Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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.”

 


Anne Breiling ('00)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 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.” 


Bernadette MooreAnother alumna of Thomas Aquinas College has spoken out against the HHS mandate that would require Catholic employers to purchase contraceptive, abortifacient, and sterilization coverage for their employees. Bernadette (Morey ’06) Moore and her children attended last Friday’s rally in defense of religious liberty 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.”

If any other alumni have stories or photos to share about their opposition to the mandate, please send them to tacweb@thomasaquinas.edu. Thank you!

Related:


“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:


Eve McNeil

Another alumni participant in last Friday’s nationwide rallies against the HHS mandate was Eve (Bouchey ’97) McNeil, who was one of the speakers 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!”

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


Angela ConnellyAmong the Thomas Aquinas College alumni who participated in nationwide protests against the HHS mandate on Friday 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 remarked, “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.”

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


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.