Faith in Action Blog
Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)
The latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books features one Thomas Aquinas College alumnus writing about another: Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01), a visiting assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, reviews The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, by Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University.
“I wanted to title my review ‘Natural Law Photobombs Locke-ish Selfie: What Happens Next Will Shock Your Political Philosophy,” jokes Mr. Peterson via Facebook. “But they went with Nature Trail. I guess I’ll keep my day job.”
Alas, sans the Gawker-worthy headline, the review begins:
“The debate over what we mean when we speak of rights, especially in the American context, often concerns what John Locke understood them to mean. Locke’s ambiguity is a gift that keeps on giving to scholarly presses. In The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, S. Adam Seagrave, a self-identified Aristotelian-Thomist, mercifully refrains from attempting the definitive commentary on what he rightly calls Locke’s ‘problematically vague and incomplete’ account of the basis of rights. Instead, he makes not a wholly Lockean but, as he says, a ‘Locke-ish’ case for how natural rights arise from the very structure of human beings.”
After a thoughtful analysis of Dr. Seagrave’s book — mostly positive, albeit sprinkled with a few objections — Dr. Peterson concludes his review with praise:
“[Dr. Seagrave] has eschewed the imposing vagaries of modern scholarship in favor of actually engaging in the act of philosophy rather than mere commentary or critique. True philosophic exploration of difficult questions is much like the art of negotiating a fair deal: if one side walks away in smug satisfaction, you’re probably not doing it right. Everyone will disagree with some chunk of S. Adam Seagrave’s provocative work, but his effort is a brave breath of fresh air in the stagnant, painfully insecure, and often comically compartmentalized world of academic books.”
The full review is available via the Claremont Review of Books.
“I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this year’s Lenten journey,” writes alumnus Mark Langley (’89) on his blog, Lion & Ox. “No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine pale ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.”
The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley is also a husband, a father of 12, and an amateur brewer. In this last capacity, he has detected a relationship between his faith and his hobby. “Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer,” Mr. Langley writes. “The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of ‘wort’ into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid — whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel.”
And so, at the start of Lent, Mr. Langley began a new batch of English pale ale that will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday. “Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord,” he observes. “But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.”
To read more of Mr. Langley’s musings on Lenten brewing, read the full post on his blog.
The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of California, at the 2009 dedication of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel
“If McDonald’s told its employees that it was unacceptable to diss its fast food as gross, disgusting, or unhealthy at either McDonald’s or in a public setting,” asks alumna journalist Katrina Trinko (’09), “would it elicit a heated reaction from lawmakers?”
The answer: “Probably not.”
Katrina Trinko (’09)Yet for myriad reasons, when the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco and the College’s 2008 Convocation Speaker, made a similar demand of the teachers in his schools, several California politicians called for an investigation. In a new column at the Daily Signal, Miss Trinko — the online magazine’s managing editor and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors — examines the criticism and complaints, and finds them wanting.
“Lawmakers may vehemently disagree with Cordileone’s decision,” Miss Trinko writes, but “religious leaders should be free to make such decisions without worrying about interference from the government.”
The full article is available at the Daily Signal.
As a demonstration “that commemorates those lives snuffed out before seeing the light of day,” the annual March for life, writes Sean Fitzpatrick (’02), “is, perhaps first and foremost, a funeral march.” The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick has penned a poignant and thoughtful reflection about today’s march for Crisis magazine, where he is a regular contributor. He observes:
“The March for Life is a witness to the Gospel of Life, demonstrating by the thousands that though abortion is common practice it is not common sense. The March is a positive outcry against the government’s failure to defend the defenseless and to protect women against the tortures of conscience. Abortion is not simply a failure of justice, but a failure of government itself. President Washington wrote in 1789, ‘The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.’ When that pillar is compromised, the structure fails and falls. It is not out of the question to ask, ‘Who will be the next to lose their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?’ In a statement given one year ago on this day to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama said, ‘this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.’ But at what point, at what precise point, does everyone become someone? Whenever it is, it is no longer self-evident.
“It is not enough to demand justice. Justice, as Our Lord taught, is to be hungered and thirsted after as a means of wellbeing. Just as hunger and thirst can never be forever satisfied in this life, neither can the requirement for the divine gift of justice. This is the truth that beats out the march of Christian soldiers. Though they mourn on this day as they march on the National Mall, they do it in the happiness and blessedness that is their claim, in honor of the dead.”
The full article is available via Crisis.com.
The recent release of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., has stirred up some dear memories for Gregory A. Pesely (’77):
“I had the great honor of serving at the altar with Fr. McGovern. (I helped out in the sacristy to set out his vestments. And, as I helped out with facilities, I had a few opportunities to help him with his dwelling place at the old campus.) He once confided that it usually took him 8-10 hours to craft, perfect, and memorize every homily.
“I had always hoped that one day his homilies would be published. What a treasure that collection will be for both those who had the honor to study St. Thomas with him and those who just heard about him.
“I often sat with him at meals. He had an observant eye and a keen mind. For a few summers, his mom would come out and visit him. I was able to witness the most tender and devoted son a mother could ever hope for.
“One summer while teaching at the Archdiocesan Seminary in Camarillo, I did a foolish thing — I agreed to play a set of handball with him up in Ojai. I treated him to a few cold beers after he clobbered me.
“He loved music, and not only sacred music: Once we caught him singing, ‘I Am Getting Married in the Morning’ from My Fair Lady while finishing up his laundry in the old laundry room at Claretville.
“I then went up to Université Laval and served several times with his dear friend and fellow Jesuit, Rev. Pere E. Lacasse, S.J. (at days of recollection and during a weeklong Ignatian Retreat). Both were incredibly spiritual priests, but both were passionate Jesuits with great senses of humor and humility.
“I believe a lot of the early vocations were enkindled by those who were introduced to Fr. McGovern and his unmistakable, great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.”
Mr. Pesely is the mission integration manager for OSF Healthcare System in Peoria, Illinois — a Catholic health care system covering 11 different facilities, and the largest system in Illinois outside of Chicago. He advises the corporation on medical ethics policies and the training of some 15,000 associated personnel.
Copies of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., can still be ordered in time for Christmas via the online form.
Some timely words of advice in USA Today from alumna journalist Katrina Trinko (’09): “No one needs to be able to buy a big-screen TV on Thanksgiving.”
The managing editor of the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, Miss Trinko has penned an op-ed encouraging Americans to abstain from shopping during the upcoming holiday. Lamenting that many, perhaps most, retailers compel their employers to work on what should be a day of rest and family, she writes:
Consumers could fight back by not shopping on Thanksgiving. And that’s what we should do — if we care about our fellow Americans and preserving our communities.
After all, the holidays are a time to remember and take care of each other. Sometimes being a good community member means helping others financially or taking time to pitch in with a difficult task. But sometimes it means other sacrifices, including our own convenience.
Sure, some of us might want to buy that big-screen TV at 50 percent off on Thanksgiving afternoon. But let’s help a brother (and a sister) out. Wait until Black Friday.
Phil (’97) and Luke Halpin (’98) on the set of Miles Christi: Soldiers of Christ in America
Two alumni brothers, Phil (’97) and Luke Halpin (’98), played significant roles in the production of a new one-hour documentary film, Miles Christi: Soldiers of Christ in America, which premiered on EWTN last Sunday night. The film explores a new order of priests, Miles Christi (soldiers of Christ), which is committed to helping lay Catholics pursue holiness in their everyday lives. Phil served as the project’s writer and editor, and Luke composed and produced the original score. Below is the film’s trailer:
“Documentary filmmaking is such a great way of presenting the truth in a logical manner that’s almost indisputable,” Phil recently told the National Catholic Register. “I see the documentary as a method of argument almost. It’s a chance to, in a very methodical way, lay out something you think is true and prove it.” Key to making that argument, he added, is maintaining the highest professional standards. “High-quality production is part of evangelization. ... You’re not going to evangelize anybody with crummy production work.”
Phil is the editor and producer for StoryTel, a creative foundation specializing in documentaries about people and organizations who answer God’s call to “restore the sacred.” Previously, he helped to produce Where Heaven Meets Earth, a documentary about a once-failing urban parish transformed by a young priest who was determined to embrace the whole of Catholic tradition. “Giving people hope is a worthy goal,” he says, “but going beyond that to inspire people to restore the sacred in their own lives and their own communities makes it worthwhile.”
In case you missed the first screening of Miles Christi, fear not. The documentary will air again on EWTN this Saturday, November 22, at 11:00 p.m. in the U.S. and Canada. It is also available on DVD.
Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. (’06); His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke; and Prof. Thomas Stark. Photo: CDO Photography
Earlier this month, Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. (’06), moderated a panel discussion about the recently concluded Synod on the Family, featuring Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect Emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura. Hosted by Una Voce Austria, the discussion was timed to coincide with the release of the German edition of Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, for which Cardinal Burke was a contributor. Joining His Eminence and Pater Edmund on the dais was Dr. Thomas Heinrich Stark, a professor of philosophy at the Philosophical-Theological College St. Pölten.
Prior to the panel, Pater Edmund, a Cistercian monk at Stift Heiligenkreuz in Vienna, delivered a talk, The Synod on the Family and the Opera, which focused on the work of two Viennese composers, W. A. Mozart and Richard Strauss. That talk is available via Pater’s blog, and video and audio from the panel discussion with Cardinal Burke are available below:
Audio, courtesy of Mr. Christopher Owen:
“Don't like abortion? Don’t have one.” So read the pro-abortion bumper sticker of bygone days. There’s now an addendum: “But pay for mine.”
Thus begins an op-ed piece by Catherine Short (’80), who — as part of her 35-year effort in defense of the unborn — is taking on a new California policy that requires all insurance plans to provide abortion coverage. (Thomas Aquinas College is, mercifully, exempt from the mandate because it self-insures.)
As the legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which she helped to found, Mrs. Short recently sent a letter to the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), decrying its shoddy legal pretext for the new policy:
The DMHC decision apparently rests on two untenable positions. The first is the self-evidently false proposition that all abortions, including elective abortions, are “medically necessary” and thus must be covered pursuant to the Knox-Keene Act. In the context of abortion, “medically necessary” and “elective” are antonyms. Second, the decision asserts that the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy. The California Constitution, a s currently interpreted, prohibits the state from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy, by withholding funding for abortions. CDRR v. Myers , 29 Cal.3d 252 (1981). This decision does not prohibit private actors such as religious employers from deciding what services its employee health insurance policies will cover.
The letter additionally notes that the state’s policy is in plain violation of federal law. The 2004 Weldon Amendment prohibits states, such as California, that receive certain forms of federal funding from imposing abortion-coverage requirements without conscience exemptions. “California’s violation of federal law is clear,” writes Mrs. Short on aletia.com. “Equally clear is the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate to enforce that law. What remains to be seen is whether the Administration will follow through on President Obama’s personal pledge to ‘honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.’”
On the final day of the recently concluded Synod on the Family, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an essay about the Synod’s purpose — and its challenges — by Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94). A professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, Fr. Sebastian argues that, “The stakes are high,” for the Synod. “For unless modern man can recapture the meaning which God has written into the natural human family, the result will be ignorance and error, indifference and animosity, toward the entire supernatural order.”
Fr. Sebastian continues:
Every artist has his favorite work of art, and God’s favorite is the human family. From all eternity, in fact, He understood himself as the Son of Mary, as a member of a human family. The reason for God’s predilection is that more than the other parts of His creation, the family reflected His own goodness and beauty. Hence, we cannot know God, we cannot love Him, without knowing and loving the natural human family. …
Consider how the modern distortions of the family can lead to distortions in faith. The indissolubility of marriage is intended to be a sign of God’s eternal and unique love for His Church. Is it any surprise then that religious pluralism and the denial that there is one Church is widespread in a society in which divorce and remarriage are widespread? The natural begetting of a child through the loving union of husband and wife is intended to be a sign that God creates each human soul immediately and with love. This reality is obscured in a society which accepts in vitro fertilization or other artificial means of procreation.… And in households where, by design, there is no father or there is no mother, how will the children come to understand God as Father or what it means for God to love us like a mother? … Examples could be multiplied but, suffice it to say, a lack of love and esteem for the goodness of the natural family entails a lack of love and esteem for God and the things of heaven.
The bishops, writes Fr. Sebastian, are “striving to interpret to the world the supernatural significance of the natural family” — a task that is treacherous, but essential.
The full article is available via the Vatican’s news website.