Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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 Great BooksThe 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

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

Angela (Andersen ’87) ConnellyAnother 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)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 MooreBernadette (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.” 


“I’m a mother to daughters,” said Bekah (Sims ’01) Andrews at a recent 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?’”

Mrs. Andrews is just one of many alumni who participated in last week’s rallies against the HHS mandate that compels Catholic employers to purchase contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization coverage for their employees. “What you choose to do with your life, that’s your choice,” Mrs. Andrew’s told Portland’s KATU News. “I’m not here to tell you anything about that, but please extend me the same courtesy.”

If any other alumni have stories or photos to share from protests they attended, please send them to tacweb@thomasaquinas.edu. Thank you!

Related:


Greg Pfundstein ('05)Alumnus Greg Pfundstein (’05) has a new article in National Review Online about the alarmingly high incidence of abortion New York City. The column recounts a catalogue of horrors with its zip-code-by-zip-code breakdown of the city’s abortion rates. It also offers some salient insights pertaining to the current controversy over the HHS contraceptive-abortifacient-sterilization mandate, specifically:

“The abortion industry, most notably embodied by America’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood, contends that it has the solution to the problem it created in the form of ‘increased access’ to universally available contraception and wider distribution of its marginally effective radical sexual-education programs. Such a contention displays a startling lack of imagination. Note that New York City passed out 40 million free condoms in 2009, requires coverage of contraception by all insurance plans, and has had radical sex ed in the schools for some time (and now mandates it). Interested observers would do well to actually listen to the women who do not avail themselves of the ubiquitous and free contraception and try to understand what complex social dynamics are at work.”

Mr. Pfundstein is the Executive Director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, non-profit philanthropy in New York. He  holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, and serves on both the Patient’s Rights Council and the Pro-Life Commission of the Archdiocese of New York.
 


Having recently made his first appearance on Catholic Answers Live, Dr. Nathan Schmiedicke (’00) has joined the ranks Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) and Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), both regular guests on the nationally broadcast radio program. An instructor at the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, Dr. Schmiedicke spoke on the subject of “Renewing Catholic Bible Study” and answered questions from callers on a wide range of subjects. The show is available both in streaming audio and as a downloadable podcast via the Catholic Answers website.


February
29, 2012

Dr. Pia de Solenni

One of several alumni of the College who have taken a leadership role in opposing the HHS contraceptive mandate, Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) appeared as part of a panel on the subject at the Heritage Foundation on February 27. 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.
 


Textbook Volume 5 of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project History seriesFollowing up on nationally syndicated radio host Hugh Hewitt’s recent broadcast from Thomas Aquinas College, two of the College’s alumni will appear on the show’s “Entrepreneur Hour” this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. PST.

Michael Van Hecke (’86) and Christopher Zehnder (’87), publisher and general editor, respectively, of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, will discuss their series of textbooks that accurately depict the role of the Church in the history of Western civilization.

“Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show is a great opportunity to get the word out about these wonderful new textbooks,” says Glen Mueller, Chairman of the Catholic Textbooks Project. “There is such a need to inform students about the significant role of the Catholic Church in the development of Western civilization. Bishops and Catholic educators are pointing to the need to promote Catholic identity and to incorporate Catholic principles in all facets of the educational process. Without knowledge of the past, what will be the foundation for the future? A historical understanding of the past activities of the Catholic Church is essential in order for the laity of the Church to carry out its responsibility to share the Faith.”

The broadcast is available live online, as well as on numerous radio stations throughout the United States. (Check local times and listings for broadcast times.) To learn more about the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, see this story from the Official Catholic Directory for the United States.
 


Andrew T. Seeley ('87)Today’s edition of the Ventura County Star includes a story about why, exactly, Catholics make sacrifices or “give something up” for Lent. Featured in the article is a graduate of the College, Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87), who is now a member of the teaching faculty. Portions of the story are excerpted below:

“For some Catholics, Lent is an opportunity to lose weight, but what motivates them is, ‘I want to lose weight and look good, and this is the time to do it,’ ” said Andrew Seeley, a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula. “That is a superficial approach to Lent.” …

Seeley said he plans to give up listening to sports talk radio. There’s nothing wrong with it, but in a world cluttered with distractions, he believes it’s important to humble yourself into silence now and then.

“The constant distraction says, ‘I don’t want to think of anything. I don’t want to be aware of myself,’ ” Seeley said.

Seeley, whose teaching specialty is medieval theology, said it’s a sign of our times that many have lost the true link between self-denial and deeper spirituality.

“In every other culture and era, it is understood that we must deny ourselves,” Seeley said.

Self-denial is just [one] component of Lent, Seeley said. The faithful are also asked to pray more and be more merciful to others, or the “giving of alms.”

Seeley believes it’s not a good idea to skip the self-denial aspect of Lent, because it is a humbling experience that will connect us with those who are less fortunate. …

The importance of self-denial can be likened to an athlete in training, Seeley said.

“Pain gets our attention. When we choose to suffer pain, we’re either insane or up to something really important,” Seeley said. “Athletes really pound their bodies because they want to make themselves stronger. Not only do we admire their success, but their strength of will.”