Faith in Action Blog
Among the issues at stake in today’s election is the future of marriage in four states, including Washington. There, a group of dissenting Catholics recently published an open letter that defied Church teaching on the subject. In response, Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) and two other prominent Catholics have published a rebuttal in the Seattle Times titled, We Are Catholics and We oppose Referendum 74 to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage.
The article defends both the Church’s position and marriage itself, stressing the institution’s importance to families, society, and religious freedom:
The state does not involve itself in marriage in an effort to regulate its citizens’ sexual activities. It does so because marriage generally involves children by the very nature in which the spouses express intimacy and union. As such, the family becomes the basic unit of society and thus deserves special protection.…
As Catholics, we believe that marriage is the unique bond of love and life between a woman and a man, which is the source of the family. In union with our church and our bishops, we are voting to reject Referendum 74. We urge other Catholics and people of goodwill to join us.
Go read the whole article — and be sure to vote!
Some 18 months after its publication, A Little Way of Homeschooling continues to elicit great interest. The second work of alumna author Suzie (Zeiter ’87) Andres, the book profiles 12 Catholic homeschooling families and their use of the “unschooling” educational method, while drawing upon the works of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John Bosco, and ancient philosophers.
On Friday morning Mrs. Andres appeared on the Mothers at Home radio program with Judy Dudich on BlogTalkRadio. You can listen to the broadcast in the player below.
Be sure not to miss these recent articles by alumni writers:
In The Public Discourse, S. Adam Seagrave (’05), a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, addresses the often unspoken question that lies at the heart of debates about marriage law: Why does the state concern itself with marriage in the first place?
Although civil marriage is now commonly understood in the elevated terms characteristic of marriage’s more fundamental and profoundly fulfilling aspects, the purpose of civil marriage is, in fact, more in keeping with its sterile legality. Governments assign legal responsibilities and benefits to marriage, rather than to other relationships, to help mitigate the potentially destructive and tragic consequences of irresponsible procreation.
Writing for the National Catholic Register, Sophia Mason (’09), a graduate student at the Catholic University of America and a blogger, describes an informal evening with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Washington’s Catholic Information Center:
The separation of church and state is, Scalia noted, “a subject that has been particularly good for Americans and that Americans have been particularly good at.”
The American skill in distinguishing the two is due in part to the diversity of American religious views, the “300 religions,” which makes separation of church and state “more politically needful in the United States than elsewhere.” It is also due, Scalia added less happily, to the growing decline in religiosity. “If one is a skeptic, it is easy to believe that one’s religious beliefs should not be imposed. … After all, one might be wrong!”
Also be sure also to see Miss Mason’s September story in the Register comparing the sagas of superheroes to the lives of the saints.
Finally, The New Oxford Review, Christopher Zehnder (’87), the general editor of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, considers the question: What does it mean to “serve Mammon?”
The possession of great riches, thought not to be condemned in itself, nevertheless presents grave difficulties to the soul that seeks perfection. Great wealth coaxes us with a delight that “chokes the word.” It deludes us with a false security, tempting us to hoard our riches and to pull down our barns for larger ones. We become unwilling to live like the birds of the air or the lilies of the field and seek the Kingdom of God (Lk. 12:22-31); rather we are anxious to maintain what we have amassed and seek to amass more.
The executive director of New York City’s Chiaroscuro Foundation, Greg Pfundstein (’05) has been actively defending life — from conception to natural death — in several publications, both print and online.
First, Mr. Pfundstein, who holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, weighs in on a debate in the pages of The Human Life Review over whether pro-lifers ought to frame their arguments in strictly secular terms. We will not reveal which side of the debate he takes (for that, go see the full article), but it is worth noting that, in making his case, he draws upon three authors from the College’s classical curriculum: Euclid, Boethius, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Next Mr. Pfundstein shifts his focus from the young and vulnerable to the old and vulnerable, writing in The Public Discourse about an effort to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in Massachusetts:
Tens of thousands of Americans commit suicide every year. Nowhere in the U.S. is it a crime to do so. It is an unfortunate fact that some people determine that their lives are no longer worth living. But we see it as a tragedy; this is why high bridges often have signs encouraging troubled individuals to seek help rather than jump. Suicide hotlines are open 24 hours a day because we hope to prevent as many suicides as possible. This consistent cultural message is contradicted when we give doctors the right to prescribe lethal drugs as a medical treatment. It is like replacing the suicide intervention signs on bridges and railroad tracks with signs that say, “Ask your physician if jumping is right for you.”
Finally, in National Review, Mr. Pfundstein looks at how the Massachusetts campaign and others like it are part of a deliberate effort to make doctor-prescribed suicide the law of the land by way of the Supreme Court, à la Roe v. Wade:
Now let’s look a few years down the line, when advocates bring the case of an individual in, say, Alabama who, being terminally ill, desperately wants his doctor to provide a lethal prescription. When that case proceeds to the Supreme Court, what will a look at the “laboratory” show? Suicide as a medical treatment was made legal in Washington in 2008, Massachusetts in 2012, Vermont and New York in 2013, and New Mexico in 2014. This looks like an “emerging consensus,” doesn’t it?
Mr. Pfundstein’s conclusion is powerful: “The lesson of the last 40 years is clear: Fight now, not later” — and so he leads by example.
- Abortion, the Big Apple, and the HHS Mandate
- Pro-Life in NYC
- Standing Up for Parents’ Rights and Children’s Innocence
- Taking on Washington’s ‘Birth Control Crusade’
Starting tomorrow (Saturday, September 29), EWTN is sponsoring a Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, seeking Our Lady’s intercession and Our Lord’s blessing on the country as we approach the upcoming elections. The novena has the nihil obstat of one of the College's graduates, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
The inspiration for the Novena, says Fr. Selin, came from its author, Rev. Frederick L. Miller, S.T.D., of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, who spent last year in sabbatical at St. John Vianney. During that time, the two priests discussed the state of the Church in America, the elections, and what Catholics could do for their country.
“I was concerned, as the year was going on, that we Catholics in the U.S. — starting with us clergy, but also the lay faithful — were not looking at the election enough from the spiritual perspective,” Fr. Selin recalls. From there, he and Fr. Miller thought of the Novena, which, in keeping with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom this summer, would “continue that spirit of prayer and fasting for our country.”
It was important to both priests, says Fr. Selin, that the Novena call upon the aid of the Blessed Mother. “I know from history and my own personal experience,” he notes, citing events from the Battle of Lepanto to the fall of Communism, “that when we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of great need — when we go to Jesus through Mary — Jesus has come through with very special graces.”
Thus the timing of the Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, which begins on the Feast of the Holy Archangels (September 29), and concludes on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), just prior to the start of the Year of Faith (October 11). “Coming into an election, where so much is on the line for the Catholic Church and for our country with regards to attacks against religious liberty, the attack against the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and even the marital act,” Fr. Selin explains, “we’re callings upon God through the intercession of Mary for very special graces on our country.”
Fr. Selin adds, however, that the act of transforming a nation must begin with our own, interior conversions. “First and foremost in this whole issue of the election, we have to start with ourselves, asking: How have we been faithful to God’s commands? How have we lived a deep prayer life, avoiding sin, growing in holiness and in our dedication to the Holy Eucharist? Then our public acts will be a beautiful overflowing of that commitment of faith.”
Fr. Selin has long had a devotion to the Blessed Mother. His senior thesis at the College was titled, “Mary: Archetype of the Church.” The Mother of God, he says, “has always been close to me in my vocational discernment and leading me here.” Likewise, she must play a role in the future of the nation: “Work has to be done in the public sphere — and that’s the work of the lay faithful to get out there, and we priests have to preach and encourage — but we cannot forget Our Lady.”
Defending the institution of marriage can be a lonely, if not dangerous, task in Santa Cruz, Calif., but it is one that alumna Anne Breiling (’02) has taken on with confidence. In a recent op-ed in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Miss Breiling presents a thoughtful case for “maintaining the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, sans hate”:
I myself reserve the right to express a matrimonial [its roots in mater, mother] union of a man and a woman as simply distinct from partnerships of a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, on a purely existential level, in its normative and unique capacity for creating and nurturing new life, its very telos within the larger society. This is not a moral but an ontological judgment, that is, one of being as such.
I have no doubt there is genuine love involved in homosexual partnerships, and no question that faithful commitments by any persons ought not to be hindered by society; and yet there is a distinction here, one in the very fabric of nature, the denial of which I and many others [a majority of Californians it turned out] truly believe has serious implications for the long-term health and stability of society.
Remarkably the column has thus far generated no hateful comments and, Miss Breilling notes, her dispassionate, rational line of argument has even won over an unlikely supporter …
In a recent issue of USA Today, Katrina Trinko (’09) questions the wisdom of the culture’s growing fascination with recording every moment of life — from the memorable to the mundane — via photos posted on social media. “Somewhere there is a line between photos taken because of a human longing to document our lives and photos taken to be used in our self-marketing,” writes Miss Trinko, a writer for National Review Online and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors. “We’re no longer taking photos to remember, but to refashion public perception.”
This phenomenon, she notes, is part of a broader, disconcerting tendency to view human interactions as impressions to be manipulated, rather than relationships to be nurtured:
“In the social-media era, we can all similarly manage our image, untagging the unflattering photos and uploading the ones that show us as we yearn to be perceived: sporty or artsy, or popular or fun or quirky, or possessing of any of our trait we desire. But while that’s smart branding, it hurts, not advances, true human connections — bonds built on vulnerability and honesty….
“When we make the camera a constant presence, we make our lives a reality show, and ourselves no more than actors or politicians posing for the paparazzi. That is the way to experience a permanent photo-op, not a life.”
The complete article is available via USA Today.
While many Catholics across the country, including numerous Thomas Aquinas College alumnae, have protested the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate by citing religious freedom, others are also challenging it on a more fundamental level. They are questioning not only the federal government’s power to force Catholic employers to provide contraceptives and abortifacients, but also its stated reasons for doing so. “Is it really,” they ask, “in the best interest of women, marriage and family, society, or the environment to promote the use of oral contraceptives and other such medications?”
No, says Dr. Pia de Solenni, an ethicist, theologian, member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 1993, and recipient of the 2001 Pontifical Prize of the Academies. Last Saturday Dr. de Solenni spoke at The Pill Kills 2012, a national symposium held in Washington, D.C., and sponsored by the American Life League and 30 other pro-life groups. Presenting the teachings of the Church, Dr. de Solenni drew on references ranging from popular culture to St. Thomas Aquinas, noting how modern conceptions of love and sexuality are inherently truncated and unfulfilling.
“All of our cultural references, and all of our examples of ‘chick lit’ — from Bridget Jones to Sex and the City to Bridesmaids — they’re all manifesting a deep dissatisfaction, a sense that you have to do things this way because that’s the way it’s done. And yet they’re all yearning for something more,” said Dr. de Solenni. “When the Church is looking at sexuality, there is a context here, and it is a context shaped by love. Contraception impedes the sexual act between spouses because it holds back fertility. It’s not a gift of self.”
Dr. de Solenni’s presentation is available in the above video, and the rest of the symposium can be found on the American Life League’s YouTube Channel.
The picture to the right comes from the College’s Facebook page. It depicts three of the College’s newest alumni — Nathan Dunlap (’12), Kellie Schramm (’12), and Noel Bulger (’12) — beside a stack of (almost all of) the great books they read while students in the College’s integrated academic program.
Although they have all completed the same curriculum, these three graduates plan to serve the Church and society in three distinct ways: Mr. Dunlap will be working as an animator, with hopes of one day making films. Miss Schramm will become a teacher for Mother of Divine Grace School, a distance-learning program. And on Commencement Day, Mr. Bulger accepted a commission as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
For the past few months, the alumnae of Thomas Aquinas College — in cities across the nation and from class years that span the decades — have taken leadership roles in opposing the the Health and Human Services Mandate that compels Catholic employers to purchase contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization coverage for their employees. Citing religious freedom and the Natural Law, these women have been powerful champions of the truth and defenders of the Church.
While proponents of the HHS mandate suggest that America’s women are uniformly on their side, and that opponents harbor misogynistic intentions, the alumnae of Thomas Aquinas College are proving them wrong. These intelligent, educated women — wives, mothers, and professionals — are letting their opposition to the HHS mandate be heard, championing truth through the exercise of reason, and leading the way. Below are five prominent examples:
Eve (Bouchey ’97) McNeil
Among the Thomas Aquinas College alumni who participated in nationwide protests against the HHS mandate on March 23 was Eve (Bouchey ’97) McNeil, who spoke at the Reno, Nev., event. “We don’t think Orthodox Jews should have to buy other people’s pork sandwiches. We don’t think Quakers should have to pay for anybody’s ammunition. The law that brought us out today is truly that extreme,” Mrs. McNeil told a cheering crowd. “The United States Department of Health and Human Services has violated Catholics’ right to their own conscience. They have decided that their opinion and their values matter more than ours. As a woman and as an American, I disagree!”
Yet the moment that generated the loudest applause was when Mrs. McNeil declared, “If there is a ‘War on Women,’ it is a war on Lady Liberty!”
Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly
Another participant in the nationwide rallies against the HHS mandate was Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly, a mother of nine and a member of the College’s Board of Governors. At a rally at Tollefson Plaza in Tacoma, Wash, Mrs. Connelly told the local newspaper, “This mandate is a challenge to the fabric, the core of our lives.” Moreover, she added, the fight against the mandate centers around “the right to religion and to follow our conscience.”
Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93)
Following the Obama Administration’s ostensible compromise to the mandate (which Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean rejected as “not acceptable” and “a distinction without a difference”), Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) penned a column for CatholicVote in which she wrote:
“President Obama has offered a so-called compromise on the HHS Mandate. Instead of forcing Catholic institutions to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives, insurance providers will be forced to cover contraception. Yep, same situation, just a different way of keeping books on it. Hmmm, when Enron was exposed, we called it accounting fraud, among other things. Bernie Madoff’s investment practices were denounced as a Ponzi scheme. But when the funny math is proposed by the White House, we call it a compromise.”
Later Dr. de Solenni appeared as part of a panel discussing the mandate at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. The panel, entitled Women Speak Out, featured notable experts from various religious, women’s, and public-policy groups. “This goes much broader than most religious groups because it’s about freedom per se,” said Dr. de Solenni, owner of Diotima Consulting, LLC. “It’s about whether or not individuals have the rights to make decisions for themselves.” Video and a podcast of the forum are available via the Heritage Foundation’s website.
Bekah (Sims ’01) Andrews
“I’m a mother to daughters,” said Bekah (Sims ’01) Andrews at the rally for religious freedom in Portland, Ore. “I don’t want them to look at me and say, ‘Mom, why didn't you stand up?’” Speaking to Portland’s KATU News, Mrs. Andrews said, “What you choose to do with your life, that’s your choice. I’m not here to tell you anything about that, but please extend me the same courtesy.”
Bernadette (Morey ’06) Moore
Bernadette (Morey ’06) Moore and her children attended an anti-mandate rally in Fort Worth, Tex., where Mrs. Moore was quoted in a local news story. “They try to talk it up, that it’s about contraception, and it’s not,” she told Fox 4. “It’s not a Catholic issue. It’s a religious freedom issue.”