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Faith in Action Blog

Dr. Thomas A. Cavanaugh (’85)

At its upcoming national convention, University Faculty for Life will award its Rupert and Timothy Smith Award for Distinguished Contributions to Pro-Life Scholarship to a graduate of the College, Dr. Thomas A. Cavanaugh (’85). The organization, which presents the award annually to honor “scholarly achievement and service of the pro-life movement,” chose Dr. Cavanaugh for his work on medical ethics, particularly as it pertains to euthanasia.

A professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Cavanaugh is the author of  Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake: the Birth of the Medical Profession, which Oxford University Press published last year. The book examines the Hippocratic Oath through a broad survey of Ancient Greek myth, drama, culture, and language. Drawing on extensive research, it addresses the subject of physician-inflicted harm, particularly doctor-assisted suicide, which Dr. Cavanaugh finds to be antithetical to medicine’s therapeutic ethic.

Over the last year, Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake has received critical praise from a wide range of sources. Writing for America, Dr. Christopher Kaczor called the book, “required reading for anyone interested in the ethics of medicine.” In Commonweal, Mary McDonough declared that Dr. Cavanaugh “has recovered the root of medical ethics.”

As a recipient of the Smith Award, Dr. Cavanaugh will find himself in select company. Past hnorees include such luminaries as Dr. Robert P. George, Dr. Hadley Arkes, and Rev. Robert Spitzer, S.J.


Two alumnae have recently published thoughtful essays about last month’s tragic referendum in Ireland, in which voters embraced the culture of death by eliminating constitutional protections for the unborn. Both authors consider the cause of this devastating outcome, while offering some hope, born of faith, that this sorrowful chapter need not be the end of the story.

Emily Sullivan (’11) Emily Sullivan (’11)Writing on Mere Orthodox, Emily (Barry ’11) Sullivan, a proud Irish-American, mourns for her ancestral people, whom she long believed to be “rebellious in the face of evil authority and stubborn when it comes to what’s right.” The mother of three and the northeast program manager for ENDOW, Mrs. Sullivan writes:

What the British unsuccessfully tried to accomplish for centuries — the radical acceptance of the lie that the world will be a better place with fewer Irish, by blood shed if necessary — has now been voluntarily championed by a majority of free Irish citizens. How has the Irish’s generational memory become so short and impoverished? …

In my mind, this is nothing short of historical and ancestral patricide. The heritage and character and legacy which modern Irish citizens have as their birthright has been forsaken. Where once the Irish preserved the light, and shone as a beacon to nations consumed by darkness, they now clamor for and invite the darkness to engulf them as well.…

And yet, she refuses to despair:

The country that gave rise to countless unnamed Catholic martyrs and heroes of the Irish rebellion against a British dictatorship, may yet see a new generation of Irish men and women, who like their fathers and mothers before them, will persevere in standing up for the inherent dignity of their countrymen; who, like their prolife brothers and sisters in America, will never surrender and go on fighting for truth and goodness while the rest of the darkened world insists that murder of the unborn is an unequivocal good; who will be unrelenting in finding ways to love and encourage mothers in crisis pregnancies to choose life for their precious babies.

Suzie Andres (’87) Suzie Andres (’87)Meanwhile, writing on her personal blog, Miss Marcel’s Musings, Suzie Andres (’87) contemplates the spiritual dimension of the vote:

Can we really be surprised that after a series of bad decisions beginning shortly after our establishment in the Garden of Eden, we’ve flubbed it again?

I’ll admit it. I was surprised. I had hoped for better; I had hoped our prayers for life would be answered, but once again, God has this crazy idea that free will (and the suffering that often follows in its wake) is better than The Divine Puppet Show I envision …

The author of three books, an essayist, and the mother of two, Mrs. Andres reminds her readers of these consoling words of St. John of the Cross, “See that you are not suddenly saddened by the adversities of this world, for you do not know the good they bring, being ordained in the judgments of God for the everlasting joy of the elect.” Then, she adds:

“That puts our Irish disappointment into perspective, doesn’t it? Heaven isn’t letting our antics distract from the awesome reality of God’s eternal Providence: He has not forgotten us nor will He let us stray forever.”

Put your trust in God, and pray unceasingly.

St. Patrick, pray for us!


Katie Short (’80) and Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company denied her life-prolonging treatment while offering to pay for a lethal dose of barbiturates. Katie Short (’80) and Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company denied her life-prolonging treatment while offering to pay for a lethal dose of barbiturates.

When an alumni-led team of attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation successfully overturned California’s assisted-suicide law on May 15, their victory was sweeping, but tenuous. Despite declaring the law unconstitutional, Judge Daniel Ottolia left it in effect for five days to allow the state attorney general time to obtain relief from a higher court. 

On May 23, however, the Fourth District of the Court of Appeals denied the attorney general’s motion for a stay pending appeal. And on that afternoon Judge Ottolia signed his order declaring the legislation unconstitutional and striking the “End of Life Option Act” from California law.

Attorneys from Life Legal — whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) and whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) — spearheaded the effort to defeat the law, which went into effect in June 2016. “Life Legal has always maintained that the End of Life Act violates the Constitution and California’s long-standing public policy protecting its citizens from being ‘helped’ to commit suicide,” says Alexandra Snyder, the foundation’s executive director. “We are pleased that the court’s ruling will restore the protection that the Act removed from the ill and vulnerable.”

Thanks be to God!

Alas, vigilance is still necessary: The state may decide to appeal the ruling to the court of appeal or California Supreme Court, and proponents will no doubt try again to enact similar legislation. Please continue to pray for the attorneys at Life Legal, and all those committed to protecting the dignity of human life in all stages.


Leprechaun baby holds sign proclaiming, "Save Little People - Protect the 8th"

With Ireland poised to eliminate constitutional and legal protections for the unborn, alumnus cartoonist Pat Cross (’14) has produced the above, whimsical yet poignant plea. Please pass it along, and please pray that the people of Ireland vote for life on Friday!


Life Legal attorneys, including Katie Short (’80, third from right), with the family of Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company said it would pay for “aid-in-dying” drugs, but not the chemotherapy she needed. Life Legal attorneys, including Katie Short (’80, third from right), with the family of Stephanie Packer, whose insurance company said it would pay for “aid-in-dying” drugs, but not the chemotherapy she needed.

After two years of vigorous legal battle, an alumni-led legal team has succeeded in overturning California’s assisted-suicide law. On Tuesday, Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia blocked the 2015 legislation, ruling that that it was passed unconstitutionally.

Attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation — whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) and whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) — spearheaded the effort to defeat the law, which went into effect in June 2016. “This is huge!” says Mr. Blewett. “The Superior Court in Riverside granted Life Legal’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and set aside the California assisted-suicide law based on the way in which it was passed. The state has five days to file an emergency writ, but as of now, the law is invalid.”

When the legislation originated in the California legislature, its pro-life opponents successfully blocked it at the committee level. Thus Gov. Jerry Brown and other euthanasia enthusiasts attempted to bypass the normal legislative process by ramming through the bill at a special session that was called, in the Governor’s own proclamation, “to consider and act upon legislation necessary to enact permanent and sustainable funding from a new managed care organization tax and/or alternative fund sources.”

In other words, the purpose of the special session had nothing to do with assisted suicide. And, as such, Judge Ottolia has now confirmed, the law is invalid.

“This ruling affirms that assisted suicide advocates circumvented the legislative process,” another graduate of the College, Matthew Valliere (’05), executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, told the Los Angeles Times. “It represents a tremendous blow to the assisted suicide legalization movement and puts state legislatures on notice regarding the political trickery of groups like Compassion and Choices.”

The battle, however, is not yet over. Judge Ottolia has given the state attorney general five days to appeal his ruling, and even if that effort fails, assisted-suicide proponents will no doubt propose new legislation. Please continue to keep the attorneys at Life Legal, and all those committed to protecting the dignity of human life in all stages, in your prayers!


William ‘Billy’ Gribbin Jr. (’10) William ‘Billy’ Gribbin Jr. (’10)

Texas Senator Ted Cruz recently announced that he has hired William ‘Billy’ Gribbin Jr. (’10) as his new communications strategist and chief speechwriter, citing Mr. Gribbin’s “experience crafting strong conservative messages,” in various political positions in Washington, D.C.

“I am blessed to be working for Senator Cruz, who routinely stands in the Senate for the sanctity of human life, the nuclear family, and religious liberty at a time when such things are almost universally scorned by our national media and corporate boardrooms,” says Mr. Gribbin. “It is a wonderful opportunity to take part, in some small way, in fighting for these timeless truths, and to defend our rights under the Constitution, which protect our ability to live by them in our work, our homes, and the public square.”

A native of the nation’s capital, Mr. Gribbin has worked in politics since his graduation from the College in 2010. Previously he served as director of speechwriting for Secretary Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and before that as a writer and special projects coordinator for Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint.

“The more time that passes since my education at TAC, the more humbled I am to have received it,” says Mr. Gribbin. “Apart from the gems of philosophy and theology (and many other disciplines) we explore as students, the most valuable thing we walk away with after graduation is the discipline of approaching new ideas critically and patiently, focused on objective truth. There are few arenas where this focus — or the lack thereof — is more consequential than the political realm.”

As a speechwriter, he prays for the discipline to keep this focus at the heart of his work. “At its best, rhetoric can serve as handmaiden to truth, and help our society arrive at the common good through the dialectic,” Mr. Gribbin explains. “At its worst, it can only be what Plato calls ‘the sophist’s art.’ God willing, I hope to deal exclusively in the former.”


Last month the Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Ruth Marcus, boasted, “without hesitation,” that she would have aborted either of her two children, had one been diagnosed, in utero, with Down Syndrome. To which alumnus cartoonist Pat Cross (’14) has offered the following rejoinder, making note of the WaPo’s slogan, adopted early in 2017:

Patrick Cross cartoon

The cartoon appeared in the National Catholic Register, which, along with CatholicVote, regularly publishes Mr. Cross’ work.


Dr. Thomas A. Cavanaugh (’85)

In recent years, an alarming six states and the District of Columbia have legalized physician-assisted suicide, and similar legislation is now under consideration in six additional states. Given the moral confusion that surrounds the issue — particularly regarding doctors’ obligations to their patients — it stands to reason that society could benefit from a review of the principles of medical ethics, first articulated more than 2,000 years ago in Hippocrates’ eponymous oath.

Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake: the Birth of the Medical ProfessionEnter alumnus philosopher Dr. Thomas A. Cavanaugh (’85), a professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco. In his newly released Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake: the Birth of the Medical Profession, published by Oxford University Press, Dr. Cavanaugh examines the oath through a broad survey of Ancient Greek myth, drama, culture, and language. Specifically, he considers the question of physician-inflicted harm, including doctor-assisted suicide, which he finds to be antithetical to medicine’s therapeutic ethic.

Released in December, Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake has already garnered several favorable reviews. “At last we have a book-length treatment of the Hippocratic Oath written by an ethicist who knows ancient Greek!” writes Dr. Daniel P. Sulmasy, the Andre Hellegers Professor of Biomedical Ethics at Georgetown University. “Cavanaugh has made a major contribution, reading the text closely, and situating it in the context of Hellenic oath-taking practices, drama, poetry, philosophy, and mythology as well as medical history. The result is a really fresh look that allows the oath to speak to us clearly in our own times.”

Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake is Dr. Cavanaugh’s second published book, following Double-effect Reasoning: Doing Good and Avoiding Evil (2006). Upon graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1985, he enrolled at the University Notre Dame, where he earned his doctorate in philosophy. He has been a member of the University of San Francisco faculty since 1994, and previously chaired the Philosophy Department.

To this day, Dr. Cavanaugh graciously credits his alma mater for much of his professional achievement. “Thomas Aquinas College educated me in the discernment of first principles and the role they play in understanding,” he says. “In freshman year, reading Euclid’s 13 books of the Elements and demonstrating geometrical propositions before classmates taught me what it is to know: from certain things being so, others things follow. As a sophomore, Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine showed me what it is to read seriously, deeply, and insightfully. In my junior year, Newton’s Principia illustrated accuracy and precision in the expression of ideas. Finally, in my senior year reading Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae in Latin repeatedly impressed upon me the importance of dealing with works in the language in which they were originally expressed. St. Thomas himself exemplified the succinct concreteness of a thinker who articulates reality. In my intellectual formation, Thomas Aquinas College is the sine qua non from which all else follows.”

Hippocrates’ Oath and Asclepius’ Snake is available directly from Oxford University Press as well as through retailers such as Amazon.com.


Angela Baird (’00)

To commemorate this, the 20th year since the death of Thomas Aquinas College student Angela Baird (’00), the National Catholic Register has published an interview with Admissions Director Jon Daly — a classmate of Angela’s who was with her on the evening that she died in a tragic hiking accident.

“When it became clear to us that she might be dying, I asked her what she wanted to pray for,” Mr. Daly recalls. “She mentioned two things. The first, and these were her exact words, was ‘for the aborted babies.’ The other was for her father, who had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. She came from a family of 10 children that was very close. She was very close to her dad.”

Memorial cross erected near the spot where Angela Baird (’00) died in 1997 Memorial cross erected near the spot where Angela Baird (’00) died in 1997While at the College, Angela was the founder and leader of a student pro-life group that regularly prayed outside a local abortion clinic. On the sixth anniversary of her death, when students visited the clinic for their regular prayer vigil, they were delighted to learn that that the clinic was shutting down. Providence, no doubt, was at work.

“I’ve often thought about how she spent her last hours on Earth,” says Mr. Daly. “It was striking. It was a sign of a deep grace and peace in her soul. She didn’t complain or cry out. She lived her life in those last hours for everyone but herself.”

Read the full interview via the National Catholic Register website.


 

Katrina Trinko (’09) Katrina Trinko (’09)Writing for the Daily Signal, of which she is the managing editor, Katrina Trinko (’09) analyzes the deeper meaning behind Rep. Eric Swalwell’s recent, disastrous performance on Fox News, in which he tried to avoid a simple question about abortion from host Tucker Carlson: “Do you think it is the taking of a human life?” (See video, above.) The California Democrat tossed out all the usual pro-abortion talking points, but never addressed Carlson’s inquiry head-on, despite numerous opportunities.

Congressman Swalwell’s constant deflection, writes Miss Trinko, “really gets to the gist of the abortion debate, which is this: Is the unborn baby human or not, and if not human, at what point does she become human?” It is a question that defenders of abortion cannot well answer, she explains:

Because after all, if the baby isn’t human, it’s irrelevant if women want to have abortions, just as it’s irrelevant if they want to remove tumors or a few cells or have any other number of medical procedures.

But if the baby is human … it’s horrifying that our society wouldn’t protect her life, just because she’s in a vulnerable, dependent position. …

If you’re going to make public policy about who lives and dies, it’s relevant who is human and who’s not. 

The Swalwell-Carlson exchange, Miss Trinko notes, calls to mind a similar episode from late 2015, when another California Democrat, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, could not bring herself to answer the question, “Is an unborn child 20 weeks into pregnancy a human being?” The questioner pressing Mrs. Pelosi was another alumna of the College — Lauretta Brown (’13), a reporter at Cybercast News Service:


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Kathleen Murphy (’16) on integrated curriculum

“I think about the entire world differently since I have come here. I have learned certain truths, whether in the natural sciences or philosophy, that I never would have imagined I could know.”

– Kathleen Murphy (’16)

Cheshire, Connecticut

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

“I am grateful to Thomas Aquinas College for educating new leaders for our Church, leaders who are grounded in their personal relationship and commitment to Jesus Christ.”

– Most. Rev. George Niederauer

Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco