled “Planned Parenthood v. Rounds,” a federal court of appeals gave preliminary approval to a South Dakota measure requiring doctors to advise women in a written consent form that an abortion “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being.” The form must also state that the abortion will interfere with the pregnant woman’s legally protected “relationship with that unborn human being.”

These requirements provoked Planned Parenthood’s complaint that the statute would violate the free speech rights of doctors not to be compelled to speak ideological falsehoods. The state defended the statute by submitting scientific affidavits from medical experts, including the author of the nation’s leading textbook on embryology, showing the biological truth of the required statements about unborn human life.

In a remarkable decision, the majority of the court rejected the complaint, observing that even one of Planned Parenthood’s own expert witnesses admitted that “to describe an embryo or fetus scientifically and factually, one would say that a living embryo or fetus in utero is a developing organism of the species Homo Sapiens which may become a self-sustaining member of the species if no organic or environmental incident interrupts its gestation.” In other words, witnesses from both sides agreed that, scientifically speaking, an unborn child is a human life that begins a separate existence in the womb at fertilization.

In light of the evidence before it, the court found the statutorily required language to be biologically accurate. Thus there was no violation of free speech rights in requiring doctors to tell pregnant women what is scientifically true. Though the case is not final, the June ruling is significant. It appears that federal judges are now, finally, beginning to acknowledge that “no matter how small,” life in the womb is at stake in abortions.

In the second case, on July 16, 2008, a grand jury in Barnstable, Mass., charged Dr. Rapin Osathanondh for manslaughter in the death of 22-year-old Laura Hope Smith during an abortion in Hyannis in September of last year. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Laura’s mother, Eileen Smith, who did not even know that her daughter was pregnant, the tragic details were eventually made public.

The Massachusetts Board of Medicine found that the abortionist and his only staff person did not have proper resuscitation equipment or CPR training to deal with Ms. Smith’s cardiac arrest while on the abortion table. District Attorney Michael O’Keefe told the press that he presented evidence to the grand jury indicating “willful, wanton and reckless conduct with respect to how this procedure was carried out.”

The July edition of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life News reports that Eileen Smith now “has made it her life’s mission to share Laura’s story in hopes of sparing other young women, and their babies, a similar fate.” She told MCFL reporter Leslie Bond Diggins that “I thought abortion was here to stay--that change couldn’t happen. Now, my passion is to speak out against abortion.”

Every voice counts. A grieving mother who lost both her daughter and grandchild on the same day as a result of a procedure trumpeted as “safe and legal” now has the courage to tell a difficult story so that others might hear, and learn.

For in every abortion there is the loss of a “who,” not an “it,” and the harm affects more than just the unborn child: “I know there’s a person down there, And, what’s more, /Quite likely there’s two. Even three. Even four./Quite likely.../...a family, for all that we know!/A family with children just starting to grow.”

Daniel Avila is the Associate Director of Policy & Research for the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.

World
Cardinal beatifies 22-year-old Romanian as 'martyr to chastity'

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A 22-year-old Romanian peasant has taken a step closer to sainthood as a "martyr to chastity," six decades after she was murdered ...

Nation
Maryland attorney general will review church records on child sex abuse

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In a Sept. 24 letter to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori informed priests and deacons that the ...

Nation
People helping people is what attracted actor to 'God Friended Me'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Television audiences may recall seeing actor Joe Morton as Eli Rowan Pope, the father of professional Washington fixer Olivia Pope, ...

Nation
Pa. bishops support creating fund to compensate survivors of sex abuse

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The bishops of Pennsylvania's eight Roman Catholic dioceses are supporting creation of an independent fund to compensate survivors ...

Nation
CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

Baltimore, Md., Sep 24, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities ...

World
The Jesuit who survived the KGB

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 24, 2018 CNA.- When Pope Francis visited a former KGB building in Vilnius, Lithuania Sept. 23, Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius ...

World
Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to ...

World
Update: Scandals create outrage, but there is time for conversion, pope says

TALLINN, Estonia (CNS) -- In what is probably the least religious country in Europe, Pope Francis said he is surprised by how many people hold firm to ...

Nation
Catholic leaders oppose administration's plan to limit green cards

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders are speaking out against a Trump administration proposed rule announced Sept. 22 that would deny green cards to legal ...

Nation
Head of Georgetown Prep urges renewed commitment to being 'men for others'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a letter to the school community, the president of an all-boys Jesuit high school in suburban Washington emphasized the schools' ...

Nation
Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

World
Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Nation
Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

World
Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

World
God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

World
Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

World
Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Nation
Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

Nation
N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Nation
Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Nation
Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Nation
Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

Nation
#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Nation
Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Nation
Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...