TMU celebrates the 10 year anniversary of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel

Laura Keener, Editor

On the feast of St. Juan Diego, Dec. 9, Bishop John Iffert joined the Thomas More University community in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the dedication of its Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel. Father Raymond Enzweiler and Father Gerald Twaddell, both faculty members at TMU, concelebrated, with Deacon Brian Cox assisting. Thomas More University President Joseph Chillo and Divine Providence Sister Margaret Stallmeyer, former president that oversaw the building of the chapel, served as lectors.

In his homily Bishop Iffert tied together the feast of the day — St. Juan Diego; the solemnity of the day before — the Immaculate Conception and the evening’s Gospel read-ing of Jesus meeting the woman at the well (John 4:19–24), to encourage those present to have faith in the Lord as they build up the Church in the cultural challenges of today.

In the recounting of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bishop Iffert said, it may appear that Archbishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga had little faith when Juan Diego tells him that the Blessed Mother wants to build a church on the hill at Tepeyac. He wanted a sign.

“The truth is that the good bishop and his Franciscan brothers had been praying a long time for action on God’s part … they had come to know the situation of the indige-nous people of Mexico. They had come to know the devas-tation through the war and the introduction of disease. They had come to know the violence and plague that had led to the death of an estimated half of the indigenous pop-ulation. They had come to know that people, who were living in despair … The Christian religion was the religion of their oppressors and they were firmly determined to resist it.

“The good bishop needed a firm answer to his prayers. And so it came. Over the next months and years, millions of people came to see Our Lady of Guadalupe, who came with respect shown to the indigenous people and their culture … who served as a bridge to accept the gospel of Jesus; to know that this God, who they had learned of from foreigners who had brought disease, was also a God who loved them and respected them and had a future for them. Who helped them move from one way of life to another and to build up the temple of God.”

The woman at the well questions Jesus. Our people say you should worship on the mountain; your people say you should worship only in Jerusalem. So what’s your answer? Where do you think we should worship?

“Here’s what Christ comes to reveal to us, that there is a living water that bubbles up within us,” said Bishop Iffert. “That if we had known we would have asked for it from the beginning and the Holy Spirit would come and take up a dwelling in us … in our own being we would give good worship. Whenever that Spirit saw itself in another, greeted itself in another, accompany its own Spirit in another, wherever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name and the name of his Spirit, there will the Spirit be. Jesus says something new is happening right here in front of you.”

About the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Iffert said that from the moment of her conception, the Holy Spirit touched Mary and “she (Mary) had been prepared. She had received God’s grace because Christ gazed upon her from the very beginning. His loving gaze had changed and pre-pared her. Because of that, she was able to recognize something new that was promised, something that was being delivered into the world to be her salvation, and say, ‘yes. Yes, be it done to me according to your word.’ And the whole earth became a temple and she its tabernacle.”

Bishop Iffert said that we are also living in a time of cultural transition and that Catholic universities — priests, women religious, administrators, faculty and staff — are on the front lines of that change.

“We can no longer assume a shared cultural identity of Christ,” Bishop Iffert said. “We can no longer assume a shared knowledge of the Scriptures and tradition … we can no longer assume an intellectual tradition built from that wisdom and knowl-edge. There’s more diversity, less agreement.

“As a pastor of Christian people, I can’t help but notice that along with that loss of culture, along with that loss of the wisdom tradition, along with that shared knowledge, comes a growing sense of despair, a rise in rates of suicide, a sense of loss in direction … They’re (young people) not sure that their life is going to be as affluent as their parents life. They feel they’re bound to accomplish less, to have less, and since having is being in our culture, to be less. That leaves us wondering — like that good bishop to Juan Diego when he came with his tilma — how do we build the Church in this culture? How are we to facilitate true worship?”

“I’ll say to you, what we have witnessed in the life of Juan Diego, what we have witnessed in the life of the woman at the well, what we have witnessed in the life of Mary, herself, somehow, in some way that we may not see or recognize yet, God is working some new work in our midst. God is invoking that Spirit; that life-giving water dwells in our midst and he will raise up a living witness to the glory of God in a temple not made with human hands. That’s our confidence. That’s our faith, it is the virtue of Christian hope.” 

Image: Bishop John Iffert consecrates the Eucharist, assisted by Deacon Brian Cox. TMU faculty member, Father Gerald Twaddell (left) stands near. 

Diocese of Covington rings in the season with first diocesan Bambinelli blessing and Christmas tree blessing

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

On a cold Advent night, Dec. 10, families within the Diocese of Covington gathered at St. Mary’s Park, Cathedral Square, Covington, to witness the blessing and lighting of the diocesan Christmas tree, and to be a part of the diocese’s first ever Bambinelli blessing.

The Blessing of the Bambinelli was first introduced by St. John Paul II, and is still celebrated in Vatican City and around the world, especially in Europe. This tradition involves the blessing of figurines of the infant Jesus, or “Bambinellis,” commonly used in Nativity sets during the Christmas season.

Families in the diocese were encouraged to bring their Bambinellis from their home to be presented by them-selves or their children for Bishop Iffert to bless. During the blessing, Bishop Iffert prayed that the baby Jesus’s would be a sign of God’s “abiding presence and love” to all who attended.

In addition to this extra special blessing, youth choirs from diocesan schools including Covington Catholic High School, Covington Latin School and St. Augustine School, Covington, sang carols to accompany the event. Hot chocolate was served along with cookies baked by Curia staff.

The Christmas tree in St. Mary’s Park was also blessed by Bishop Iffert, who also would light up the tree for the first time this season. This tree is decorated with ornaments designed by various schools, organizations and parishes in the Diocese, and will remain in the park for the Christmas season.

At the event, Bishop Iffert emphasized the importance of comradery and coming together as a diocese. “Back in September, we had a gathering here in the park and a nice picnic celebration. We said, we want to get together more as a Church and have these kinds of events and be together, especially this place here at St. Mary’s Park.” 

Image: Bishop Iffert blesses a young boy’s Bambinelli, sprinkling it with Holy Water. (Photo by Cecilia Baker)

How to answer pro-choice arguments: Part 3 — Hard cases

By: Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer.

This is the conclusion of a three-part series about a simple strategy that can help make difficult conversations about abortion a little easier. The strategy is centered on asking one simple question: “If you were convinced that the unborn child is a human life, would you still support abortion?”

In Part 1, we explored how to converse about the science of fetal development. In Part 2, we outlined how to speak about the legal and philosophical concept of personhood. In this article, we address how to engage people who support their pro-choice position by citing certain “hard cases” like extreme poverty, rape or the endangerment of the mother’s life.

Many abortion proponents contend that a baby places too great a burden on mothers living in extreme poverty. A woman should not be “forced” to have a baby under these circumstances. The mother “needs” the abortion to survive.

One approach to this topic is what pro-life apologist Trent Horn calls TOAT: “trot out a toddler.” This technique demonstrates the illogic of the pro-choice argument by applying that illogic to a toddler, rather than to an unborn child.

In this case you could say, “I agree with you that many women find themselves pregnant in very difficult circumstances. In fact, many women are parenting in poverty. I think society has a duty to help these parents and children. But do you think that if the parents of a toddler do not have the financial resources to take care of their child they should be able to terminate that child’s life?”

The answer, of course, is no. You can then ask, “What is the difference between an unborn baby and a toddler?” The person will most likely point to an arbitrary distinction in size, development, location or degree of independence, and you can highlight the problems with those distinctions, as explained in Part 2.

Another method would be to cite the long-held principle from criminal law that necessity is not a defense to murder. Queen vs. Dudley and Stephens (1884), a classic case taught in law schools to illustrate this principle, concerns sailors lost at sea who cannibalized their cabin boy to stay alive. When rescued, they defended their misdeed as “necessary.” However, they were tried and convicted of murder. The key holding from the court was that one person’s subjective “need” can not negate another person’s objective, inherent and unchanging right to life.

Roe v Wade inexplicably departed from this principle by ignoring the personhood of the unborn (see Part 2). Politely invite your listener to consider whether the mother’s subjective needs are truly a valid reason to override the objective personhood rights of an innocent unborn child and validate ending her child’s life.

Another difficult objection concerns rape and incest. An essential starting point for discussion of this issue is sincere empathy for the wronged women involved and recognition of the horrific nature of the crimes committed against them.

After acknowledging this reality, you could explain that, in the immediate aftermath of rape, it is morally permissible in Catholic teaching to try to avoid pregnancy through the use of high dose progestin. A woman can (and should) go to a hospital after she is assaulted. As part of her exam, doctors can determine whether or not the woman has recently ovulated. If she has not ovulated (and therefore pregnancy is not yet possible), this hormone can be given to suppress ovulation in order to avoid pregnancy.

Nevertheless, there are some instances when rape or incest produces pregnancy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 1.5 percent of abortions each year is sought due to rape or incest. Notice that this is a very small percentage and it is highly questionable to legitimize all elective abortions in the name of the small number of abortions sought for these difficult reasons.

In addressing these instances, it may be helpful to first point out that nothing can undo the violence committed against these women. An abortion cannot erase the crime.

Second, you could ask: “If your father committed a violent crime, would it be permissible to punish you for his crime with the death penalty?” This would, of course, be completely unjust, which is the point: The question highlights the injustice of aborting the innocent child conceived in rape or incest.

The circumstances of a child’s conception do not alter the fact that he or she is a human being. As Trent Horn puts it, “Rape is a horrifying evil, but should our answer to the evil of rape be to commit further evil against an innocent person?”

Finally, let’s address cases in which abortion is sought to safeguard the life of the mother. First, you can note that cases in which a mother’s life is truly at risk are extremely rare.

Second, you can point out that, even when the mother’s life is at risk, there are still two patients present, both of whom are entitled to the highest standard of medical care. The Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” applies to both. The physician should render every effort to preserve the life of each patient, and should never intentionally end the child’s life to protect the mother’s life.

Third, you can acknowledge that in certain instances it is morally permissible to allow the termination of the unborn child’s life, but only if that result is an unintended effect of administering life-saving treatment to the mother — also known as the principle of Double Effect.

In sum, there are many ways to discuss “hard cases” with an abortion proponent — ways that express empathy without sacrificing reason, logic or moral principle. While it is useful to have an answer to these tough questions ready at hand, it is important not to allow them to distract us from the fundamental question in the abortion debate, namely, “Who are the unborn?” Always direct the conversation back to that question, because the correct answer — living human beings with the inviolable rights of personhood — is the linchpin to the entire topic and the key to a persuasive defense of the right to life

Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer is an instructor of Theology at Thomas More University. She and her family are members of St. Pius X Parish, Edgewood.

The principle of Double Effect

The doctrine of “double effect” is rooted in the fundamental moral principle that one can never intentionally choose evil in order to try to achieve good. However, a person can choose a good action that has a bad effect if three factors are met:

(1) the person does not directly will (i.e. “intend”) the bad effect;

(2) the bad effect is not the direct means to the good achieved;

(3) the good achieved is proportionate to the bad effect.

For example, if a pregnant woman is dying of uterine cancer, a doctor could remove her cancerous uterus even if the unintended side effect is the death of the child. The chosen act (removing the diseased organ) is good; the bad effect (the death of the child) does not directly lead to the good effect (mother’s life saved); and the good achieved (a life saved) is proportionate to the bad effect (a life lost).