Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Americans with no religion

The AP is reporting a decline of Americans indentifying with organized religion. Really, this is not new news but it seems to be in the media more these days. The story

I tend to think that Americans, like other nations, may not identify with a particular religion yet have some sort of “religious” belief(s), some of them strange. I’m unconvinced at this time that Americans give up totally on some vague sense of faith as they might give up on the practice of the faith. We have our work cut out for proposing the beauty of Christ.

Georgetown Univ Prof supports death with dignity

In 2008 Georgetown University Philosophy professor Tom L. Beauchamp coauthored Principles of Biomedical Ethics, a widely used book in bioethics courses, in which he sanctions and defends “physician-assisted dying.”


According to a Winter 2008 Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly article by J. Brian Benestad, Beauchamp and his coauthor pronounce unconvincing “some of the arguments against the legalization of ‘physician-assisted dying.'” Throughout the book the authors are redefining terms “that used to have nothing to do with administering death-producing drugs,” explains Benestad. For them, “Lethal pills are called medication; helping suffering patients to kill themselves is called virtuous (beneficent, just, etc.). Not helping these patients is a failure to respect their dignity.” In Principles, the authors state: “We maintain that physician assistance in hastening death is best viewed as part of a continuum of medical care.” Benestad counters the argument, citing “the medical profession’s devotion to heal and refuse to kill – its ethical center – will be permanently destroyed” by such a policy. (courtesy of the Cardinal Newman Society)


So much for professors at so-called Catholic universities either thinking with the Church or at least not publicly contradicting Catholic teaching. Is this beyond the exercise of academic freedom viz. faith and reason? It’s interesting Beauchamp received the Pellegrino Medal in 2004 which honors recipients for contributions made in healthcare ethics following the spirit of the father of the American bioethics movement, Dr. Edmund Pellegrino. Pellegrino is a practicing Catholic and on faculty of Georgetown.

Washington State approves suicide as a “right”: Is it truly death with dignity?

Voters in the State of Washington approved Initiative 1000, the so-called Death with Dignity Act in November. According to the media it’s modeled closely the Oregon law allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients determined to have six months or less to live. Oregon‘s suicide law is now 10 years old and Washington has become the second American state to legalize assisted suicide.


As a result of last year’s state ballot Initiative 2000, terminally ill patients in Washington State can now obtain lethal medications from doctors in order to kill themselves. Washington‘s hospitals are now forming a suicide plan to facilitate this newly found “right.”


Suicide is a tragedy. People who elect to do this act are not thinking in a right manner and are looking for a way out of their pain, sometimes they say they want to ease the pain of loved ones who care for them. Whatever the reason for acting this way is, their desperation leads to a permanent self-inflicted act leading to their intended death. Suicide prematurely and violently leaves loved ones to pick up the pieces post-mortem. Many are physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted from their health issues which is understandable: chronic illness can be painful but suicide is an inadequate way to deal with the harsh reality of life.


The Church’s teaching is: “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God” (Catechism, 2281).


But quoting the Catechism is insufficient in dealing with the issue at hand. Let’s not be confused: we need to know and follow what the Church teaches. Her wisdom is immensely reliable and it ought to form our conscience. Here I want to raise the matter of dealing with the issue pastorally, lovingly with courage and strength. No statement of teaching is going to ease the pain of illness or feelings of desperation. Only the love and mercy of the one who made us can do that. The Lord loves and cherishes each one of us, and He gives the grace to sustain us until the moment of natural death. The Lord knows our pain and our human struggle because He is a man. What the Washington and Oregon state laws do is replace the love the Lord and family offer us with a cold mechanism releasing us from our human need. These laws replace the reality of humanity with a cold, shallow perfunctory “right” that gives a person the possibility of hurting themselves and family and friends deeply not to mention it wounds their relationship with the Lord (whether they know it or not).


Responding to the poignant human need of those who face the hard fact of someone taking their own life, the Catholic Information Service commissioned a booklet dealing with this subject. It was our effort to help those who are looking for truth and love and the assistance of the Church. You can order a copy of Coping with a Suicide: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice by emailing or calling the office ( or 203.752.4267and tell them you saw the ad here) The feelings of sadness which result from the violence of suicide are never removed from the hearts and minds of the survivors even if they try to believe that Auntie is in a better place (a saccharine nosegay that whitewashes the pain temporarily). While the deceased is in the hands of God and clearly live in His mercy, we can never be presumptuous to believe that it is “alright” because “God will deal with it”: the reality life is far more important than me and my own needs. The act of suicide is an act of desperation; the person who does (or thinks of committing the act) acts from feelings of exhaustion, fear, and a false sense of security. Our human response needs to be love. Our response as Christians needs to be one of faithfulness to the Lord who made us and it is He who will call us home, and it is our responsibility to be agents of reconciliation showing mercy and forgiveness.

American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile, the latest by Richard John Neuhaus

I am still saddened by the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus. Many are. I pray for him regularly at Mass and while saying the rosary and I find myself wondering what he’d say about this or that today. First Things arrived the other day and I shelved it temporarily because I’ve got other things to read first (what, I am not going to drop everything to read FT???); I look forward with eagerness to read to First Things

One of the last gifts he gave to us is the forthcoming book, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile. It’s not a book from the grave as it was in production long before RJN got ill and died. I am looking forward to it as I have looked forward to everything RJN wrote for publication or said in the public forum.

Available from Amazon. A Google preview of American Babylon.

Product description


Christians are by their nature a people out of place. Their true home is with God; in civic life, they are alien citizens “in but not of the world.” In American Babylon, eminent theologian Richard John Neuhaus examines the particular truth of that ambiguity for Catholics in America today.

Neuhaus addresses the essential quandaries of Catholic life–assessing how Catholics can keep their heads above water in the sea of immorality that confronts them in the world, how they can be patriotic even though their true country is not in this world, and how they might reconcile their duties as citizens with their commitment to God. Deeply learned, frequently combative, and always eloquent, American Babylon is Neuhaus’s magnum opus–and will be essential reading for all Christians.

Let me recommend to you the Richard John Neuhaus Online Archive, a well stocked blog of materials by or on Father Richard.

Understanding Man: Darwin, biology and God

A press conference at the Vatican yesterday, considered the forthcoming conference on Darwin & theology. The presentation can be viewed at the Vatican’s YouTube site. Here’s the H2O News report.

The March 3-7 conference will take place in Rome on “Biological Evolution, Facts and Theories” and was presented by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of that pontifical council. The conference will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his “Origin of the Species.” The University of Notre Dame, the Gregorian University and the Pontifical Council for Culture are co-sponsoring the event on faith and reason (science) to demonstrate that faith and reason are complementary NOT at odds with each other as is commonly thought.

Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc said: “It’s not in the least about a celebration in honor of the English scientist; it’s simply about analyzing an event that marked for all time the history of science and that has influenced the way of understanding our very humanity.”

The organizers said on the website: There will be nine sessions where academics will treat the “idea that science, on the one hand, and theology, on the other, represent different fields of analysis and interpretation, though often they are incorrectly overlapped, causing confusion and ideological controversies.”

More information on Biological Evolution, Facts and Theories:


About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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