Faith in Action Blog
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!
Writing in the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Daily, Timothy Drake has conducted a rare interview with Sr. Mary Josefa, OSB (Kathleen Holcomb ’07), of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary. The Sisters’ Advent at Ephesus album of sacred music topped Billboard’s Classical Music Chart for six weeks last year, and the community has recently released a new album, Angels and Saints at Ephesus. In his interview, Mr. Drake asks Sr. Josefa about her experience at Thomas Aquinas College and about the role of liturgy, sacred music, and Catholic identity in higher education.
Among Sr. Josefa’s notable responses is her explanation for why she chose the College:
I chose to attend Thomas Aquinas College because it integrated classical and Catholic education; I was fascinated by the liberal arts program, with its consideration and discussion of original sources, introducing the student to the perennial questions with which mankind has always grappled, but I was further drawn by the Catholic identity of the school, which orders this program of studies in order to lead the student from the contemplation of created truth to the contemplation of God Himself.
Sr. Josefa also describes how the College enriched her spiritual life:
At TAC, I was blessed to be part of a community that was really unified and ordered by its Catholic identity. I attended daily Mass and Rosary with my teachers and fellow students; the chapel was the central point of the campus and teachers and students always would stop on the way to or from class for a visit; everyone acknowledged senior theology as the culminating point of the curriculum to which all the other classes were ordered; in these and countless other ways, I experienced a community that recognized that the invisible realities are more real, more important than the visible ones. Naturally, this greatly nourished the inclination that I had had to religious life since I was young. Many of my fellow students were also drawn to religious life as a result of the strong Catholic community and contemplative program of studies, and having peers considering a vocation really strengthened my own.
The full interview is available via Catholic Education Daily.
After 15 years in the home-inspection business, Philip Halpin ('97) has joined the StoryTel Foundation, which produces Catholic documentary films about people and organizations who answer God’s call to “restore the sacred.” In that capacity, he has co-produced, co-written, and edited Where Heaven Meets Earth, a documentary about St. Peter's Church in Omaha, Neb. — a once-failing urban parish transformed by a young priest who was determined to embrace the whole of Catholic tradition.
The documentary, the trailer of which is available above, recently appeared on EWTN. DVDs are available via the StoryTel website.
Encouraging news from Wendy-Irene (Grimm ‘99) Zepeda about her sister Rosie Grimm (’10):
Rosie got out of surgery about 8 p.m. The doctor was extremely pleased; they were able to remove a great deal of the tumor. When I talked with my mom, she hadn't seen Rosie yet. Thank you so, so much for all your prayers (and please don't stop as she recovers from this all-day operation). Praised be our dear Lord for His mercy (including His mercy in surrounding us with the power of your prayers!)
Please keep praying!
Two old College friends who are now colleagues recently appeared on EWTN’s Life on the Rock (above, 1:25 mark) to promote the cause of Catholic liberal education. Luke Macik (’87) and Mark Langley (’89) are the headmaster and academic dean, respectively, of The Lyceum in Euclid, Ohio. They and all 45 of the Lyceum’s students traveled to Birmingham, Ala., last month to discuss their school and share the music of its Schola Cantorum.
The Lyceum, like Messrs. Langley and Macik’s alma mater, uses a great books curriculum taught primarily by way of the Socratic Method. While in Alabama, the Schola — of which all students and half of the faculty are members — provided the music for one of EWTN’s televised Masses. The Schola additionally produced a recording of the Gloria from Palestrina’s Missa Brevis, which later appeared on this episode of Life on the Rock.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Lyceum has quickly become one of the top Catholic high schools in the nation. The Cardinal Newman Society gave the school a special recognition on its 2012-2013 National Catholic Honor Roll for “Excellence in Catholic Identity.” A quarter of the Lyceum’s graduates are National Merit Scholars, Finalists, and Commended Students, having scored in the top 1 percent to 5 percent on the PSAT, and the school’s average SAT is in the top 14 percent of the nation.
Wendy-Irene (Grimm ‘99) Zepeda sends in the following update about — and prayer request for — her sister Rosie Grimm (’10):
“Can I ask for increased prayers for my sister Rosie, please, including for wise discernment for her, my parents, and her doctors about the next step in her treatment? Here’s her status update: ‘I got some scans yesterday. Although my tumors are mostly reasonably stable, the big one in my neck has grown enough that it is once more impinging on my spinal cord. That’s not all that much growth, in fact. There just isn’t a lot of space inside my spine. We are going to talk to my doctors today about treatment, which may include another surgery to get the pressure off the cord. I am really grateful to my doctors for being so on top of this. They were worried about a few funny symptoms and made me get the extra scan, so we caught it early. I’m feeling fine and am not upset about this, though prayers and encouragement would be most welcome.”
Lord, hear our prayer!
Dr. Joseph Hattrup (third from left) and members of the University of St. Thomas Examining Board. (Photo courtesy of the University of St. Thomas)
When alumnus Joseph Hattrup (’01) joined the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty in 2006, he had already completed his doctoral studies (philosophy, University of St. Thomas), but not his dissertation. He therefore spent most of his vacation and free time over the last several years completing this requirement — a challenging task for a full-time college instructor and father of three young girls. His diligence, however, has paid off, and as a result, he has earned the title of doctor.
Last week, Dr. Hattrup traveled to the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of Thomas in Houston, Tex. There, he successfully defended his dissertation, “Form and Predicability in Aristotle’s Categories and the Middle Books of the Metaphysics.”
“A widely received view about these works is that they contain doctrines of substance that are contradictory in principle and which therefore show significant changes in Aristotle’s thought,” Dr. Hattrup explains. “I argue that these two doctrines of substance, though different, are compatible with each other and not contradictory in principle. I hope the dissertation will help to demonstrate the unity and consistency of Aristotle’s thought and principles, especially as regards logic and metaphysics.”
The dissertation received unanimous approval of the Examining Board, which subjected Dr. Hattrup to two rounds of vigorous questioning. Dr. Edward Macierowski, an external reader on the committee and a professor of philosophy at Benedictine College, remarked: “Hattrup’s dissertation is not only a recognizable masterwork of a young philosopher, and so a convincing sign that he deserves the doctoral degree, but also the dissertation should be revised and submitted as soon as possible to publication at a major academic press.”
Congratulations, Dr. Hattrup!
“What do you do with the Church’s patrimony?’ asks architect Domiane Forte (’00) in the National Catholic Register. “The first and foremost duty is to keep it within the Church.”
The story, Time-Honored Treasures Find Homes in New Sacred Spaces, discusses Mr. Forte’s work on the St. Dominic Chapel, which he is designing for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tenn. The principal of Forte & Associates, an architectural firm based in Santa Paula, Calif., Mr. Forte is also chairman of the College’s Greater Los Angeles Board of Regents.
After graduating from the College in 2000, he studied classical architecture at the University of Notre Dame under Duncan Stroik, the design architect for Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Upon earning his master’s degree, Mr. Forte worked as a senior project manager for Appleton & Associates, Architects, in Santa Barbara, Calif., before launching his own practice in 2011. Earlier this year, he produced two artist’s renderings of the College’s next planned building, St. Gladys Hall.
Dedicated to preserving the Church’s patrimony of sacred architecture, Mr. Forte has recently begun work on another church design — for Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Bakersfield, Calif.
“Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam, et non confundas me ab expectatione mea.”
“Receive me, Lord, as you have promised, and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope.”
— Rule of St. Benedict 58:21; Psalm 118:116
Please pray for Sr. Mary Josepha (Kathleen’07) Holcomb, OSB, who on Saturday will pray the above psalm, as did St. Benedict, and make her first vows as a member of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in Gower, Mo. She will also receive the name Sister Mary Josefa of the Eucharist.
Thanks be to God!
The above video is a trailer for Diary of a Country Mother, a new book by Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro that chronicles the life of her beloved son Tim, with the liturgical year and changing seasons as a frame. The book reflects a yearlong journey of prayer and meditation, begun about six months after Tim’s death in 2005 at the age of 15. Written in diary form, it includes Scriptural, religious, and literary quotations, as well as beautiful photographs of Tim captured by his dad, Andrew Montanaro (’78).
“I envisioned an extended period of time in which to record, before memory failed me, all of the little humorous and profound incidents that made up my son Tim’s short life,” says Mrs. Montanaro. The result is a work that is replete with the love of a mother. That love is also on display in Mrs. Montanaro’s blog.
Writes Dr. Thomas Howard, author of Chance or the Dance and Hallowed Be This House, “Cynthia Montanaro have given us the story of a splendidly faithful Catholic household. … The word ‘contemplative’ is the key to this memoir … and the quiet pace belongs to its essence.… Every chapter (or meditation) entails some concrete, softly-textured, domestic narrative, all of it bespeaking both Tim’s inner man, and the household in which the Lord placed him to pass his brief time here on this earth.”
“Like Our Blessed Mother’s sorrow,” says fellow alumna author Suzie (Zeiter ’87) Andres, “Cynthia’s sadness is illuminated and shot through by the light of the resurrected Christ. This book is in no way depressing. Instead, Cynthia’s diary entries record time and again the peace that passes all understanding, the beautiful hope that only true faith can give, and most of all, love elevated and fulfilled by Love.”
A worthy read for the Easter season, Diary of a Country Mother is available via Amazon.com.