... with Catholic New World (Archdiocese of Chicago) and CatholicMom.com.
First, from the interview with Catholic New World:
CNW:What are the non-negotiables?
Liaugminas: Catholic social teaching covers a broad spectrum of principles we must not capitulate on or abrogate in caring for human life and needs. It’s not negotiable that we must feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, relieve suffering, protect the vulnerable, seek justice wherever it is denied, work for peace.
But some rights are so fundamental to all others that they take pre-eminence as first principles for a free, just and virtuous society to exist and flourish. They are life from the biological beginning to life at the most dependent final end, marriage between one man and one woman for the sake of their children and the role of family in society, and the protection of conscience and religious freedom to carry out the social gospel in public life.
CNW: You write that the right to life underlies all of the non-negotiables. Some critics say the Catholic Church focuses too much on abortion over other issues. How do we respond to that?
Liaugminas: If you can’t guarantee the right to life, no coherent argument can be made for any other right for human beings. Our popes, each in succession, have taught this immutable truth repeatedly and forcefully. We should never be defensive of such a fundamental truth. It’s not an “either/or” proposition of abortion or other important human rights. It’s a “both/and,” beginning with protecting human life from the youngest, most vulnerable stage through to human life in the final, often vulnerable stage. Every abortion ends a human life. Full stop. ...
CNW: What’s the value of the Christian witness in today’s world?
Liaugminas: When lived out, ours is a countercultural witness to transcendent truths about human dignity inherent to every person, deriving not from a State or government but from the Creator. Christians throughout the ages have witnessed to those eternal truths in the face of grave dangers, and we are the modern inheritors of that tradition and the teaching of the church. G. K. Chesterton said there are many ways to fall, but only one way to stand. It is with the truth found in the Christian faith. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “The end of life is not to achieve pleasure or avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.” These are timeless truths and we have to be courageous, unafraid, calm and charitable in debating, defending or sharing them with people in the modern world.
Our recent popes have given us the moral grammar to talk about these issues with clarity and charity in a society that has given rise to “the culture of death” as Pope John Paul II stated it, an increasingly secular society that is “increasingly growing hostile to Christianity,” as Pope Benedict XVI stated it, a “throwaway culture” that has grown into a “culture of indifference” as Pope Francis stated it.
He calls us continually to “go out to the existential peripheries” and “create a culture of encounter.” That can be across the world in developing countries, or across the street, the office space or even your kitchen table at home in this country. Complacency is not an option. We have been given the knowledge, the words and the tools, and certainly the continual encouragement, to go out and reach the world with the love and mercy of Christ.
I end the book on what I pray is a hopeful note. Early in his papacy, in one of his compelling daily homilies, Pope Francis said “Christians are called to do the great work of evangelizing to the ends of the world … she goes forth with Jesus…This is the magnanimity that Christians should have … this magnanimity is part of the Christian vocation: always more and more, more and more, more and more, always onwards.”
And from CatholicMom.com:
Q: Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
Ever since early childhood, I knew I wanted to be a journalist, making my own newspapers while following daily news reporting in the newspaper and network television. I’m a cradle Catholic raised in an environment imbued with the sense of transcendent truth, and the Social Gospel of caring for ‘the least of these’, which informed everything I did as a professional journalist. While reporting for Time Magazine, I married and had two sons, rededicated myself to the faith for their sake, and committed to family and work, in that order. Raising my sons was a wonderful blessing and loads of fun, with lots of family travel that brought us in touch with other cultures and global realities. My firstborn son discerned a call to the priesthood and was ordained in 2010. He’s studying in Rome for his doctorate, and is scheduled to teach on faculty at Mundelein Seminary in a few years. He’s an amazing priest and scholar. My younger son is a gifted writer with a postgraduate degree, struggling as most writers do to find his place while doing unrelated work that feeds his imagination for future fiction pieces. My husband is a physician who loves his family, travel and the always-trying Chicago sports teams. ...
Q: What prompted you to write this book and what do you hope that readers will take from their experience with Non-Negotiable?
The book started as a response to a long perceived need of such a reference, since the bishops issued ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,’ and yet so many Catholics don’t access it. We need an accessible book in hand that distills Church teaching, provides specific points and links, and helps us to ‘be prepared to give an explanation for what you believe’ (a liturgical reading just before Pentecost). Writing it was finally precipitated by a parish Respect Life group’s need for a resource that states clearly what the Church teaches on the top issues of the day, and why. But early on, I prayerfully discerned that the book needed to cast a wider net and drew from the nation’s founding documents, universal human rights declarations and civil rights struggles as well as Church teaching. My intent was to show that these aren’t truths because the Catholic Church teaches them. The Catholic Church teaches them because they’re true.
Q: You cover some critical issues that are complex yet timely in today’s society. Which portions of the book were most challenging to write?
Given the social, cultural and political climate today, fostered by frequent media distortions, the chapter on marriage was probably a tougher one to navigate. I always seek what I call ‘clarity with charity,’ and there’s not much charity in that debate today. With the focus on human dignity of all persons, and the reason for laws and their social ramifications, I wanted to keenly clarify Church teaching and long standing social policy, while upholding dignity for everyone concerned in the debate, which is all of us at this moment in our history. But then, the chapters on when life begins, the euthanasia movement, and religious liberty dealing with the government mandate that violates conscience rights, all presented their challenges.
More about the book:
by Sheila Liaugminas
What gave Abraham Lincoln the authority to declare the freedom and choice to own slaves as immoral? After all, the law of the land allowed it. What gave Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King the authority to lead a whole movement calling civil laws immoral and demanding new civil rights laws that recognized the equal dignity and worth of "all God's children" without exception? After all, segregation was legal. What gave the United Nations the moral authority to claim and designate absolute human rights in an international declaration, though some member nations were already violating them?
Principles. First principles. In their founding documents, the United States and the United Nations recognized the principles that all men have inherent dignity and that they deserve equal rights. They both have declared those principles the conditions fundamental to freedom, justice, and peace. Yet both the United States and the United Nations have within them powerful political forces passing laws or resolutions that violate first principles and put at risk the most vulnerable populations.
This book goes beyond the politics of pragmatism and cultural relativism to reacquaint the reader with first principles. It demonstrates what the Church has to say about the most important issues of our time and why. It anticipates the questions readers will ask and provides the answers they will need in the struggle to restore respect for human dignity.
Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy Award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. She reported for Time magazine in its Midwest Bureau for over 20 years, and co-hosted the Chicago television program YOU. She has appeared on Fox Chicago News and the BBC. Liaugminas is an established contributor to MercatorNet.com, and has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Crain's Chicago Business, Crisis, National Catholic Register, and National Review Online. She currently hosts the daily radio program A Closer Look on Relevant Radio.
Praise for Non-Negotiable:
"Sheila Liaugminas is an articulate voice of the New Evangelization and as she demonstrates in this powerful book, being seriously Catholic today means being part of a culture-reforming counterculture."
- George Weigel, Author, Evangelical Catholicism
"Combining the passion of personal conscience and the convictions of reason and faith, Sheila Liaugminas analyzes conflicted points in our culture in the light of first principles. It's a good tool in skilled hands."
- Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. Archbishop of Chicago
"Sheila Liaugminas stresses in her fine book that 'Complacency is not an option,' and she hammers home that point with brilliant insight into the past, present and future of all the so-called 'social issues' that continue to divide America. This book is a must-read for every person of faith who understands that action is needed – now – if we ever hope to build a free, just and humane society."
- Dr. Alveda King, Director of African-American Outreach, Priests for Life
"I truly admire Sheila Liaugminas. She is an outstanding journalist. We have dialogued extensively on her radio program about the rights of conscience and the protection of what we call our 'first principles.' Sheila has laid out in great breadth and depth the need for a revived understanding of the essentials of human dignity and societal organization."
- Jeff Fortenberry, Member of Congress
"Both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have spoken of the 'dictatorship of relativism' in our world today and its negative impacts not just on our faith, but to the common good of society. Shelia Liaugminas draws upon the universal principle of natural human rights and dignity to address several contemporary moral issues which have suffered as a result of a relativistic mindset. Her book is a valuable resource in the struggle to restore a true, just and virtuous society."
- Most Reverend Thomas Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield, Illinois
"Sheila Liaugminas brings her keen insights on applying timeless truths to important issues of the day. She demonstrates how 'first principles' have made free, just, and humane society possible and explains why these principles must be non-negotiable. As America grapples with issues of freedom and justice today, Sheila's book is a must-read for those who want to understand why it is critical that we do not back down from "human truths" – affirmed by the Catholic Church and others – if we want a society that protects every individual's life and dignity."
- Dan Lipinski, Member of Congress