Thomas More was born in 1478, son of the lawyer and judge John More and his wife, Agnes. He received a classical education from the age of six, and at age 13 became the protege of Abp. John Morton, who also served an important civic role as the Lord Chancellor. Although Thomas never joined the clergy, he would eventually assume the position of Lord Chancellor himself.
More received a well-rounded college education at Oxford, becoming a “renaissance man” who knew several ancient and modern languages and was well-versed in mathematics, music, and literature. His father, however, determined that Thomas should become a lawyer, so he withdrew his son from Oxford after two years to focus him on that career. Read more
Whether the federal contraception mandate stands or falls, it has changed US politics forever, the head of the Knights of Columbus observed during the 2012 Catholic Media Conference.
“It definitely has changed the political landscape,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a June 22 interview at the convention held in downtown Indianapolis.
“What we see clearly, is an attempt to redefine the role of religion in American society.”
The Obama administration, he said, is applying a “very narrow” conception of religion and its social role. “So that leads us to ask the question: What will the administration do next, whether or not it wins on the HHS mandate?”
He predicted that US politics would be permanently changed by the assault on the Church’s freedom and its role in society, even if the HHS mandate eventually fails.
“Once the ‘genie is out of the bottle,’ it’s going to be difficult to put it back in,” the head of the Catholic fraternal order noted. “It ought to give us all very serious concern.”
Anderson, a veteran lawyer, explained that the administration’s restrictive view of religion was previously seen in the “Hosanna-Tabor” Supreme Court case, pitting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a Lutheran church and school.
In that 2011 case, Anderson recalled, the government attempted “a redefinition of what constitutes ‘ministry,’” claiming that a teacher of religious and secular subjects was not a “minister” and could not be fired at the school’s discretion. The school’s rights, however, were unanimously upheld by the court.
Shortly after that decision was handed down, Health and Human Services finalized its contraception mandate, forcing religious institutions–except those covered under a narrow exemption–to provide services that violate their moral principles, including sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.
According to Anderson, both the Hosanna-Tabor case and the HHS mandate are part of a larger effort to redefine religious freedom and marginalize faith-based institutions.
In Hosanna-Tabor, “the administration was arguing for the most narrow possible, most restrictive possible, definition of ministry.” Similarly, the HHS mandate granted an exemption only to institutions that primarily employ and serve those of the same faith for the purpose of spreading “religious values.”
The Obama administration, Anderson said, “has continued to attempt to redefine religion, by taking an extremely narrow definition of what constitutes a ‘religious institution.’”
“Many institutions that we would normally think of as part of the charitable or service mission of the Church, suddenly are defined out of the ambit of being a faith-based religious institution.”
Even if the HHS mandate is defeated in court, or fundamentally changed by the administration, the thinking behind it will persist and continue to shape political life.
“What we’re seeing is a paradigm shift–in how religion is viewed in American society, and the role of religion. Once you make that shift, the logic leads on down a certain path. And that path is: ‘Wherever we can find a less inclusive role for religion, we take the less inclusive role.’”
To turn back from this course, Anderson suggested, Americans must first “understand authentically what the Constitution intends by the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.” These clauses exist not to marginalize religion, but to protect its integrity and allow it to shape social life.
The head of the Knights of Columbus also wants Americans to rediscover “the role of religion in society in promoting the common good,” as envisioned by the country’s founders.
“American society has traditionally found, and the Founders believed, that religion is good–and is good for the common good,” the Supreme Knight noted. “We value a freedom because the freedom produces a good in society.”
“If you look at the history of the Catholic Church in America–where we built so many schools, and hospitals, and orphanages, and Catholic charities–it’s a tremendous contribution.”
But modern Americans, Anderson said, may have a “diminished sense of the role of religion in fostering the common good.” Without this sense of religion’s social role, its “free exercise” may be misunderstood as serving only the self-interests of believers, rather than the nation’s common interest.
To fight this perception, Anderson suggested Catholics “need to tell our story better–and we also need to do more.” The Church’s social teaching, he said, “should compel Catholics to works of greater charity in society, to promote the common good.”
By using their freedom to serve society as a whole, Catholics can help all Americans rediscover religious liberty as a universal good–worth preserving not only for the benefit of believers, but for the good of the whole country.
To preserve their religious freedom in the long term, Anderson suggested, Catholics “have to have a more visible role in society–and a more effective role in society–in actually doing those things that actually benefit the common good.”
With pro-life ethics and a patient-driven paradigm, the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute hopes to save lives and shape the future of medicine.
“Medical research is becoming too expensive and taking too long. It’s not transformative enough, or impacting patients at a fast enough rate,” institute founder and director Dr. Alan Moy said on Feb. 10, explaining the motivation behind his ambitious “Collection For Cures” project.
“It’s more than just doing ethical research. We had to come up with a new paradigm,” Moy said of his institute’s focus on patients and their immediate needs.
Both the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic bishops of Iowa are backing the “Collection For Cures,” which aims to raise $10 million for research into rare diseases, regenerative medicine, and personalized cancer treatments.
After he founded the adult stem cell provider Cellular Engineering Technologies in 2005, Moy became aware of key research areas neglected by both the government and the marketplace. He saw the need for a nonprofit enterprise that could fill these scientific and technological gaps.
In 2006, Moy established the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute in Iowa City, as a grassroots effort of Catholic laity and others concerned with the future of ethical biotechnology.
“The goal of the institute is to identify and solve some of the major deficiencies in this country—one of which is the ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cells,” he noted.
In addition to its pro-life ethical basis, Moy’s work stands out in the field for other reasons.
Another distinguishing mark is his interest in treating and curing “orphan diseases.” The term denotes thousands of serious but rare ailments that fail to attract research dollars, because of the relatively small number of sufferers.
Many of these rare diseases may be treatable with existing FDA-approved drugs. But drug companies have little commercial incentive to discover these applications, particularly when extensive regulatory burdens are factored in to the equation.
Moy, however, wants to use disease-specific, non-embryonic stem cell lines to test the effect of existing drugs and therapies on these unusual ailments. The method saves both money and time over research protocols that would involve testing on animals before moving on to human tissue.
This approach streamlines the research process, often using patients’ own cells to investigate possible cures and treatments. In 2010, the National Institutes of Health reported progress toward treatment of the fatal disease Niemann-Pick Type C, based on work with cells from the institute.
Along with its work on “orphan diseases,” the John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute is also using adult cells to investigate new methods of cancer treatment, and ethical forms of the regenerative possibilities more often associated with stem cell research.
Development director Kim Lehman, who served as president of Iowa Right To Life before taking a full-time position with the institute, said that the goal was “to do research that lands at the bedside of the patient, not just in the petri dish so that an article can be written.”
“That’s our objective—to have therapies that are able to reach the patient,” Lehman said.
The program works by soliciting $1,000 yearly pledges from Catholic parishes. Lehman explained that the backing of larger donors allows the institute to direct all of the pledged money directly to research.
Dr. Moy, meanwhile, not only hopes to find new ethical cures and treatments, but also to change the direction of US biotechnology research, by demonstrating the potential that other countries already recognize in adult stem cells.
Globally, he noted, over 90 percent of all stem cell trials involve adult cells rather than those derived from embryos. But only a quarter of these trials are taking place in the US, where Moy believes adult stem cells have been marginalized due to “hype” and controversy over embryonic research.
Although the institute is largely focused on the “niche” areas of cancer treatment and rare diseases, the researcher believes that “the outcomes of what we do will have a broader appeal and application” to the fields of medicine and biotechnology in the future.
A new study touting the “benefits” of cohabitation is based on deeply-flawed ideas about human nature and fulfillment, according to a leading scholar on the social role of families.
“It’s garbage-in, garbage out,” said Dr. Scott Yenor, the Boise State University political science professor whose book Family Politics: The Idea of Marriage in Modern Political Thought (Baylor University Press, 2011) surveys changing ideas about society’s fundamental institution.
CNA spoke with Yenor about a paper published in the February 2012 installment of the Journal of Marriage and Family, entitled “Reexamining the Case for Marriage: Union Formation and Changes in Well-being.”
The study, Yenor says, “uses the ‘thinnest’ understanding of human happiness–one that requires the least of any human being–and judges relationships on that basis.”
Lead author Dr. Kelly Musick, a Cornell University professor of policy analysis and management, says her research “shows that marriage is by no means unique in promoting well being, and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits” to individuals.
“While married couples experienced health gains,” Musick says of her findings, “cohabiting couples experienced greater gains in happiness and self-esteem. For some, cohabitation may come with fewer unwanted obligations than marriage and allow for more flexibility, autonomy, and personal growth.”
But Yenor says Musick’s study, coauthored with University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Larry Bumpass, reveals more about the authors’ flawed assumptions, than it does about marriage and cohabitation.
“The standard that they’re judging institutions by, is the self-assessment of individual happiness,” Yenor explained. “The questions that they ask these people are along the lines of: ‘Do you feel good about yourself?’ They use such low standards to judge these situations.”
“The lower the bar, the easier it is to hop over. They asked questions like whether married and cohabiting people were ‘satisfied with themselves.’ That’s a very low bar.”
Musick and Bumpass used data from the National Survey of Families and Households to examine the difference between married and cohabiting couples in seven areas: happiness, symptoms of depression, health, self-esteem, relationship with parents, contact with parents, and time with friends.
The authors of Reexamining the Case for Marriage focused exclusively on benchmarks for the well-being and social lives of individual adults. Their work is a response to other sociologists who have attempted to base pro-marriage arguments on findings about individual adult well-being.
Children thus receive few mentions from Bumpass and Musick, though it is noted they “tend to be part of the marriage package.”
As Yenor pointed out, none of the benchmarks they used to judge the “benefits” of marriage against cohabitation actually involved the respondent’s evaluation of the relationship itself.
Many kinds of questions, he said, could gauge the quality of a relationship between two people–rather than just the reported happiness of the individuals involved.
He suggested asking: “Do you trust the other person? Are you more ‘one’ with the other person? Do you pool your resources? Do you share labor? Do you share goals? Do you talk about the things you hold in common, and try to make them better?”
“Those are the things I would expect marriage to be better for, than cohabitation–not things like, ‘Taken altogether, are you happy?’”
But Yenor observed that the authors of Reexamining the Case for Marriage were responding, in large part, to pro-marriage studies that may have made the same kinds of troubling omissions.
In his opinion, these defenders of marriage may have given too much ground to their opponents’ assumptions, by focusing on marriage as a source of individual fulfillment for adults.
“What a lot of conservative scholars have done with the family–and this is what the journal article’s going against–is to say: ‘Even given the pitifully thin goal of modern self-esteem, marriage is better than cohabitation.’”
“Usually you want to judge marriage on other grounds: ‘Is it good for the kids? Is love present? Are people living more virtuous lives?’ But since society’s rejected those kinds of standards, conservative defenders of marriage are willing to use the standard: ‘Does it provide happiness and self-esteem?’”
“What I try to argue in my book, is that defenders of marriage and family life need to defend it on ‘thicker’ grounds,” said Yenor.
“Once we give up, and say marriage is about promoting individual happiness and self-esteem, we’ve already lost most of the battle. The marriage that exists to promote those goals is already going to be a weak marriage.”
“We need to defend marriage as a serious community that requires commitment, time, and investment–getting away from the goals that modern autonomy has set, and back to what the family’s true goals are.”
Pro-family sociologists, Yenor warned, will find the institution of family “increasingly difficult to defend” on the basis of their opponents’ own assumptions about mere individual happiness.
Although Yenor is himself Lutheran rather than Catholic, his book Family Politics concludes with a discussion of Pope John Paul II’s ideas about love, marriage, the family, and society.
He said that sociologists, like other scholars, can learn much from the late philosopher-pope.
“What he does is defend necessary connections,” Yenor recounted. “There are things that are connected, in the created order–and there are many attempts in the modern world, to sever those things that are connected.
“Love and marriage are connected–and when you try to disconnect them, you end up with less love, and bad relationships. Likewise, contraception severs the connection between sex and procreation. When you sever that connection, you end up with people using each other, and neglected children.”
“In a way, he’s a great sociologist,” Yenor said of Pope John Paul II. “The original French sociologists of the 1800s were trying to establish, through social science, the connections that exist as sources of order in the world.”
“What John Paul does, is show that those sources of order and fulfillment”–particularly the lifelong marriage of a man and a woman–“are rooted in human nature, which can’t be changed and manipulated.”
An Egyptian political scientist says the latest violence against Coptic Christians shows a harsh reality behind the “Arab Spring,” including a lack of control over rogue elements in Egypt’s army.
“We’ve had a number of attacks against Christians in the past couple of months, and the problem has intensified. There’s been a dramatic increase in violence against Christians in the central land of the ‘Arab Spring,’” said Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian Copt and research fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.
“I would hope that such an event as what happened on Sunday would serve as a wake-up call to people here,” Tadros told CNA.
An Oct. 9 march on Cairo to protest church burnings turned into a riot pitting largely unarmed Christians against both the army and Muslim mobs, leaving at least 24 people dead–including at least 17 Christians–and 272 injured. Father Rafic Greiche, a spokesman for Eastern Catholics in Egypt, said Oct. 10 that the army used “vagabonds” and “street fighters” against a “peaceful demonstration.”
Tadros said the outbreak of religiously-charged violence, the worst in Egypt since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, was an “unfortunate moment” that should serve as a “turning moment–not in terms of the violence that could follow, but in terms of how the Western media, and the West in general, sees the problem and realizes the existence of a problem.”
Sunday’s violence, he said, stemmed largely from elements within the army that oppose the country’s historic Christian presence along with anything that seems “Western.”
Egypt’s interim military government officially runs the country at present, since Mubarak’s departure. But the nation’s strongest institution seems unable, or unwilling, to control rogue elements within.
Tadros says he doubts the “dominant narrative” emerging from many Egyptians about Sunday’s violence, which assumes that the army as a whole either “ordered, or was ordered, to kill” protesters.
Rather, he believes the responsibility lies with particular individuals and groups within the military.
It is not a thought he finds comforting.
“I think the more likely scenario–and I hate to put it this way, but perhaps the more frightening scenario–is that the army actually lost control of its own soldiers during the attacks.”
“The more likely thing that happened was that there was an order to disperse, the army took the position that there would not be any demonstrators in front of the TV headquarters, and the soldiers were given that order.”
“However, we have to remember, when we talk about the Egyptian army, that this is not a professional army–90 percent, if not all, of the soldiers are conscripts,” Tadros explained. “They serve one year of their ‘national duty’ in the army, after which they return to their normal lives again.”
“So these are regular Egyptians, that have suffered from the same hatred and prejudices that exist in society.”
A series of events both before and after Sunday’s protests have led Tadros to believe that the killing of demonstrators–who were reportedly shot at random and run down with military vehicles–was the work of radical individuals and subgroups within the army.
He recalled a telling scene that took place at a smaller Coptic protest four days before the clashes in Cairo. In that instance, too, protesters were “dispersed and beaten by the army, the soldiers and the officers.” But a video from the event shows a struggle of different attitudes within its ranks.
“We see, in one of the videos, after the initial beating of a protester, that the army officers–no human rights lovers, of course–are satisfied that the guy is beaten (enough), and try and stop it.”
The footage shows how one officer “order the soldiers to stop. They don’t.”
“He tries to stop the guy on the left. He stops him, but the soldier on the right continues to beat the protester. He turns to him, only to have the one on the left return to beating. Every new soldier arriving on the scene beats the protester.”
“The officer–for two minutes, as we see in the video–is doing his best to stop it. Again, he doesn’t like the guy, but he doesn’t want a dead body. And he even slaps one of his soldiers. Yet the beating continues.”
Tadros pointed to a second piece of footage, which emerged after the violence on Oct. 9, as evidence for his belief that rogue soldiers took their orders to disperse the crowd as a license to kill.
“The second video that we have, that’s equally disturbing, is from after the attack on Sunday. The army soldiers are being put on their buses to return to their barracks. And we have one of the soldiers emerging from a window of the bus.”
“He shouts at the Muslim onlookers surrounding the bus, ‘I shot him in the chest’”–an apparent reference to the shooting of a Christian protester. “He screams, ‘I shot him in the chest.’”
“The Muslim onlookers are clapping and praising him. One of them shouts, ‘By God, you are a man!’”
Incidents of this kind lead Tadros to believe that top army officials told soldiers “to disperse (the protesters)–using force, definitely.” But “no one on the top level … could possibly imagine that the scene would be like this.”
Both Egyptian officials and Western diplomats, he said, must now reckon with the presence of criminal violence in the institution charged with ensuring the rule of law.
“If I were the Egyptian army’s leaders at the moment, I would be really scared and really worried about what happened–not just the international ramifications, and internally, but because of this prospect: if the soldiers don’t follow orders anymore, how do you deal with that?”
Tadros doesn’t think a scenario like the one that happened on Sunday is “likely to happen in other instances” besides those involving a religious minority. Given orders to stop brutalizing a “regular demonstration,” as opposed to a gathering of Coptic Christians, he thinks soldiers “would stop.”
“But I think it has much more to do with the nature of the people they were beating–that is, that they were Christians,” he observed.
“Imagine that those soldiers had not been serving their one year in the army,” Tadros speculated. “Back in their villages, is it possible to imagine that they would have been part of the same crowds in Egyptian villages, that sometimes go and attack Christian homes and burn churches? Is that possible?”
“I would say, yes. They are very much a part of the Egyptian society.”
But Tadros says many US government officials respect the Egyptian army for showing restraint during the protests that brought down Mubarak, and might be too caught up in the idea of the “Arab Spring” to take a closer look.
The simple narrative of a liberating Egyptian revolution is “very appealing to different groups,” he pointed out.
“You would find both neoconservatives and liberals–people across the American spectrum–who found in the Arab Spring something appealing, and for their different reasons, (something) to support.”
“There is a general assumption in the West, that if a country is on the road to a democratic government, then naturally religious freedom will be there,” Tadros observed. “Unfortunately, reality is very different.”
“Even if a democratic Egypt ends up holding regular, free, and fair elections, it might actually not be good for religious freedom.”
In fact, Tadros noted, it might “create the exact opposite situation.”