• Humanae Vitae symposium

    Attending parts of the Humanae Vitae symposium at Catholic University for the rest of the week, in light of the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul IV’s affirmation of Christian teaching on sex, marriage, and new life. It’s taking place in the student union building on campus, a short walk from the Basilica, and opened last night with powerful remarks from John Garvey, president of Catholic University, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. They streamed those remarks here, and audio of their remarks is below:

    I’ll be fitting in meetings and working on-and-off during this symposium, including a trip to Alexandria tomorrow to meet with Wesley J. Smith, one of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network’s board members. Here are some photos from the past two days:

    Every generation and age has its distinctive strengths and weaknesses; its challenges and hallmarks. One of those challenges in our time is answering, “What is the family?” Is it simply a contractual arrangement, which in some cases produces children in the same way that corporate partnerships might produce products? Or is it something deeper, and something that speaks more profoundly to our nature as creatures in this world that we’re called to conserve and pass along? Those are the sort of questions that Christians are trying to answer at this symposium.

    Some background information on this event:

    Symposium Purpose

    This symposium explores Catholic teaching on human sexuality, marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood as articulated in the papal encyclical Humanae vitae upon its fiftieth anniversary (1968-2018).

    The symposium is anchored in the view that, in and through Christ’s work of redemption, God’s original vision of the person, human sexuality, and marriage grounds human relationships and, after the fall, heals them. It seeks to elucidate the anthropological, philosophical, and theological underpinnings of the encyclical’s reaffirmation of the divine plan as expressed in Catholic teaching and advanced by Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Papers presented at the symposium will therefore assess the past, reflect upon the present, and consider the future. Presentations will be theoretical, empirical, and pastoral. They will draw upon the disciplines of history, philosophy, theology, and science, and will highlight effective catechetical practices. All presentations will treat major themes from Humanae vitae.

    Symposium Objectives

    • To analyze the historical context in which Humanae vitae was promulgated and received. This includes consideration of the cultural, sociological, philosophical, theological, and empirical trends operative in the 1960s which fostered a more negative than positive reception of the encyclical in certain areas and even a rejection of God’s plan for married love.
    • To deepen the theological and philosophical understanding of Church teaching on human sexuality, marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood as articulated in Humanae vitae, with special attention paid to the later impact of the Theology of the Body and the magisterium of St. John Paul II, in addition to that of Benedict XVI and Francis.
    • To explore the scientific response to Humanae vitae’s call for developing viable methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP).
    • To look at effective catechetical practices devised to promote Church teachings on conjugal love and responsible parenthood and the moral prohibition of contraception.
    • To analyze negative trends in national and international policy that impact religious practice or expression regarding human sexuality, marriage, and family planning and to offer solutions.
    • To look for and assess hopeful signs for growing acceptance of the Church’s teaching both in the Church and in the culture and to make recommendations for the future.
  • Scenes from a Georgetown run

    When I was in Washington two weeks ago, I stayed downtown the night before Catholic University’s Michael Novak symposium/remembrance. It turned out to be a beautiful 80-degree February day in Washington, and since the weather promised to be so great I went for an early run when I woke up from the Westin at 1400 M Street west through Georgetown. Here are some scenes from that run:

  • Remembering Michael Novak

    Yesterday I wrote about knowing Ben Novak for ten years, and toasting to his 75th birthday. Today I’m sharing the program from a program honoring his brother Michael at Catholic University of America here in Washington, DC:

    A Legacy of Faith and Reason: Honoring Michael Novak

    Join the Busch School of Business and Economics for a very special event honoring Michael Novak – a mentor, colleague, and friend – on the occasion of the first anniversary of his death.We will welcome the Novak family and hear from a number of voices, celebrating and reflecting on Michael’s life and work, as well as our role in carrying forward his legacy of faith, reason, and service to both our Church and our country.


    • 8:45 a.m. – Registration and continental breakfast
    • 9:30 a.m. – Welcome and introductory remarks, Dr. Andrew Abela, provost, The Catholic University of America
    • 9:45 a.m. – Dr. Jay Richards, The Catholic University of America and host of EWTN series “A Force for Good”
    • 10:30 a.m. – Break
    • 10:45 a.m. – Panel of Catholic University colleagues including Dr. Michael Pakaluk and Dr. Max Torres
    • 11:30 a.m. – Fr. Robert Sirico, founder and president, Acton Institute
    • 12:15 p.m. – Lunch and screening of “A Force for Good”
    • 1:30 p.m. – Panel of former students
    • 2:15 p.m. – Remarks from Ms. Mary Ann Novak and Dr. Ben Novak
    • 3:00 p.m. – Mass in the Crypt of the Basilica of the National Shrine
    • 4:15 p.m. – Reception

    I was standing just a few feet from Michael when the photo above was taken in Ave Maria, Florida, in front of what was then Ave Maria University’s Oratory. I think he was a bit tired that day, but his joie de vivre shines through in it nonetheless.

    Michael was a joy to be around, even and especially when he was admonishing you for some failing and maybe especially when he was encouraging you to work harder, because in those moments you realized you were with someone who really cared about you, and really wanted you to strive for something greater, and to reject self-satisfaction and laziness.

    I’m here today to hopefully honor that spirit of his, and to keep the flame alive. They’re streaming the event:

    Robb Klucik from Ave Maria also sang this short, adapted version of Hillaire Belloc’s “Benedicamus Domino” in honor of Michael:

    284_High Resolution.jpg
  • Speaking at the 2018 Students for Life conference

    I visited the First Baptist Church of Glenarden today near Upper Marlboro, Maryland for the 2018 Students for Life conference, where I spoke with Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life on human dignity and how best to serve those facing or considering euthanasia and assisted suicide:

    It looks like a vibrant and beautiful Christian community, based upon the sanctuary itself and the photos lining the outer hallways. Today it played host to hundreds of young people from around the country who are hungry to serve vulnerable women and men who, across the spectrum, are too often told they have choice yet are handed only one or maybe two real options.

    The vigor and service mentality among young people to provide real alternatives to abortion, to euthanasia, to forms of suicide, is inspiring and precisely the sort of service needed to build a more humane culture where authentic autonomy and personal liberty is no longer achieved at the expense of a less fortunate brother or sister.

  • This morning and afternoon marked the 45th March for Life in Washington, and tonight the March for Life’s Rose Dinner took place with Pam Tebow as keynote at the Marriott Renaissance. Pam spoke about human dignity broadly, her family’s international humanitarian work, and the story of her son Tim, whom physicians had recommended she abort:


    Afterwards, I walked the mile or so from Mount Vernon Square back to the Phoenix Park Hotel, through Chinatown, past Clyde’s of Gallery Place where the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network board met last night, past the National Portrait Gallery, and ultimately which a brief glimpse at the beautiful Capitol dome, which inspires with the ideals that our politics aspires to in its better moments.

    Terry Mattingly offers perspective on the March for Life’s historical lack of media coverage, even compared to similar marches and demonstrations. He excerpts the following Medical Research Project summary of a history of indifference:

    The March for Life is a powerful event, one that sheds a spotlight on human rights and dignity. It also brings together men and women of all ages and races, Catholics and Protestants and the religious and scientific communities who believe that life starts at conception. It’s a message those on the political left don’t want to broadcast. It’s also one they don’t want to help further with the help of any meaningful news coverage.

    A study conducted by the Media Research Project, a conservative watchdog group, found that CBS, NBC and ABC spent an hour and 15 minutes combined covering last year’s Women’s March held in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. That’s the same Women’s March organizers made sure did not include any pro-life groups.

    By comparison, the same group found that the March for Life in 2016 had earned only 35 seconds of coverage from the same three major TV networks – just 13 seconds before it took place and 22 seconds after it was held. The Women’s March had garnered 23 minutes of coverage before it took place.

    The situation was similar when it came to online news stories. The phrase “Women’s March 2017” garnered 7,650 mentions on Google News. The same search term for “March for Life 2017” saw a similar disparity – just 474 results.

    President Trump became the first president to join the March for Life with a live address from the Rose Garden, where he underscored the stark reality of our laws:

    Roe versus Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world. For example, in the United States, it’s one of only seven countries to allow elective late-term abortions along with China, North Korea, and others. Right now, in a number of States, the laws allow a baby to be aborted from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong. It has to change.

    The House of Representatives, meanwhile, passed the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” today. It will fail in the Senate, where it requires 60 votes to pass, but it is an important step on the road toward protecting human beings who survive failed abortions, ensuring they are transferred from abortion clinics to legitimate medical facilities for care. It’s a fact that today, persons accidentally allowed to be born during an attempted abortion are sometimes simply left to die rather than provided basic care.

    And finally, the Department of Health and Human Services today announced the creation of a first-ever “Conscience and Religious Freedom” division meant to “protect doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care workers who refuse to perform, accommodate or assist with certain procedures on religious or moral grounds” and also provides a mechanism for those persons to “file complaints if they believe they have been discriminated against because of their religious or moral convictions.”

    That such executive and legislative actions are necessary in the face of the clear and straightforward language of the constitution’s acknowledgement of the right to life, not even to speak of the cultural refusal to acknowledge embryological science as it relates to human rights, is a testament to the fact that ours is not an age of reason, but rather one of power and feeling.

  • The view from Room 807 at the Phoenix Park Hotel, where I’ll be thru Sunday for the March for Life. Union Station (to the right) and the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum (left) look great in this sunny, albeit cold, weather.

    Tonight the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network board will meet for the first time this year. I’m proud that we not only grew the reach of our National Crisis Lifeline in 2017, which serves patients and families at risk of denial of care, euthanasia, and assisted suicide, but that we grew our mission while also achieving a second straight year of budgetary positive net income. I set this as a key performance goal when I came onboard as executive director, and we’ll work to make this the third straight year if we can be similarly fortunate and impactful.

    Tomorrow, the 45th March for Life from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court.

  • Try to love the questions

    In Washington tonight thru Sunday for the March for Life and Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network reasons. Rainer Maria Rilke, meanwhile, provides consolation in difficult moments:

    Be patient toward all that is unsolved
    in your heart and try to love the
    questions themselves, like locked
    rooms and like books that are now
    written in a very foreign tongue. Do
    not now seek the answers, which
    cannot be given you because you
    would not be able to live them. And
    the point is, to live everything. Live the
    questions now. Perhaps you will then
    gradually, without noticing it, live
    along some distant day into the

  • National Air & Space Museum

    I visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington yesterday. First time being there in at least 15 years, I think. What an amazing place.

    The entire collection is worth seeing if you’re passionate flying, rocketry, navigation, etc. Something that makes it fascinating it that the history of air and space is in many ways still the history of only a few nations.

    Space, certainly. I wondered what so many of the younger families and kids thought (if anything) seeing the Soviet’s “CCCP” insignia here and there. And understanding how close the Soviet’s came to their own moon landing, if only they could have perfected their rockets, is still startling since we’re still in a time when we think American can-doism is something that’s magically transferred through the ether rather than cultivated and conveyed purposefully.

    In digitizing decades worth of family photos last year, some of the slides I processed were photos my grandfather had taken on a trip in the 1970s to the museum. It was much different then, of course, but I think his interest was largely in planes. He served in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and I thought of him throughout. He sparked my visit, really, and I stopped for a long while in front of an Army Air Corps display.

    Worth going, if you haven’t. Elon Musk will have his own additions for the museum eventually; see it before history changes.

  • Carry knowledge

    Carry knowledge

    Snapped this when returning to Union Station in Washington yesterday to meet a few friends at Thunder Grill.

    It was an overcast, bleak winter day with just enough light rain coming down to get you wet. For whatever reason this inscription caught my attention, and I stood outside staring at it for a few minutes as travelers passed by. I’m not sure of the provenance of the inscription, but it spoke to me relating to place.

    When we leave the places we’ve lived and love, we’ve got to have some sort of meaningful acquaintance with them if we hope we have a meaningful experience of any other place. I think of the little Neshaminy and woods near where I grew up. I think of the suburbs that scratched themselves across Bucks County with friends dotted in some of them, and the sides of the road I would walk to visit them. I think of the smells of the houses in Ocean City during the summer. These are just the flickering highlights of memories that burn more deeply and personally that I’ll share here.

    The more knowledge you retain about the places you’ve been, the more likely you are to learn something of the places you go.

  • Running in Washington

    I’m on my way back to Philadelphia from Washington this afternoon. I came down last night to run this morning’s 12 K’s of Christmas Holiday Run that the DC Running Club organizes.

    I’ve run at least one official race a year since 2009, but this year I came close to falling away from that habit. I ran today’s Christmas 12K to keep that tradition alive, but also because I generally haven’t been running very much this year, and knew I’d head into Christmas feeling terrible about missing any major run this year.

    It was beautiful, running along Washington’s Canal paths. Lots of great people, some dressed wildly for the holidays, many who were helpful to keep pace with. A red-bearded guy was especially great; we ran along with each other for most of the second half, intermittently passing each other and keeping pace.

    It wasn’t a super run, but it felt good to get it done.