Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Christopher Zehnder (’87)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.

Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott and family

“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.”

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Rocky Brittain (’15) and Morgan Furore (’15)

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.

Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90)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.

March for Life

Sean Fitzpatrick ('02)As a demonstration “that commemorates those lives snuffed out before seeing the light of day,” the annual March for life, writes Sean Fitzpatrick (’02), “is, perhaps first and foremost, a funeral march.” The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick has penned a poignant and thoughtful reflection about today’s march for Crisis magazine, where he is a regular contributor. He observes:

“The March for Life is a witness to the Gospel of Life, demonstrating by the thousands that though abortion is common practice it is not common sense. The March is a positive outcry against the government’s failure to defend the defenseless and to protect women against the tortures of conscience. Abortion is not simply a failure of justice, but a failure of government itself. President Washington wrote in 1789, ‘The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.’ When that pillar is compromised, the structure fails and falls. It is not out of the question to ask, ‘Who will be the next to lose their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?’ In a statement given one year ago on this day to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama said, ‘this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.’ But at what point, at what precise point, does everyone become someone? Whenever it is, it is no longer self-evident.

“It is not enough to demand justice. Justice, as Our Lord taught, is to be hungered and thirsted after as a means of wellbeing. Just as hunger and thirst can never be forever satisfied in this life, neither can the requirement for the divine gift of justice. This is the truth that beats out the march of Christian soldiers. Though they mourn on this day as they march on the National Mall, they do it in the happiness and blessedness that is their claim, in honor of the dead.”

The full article is available via

“Don't like abortion? Don’t have one.” So read the pro-abortion bumper sticker of bygone days. There’s now an addendum: “But pay for mine.”

Thus begins an op-ed piece by Catherine Short (’80), who — as part of her 35-year effort in defense of the unborn — is taking on a new California policy that requires all insurance plans to provide abortion coverage. (Thomas Aquinas College is, mercifully, exempt from the mandate because it self-insures.)

As the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which she helped to found, Mrs. Short recently sent a letter to the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), decrying its shoddy legal pretext for the new policy:

The DMHC decision apparently rests on two untenable positions. The first is the self-evidently false proposition that all abortions, including elective abortions, are “medically necessary” and thus must be covered pursuant to the Knox-Keene Act. In the context of abortion, “medically necessary” and “elective” are antonyms. Second, the decision asserts that the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. The California Constitution, a s currently interpreted, prohibits the state from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy, by withholding funding for abortions. CDRR v. Myers , 29 Cal.3d 252 (1981). This decision does not prohibit private actors such as religious employers from deciding what services its employee health insurance policies will cover.

The letter additionally notes that the state’s policy is in plain violation of federal law. The 2004 Weldon Amendment prohibits states, such as California, that receive certain forms of federal funding from imposing abortion-coverage requirements without conscience exemptions. “California’s violation of federal law is clear,” writes Mrs. Short on “Equally clear is the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate to enforce that law. What remains to be seen is whether the Administration will follow through on President Obama’s personal pledge to ‘honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.’”


Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, has recently published a new book through the University of Chicago Press: The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law. The book, according to the publisher’s summary, attempts to answer the question, “Does the concept of natural rights have the natural law as its foundation or are the two ideas, as Leo Strauss argued, profoundly incompatible?”

Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Although Seagrave acknowledges that the notion of natural rights does not derive from traditional natural law, he argues that the two concepts are nonetheless compatible — when viewed through the lens of John Locke and St. Thomas Aquinas. After presenting a comprehensive philosophical explanation of natural morality, drawing heavily upon the authors and works studied in the College’s classical curriculum, he then turns to many contemporary issues of political import, from the preservation of marriage, to healthcare, to the death penalty.

The book has already earned several positive reviews, with one scholar hailing it as “one of the most important books on natural law and natural rights in a generation.” It is available for purchase via Amazon, and other of Dr. Seagraves’s writings can be found at The Public Discourse website. Notably, Dr. Seagrave has recently written three articles that touch upon themes contained in Foundations of Natural Morality:


Michael D. Byrne ('04)At its 113th Anniversary Dinner in March, held in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Oranges named Michael D. Byrne (’04) its “Young Irishman of the Year.” The organization, which promotes Irish culture, education, and philanthropy, recognized Mr. Byrne for his longstanding service as chairman of New Jersey’s largest annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “My work with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Newark,” he said in his acceptance speech, flows from his Irish heritage. “The two have been closely interwoven for over 30 years.”

The chairman of the College’s New York City Board of Regents, Mr. Byrne is president of Pilgrim Strategies, LLC, a government, media, and community-relations consulting firm. Active in civic and political life, he is currently managing the campaign of Col. Rob Maness (USAF, ret.), a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who is running for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana. Mr. Byrne also managed the 2013 Senate campaign of Steve Lonegan in New Jersey, and he has worked for several conservative campaigns in Ohio, New Mexico, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.

Key to his running of modern political campaigns, notes Mr. Byrne, is the classical education he received at the College. “The chronological study of philosophy — especially political philosophy — is invaluable in the political world, ” he says, “particularly with respect to development of policy, communications, and coalitions building.”

Officers Rex Mohun (’90) and Robert Mohun (’09)

Five years after his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College, Robert Mohun (’09) has graduated once again. At a ceremony in Sacramento this past weekend, Officer Mohun graduated second in his class of 95 cadets at the California Highway Patrol Academy, drawn from a group that began the CHP’s rigorous training program with 143 applicants culled from an original pool of 22,000. In receiving his badge, Officer Mohun joins his fellow Thomas Aquinas College graduate and father, Officer Rex Mohun (’90).

Officer Mohun is married to one of his Thomas Aquinas College classmates, Kelly (Docherty ’09), who recently gave birth to the couple’s second child. As a husband and father, he is keenly aware of the risks inherent in his new job. “The danger aspect has always been in the forefront of my mind,” he told Sacramento’s CBS 13 (see video, below). Yet he is, by now, accustomed to danger in his professional life. Previously he served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, during which he time he served his country in Afghanistan.

Following his graduation from the Academy, Officer Mohun will next spend 55 days training with a veteran officer in Los Angeles County.

Angela Connelly (’87), left, at a hearing in Olympia

Seattle’s reports that legislation requiring Washington employers to fund abortion coverage appears destined for failure — thanks, in part, to the work of Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly, an alumna of the College and a member of its Board of Governors.

Under the provisions of the perversely named Reproductive Parity Act, all insurance plans in the state of Washington that cover maternity care would be compelled to pay for abortion coverage as well. Employers with moral objections would thus be forced either to violate their consciences or to drop maternity coverage altogether.

The Washington Women’s Network, of which Mrs. Connelly is the founding president, has fought the legislation valiantly. The Network sent a delegation to Oympia to testify against the bill before the House Health and Wellness Committee, joined by His Excellency Eusebio Elizondo, Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle. “This bill is not about access to abortion,” said Mrs. Connelly in her testimony. “This is a bullying bill. It’s not about choice. It’s about taking away choice.”

The Network’s efforts seem to have paid off. According to, the legislation has stalled in a Senate committee, with zero chance of making it to a full vote this session. Deo gratias!