Faith in Action Blog
Two years ago, we featured an item about Col. Sam Shaneyfelt, USAF (’86), who was then assuming command of the 35th Operations Group at Misawa Air Base in Misawa, Japan. After completing that tour of duty, Col. Shaneyfelt has returned stateside.
“I’ve been reassigned to help manage the production of the Department of Defense’s newest fighter aircraft, the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35),” he writes. He is now working at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at Headquarters, Air Combat Command. “I’ve traded in my lovely F-16 Fighter for a desk that doesn’t move nearly as fast,” he jokes. “But the job’s important, and I’m happy to get to work getting this fighter into the hands of capable pilots.”
With the HHS mandate thrusting the issue of contraception into public conversation, three alumni authors have recently addressed some of the myths — and realities — that shape the debate.
First, in the Washington Times, Catherine Short (’80) questions the rationale for the mandate, namely that “free” contraception will improve the health of women. The legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, Mrs. Short and her co-author, Dorinda C. Bordlee of the Bioethics Defense Fund, have filed an amicus brief (PDF) in some of the lawsuits seeking to overturn the mandate. Their article describes how the HHS has oversold contraception’s purported benefits while ignoring its documented dangers:
For more than four decades, federal and state governments have been pouring money into “family planning” programs … Our brief informs courts of empirical evidence showing the result: a 40 percent increase in unplanned pregnancy, including among teens and low-income women, the very demographic targeted by these programs. Quite predictably, the rates of sexually transmitted diseases have also skyrocketed in these groups, as the false security of abundant birth control leads to riskier sexual activity by teens and young adults. …
[A] 2009 study showed a 320 percent increase in the risk of triple-negative breast cancer, the deadliest form of breast cancer, in women taking oral contraceptives. Long-acting contraceptives — such as one major implant rod, Implanon — increase risk of ectopic pregnancy, pulmonary emboli and strokes. Implanon is the product that replaced Norplant, which is no longer on the market in the United States after more than 50,000 women filed lawsuits — including 70 class actions — over the severity of its side effects. Injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera puts women at double the risk of HIV infection.
What about the other oft-repeated argument for more widespread distribution of contraception — that it would reduce the number of abortions? Journalist Peter Baklinski (’04) debunks that claim in LifeSiteNews. Citing data from Spain, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, Mr. Baklinksi demonstrates that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, higher use of contraception correlates with higher rates of abortion. He quotes two prominent champions of legalized abortion who concede as much:
“Most abortions result from failed contraception,” admitted Joyce Arthur, founder and executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, earlier this year.
Arthur’s statement parallels a prediction made in 1973 by Dr. Malcolm Potts, former medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, who said: “As people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate.”
Given the abundance of empirical evidence to refute the claims that widespread contraception improves women’s health and reduces abortion, why do these myths endure? Because, says Peter Kwasniewski (’94), a professor of theology at Wyoming Catholic College writing for Truth and Charity Forum, the demand for contraception stems not from medical need, but spiritual poverty:
Better health coupled with an unbounded desire to share God’s gifts of love and life should naturally have led, in modern times, to larger and healthier families than in the past. The fact that this has not happened indicates the dark side of the motivation behind the development of modern technology. Contraception means spiritual death, the death of the natural “love affair” with life.
In the battle over marriage, procreation, and the defense of life, we must realize that we are up against a combination of metaphysical nihilism and spiritual egoism vastly more powerful than any human army or political system — a demonic corruption of mind and heart, which sound education and the example of a life well lived can prevent from spreading, but which ultimately will refuse to be driven out except by prayer, fasting, and martyrdom.
Sobering words — and a call to prayer!
Greg Pfundstein (’05) continues to wage the difficult battle to protect the unborn in New York. The executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization in Manhattan, Mr. Pfundstein has issued a strong statement condemning Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support for the Reproductive Health Act, which would further undercut the state’s minimal restrictions on abortion. “The notion that women need more access to abortion in New York is simply preposterous,” he says.
In support of that contention, Mr. Pfundstein cites extensive — and horrific — data that the Chiaroscuro Foundation has compiled about the rate of abortion in the Big Apple. “The rate of abortion in New York City is nearly twice the national average, with 40 percent of pregnancies ending in abortion in the city,” he notes. “In some zip codes, the abortion ratio approaches 60 percent.”
According to a Chiaroscuro Foundation poll, solid majorities of New Yorkers favor increased restrictions on abortion — as opposed to the more expansive abortion license that Gov. Cuomo proposes. “New Yorkers support sensible restrictions to bring down New York City’s unconscionably high rate of abortion, and Gov. Cuomo promises the exact opposite in the Reproductive Health Act,” says Mr. Pfundstein. “New York certainly needs abortion legislation, but the RHA is not it.”
Yesterday we noted that Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) had penned an op-ed keyed to election day, and today we note that she has written a thoughtful, post-election analysis of what comes next for faithful American Catholics:
As Catholics, we have just begun the Year of Faith. If anything, this election tells me that we need to proclaim the truth that our faith teaches, particularly as it concerns the dignity of the human person. Let’s not try to sanitize the values issues with talk of the economy. It hasn’t worked. At the same time, there are a lot of Catholics voting who don’t understand or accept the Catholic Church’s consistent teaching on social values. That’s a great place to start our Year of Faith. As a church, we need to teach. As citizens, we need to voice our opinions, even when we fear that they might be unpopular.
Election Day has come and gone, but the Year of Faith has only just begun!
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 …
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.”