A Dissent on Gorsuch: Life Above Text

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By: Nicolo Orozco

This post was taken from the GU Right to Life blog with permission of the author, published on 24th April 2017. It has been adapted to for the purposes of this blog. 

On Thursday, April 20th, Arkansas state officials carried out the first of a series of eight planned executions. The officials were able to administer the lethal cocktail of drugs to Ledell Lee after a lengthy legal process, culminating in a 5-4 vote of approval from the Supreme Court of the United States. Fortunately, for various reasons, four of these condemned men received stays of execution. Regardless, the state has already killed one man, and three men’s deaths remain scheduled. Regrettably, less than two weeks prior to the state-sponsored murder of Mr. Lee, “pro-life” organizations and advocates were lauding the confirmation of Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, a supposedly “pro-life” candidate. On Thursday, however, upon news of Gorsuch condoning Lee’s murder with his first Supreme Court vote, these same organizations and self-proclaimed advocates remained silent.

A truly pro-life ethic entails protecting all lives, no matter race or creed, from conception to natural-death. Capital punishment, by its very definition, conflicts with our ethical stance. By limiting the pro-life movement to a single political party that does not fully align with pro-life values, pro-life individuals are setting themselves up for failure. Pro-life values cannot be a partisan choice, but must be adopted as a universal truth to have complete success. Whether a Democrat, a Republican, or even a member of the United States Pirate Party, it is the duty of anyone who identifies as pro-life to be willing to step beyond party lines and condemn the blatantly anti-life actions of Neil Gorsuch as such.

Gorsuch’s selective disregard for life, while evident in prior court rulings, has truly been exemplified in giving his blessing to Lee’s execution. Lee, while a convicted murderer, had the same right to life that all humans have. Not only was his execution a crime, but the conviction and imprisonment of Lee were also crimes in and of themselves. He was originally convicted by a judge who was having an affair with the prosecutor. Furthermore, his appeal for a stay had strong foundations. Lee argued that he had an unfair trial after his public defender represented him while drunk and failed to introduce his diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as evidence. Such accusations of ineffective council and disability are usually more than enough to warrant more time and closer state attention.

Despite the strong grounds for appeal, however, Gorsuch voted to end the stay of execution, permitting Arkansas to continue with Lee’s murder. The same man who has said that, “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong,” used his first vote as a member of the US Supreme Court to end the life of a man with an intellectual disability. It is the responsibility and moral obligation of any pro-life advocate who pushed for Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court to chastise his actions and commit him or herself to bettering his or her understanding of life issues. How, we would ask Justice Gorsuch, does a state taking a life differ from a “private person” taking a life in its immorality?

One does not need to examine Justice Gorsuch too closely before his pro-life facade begins to crumble. Gorsuch has always made clear his willingness to rule in favor of the letter of the law over the spirit of mercy both in his actions and in his words. For example, in the well-publicized case of TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board, Gorsuch once ruled that a truck-driver who was fired for abandoning a broken trailer to drive his unheated truck out of sub-zero, life-threatening conditions was rightfully fired for doing so. He saved himself by fleeing hypothermic conditions for the relative safe-haven of a heated gas station, but was later fired for abandoning his broken-down truck to save himself.  In a meticulously written opinion, Gorsuch explained that the text of the law did not specifically protect the truck-driver, and while the driver may have had reason to save himself, he did not have any legal protection. Of seven judges to hear the case, Gorsuch was the only one to rule against the truck driver. In this case, among others, he exemplified his belief that his interpretations of the letter of the law are more important than the sanctity of life he proclaims to believe in.

Gorsuch was advocated for as a pro-life candidate because of the strong, yet inaccurate, bonding of the pro-life label along party lines and the conflation of abortion as the only pro-life issue. Even if one views Gorsuch as an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice, Gorsuch’s writings and statements have made clear that even if he rules against abortion, he will only be doing so because of the text of the law and not on moral grounds. Gorsuch has said that part of being a good judge is “coming in and taking precedent as it stands. And your personal views about the precedent have absolutely nothing to do with the good job of a judge.” When specifically questioned about Roe v. Wade Gorsuch said, “[a good judge] stays with precedent, and does not try to reinvent the wheel.” Moreover, the repeated conflation of the pro-life movement and the Republican Party is a hasty generalization, which only stifles dialogue and further polarizes American politics. As a Knight of Columbus who believes in the universal sanctity of all human life, I see Neil Gorsuch as all Catholics should: an obstacle and a threat to life.

The original article can be found at this link .


From The Hoya: Building a Better City

Originally published on 7th April 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, is published every other Friday.

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Image Credits: Paul Luke Keh

By: Hunter Estes

Washington, D.C., has been my home for more than just my time at Georgetown. I moved here when I was 12, after my dad was transferred to the Pentagon, and I have loved this city ever since. Having lived here for a few more years than most, I feel that I have a more complete view of D.C., one that includes much beauty, but also much struggle.

When I first moved to the nation’s capital, I was awestruck by the monuments and the statues and reveled in the symbols of liberty, freedom and tradition that stood throughout the city. Unfortunately, I think the magic of this city can often cover up some of its deeper faults.

I have come to see the deeply entrenched poverty that consumes one in five D.C. residents. I saw one of the fastest-growing homeless populations in the United States, with a 34.1 percent growth in the past six years. I saw monuments rising into the sky, but at the same time saw high school graduation rates remain as low as 42 percent. I witnessed the enduring legacies of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but also noticed rising crime rates becoming legacies of their own.

At Georgetown, we often talk about the wonderful ways we can interact and engage with the city. We hike through the District with friends in an attempt to “break the bubble,” on a constant search for new, hip places and events to try, rooms to escape and art galleries to appreciate. The fact is that D.C. has plenty to offer, and could easily keep somebody excited for four years, especially with school to occupy most of the time.

Yet, our city, in many ways, is splitting apart. In some places, new businesses flourish and real estate prices are booming. In others, infrastructure is crumbling, and schools are failing. We, at Georgetown, have the opportunity to either isolate ourselves or become an integral part of the rebuilding of D.C. As members of this community, we have a duty to invest more than what we get out of the District. We are called on to be a part of the solution.

The first step to helping the city is active reflection. Only then can we truly start to both appreciate the greatness and recognize the failings of our city. If Georgetown is to play a role in the revitalization of Washington D.C., then we should do so in a uniquely Georgetown way: a uniquely Jesuit, uniquely Catholic way. Jesuits take part in the daily Examen, in which they think back through their day and look on how they succeeded and how they failed. Reflection is rooted in our history, and I believe we should begin this process by reflecting on where we have succeeded and failed as a school.
Many of our failures stem from lack of awareness, and the only way we can help is by being informed. We can change this in small ways, through town halls and forums, bringing in speakers to talk about local issues. So often, we focus our attention on national and international affairs, but if we want to change the world, the easiest place to start is in our own backyard. People are left without homes just outside the front gates, and too often even Georgetown food banks are short on both food and volunteers.

But we have also succeeded in many ways. I believe we need to build upon the success of groups that engage with the city more tangibly. By tutoring children and volunteering in food shelters, we can help make immediate change.

How much has been accomplished if, at the end of four years, all that we have gained is a series of letter grades from classes? There is so much more to our education on the Hilltop. We are called to a higher sense of service, to not only take from this city, but to give. By increasing our school’s integration with the community we can have an immense effect on D.C.’s future. We can help this city change, and we are called to as Hoyas.


“Lord, who is my Neighbor?”: A perspective on Charity

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By: Paul Luke Keh

“Those whom the world rejects must move you the most!”

– St. Louis de Montfort

In this period of Lent, Catholics all over the world are called to engage in fasting, penance and charity, in our preparation for the passion of our Lord on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Since previous blog posts this Lent have spoken of fasting and penance, I write today to share my perspective on charity and works of mercy as Catholics.

The Catholic church has long emphasized an option for the poor, and as Christians we are called to be present and to give to the less fortunate. Pope Francis has repeatedly called us to serve the poor and to always keep them in our prayers in his message:

“Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.”

– Pope Francis, Evagelii Gaudium, 187

I have no doubt that we all feel a strong connection to helping the poor, and indeed the Knights of Columbus in Georgetown have been very active in our efforts to be present to those who are poor in our midst. We are called to respond to Jesus’s message

“… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

-Matthew 24:35-36 (NRSV)

But I feel that Christian charity and works of mercy means so much more than just giving to the poor and those in poverty.

To me, it means being there for those whom the world reject, in every sense of the word: it means being there for people suffering from drug addiction, to stand with undocumented migrants. It means being present to those who come from broken families and relationships, to be with refugees and religious minorities, to be willing to stand up for those that society frowns upon even if that means that we are judged by others for doing so.

Modern society has sometimes made it easy to judge a person’s worth by their economic potential, by their ability to contribute, by the amount of “right” they have done in their lives. But everyone has done wrong in their lives, and no one has any say in conditions of their birth: to despise them for what they have done or who they are is to reject Jesus and the message He gave us, for He said:

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

– Matthew 24:40

Somebody once told me to picture the scene in your life that you are most ashamed of, one that you don’t want to remember, and now imagine that that scene is now the only one that people talk to you about. That is what it feels like to be rejected by society, to be despised for the things you did, or for who you are. While the Church recognises that some things are sinful, and that some things must never be permitted, we should also remind ourselves that we reject the sin, not the sinner.

Charity and works of mercy should always be our first response to those whom the world rejects, not condemnation, so that through us the world may see the saving power of God. St Francis of Assisi is known to have instructed others to “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” This, to me, is the most powerful form of evangelisation.

This period of Lent is a time for introspection and preparation. Let us pray for the courage to give of ourselves to those who need our help most, and to have the humility to ask the Lord, who is my neighbor?

“… Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

– Luke 10:36-37

From The Hoya: Our Essential Suffering

Originally published on 24th March 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, is published every other Friday.

Image Credits: Pexels.com

By: Jack Segelstein

The first day of Lent is perhaps the busiest day of the year for Dahlgren Chapel. Far more Hoyas come to Mass on Ash Wednesday than attend weekly Sunday service, even though only the latter is morally obligated by the Catholic Church.

There are two ways to view this discrepancy. The first is with cynicism. People on campus and around the world come to Ash Wednesday mass because they “get something.” They receive a mark that distinguishes them as dutiful believers like voters sporting buttons on Election Day.

I am in no position to say whether this is true or to what extent it motivates Georgetown students. If it were true, however, it would smack of more than a little irony. The ashes are first and foremost a mark of penitence. They remind us of our sinfulness and mortality, which we are meant to remember throughout Lent.

It is not a “happy” day like Easter and Christmas, but one of solemnity, mortification and sorrow. Christians are spiritually called to walk and suffer with Christ as we remember his 40 days of fasting in the desert to prepare for the temptations of the devil and ultimately his death and resurrection.

My second perspective is hopeful, not cynical. Scores of Hoyas attend Ash Wednesday Mass because they are each responding with empathy and humility to the memory of Christ’s suffering. Thes ashes serve as a source of shame, not pride or ostentation.

But why the shame? For many, Lent is the epitome of Christianity’s ostensibly austere deprecation of humanity. It is often said that the Christian life is fundamentally one of guilt, tragedy and postponement until “eternal life” begins.

If I felt this to be true, I would not be Catholic. G.K. Chesterton, the 20th century Christian apologist, held that the natural — and most mysterious — state of the human person is joy. He felt Christianity better recognized this fundamental claim about humanity than did any other faith or philosophy.

Food tastes better when you are hungry. Assuming we have food available to us, we only allow ourselves to get hungry when we restrain ourselves and exercise discipline. Despite the “suffering” that is hunger, we are more fully rewarded for it when we get around to a meal.

This is, more or less, the logic of Lenten fasting, save for one crucial piece. Christianity shows us that hunger itself has intrinsic value, something that has nothing to do with later consuming food. The same applies to all suffering. In fact, all suffering entails a sort of joy.

I do not expect most of you to buy this. I was a recent convert to Catholicism when this principle — sometimes called the neighborhood of joy and pain — was first explained to me, and I was actually offended by it. I thought it perversely misunderstood the often-unutterable suffering in the world.

However, if you distill Christ’s life to one essential act,  he elected to suffer on the cross to save us. Yes, it was Christ’s destiny to die on the cross, but he exercised real, utterly human discipline in submitting to his captors and enduring each nail.

We are, then, profoundly Christ-like when we suffer. Further, we have the opportunity to offer our suffering for him precisely as he did for us. Far from perverting human suffering, Christ’s suffering allows it to be redemptive.

Perhaps some people object to my locating Christ’s essential action in suffering instead of love. But surely they are not mutually exclusive. Love is giving oneself over to another — it entails sacrifice and requires suffering. Indeed, there has never been a greater act of love in all of human history than Christ’s suffering on the cross.

While it is true that fasting — and its accompanying suffering — helps purge us of our sin, it does much more. It allows us to more fully love God and one another, thereby more closely resembling Christ. We wear the ashes in shame precisely so we have less reason to be ashamed

To all those observing Lent, suffer. Not mindlessly or masochistically, but lovingly. Call to mind your mortality and sinfulness, but remember how they make God’s love and suffering for us all the more remarkable. For this, rejoice.

Video: Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life

Once again, the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus was a main sponsor of the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life this year. The Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life is the country’s largest student run pro-life conference, and we are proud to say that many of our Knights have been involved in the planning and hosting of the conference this year. Do take some time to check out the video!

Guest Post: Hearing the Divine Call by Max Bindernagel

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By: Max Bindernagel,  Chaplain in Residence in Georgetown University

“Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3. 10 (NRSV)

Today, “discernment” is as popular a spiritual topic as any, and there seems to be a great interest, especially among young people, about how one can be best attentive to the voice of God.  Unfortunately, for many this tends to take the form of an “existential crisis” in one’s life.  People searching for God’s will torture themselves over the many questions (often good, legitimate ones) which accompany this search: What does God want from me?  When will he let me know?  How can I hear him?  Out of a genuine concern for doing God’s will and following the promptings he inspires in one’s heart, this search easily becomes fraught with all kinds of needless anxiety.

A helpful corrective comes from Bl. John Henry Newman, the 19th century English theologian, convert, and cardinal.  In his homily “Divine Calls,” Newman comments on the many examples of God’s call as seen in Scripture, especially the call of Samuel.  The common theme among the many instances in which God prompts various men and women to do his will lies in the response: “prompt obedience.”  Like Samuel, who, once he knew Whom he was hearing, obeyed and listened attentively, so too we ought to eagerly and quickly obey the promptings of God in our own heart.  There is something childlike in the trust that this requires; if we know and trust that God has our good in mind, what reason do we have to be anxious?

But how do we hear that voice in the first place?  Newman was not satisfied with those who said that God’s call has already been answered by us when we were baptized, and who say that it therefore remains “not a thing future with us, but a thing past.” On the contrary, God is constantly at work in our lives, and our labor is to respond consistently to his ever-deeper call to holiness.

In the daily trials of life, often “indefinite and obscure,” “sudden and unexpected,” we answer God’s call by obeying him.   We learn something new which we know to be true but which we find difficult to accept; and we follow God’s will by accepting it rather than fighting it.  We deal the loss of a loved one, and through much grieving and pain we come see that God alone endures; and in this we follow God’s will.  We are challenged by a situation in which we must choose to stand by our faith or to abandon it; and in remaining steadfast, we follow God’s will.

For those who make a regular practice of this prompt obedience, the “bigger questions” about discerning one’s vocation will be shown with greater clarity.  When we follow God’s inspirations in the small things in life with greater ease (in the circumstances of life, in our conscience, in studying our faith), we develop a deeper attentiveness to God’s greater plan for our lives.  This work of answering the Divine Call is one of mutual trust, where our freedom and his are totally intertwined.  As Newman puts it:

“This is a call to higher things; let us beware lest we receive the grace of God in vain. Let us beware of lapsing back; let us avoid temptation. Let us strive by quietness and caution to cherish the feeble flame, and shelter it from the storms of this world. God may be bringing us into a higher world of religious truth; let us work with Him.”

This essay was written with reference to a homily by Bl.  John Henry Newman. 


The Truth about the Ashes

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

 By: Board of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus

This Wednesday, March 1, a curious sight will return to Georgetown’s campus as many, young and old, walk their daily routes with crosses of ashes marked across their foreheads.

To the outside observer, this occurrence might seem a bit odd, but to a Roman Catholic, the practice presents a different meaning, denoting that Ash Wednesday has arrived, and with it, the season of Lent leading to the Easter holiday.

Look below to find answers to important questions about Ash Wednesday presented by the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus.

Do you have to go to mass?

The first question that might arise for a Catholic on Ash Wednesday might be: “Is this a holy day of obligation?”

The answer to that question is no, however, it is recommended that one make an effort to attend a mass on this day, and receive their ashes.

On campus, traditional masses with a distribution of ashes will be held in Dahlgren Chapel at 12:10 p.m., 5:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. with an ecumenical service also featuring a distribution of ashes offered at 7:30 p.m.

Just off campus, the Holy Trinity Catholic Church will host Ash Wednesday masses at 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

What do the ashes mean?

In the simplest terms, the ashes distributed at the start of Lent are marks of repentance. They are an acknowledgement of the frailty, or the imperfection of all Catholics as human beings.

In recognizing the faults symbolized in the ashes, Catholics are meant to re-affirm their connection to God. Catholics then strengthen this bond throughout Lent when they fast, or alternately, make an effort to do good works for others.

Where do the ashes come from?

According to some sources, the Ash Wednesday holiday harkens back to an ancient practice of repentance seen as early as the story of Jonah and the people of the sinful city of Nineveh.

Upon hearing that God would destroy Nineveh in 40 days if they did not change their ways, the Ninevites “great and small” began fasting, wore sackcloth, and even their king “covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.”

Early Christian communities adopted the practice of outwardly marking repentance with ashes, with the ritual appearing in the Roman Missal—the book which guides priests through the rites of the mass—as early as the eighth century, or the 700s A.D.

The ancient practice has been observed into the modern day, with one parish in Galway, Ireland, this year instituting a drive-thru service for its busy and mobile population.

“It’s about meeting people where they are,” Fr. Paddy Mooney, the priest of the parish told The Irish Catholic, a local Catholic media outlet. “We’re just putting [the initiative] in front of people to help them think of Lent, as a reminder of it.”

But what is the truth about the ashes?

The truth about the ashes is that they arise from a tradition over 2,000 years old—they serve to connect Catholics to past generations of believers, even as the Catholics wearing them today seek to bring themselves closer to God.