Archives For October 2017

A reflection on abortion and physician assisted suicide from the perspective of our nation’s most cherished rights and duties

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At the heart of almost every pro-life issue, there is a fundamental divide between the right and responsibility to life and the right and responsibility to freedom. This divide is particularly apparent in the topics of abortion and physician assisted suicide. With abortion, there is a division between the unborn baby’s right to life and the woman’s right to freedom. With physician assisted suicide, there is a division between the person’s responsibility to life and his or her right to freedom. Aside from these individual rights and responsibilities, there are concerns about the societal effects that these decisions carry with them. What does it mean to live in a society that values a woman’s right to freedom over an unborn baby’s right to life? What does it mean to live in a society that values a person’s right to freedom over his or her responsibility to life? In this talk we will examine these issues.

Nowadays, one often hears talk about rights, but one rarely hears talk about responsibilities. A return to the wording of our Declaration of Independence will provide something essential about the relationship between rights and responsibilities. The Founding Fathers declare,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In our founding document, everyone can clearly observe the notion of “rights,” but it is more difficult to discern the notion of “responsibilities” or “duties.” The document references “rights” frequently, but it only references “duties” on one occasion: namely, our duty to seek independence from an unjust regime.

The interpretative key rests in the phrase “these ends.” What are “these ends?” Are they life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness themselves, or are they merely the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? If the ends are the former—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness themselves—then it would seem that the government has a responsibility not only to guard these rights of the citizens but also to promote the rights’ objects. If the ends are the latter, then it would seem that the government only has a responsibility to defend rights, not to intervene in the promotion of objects of the rights themselves.

Two details lend themselves to the interpretation that the Founding Fathers thought of the ends as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness themselves. The first detail has to do with the one use of the word “duty” previously mentioned. The text reads, “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Here one notes that either the Founders (1) used the terms “right” and “duty” somewhat interchangeably or (2) thought that a right has a corresponding duty. In either case, it is difficult to maintain that the Framers of our Nation were pure libertarians on the matter: they held the government has the duty to construct laws that promote life, liberty, and happiness as much as the government has the duty to secure citizens’ individual rights to these objects.

The second detail has to do with the new government’s job of affecting “safety and happiness.” It is one thing to say that the government has the duty to guard against affronts to life, liberty, and happiness, but it is quite a stronger thing to say that the government has a duty to promote safety and happiness themselves. The inclusion of the “safety and happiness” clause suggests that the Founding Fathers thought it was beneficial to have a positive or constructive understanding of government: the government not only tears down oppression but also builds justice. Political ends are not only rights to goods but also goods themselves. The government must take some responsibility for encouraging our life, our liberty, and our happiness.

This reasoned interpretation of the Declaration of Independence does not sit well with proponents of the ideology of choice, whether in the case of abortion or physician assisted suicide. The opposition overlooks the positive and constructive role of the government and, instead, demotes government to guardianship of the shrine to individual liberties. The golden calf of this shrine is freedom, indiscriminate of its relationship with life and happiness. A corrupted concept of freedom as “the absolute ability to choose” has become the idol of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The chief philosopher or ideologue of this cult is Jean Paul Sartre. In his book Of Human Freedom, he claims, “Freedom is precisely the nothingness which is made-to-be at the heart of man and which forces human-reality to make itself instead of to be” (38). For him and his band of disciples, the human has no duties that correspond to its God-given nature. A person is free to choose anything, even to murder. The depraved motto is “I do what I want.” Always placing itself at the foot of the individual, the government’s role reduces itself to guarantor of this Sartrian freedom. In this dystopia the government’s only sin can be “oppression,” and an individual’s only sin can be negative judgment of another’s free decisions. The safety and happiness of the Declaration of Independence become slaves to the master of liberty. The government is not pro-life or pro-human flourishing. It can only be pro-choice.

However, a true student of history and philosophy will know lex est magistra vitae (the law is life’s teacher). Culture is often downstream from law—the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage being the chief example of our age. When the government permits or prohibits, it teaches. It is here that the pro-life movement must correct the wrongs of abortion, physician assisted suicide, and other affronts of liberty against life. Proponents of life ask the government to defend not only rights qua freedoms—now the phrase “right to x” means “freedom to/of x”—but also to proactively support life and integral flourishing at the individual and communal levels.

It is now clear that individual liberty is not the only goal of government, but the specific legal relationships among life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remain ambiguous. The government may defend the rights as well as the responsibilities to all, but what happens when these rights and responsibilities are in conflict? Is it better to be radically free or to simply be alive?

The issue of physician assisted suicide illuminates this conflict acutely. The pure libertarian stands for the legality of the fatal procedure because each person has absolute dominion over his or her body and because there are no direct negative consequences to others. Furthermore, the assisted suicide may relieve a great deal of pain, which might otherwise continue indefinitely. How can the proponent of life defend his or her opinion in the face of these seemingly valid justifications? Is the duty to continue living absolute?

To begin a case for life, it is essential to double back to the proper role of the government: to ensure the freedom as well as the safety and happiness of its citizens. Physician assisted suicide is certainly not “safe”—killing is the opposite of safe—but the procedure’s claim to happiness is more difficult to ascertain. An assessment of the resultant happiness depends heavily on one’s philosophy and religion. It seems that there is a complication: physician assisted suicide is pro-freedom, anti-life, and somewhat religion-philosophy dependent on happiness. The case is ambiguous, so it seems appropriate for the American people themselves to decide, not the judicial interpreters of our legal rights and duties.

The Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion, but it does not forbid people to vote based on their religious views. What does the Catholic Church have to say about the matter? Following good ancient philosophy as much as Jesus, she thinks that our lives belong to God, who alone should have the awesome responsibility of deciding the dividing line between life and death.

Furthermore, the Church’s understanding of suffering is different from that of the world. The world is hedonistic: it seeks pleasure, success, and autonomy. It teaches that one’s life decreases in value or dignity to the degree that suffering, failure, and dependency increase. The world’s horizon is life, this life.

The Church is different. Her standard is Jesus Christ. Her motto is love, not only erotic love but also self-sacrificial, committed love. She teaches that one’s dignity is infinite because God is its source. The Church’s horizon is infinite and eternal. Suffering here is for but a moment compared to the eternal life to come. When a Catholic suffers, he or she unites that suffering to the sacrifice of the cross, trusting that pain and strife are redemptive. The Catholic knows that God himself has entered into the depths of suffering in his Son, Jesus, who has made suffering love salvific. One who knows that God has plumbed the horror of suffering no longer fears it. The apostle writes, “Death, where is your sting?”

To conclude, it is fitting to consider the pro-life mission in this contemporary culture that fears suffering and death yet paradoxically refuses to embrace the renewal of life in the womb. A proponent of life from conception to natural death is like a prophet who preaches the best of the American legal tradition alongside the best of religious tradition. The Creator has endowed every person with certain rights, and these rights are foundational because of the truths that they defend. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are goods in themselves, and the government has the duty to defend and promote their fulfillment. When these goods come into conflict with each other, it is up to the American people to decide the road ahead. May we choose to uphold the sanctity and inviolability of life, which find their foundation in God, the one who fixes the “the Laws of Nature.”

Presented at Loyola University Chicago, October 29, 2017

Best wishes,

David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J.

Leaves David pic

(My photo, 2015 at Starved Rock)



It is not death but truth

The chilly breeze reveals,

Lavishly clothing the oak

Before stripping her bare



Beg to be an evergreen,

Striving for the golden mean,

Never shaken but serene,

Bowing not to fate’s routine.



Tell not the young!

Spare them the pain

Of bitter hearts.


Rinse them. Dry them.

Wrap them in white,

And set them free.

Best wishes,

David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J.




I offer a reflection on my summer with La Fragua Theatre in El Progreso, Honduras. Send me a message if you would like to support La Fragua’s mission to forge a culture of art and justice in Honduras.

(En español abajo)

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Honduras: Not as Bad as Some Might Think 

            It was a simmering hot July afternoon in El Progreso, Honduras, and I was just about to take my afternoon siesta. I turned the fan towards my bed and laid down to rest. Not soon after my head hit the pillow, I heard my cell phone emit a harsh bling. I picked it up and saw a message from Edwin, a young and relatively new actor at the theatre. He was inviting me to an appetizing bean soup at his house down the street. My stomach was lighter than my eyes were heavy, so I redressed, picked up my sombrero, and scurried out the door.

Edwin’s house was humble. It had a small kitchen, a living room, a bedroom or two, and a patio. On the walls there were various prayers in cursive and a painting of Moses parting the Red Sea. The bean soup was nearly boiling. I’ve never come to understand why it was such a phenomenon in the already devilishly hot El Progreso. It made me sweat all the more, but it tasted like heaven.

After the meal, we chatted and took a tour around the neighborhood. He showed me the park with its little playground and concrete soccer field. The kids and young adults would meet there at night to play, gossip, and make mischief. He showed me the spot where one of his friends dragged himself to safety after getting shot, but he assured me that the community was no longer as violent because it established a team of vigilante armed guards protecting all four entrances.

I returned home later that afternoon. I was very grateful for the meal and the comradery, so I sent Edwin a little “thank you” message on WhatsApp. He soon replied, “You’re welcome, David. We just want to show you that Honduras isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be.” The text made me smile, and it has stuck with me as a particularly appropriate description of my time with teatro la fragua.

If you tour around El Progreso with a U.S. mind like mine, I’m guessing that several things will grab your attention. There are stray dogs everywhere, and none of them are neutered. From the mouths of men young and old, you will consistently hear phrases like bitch mother, dick, and fag. Every other person seems to have a gun. People are always telling you to be careful—and rightfully so. If you’re white and male like I am, lots of people will smile, point, and say, “Gringo.” Some women might mutter to each other that you are handsome, while other women might mutter to each other that you must be rich.

However, if you happen to chance upon teatro la fragua, you will see dance practices and dress rehearsals, little girls in tutus and middle-aged men in funny hats. You will hear musical harmonies and theatrical voices expressing a wide range of emotions. Granted, you will also notice many of the characteristics of El Progreso described above; but you’ll come to see that, with teatro la fragua around, Honduras turns out to be not quite as bad as some might think.

Theatre is a genre of desires. Emotions and dreams find form on stage. They take on life, and they do so live. I had the chance to see this process at la fragua. While my chief goal for the summer was a scholarly publication about a few of the theatre’s scripts, I also spent time with the actors during their rehearsals and theatrical exercises. I wanted to grasp something of their trade because acting has always been somewhat of a mysterious profession to me.

One week, we did exercises from the Brazilian Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. The actors had to come up with a frozen scene that best described one of Honduras’ social problems. After discussing numerous possibilities, they decided to frame a dramatization of Honduran emigration to the United States. Jasmín, elected as director, put together a scene that covered various aspects of the topic. She divided the stage into three parts. The first depicted an elderly gentleman working hard to clear a field in the countryside. His body showed signs of significant stress. He was going to move to the U.S. to find a job that a man of his age and health could handle. The second showed a father waving “goodbye” to his wife and children. All their faces were depressed. The father’s head was turned towards his family to show that he was leaving out of economic necessity, not out of pleasure. The third portrayed two young men relaxing and smoking marijuana. They were to head north because the leader of their gang asked them to smuggle drugs across the U.S./Mexico border.

The second part of the exercise was to put together a frozen illustration of an ideal Honduras. Jasmín changed the position of the elderly worker to demonstrate that he found a job inside the country that corresponded with his physical limitations. The father was embracing his wife and children. All the family members wore expressions of peace and comfort. The young men who were once consuming drugs were now enjoying non-gang-related recreational activities. Honduras had become a utopia (at least in the theatre for those fifteen minutes).

The last segment of the exercise called for a conversation about how Honduras could journey from the problem to the solution. This step was undoubtedly the most difficult. There were many ideas, but two prevailed. For one, they spoke of governmental structures and programs that favored the poor. The money set aside for development projects was actually spent on said projects; it didn’t disappear in an abyss of private contracts and embezzlement. The people would elect new political leaders who weren’t members of the handful of families that have always controlled the country’s resources. Next, they shifted their gaze towards the local level. Families stayed together, spouses were faithful to each other, and people had faith in God. Parents were models of behavior for their children. Men respected the dignity of women.

This theatrical exercise brought out the best and holiest of the actors’ aspirations. They incarnated their dreams on the stage. In some ways, the Boal activity is a microcosm of la fragua’s mission. Theatre is a genre of desires, and the teatro, through its productions, puts people in touch with their desires in an environment that otherwise crushes them. On Friday and Saturday nights following a laborious work week, Hondurans in El Progreso can gather at teatro la fragua to share in the actors’ hopefulness and to remember what they are working for—a Honduras much better than others make it out to be.

David Inczauskis, S.J., is a Jesuit scholastic at Loyola University Chicago, where he is pursuing master’s degrees in Spanish literature and social philosophy. In Chicago he also serves as an eighth grade religion teacher, a chaplain to various student groups, and a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition. For the summer of 2017, he came to teatro la fragua to write an academic paper about some of the theatre’s scripts, and he hopes to continue writing about la fragua in the future.


Honduras: no tan mal como la pintan algunos

Era una tarde ardientemente calurosa en El Progreso, Yoro, Honduras, e iba a tomar mi siesta. Giré el ventilador hacia la cama y me acosté. Cuando mi cabeza ya yacía sobre la almohada, mi celular tiró un “blip” agudo. Lo levanté y vi un mensaje de Edwin, un joven y relativamente nuevo actor del teatro. Me invitaba a una apetecedora sopa de frijoles en su casa no tan lejos de la mía. La pancita estaba más leve que los ojos, así que me vestí de nuevo, agarré mi sombrero, y salí a la calle.

La casita de Edwin era humilde. Tenía una cocina, una sala, uno o dos dormitorios, y un patio. En las paredes había varias oraciones en cursiva y un cuadro de Moisés a la orilla del Mar Rojo. La sopa casi hervía. Nunca he llegado a entender por qué es un fenómeno culinario en esta ciudad tan abrasadora. Me hizo sudar más, pero supo riquísima.

Después de la cena, charlamos e hicimos un tour de la colonia. Me enseñó el parque con su campo de juegos y su canchita de fútbol pavimentada. Los guirros y los adultos jóvenes se juntaban allí por la noche para jugar, chismear, y meterse en líos. Me enseñó el lugar a donde un amigo suyo se arrastró después de ser disparado, pero me aseguró de que ya no había tanto peligro porque la comunidad estableció un equipo de guardias armadas para proteger las cuatro entradas a la colonia.

Volví a casa esa tarde. Me sentía agradecido por la comida y la amistad, y le mandé a Edwin un pequeño mensaje de gratitud por WhatsApp. Pronto me contestó, “De nada, David. Te queremos enseñar que Honduras no es tan mal como la pintan algunos.” El texto me hizo sonreír, y me ha pegado como una descripción particularmente adecuada de mi tiempo con teatro la fragua.

Si caminas por El Progreso con una mente norteamericana como la mía, se supone que varias cosas te llamarán la atención. Hay perros salvajes por todas partes, y ninguno está “arreglado.” De las bocas de hombres jóvenes y viejos, oirás frecuentemente frases como puta madre, verga, y culero. Casi una mitad de la población parece tener su arma de fuego. Todo el mundo siempre te dirá que tengas cuidado—y con razón. Si eres blanco y macho como yo, muchas personas se reirán, te señalarán, y te llamarán, “Gringo.” Algunas mujeres te van a llamar guapo, y otras te llamarán rico. (Y otras guapo y rico.)

Sin embargo, si por casualidad pasas por teatro la fragua, verás prácticas de ballet y ensayos generales, chigüines en tutus y hombres con sombreros chistosos. Oirás harmonías musicales y voces teatrales expresando una variedad amplia de emociones. Claro, también te darás cuenta de muchas de las características arriba descritas; pero llegarás a entender que, con teatro la fragua, Honduras te sale no tan mal como la pintan algunos.

El teatro es un género de los deseos. Las emociones y los sueños encuentran su forma en el escenario, y lo hacen en vivo. He tenido la oportunidad de ver este proceso en la fragua. A pesar de que mi meta principal era una publicación académica sobre algunos guiones del teatro, también pasé tiempo con los actores durante sus ensayos y ejercicios teatrales. Quería entender algo de su oficio ya que la actuación siempre me ha sido una profesión misteriosa.

Una vez, hicimos ejercicios de Teatro de los oprimidos del brasileño Augusto Boal. Los actores tenían que hacer una escena congelada que mejor describiría uno de los problemas sociales de Honduras. Tras una conversación sobre numerosas posibilidades, dicidieron escenificar la emigración hondureña a Estados Unidos. Jazmín, elegida la directora, compuso una escena que tocó varios aspectos del tema. Dividió el escenario en tres partes. La primera mostraba a un ancianito trabajando duro en el campo. Su cuerpo tenía señales de mucho estrés. Iba a mudarse a Estados Unidos para encontrar un empleo que un hombre de su edad y salud podía aguantar. La segunda representaba un padre despidiéndose de su esposa y sus hijos. Todas sus caras estaban tristes. La cabeza del padre se dirigía a su familia para mostrar que salía por necesidad económica, no por placer. La tercera demostraba a dos jóvenes relajándose y fumando marihuana. Iba a ir para el norte porque el líder de su pandilla les había pedido que traficaran drogas por la frontera entre USA y México.

La segunda parte de los ejercicios consistió en un cuadro congelado de un Honduras ideal. Jazmín cambió la posición del obrero anciano para demonstrar que había encontrado dentro del país que podía aguantar con sus limitaciones físicas. El padre de familia abrazaba a su mujer y sus hijos. Toda la familia llevaba rasgos de paz y consuelo. Los jóvenes que antes consumían drogas ahora gozaban de actividades no ligadas a las maras. Honduras se había transformado en una utopía (por lo menos en el teatro durante esos quince minutos).

La última etapa del ejercicio fue una conversación sobre cómo Honduras podía viajar desde el problema a la solución. Este paso fue sin dudas el más difícil. Había muchas ideas, pero dos prevalecieron. Primeramente, hablaron de estructuras gubernamentales y programas que favorecían a los pobres. El dinero para los proyectos de desarrollo se gastaría en dichos proyectos; no desaparecía en un abismo de contractos privados y malversación. La gente elegiría a nuevos líderes políticos que no fueran miembros de las pocas familias que siempre han controlado los recursos del país. Segundamente, se enfocaron en el nivel local. Las familias se mantendría juntas, los esposos se serían fieles, y la gente tendrían fe en Dios. Los padres serían modelos de comportamiento para sus hijos. Los hombres respetarían la dignidad de las mujeres.

Este ejercicio teatral hizo salir las aspiraciones más santas de los actores. Sus sueños se encarnaron en el escenario. De algunas formas, la actividad de Boal es un microcosmos de la misión de la fragua. El teatro es un género de deseos, y el teatro, a través de sus producciones, le pone a la gente en contacto con sus deseos en un ambiente que de otra manera los mata. Los viernes y los sábados después de una semana de trabajo duro, los hondureños del Progreso pueden unirse para compartir las esperanzas de los actores y acordarse de lo que buscan—un Honduras mucho mejor que algunos la pintan.

David Inczauskis, S.J., es un escolar jesuita de la Universidad de Loyola en Chicago, donde estudia la literatura hispana y la filosofía social. En Chicago también es maestro de clases de religión en una escuela primaria, capellán a varios grupos estudiantiles, y director espiritual en la tradición ignaciana. Durante el verano de 2017, vino a teatro la fragua para escribir un trabajo académico sobre algunos guiones, y espera seguir escribiendo sobre la fragua en el futuro.