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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17)A member of last year’s graduating class who is now  a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, Nnadozie Onyekuru (’17) has penned a brief essay about recent developments in his homeland. The post appears on Arc of the Universe, a blog edited by Notre Dame Professor of Political Science Daniel Philpott, and it is titled, Bending the Arc in Nigeria. Writes Mr. Onyekuru:

The recent posthumous conferment of Nigeria’s highest honors on Moshood Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi is a cheerful break for followers of events in Africa’s most populous country.  ….

Such unequivocal appreciation by the nation’s political class speaks a thousand words as does the jubilation surrounding the events of the past week. President Buhari’s decision to honor these late countrymen is a nod to the part of the Nigerian anthem that speaks of our heroes not laboring in vain …

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.

“As I prepare to conclude my studies,” he wrote shortly before graduating from Thomas Aquinas College last year, “I hope to be a leaven in society as Holy Mother Church dreams for her children.”


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.


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 Amazon.com.


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.


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Thomas Esser (’18)

“It’s wonderful how, in the integrated curriculum, everything matches up. You’ll be reading one thing in language class, and then it will come up again in philosophy, and goes on to affect everything you read from then on. You get a deeper understanding of each discipline by seeing how they connect with the others.”

– Thomas Esser (’18)

Chino Hills, California

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I am constantly convinced that what you are doing in Thomas Aquinas College is the answer for today’s ills.

– Rev. Wojciech Giertych, O.P.

Theologian of the Papal Household