Fight for life with Jason Jones Jan. 31

Larry Smith

I’ve written previously about “The real war on women: a life of poverty.” Here’s the reality: “The culture asks women to contracept. Then, when they become pregnant, it asks them to abort. If they don’t abort and keep the child, many times they are ostracized from their family or violently abused by a partner. They are often left to raise their child completely alone.”

Now meet someone who, like Catholic Charities, is on the front lines, fighting for life. If you saw the 2006 pro-life movie “Bella,” you may already be familiar with the work of Jason Scott Jones, a producer of that film and others. He’s also the author, with John Zmirak, of the recent book, “The Race to Save Our Century.”

Jones will be the keynote speaker at the Beacon of Hope Gala on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Wings Over the Rockies, benefiting Lighthouse and Women’s Services of Catholic Charities. We raised $500,000 at the previous gala, which was sold out. I urge you to buy your tickets now through www.ccdenver.org/gala. Money raised will help support a range of women’s services, including Lighthouse Women’s Center, which has saved more than 50 lives of babies in its first two years in operation across the street from Planned Parenthood.

“If we cannot care for the most vulnerable members of our family, the child in the womb, then who can we care for?” said Jones by telephone recently. He himself experienced that tragedy. After he and his high-school girlfriend discovered she was pregnant, he entered the Army in order to support them. When he was in basic training in 1989, said Jones, he received a phone call from her telling him that she had been coerced into having an abortion.

Jones went on to become a pro-life activist, working at Hawaii Right to Life, in politics and for Human Life International. His focus now is using media to change hearts and minds, illuminating Catholic social teaching on the dignity of the human person.

“Why Catholic Charities and, to me, pregnancy centers are so important is they are a safety net for the most vulnerable members of our communities, which is mothers and their pre-born children,” said Jones, a Catholic convert.

Jones met his wife, they married in 2005 and live in Hawaii. They have seven children. He has an amazing vision for a new culture of life, including a short film, “Crescendo,” that will be online this week. Producers with Jones include Pattie Mallette (the mother of Justin Bieber) and Eduardo Verastegui, the star of “Bella.”

“My goal with this project was to create a monument to the incomparable dignity and beauty of the human person that would transcend time and culture,” said Jones in a statement.

Please join us and Jason Jones in the fight for life at the Jan. 31 Beacon of Hope Gala. And if you can’t attend, please give generously to support our work.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Denver Archdiocese. Visit us online at www.ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.  To buy tickets for the Beacon of Hope Gala and learn more about Jason Jones at www.ccdenver.org/gala.

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

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.