Friday, July 27, 2012

Blind Mice; Heroism During the 'Batman' Killings

The London 2012 Olympics start today: but instead of analyzing the significance of a South Korean flag being displayed with a North Korean athlete, I'm going to write about some formerly-blind mice; heroism in Aurora, and living in a big world:
  1. Blind No More: Sight Restored (for Mice)
  2. Under Fire in Aurora: Stress Test
  3. Police are People, Too
  4. Aurora, Zanzibar, and the World
What happened at a Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado, last week is still a major news item: and a common op-ed topic.

High-profile, emotion-drenched, tragic situations are a sort of Rorschach test: particularly for opinion pieces. I think what's written tells more about the writer, than about the incident. I'm no exception.

In my opinion, we still don't know why James Holmes killed a dozen people. On the other hand, I'm quite sure that:
  • The Tea Party wasn't controlling Mr. Holmes
  • The killings aren't a government plot
  • Shape-shifting, space-alien lizard men are not involved

Seriously? Prayer Helps

I am also quite sure that a lot of folks are hurting, and that prayer is a good idea:

Lizard Men?!

The lizard-men, by the way, are my somewhat snarky contribution to a growing number of conspiracy theories. They're quite fictional.

The 'government conspiracy' and 'Tea Party plot' have been presented as 'real,' or at least 'likely.' ABC and the BBC seem to realize that they goofed about the Tea Party being involved, but I'm pretty sure that some Americans will remain convinced that 'the truth' is being suppressed.

Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories pop up like mushrooms whenever a particularly upsetting even happens. I've discussed a possible explanation in another blog:

Judging Acts, Not Persons

Whatever reason Mr. Holmes had for killing a dozen innocent people, it was a bad thing to do. I realize that may seem harsh, even 'judgmental:' but murder is not right, and we shouldn't do it:
  • Human life is precious
    • Sacred
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258)
  • It's wrong to
    • Deliberately kill an innocent person
      (Catechism, 2258-2262, 2268-2269)
    • Want vengeance
      (Catechism, 2262)
Not wanting vengeance isn't the same as ignoring justice. Justice is one of the cardinal virtues, and that's another topic. (Catechism, 1807)

Before discussing how folks responded to being attacked at a movie theater, there's a difference between recognizing evil actions, and judging another person:
"...although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1861)

1. Blind No More: Sight Restored (for Mice)

"Chemical Helps Blind Mice See Again"
Dave Mosher, Biotech, Wired (July 26, 2012)

"Injections of a recently discovered chemical into the eyes of blind lab mice has restored at least part of the rodents' vision.

"The chemical, called AAQ - short for acrylamide-azobenzene-quaternary ammonium - was not tested in humans, nor is it a cure for blindness. But researchers who treated mice with the molecule, a type of light-sensitive 'photoswitch,' think their method represents an advance in the quest to help the blind see.

" 'The photoswitch is injected into the vitreous cavity of the eye, but unlike the other strategies, it does not require highly invasive surgical interventions and its actions are reversible,' the authors of a new study about AAQ wrote July 26...."
What's important about acrylamide-azobenzene-quaternary ammonium (try saying that fast) and a seriously uncomfortable medical procedure isn't restoring vision to some rodents: or, rather, that's not the most important point in these experiments.

This sort of thing could - probably - be done with folks who are blind: letting them see again. And, although we're supposed to treat animals humanely: people are more important than animals. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2415-2418)

Humans in Medical Experiments: Sometimes Okay, Sometimes Not

There's more in the article, including how the researchers determined whether the mice could see or not. If they'd used humans in the experiment, they could have asked 'can you see?' You can't do that with mice.

Well, actually, you can: but the mice won't talk.

The Catholic Church says that using human beings for medical experiments is okay: provided that the risks aren't too great. Incidents like the Tuskegee experiments, what got sorted out in the N├╝rnberg trials, and the Cincinnati radiation experiments, are not okay. Not even if the people 'volunteer.' (Catechism, 2292-2295) I've been over that before. (August 30, 2010)

Blindness Cured: But There's a 'Down' Side

One more excerpt from that Wired article, explaining how the eye works: and why this sort of treatment may not be a good idea for people:
"...In a healthy eye, light strikes rod- and cone-shaped photoreceptor cells lining the retina, which transmit the signal into a network of nerves below them. Those nerves ultimately usher visual information to the brain.

"Retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration kill off the rods and cones, eventually causing blindness, but the network of nerves behind often remains intact.

"By taking advantage of the intact nerves, a few biomedical tricks can already partially restore vision. Electronic sensors implanted in a retina, for example, can stimulate the nerves to send visual information when struck by light. Likewise, engineered viruses can implant genes into retinal nerve cells that make them react to light.

"But these and other techniques are irreversible and can trigger immune responses that destroy the rest of an eye...."
(Dave Mosher, Biotech, Wired)
Scientific research is a good idea, provided that it's done in an ethical way. (Catechism, 2292-2295) Practical applications of the research are okay too: although again, ethics are important. For example:
"Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorous act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons."
(Catechism, 2296)
In other words, donating a kidney is a good thing to do: provided that the benefit/risk ratio is right. Donating organs after death "is a noble and meritorous act and is to be encouraged...." But killing someone, breaking the body down for parts, and using one of the pieces to save another person's life? That isn't right. It's like the fellow said:
" 'An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention' (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1759)

2. Under Fire in Aurora: Stress Test

Last week quite a few folks had an opportunity to act - or not. Many showed that we still have heroes.
"Archbishop Aquila praises heroic actions during theater shooting"
Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News (July 25, 2012)

" Those who offered their lives to save their loved ones in the recent Colorado theater shooting exemplified the Christian virtues of courageous sacrifice and selfless love, said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver.

"Such acts of courage testify to 'the natural goodness that is present within the human person,' he told CNA on the evening of July 24.

"Stories of heroism are beginning to emerge from the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colo. where one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history took place early on July 20...."
Quite a bit of attention is focused on Mr. Holmes. That's understandable. I think it's important to look at what others did, too.

Killed While Protecting Another: Jon Blunk; Matt McQuinn; Alex Teves; John Larimer

"...Reports have emerged that four of the victims were young men who died while shielding their girlfriends from bullets.

"Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, Alex Teves and John Larimer all gave their lives to protect their girlfriends - Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler, Amanda Lindgren and Julia Vojtsek, respectively - from the gunfire in the theater.

"Several of these women spoke to the media after the shooting, crying as they told how their boyfriends - who were all in their 20s - used their bodies to block them from harm, knowing that they were risking their lives....
(Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News)
Like I've said before: we still have heroes.

Courage Under Fire: Stephanie Davies

Stephanie Davis is 21. She and her friend Allie Young were at the theater when someone started shooting at the audience.

Young was hit, a neck wound, but remained conscious. She urged Davies to run and hide. Instead, Davies pulled Young into an aisle and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.
(Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News)

Knowing how to treat a bullet wound is one thing. Having the presence of mind, while under fire, to apply that knowledge: That's impressive.

Then there's the sort of considered courage it takes to forgive an attacker.

Forgiving a Killer: Pierce O'Farrill

Pierce O'Farrill has little reason to like Mr. Holmes. O'Farrill is alive, despite being shot three times.

"...Shortly after emerging from surgery, O'Farrill was interviewed by radio host Todd Schnitt. Asked what he would say to James Holmes, the alleged shooter, he responded, 'I'm truly blessed to have forgiveness in my heart, and I do forgive him completely for what he’s done.'

" 'I honestly would like to see him. I would like to talk to him. I'm a man of deeply devoted faith,' O'Farrill explained. 'Jesus is my world, and Jesus is how I get through every single day, and that’s how I got through this ordeal.'

"O'Farrill said that he has been praying for Holmes, and if he had the chance to speak with him, 'the first words that I would say are, "I forgive you, James." '...

"...The archbishop encouraged continued prayer during the coming weeks and months that God may bring comfort and peace to the victims of the shooting and their families.

" 'The Holy Spirit is present,' he said."
"Forgiveness" isn't "stupidity." As a Catholic, I'm expected to forgive others - and myself. But I'm also expected to clean up the mess that sin leaves. (Catechism, 1459-1460)

I think Mr. O'Farrill was quite sensible, forgiving his attacker. I also think that justice demands that Mr. Holmes face some sort of sanctions. That doesn't mean that I think he should be killed.

Killing a murderer might be 'just,' and impending death can have a wonderfully focusing effect on one's thoughts: but I think Mr. Holmes might benefit from having a long time to reconsider what he's done with his life, and how he's affected others.

I'm not 'absolutely' against capital punishment, and that's another topic:

3. Police are People, Too

"Chaplain says faith can help officers cope with Aurora shooting"
Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News (July 24, 2012)

"A strong faith in God can play an important role for law enforcement officers struggling to deal with the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., said a chaplain who has experience ministering to those involved in tragic killings.

" 'There is a kind of spiritual journey that takes place,' said Gino Geraci, who serves as a chaplain for the Denver division of the FBI....

"...Geraci spoke with CNA on July 20, shortly after returning from the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colo., where one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history took place....
Police officers are trained to deal with trauma and tragedy. But that training doesn't stop them from being human beings. Police in Aurora, Colorado have been dealing with quite a bit:
  • Aftereffects of a dozen lives abruptly ended
  • Contact with the person who killed those folks
  • Knowledge that the killer intended to kill others with a booby-trapped apartment:
As Gino Geraci said, it's important to remember that police officers are human beings: people whose jobs sometimes put them in extremely stressful situations.
"...While officers 'are trained to deal with tragedy and trauma,' the gravity of a situation like the recent rampage can be overwhelming, he explained.

"For many officers, the events of July 20 may be 'one of the most difficult experiences' they will ever face, he said, adding that the experience of trauma can also be 'cumulative.'

" It's impossible to not have it affect you,' he said, and these effects can be physical, spiritual and emotional...."
(Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News)

4. Aurora, Zanzibar, and the World

"Pope Promises Prayers for Denver Victims"
"Also Remembers Those Killed in Ferry Accident Near Zanzibar (July 23, 2012)

"Benedict XVI promised prayers for the victims of a shooting that took place in the early hours of Friday morning at a movie theater in Denver.

"Sunday after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at the papal summer residence, the Pope said he was 'deeply shocked by the senseless violence which took place in Aurora, Denver.'..."
"...Aurora, Denver?"

Ideally, Benedict XVI would have known that Aurora is a municipality near Denver, Colorado. If he was running for office, he might have added a few words about next month's road work on Havana Street.

The Pope is spiritual leader to more than a billion people. He's also a human being: with the capacity for misstatement we all share.

I'm impressed that he noted the Aurora killings, along with the nearly-80 people killed in a ferry accident. About that: the death toll has gone up, with many of the folks who were traveling between Tanzania and Zanzibar 'missing and presumed dead.'

Prayer for folks affected by the Aurora killings is, I think, a good idea. So is prayer for those who lost family and friends when the MV Skagit/Kalama went down:

Related posts:


Anonymous said...

There is a much bigger hero than the Aurora hero: Satwant Singh Kaleka, a man from India. Kaleka gave his life stopping the gunman and saving dozens of lives. Satwant is the father of the Emmy Award Winner, Amardeep Singh Kaleka. Amardeep forgave the gunman. Kaleka is a hero and a legend out of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Brian Gill said...


First, sorry about taking so long to catch up on comments.

Second, thank you for bringing Satwant Singh Kaleka to my attention. There's a pretty good article about his actions here: "Sikh temple's president hailed a 'hero,' dies defending worshipers from gunman," (August 06, 2012).

Finally, I hope my failure to discuss actions at the temple in Wisconsin in a discussion of a shooting in Colorado is not perceived as an effort to minimize the importance of what happened in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

I've mentioned the Oak Creek temple shootings a few times: but see that I failed to discuss the heroic acts of Satwant Singh Kaleka.

Previous posts, regarding murder at a Sikh temple:

"Sikhs, Catholics, and Prayer; Evangelization; and Exploring Mars"
(Particularly Sikhs, Catholics, Prayer, and Hate)
(August 10, 2012)

"Murder at a Sikh Temple: Why I Care"

(August 9, 2012)

"Wisconsin: Dead Sikhs; Disrupted Lives"

(August 5, 2012)

Anonymous said...

Kaleka was a hero on the 100th anniversary of the 1st Sikh Temple ever in the United States! Gurjit and Gurmeet forgave the gunman and remember that!

Brian Gill said...


Thank you for your reminder.

Forgiveness - particularly for someone who has deeply wronged the person who is doing the forgiving - is difficult. And, of course, a good thing to do.

I remember: and repeat links which I posted earlier.

* "Sikh temple's president hailed a 'hero,' dies defending worshipers from gunman," (August 06, 2012)

* "Sikhs, Catholics, and Prayer; Evangelization; and Exploring Mars"
(Particularly Sikhs, Catholics, Prayer, and Hate)
(August 10, 2012)

* "Murder at a Sikh Temple: Why I Care"
(August 9, 2012)

* "Wisconsin: Dead Sikhs; Disrupted Lives"
(August 5, 2012)

Anonymous said...

It is possible that some of the victims forgave the gunman Douglas Arthur Mozingo (a descendant of a Virginia Slave!).

Mozingo took his own life before trial.

Anonymous said...

I discovered two people who forgave the Sandy Hook gunman (the gunman's last name as the same last name as the singer and the Woody Woodpecker creator's real family name, Lanza): Robert K. Parker and Daniel A. Ray. The hero, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, her husband is going to hang it up because it is hard for him.

Anonymous said...

There are so many heroes on that day:
Dawn Alys (Lafferty) Hochsprung, Rachel Marie D'Avino, Anne Marie (McGowan) Murphy, Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, Mary Joe (Greene)Sherlach, Victoria Leigh Soto, and Jesse McCord Lewis died a heroes! There are more heroes besides them, Ted Varga (an Hungarian-American) Yvonne Cech (a Greek American), Janet Vollmer, Rick Thorne, Aiden Licata, Maryrose Kristopik, Mary Ann Jacob, Laura Feinstein, Abby Clements, and Kaitlin Roig! So does Gene Rosen, to boot!

Anonymous said...

Now, there are only two people (I found so far) who forgave Adam Peter Lanza: Robbie Parker and Daniel Ray. Please forget about Adam Lanza! Think about the good Lanzas: Mario Lanza (the singer), and Walter Lanza (the Woody Woodpecker guy!).

Anonymous said...

Best of all, I found another person who forgave the Sandy Hook gunman: David E. Lewis. Lewis is the grandfather of hero, Jesse McCord Lewis. Jesse gave his life saving his classmates in Sandy Hook! God bless!

Anonymous said...

One person saved many lives that day and he tried to convert the gunman to Christianity, but the gunman chose to kill himself. The hero's name was Jeremiah Alvin Neitz. His brother Mike would have said, "He doesn't believe in God," and Jeremiah would have said, "Well, Mike, he does now."

Anonymous said...

There is now another heroes this time: Gerald Eugene Read and Richard Michael Ridgell in Washington Navy Yard.

Anonymous said...

Now there is heroes in the schools: Michael Terrance Landsberry, the Marine Corps veteran in Sparks, Nevada and Megan Silberberger, the teacher in Marysville, Washington. Remember the good James: James Radley Mattioli, the same last name as the discoverer of the cat allergy. Rest in peace, James. There is another hero: Roland L. Scobee, the cousin of the world famous astronaut, Francis Richard "Dick" Scobee.

Anonymous said...

There are more heroes of Sandy Hook:
Alison Amanzio, Carol Wexler, Kathy Gramolini, Kate Anderhaggen, Carrie Usher, Courtney Martin, Leslie Gunn, Teri Alves, and Connie Sullivan The main hero's full name was Dawn Alyson (Lafferty) Hochsprung. God bless.

Brian Gill said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

There are Chattanooga heroes: Carson Allen Louis Holmquist, Randall Scott Smith, Thomas Joseph Sullivan, Squire Kimpton Paul "Skip" Wells, and David Allen Wyatt.
There are Umpqua heroes: Christopher Lee Mintz, Treven Taylor Anspach, Todd Ehren Spingath, and Joseph Emmett Kahey!

Anonymous said...

The correct spelling of the hero's name is Joseph Emmett Kaney. Well done, rest well.

Anonymous said...

There is a hero: Shannon Hilliard Johnson. He said, "I got you."

Anonymous said...

There are three heroes in San Bernardino gave their lives saving others:
Shannon Hilliard Johnson
Larry Daniel Eugene Kaufman
Nicholas James Thalasinos

Well done, Shannon, Larry, and Nicholas. Rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Now, Orlando shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of North America! It was anti-homosexual crime! Never, ever hate homosexuals! Ryan White once said, “God loves homosexuals much as He loves everyone else.”

There are heroes:
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
Joshua McGill
Imran Yousuf
Christopher Hansen
Ray Rivera
Stanley Almodovar
Luis Burbano
Michael Napolitano
Scott Smith
Jeffrey Backhaus
Timothy Stanley
Kevin Easterling
Andrew Bishop
James Parker
Raul Rivas
Jonathan Bigelow
Ricardo Duenas

Anonymous said...

There is others like that:
Amanda Alvear
Omar Delgado
Cory James Connell (Irish origin)
Justin Pham
Patricia Kerr

Anonymous said...

Jack Reginald Beaton, Jr. is a true hero. So does, Brett Erin Schwanbeck. So does James Sonny Melton (the “Sonny” is not a nickname but a part of his given name like Sonny Curtis). So does, Erick Steven Silva (a man of Mexican origin). So does, John Joseph Phippen. So does Christopher James Hazencomb. So does Taylor Winston a hero. Due to the so many victims of Las Vegas, the heroes list is endless.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.