A Dissent on Gorsuch: Life Above Text

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Image credits: Pexel.com

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 .

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!

God and the Humanities

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Image Credits: Pexels.com

By: Jack Segelstein

The humanities, ironically, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “secular letters as opposed to theology.” The field spans Latin, literature, philosophy, history, and music to name a few of its disciplines, and comprised the core of medieval Western education along with math and science.

Despite its storied history, many today feel the humanities are dying. Universities are becoming increasingly pre-professional, and students are electing to major in STEM fields or begin pursuing their careers in finance and consulting at the undergraduate level. This decline is well documented and need not be belabored here. Many, too, have engaged in a theoretical defense of the humanities. Some of these have happened to be the greatest human minds the tradition ever produced, so my best efforts would surely come in vain. For the sake of originality, I will turn to something else.

Thomas Hardy, the great 19th century novelist and 20th century poet, was by most accounts an agnostic. He seldom wrote about God or religion, but he not infrequently treated questions of faith and the supernatural. In his poem “The Darkling Thrush,” a speaker—in all likelihood Hardy himself—stands alone in a wood made desolate by frost and wind. He is, then, surprised to hear “a full-hearted evensong of joy illimited.” Inexplicably, it came from “an aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small.” There was no “cause for carolings” the speaker could discern in the wood, causing him to wonder if “there trembled through/ His happy good-night air/ Some blessed hope, whereof he knew/ And I was unaware.”

It strikes me that this is the highest end of the humanities: to help us perceive and cherish the blessed hope of Christ in all human experience. Aristotle said the purpose of art is to imitate the truth of nature. Happily, God created nature. The act of creation necessarily imbued the natural world with God’s own mystery and beauty. Thus, the truth we find in nature and imitate in art is a very real representation of divine truth, not unlike the fruit of theology.

Hardy wrote a poem not because he heard a bird sing, but because Hope “trembled through” the frosted air he breathed. Through the humanities, may we become, like Hardy, more attuned to the abounding hope, truth, and beauty of this world.

From The Hoya: To Love and Be Loved

Originally published on 10th February 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: Pixabay.com

By: Mitchell Tu

With Valentine’s Day approaching, perhaps now is a good time to give the men of Georgetown some advice for their dates.

Since it is Saint Valentine’s Day, I do not know anywhere better to turn than the great source of knowledge that is the Catholic Church — after all, as Pope Benedict said, to be a Catholic is “to live, to love and to be loved.”

First things first, gentlemen: Make sure you listen to your date. Although midterms are coming up and your mind might be preoccupied with this terrible season of Georgetown basketball, all of that should take a back seat on Valentine’s Day. When you listen, what you are doing is communicating through your actions that you care about your date.

“But,” quite a few male friends of mine have interjected, “isn’t it obvious I care about her? Why does she get annoyed when I zone out for a couple of minutes or check my phone when I’m with her?” Here, Catholic thought would reply that every one of your actions demonstrates an ordering — that is, your actions align with your broader priorities.

Demonstrating that you are prioritizing your significant other is not enough, however. It might get you through the first date and the early part of your relationship, but it will not make you or your romantic partner sustainably happy. So what does long-term happiness require? Again, when it comes to romance, the church would point out that what people really want is to love and be loved. Caring about someone or “loving” someone, as we commonly understand it, is only one piece of the puzzle.

Loving is more than telling someone you love them and care about them. True love requires vulnerability and intimacy. Can you be there when your partner has a problem or is going through a hard time? In my experience, this is usually not the hardest part for men.

Being loved is the oft-forgotten corollary to loving, but it is just as important. You will never be able to have an enduring relationship if you do not allow your partner to love you fully, because you will always be holding back.

This is the nugget of wisdom the Catholic Church has stumbled upon. Every strong relationship, romantic or otherwise, requires both people to love and to be loved. It is impossible to complete one component successfully without also fulfilling the other.

But, if you do let yourself be loved and you love your significant other in return, then what comes next in the mind of the church? Well, one would expect that the relationship would “overflow,” which means its love and joy would benefit everything and everyone around you, including family, friends and even strangers.

In other words, “love will change the world.” Who said theology cannot be romantic? After all, for Catholics, all human romance really points to the greatest love of all: God’s love for us. Everything required for deeply loving your significant other — listening, intimacy, vulnerability, willingness to love the other and allowing oneself to be loved — is precisely the same as that which God calls us to embody in our relationship with Him.

This Valentine’s Day, may all relationships here at Georgetown be glorified by the light of God’s love, and may that love overflow into our entire community so as to promote its welfare and secure its happiness.

From the GK’s Desk: State of the Council 2016

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Image credit: curmudgucation.blogspot.com

Dear Brother Knights and Those of Good Will,

The Spring and Fall semesters of 2016 had the potential to be a really harmful period for our council. We lost the Knights’ House, the keystone of our council for over a decade. The beloved Class of 2016 graduated, leaving an indelible scar in our council’s culture. We had financial issues. Some of our most revered events had to be axed due to logistical hurdles. Innovative ideas proposed failed to materialize.

Yet, somehow, we prevailed. We thrived off of these challenges. Our council reached new heights. In this report, I will address some of our best moments under my term as Grand Knight.

First and foremost, our council reclaimed its national recognition by winning the Double Star Council Award, the most prestigious award that the Knights of Columbus offer. It embodies the success of our service, our recruitment, and our fraternity.

In the Fall of 2016, Council 6375 had its most successful recruiting drive in our 44 year history. We brought in 31 well-qualified men into our order. The previous record was 21. Some of our new Brother Knights became the backbone to new initiatives like the Billy Goat Trail hike and Card Making for Hospitalized Kids.

The Georgetown Knights introduced a number of new initiatives this year, including Interfaith Weeks. Interfaith Weeks was one of the few student-led event series that dove deeper into inter-religious understanding. We hosted a dinner which posed the question, “What does each of our faiths demand of us beyond simply being good people?” Members of the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Protestant, and Mormon communities were a part of the dinner and conversation. Interfaith Weeks was marked by interfaith service projects as well. Hopefully, this contributed to Georgetown University winning the White House’s Interfaith Community Service Award this fall.

As Grand Knight, I declared the fall semester’s motto as “A Council for Knights, a Council for Georgetown”. In light of this, our council took a more active role in the Georgetown community. In both respective semesters, we hosted BBQ fundraisers welcome to the whole community. These well-attended events not only fostered new and old friendships, but we raised several hundred dollars for a Jesuit high school in Soweto, South Africa. We plan to strengthen our ties with this high school even more. Our council even co-sponsored SigEp’s annual 5k Against Domestic Violence. Besides SigEp, our council had the largest turnout, and some of the best run times!

The blog used to be a running joke in our council. Every election, a sizable portion of the council would call for it to be in the ash heaps of the internet. Luckily, this request was denied. Over the past year, we have seen readership numbers explode. It has served as a unique forum for a number of faith-based topics, some of which include finding God in physics, the Catholic response to the Syrian Civil War, and a well-debated piece about the legacy of Christopher Columbus. The blog even featured its first original video, a news clip about our weekly Spiritual Discussions and Dinners.

Council 6375 also expanded its media presence through the Georgetown Voice. In the spring of 2016, our application for a bi-weekly column was accepted. Through this platform, we were able to give a voice to a number of different Catholic topics, including the Cecile Richards lecture, the importance of retreats, and the 2016 presidential election through the eyes of prudence.

As stated earlier, the Knights lost our historic home only two blocks from the front gates of Georgetown. Yet, the council realized that it was our responsibility to preserve the history of this landmark home. Therefore, we processed over 100 items within the home, like the original 1972 charter, original copies of famous Columbia magazines, and a framed photo of Father Fields eating a slice of cake. All items were given a detailed description, and each one has found a home until a new house is established.

On that note, the Knights will regain a house next year in Burleith. This house will be far more sustainable option for future senior knights, considering its size and price. In addition, the Knights will be “Adopting the (very) Block” in which the house will sit on through the DC city government, leaving us with a new service project and some free advertisement.

The Knights have also continued a number of our most important events: the McGivney Lecture, House Masses, 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration, pro-life events, Lenten Pasta Dinners and of course Grate Patrol. Each of these events had increased turnout than previous years.

As you may know, Campus Ministry is arguably the most important element of Georgetown’s culture. Therefore, the Knights sought a more active role on the administrative side of Campus Ministry. One of our former board members became the President of the Campus Ministry Forum, the advisory council and primary organizing body for Campus Ministry student organizations.

Finally, I would like to highlight a once under-looked and under-valued aspect of our council: athletic ability. When I was a freshman, the IM basketball team had won a single game. It was by default because the other team did not show up. Allegedly, that was our most-winning team in years. Luckily, times have changed. Last year, our team made it all of the way to the semi-finals, before losing to the team who the championship. This year, we hope to finally win it all.

All of these achievements could not have been accomplished without a committed board and brother knights who care about their faith at Georgetown. New events and cool trophies are exciting, even encouraging, but they do not represent my original goal for the council since becoming Grand Knight. As a freshman, I made by best friends and my best memories through the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus Council. If one new Knight could say the same thing, then this year was a success.

Vivat Jesus,

Max Wolfgang Rosner

Grand Knight

COL ‘18

How Faith Fights Climate Change

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Image credit: climate.nasa.gov

By: Charles Johnson

I was only 13 years old when it happened.

The pictures of the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig aflame were horrifying in and of themselves, but the aftermath was even more atrocious. The devastation to my home state of Louisiana in terms of jobs lost and lives ruined had lasting implications that for many still exist to this day. In such trying times, people had only their faith and each other to rely on.

However, the scene in my own community of humankind devastating the world God has made was to be replayed time and time again in the following years. Indeed, so much so that it would eventually attract the attention of the Pontiff himself.

Pope Francis’ unprecedented encyclical Laudato si had worldwide reverberations when it was released in 2015. The document articulated how our Catholic faith compels us to care for the world that we must all share.

In essence, the Pope describes the impossibility of simultaneously recognizing the fact that we are all human beings made in the image of our Creator while holding apathy towards the world that sustains us. A world, he notes, in which the ill effects of our disregard for the planet do not fall equally—harming the poor most of all.

Bangladeshi people, for instance, have been forced to flee their homes due to rising sea levels. Likewise, families in Latin America barrios have their homes annihilated by storms of unrecorded and increasing intensity. The children, also, in every corner of the globe now have uncertain futures because of the damaging practices of today.

Given these indictations, one might believe the encyclical a rather somber document indeed.

But one need not lose hope.

After all, as the history of the Catholic Church has shown through the remarkable and devout people it commemorates, it doesn’t take many individuals to bring about positive change for millions.

Yet all the same, this hope that a few passionate individuals will help lead us toward success on the front of taking care of our world should not compel us to be apathetic.

Rather, Pope Francis proposes certain actions that we can take in our daily lives to mitigate this massive issue. Namely, we can each personally reject a throwaway culture—the ethos of our age that is wasteful and consumerist.

If we are simply content with what we have in this life, Pope Francis surmises, and are dedicated to focusing on the next life, then the desire for more things will recede, along with the pollution that it produces.

Basically, Pope Francis urges us, then, to recognize what is truly important in life—not the objects we possess, but our impact on the lives of our fellow human beings and on the world around us.

In sum, to be people of faith, according to Pope Francis, we must be caretakers of both the planet and our fellow man.

In the process, we can indeed use our faith to fight climate change.

Love in the Time of Trump

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Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. / Image credit: goodjesuitbadjesuit.blogspot.com

“God’s own dream come true for us that we be one, just happens

to be our own deepest longing for ourselves.”

– Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J.

By: Jared Ison

In the wake of one of the most divisive and emotional weeks in our country’s recent memory, I sat down to write a blog that encompassed my thoughts on the election and what it meant for our nation. Ultimately, it was not a robust policy paper or a historical precedent but rather the chance to hear Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit who works with former gang members in Los Angeles, that gave words to my thoughts.

We are afraid as a nation, and this fear and demonization on both sides only leads to more division and hate. The truth of Father Boyle’s above statement that we long to be one is often obscured by the complexity of our daily lives, but we all strive for this same sense of purpose and kinship in our lives. We are called to be present to the lives of all those around us, and to show them that they are worthy of our love.

Anyone who seeks to divide or discredit the experience of another person is denying that person the most basic form of dignity, especially when that denial manifests itself as a nationwide movement that seeks to reject inclusion for a false sense of security. While I certainly disagree with much of the policy of the President-elect, I think the even more serious rift is the disdain that individual citizens, on both sides, hold for their fellow Americans. It has consumed our rhetoric and turned our collective national optimism into destructive partisanship, elitism, and nativism.

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I have read countless articles on how those in our nation should react to the mandate of those in the middle, and yet I have never really found an answer that seems comprehensive enough to truly remedy the pain and despair in our country. This nation will not heal its wounds through one well-written column or one insightful data point, instead it will be the tireless and daily work of average citizens that will eventually pull us together again.

I have been heartened to hear friends and fellow students speak of rekindled aspirations to pursue careers in public service, and I too have found myself pondering the role that I can play in the direction that we head as a country and a world. My hope is that is not merely a temporary feeling, but rather a profound moment in our lives when we reassert ourselves as a broad coalition of empathetic and passionate citizens.

I have faith because I went to have a few drinks with friends at the Tombs and I ended up spending most of my Friday evening talking about the future of this country. We by no means all shared the same opinions, but we all respected each other and shared the same interest in a better future.

I have faith because I know countless people who are going to dedicate their lives to the causes that they care about and I know they will make this world a truly better place. These are the people that I admire most in my life. Among my closest friends I count aspiring teachers, Jesuit Volunteer Corps applicants, and those on track to be doctors or nurses. These are the very people that take the message of Pope Francis to the margins and heal the wounds of those most in need. They do not judge and they do not divide, instead they are present to all those suffering and share their love without conditions.

 

“What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.”

― Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

 

We are called to love everyone and it is exhausting. Yet we also know that this love leaves an indelible mark on our soul and the lives of those with whom we interact. It is both selfless and self-defining, and more importantly, it is contagious.

It might even break your heart, and Arrupe recognizes this. However, it is the very things that are capable of breaking our heart that are most deserving of our time and our attention.

We are called to love one another and we are called to love our country, especially at these times when they most break our heart. As Hillary Clinton powerfully stated during her concession speech: “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

If Father Greg Boyle can bring together former gang members then we can most assuredly heal the wounds in our nation and bridge the gap that separates us as Americans. It will not be easy and it may test our patience, but it should never subdue our hope or forsake our empathy.