DAUGHTER

The song by the same name was performed by Pearl Jam and is about a child with a disability.  Usually my articles and the titles of the songs by the same name have nothing in common, but this one… If you follow the news like me you may be aware of the Bonnie Liltz story.  Actually, the real victim of this story is not Bonnie but her late daughter, Courtney. You see Courtney was adopted by Bonnie at the age of 2.  Courtney had cerebral palsy and had to have 24-hour care.  However, the young woman was thriving. Speaking, when doctors said she wouldn’t, feeding herself, and using a computer. According to Bonnie Liltz, “she was a happy girl”1.

On May 27, 2015, after twenty plus years of caring for Courtney, Bonnie decided Courtney’s life must end.  She came to this conclusion because she, Bonnie, was battling cancer and other health issues.  Courtney had no say-so in the matter.  Bonnie mixed a cocktail of several drugs and fed it to her daughter, Courtney. She then attempted to take her own life, but was unsuccessful.

Bonnie Liltz, who is still ill, and very much alive is upset because the Illinois courts think she should—I don’t know—go to jail for murdering her daughter.2 You see Bonnie doesn’t want to go to jail.  She is now asking for “mercy” from Bruce Rauner, the governor of Illinois.  It also appears that because Bonnie is so ill the state jail just can’t seem to take good care of her.  Hmmm. Now let’s think back.  Isn’t it ironic that it was for this same reason that Bonnie decided to kill Courtney? Yes, you read that right. Bonnie worried that she couldn’t care for Courtney if she was too ill and she didn’t want to subject Courtney to state care because it wasn’t adequate—so, she killed her out of “mercy and love”. That’s amazing.

Also amazing is how many times Bonnie Liltz refers to God and the “gift” she received from Him when she adopted Courtney, and how “all life is precious”.  Really, wow!  So being Courtney was a gift from God how does Bonnie reconcile that she, not God, would decide to snuff out that gift?  And now that she is the ill one who cannot receive individualized care, it becomes a whole different story?

Bonnie, who is currently out on bond, didn’t like state sponsored jail life and is now asking for clemency to spare her from the horrors of it.  The Illinois Department of Corrections (state) just can’t provide the (individual) healthcare that Bonnie is accustomed to. You know, eating what she wants, taking her medications, and good quality physical and mental care.  She lost 14 pounds in jail! This is the same argument she made for taking Courtney’s life.  The state could not take care of her in the same manner that she, an individual citizen, could.

So far the courts are having none of it. She was sentenced to 4 years for involuntary manslaughter, which is a far lighter sentence then the one she bestowed upon her daughter.  It’s becoming the norm for judges to sentence killers of the innocent to lesser stints in jail and it’s wrong.  There is that slippery slope that pro-life advocates keep spotlighting. If abortion is legal, why stop at the fetus just before it’s born? Why not after birth and maybe up to say, 2 years old or older? And what about the disabled? That leads to the elderly. We’ve already started legalizing suicide for the sick, so why stop there?  You know, all in the name of “compassion”.

Thanks to abortion (the proverbial foot in the door), we are seeing this happen all too frequently. Mothers who no longer want to care for their child will kill them, out of mercy of course, and judges pass on lenient sentences. The child doesn’t have to be ill, just inconvenient. Some cases are more heinous than others, yet it’s difficult for Americans to wrap their heads around a mother who can kill her own child. This must stop or it will end with infanticide and worse.

Christians are taught that all life is precious from womb to the tomb. We are against capital punishment as well. It’s a hard sell when you look at some of these horrific serial offenders.  God teaches us that everyone can change. We must forgive.  St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans 12:19 that vengeance belongs only with God.  However, God never said there should be no justice for the innocent and oppressed.  In fact that very thing is mentioned quite often in the Bible.  Jesus summed it all up in one sentence: love your neighbor as yourself. If you follow that golden rule you’ll never go wrong.

Back to Bonnie Liltz.  I’m sure Bonnie was a selfless mother at one time.  She cared for her disabled daughter for over 20 years. Being a mom is a thankless job on a good day. One may have looked at her and thought her a saint at one time. I agree with her thinking that the state could never take care of Courtney like she did. She was worried about her daughter and what would become of her once she was too ill or dead.  However, her end game was all wrong.

It’s very easy to feel compassion for a mother with a very ill child. How can that be murder? The mother thought the best place for her daughter was with God in Heaven. She didn’t stab or shoot her. She just went to sleep and never woke up. There was no pain1. Tell that to the millions of mothers who have and still are caring for their sick children.

Answer me this, would you feel comfortable with another person making the decision to end your life? What happens when you’re too old or too sick to take care of you? If this becomes the norm it will eventually make its way mainstream and come for all of us.  Eugenics is making a comeback.  It seems that the more we forget our history the more it just keeps circling back.

Bonnie Liltz references God so often that I wonder if she belonged to a church or a support group. If she did, she could have talked to her pastor or friends who could have reached out and got her the help she so desperately needed. She was overwhelmed, distraught, ill, and confused. Someone could have counseled her and this tragedy would never have happened.

If Governor Rauner has an ounce of sense, and I’m not sure that he does since he lied to his constituents and just made Illinois the most abortion friendly state in the union, he will uphold the Illinois courts and keep Bonnie Liltz in jail.

 

1 Suburban Mom Who Killed Disabled Daughter in Botched Murder-Suicide Speaks Publicly for 1st Time; Carol Marin and Don Moseley, NBC 5 Carol Marin Reports, August 31, 2016.

2 Bonnie Liltz initially was charged with murder but plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

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It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish

I was watching AD the Bible Continues, a fabulous series on NBC this spring, produced by Roma Downey, a devout Catholic and her husband, Mark Burnett.  AD dramatizes the first half of Acts of the Apostles.  It’s gritty and extremely well done.  If you’re a Christian and want to grab the attention of millennials used to watching TV shows such as Game of Thrones or Walking Dead, AD is the way to do it.  The show prompts you to pick up the Bible and read it for yourself, which is awesome.

Back to AD the Bible Continues…a few weeks ago viewers were introduced to Saul of Tarsus.  Saul, a devout Jew, wasn’t taking the “blasphemy” of the new believers in Jesus lightly.  He was intent on tracking them down like animals.  He was there when the first martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death and he reveled in the bloodshed and thirsted for more.  His plan was to murder every last disciple.  After going house to house in Jerusalem and pulling out every man, woman, and child and throwing them in prison, Saul finds himself on that road to Damascus committed to find any believers who had scattered after his attacks.  However, things didn’t go as planned.  Instead of Saul finding the followers of Jesus, arresting them, and dragging them back to Jerusalem, Jesus finds Saul and everything changes.  Saul went from being the hunter to the hunted and from persecuting believers to becoming one of them—and not just any one of them.  Saul, or as we know him, Paul1, became the energizer bunny of evangelism.

Out of all the people in the New Testament, I find St. Paul to be one of the most fascinating.  The apostles knew Jesus.  He was their friend.  They lived with Him for three years; they were there through His many miracles, teachings, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and His Ascension.  Paul, like us, did not know Jesus in the physical sense, and like us, he was blinded from the truth.  His letters to the early churches are deep.  How many of us listen to Paul’s words but never truly grasp their meaning?  If you’re lucky to have a pastor who explains in detail or a teacher who has great knowledge of the Bible I can guarantee Paul’s message will leave you speechless.

Paul’s message is great, but what of his life after meeting Jesus?  It was a tremendous journey filled with peril, sacrifice, torture, imprisonment, and the joy of spreading the word of Jesus Christ and converting the Gentiles, and ultimately ending in martyrdom, which he knew he would face.  He knew his mission and he went after it with a zeal matched by few.  Even when his worldly life was coming to a close he kept his eye on the prize, as summed up in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight to the end, I have run the race to the finish, I have kept the faith.”  How many of us at the end of our lives can say that?  St. Paul began his life as a not such a good person, but he finished as a rock star.  It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

Speaking of television shows, there is a new one premiering this summer called Proof.  It’s very similar to its predecessors; They Came Back, Resurrection, and The Returned.  All are fantasies about “life after life.”  Unlike AD, which is Bible based, Proof is based on an actress portraying a doctor who has gone through the fictitious death of her son, a fictitious divorce, and a fictitious rift with her fictitious teenage daughter.  An actor portraying a billionaire with fictitious cancer, who is facing fictitious death, hires her to find answers from psychics, ghost hunters, and people who have experienced near death experiences2.

Yesterday I read that researchers at the Mayo Clinic believe they’ve “cracked the code” to happiness3.  Do you know what it is?  The research shows the biggest hindrance to being happy is too much thinking about one’s self.  Really?  Jesus said that over 2,000 years ago!  Love others as you love yourself.  People in the US are screaming for truth.  They are yearning for God; they are looking for answers but instead of seeking Him, they rely on supernatural fantasy put out by Hollywood because somehow that’s more believable than the Bible?  They’ll take the word of fiction writers over that of God?   I keep hearing about the new evangelization.  How and when do we begin?

The problem is we can’t evangelize unless we actually stand for something.  We can’t preach the Word unless we live it.  You can’t succeed with a church full of “cafeteria-style” Christians and expect to show the world this is what it means to be Christian.  This little light of mine can’t shine under a basket.  You can’t pick and choose the laws that are to your liking.  Several churches that bend to the pressure of the culture find that out the hard way.  Their numbers go down instead of going up.  I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.  It does not mean I hate gays.  I believe in the sanctity of all life, including life in the womb.  It doesn’t mean I hate women who’ve had an abortion.  Nobody wants to offend anyone.  I certainly don’t.  St. Augustine said, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”4

In order to evangelize you must believe in something—I mean really believe.  Stand strong in it so firmly that you would die for it because you know it’s true.  I recently heard a story about a father in the Middle East who was given the opportunity by ISIS to spare his children if they converted to the Muslim faith.  He went to his priest for guidance who told him to go ahead.  God will understand if they converted.  The man rushed home only to find ISIS asking his children who they believed in and before the father could intervene the children shouted “Jesus!”

My journey and yours is not yet over.  For years it’s been relatively easy in the United States to be Christian.  Not so any more and I fear it’s going to get worse.  In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”  It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

Will you fight the good fight?  Will you finish the race?  Will you keep the faith?

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1 God did not change Saul’s name to Paul, a popular myth.  “Saul was a born Jewish and his Hebrew name was Saul, but because his father was a Roman citizen (and therefore Saul inherited Roman citizenship), Saul also had the Latin name, Paul.  After his conversion he was determined to bring the gospel to Gentiles, so he dusted off his Roman name and became, Paul, a name Gentiles were familiar with.”  Catholic Answers To Explain & Defend The Faith.

2 TNT.com

3 CBS New York newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/6/05/researchers-cracked-code-happiness

4 St. Augustine Letter 211 (c.424)