Tag Archives: Mark Brumley

Gun control and the pro-life movement

Last fall, Chicago Archbishop Blaise Cupich said gun violence is “a pro-life issue and should be front and center with all of the others.” He makes an important point.

Mark Brumley

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were some 33,636 gun-related deaths in the U.S. recorded in 2013. While some people, perhaps oversensitive to Second Amendment concerns, may recoil at calling gun violence a “pro-life” issue, the fact that it involves the taking of human life, whether intentionally or by accident, makes it one.

What to do about it? Faithful Catholics disagree. Some call for more regulation while others question the value of the same or contend such laws unjustly undercut gun owners’ rights. Archbishop Cupich himself is a strong gun-control advocate, as is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We find here the challenging issue of disagreement on political matters among Catholics equally committed to Church teaching. I say “equally committed to Church teaching” because disagreement can also arise from rejection of such teaching. That’s not what I mean. Well-formed, knowledgeable, and committed Catholics sometimes reasonably disagree on a subject — even when they agree on fundamental principles. That fact doesn’t mean there is no right answer on the subject, although it may mean the answer isn’t obvious.

Regarding the political dimension of “pro-life issues,” the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago used the image of the “seamless garment” as his “take” on the more general notion of a consistent life ethic. (The term “seamless garment” comes from John 19:23’s reference to Jesus’ garment, often taken as a metaphor for Church unity.)

Most pro-life Catholics think a consistent life ethic is important — the alternative being an inconsistent one! But they sometimes disagreed about how to understand the Seamless Garment approach. Are all issues touching on human life equally important? Can we disagree about some approaches and still be committed to a consistent life ethic? Not all threats to human life are equally grave, acknowledge most Seamless Garment supporters. Nor, they admit, must everybody agree on the best way to protect human life in all instances. Critics reply that, in practice, the Seamless Garment philosophy often comes across as a list of policy stances on which everybody who wants rightly to claim the name “pro-life” must agree.

Moreover, we shouldn’t confuse issues — even those rightly included as “pro-life” concerns. Take gun control. A consistent ethic of life doesn’t create a set of obvious policy positions on gun violence. Within certain limits, reasonable committed to the dignity of the human person, might come to different conclusions about how to solve the problem.

In this regard, we should resist the temptation to hurl slogans at those with whom we disagree. For example, accusing someone who opposes abortion, but doesn’t accept strict gun control of being “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-life.” Or dismissing a gun-control advocate as a “peace and justice” Catholic rather than a “pro-lifer.”

It’s possible to be inconsistently pro-life — to affirm the principle of respect for human life in one instance, but to fail to do so in another: to be, say, anti-abortion but not consistently pro-life. But rejecting certain legal restrictions on guns as a means of reducing gun violence doesn’t automatically make one “anti-abortion” rather than “pro- life.” Likewise, it’s possible to pursue social justice and reduction of gun violence while ignoring the over one million abortions annually in the U.S. But just because one works against gun violence doesn’t necessarily mean one doesn’t care about abortion.

“Often enough the Christian view of things will itself suggest some specific solution in certain circumstances,” notes Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes. “Yet it happens rather frequently, and legitimately so, that with equal sincerity some of the faithful will disagree with others on a given matter. Even against the intentions of their proponents, however, solutions proposed on one side or another may be easily confused by many people with the Gospel message. Hence it is necessary for people to remember that no one is allowed in the aforementioned situations to appropriate the Church’s authority for his opinion. They should always try to enlighten one another through honest discussion, preserving mutual charity and caring above all for the common good” (#43).

Some people may dislike calling gun violence a “pro-life issue,” but it is. Yet we mustn’t be quick to equate our political solution to the problem with the “pro-life” position and dismiss others as not “pro- life.” A thoughtful, vigorous, yet charitable discussion on the subject can also be “pro-life.”

MARK BRUMLEY is the author of “The Seven Deadly Sins of Apologetics” and the former director of Social Ministries for the Diocese of San Diego. He is also president of Ignatius Press.

Equipped for the ‘next America’

Tim Busch’s Napa Institute has a mission to catechize through its various programs . . .

Tim Busch

Tim Busch

For four days every July, Catholic leaders gather in California’s Napa Valley to learn from theologians, bishops, philosophers and others how to live and defend their faith in a world that is increasingly hostile to religious belief and practice.

The Napa Institute is the brainchild of Orange County Legate Tim Busch, who was inspired by the annual Legatus Summit as well as by the secular Aspen and Vail Leadership institutes.

Busch, CEO of Pacific Hospitality Group and co-founder of Busch & Caspino, began envisioning the Napa Institute, after a 2006 Legatus conference at his Meritage Resort in Napa.

Connect and learn

Busch’s plan was to create a place where Catholic lay and ordained leaders could connect with each other and learn about new and growing movements in the Church. In an atmosphere enhanced by opportunities for prayer, Mass, devotions and Eucharistic adoration, participants would listen to academically trained speakers whose presentations would be published after each conference.

Response to the idea was positive from day one, Busch said, and has grown in intensity, as reflected by the attendance and requests from those who want to speak at the event.

napa-1“It’s a great joy to bring all of these people together,” Busch said. “I saw it as an opportunity to develop an experience that I personally would enjoy. I wanted something really engaging that makes faith not only fun but passionate to be involved with.”

The institute’s motto is “Equipping Catholics in the Next America,” a phrase drawn from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput’s article “Catholics and the Next America.” He spoke at the 2012 Napa Institute and will return this year.

In the article, the he warns Catholics about a growing trend toward secularization in American culture, one in which they face a dwindling relevance that threatens their ability to be heard.

“The ‘next America,’” he writes, “has been in its chrysalis for a long time. Whether people will be happy when it fully emerges remains to be seen. But the future is not predestined. We create it with our choices. And the most important choice we can make is both terribly simple and terribly hard: to actually live what the Church teaches, to win the hearts of others by our witness and to renew the soul of our country with the courage of our own Christian faith and integrity. There is no more revolutionary act.”

Busch said the Napa Institute seeks to provide courage and an example to Catholic leaders to help them deal with the challenges of life in an America where faith is no longer encouraged in the public square. The effort is rooted, he said, in what he has learned through his 25 years in Legatus — and from Legatus founder Tom Monaghan, whom he considers a mentor.

“We’re trying to stop the flow of faith from the public square and put it back in the public square and business,” said Busch, who has been instrumental in founding 10 of Legatus’ 79 chapters.

Faith and reason

napa-3Legate Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press and a Napa Institute board member, said the conference has shown people that the Catholic faith has something to say regarding the modern world and contemporary scene.

He credits Busch with generating enthusiasm for the project when it started. “People see Tim as a solid Catholic leader who is quite a bridgebuilder.”

Board member Liz Yore said the institute exudes a confidence in Catholicism. “That, for me, is an example of how each of us as Catholics needs to incorporate our faith in a real, substantive way into our work and lives.”

Each year, the Napa Institute focuses on three themes, one of which is always faith and reason. This year, the other two will be economic justice and faith and beauty. Busch said economic justice is a timely topic in light of what Pope Francis has been saying on the subject, although speakers also will address it from the perspective of the Bible and what the Church has taught through the centuries.

The institute —which drew 235 attendees last year — also has a component for young leaders under 40. And this year it will offer a special panel on faith and the feminine genius as articulated by St. John Paul II.

napa-2“It’s going to be fun and interesting to see what comes out of it,” said Yore, who will moderate the panel. “My sense of the Napa Institute is that initiatives come out of it, things start happening, and people start working together on projects that they’re exposed to or create as a result of the institute.”

In addition to the summer conference in Napa, the institute holds an annual pilgrimage and other off-site events. This year’s events also include a conference on free markets and Catholic social teaching, and a symposium on Christians in the Middle East.

Kevin Hand, a member of Legatus’ Hollywood Chapter, has attended all three Napa conferences and plans to be at this year’s July 24-27 event. The institute, he said, has helped him grow spiritually by giving him a better understanding of the Church’s teachings. He cited in particular his participation in the institute’s 2013 pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

“It was such a gift from God,” he said, adding that it helped him better understand the perspective of migrating people from all over the world. “It’s fascinating how the Church has assisted in taking care of them.”

Yore said she finds the institute to be a perfect blend of the intellectual, spiritual and social. In addition to having a wide range of choices for Mass and prayer, Yore said she most enjoys the exchanges with speakers and other participants in the smaller breakout sessions. The way the institute is set up, she said, attendees have an opportunity to meet almost everyone who is there.

“That’s unusual because I’ve been involved in lots of conferences where you don’t have that sense of meeting the whole group of people and really discussing in depth the issues presented at the conference,” she explained. “It’s very stimulating on a lot of different levels and I always feel like I’m coming home refreshed, with a new set of friends as well as Catholic compatriots.”

Brumley said he believes the institute is influencing people who might not be reached through other avenues.

“They may be involved in the academic world or the creative cultural world like filmmaking, screenwriting or poetry and have a kind of leadership role in their universe, but they don’t find places to connect and to have this kind of high-level intellectual, spiritual, cultural engagement in the context of the Church.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

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