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April 22, 2004 Edition

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Stewardship Corner
• Guest commentary:
    A mother's love: Led to passage of Unborn Victims of Violence Act
The Catholic Difference

Low CD rates: Need more income?
Consider a charitable gift annuity

photo of Jay Conzemius
Stewardship Corner 

Jay Conzemius 

A retired friend of mine recently told me he had some stock that he would like to exchange for fixed-income type securities, but he complained that rates were too low. In fact, CDs that once were earning five percent or six percent are now earning three percent or less.

This same friend of mine and other seniors have asked, "How can I maintain my income?"

Higher earnings

While I cannot give financial advice, I know that many seniors find that taking one-third of their CDs and acquiring eight percent or nine percent on gift annuities will restore their lost income. The added income on the one-third from the gift annuities replaces the income lost on the other two-thirds of their CDs.

As you may imagine most are very happy with the results of their charitable gift annuity and equally surprised with the "other" big benefit of setting up a gift annuity.

Gifts to charity

The "other" aspect of a gift annuity, which usually becomes another big incentive for gift annuities, is the ability to designate future gifts to your favorite charity. For seniors who would like to include the church (i.e., parish, diocese, parish school, etc.) in his/her final estate plan, a charitable gift annuity is usually a great option. How great of an option? Generally, on a $10,000 gift annuity about half is used to fund the annuity and the other half is considered the gift amount.

The Diocese of Madison allows its participants to assign (up to 80 percent) of their gifts to their favorite "Catholic" charity. The other 20 percent is named for the Diocese of Madison. A recent gift annuitant commented to me, "I can't believe I can earn over 10 percent (mostly tax-free) when the bank is only paying two to three percent and I was able to make a future gift at the same time to my parish."

For a free personal and confidential illustration on how a Charitable Gift Annuity would benefit you and your favorite charity, contact Jay Conzemius at 608-821-3040 or mail a request with your name, address, phone number, and birth date to: Diocese of Madison Charitable Gift Annuities, c/o Jay Conzemius, P.O. Box 44983, Madison, WI 53744-4983.

Jay Conzemius is director of stewardship and development for the Diocese of Madison.

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A mother's love:
Led to passage of Unborn Victims of Violence Act

Guest commentary 

Barbara L. Lyons 

The story was written on her face. As President George W. Bush movingly spoke the words which preceded his signing of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, known as Laci and Connor's law, the events experienced by Tracy Marciniak Seavers were clearly expressed in her emotions. This is Tracy's story.

In 1992, Wisconsin Right to Life received a call for help from Tracy's sister. A pregnant Tracy had been beaten by her husband six days before her delivery date and was then prevented from seeking medical assistance. By God's grace, Tracy survived the brutal attack. But her precious son, Zachariah, did not.

Wisconsin law

Sadly, Tracy quickly learned that under Wisconsin law, her husband could not be prosecuted for causing the death of their son because Zachariah was not "born alive."

Tracy worked ferociously with Wisconsin Right to Life for six years to enact a Wisconsin law making it a crime to kill or injure an unborn child when a pregnant woman is attacked.

To emphasize that there are two victims in such a crime, Tracy carried a picture of herself holding her dead son's body. She would boldly ask anyone who disagreed if they saw one or two victims in this poignant photo.

On a memorable day in 1998, Governor Tommy Thompson signed the Wisconsin act into law.

Federal efforts

Upon learning that a federal law was being considered, Tracy once again threw herself into efforts to enact the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Adding to the pressure on Congress was Sharon Rocha, mother of Laci and grandmother of Connor Peterson. Sharon was as relentless as Tracy in her efforts and the law became known as Laci and Connor's law. Other families stepped forward who had lost loved ones.

It took two congressional sessions but, finally, the U.S. Senate followed the courageous action of the U.S. House of Representatives and passed Laci and Connor's law in March of 2004.

Written on her face

At the signing ceremony at the White House on April 1, 2004, Tracy's 14-year journey reached its climactic conclusion. The other families present who had experienced the loss of a daughter and grandchild were surely feeling the same emotions. But it was Tracy's face that mesmerized, displaying rotating images of sorrow, pain, resolve, and peace. But above all, written on her face was the unmistakable and irreplaceable love of a mother for her child.

Tracy's reflections on her remarkable journey and the signing ceremony are these: "With this bill being signed I know that I have done what God let me live to do. Now it is time for me to move on to my next goal and to raise my kids into knowing that you can make a difference in the world that we live in today."

May there never be another Zachariah whose life is lost in this brutal manner. Wisconsin Right to Life thanks God that Zachariah and his fellow unborn angels are now recognized under Wisconsin law and in cases within the reach of federal jurisdiction.

Barbara L. Lyons is executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, Milwaukee.

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Marriage: Why support amendment

photo of George Weigel
The Catholic 

George Weigel 

Why support a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA)? Here are 10 reasons why.

1. The FMA will prevent activist judges from redefining marriage to fit their squinty reading of the "signs of the times." There isn't the slightest shred of evidence to support the claim that the American people want this redefinition. Judicial usurpation of decision-making on grave issues of public policy is undermining democracy. It's time to draw the line. This is the place.

2. "Marriage" is not something the state can legitimately redefine. Marriage is a human institution thousands of years older than the state; a just state recognizes that and structures its laws accordingly.

3. Attempts to redefine marriage inevitably involve parallel attempts to drive religiously-informed moral norms from public life. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts declared marriage a "wholly secular institution" in its decision mandating "gay marriage." If their opinion prevails, it will be another step toward establishing secularism as the official ideology of the U.S.

4. Government-sanctioned same-sex "marriage" will inevitably lead to demands that homosexual sex be discussed "neutrally" in public schools.

5. The same charge of bigotry will be laid against priests, ministers, and rabbis who decline to perform "gay marriages." Unhappy precedents have been set in Canada and Great Britain.

6. Some constitutionally fastidious conservatives and a few dissembling politicians argue that marriage has always been a matter for the states. This is historically inaccurate. Moreover, gay "marriage" activists will insist that any one state's "gay marriage" provision be recognized in every other state. In the current political, cultural, and judicial climates, defining marriage is, inescapably, a national issue.

7. Then there's the slippery slope, which in this instance is an empirical reality, not a logical fallacy. If gay "marriage" becomes the law of the land, polygamy and polyandry are not far away.

8. Gay "marriage" advocates insist that family "structure" doesn't matter. That's ignoring the overwhelming social scientific evidence that kids flourish best in a stable family led by a father and a mother.

9. We've already seen the damage done to marriage and children by a culture that increasingly divides "marriage" and "procreation." Same-sex "marriage" will accelerate the separation of marriage and parenting.

10. If same-sex "marriage" wins the day, we'd be saying that the biblical understanding of marriage and the family is wrong, even bigoted. We'd be saying that "marriage" is something that can be redefined by anyone seeking to meet a personal "need." Is that what we want to say to, and about, ourselves?

I don't think so.

George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

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