Faith in Action Blog
Members of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, including Vice President for Legal Affairs Katie Short (’80, left) and President Paul Blewett (’85, right)
In a Riverside, California, courtroom last week, a legal team led by two Thomas Aquinas College graduates delivered a blow to the state’s new assisted-suicide law.
Attorneys from the Life Legal Defense Foundation — whose vice president for legal affairs is Katie Short (’80) and whose president is Paul Blewett (’85) — sought an injunction against California’s End of Life Option Act, which went into effect in June. The attorneys argued that granting doctors the power to help kill their patients deprives sick and vulnerable Californians of the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
Although Life Legal did not obtain its sought-after injunction, it achieved an important victory nonetheless. In his ruling, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia granted that the six physicians and the nationwide medical group that Life Legal represents have standing to challenge the law, and that their case is “ripe” — that is, the End of Life Option Act may cause actual (not just hypothetical) harm to those it affects. As a result, Judge Ottolia rejected the state’s attempt to block Life Legal’s lawsuit, thereby allowing the challenge of this unjust law to continue.
Please pray for Mrs. Short, Mr. Blewett, Life Legal, and their continued success!
Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys (Photos: Dana Rene Bowler)
Wednesday morning, while the United States Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case that the College and 34 co-plaintiffs have filed against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, Women Speak for Themselves organized a rally outside the Court. Among the speakers at the rally were two alumnae of the College, Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys.
A former managing editor of First Things who is now a writer in The Catholic University of America’s Office of Marketing and Communications, Miss Duke spoke about her time volunteering for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have become the focal point of the national debate on religious freedom. Mrs. Claeys, who is chairman of the Washington, D.C., Board of Regents, spoke about the importance of the Catholic faith to the College and pressed the key points in the College’s case. The full text of her remarks is available via the College’s website.
Among the many friends of Thomas Aquinas College who have lent their spiritual assistance to the College’s legal effort against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate are the Missionaries of Charity. This morning, the Sisters of Bl. Mother Teresa’s order in New York City offered their daily Mass intention and an “emergency novena” on the College’s behalf — thanks to the intercession of an alumnus priest.
Rev. Nicholas Callaghan (’96), a priest serving the Archdiocese of New York, offered today’s 7:00 a.m. Spy Wednesday Mass for the Sisters at their convent on East 145th street in the Bronx. “The MC sisters were very happy to agree to have the College and the case as the intention of the Mass,” reports Fr. Callaghan. “Given the urgency of the case and the fact of the arguments today, they offered an ‘emergency novena’ immediately after Mass. This, as you may know, was a hallmark of Bl. Teresa: Nine Memorare prayers said in a row. It was her go-to solution in moments of crisis and is held in high esteem by the sisters. A particular feature of the ‘emergency novena’ this morning, which I have never encountered before, was the addition of an antiphon, chosen by them as appropriate for the subject of our petition today.”
Fr. Callaghan scanned the Sisters’ chosen antiphon, posted above.
Thanks be to God!
David DaleidenOn January 25 a Texas grand jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization that exposed Planned Parenthood’s program of fetal organ-harvesting. Prosecutors in Harris County filed charges against the two documentarians, alleging that they tampered with a governmental record by using fake IDs to gain access to Planned Parenthood. Prosecutors further charged Mr. Daleiden with attempting to purchase or sell human organs as part of his sting operation against the abortion giant.
In the days since, Catholic scholars and attorneys have been divided over the ethics of CMP’s undercover operations as well as the justice of the charges against Ms. Merritt and Mr. Daleiden. Among those who have weighed in are two alumni of the College — faithful Catholics, committed champions of the unborn, and practicing attorneys, both — who have presented thoughtful perspectives.
Tim Cantu (’10)Writing for the Catholic legal blog The Campion, Tim Cantu (’10) argues that the indictments are, even if unfortunate, legally sound and just. “David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt are charged with crimes of which they are almost certainly guilty. Were their intentions noble? Yes. Was it in service of a good cause? Yes. But to a prosecutor, one charged with carrying out the law instead of making it, that does not and cannot matter,” Mr. Cantu observes. Appealing to the example of St. Thomas More, he notes, “The ends do not justify the means; if we wish to defy a just law, we must accept the consequences of that choice under the law. The law exists not only as a sword against the wicked; it is also our shield, and by misusing or disregarding it we weaken that shield at our peril.”
Katie Short (’80)Meanwhile, Katie Short (’80), co-founder and vice president of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is defending Mr. Daleiden in three civil suits, has found fault with the grand jury’s reasoning. “The tampering charge, which is a felony offense, is for the use of a California identification in order to enter the Planned Parenthood clinic for the purpose of investigation,” Mrs. Short tells LifeNews.com. Yet Texas law “provides a defense where the false information has ‘no effect on the government’s purpose for requiring the governmental record,’” she continues — and the purpose of the law in question is to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol, not to shield Planned Parenthood from undercover investigation.
Moreover, a press release issued by Mrs. Short’s Life Legal Defense Foundation contends that the law against attempting to purchase or sell body parts has been, at the very least, unevenly applied. “Daleiden was … charged with human organ trafficking, a misdemeanor charge, for allegedly offering to purchase fetal body parts from Planned Parenthood,” the statement reads. “Inexplicably, Planned Parenthood was not charged with the corresponding crime of offering to sell human organs.”
That disparity, Mr. Cantu acknowledges, may hint “that this was a politically motivated indictment designed to punish Daleiden and Merritt for having the wrong cause,” although the “mere existence of the indictment does not establish that.” Still, he adds in a footnote, “There is a good counterargument that this is a case ripe for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and [the district attorney] should drop these charges.”
Viewers of the Super Bowl may remember the lighthearted Doritos ad about the unborn baby who, at his or her ultrasound appointment, develops a craving for the bag of nacho-cheese chips that Dad is eating nearby. (See video, above.) The 30-second clip, which was the most shared ad from this year’s game, drew chuckles from most Americans — except for the pro-abortion scolds at NARAL. The ad, the pro-abortion lobby complained on its Twitter feed, employed the “antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses.”
Katrina Trinko (’09)Writing for the Daily Signal, Katrina Trinko (’09) observes that NARAL, its humorlessness notwithstanding, may be on to something. No, the ad is not political, as NARAL suggests it is, but it does reflect a cultural reality that the pro-abortion lobby surely dreads.
“Moms and dads are now developing relationships with their children long before the due date, sometimes even announcing both name and sex to friends and family before the baby is born,” writes Miss Trinko, the Daily Signal’s managing editor and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors. “And that’s what’s frightening to NARAL and other pro-abortion advocates. … [The] increasing awareness that these unborn babies are growing and developing does raise questions about current abortion policy in the United States.”
The Doritos Super Bowl ad, Miss Trinko concludes, was effective not because it engaged in political advocacy, but “because it resonated—and that should terrify pro-abortion advocates.”
A number of alumni and their families joined the College’s Washington, D.C., Board of Regents to brave the snow for the national March for Life on January, 22 — the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Among those marching were Maggie Wynn (’80), Paul White (’95), Nora (Maher ’96) and Rory Nugent (’97), James Layne (’08), Cristina Schardt (’14), and Abby Quinan (’14). In the above photo, the group stands before the United States Supreme Court building at the end of the March.
Bl. Mother Teresa presents the 1982 Commencement Address at Thomas Aquinas College.
In anticipation of Friday’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) has penned an article for Crisis about two women who loom large in America’s ongoing debate about the morality and legality of abortion — Bl. Mother Teresa and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mother Teresa, who will be canonized this year, was an ardent defender of the unborn; Mrs. Clinton, who will likely be on November’s presidential ballot, is an unstinting champion of abortion “rights.” Yet few might remember that, nearly two decades ago, their paths crossed, and the soon-to-be saint had a notable influence on the would-be president.
Mr. Fitzpatrick recalls a poignant exchange between the two:
“Why do you think we haven’t had a woman as president yet?” First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton asked her guest over their lunch at the White House.
The little woman sitting at table with Mrs. Clinton did not hesitate in her reply.
“Because she has probably been aborted,” said Mother Teresa.
Yet even though Mother Teresa was direct, even blunt, in her language, she had the insight and wisdom to find common ground where she and Mrs. Clinton could work together. Writes Mr. Fitzpatrick:
Although Hillary Clinton was, and remains, a supporter of legalized abortion, she agreed with Mother Teresa that adoption was a preferable alternative. Speaking to her afterwards, Mother Teresa told Mrs. Clinton of her desire to continue her mission to find homes and families for orphaned, abandoned, and unwanted children by founding an adoption center in Washington, D.C. .... Hillary Clinton did the necessary legwork and succeeded in opening The Mother Teresa Home for Infant Children in 1995 in an affluent section of Washington, D.C.
To appreciate fully the grace and influence of Mother Teresa, one must read Mr. Fitzpatrick’s fine article, Marching for Life, Mother Teresa, and Mrs. Clinton, in full. The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick writes frequently for Crisis. This is the second year in a row that he has written an article pegged to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. (See last year’s Funeral March for Life.) He concludes this year’s story on a hopeful, inspiring note:
This Friday, pro-life Americans march to … convert the hearts of those like Hillary Clinton. Mother Teresa would have Americans do no less. She herself showed us how to protest against abortion fearlessly. She herself marched peacefully but purposefully, to save the lives of children in any way she could. She shook the walls of the White House with her entreaties, and the Gates of Heaven with her prayers. The marchers in DC gather to rekindle the perfect and patient passion of Mother Teresa — a power that broke through, even to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Members of the Thomas Aquinas College community will be participating in both this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco. Please join us!
Lauretta Brown (’13) interviews Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2014.
With the new year close at hand, Lauretta Brown (’13) finds herself commemorating two significant anniversaries. It was a little over a year ago that she became a fulltime reporter at the Cybercast News Service (CNS) — and shortly thereafter that she unsettled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with a frank question about abortion.
Just weeks into her job at CNS, Miss Brown went to Mrs. Pelosi’s weekly press briefing to query the California Congresswoman about her opposition to the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Eschewing the distracting political angles, Miss Brown cut to the chase, asking, “Is an unborn child 20 weeks into pregnancy a human being?”
When the Minority Leader responded with the usual pro-abortion boilerplate, Miss Brown’s CNS colleague pressed further. “My question is pretty simple,” she began. “Legislation aside, when it comes to the matter of whether or not an unborn child is a human being at 20 weeks’ gestation, what is your personal take on it? If it is not a human being, then what do you believe it is?”
A simple question, to be sure, but one to which Mrs. Pelosi refused to provide a straightforward answer. “She was dumbfounded, offended. She would not answer,” Miss Brown recalls. “She said she had been around a lot longer than I had. She said she was a Catholic mother, and she knew more about having babies than the Pope. She raised up all kinds of tangential issues, but never answered directly.”
Asking the tough and important — but too often overlooked — questions, Miss Brown says, is among her greatest joys as a political reporter. “I try to find stories that maybe are not being reported on as much,” particularly those that touch upon matters of the right to life, religious freedom, and the plight of Christians in the Middle East. “That’s our mission, to find stories that aren’t being reported as widely, and bring those to life.”
Yet when she graduated from the College in 2013, Miss Brown did not envision a career in journalism. She intended to become a lawyer, and was considering offers from law schools when a friend told her about an internship at CNS — a short-term commitment, or so she thought when she agreed to take the position. She soon, however, developed a love for journalism and set aside all thoughts of law school. In short order, her internship turned into a trial position that, last December, became a fulltime job.
Since then, Miss Brown has worked to report the untold stories from Capitol Hill. She has interviewed numerous notable figures political, cultural, and religious, including presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, entertainers Geena Davis and Leona Lewis, and Church prelates such as His Eminence Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and His Excellency William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore.
When cutting through politician’s all-too-common dissimulations, she says, she finds herself drawing upon her Thomas Aquinas College education. “Smart reporting is always improved through critical thinking, looking at statements, and saying, ‘OK, what is factual about this?’” she observes. “I have been shocked at how much, in conversations and in my writing, I’ve been able to draw back on my experience from the College. It has been a tremendous help.”
Katie Short (’80), attorney for David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, at federal court in San Francisco.
When David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress first devised his plan to expose Planned Parenthood’s practice of harvesting and selling the organs of aborted babies, he knew he would need legal advice. So the undercover journalist turned to San Francisco’s Life Legal Defense Foundation and its co-founder and vice president, Katie Short (’80). Mrs. Short and others helped Mr. Daleiden to prepare for the inevitable legal challenges and to navigate the myriad laws in several jurisdictions.
Katie Short (’80) with David Daleiden of the Center for Medical ProgressNearly three years later, that effort has proved to be a tremendous success, drawing national attention to Planned Parenthood’s gruesome practices and fueling a Congressional movement to strip the abortion provider of federal funding. Predictably, the abortion industry’s premier trade group, the National Abortion Federation, has struck back with a lawsuit designed to ruin Mr. Daleiden and suppress his findings. And so the young filmmaker has turned to Mrs. Short once again, asking her foundation to defend him against a fevered legal onslaught.
“We at Life Legal have fought for decades to guarantee the First Amendment rights of pro-life activists,” says Mrs. Short. “Usually this happens on a small scale right in front of an abortion mill. Now we are seeing the same drama play out on a grand scale in the public eye, as the NAF throws its resources into crushing David Daleiden’s witness. There’s really little else that they can do, as David truly has the goods on the abortion industry in general and on Planned Parenthood in particular. Only by doing our all at this crucial juncture can Life Legal keep the truth about Planned Parenthood available to the public.”
A home-schooling mother of nine children, Mrs. Short has written numerous briefs for state and federal courts, including petitions for certiorari and amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court and California Supreme Court. She co-authored the text of Propositions 73, 85, and 4, California ballot initiatives aimed at requiring parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion. She additionally served as co-counsel in People’s Advocate v. ICOC, a suit challenging the constitutionality of the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the agency established by Proposition 71 to fund embryonic stem cell research.
Last week Mrs. Short was at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, leading Mr. Daleiden’s pro bono defense team during his deposition — one small step in what promises to be a lengthy, exhausting, and expensive legal battle. “The case has extremely high stakes for all participants,” says Mrs. Short’s husband, Bill (’80), a fellow attorney. “Please pray for Daleiden, the project, Katie, and the rest of the legal team, and encourage others to do so as well.”
Like his fellow graduate John Finley (’99), Christopher Zehnder (’87) sees a connection between Pope Francis’s warnings in Laudato Si’ and the Supreme Court’s recent attempt to redefine marriage. Writing in his personal blog, Notes from the Wasteland, Mr. Zehnder observes:
“It is fitting, in a way, that the Supreme Court’s decision should so closely follow the pope’s encyclical, for the former brings into focus the major theme of the latter. That theme is not the threat of climate change, whatever those who want either to dismiss the encyclical or coöpt it say. A major — if not the major — theme of Laudato Si’ is that, both in the moral order and the natural order, everything is connected. How we treat the ‘environment’ is how we will treat ourselves, and how we treat ourselves is how we will treat the natural world outside ourselves. …
“Those, therefore, who insist on the integrity of the natural world but rejoice at Friday’s Supreme Court decision are self-confused. Those who deplore the decision, call for respect for the nature of marriage and the basic meaning of sexual acts but ignore the integrity of the natural world, are self-confused. Those who think you must respect unborn human life but can subject human labor to irrational market forces are as confused as those who think you may kill unborn children but not oppress the worker. Sooner or later, these groups will need to decide on their core principle — relativism or respect for nature — for mankind will not remain in a state of interior division forever.”
Mr. Zehnder is the general editor of the Catholic Textbook Project, which aims to create a new generation of textbooks for parochial schools that accurately, beautifully, and engagingly reflect the Church’s contribution to human history. A high school teacher and former headmaster, he is the author of three of the project’s books: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America; Light to the Nations II: the Making of the Modern World; and Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America.