You responded, made a difference

'Let us continue to be people of hope...a leaven in society'

Karna Swanson

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila gave credit for the pro-life victory in Colorado tonight to the people of Colorado “who listened to God’s call” and voiced their opposition to the abortion rights bill known as SB175.

Read the entire letter here

“You are the ones who made a difference!” he wrote in a statement released shortly after state senators killed the bill even before debating it in the Senate. The legislation sought to create an absolute right to abortion in Colorado, and possibly undo life-affirming laws already on the books.

Faith-filled citizens inundated state senators with phone calls, emails and personal requests to support mothers and the unborn by voting down the bill, touted as the “The Reproductive Health Freedom Act.”

On Tuesday, with less than a day’s notice, as estimated 1,000 Coloradans gathered at the state Capitol building at 3 p.m., the Hour of Mercy, to join Archbishop Samuel Aquila to pray for the defeat of SB175. He was joined by Father Ambrose Omayas, assistant administrator of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver.

“As I said yesterday after we prayed together on the steps of the state Capitol,” the archbishop wrote, “I had no idea how much impact my letter would have on the people of Colorado. In just a few days we are able to raise a united front in opposition to Senate Bill 175 and in defense of unborn children, the most innocent of all people.

“Congratulations to the people of good will throughout Colorado who listened to God’s call to be active in politics and to defend life at every stage!”

The archbishop then expressed gratitude towards all those who came together to pray at the state Capitol on Tuesday, including “families that came out in support of life, particularly mothers who came with their young children.”

He also thanked seminarians, priests, women religious, and those “of various faiths who work each and every day to be a leaven in society for the common good.”

“We need you!” he added. “Keep up the good work!”

Archbishop Aquila expressed “deep gratitude” to Father Omayas, “who joined me in a particularly moving way on the steps of the state Capitol to pray and bless the people present.”

He also thanked Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo, who joined him in writing a letter against SB175 to all the state senators, and Regis University president Father John Fitzgibbons, who released a public letter in opposition of SB175.

Our strength, our hope

Turning his attention to Holy Week, the archbishop noted that “these holiest days of the year are a very important moment of memory.”

“For the Catholic Christian,” he continued, “living the ‘memory’ of Christ is not like remembering some completed event that’s now relegated to history; rather, the memory of Christ is someone present in our midst – in the sacraments, in our communities – and is the same as remembering who we are, and whose we are.

“He is our strength and our hope and the one who brings joy to the human heart!”

“Our hope lies not in the powers of government,” he continued, “nor the laws of man, but in the Resurrected God-Man who conquers the grave and never ceases to be present among us, his followers.

“This is not the end of a political battle, but the beginning of a journey together in the Archdiocese of Denver. Let us continue to be people of hope. Let us continue to be a leaven in society. Let us continue to seek the kingdom of God, helping one another, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

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Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.