A Holy Week miracle

Senate kills abortion rights bill; pro-lifers made voices heard

Nissa LaPoint

Remember this night; remember this bill.

Life won a victory over the culture of death tonight when state senators began to buckle in the pursuit of the “abortion rights” Senate Bill 175 and killed it shortly before 7 p.m.

Pro-lifers mobilized in less than a week to pray for the defeat of the destructive bill that threatened to create unfettered access to abortion and undo life-affirming laws in Colorado.

Faith-filled citizens inundated state senators with phone calls, emails and personal requests to vote down the bill in support of mothers and for the protection of the unborn.

Jenny Kraska of the Colorado Catholic Conference said this night, April 16, is proof that Catholics can make a difference.

“Whenever someone says that we can’t make a difference, just remember this night, just remember this bill,” she said.

The Senate moved to lay over the bill until May 8, one day after the legislative session is scheduled to end on May 7. This effectively killed the bill, and the Senate will not vote on it.

Sen. John Kefalas, D-Larimer, who belongs to the Orthodox Church, and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, a parishioner at Spirit of Christ Church in Arvada, reportedly began to waver in their support of the bill as pro-lifers made their voices heard.

Without the majority vote of the Democrats, the bill would have failed.

Kraska thanked everyone for their witness that stopped the bill in its tracks.

“It is because of your willingness to engage the public square that we were able to defeat (Senate Bill 175),” she said in a statement. “Your voices matter and are needed in the public square now more than ever; please remember what we were able to accomplish and continue to be involved and make your voices heard.”

Some are calling it a Holy Week miracle.

“I cannot thank you all enough for what you did to make this possible—this is truly a miracle,” Kraska said.

The bill’s progress was stopped one day after nearly 1,000 Christians gathered with Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Greek Orthodox Father Ambrose Omayas at the state Capitol to pray for the protection of life.

Young and old; men, women and children; laity and religious; solemnly prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. April 15.

The bill was scheduled for a vote that same evening and faithful from the gathering outside flooded the Senate chambers. However, the Senate moved to lay over the bill because one Democrat, Kefalas, a key supporter of the bill, reportedly went home sick.

Bill proponents believe the outside prayer gathering and the high volume of opposition and prayer led the Democrat-controlled Senate to move to end the bill April 16.

During that prayer rally, Archbishop Aquila told the crowd gathered on the Capitol steps that it’s important to participate in the political system. He said Catholics can no longer take the backseat.

“Some of the senators have said they have shut off their phones, some of them said they have never been contacted by so many,” the archbishop said during the gathering. “And you can make a difference. Too many times we have taken a backseat, and Catholics, Christians, and people of good will can no longer take a back seat.”

His statements echoed the words of Pope Francis, who said in September, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”

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.