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Discerning Bio-advances with a Catholic Lens

At no time in history has the line separating good and evil been so blurred. It is especially so in the fields of science and medicine where the lines are vanishing while the right to conscience is being legislated away.

When evil poses as ‘care’

Discovery, relieving suffering, finding cures…these were once understood as absolute goods. However, when ending suffering means ending lives on both ends, and curing diseases happens through experimentation on embryos and designer genes, and when discovery means playing God, then evil masquerades as good.

“The Catholic Church has a vitally important role in helping people distinguish between morally appropriate and inappropriate uses of biotechnology and medicine,” Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, explained in an interview with Legatus. He noted that many people are grateful for the way the Church articulates well-defined positions on moral questions.

Church guidance at forefront

Although the Church may reflect for some time to identify important considerations and guiding principles in the biosciences, Fr. Pacholczyk said that even with this slow and deliberative process, the Church stays well ahead of the curve. “For example, by the time of the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996,” he said, “the Catholic Church had already been reflecting on the question of human cloning for many years, and concluded, nine years prior to Dolly, that human cloning would be morally unacceptable in an important document called Donum Vitae (On the Gift of Life).”

When the first test tube baby was born in 1978, the serious moral concerns raised by the procedure had already been spelled out 22 years earlier, by Pope Pius XII, in his 1956 Allocution to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Human Sterility. The Pope concluded: “As regards experiments of human artificial fecundation ‘in vitro,’ let it be sufficient to observe that they must be rejected as immoral and absolutely unlawful.” The Church’s stance was explained in greater detail later in Donum Vitae, as well as in various other statements and addresses, according to Fr. Pacholczyk.

“The Church is one of the last remaining voices in our culture to remind us of the most basic truths about sexuality, how new human life must be procreated in the warmth of the marital embrace and in the protective hearth of the maternal womb, not in the icy, impersonal world of the research laboratory, or the manipulative setting of a Petri dish,” he said.

Science often unheeded

Charles LiMandri, a Legate with the San Diego Chapter, is the President and Chief Counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, (FCDF) a nonprofit law firm that defends constitutional liberties, conscience rights and the sanctity of human life. He and his wife Barbara are also the parents of five children. According to him, the culture has gotten extremely aggressive, pushing a liberal agenda in which science is often ignored in the case of gender issues, or used in immoral ways such as with experimentation on embryos.

“A lack of respect for the sanctity of life and separating the procreative from unitive aspect of sexuality has fueled many unethical practices,” LiMandri said. “Once it is just about pleasure rather than cooperating with God’s natural law, it really is a slippery slope.”

Courts bully Catholics

According to LiMandri, the far left uses the courts as the least representative form of government to take away the right of Catholics to follow Catholic teaching. “Many of these appointed judges can use the force of law to make Catholics, Christians and other individuals follow their liberal agenda, with the threat of serious repercussions,” he said. “The opposition will stop at nothing to force the Christian community to accept their agenda carte blanche.”

LiMandri writes about many of these issues at Alumni for Catholic USD, a page he started to promote the truth after his Catholic alma mater, the University of San Diego held a drag queen contest.

Inspired into bioethics, genetics by JPII

Marilyn E. Coors, Ph.D., a Legate in the Denver Chapter, is an associate professor of ethics in genetics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. When she and her husband Peter sent the youngest of their 6 children to school, Coors returned to school also, receiving a masters in cytogenetics and another in ethics and religion, a Ph.D. in bioethics and a post-doctoral fellowship in bioethics and human medical genetics.

“It was a quote from JPII, that we should infiltrate the bastions of science with the word of God, that became my inspiration while I was going to school,” Coors said. According to her, the field of bioethics is changing quickly and posing many challenges.

“Genetic science and technology have advanced tremendously from the first decoding of the human genome in 2001 to 17 years later being able to edit it in specific ways,” Coors said. “The Church, through teachings of JPII and Pope Benedict, endorses the use of genetics to treat and cure disease, but editing genes has significant concerns for both science and religion.”

Mushrooming bio-quandaries

Everything from bioterrorism that could impact the environment, to gene editing in order to hardwire babies for desirable traits, has serious moral implications, according to Coors. She also pointed out that for humans, editing genes at the embryonic level, which involves fertilizing eggs in test tubes, is illicit.

Experimentation on human gene editing is just beginning. This past July, experiments were done on embryos to edit out the fatal gene for cardiomyopathy, then they were destroyed. Coors pointed out that a potential risk with this kind of technology is that insurance companies will refuse to cover conditions that could have been edited out.

Have a personal advocate

Bobby Schindler, president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, became involved in bioethics and defending personal rights after witnessing firsthand the harm that judges, political figures and bioethicists can have on vulnerable people like his sister Terri who had her lifesustaining nutrition removed by a judge. “I realized that my vocation was advocating for medically vulnerable persons,” he said. “Before that, I assumed that physicians would want to care for disabled people like my sister rather than fatally starve and dehydrate them. It opened my eyes.”

Schindler is in the second year of a masters program in bioethics at the University of Mary to expand on years of practical experience advocating for his sister and more than 2,500 medically vulnerable patients and their families. “Ethics committees and the courts are imposing their values and medical determinations on whether a patient receives medical treatment, rather than the directives of family members,” he said.

Medical decisions are often made based on cost, Schindler said.

“Simply put, the heath provider is making medical decisions with their best interest in mind—which is cost containment dictated with the accountants more in mind than God— rather than the patient’s best interest,” he said. According to him, the physician’s principle to “do no harm” has come to be re-interpreted as to hasten death for patients.

“Ultimately, there’s no silver-bullet solution to the bioethical challenges we face,” he said. “The best protection for each and every one of us is to have heroic advocates in our lives who will fight for our basic care.”

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG, who wrote the newly published book, Legatus @ 30, is an award-winning author and Catholic journalist, TV and radio commentator, and mother of 10.

Catholic Bioethics Resources

Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 5th edition
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2009)

Dignitas personae (Instruction on Certain Bioethical Questions)
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (June 20, 2008)

Address to an International Conference on Organ Donation
Pope John Paul II (August, 2009)

Fides et ratio (Faith and Reason)
Pope John Paul II (September 14, 1998)

Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life)
Pope John Paul II (March 25, 1995)

Veritatis splendor (The Splendor of Truth)
Pope John Paul II (August 6, 1993)

Donum vitae (The Gift of Life)
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (February 22, 1987)

Declaration on Euthanasia
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (May 5, 1980)

Redemptor hominis (The Redeemer of Man)
Pope John Paul II (March 4, 1979)

Humanae vitae (Of Human Life)
Pope Paul VI (July 25, 1968)

Address to the First International Congress on the Histopathology of the Nervous System
Pope Pius XII (September 13, 1952)

IronMan runs world-epic for kids’ mental wellness

Seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Jonathan Terrell believes he is up to the challenge.

Mid-lifer takes on world in a week

“People have done it before, so I know it’s not impossible,” said Terrell, 55, a charter member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C. Chapter.

This coming January, Terrell will be competing in the World Marathon Challenge. In one week, participants run seven marathons on all seven continents, beginning at Novo Base in Antarctica, located in the Antarctic Circle.

Assuming there are no injuries or setbacks during training or the actual competition, Terrell will then run a combined 157.2 miles over six days in South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Colombia and Miami. Terrell’s week will consist of running and catching chartered flights.

“When he told me, I was like, ‘Are you crazy? That doesn’t even make sense,’” said Christine Terrell, Jonathan’s wife.

Parallels of endurance, spiritual strength

From late September to early December, Jonathan will run a marathon every week to prepare himself.

“I’ve put this out there, so it would be too embarrassing not to finish,” he said. “Even if I have to crawl the last one, I’ll finish it.”

Terrell is running in the World Marathon Challenge to raise awareness and funds for children’s mental health services at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., a cause dear to his heart. Terrell said he figured he could generate more media attention than running a simple 5K or regular marathon.

“There is still a tremendous prejudice and discomfort in society about talking about mental health issues,” Terrell said. “As a result, even though 1 in 5 children will have some kind of mental illness, they don’t get treated until many years after the symptoms start manifesting themselves.”

As a devout Catholic, Terrell also sees strong parallels between endurance running and the spiritual life. He quotes St. Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians how athletes train and deny themselves. Terrell also notes how the Apostle encouraged the faithful to run in such a way as to win the prize of eternal life.

“This kind of endurance activity is very much a metaphor for the spiritual life,” Terrell said.

“As we know it, in the spiritual life we constantly fall down, we set ourselves up to fail, but we get back up and we go to confession, we go to Mass, and we keep at it.”

Those spiritual insights have come as Terrell, who grew up in England in the Anglican Church, has matured in the faith he embraced when he entered the Catholic Church 20 years ago. The depth of his spirituality has developed through lessons he learned from attaining the disciplines needed to finish long-distance races.

“Just as the spiritual life is a process and a daily practice, not a one-time event, so it is with endurance sports,” he said. “It’s daily training, preparing for the races. There is a lot of discipline and delayed gratification, but also tremendous rewards that come from all that.”

The first time he ran a marathon, Terrell recounted the deep satisfaction he felt when he neared the finish line to applause, uplifting music, a cheering crowd and the announcer calling out his name.

“I had this flash like, ‘Is this what’s it’s like when you get to Heaven?’ From there, I was hooked.”

Day of awakening reprioritized everything

Terrell began running almost seven years ago. He remembered waking up one morning in January 2011 and finding himself to be in the worst shape of his life. As happens with many adults, the daily demands of being a married father with two young sons and running a consulting firm over time led Terrell to stop taking care of himself.

And he noticed that not tending to his physical health affected other areas of his life, even his spirituality and his mental state.

“I was the fattest I’ve ever been. I felt disgusting, and I felt miserable,” said Terrell, who around that time had read in his diocesan newspaper about an upcoming marathon for vocations and to support seminarians.

He decided to run in a half-marathon and trained for five months. He didn’t tell anyone until right before the race. He then signed up for his first marathon as a member of the diocesan vocations team and trained for another five months.

“I enjoyed being part of that team,” Terrell said. “I enjoyed going to Mass with them and running the race in that way.” The next day, he signed up for the London Marathon as a member of a Catholic Charities team.

“So very early on, this is connected to my faith,” he said. “I started using marathon running as a spiritual exercise.”

At his fifth or sixth marathon, Terrell dedicated the whole race to his pastor, who was ill at the time. Throughout all 26.2 miles, he said the rosary and prayed to a particular saint at every mile marker.

“I offered the whole thing up, that I might through my suffering, for at least a few hours, take away my pastors’ suffering,” Terrell said.

“Jonathan’s faith is very important to him,” his wife, Christine, said. “He lives his life and runs his firm based on his faith and the beliefs that come from our Catholic faith. He derives a lot of strength from his spirituality.”

Taking Catholic leap for life

Terrell decided to become Catholic when he was still a practicing Episcopalian in New York City. Also a talented musician, he sang in the choir at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and described being moved by the homilies given by Cardinal John O’Connor, the late archbishop of New York who was staunchly pro-life.

Since he was a child, and even during his teen and young adult years when he considered himself an atheist, Terrell believed deeply in the pro-life movement. He could never understand the arguments against the unborn child’s humanity. And when he learned that his Episcopal Church had a pro-choice position on the issue, Terrell said he could no longer in good conscience continue on in that church.

His dedication to the pro-life movement is an asset to Live Action, a pro-life organization where Terrell serves on the governing board. Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action, said Terrell inspires her.

“I think Jonathan brings an intense focus on the things that matter most,” Rose said. “He often asks me, ‘Lila, what’s the next big thing? What’s the number-one thing we need to accomplish?’ That very intense focus is something he brings to Live Action, to his business and to his incredible workout routine.

“I like to say I’ve learned a lot of business tips from Jonathan. I can’t say I’ve picked up his workout routine,” Rose said. “I’m embarrassed when I can tell him I ran a couple of miles and he just ran 20 that morning.”

IronMan for God

To date, Terrell has run in 19 marathons, multiple triathlons and two full IronMan competitions, where participants run a full marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and a 112-mile bicycle ride.

“It’s something to run a marathon, but imagine running a marathon after doing all that?” said Christine, who added that she and the couple’s sons, ages 12 and 14, have planned family vacations around marathons and have accompanied Jonathan to races in Paris, Rome and England.

Terrell, who trains between 20 to 25 hours a week, said he tries to involve his family as much as possible, adding that the support system is vitally important. Running may seem like a solitary sport, but he said it takes a team to be successful. “I feel physically healthy which makes me feel more spiritual healthy, and as I’ve become more spiritually healthy, I feel even more physically healthy,” Terrell said. “It’s all kind of a virtuous cycle.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

St. Gerard Majella (1726-1755)

Patron of Expectant Mothers
Feast Day: October 16
Canonization: December 11, 1904

St. Gerard Majella, the patron of expectant mothers, was born in 1726 in Muro Lucano, Italy. He grew up in poverty, with a great respect for the poor. At 23, Gerard joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and three years later became a professed Redemptorist lay brother.

Gerard was esteemed for his great piety and wisdom, and for his mystical gifts of reading consciences, levitation and bilocation.

Shortly before his death, he encountered a young girl bringing him a handkerchief he had dropped. He said, “Keep it – you may need it someday.” Years later, the girl married, became pregnant and was on the verge of losing her child in labor when the handkerchief was placed upon her, immediately abating her pain and enabling a healthy birth.

Gerard also kept silent when an unmarried woman accused him of being her child’s father. His example led her to feel remorse and recant the accusation.

Dying from tuberculosis at 29, his last will consisted of a small note on his cell door that read, “Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills.”

Harvesting virtue with season’s bounty

Food is an occasion for vice. Most of us know that, having succumbed to the temptation of an extra piece of cheesecake now and again.

Emily Stimpson Chapman

Food, however, is also an occasion for virtue. It’s an occasion for temperance—for mustering the gumption to say “no” to that extra piece of cake. It’s also an occasion for prudence— for recognizing our need to eat Brussels sprouts more than cupcakes. It’s an occasion for justice—for providing our body everything it needs to sustain health. And it’s an occasion for fortitude—for adhering to wise choices over time about what we eat daily… not just for 28 or 30 days of goal-driven dieting.

Those virtues—temperance, prudence, justice and fortitude—are what the Church calls the cardinal virtues.

They’re good habits which lay the foundation for all the other virtues and help us live richer, fuller, more deeply human lives. The more we cultivate these virtues, the stronger those virtues grow within us, and the more we mature into the men and women God intends. Food, however, isn’t just an occasion for honing the cardinal virtues. It also allows us to exercise the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.

Unlike the cardinal virtues, which we develop through practice, the theological virtues are gifts of grace. God freely gives them to us and helps them to grow strong within us. Likewise, while the cardinal virtues help us to live a more human life, the theological virtues help us to live a more divine life; they prepare our souls for the life God made us to live, in eternity, with Him.

While we can’t grow in the theological virtues through eating, like we can with the cardinal virtues, what we can do is allow the gifts of faith, hope, and charity to shape how we approach food.

Faith, for example, can help us see food as a gift from God and a sign of His love. It reminds us to give thanks for what’s before us and not take even one bite of a delicious donut for granted.

Hope helps us to keep our eyes on the prize— heaven—and not make gods of our appetites. It also strengthens and consoles us when we fail to exercise prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice at the dinner table, reminding us that each day, God gives us the grace to begin again.

And charity? Charity reminds us to think of others before ourselves. It helps us to cook with generosity—liberally loving others with the gift of food—and to give with generosity—sacrificing something we want so that others might have the food that they need. It also helps us to eschew pickiness at the table and receive what others cook for us with gratitude.

Seeing every meal through the lens of the virtues isn’t trendy. You won’t find challenge groups for it on Facebook. But it comes with its rewards, helping us to make appropriate choices every day, maintain proper perspective on food, and grow in virtue as we eat. Most importantly, using our virtues when we eat frees us — to eat, to cook, and to enjoy every single bite of that one piece of cheesecake.

EMILY STIMPSON CHAPMAN is the author of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. She blogs at TheCatholicTable.com.

 

Pumpkin Tortellini Soup

2 Tbsp. butter
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
29 ounces chicken broth
1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 bag tortellini

Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add onions, cooking until tender. Add half the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Transfer the broth mixture to a blender; blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the pan, adding the remaining broth,
pumpkin, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and
simmer, covered, for at least 10 minutes.

While the soup cooks, cook the tortellini according to package
instructions. To the soup, add the whipping cream.

Just before serving, add tortellini. (Serves 6-8)

Tied in Knots: Finding Peace in Today’s World

Greg Willits
Our Sunday Visitor, 176 pages

Stress is a way of life for most of us as we face life’s myriad challenges. Greg Willits can’t take away our “knots” of anxiety, but he does suggest how we can find peace in the midst of our worries through self-mastery.

Sharing his own experiences, Willits offers advice on fostering healthy habits, dealing with stressful situations, and identifying blessings amid our difficulties. Above all, he counsels habits of praying, seeking God’s will, maintaining faith and hope, and frequenting the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Unsurprisingly, he recommends a particular novena — to Mary, Undoer of Knots, a favorite devotion of Pope Francis.

Adult acne isn’t kid stuff

“It’s not fair!” I hear this from patients all over the country, especially women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who thought that acne was a teenage malady. Though acne prevalence peaks at age 15, significant percentages of women in their 30s (35%), 40s (26%), and 50s (15%) complain of acne; male prevalence is roughly half that in women.

Dr. Thomas McGovern

Acne occurs where the oil glands surrounding body hairs are particularly large, and in adult women, it particularly attacks the jawline and chin. Acne starts with testosterone — a hormone produced in both males and females once puberty begins — that stimulates oil gland and hair follicle lining cells to proliferate. Therefore, all acne at all ages is hormonal.

New cells and oil build up beneath the skin surface, forming whiteheads and blackheads that can’t escape through the pores, that is, unless patients squeeze them out! Increased oil in these plugs prevents oxygen from entering and provides ‘food’ for normal skin bacteria (P. acnes) that thrive in the absence of oxygen and convert oil into irritating byproducts. When a plug bursts into surrounding skin, it creates the redness, swelling, and pain experienced as annoying pimples.

Because dirt is not the cause of acne, vigorous scrubbing only serves to give sufferers a redder face.

As well, high glycemic index diets — sugar, white bread, white potatoes, candy — are linked to higher rates and more severe cases of acne; low glycemic index diets can improve acne.

And while smoking also increases acne severity in adults, quitting reduces the acne burden.

Though the cause of adult acne is the same as adolescent acne, adult women with acne are especially sensitive to testosterone. Standard treatment that works in adolescence and the early 20s often fails in older women, and 30% or more relapse after a course of isotretinoin, the “miracle drug” of acne treatment.

Furthermore, the FDA requires women on isotretinoin to sign a form stating they will use two forms of contraception to avoid pregnancy due to the 25-50% chance of severe birth defects in children conceived while mom is taking isotretinoin. While contraceptives can be morally used to treat acne, they cannot be morally used to prevent conception in patients using isotretinoin. Fortunately, most physicians are willing to prescribe isotretinoin if a woman promises to abstain from sexual intercourse during and one month after taking it.

However, a better option for women with moderate-to-severe acne is the noncontraceptive spironolactone, a hormonal treatment that blocks testosterone action at the oil gland-hair follicle unit. Spironolactone is both safer and more effective than oral contraceptives (and does not serve as a near occasion-of-sin as contraceptives do). More frighteningly, in 2005, the World Health Organization recognized oral contraceptives as a Group One Carcinogen (with cigarettes, radiation, and asbestos) for increasing the risk of breast cancer.

Spironolactone helps virtually every woman who tries it at appropriate doses and who patiently allows three to six months to reach maximal improvement. It even reduces oiliness and unwanted facial hair growth. For mild cases of adult acne with only whiteheads and blackheads — and maybe a few pimples and red bumps — the combination of over-the-counter adapalene (that unplugs pores) and benzoyl peroxide (that releases oxygen to kill P. acnes) is highly effective within three months. See a dermatologist for more details.

DR. THOMAS MCGOVERN is a dermatologist/Mohs surgeon member, Fort Wayne Chapter Legate, and Member of the National Board of the Catholic Medical Association – a national, physician-led community of healthcare professionals that informs, organizes, and inspires its members, in steadfast fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church, to uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine.

 

Meet the Chaplain: Father Dave Heney – Ventura/LA North Chapter

Father Dave Heney may be as accomplished and driven as any member of Legatus’ Ventura/LA North Chapter, where he serves as chaplain. Father Heney, 65, who next year will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his ordination, is the pastor of St. Bruno Catholic Church in Whittier, California. He is a published author who for 12 years has led an archaeological retreat to the Holy Land. Father Heney founded “The University Series,” a multi-parish education program that attracts thousands of attendees during the season of Lent, and co-hosts “The Joe Sikorra Show with Fr. Dave” on Immaculate Heart Radio. Father Heney recently spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

Fr. Dave Heney

When did you discern you were called to the priesthood?

While I was in the eighth grade, we had a very inspirational associate pastor in the parish who inspired me. But I didn’t feel like I had a vocation until my second year of college. Prior to that, I was still “trying it out” in the high school seminary. Also, I had developed some good relationships with women I knew at the time, fell in love, and yet, began to see the vocation of the priesthood really revolving around the issue of loving people.

Where did the idea of the University Series come from?

I was at St. Monica’s Church in Santa Monica, and the adult education coordinator was complaining that she had great programs, great speakers, great fliers, but the same 30 people were coming to all the events. So I decided to design a program that went in the opposite direction. Rather than making it convenient, it would make it a challenge for people to come. So, we would have it only during the season of Lent, and we would have it every night. And it would be multi-parish. We challenged people to commit the entire season of Lent, every single night going to a different parish and hearing a speaker deliver a talk. Here’s the key idea: I figured people would make a very big commitment of time if it was for a short period of time. So we invite them to dedicate the entire season of Lent, make a big commitment to God every night, and they do. We have about 15 parishes involved and about 15,000 attendees every Lent. We’ve been doing it for about 15 years now and it’s grown.

Why do you lead an archaeological retreat every year to the Holy Land?

I’m a son of a scientist. I grew up with science. Biblical archeology is a connection between science and religion. We go to the regular places, but every place we go, we discuss what the archeological evidence is that this biblical story actually occurred here. People find that very moving because it’s something that’s really reliable and verifiable. The Middle East is a place of claims, sometimes outrageous claims, that Jesus did this here or Mary did that here. When people find out at a certain spot that there is actual evidence that this actually did occur, people find it a lot more moving.

As a chapter chaplain, what value do you see Legatus having for its members and the Church?

I think the biggest insight and the biggest value I see is that it deals specifically with Catholic business leaders who have a lot of employees. We’re looking at a Catholic CEO who is a leader in a community and who has an impact over people’s lives. You know, people spend a great deal of their day at work, and if their boss is a good Catholic person, that has a big impact. I think the genius of Tom Monaghan wasn’t so much that these would be wealthy people, but that these would be influential people who have an impact over many employees at work.

Columbus – The New World Ambassador

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean seeking a westward trade route to Asia, a land of gold, silk and exotic spices. He failed. Instead, he discovered lands and peoples previously unknown to Europeans — a New World.

October marks 525 years since Columbus’ three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, made landfall in the present-day Bahamas Islands. His discovery has long been celebrated in the United States, where Columbus Day is a federal holiday.

Yet not everyone is a fan of Columbus. Some question whether the explorer is worthy of public honor, claiming he didn’t actually “discover” anything or that he abused, enslaved and exploited the native peoples he encountered. Some boldly blame him for injustices that occurred even centuries after his death.

In recent months, the anti-Columbus movement has made new headlines:

• In late August, the Los Angeles City Council changed the city calendar by replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. The city thus joined a few dozen municipalities that have suppressed the observance, including Seattle, Portland (OR), Minneapolis and Phoenix.

• That same month, New York City officials provoked controversy by suggesting that Columbus statues in Central Park and Columbus Circle could be among monuments to be evaluated for removal as “symbols of hate on city property.” Meanwhile, in several other cities, Columbus memorials were the object of vandalism or protests, some of which associated the explorer with “white supremacy” — likely in reaction to a violent clash earlier in August involving white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA, over the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

A Courageous Journey

A native of Genoa (part of modern Italy), Columbus was a skilled navigator who held that the Indies were a few thousand miles west of Spain. By harnessing the right winds and currents, he believed he could get there and back safely and more quickly than by the long, perilous overland eastbound route. He persuaded the monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, to bankroll his excursion with promises he would acquire wealth and territories for them.

Columbus surely desired to find that trade route and share in the gold and glory that would result. However, he was motivated by something deeper: he wanted to evangelize the people of Asia.

When he made landfall, Columbus thought he was on the outskirts of the Indies.

He befriended the natives he encountered, who would come to be known as “Indians.” Impressed by their meekness, generosity and intelligence, he believed they would be receptive to the Christian faith.

What’s more, he hoped the Spanish monarchs would use the gold they would reap to finance a crusade to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims. It was part of an apocalyptic vision shared by many in Columbus’ day. That crusade “was the first step in the series of events that would make possible the return of Christ before the Last Judgment at the end of the world,” anthropologist Carol Delaney wrote in her 2011 book Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem.

Over four voyages, Columbus explored the Caribbean, surveyed the South and Central American coasts, and established the first permanent European settlements in the New World. His voyages initiated the “Columbian Exchange,” a transfer of plants, animals, technology and ideas between the Old and New Worlds that brought immense benefits to both.

Why the hate?

Still, some people seem to detest Columbus.

“Today, Columbus is not a flesh-and-blood person, but a symbol,” said Delaney. “The dominant picture holds him responsible for everything that went wrong in the New World.”

Some things did go wrong. Wherever Europeans encountered Indians, native populations diminished. Some Indians died at the hands of settlers or Spanish conquistadors. However, the majority — 90 percent, according to researcher Jared Diamond — died from communicable diseases inadvertently transmitted by the Europeans for which the Indians had no immunity, such as smallpox.

Columbus was no conquistador. While some mistreatment took place in lands Columbus governed, much of it was perpetrated by his men against his orders or during his absences. “Columbus strictly told the crew not to do things like maraud, or rape, and instead to treat the native people with respect,” Delaney said in a 2014 interview. “There are many examples in his writings where he gave instructions to this effect…. A lot of the crewmembers didn’t like all of the restrictions and rebelled.” Under duress, Columbus — a weak, indecisive governor — acceded to the rebels’ demands and allowed them to force natives to work and, in some instances, to take slaves.

On his second voyage, after finding his first settlers were massacred, Columbus and his men enslaved several hundred hostile Caribs as prisoners-ofwar, then an accepted practice in both European and Indian cultures. Believing they were cannibals, he shipped them to Spain hoping they could become “civilized” and accept Christianity. The Spanish monarchs refused to accept the Caribs as slaves because they considered them subjects of the crown.

While governing the Indies, Columbus attempted harsh punitive measures to control unruly Spaniards and defend the Indians. For this he was arrested and returned to Spain in chains, later to be acquitted. His successors as governor allowed abuses against Indians to multiply.

Faced with extraordinary, difficult situations, Columbus made some poor judgments. Some of his ideas seem unenlightened through 21st-century eyes. Critics, however, blame Columbus “for consequences he did not intend, expect, or endorse,” Delaney wrote. “Judging Columbus from a contemporary perspective rather than from the values and practices of his own time misjudges his motivations and his accomplishment.”

Columbus and Bigotry

Columbus became an icon for America early in U.S. history, and his discovery was first celebrated in New York in 1792. As waves of immigrants entered America from predominantly Catholic countries, Italian Catholic immigrants began celebrating Columbus in the latter 19th century. Unsurprisingly, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant bigotry among the Protestant majority likewise increased. Many viewed Catholics suspiciously, believing obedience to the Pope compromised allegiance to the flag. It was amid such bigotry that Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, designating Columbus — a model of both American patriotism and Catholicism — as patron.

In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called for a holiday to mark the 400thanniversary of Columbus’ arrival. In 1907, Colorado established an annual state holiday. Other states followed.

Although some protesters equate Columbus with white supremacy, the whitesupremacist Ku Klux Klan actually led the anti-Columbus movement in the 1920s and 1930s, disrupting celebrations and opposing all state or local efforts to honor Columbus.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt finally proclaimed a Columbus federal holiday, designating Oct. 12, 1937 for its first observance. “Each recurrence of Columbus Day brings to all of us a greater appreciation of the heritage we have received as a result of the faith and courage and fortitude of the Genoese navigator and his brave companions,” Roosevelt said in 1938.

New Challenges

Protests and criticisms increased around the 1992 quincentenary. NativeAmerican activists staged demonstrations and vandalized statues; in 1990, South Dakota changed Columbus Day to Native Americans Day. Such dissent continues.

But Columbus Day is not about Columbus so much as his positive achievements.

“The holiday marks the event, not the person,” wrote William J. Connell, history professor at Seton Hall University, in a 2012 essay. His landing in the Bahamas “was a momentous, world-changing occasion such as has rarely happened in human history.”

Columbus “was the first in a continuous tradition of transatlantic navigation which has continued to our time,” wrote historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in his 1991 biography. “He is therefore our discoverer of America.”

Despite his flaws, Columbus exemplifies the kind of courage, faith, and spirit of adventure that led to American independence and our nation’s founding. That’s something worth remembering — and celebrating.

Honoring Columbus in America: A Brief History

1697: Chief Justice Samuel Sewall of the Massachusetts Bay Colony writes a poem suggesting American colonies be called “Columbina,” a feminine form of Columbus’ name.

1775: Former slave Phillis Wheatley sends George Washington a poem heralding “Miss Columbia.” The figure soon becomes a symbol for America.

1790: The nation’s capital is founded as the District of Columbia.

1792: In New York, the Tammany Society political organization marks the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival. The city of Baltimore dedicates a 44-foot brick obelisk in his honor.

1798: “Hail, Columbia” is composed and becomes the unofficial national anthem for more than a century.

1828: Washington Irving writes a fictionalized biography of Columbus that hails his accomplishments but perpetuates the “flat earth” myth.

1866: Italian-Americans in New York begin an annual public Columbus Day observance. Other cities soon follow.

1882: Father Michael McGinley founds The Knights of Columbus, adopting Columbus as patron symbolizing both Catholicism and American patriotism.

1882: President Benjamin Harrison issues a proclamation marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery. The World’s Columbian Exhibition is held in Chicago. Pope Leo XIII issues an encyclical extolling Columbus’ achievements.

1892: Colorado becomes the first state to establish a Columbus Day holiday. New York does likewise two years later; other states follow.

1934: With congressional approval, President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes Columbus Day as a federal holiday, setting the first annual observance for Oct. 12, 1937.

1968: Congress moves Columbus Day to the second Monday in October, effective 1970. By then, 45 states have already designated it a state holiday.

1990: South Dakota changes Columbus Day to Native Americans Day.

1992: Americans across the nation celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America.

2014: Minneapolis and Seattle switch the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. Some two dozen U.S. cities do likewise over the next three years.

2017: Activists in several cities stage anti-Columbus protests, demanding the removal of Columbus monuments and committing acts of vandalism. Los Angeles eliminates Columbus Day from its city calendar

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Columbus – apostle to the Americas

It is dizzying to endure the popular disdain for Christopher Columbus. The discoverer of the New World was a devout Catholic, as many historians and the Holy See have attested. Columbus’ decisions and behaviors were greatly influenced by his desire to honor God. But that isn’t what we hear.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Time to shine some light on forgotten reality.

In the 1870s, a number of Fathers of the First Vatican Council proposed Columbus’ canonization – not only because he introduced Christianity to the New World, but because of his character and virtue. Imagine that. Many simply will not – and ride the pop-train of malignment, touting Columbus as a hater with inexcusable sin.

The life of a culture is intertwined with its history, not in denying it. Columbus’ discovery is indeed extraordinary, but opening up two American continents to Christianity has been called the greatest evangelistic feat since the days of St. Paul. Perhaps that’s the real ‘problem.’

He was a man of deep piety – attending daily Mass at a convent chapel in Italy, where he met his first wife, Donna Phillipa. She died within two years of marriage, after giving birth to their first son, Diego. This caused Columbus tremendous grief; though he was only 30, all his hair turned gray. Ten years later he married again, to Donna Beatrix Enriquez of Spanish aristocracy. Their only child, Fernando, was born the following year in 1488.

Here’s where some historians bungle the threading. A Spanish librarian found a copy of Columbus’ last will wherein he designated a pension for Beatrix, “mother of his second son, Fernando” … which Columbus then says is “for the relief of my conscience.” The librarian presumed Beatrix was his concubine. This sloppy attribution catalyzed other animosities – upon which hostile writers and biographers have feasted since.

Columbus was a third-order Franciscan tertiary, taking Franciscan friars with him on his voyages. He went to confession regularly, had love for the Real Presence and had devotion to Mary. His shipmen maintained daily prayer, and his son Fernando noted specially: “He was so strict in matters of religion…that he might have been taken for a member of a religious order.”

Then there are Columbus’ own writings. His Book of Prophecies, scarcely mentioned by biographers, was begun in 1502 after his third voyage to America. He cites Scripture at length, following God’s will, and extending Catholicism afar. In 1491, one year before discovery of America, Spain was finally liberated from 700 years of Muslim domination – and Columbus’ voyage-journal reveals his aim to surpass Islam with spread of Christianity.

As early as 1493, he wrote to the Royal Treasurer of Spain, calling discovery of the New World a great victory – but not in the typical sense. Rather, Columbus says: “Since our Redeemer gave this victory to our most illustrious King and Queen … it is fitting for all Christendom to rejoice … and give solemn thanks to the Holy Trinity … for the great exultation it will have and the turning of so many peoples to our holy Faith.”

Hail Christopher Columbus, sir.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Managing Editor.

Systematically exterminating the disabled

Back in the dark days of the 1930s and 1940s an evil regime, inspired by the relativist ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, sought to breed a master race, practicing eugenics to eliminate those it considered subhuman (untermenschen), including the weak and the disabled. Today, many countries have resurrected the dark days of the past, using eugenics to exterminate “unfit” human beings in the womb.

Joseph Pearce

In Iceland, according to a report on CBS in August, a final solution to the problem of children with Down Syndrome has been found. In that country, which has clearly slipped back into the dark ages of eugenic barbarism, all children with Downs are systematically exterminated in the womb. About 85 percent of expectant mothers undergo prenatal testing, and close to 100 percent of those women choose to abort if their child is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Only two children with Down Syndrome are born in Iceland each year. What are we to make of a culture in which almost every mother chooses to kill her own baby if the child in the womb is disabled?

Although Iceland might be the worst, things aren’t much better elsewhere. In Europe as a whole, 92% of mothers choose to “terminate” their child with Down Syndrome, while in the United Kingdom the figure is 90%. Things are marginally better in the United States where more than twothirds of women choose to give their child death instead of life, though some studies indicate that as many as 90% of American women make this dark choice.

In France, a pro-life video was banned by the government because it shows children and adults with Down Syndrome speaking cheerfully of the happy lives they’re living. The sight of smiling children was deemed offensive because it might “disturb the conscience” of those who chose to exterminate their own child with Downs. Again, what are we to make of a culture in which the government encourages women to kill their own “unfit” children but won’t allow anything to “disturb their consciences”?

In truth, and now it’s confession time, this whole issue is very close to home for me and my family because our own son, Leo, has Down Syndrome. He is the happiest and most carefree member of the family – and a veritable joy at the very heart of our home. I have many photographs of him smiling sweetly, which I would presumably be banned from publishing in France. He is happy and we are happy because we have chosen to love him and accept him. He is a gift, not in any trite sense of the word, but in the real sense that we have been given something very special which has changed all our lives for the better.

Leo is a pearl of great price because he is a pearl of wisdom, not his own wisdom, which his disability prevents him from having, but in the wisdom that he has bestowed upon us by being who he is.

I am reminded of the words of someone who told me that most of us are here to learn but some of us are here to teach. Those with Down Syndrome are here to teach. We have learned so much from our son about the meaning of love, and the blessings that come from the sacrifices that love demands. Without him we would be so much the poorer because we would not have the riches of wisdom that he has given us.

I thank God for the gift of our son, Leo Patrick Pearce, a gift that my wife and I don’t deserve. Domine, non sum dignus . Lord, I am not worthy that you should have bestowed such a wonderful gift on me, a sinner. Might I praise you every day for your goodness to me, my wife and our daughter in giving us such a blessing.

JOSEPH PEARCE is senior editor at the Augustine Institute and editor of the St. Austin Review. His latest book is Heroes of the Catholic Reformation (Our Sunday Visitor).