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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

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.

Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly Angela (Andersen ’87) ConnellyThe News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, recently named its list of six reader-columnists who will grace its pages for the upcoming year. Among those so honored is Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly, an alumna of the College, a member of its Board of Governors, and the president of the Washington Women’s Network. “The list of criteria we provide to aspiring columnists is long and includes words like engaging, thought-provoking, inspirational, poignant, and most of all, local,” writes the News Tribune editorial board. “The goal is to identify creative people who love the South Sound as much as we do.”

After noting that Mrs. Connolly “is on a crusade to combat teen homelessness in Tacoma” and “serves on numerous community boards,” the editorial asks: “Did we mention she’s mother to nine kids?” This is good news, as far as the board is concerned: “Suffice it to say, the North End resident will not run out of material.”

The first of Mrs. Connolly’s regular columns, which appears in today’s edition of the News Tribune, deals with her aforementioned anti-homelessness crusade. “As a mom,” she writes, “I am begging everyone — every leader, non-profit, church, business, concerned citizen — to come sit at the table and wrap these kids and our community in love, support, and shelter.”

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

Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) poses a question to Rep. Brendan Boyle, from the University of Notre Dame Keough School of Global Affairs website Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) poses a question to Rep. Brendan Boyle, from the University of Notre Dame Keough School of Global Affairs website

Class of 2017 graduate Nnadozie Onyekuru is quoted in a recent story in Scholastic, the student magazine at the University of Notre Dame, where he is one of 38 students in the inaugural class at the University’s Keough School of Global Affairs.

A citizen of Nigeria, Mr. Onyekuru has an abiding interest in international relations, particularly the role of the Church and Church teaching in global affairs. While at Thomas Aquinas College, he and some friends launched Cor Unum, an annual event that celebrates both the Universal Church and the College’s international reach.

“It is difficult to understand in America the role that religion plays in the world because Americans are very careful about religion,” the article quotes Mr. Onyekuru as saying. “But it does play a role, and depending on the actors, that role can be good or bad. … That is, in a sense, why the Keough School exists, to be able to train people to not be deficient in that.”

Mr. Onyekuru also appears on the Keough School website, which recently posted the above photo of him questioning a visiting congressman, Rep. Brendan Boyle. The recipient of a Donald & Marilyn Keough Fellowship, Mr. Onyekuru is working toward a master’s degree in global affairs.

Still image from Cynthia (Deluca ’88) Montanaro’s interview on New York 1 Still image from Cynthia (Deluca ’88) Montanaro’s interview on New York 1

Among the many Thomas Aquinas College alumni who participated in last Friday’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., was Cynthia (Deluca ’88) Montanaro, who granted an interview to New York 1 News. “I think that people are seeing that the position that life begins at conception — and we don’t have the right to take that life, even when it’s terribly inconvenient that that life exists — is beginning to really grab hearts and minds everywhere,” she said.

If any other alumni have photos or video from the march, please send them our way!

Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Reflecting on the newly released Netflix documentary 13, which examines the legacy of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, alumnus Dr. Adam Seagrave (’05) has penned a thoughtful article for The Public Discourse about the broader question of how the U.S. lives up to its founding ideals, particularly with respect to African Americans. Just as the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal” did not beget immediate racial equality in the newly formed Republic, the Thirteenth Amendment’s eradication of slavery, closely followed by the advent of Jim Crow, failed to usher in real freedom for those it liberated from bondage.

Yet we “shouldn’t blame the Thirteenth Amendment for persistent racial injustice, just as we shouldn’t blame the Constitution for slavery,” writes Dr. Seagrave, the Kinder Institute Associate Professor of Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri. “When it comes to nations, it is vastly better to be hypocritical than unabashedly immoral. The former possess a foundation for improvement in a way the latter do not, and this has been clearly evidenced in the real progress that has been made toward racial equality in the U.S.”

More such progress, Dr. Seagrave contends, can best be achieved by continued pursuit of the country’s founding ideals. “Opponents of ongoing racial injustices should build on the solid foundation provided by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Civil War amendments rather than dismissing these documents and their authors as hypocrites,” he writes. Likewise, he continues, “Protesting American practice does not necessarily denigrate American promise … and the proper response to imperfect practice does not lie in the naïve indignation one hears so often on talk radio and other conservative media outlets, but in renewed attention to progressing ever more closely toward the American promise outlined in our founding (and re-founding) documents.”

A worthwhile read as the nation approaches Martin Luther King Day …


Rose (Teichert) and Daniel J. Grimm (both ’76) with members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, on a recent fundraising trip Rose (’76) and Daniel J. Grimm (both ’76) with members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, on a recent fundraising trip

“Caring for the poor is not merely an option in Catholicism,” says Daniel J. Grimm (’76), the newly appointed director of Catholic Charities for the Santa Barbara pastoral region of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “Jesus spells it out as the nonnegotiable basis of morality when He describes the Last Judgment. And if you’re going to love the poor the way Christ did, you must love them with the humility and respect that is particularly Christian.”

In his new position, Mr. Grimm is responsible for the work of Catholic Charities in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, a region that covers nearly 6,000 square miles and a population of more than 1.25 million residents. He oversees a staff of roughly 40 employees who operate nine different service centers across the region, guided by a “Catholic charism,” as he describes it, that sets the organization apart from other social-service programs or relief organizations.

“Even though we do a lot of what social workers also do, the core of our mission is to follow Jesus’ command to ‘love one another as I have loved you,’” he says. That mission requires “having an eye, as we do, to the eternal salvation of all” — the needy as well as the wealthy. “The ministry of Catholic charities is every bit as much for people who have wealth as for people who don’t have wealth, because it’s vitally important for Christians who have wealth to deal properly with it with regard to caring for the poor,” he explains. “In a sense, the wealthy need the poor; they are a gift from God for their salvation.”

By virtue of his past professions, Mr. Grimm is uniquely well-suited for his dual roles as minister to both the penniless and the prosperous. Prior to joining Catholic Charities in September, he served as a marriage and family therapist, a job that prepared him well for the pastoral nature of his current work. He is also an experienced fundraiser, having once served as Thomas Aquinas College’s director of development. And, as a licensed attorney, he brings the legal acumen necessary for managing a complex organization.

Still, assuming his new responsibilities has had its challenges. “One of my colleagues in Santa Barbara said that starting this job is like trying to drink from a fire hose,” Mr. Grimm laughs. “There is an awful lot coming at you, and you can only absorb a tiny little bit!”

Yet in his brief time at the helm, he has already formed a vision for how he seeks to expand the reach and work of Catholic Charities in the region. “I would like to start a specifically Catholic men’s counseling program, and I would like to see more marriage counseling offered,” he says. “Marital breakup is a huge cause of poverty in society, and while it’s great to provide people with the help that they need, one special part of our charism is offering help so people don’t need to get in that situation. The most important way is by strengthening marriage, strengthening families.”

As for his own family, Mr. Grimm and his wife, Rose (Teichert ’76), are the parents of seven children, all Thomas Aquinas College graduates, and the grandparents of 17 grandchildren. He is also the director of the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Please keep him, his family, and his important work at Catholic Charities in your prayers!

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Caleb Skvaril (’19)

“Learning from the great books, you can see the questions that history’s greatest thinkers have asked and all the ways that they have tried to answer them. You’re able to see what’s right about what they’re saying, but also what’s wrong. The more your opinion is challenged, the more you have to refine it in order to get closer to the truth.”

– Caleb Skvaril (’19)

Asan, Guam


“The Church will flourish through the inspiring example and praiseworthy endeavors of Thomas Aquinas College.”

– The Most Rev. Pietro Sambi (†)

Apostolic Nuncio to the United States