Category Archives: Pro Life

Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family: 20 years later

AT THE FOREFRONT

Celebrating 20 years, the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family seeks to transform and renew society

 

By Alton J. Pelowski

 

In 1987, Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, D.C., and Past Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant requested permission from the Vatican to establish an English-language campus, or session, of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. Permission was granted, and thanks to financial and administrative support from the Knights of Columbus, the Institute’s North American presence began the following year.

            Since that time, graduates have gone on to work in a variety of occupations and ministries. Many are employed in dioceses and parishes as directors of family life or religious education, while others are teachers at Catholic high schools or seminaries. Still others integrate their education into fields such as law, medicine and public policy work. Additionally, a number of books and resources on John Paul II’s theology of the body and related topics have been published in recent years, many by Institute faculty and alumni.

            Today, after 20 years of steadfast support from the Knights of Columbus and with a new home on the campus of The Catholic University of America (CUA), the Pontifical John Paul II Institute continues to grow and remains faithful to its mission.

 

Back to Basics

 

The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family was initially founded at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in response to the 1980 synod of bishops, which focused on the family. Yet, there is no doubt that John Paul II believed that issues related to marriage and family are of the utmost importance. Throughout his pontificate, he often repeated the words of his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World): “The future of humanity passes by way of the family” (86).        

            It is appropriate that the Institute bears John Paul II’s name, for the core content
john paul ii coat of arms.pngof its studies consists of the late pope’s vision of what it means to be a human being, created in the image and likeness of God. In addressing cultural confusion about human sexuality and human dignity from this broad perspective, the Institute is not concerned with simply debating moral norms or sexual ethics. “Rather, we need to recover the very concept of morality and why it’s important for the human being — why it liberates and doesn’t oppress,” explained Dr. David L. Schindler, provost and dean of the Institute’s Washington session. “We are faced,” he continued, “with a crisis of foundations and first principles.”      

            In a 2001 address to the Institute, John Paul II said that when people forget the principle of man’s creation, “the perception of the singular dignity of the human person is lost and the way is open for an invasive ‘culture of death.'” In other words, the theological and philosophical tenets of the Institute have enormous practical import, as they pertain to a person’s most basic understanding of himself and his relationship to the world.  

            Drawing on Scripture, sacred tradition and human experience, Pope John Paul II taught that the meaning of human life is ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ and rooted in the very nature of God as a Trinitarian communion of persons. Ultimately, he explained, a person can only be understood in light of one’s vocation to love. Moreover, a person’s identity as male or female — and as mother, father or child — are not merely accidents of biology or the result of “private” decisions.

            “We are not abstract agents of choice and intelligence, as the modern world believes,” explained Schindler, who is a member of Potomac Council 433 in Washington, D.C. “Concretely, every human being is born as a child.” From this perspective, marriage and family are seen as central to understanding reality itself, and a major task of students at the Institute is to examine basic assumptions about human existence — assumptions about truth, freedom, the body, nature, grace and even technology.        

            “I was very pleased to discover the Institute was a very serious theological program, and at the same time, that seriousness is essential to evangelization,” said Pavel Reid, who was sent by the Archdiocese of Vancouver to study at the Institute in 2003. While working as the director of the Office of Life and Family, and testifying on behalf of the archdiocese about emerging political issues such as same-sex marriage, human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, Reid recognized the need for a more adequate response.

            “Before, I didn’t even know what questions to ask, but the professors were able to show us whole new levels of questioning,” he said. “There’s so much greater depth to the Church’s teaching and answers to contemporary problems than people realize.”

            Reid has since worked as the director of young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Military Services, USA, and is now a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. A member of Coquitlam (B.C.) [Knights of Columbus] Council 5540, he encourages Knights not only to pray for the students and faculty of the Institute, but also to learn about and promote the Church’s wisdom.



Ratzinger.jpg

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger addresses the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 1990. Audience members include Past Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant (second from left).

 

The New Evangelization

 

“The Institute is really at the forefront of the new evangelization,” affirmed Father Brian Bransfield, who in September was named the executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis. “They really capture all the ingredients of what is required to form a culture of life through a civilization of love.”

            A priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Father Bransfield taught at a Catholic high school before receiving both licentiate (S.T.L.) and doctorate (S.T.D.) degrees in sacred theology from the Institute. Following his graduation in 2005, he taught moral theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. “When I would teach the categories of John Paul II, it spoke both to the heart and to the mind of the students,” he said. “They don’t know whether to take notes or just listen. It forms their memory, and they are on fire to bring this to other people.”

            Although the depth of the writings of John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and others who have articulated the Church’s vision of the human person can be intimidating, Father Bransfield encourages his fellow priests and catechists to “go to the original sources and persevere.” It is important, he said, to take advantage of the numerous opportunities in the Church to share a truly Christian anthropology, such as in homilies, small faith groups, parish workshops and marriage preparation. “It’s a response to the culture on so many levels. It’s not an option.”

            People find John Paul II’s insights attractive because they are logical and concrete, added Father Bransfield. When the teaching is grasped, it is “life changing and transformative,” he said.

            The role of the Institute in furthering the new evangelization, in other words, goes much deeper than simply learning and repeating facts or arguments. Rather, its goal is to provide “education and formation at the most fundamental level,” Schindler explained.      

            Since a primary focus is on vocation and mission, rooted in one’s baptismal call, the Institute’s faculty is careful not to put undue importance on graduates’ occupations. “One of the main purposes of the education here is realized when people actually get married and have good families,” said Schindler.

            “It’s not just a matter of getting the word out,” said Lisa Lickona, who pursued both master’s in theological studies (M.T.S.) and licentiate degrees from the Institute from 1991-1998. “The most significant thing is for people to embrace the Church’s teaching and live in such a way that compels others to ask, ‘What is making these people so happy?'”         

            With a love for theology, Lickona initially planned to teach higher education, but over the years, her goals changed. “I came to see that the work that would be most integral to the formation of my personality was first and foremost my work as a mother,” she said.     

            Today, Lickona lives on a small farm in McGraw, N.Y., with her husband and seven children. Although she still writes and speaks at various conferences, she sees that work as secondary. “To give myself to my family is precisely my vocation and precisely what God wants for me right now.”    

            Sister M. Maximilia Um, of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, said studying at the Institute helped her to see the world differently and better understand her own vocation. “It instilled in me a radically new way of looking at all aspects of life with an attitude of contemplation,” she said. “I understand more profoundly that, before doing something, I am called to be someone before God,” added Sister Maximilia, who went on to receive a degree in Canon Law from CUA after graduating from the Institute in 2005. She now serves as the defender of the bond on the marriage tribunal for the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.       

 

 ‘A Dream Come True’

 

In recent years, the Institute has seen considerable growth. Today, there are nearly 100 students enrolled at the Washington session, and many of the 318 alumni have graduated within the past five years. A Ph.D. program was added in 2004 and a master’s with a specialization in biotechnology and ethics was launched last year.

            Internationally, the Pontifical John Paul II Institute is now also present in Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Benin, India and Australia, and there is interest in developing new sessions in several other countries. Indeed, it was the wish of John Paul II that the Institute would be present in every major language area.

            Throughout the Institute’s brief history, the Knights of Columbus has been close at
KofC.jpghand. The Order provides financial support and scholarships to the Washington session, and Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, the founding dean, continues to serve as its vice president. Most recently, the Institute received a new home on the CUA campus thanks to a donation from the Supreme Council. The building, renovated and renamed McGivney Hall after the Order’s founder, was blessed and dedicated Sept. 8. Before reading the statement of dedication, Vincentian Father David O’Connell, president of CUA, shared a word of gratitude with the Knights, saying “Today is a dream come true, and I thank you.”

            Prior to the dedication, representatives and friends of the Institute, the Knights and CUA gathered for Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in celebration of the Institute’s 20th anniversary and the beginning of a new academic year. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, vice chancellor of the Institute, observed in his homily, “This institute stands in the midst of our society and culture as the voice of the Catholic Church and offers an alternative to the failed vision of the secular world.”

            In the face of many cultural challenges, the faculty, students and friends of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family face the future with a message of great hope.

 

Alton J. Pelowski is managing editor of Columbia and a 2006 graduate (M.T.S.) of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America.

 

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Columbia magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

Just look

New York’s Cardinal Edward Egan and The Catholic New York are asking us to take another look at life. See for yourself and read the article!

You might also read the Letter to the Editor by Bishop Francis Malooly of the Diocese of Wilmington about the exceptions regarding abortions. There is none.

Fordham Univ: Breyer’s thinking is pro-abortion, not merely pro-choice

Yesterday (10/21/2008) I received an email from Ashley informing me that was I wrong in my assessment of Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Fordham University’s giving the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize. Her email states:

Last I checked Pro-Abortion wasn’t an option in the fight between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.  Justice Breyer is not PRO-ABORTION…no one is PRO-ABORTION.  He simply wrote the opinion honoring a woman’s right to choose. That means in cases of rape and incest included.

This award is not given by Father McShane.  It is awarded by the LAW SCHOOL as an award of LEGAL ETHICS.  That means that during his legal career spanning decades he has governed in a fair and ethical way not taking bribes for instance or being caught up in scandal.  Whether or not you agree with his morals is irrelevant.

Making it as a Supreme Court Justice is pretty outstanding if you ask me.  He must have done something right.  I admire all 9 of them and have respect for all of their achievements.

Also, to better inform you, there is a selection committee of people all over the country that vote on the awardee. This process has resulted in several Supreme Court Justices honored, former Deans of Fordham Law, Fordham Law alumni and others in the legal community with outstanding legal careers.  This committee is made of people from all walks of life nominating those strictly based on the ethics (NOT MORALS) of their legal careers. After nominations are made it is narrowed down and there is a vote and whether it goes your way or not we respect the democratic system that we live in.

Ashley is unaware of many basic points of theology. She is also playing games with the English language and politicizing it to her advantage akin to what George Orwell writes in his1946 essay “Politics and the English Language.”  Moreover, Ashley is clearly unaware of the expectations of the Church and the Jesuits, never mind the rights of the Catholic faithful who have a right to expect priests and Catholic universities to closely adhere to the objectivity of the Faith. If you call yourself Catholic then act as a faithful Catholic who knows Jesus Christ and the Church.

In regard to the process of making an award and Father McShane’s role in this matter: as president of the university McShane makes the final decision on who is given a university honor. He is, however, ultimately responsible for what every school in the university does and says. This is just a suggestion but I hope Ashley would  read the New Testament, the oath of fidelity (which Father McShane took), Evangelium Vitae (1995) and Ex Corde Ecclesia (1990) says before she tries to parse out who does what when and why. The faith is not voted on in a court of public opinion; faith is truth. And here objective truth exists.

I counter, therefore, the giving of an ethics award to Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer by Fordham University Law School. Justice Breyer’s service to unborn children in the legal system is regrettable in every way because of his constant and influential work in favor of legalized abortion. I fail to see how Breyer “promotes the advancement of justice” when he advocates for abortion. Breyer’s smugness with moral evil is irreconcilable with the dignity of the human person, in this case with the unborn, and with the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church. Since Fordham University does not stand apart from neither Catholic theology nor the Church and therefore it ought not to honor those who advocate policies and laws that are contrary to human flourishing and Church teaching. Abortion is contrary to the eternal, divine, natural laws. The United States Catholic Bishops have said that people who hold positions that oppose Church teaching “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions” by Catholic universities.

Nowhere in my previous post on this blog or in any other media have I launched an ad hominem attack on the Justice. Further, I think one can only reasonably question and challenge one’s thinking and not trash the person’s character. Certainly Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer is a man of great intellect, an accomplished lawyer and acknowledged as a valuable Justice in this nation’s highest court. It would be unreasonable to argue to the contrary. In the context of Fordham the responsibility and duty to uphold Catholic teaching in all matters of life belongs to Society of Jesus to which Father McShane belongs as he is a solemnly professed Jesuit and an ordained Catholic priest, to Fordham University where the exercise of faith and reason is promoted and the Archdiocese of New York as the local magisterium.

In the 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart case the Justice said: “[B]efore ‘viability the woman has the right to choose to terminate her pregnancy.” Breyer wrote the Supreme Court’s majority opinion for the (a 5-4 decision), which overturned a Nebraska state law banning partial-birth abortion. Therefore, I assert that Breyer’s thinking is pro-abortion and not merely pro-choice.

Are partial-birth abortions medically necessary? No, never; no science would support this act. And the majority on the court recognized this fact. But Breyer voted against a Congressional ban on partial-birth abortion in Gonzalez v. Carhart, and the Supreme Court upheld that law, again by a 5-4 decision.

It seems to me that Fordham forfeits its mission as a place where faith and reason collaborate as a Catholic university by bestowing the Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize on Justice Breyer, or anyone else, who demonstrates contempt for Catholic teaching. I reiterate my earlier question: Is it time for Fordham University to disavow its Catholicity if it is going to honor public figures who advocate and/or support the right to choose abortion? The death of the vulnerable, the unborn child, even in the case of rape and the mother’s health, is tragic and should be avoided.

Bishops urge the formation of conscience according to Catholic teaching

The US Bishops issued a statement today explaining the need for us to form our conscience according the teaching of the Church. Our morality is not merely a set of rules but an adherence to a person, Jesus Christ. We are called to follow the witness of the bishops and in doing so we follow Jesus. Read the teaching here.

A Politician’s Promise: No Right to Life! No Freedom!

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli writes:


Arthur J Serratelli.jpg 

After committing a murder in Rome, the famous 17th century Italian painter Caravaggio went to Malta to avoid the death penalty. While there, the Great Master of the Order of the Knights of Malta commissioned him to do a painting for the chapel of the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valletta. Caravaggio chose as his theme the martyrdom of John the Baptist. He produced The Beheading of St. John, his largest work, the only one he ever signed. No doubt the scene touched him personally. 

 

Herod was married to Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John the Baptist preached against this sin, he incurred the hatred of Herod’s wife. The day her daughter Salome delighted Herod with her seductive dance, Herodias had her make Herod promise to kill John the Baptist. Within the severe architecture of a 16th century prison, Caravaggio vividly depicts the grisly moment when Herod kept his promise.

 

Caravaggio’s work, considered his greatest masterpiece, immortalizes the misguided fidelity of a ruler to his gruesome promise. With the stroke of the soldier’s sword, John dies and so does freedom. Freedom is based on the truth of the human person as created by God and protected by his law.

 

When a ruler can decide against God’s law, true freedom is sentenced to death.

 

Recently, a politician made a promise. Politicians usually do. If this politician fulfills his promise, not only will many of our freedoms as Americans be taken from us, but the innocent and vulnerable will spill their blood.

 

On April 18, 2007, in Gonzales v. Carhart, The Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. The very next day prominent Democratic members of Congress reintroduced the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). The bill is misleadingly packaged as a freedom bill. It is not! It is a clear act of unreasoned bias to end abruptly and brutally the debate on the pressing and fundamental moral issue of the right to life.

 

For thirty-five years, Americans have been wrestling with The Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade.  Most Americans now favor some kind of a ban on abortion. Most who allow abortion would do so only in very rare cases. In fact, in January, 2008, the Guttmacher Institute published its 14th census of abortion providers in the country. Its statistics showed that the abortion rate continues to decline. Abortions have reached their lowest level since 1974. There is truly a deep sensitivity to life in the soul of America. 

 

 The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would mortally wound this sensitivity. In effect, it would dismantle the freedom of choice to do all that is necessary to respect and protect human life at its most vulnerable stage. FOCA goes far beyond guaranteeing the right to an abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy. It arrogantly prohibits any law or policy interfering with that right. While advocates trumpet this law as the triumph of the freedom of choice, they hide the dark reality that the law would actually inhibit choice.

 

Laws protecting the rights of nurses, doctors and hospitals with moral objections to abortion would no longer stand. Health and safety regulations for abortion clinics would also vanish. Gone the freedom of health care professionals to be faithful to the Hippocratic Oath “to prescribe regimens for the good of…patients…and never do harm to anyone, to please no one [by prescribing] a deadly drug nor [by giving] advice which may cause his death.” Gone the freedom of conscience so essential for a civil society!

 

If a minority of avid abortionists succeed to impose this law because of the ignorance or apathy of the majority, the law would force taxpayers to fund abortions. Gone the freedom of taxation with representation!

 

In its 1992 Casey decision, The Supreme Court ruled as constitutional state laws requiring that women and young girls who seek an abortion receive information on the development of the child in the womb as well as alternatives to abortion. The ruling also determined that a period of waiting, usually 24 or 48 hours before making a decision about an abortion is not an undue burden. The Freedom of Choice Act would nullify these laws immediately. Gone the freedom of women and young girls to have all the information they need to make their own choices!

 

In about half of the States, there are parental notification or consent laws in effect for minors seeking an abortion. The Supreme Court has ruled that these laws are permitted under Roe v. Wade. With the stroke of a pen, these laws would be abolished. Gone the freedom of parents to care for and protect their children and grandchildren!

 

 Advocates of FOCA redefine a woman’s “health” so as to expressly permit post-viability abortions. Thus, a child who survives an abortion can be left to die for the health of the mother. No politically correct word can mask this reality for what it is. This is infanticide. Gone the freedom for a baby, once born, to live!

 

Science does not dispute that the child in the womb already has all the characteristics that he or she will develop after birth. Notwithstanding, abortionists obstinately refuse the right of the child within the womb to live as a fundamental human right. They are not happy that Americans have not swallowed their distorted propaganda that denies the dignity of the human person from the first moment of conception.

 

Pro-abortion advocates close their eyes to the fact that abortion even hurts women as it undermines the very fabric of our society. Their zeal for the Freedom of Choice Act sounds the alarm for decent Americans to wake up! The more the right to life is denied, the more we lose our freedoms. The “pro-choice” movement is not pro-choice. It stands against the freedom to choose what is right according to the truth of the human person.

 

In 2002, as an Illinois legislator, the present democratic candidate voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act. This law was meant to protect a baby that survived a late-term abortion. When the same legislation came up in the Judiciary Committee on which he served, he held to his opposition. First, he voted “present.” Next, he voted “no.”

 

Along with 108 members of Congress, the present democratic candidate for President continues his strong support for the Freedom of Choice Act. In a speech before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, he made the promise that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. What a choice for a new President!

 

At the time when Herod murdered John the Baptist because of his promise, Rome practiced the principle “one man, one vote.” Whoever the emperor in Rome placed in authority over a subject people, ruled. Today we live in a democracy. We choose our leaders who make our laws. Every vote counts. Today, either we choose to respect and protect life, especially the life of the child in the womb of the mother or we sanction the loss of our most basic freedoms. At this point, we are still free to choose!

 


AJ Serratelli.jpgThe Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli is the bishop of the Diocese of Patterson. He earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University, a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Biblical Institute and a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University.

 

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]yahoo.com.
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