Welcome to The Church of St. Catherine of Siena!
My dear friends,
Welcome to the Church of Saint Catherine of Siena!
Over the main door of the Church is engraved:
Domus Mea Domus Orationis Vocabitur Dicit Dominus
My House shall be called a House of Prayer, Says the Lord
These words of Jesus aptly describe the graced atmosphere one finds upon entering Saint Catherine’s. Here at the foot of the altar and the Shrines which surround the main altar, generations of the faithful have found strength and hope to live our Catholic faith and to face the difficulties of sickness and pain. May you find the same grace!
As a parish administered by the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), Saint Catherine’s is distinguished by our unique call and challenge. Guided by our Holy Father Saint Dominic, and inspired by the life of our patroness Saint Catherine of Siena, may this community of faith become ever more completely a Church that leads people to a deeper communion with the Blessed Trinity, setting the world ablaze with Love.
Again, welcome to our Church!
Parish News & Updates
The case of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who stands trial for murder, raises serious questions about the psychological impact on the medical professionals who perform abortions. Was Gosnell an isolated incident of cruel indifference to suffering and pain, or is there a psychological explanation for why he did what he did?
Although there is a considerable body of research surrounding the question of the psychological impact of abortion on women who undergo the operation, and the men who are the fathers of aborted babies, very little research has been done on the impact of performing abortions upon abortionists. The issue is so politically charged that it would be extremely difficult to find an unbiased study.
Rachel MacNair is the director of the Institute for Integrated Social Analysis in Kansas City, and author of Perpetuation-Induced Traumatic Stress: the Psychological Consequences of Killing (2002), which examines several groups that kill, including war veterans and executioners. Her research found symptoms similar to Post-Traumatic Stress among groups that were required to kill, including abortionists.
Only two scientific studies have actually been conducted to study the psychological impact of abortion, which MacNair summarizes: M. Such-Baer’s Professional Staff Reaction to Abortion Work in a 1974 issue of Social Casework, and K. Roe’s Private Troubles and Public Issues: Providing Abortion Amid Competing Definitions in a 1986 issue of Social Science and Medicine. MacNair, summarizing Roe’s study, found that “’almost all professionals involved in abortion work, reacted with more or less negative feelings.’ Those who have contact with the fetal remains have more negative feelings than those who do not, and their response varied little: ‘All emotional reactions were unanimously extremely negative…Particularly striking was the fact that discomfort with abortion clients or procedures, was reported by practitioners who strongly supported rights and expressed strong commitment to their work. This preliminary finding suggested that even those who support a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, may be struggling with an important tension between their formal beliefs and the situated experience of their abortion work.”
Seeing the psychological parallels between abortion providers and other groups experiencing Perpetuation-Induced Traumatic Stress, MacNair concluded that emotional support groups would be an obvious answer to the problem. Yet at the time of writing, she was unable to find such groups, in large part because abortion providers are unwilling to appear conflicted about the work that they do. In a revealing meeting of the National Abortion Federation in 1993, conversations “illuminate[d] a rarely heard side of the abortion debate: the conflicting feelings that plague many providers: the notion that the nurses, doctors, counselors and others who work in the abortion field have qualms about the work they do is a well-kept secret.” (Gianelli, American Medical News 1993)
MacNair’s research is not sufficiently rigorous to draw a correlation between providing abortion and the criminal activity of Kermit Gosnell, but it does suggest the deeply traumatic psychological impact on health care practitioners. Is it possible that repeatedly performing a traumatizing act causes a psychologically stable person to become unstable? Is there a parallel between the soldier who “goes off the deep end” and the abortionist? Regardless of where a person stands on the legality of abortion, the psychological ramifications of performing abortions are a topic worthy of serious scholarly inquiry, and a field of clinical practice that ought to be cultivated. After all, there is an entire population of medical professionals who are not receiving the treatment and compassion that they need. Imagine the good that could come about by addressing their needs.
 MacNair, Rachel Perpetuation-Induced Traumatic Stress: the Psychological Consequences of Killing (2002)
The trial of Kermit Gosnell, M.D. began on Monday of this week. Gosnell is an abortionist on trial for the murder of at least 1 patient and 7 babies. His story illustrates the dark reality of abortion, and the tragic horror of allowing abortion to be legal.
On February 18, 2010, the FBI raided Gosnell’s “Women’s Medical Society”. They thought they would find illegal sales of prescription drugs, but what they found was far worse. The grisly details have been reported in the media. During the raid Gosnell admitted to performing abortions after the legal limit of 24 weeks gestation. The evidence evaluated by the grand jury report suggests that Gosnell was guilty of infanticide.
The story is deeply disturbing. Gosnell had very little regard for the women he saw as patients. Grossly unqualified staff, including a 15-year-old high school student working at the clinic, administered anesthesia. According to the grand jury report, the Pennsylvania Department of Health had citied numerous violations, yet the issues were not corrected. The department then decided not to inspect abortion clinics at all because of the political controversy surrounding the issue of abortion. Even though there were multiple reports, no action was taken.
The portrait of Gosnell’s practice is graphic and perverse, but it highlights a progression in crime made possible by abortion. Once an unstable individual like Gosnell is allowed to kill babies in utero, it becomes very difficult to limit that killing. What distinguishes a 24-week-old fetus from a 25-week-old baby? What distinguishes a 30-week-old baby killed within the womb from a 29-week-old baby killed shortly after delivery? Gosnell saw no real difference. Our society has made it legal to take the life of a child before she is born for any reason. For the kind of person who is willing to take that life, what difference does a week make?
Unbelievable as it may seem, there are a number of prominent writers who have defended abortion, even after acknowledging that the developing fetus is a human person. Mary Elizabeth Williams, in an article on salon.com entitled So what if abortion ends life? makes the argument that life begins at conception, but that the life of the child is less valuable than that of the mother. In the Journal of Medical Ethics, published in February 2012, Alberto Giubillini and Francesca Minerva co-authored an article supporting infanticide entitled, After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? The article makes the claim that fetuses and thus newborns do not have the same moral status as “actual persons”. Giubillini and Minerva have argued in favor of precisely what Gosnell has done.
Both of these positions are much more honest than we are used to hearing; they both admit that abortion kills a human being. They are also both quite comfortable saying that it does. It is not my goal to shame these authors, but only to point out that they have taken as a principle the distorted morality of legalized abortion; that is, they believe that killing an innocent human being can sometimes be justified. I think it is critical to recognize that they have reached an important logical conclusion about the way our society interprets moral code. By allowing the exception of abortion, it creates an inconsistency that undermines the authority of law. Once that authority is lost, once morality and legality do not coincide, arguments like those made by Giubillini and Minerva start to be taken seriously.
Gosnell’s case is the lived example of the total devaluation of human life that abortion promotes. I pray that this case is viewed as a warning, and serves to renew respect for the dignity of the human person.
By Fr. Jonah Pollock, O.P.
I have set before you life and death . . . choose life (Deut 30:19)
The choice that Moses set before the Israelites as they prepared to pass into the Promised Land is a choice that is set before us today in a variety of ways. The exhortation to choose life applies to the decisions we make as individuals to serve the Lord of life and treat others with the justice that human dignity demands. It applies to the choices we make in political life to secure the rights of the needy and defend the unborn, aged, infirm, and disabled. In every aspect of our lives, we are called to choose life and so build up what Bl. John Paul II has famously termed “the culture of life.” Continue reading “Modern Healthcare and the Choice for Life” »
By Fr. Jonah Pollock, O.P.
Conscience, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is the act of the human intellect by which “we judge that something should be done or not done.” This judgment is to be based on our knowledge of what is right and wrong for us to do, knowledge that we acquire both from our natural God-given ability to discern right from wrong (natural law) and from the truth about right and wrong that God has revealed to us through Scripture and Tradition (divine law). When we make correct judgments of conscience and act accordingly, we therefore participate in God’s wisdom and act in accord with God’s will. Bl. John Paul II has referred to this human participation in the law of God as participated theonomy. In a similar vein, the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes calls conscience “man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” When we act according to correct judgments of conscience, we act from the depth of who we are as free persons who are at once masters of our own acts and children of our heavenly Father. Continue reading “Human Conscience and Patient Autonomy” »
By Father Jonah Pollock, O.P.
On April 10, Joseph Sullivan and I gathered with a group from the medical community for the last of our Healing Community nights this year. Our discussion centered on the ethical challenges raised by genetic medicine, including the topic of genetic diagnoses of unborn children. Prenatal genetic diagnoses can be achieved by testing the genetic make-up of an unborn child either in utero (in the womb) or in vitro (in a test tube). In vitro testing frequently accompanies in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is itself ethically problematic. Continue reading “The Right to Life: A Right of a Child, not the Right to a Child” »
On Wednesday, January 9th, the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry will host a day of recollection as one of our bi-monthly Collaborative Extraordinary Minister Formation Meetings. What is a sacrament? Who can confer a sacrament and what role do Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion play in all this? Come learn about all this and more beginning with Mass at 5:15 pm followed by supper and a discussion at 6:00 pm.
By Fr. Jonah Pollock, O.P.
On February 6 of this year, several U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), proposed new rules regarding mandated “preventive services” that include contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs. These “services,” deemed morally objectionable according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, are mandated as an extension of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). The law, enacted March 23, 2010, requires that group health insurance plans provide benefits for preventive health services without cost sharing. On August 1, 2011, HHS and other agencies released guidelines including the objectionable “services” under the umbrella of the preventive health services mandated by the law. On February 10, 2012, HHS issued final rules that defined who would be considered a “religious employer” and therefore exempted from the mandate to include the objectionable “services” in employee health plans. After widespread objection to the government’s mandating the aforementioned “services” and its narrow definition of a “religious employer,” and after many lawsuits have been filed by employers that the government does not consider “religious,” the rules proposed on February 6 represent the government’s latest attempt to respond to concerns raised. Continue reading “U.S. Bishops Respond to latest HHS Contraception Mandate “Accommodation”” »
On Wednesday, April 10th, the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry will be hosting a discussion group on professional healthcare ethics. The group provides a safe and confidential place to discuss bioethical questions and the challenges of the medical working environment. Join us this month as we discuss Genetic Medicine. What are the moral controversies that arise in analyzing and attempting to treat genetic deficiencies? What is genetic medicine capable of telling us, and how do we use that knowledge? We will discuss all this and more at our meeting from 7-8:30 PM.
By Fr. Jonah Pollock, O.P.
As a priest here at the Church of St. Catherine of Siena working for the Dominican Friars Healthcare Ministry of New York, a big part of what I do is to celebrate the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Along with other priests here at St. Catherine’s, I am regularly celebrating this sacrament as part of my routine visits to patients in the hospitals. I also celebrate the sacrament of Anointing as part of the pastoral care I am called upon to provide in emergency situations to patients who are actively dying. These emergencies can occur at any time of day or night, and the priests at St. Catherine’s are always “on call,” available to stop what we are doing and go to care for patients and their families in their emergent spiritual needs. As I write these words, I have the pager, by which we receive these calls, clipped to my belt. In our community, we half-jokingly refer to the pager as “the communicator of God’s will.” When God wants one of us to go to one of our neighboring hospitals to minister to his people, the pager will beep. Continue reading “The Anointing of the Sick: a Ministry of the Whole Church” »
Join us in celebrating Saint Catherine, our namesake and the patron saint of nurses, the largest annual event at our parish. On the Feast of Saint Catherine we present the Saint Catherine of Siena Award to members of the medical community for their outstanding contributions to Catholic Health Care. The Mass is followed by a dinner reception.