Adventide Beichtspiegel

There are other, somewhat simpler versions of "confessional mirrors", as well as this Pruefungs-Tafel from 1914, but the "teeth" of this particular Beichtspiegel ("confessional mirror") are particularly helpful in my penitential season devotions, not to mention regular self-examination for Holy Communion and Confession. This past Lent was the first time this particular Beichtspiegel was made available online. If you find any typographical errors, please let me know in a comment below so that I may correct them.

This Beichtspiegel is published in The Brotherhood Prayer Book, Emmanuel Press, 2007 (www.emmanuelpress.us). The authors, Rev. Michael Frese and Rev. Benjamin Mayes, compiled this "confessional mirror" from the writings of the best American and German Lutheran father-confessors. The text is public domain and therefore may be formatted, copied, and distributed as much as you wish without copyright concerns. You also have the blessings, explicit permission, and even encouragement of the authors to do so. Though it is not required, please acknowledge the authors and The Brotherhood Prayer Book. However, if you modify this text in any way, which you may certainly do if you wish, kindly do NOT mention the source. May God bless your use of this Beichtspiegel with fruit according to His will.

Free Beichtspiegel download links:


MS Word

Senate Health Plan to Provide Surrogate Fatherhood?

MSNBC reports that the Senate version of the proposed health care overhaul would fund educational programs that, so far as I can tell, would not even be under consideration if it weren't for the plague of fatherlessness infecting our nation's body politic. That such programs as those described below would be seriously entertained suggests that those with the primary responsibility for helping teens become adults--their parents--have done an inadequate job or, as too often is the case, no job at all.
Learning to be an adult
Being a teenager is tough. The Senate wants to help with a provision allocating $400 million from 2010 to 2015 to help teens make the transition to adulthood.

The money goes to states primarily to set up sex education programs. But the money can also be used for "adult preparation" programs that promote "positive self esteem, relationship dynamics, friendships, dating, romantic involvement, marriage and family interaction."

In addition, the programs can teach financial literacy and other skills such as goal setting, decision-making and stress management. About $10 million of funding would go to "innovative youth pregnancy prevention strategies" in areas of the country with high teen birth rates.

The Personal Responsibility Education for Adulthood Training funding was approved as an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee. Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine joined all the Democrats in passing it.

I recognize, and appreciate, the benevolent intentions that appear to be motivating this proposal. I worry, of course, that "sex education" is anything but "chastity education," i.e., that the Senate bill would fund the standard endorsement of contraception, abortion, and sodomy. But I'm not posting this to point a finger of blame at the liberal-progressives in Congress. I'm simply acknowledging that they are offering a solution to a problem that, sadly and starkly, is real. Let this fact humble all of us into a heartfelt search of how we can manage our own homes better, and reach out to mentor and assist those in need. The teen years, there's no denying, are challenging. Contraception and abortion are as tempting as premarital intercourse. Perhaps you can serve as a "big brother" to someone you know who is struggling through these issues. Otherwise, Big Brother will do it for you.

In Utah, Down syndrome is more prevalent

By Heather May
The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah babies are more likely to be born with Down syndrome than in nine other states studied by the federal government.

The study, published online today in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal Pediatrics , showed one in 730 babies born in Utah had the genetic disorder, compared with one in 848 among the 10 states studied.

The study didn't explore why. But a Utah expert on birth defects says it's likely because of Utah mothers' ages and attitudes.

Many continue to have children into their late 30s and 40s, which increases the risk of the chromosomal disorder, said Lorenzo Botto, a medical epidemiologist at the Utah Birth Defect Network, which provided data for the study.

And Utah women are less likely to have abortions once the condition has been detected prenatally, he added.

The higher prevalence is "not because there is something wrong with Utah," he said in an e-mail, "but is basically a function of family choices."

Amy Moore, whose 14-year-old daughter has Down syndrome, was not surprised by Utah's ranking. When she lived here -- she now lives in Wyoming -- Kenly had friends with the condition and Moore had a larger support system.

Moore said her teenager is a cheerleader, swims and after years of speech therapy can "say whatever is on her mind, for better or for worse. She's nothing but a blessing in our lives."

In a word, why does Utah have more children born with Down syndrome? Love. It's sad that Mormons, as a whole, have a more biblically sound understanding of life and the value of children than do many "orthodox" Christians.

See http://www.sltrib.com/News/ci_13891834 for the full article.


A Heritage from the Lord

Mike and Abigail have three children aged three and under. Going through the potluck line at the church picnic requires some advanced planning. Mike finds a table for the family, holding the infant in his arms while putting bibs on the other two children, the younger of whom is trying to climb onto his lap while the older one sits precariously on the edge of a chair. Meanwhile, Abigail goes through the food line, getting one plate that will be split among the children and another for herself. Afterwards, Mike will get his food and bring drinks for everyone. Complicated? Perhaps at first, but Mike and Abigail are getting used to the challenges of parenthood. The three year old, ironically, is even messier than the 20 month old, and suddenly Mike realizes he forgot the extra napkins. Even so, they are building family memories. Thankfully, an elderly couple sitting across from them makes funny faces at the children to keep them occupied between bites of food.

As Mike reaches to save a glass of milk from the toddler’s reach, Jim and Pam walk by. “Boy, do you have your hands full!” Mike, still working on damage control, does not reply, but his wife looks up meekly and says, “Perhaps our hands are full these days, but our hearts are not empty.” Smiling nervously, Jim and Pam continue to the next table, where they sit down opposite of Jeanette, the congregation’s volunteer coordinator for the local pro-life pregnancy counseling center.

“Their children are spaced far too close together,” says Pam under her breath to Jim as they begin to eat. Jim and Pam have two children, both grown and out of the house now. They were separated by four years, which worked out well when only one of them attended the parochial high school at a time. “Can you imagine if we would have had to pay tuition for both John and Beth at the same time?” Changing the subject, Pam asked Jeanette how things were going at the pregnancy counseling center.

“At the center itself, things are going really well,” she said. Then she told of two recent girls who came in, neither one married, both pregnant and confused. One had been raped. The other had been promiscuous. The victim was having trouble dealing with all the “Why me?” worries, but the Christian counselors reassured her that keeping the child was the right thing to do, and that they could refer her to the support she would need. The other one had stopped attending church and did not really understand the love of Jesus—that even a sin like hers could be forgiven at the foot of the cross—indeed, that in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism God already had bestowed to her all of the blessings of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. “It’s such a blessing to share the good news with these girls, and to see their children come into the world,” explained Jeanette.

“But not everything is going so well?” Jim asked. “You said ‘at the center itself’ things are okay, but did you mean there are outside problems confronting the center?”

Jeanette sighed. Her face fell. Then she began to speak in a slow whisper. “These days, people—even in the church—have such a low view of God’s gift of life.”

“I know what you mean,” quipped Pam. “Like those Catholic politicians. Their church is as pro-life as we Lutherans are, but then they get into office and support abortion funding.”

“Yes,” said Jeanette, “there’s that.” Her voice slowed even more, as she softly continued, shaking her head in despair. “But it’s worse. Even people who think of themselves as pro-life, too often are not.” Just then everyone’s attention turned to the neighboring table. Mike stood up suddenly, a screaming infant in his arms, purple grape juice dripping down his shirt, Abigail reaching for a napkin hopelessly too late, two other children painting chocolate frosting all over the table. As the commotion subsided, Pam and Jim turned their faces back toward Jeanette.

She smiled at them. “You know, that’s a perfect example of what I mean. Mike and Abigail certainly have their hands full.”

“I’ll say,” interrupted Pam.

“And in these days of ‘planned parenthood’ I’m sure they been criticized—branded irresponsible for having them so close together.” Pam’s smile dropped into an expressionless face, caught in an emotional limbo, uncertain how to feel or what to say. “But the Bible,” continued Jeanette, “says that ‘Children are a heritage from the Lord.’ and that it is God who opens and closes wombs. Look at Mike and Abigail’s three children—they’re beautiful. Which one would you take away from them? Shall we call the middle child a ‘mistake,’ and keep the others, since they are spaced farther apart? The volunteers at the center are pleading with young girls not to abort their babies. We assure them that every child is a blessing from God, that God does not make ‘mistakes.’ Yet, too often being anti-abortion falls short of being pro-life—too many Christians would tell unmarried girls not to abort, but then would expect their married friends to plan to avoid pregnancy until it is ‘convenient.’ How convenient do you think pregnancy is for a seventeen year old who hasn’t even finished high school yet? We don’t counsel her with advice on convenient timing. We tell her about love—God’s love for her, for her child, and the love that Christ can empower her to have for her child, whether she’s a rape victim or a promiscuous girl who needs to repent of her sin. We tell her that in Christ her guilt is gone forever, and that God her heavenly Father will watch over both her and her child. If God can care for an unwed pregnant teen, then surely he can help a married couple raise their children, too. After all, it was to the first married couple that God said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”

Just then Mike returned from the restroom, his shirt a little wetter, but still just as purple. “Honey,” he said to Abigail, “I don’t think this stain will come out.” She smiled. “That’s okay. We’ll just call it your ‘badge of honor.’”

“Excuse me,” said Pam to Jeanette, as she slowly stood up at the table. She looked down toward her feet for a moment, then over at Abigail, who had soothed the infant back to sleep, then back at her feet. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, then let it go. Walking over toward Mike and Abigail, Pam held out her hands and offered, “Would you like me to hold him, while you get the others cleaned up? I know your hearts have more than enough room for all the children in the world, but sometimes parents’ hands can only do so much at once.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” smiled Mike, still drying his shirt with a napkin. Just then he felt a brotherly pat on his shoulder.

“Enjoy it while you can.” It was Jim. “They grow up too quickly. It must be a challenge with three little ones. Hey, Pam and I sometimes felt challenged with only two. But there will never come a day when you’ll look back and say, ‘I wish we had not had so many children.’ If anything, you’ll wish you had more.”

Pam caressed the baby’s soft cheeks and smiled. “And wasn’t it Jesus,” she chuckled to herself, “who said, ‘Let the little children come to me’?”


The Manhattan Declaration

See http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/.

From the Manhattan Declaration web site:
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Stem cells: the first human trial

Revolutionary treatment using human embryos for patients with incurable blindness

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

People suffering from a form of incurable blindness could soon become the first patients in the world to benefit from a new and controversial transplant operation using stem cells derived from spare human embryos left over from IVF treatment.

Scientists working for an American biotechnology company yesterday applied for a licence to carry out a clinical trial on patients in the US suffering from a type of macular degeneration, which causes gradual loss of vision. They expect the transplant operations to begin early in the new year.

For the full article, see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stem-cells-the-first-human-trial-1824099.html

All I could think of was the words of our Lord, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell."

There is no bottom to the abyss into which our "civilization" is falling. Lord have mercy.


Vasectomies and violence inside India's Maoist camps

For a curious example of contraception, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6580237/Vasectomies-and-violence-inside-Indias-Maoist-camps.html:

Vasectomies and violence inside India's Maoist camps
A quick exchange of guns and a pledge to have a vasectomy is customary for India's Maoist 'comrades' when they wed in their isolated forest hideouts.

By Rupam Jain Nair, in Jagdalpur


Evil Revealed

Here is a bumper sticker you don't see everyday, thanks be to God. I did see it today and took a pic with my phone.

It is of course beyond our comprehension that someone would rejoice so in the murder of children, but also express such love for their murderers. This is course is no love at all. This is nothing but Evil.

"For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" Romans 13:9-11.

"The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse" Proverbs 10:32.

Bursting the Economist's Population Bubble

From The American Spectator, available at http://spectator.org/archives/2009/11/10/bursting-the-economists-popula:

By Joseph Meaney on 11.10.09 @ 6:07AM

The Economist magazine's cover story for October 31, 2009 [see cover here] "Falling fertility: How the population problem is solving itself," is notable both for its eminently sane rebuke of population control extremists, and for its nearly unqualified optimism with regard to plummeting fertility rates in the developing world.

The unsigned article posits that since economic prosperity tends to correlate with lower birth rates, the move toward replacement and below-replacement level fertility in the developing world actually bodes well both for them and for us. What the author calls a demographic/economic "Goldilocks moment" is a boon because with fewer children women are empowered to advance in education and work outside the home, there are fewer net dependents on society's tab, and the rapid population growth and the commensurate environmental damage that so concerns neo-Malthusians is curtailed.

Oddly, the article makes only a passing mention of the fact that "eventually developing countries will face the same problems of ageing as Europe and Japan." Eventually may be coming very quickly indeed, especially since in the Economist's (sic) own words, "what took place in Britain over 130 years (1800-1930) [a near-halving of fertility rates] took place in South Korea over just 20 (1965-85)."

What The Economist calls a "boon" for the developing world is more akin to a bubble, as in the recent housing bubble in the United States. Below replacement fertility which appears to come with economic prosperity will likely have even more devastating consequences for the developing world in a few short years than it will have in the rich nations. The economies of poorer countries will not be cushioned by foreign workers willing to come and work for low wages as currently happens in aging industrialized nations. Pensions (in the rare cases that they exist), health care and other forms of social security are even more likely to be woefully underfunded in countries with no tradition of government-supplied support for the elderly.

It will be no picnic in the rich countries either. In Japan, the "pop" of their supposedly optimal economic/demographic ratio now rings in the country's ears like a bomb blast: its leaders are in a panic over what to do with a population that has not stabilized at replacement level, but is falling precipitously.

The article correctly refers to the fact that the United States is the only developed nation that has raised its fertility rate above the replacement level after falling below it. Some European nations have seen slight increases in their childbearing by dint of enormous social spending, but not nearly enough to stave off rapid ageing and a population crash in coming years. And more fiscally conservative leaders are now looking for ways to roll back the massive social entitlements that they rightly see cannot be sustained as fewer workers are born into the economy to pay for them.

Russia is the proverbial canary in the coal mine of below replacement fertility demography. This nation's mounting losses numbered 6,622,000 inhabitants just in the period 1992-2006 despite increasingly frantic efforts by their government. Population losses as high as 20% or more are already "programmed in" for the next few decades in Japan, Germany, Italy and many others thanks to longstanding below replacement fertility. The fact that the remaining inhabitants in these countries will be disproportionately elderly shall only serve to perpetuate the crisis until long after fertility rises above replacement levels again.

The subtitle of the Economist's (sic) article is exactly wrong. The population problem is not solving itself. Neo-Malthusian overpopulation ideologues have dominated the public discourse and the policy arena for decades, and they achieved their objectives. In half of the world the next generation will not replace their parents. Human suffering on a massive scale in graying societies is sure to follow as many of these countries have generous social programs; programs which are unsustainable without a growing population and commensurate increasing tax base.

It is past time to embrace more responsible approaches to the current demographic situation of the world, including a complete reversal of the wrongheaded anti-fertility mindset of the last four decades. The Economist rightly chastises Green radicals who increasingly call for draconian population control measures like those which have wreaked havoc on China. But the magazine errs in only considering what they see as the economic boom which tends to follow plummeting fertility rates. It is wise to consider readily available evidence that there is no reason to believe that declining fertility is a boon for Africa any more than it is now considered one in Russia and Japan.

Children are not the source of our problems. More than ever before, they are the irreplaceable resource to heal our world.

Joseph Meaney is director of international coordination for Virginia-based Human Life International, which has affiliates and partners in over 100 countries around the world.


Falling Fertility

“When people got richer, families got smaller; and as families got smaller, people got richer. Now, something similar is happening in developing countries. Fertility is falling and families are shrinking in places— such as Brazil, Indonesia, and even parts of India—that people think of as teeming with children. As our briefing shows, the fertility rate of half the world is now 2.1 or less—the magic number that is consistent with a stable population and is usually called ‘the replacement rate of fertility’. Sometime between 2020 and 2050 the world’s fertility rate will fall below the global replacement rate.”