Like his fellow graduate John Finley (’99), Christopher Zehnder (’87) sees a connection between Pope Francis’s warnings in Laudato Si’ and the Supreme Court’s recent attempt to redefine marriage. Writing in his personal blog, Notes from the Wasteland, Mr. Zehnder observes:
“It is fitting, in a way, that the Supreme Court’s decision should so closely follow the pope’s encyclical, for the former brings into focus the major theme of the latter. That theme is not the threat of climate change, whatever those who want either to dismiss the encyclical or coöpt it say. A major — if not the major — theme of Laudato Si’ is that, both in the moral order and the natural order, everything is connected. How we treat the ‘environment’ is how we will treat ourselves, and how we treat ourselves is how we will treat the natural world outside ourselves. …
“Those, therefore, who insist on the integrity of the natural world but rejoice at Friday’s Supreme Court decision are self-confused. Those who deplore the decision, call for respect for the nature of marriage and the basic meaning of sexual acts but ignore the integrity of the natural world, are self-confused. Those who think you must respect unborn human life but can subject human labor to irrational market forces are as confused as those who think you may kill unborn children but not oppress the worker. Sooner or later, these groups will need to decide on their core principle — relativism or respect for nature — for mankind will not remain in a state of interior division forever.”
Mr. Zehnder is the general editor of the Catholic Textbook Project, which aims to create a new generation of textbooks for parochial schools that accurately, beautifully, and engagingly reflect the Church’s contribution to human history. A high school teacher and former headmaster, he is the author of three of the project’s books: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America; Light to the Nations II: the Making of the Modern World; and Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and Pope Francis’s second encyclical, Laudato Si’, some Catholics have complained that the Holy Father has spent too much time talking about the environment, and not enough about the sanctity of marriage. Dr. John Finley (’99), however, suggests another perspective. In Catholic World Report, the alumnus and former tutor offers “three reasons why Catholics should take seriously the encyclical’s subject matter, precisely in view of the Supreme Court’s decision.”
“The concerns of Laudato Si' are not foreign — indeed, they are closely akin — to the age-old concerns hubristically dismissed by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges,” writes Dr. Finley. “In a pre-Christian world, the normative goodness of the natural world and of human sexuality could be recognized.… In a post-Christian world dominated by the will to power, the love of money, and an increasing enslavement to technology, rejection of Christ includes rejection of that greater whole, with all its parts, down to things as fundamental as nature and nature’s stewards: man and woman.”
A professor of philosophy at the Archdiocese of St. Louis’s Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, as well as a husband and the father of two young sons, Dr. Finley contends that modern attempts to redefine marriage are part of a larger tendency to view nature as the plaything of human desires. Thus “any work of evangelization today has a greater job than it did in the days of the early martyrs,” he continues, “for it has to be as much concerned with the natural as with the supernatural.”
The full article is available via Catholic World Report.
“I was in my dress and getting ready to leave,” recalls Lane (Smith ’04) Scott, describing that woeful day in 2011 when she almost got her Ph.D.
After spending three years completing her coursework and another four writing a dissertation, she had made the six-hour, 400-mile drive from her home in Angels Camp, California, to Los Angeles to defend her dissertation at Claremont Graduate University. Then the phone rang.
It was her adviser. “He said that the department chair had not actually bothered to read my dissertation until the night before, and then determined that I had an incomplete understanding of the subject,” she sighs. The defense was canceled. “Dissertation defenses never get canceled. Everyone knows that once the defense is scheduled, you’re golden. It was mortifying — unprecedented. I was in my dress and on my way to the campus, and instead of being done I had to write an entirely new dissertation.” Read more
In May, Ignatius Press published Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence, by Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92), a graduate of the College and a member of its teaching faculty.
Who Designed the Designer? is a direct, concise antidote to the “New Atheist” arguments against the existence of God. The book draws upon universal principles to demonstrate the logical necessity for an intelligent, uncreated first cause of the universe. In so doing, it relies heavily on the works of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, placing a renewed emphasis on great minds that have thus far received little attention in the ongoing public debates about theism, intelligent design, and evolution. The result is a profound yet highly accessible investigation, beginning with the world as we encounter it and ending in the divine mind.
When alumnus Jared Kuebler (’03) joined the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty in 2011, he had already completed his doctoral studies (theology, Ave Maria University), but not his dissertation. He therefore spent most of his vacation and free time over the last few years completing this requirement — a challenging task for a full-time college instructor and father of six. His diligence, however, has paid off and, as a result, he has earned the title of doctor.
Last week, Dr. Kuebler traveled back to Ave Maria and successfully defended his dissertation, “Created and Uncreated Duration: Time and Eternity in St. Thomas Aquinas.”
“Ultimately, my thesis was that the divine eternity is understood by St. Thomas as including the notions of duration and measure, but that both notions are understood in an analogous sense,” Dr. Kuebler explains. “I attempted to lay out the way in which one should understand those analogies based on our first knowledge of time, duration, and measure as taken from our experience of the sensible world.”
Rev. Matthew Lamb, S.T.L, the founder of Ave Maria’s theology graduate program, served as Dr. Kuebler’s thesis director, and the dissertation received the examining board’s hearty approval. Dr. Kuebler is now the fifth Thomas Aquinas College alumnus — and the third member of its teaching faulty — to earn a doctorate at Ave Maria, in a program that is just 10 years old and has accepted only three or four Ph.D. students per year. The other alumni are Dr. John Froula (’99), Dr. Jeff Froula (’02), and tutors Dr. Katherine Gardner (’06) and Dr. Paul Shields (’07).
Congratulations, Dr. Kuebler!
The photo above comes from one of the College’s earliest graduates, Sr. Mary Catherine Blanding, IHM (’76). A nun with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Wichita, Kansas, Sr. Mary Catherine is shown here teaching a group of novices “the perennial wisdom of St. Thomas,” she writes.
In addition to working with her community’s newest members, Sr. Mary Catherine instructs religious-education teachers at the Diocese of Wichita’s Regan Catechetical Institute, assists parishes with their religious-education programs, and offers spiritual formation for college students at the diocesan parish that serves Wichita State University.
In this Year of Consecrated Life, please pray for Sister, her catechetical endeavors, and all of the College’s religious alumnae!
The College website now features testimonials from two of the newest members of its alumni — Rocky Brittain and Morgan Furore and , both members of the Class of 2015.
This November, the Vatican will host the World Congress on Catholic Education, at which educational experts from across the globe will meet to discuss “the challenges that the ‘educational emergency’ unavoidably provokes for our societies, educational systems, and the Church.” Among those experts invited to participate will be one of the preeminent advocates for Catholic liberal education in the United States, Michael Van Hecke (’86).
“The aim of this Congress echoes everything I’ve strived for in my work,” says Mr. Van Hecke. “The issues of this congress are the same issues I’ve been discussing with colleagues, superintendents, and bishops for … years.”
Mr. Van Hecke is the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy, a K-12 classical school in Ventura, California, that is consistently ranked among the best Catholic schools in the United States. He is also the president of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project and the president and founder of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE).
“People are desperate to know how to revitalize Catholic schools,” Mr. Van Hecke observes, and “the Catholic Textbook Project and the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education have become the organizations to go to for help.” Catholic schools in more than 50 dioceses in North America and overseas and now using Catholic Textbook Project textbooks, and the ICLE has been active in helping Catholic schools across the country to adopt classical, authentically Catholic curricula.
The Congregation for Catholic Education is hosting the World Congress, which will take place in Vatican City, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Gravissimum Educationis and the 25th anniversary of the Pope St. John Paul’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae. “I am grateful for the Vatican invitation and look forward to the November Congress and its international discussion,” says Mr. Van Hecke. “I hope that others might benefit from the experience we have gained from our work with Catholic schools here in North America.”
Over the weekend the Ventura County Star published a lengthy feature about the latest assault on human life in California — physician-assisted suicide, now euphemistically dubbed “aid in dying.” The story includes quotations from both prominent supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 128, which would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. Among those opposed to the measure is an alumnus and tutor of the College, Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90).
“The very idea of physician-assisted suicide is an implicit judgment that a life that involves suffering is not really worth living,” Dr. Goyette tells the Star. “It’s seeing human beings as disposable.” Framing the controversy not so much as one of religion but of human dignity, he adds, “Natural law forbids taking innocent human life,” a prohibition of which “faith reminds us.”
Dr. Goyette continues by observing that assisted suicide’s supporters have a grimly utilitarian view of the end of human life. “The underlying assumption is that a death with pain and suffering is somehow meaningless or undignified — that doesn’t really fit with our experience,” he says. “Suffering is an opportunity for people to show care and compassion. A death that’s filled with compassion, that’s not a meaningless or undignified death.”
The full story is available on the Ventura Star website.