The Catholic bishops of the United States have vowed to continue to resist the HHS Mandate, which forces Catholics and others to violate their consciences regarding grave issues of the human person and human life by requiring coverage of abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives. Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia relays a statement issued today by the USCCB. Excerpts:
Thomas Pfau, the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English at Duke University, has written an incisive evaluation of Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation at The Immanent Frame. I pass the piece on given interest in Gregory’s work among First Things’ readership and Ephraim Radner’s review of it in First Things’ pages.
Radner faulted Gregory’s work for failing to identify a failure of love as a root cause of the fracturing of Western Christianity that is the Reformation. Pfau is much more appreciative of much of Gregory’s work (“a book whose courage and ambition I applaud, if for no other reason than that it exemplifies what an engaged form of historiography [and humanistic inquiry more generally] can and should do”); what makes his piece especially worthwhile is its trenchant engagement with critics of Gregory’s work and their often uncritical allegiance to the modernity of the modern academy. For those interested in Gregory’s book, the emergence of modernity, and the modern academy, Pfau’s piece is well worth reading. Excerpts:
This past weekend, the Diocese of Bismarck hosted THIRST, a eucharistic conference for the Year of Faith in support of the New Evangelization. Cardinal Dolan addressed the conference on Saturday morning after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Mary, which sponsored his appearance.
The affable, avuncular Cardinal Dolan had many kind things to say about the University of Mary and the Diocese of Bismarck (and many humorous things to say about Irishmen, North Dakota, and some of his brother priests and bishops in attendance). Of wider interest, however, are his remarks regarding recent Roman pontiffs, in which he appropriated elements of classic theological anthropology to suggest John Paul II was like the soul, Benedict XVI like the mind, and Francis like the heart. The schema is helpful, I think, as a framework for reading these recent popes in terms of continuity while recognizing the distinctive character of each man. Cardinal Dolan has adumbrated this schema before in print, but the oral presentation affords him the opportunity to discuss each pontiff in significant detail.
The normally gentle Ephraim Radner reviewed Candida Moss’ The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom in the May issue of First Things, smiting it hip and thigh:
The tedium of repeated déjà vu in this sad little volume did at least send me back to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. It is as if a publisher came to Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, with a proposal for a quick buck, relying on the political twitter of the times: “You’re an expert: Reframe Gibbon’s notorious chapter on the Romans and the Christians with some contemporary scholarship and cultural fillips, and we can put out a nifty pamphlet that’ll sell.”
Since then other academic reviews of the book have appeared. Today Clayton Croy of Trinity Lutheran Seminary (Columbus, Ohio) confirms Radner’s judgment in the online Review of Biblical Literature:
Today, July 25, marks the 45th anniversary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. As many in the Catholic world had been expecting the Church to permit contraception under certain circumstances thanks to many perhaps well-meaning but shortsighted clergy and theologians, the encyclical met with hostility and has been widely ignored and explicitly rejected.
But the more time marches on, the more Humanae Vitae appears prophetic, for Paul VI voiced four concerns regarding artificial contraception that have largely become realities: a general lowering of moral standards; increased marital infidelity; the reduction of women to instruments for the fulfillment of male desire; and public authorities engaging in coercive population planning programs. Indeed, in an incisive article in First Things roughly five years ago, “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae,” the redoubtable Mary Eberstadt demonstrated precisely how widespread contraception led to the fulfillment of Pope Paul VI’s fears. Eberstadt’s piece ought to be read both by those who reject Humanae Vitae or are disinclined to accept that contraception has led to such evils as well as by those who are inclined to accept it.
It’s also important to note that Humanae Vitae deals more with the personal and societal effects of contraception and roots its argumentation not so much in Christian revelation but in nature and reason. As most people operate with broad, ugly ditches between faith and reason, nature and grace, and the realms of the public and private, that fact is often missed. As I wrote some months ago:
At the American Conservative, John Rodden and John Rossi present “Not Hitler’s Pope: What history taught Pius XII about resisting tyrants,” an efficient but substantive overview of Eugenio Pacelli’s dealings with the Nazis first as papal secretary of state under Pope Pius XI and later as his successor, Pope Pius XII, having both secured the Concordat with the Nazi government in 1933 and then having issued Mit brennender Sorge in 1937. One hopes as the historical record becomes ever clearer and black legends about Pacelli ever more dispelled, his cause towards sainthood may advance.
Beyond serving as an overview of Pacelli’s dealings with the Third Reich, Rodden’s and Rossi’s piece is also of value as it discusses Pacelli’s judgments and tactics in light of those of Pius V during Elizabeth I’s reign in England and those of Bergoglio in Argentina in a way that may be instructive for thinking about how Catholics and others of conscience might engage fruitfully in high-stakes political poker (such as Cardinal Dolan is doing regarding the HHS Mandate). Excerpt:
Early Friday morning, Catholic blogger and new media guru Brandon Vogt took the text of the papal encyclical Lumen Fidei from the Vatican website where it is available free online, and reformatted it for various readers like Kindle, Nook, and iPad, thinking that it would be a good and evangelical thing to do to spread the Pope’s words far and wide.
Shortly thereafter, the USCCB and Vatican(!) got hold of him. He was accused of violating “both civil and moral law” and “stealing from the pope,” ordering him “to remove the documents with full knowledge that this would prevent hundreds of people from reading it who otherwise wouldn’t read the encyclical online or in print.”
Tight control of copyright on official Church texts has provoked controversy in recent years. Those working for liturgical renewal are unhappy about the Church’s liturgical texts being bound in this way, regarding the situation as having to “pay-to-pray” the Church’s liturgy. The official Bible for Catholics in the United States, the New American Bible (NAB) is also bound under copyright restrictions. (Readers of First Things might not mind that so much, however.) Matt Warner tried distributing the Catechism of the Catholic Church daily via email as a response to Pope Benedict’s call in Porta Fidei to rediscover the content of the faith by reading the Catechism during the year of faith; USCCB lawyers ultimately sent him a cease and desist letter. The project continues with YouCat, thanks to Ignatius Press, which owns the copyright.
Clearly, the shopworn copyright system is not serving the Church’s mission in the twenty-first century. Copyright does serve important protective functions, of course. Is there a better way? Certainly: the Creative Commons license. Vogt explains:
Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”), has been released, available online. The encyclical itself is relatively short, but those who wish to read a thorough summary before approaching the encyclical itself may do so courtesy of the Vatican Information Service. This encyclical is singular in that Pope Emeritus Benedict authored most of it, while Pope Francis made some contributions and issued the final product under his own name and authority. The Vatican Information Service relates that Archbishop Rino Fisichella had the following to say at the press conference releasing the encyclical today:
Archbishop Fisichella commented that “Lumen Fidei” is published in the middle of the Year of Faith, and that it was signed on 29 June, the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, first witnesses to the faith of the Church of Rome, where Peter’s Successor is called to confirm all brothers in the unity of faith. He stated that Benedict XVI was frequently asked to write an encyclical on faith, so as to conclude the triad he had begun with “Deus caritas est” on love, and “Spe salvi” on hope. The Pope was not convinced that he was able to take on this further task”, explained the archbishop. “Nonetheless, this insistence eventually prevailed, and Benedict XVI decided that he would write the encyclical to offer it at the end of the Year of Faith. However, history took a different turn and this encyclical is now offered to us today by Pope Francis … as a ‘programme’ for how to continue to live this Year of Faith which has seen the Church involved in many highly formative experiences”.
A few hermeneutical thoughts and observations on receiving and reading this peculiar document:
Damian Thompson is a British journalist, author, and traditionalist Catholic loyal to Rome. A keen observer of happenings in both the Catholic and Anglican, he’s written a fascinating piece examining the similarities between Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby:
The similarities between Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis are almost spooky — once you get past the fact that one is an Old Etonian evangelical Protestant and the other a South American Jesuit who prays in front of garlanded statues of Mary. Archbishop Welby was enthroned two days after Francis was inaugurated. That’s simple coincidence, but the other parallels tell us a lot.
Both men were plucked from senior but not prominent positions in their churches with a mandate to simplify structures of government that had suffocated their intellectual predecessors, who also resembled each other in slightly unfortunate ways. Rowan Williams and Benedict XVI seemed overwhelmed by the weight of office; both took the puzzling decision to retreat into their studies at a time of crisis in order to write books — Dr Williams on metaphor and icon-ography in Dostoevsky, Benedict on the life of Jesus. When they retired, early and of their own volition, their in-trays were stacked higher than they had been when they took office. Their fans were disappointed and the men charged with replacing them thought: we’re not going to let that happen again.
At his weekly Angelus address, Pope Francis delivered some wonderful words on conscience today, using his predecessor’s radical decision to resign the papacy as an example, along with that of Mary:
So we also [like Jesus] must learn to listen more to our conscience. Be careful, however: this does not mean we ought to follow our ego, do whatever interests us, whatever suits us, whatever pleases us. That is not conscience. Conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with Him, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.
Pope Benedict XVI has given us a great example in this sense. When the Lord had made it clear, in prayer, what was the step he had to take [i.e. to resign the papacy], he followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is, the will of God that spoke to his heart – and this example of our father does much good to all of us, as an example to follow.
Our Lady, with great simplicity, listened to and meditated deep within herself upon the Word of God and what was happening to Jesus. She followed her Son with deep conviction, with steadfast hope. May Mary help us to become more and more men and women of conscience – free in our conscience, because it is in conscience that the dialogue with God is given – men and women able to hear the voice of God and follow it with decision.
Larry Taunton, executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation, reports on the findings of a project involving interviewing college students belonging to Secular Student Alliances and Freethought Societies:
Using the Fixed Point Foundation website, email, my Twitter, and my Facebook page, we contacted the leaders of these groups and asked if they and their fellow members would participate in our study. To our surprise, we received a flood of enquiries. Students ranging from Stanford University to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, from Northwestern to Portland State volunteered to talk to us. The rules were simple: Tell us your journey to unbelief. It was not our purpose to dispute their stories or to debate the merits of their views. Not then, anyway. We just wanted to listen to what they had to say. And what they had to say startled us.
Taunton found the following (and here I’m largely quoting from his summary headings): These young atheists had attended church; found the message and mission of their churches vague; felt their churches offered superficial answers to life’s difficult questions; expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously; had their worldview shaped from 14-17 years of age; and embraced unbelief for emotional reasons, reacting to personal pain and suffering. Details below the jump.
I’d like to direct readers’ attention to a new online journal, Second Nature, dedicated to “critical thinking about technology and new media in light of the Christian tradition,” founded by a faculty friend and two former students of mine from Wheaton College, Dr. Read Schuchardt, Benjamin Robertson, and Brantly Millegan.
Thanks to the myth of the idea of progress, most people nowadays, including most Christians, assume technology is an unalloyed good. This attitude is often coupled with the assumption that a given medium is a neutral, translucent channel, that the form of a given medium is irrelevant for the transmission of whatever content.
Neither of these assumptions is necessarily true, however, as media ecologists such as Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman and more recently Nicholas Carr have pointed out. Technology is not an unalloyed good, and media are not neutral but shape (indeed, are) the message they purport to represent. Technological innovations change things, both for worse and for better (think of what changes the printing press, rural electrification, television, and the internet have wrought), and form and content cannot be neatly separated.
To my thinking, Christians do not do nearly enough thinking about technology and media. Instead of critical reflection, we usually encounter unreflective, enthusiastic assertions that we need to do ever more with new media and use more technology in our worship services (even in the Catholic world).
I suppose very much that churches need a crisp, sharp internet presence, and blogs and the friends I made online (with, for instance, Amy Welborn and First Things’ own David Mills) played a large role in my own conversion to Catholicism, and the irony that I’m blogging this notice about an online journal isn’t lost on me. But we should not be naive about how media and technology today—largely through the ubiquitous presence of screens presenting alternative realities and anti-reproductive biotechnologies of abortion, contraception, and sterilization—make our culture ever more gnostic.
In light of the irreality that is our reality, a journal raising the critical questions about media and tech is to be welcomed, and so I commend to you Second Nature. The lead article is by Eric McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan’s son, entitled “The New Nomads: Eight Characteristics of the Electric Mass Audience.” You might also read Read Schuchardt’s “The Medium is the Messiah: McLuhan’s Religion and its Relationship to His Media Theory.”
Canon lawyer Ed Peters, who thinks and writes and even blogs(!) with extreme clarity and precision, has put forth a primer on the Catholic Church’s teaching on what’s called same-sex marriage. For those who wish to be truly informed, whatever their position on the issue, it is very much worth reading:
No matter which way the US Supreme Court rules in the “gay marriage” cases before it the international debate over the definition of marriage will continue because that debate is, at root, about matters beyond a civil court’s competence, things like the nature of human beings and the fundamental good of society. Because we Catholics are and will surely remain major participants in such a debate we should be clear among ourselves as to what our Church teaches in this area. I offer as a primer (I stress, primer) toward such better understanding my position on following points.
My beloved North Dakota has been in the middle of a national firestorm concerning abortion politics and policy for some weeks, as our legislature has passed three particularly strong pro-life laws with bipartisan backing. (Others are in process, including one which ban tax monies from funding abortion providers, and another has been passed which will give ND voters the opportunity to put pro-life language in our State constitution.) Our Governor, a Republican, in a state dominated by Republicans of widely varying political temperaments, did not sign the bills right away, causing some concern in the pro-life community. Some thought he might veto them, setting off a war in the ND GOP, while others thought he might follow a moderate course split the difference.
He signed all three today. From the Governor’s office:
BISMARCK, ND – Gov. Jack Dalrymple today signed HB 1305, HB 1456 and SB 2305 and provided the following statements to the Legislature:
North Dakota House and Senate presiding officers:
I have signed HB 1305 which would ban abortions performed solely for the purpose of gender selection and genetic abnormalities.
I have signed HB 1456 which would ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction in HB 1456, the constitutionality of this measure is an open question. The Legislative Assembly before it adjourns should appropriate dollars for a litigation fund available to the Attorney General.
I have signed SB 2305 which requires admitting and staff privileges at a nearby hospital for any physician who performs abortions in North Dakota. The added requirement that the hospital privileges must include allowing abortions to take place in their facility greatly increases the chances that this measure will face a court challenge. Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and new question for the courts regarding a precise restriction on doctors who perform abortions.
Bishop David D. Kagan, Bishop of the Diocese of Bismarck and currently administrator of the vacant Fargo diocese, issued the following statement:
The protection of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death is the primary purpose of government. All persons, including our elected officials, are obligated to unceasingly seek protection of this basic human right. I applaud the members of the North Dakota legislature who bravely supported measures to extend protections to unborn human life and to advance the health of women.
I also applaud Governor Jack Dalrymple for signing SB 2305, HB 1305, and HB 1456. His signature affirms our state’s commitment to the protection of all human life.
Finally, I ask that all Catholics of the state join me this Holy Week in praying for our all of our elected leaders. May the Author of Life grant them wisdom in all their endeavors.
Pope Benedict has announced he will resign the papacy effective February 28:
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
The last pope to resign was Pope St. Celestine V, who did so in 1294 after mere months in office. (Pope Benedict visited his tomb in July of 2010, sparking speculation he would take this very step.) Current canon law provides for papal resignations: “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” (Canon 332 §2)
UPDATE: For the record, it appears I was wrong early this AM about Celestine V being the last pope to resign; I thought of him because Pope Benedict visited his tomb twice, once leaving his pallium there, and discounted Gregory XII because of the Avignon mess. From an interview at the Vatican News site:
Vatican Radio: It’s been centuries since a Pope has resigned the See of Peter. Can you tell us about the last Pope to resign?
Dr. Donald Prudlo: The last Pope to resign was almost six hundred years ago. It was Pope Gregory XII, who, in a very sacrificial gesture offered to resign so that the council of Constance could assume his power and appoint a new Pope, and in so doing bring an end Great Western Schism. So that was the last pope who actually resigned. So this is quite an unprecedented event.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller Jr., a Reagan appointee, has dismissed Notre Dame’s lawsuit regarding the HHS mandate requiring coverage of abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilizations on the grounds of timing, as Notre Dame finds itself in “safe harbor” while awaiting the administration’s finalization of the ruling. (pdf of opinion here.) Judge Miller notes that all other courts but one which have ruled on the matter have found the plaintiff’s claims “unripe”:
None of those rulings bind this court, but the majority are persuasive. Notre Dame’s claims aren’t ripe, and they don’t have standing to bring them. Both conclusions flow from the government’s creation of a safe harbor for certain employers (including Notre Dame) while it re-works the regulation. As a result, Notre Dame faces no penalty or restriction based on the existing regulatory requirement.
In ten other instances not involving the so-called “safe harbor” per se, however, temporary injunctions or restraining orders have been granted to plaintiffs such as Tyndale Publishers and the Triune Health Group. In any event, institutions and the law really are in a bind here because of the government’s promise to finalize a rule protecting certain institutions. And so a court’s ruling depends on whether one trusts the government, as Judge Miller subtly observes:
Pope Benedict made the annual papal Christmas address to his Curia today, in which popes reveal their thoughts on the state of the Church and the world. Benedict focused his remarks on the family, the nature of interreligious dialogue, and the new evangelization. Of particular interest are his strong remarks on the family, in which he affirms its fundamental nature and role and sees it threatened not only by a mistaken conception of human freedom but chiefly by a “new philosophy of sexuality” under the mutable banner of “gender” rooted in the denial of Being:
Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his “I” ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.
Some days ago, Kate Blanchard, a friend of mine from our days in graduate school at Duke who is trained in theological ethics, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post entitled “My Two Abortions,” in which she related her experiences of an ectopic pregnancy and a fetus which (who?) died in utero to attack pro-lifers for their intransigence on life issues in light of the obviously ambiguous status of the fetus. The piece is all the sharper for her use of the claim that the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar resulted directly from the Catholic Church’s stance on life issues enshrined in Irish law: had Halappanavar been permitted an abortion, pro-abortion campaigners argue, she would have lived.
It is not at all clear that an abortion would have saved Halappanavar, as the facts are in serious dispute, and so it is upsetting to see Halappanavar’s death exploited this way. It is also disconcerting that my friend Kate misunderstands Catholic teaching in this area, and so I’m very grateful another friend of mine and Kate’s, also from Duke, Holly Taylor Coolman, has responded:
Surely the most important element of Kate’s essay, though, has to do with the death of Savita Halappanavar, and its implications. Here, especially, I want to note what seem to me to be two problems in the way Kate links her experiences to this case. First is that neither of the decisions Kate made—one that ended an ectopic pregnancy or one that induced labor after the fetus had already died—should be understood as opposed to pro-life Catholic teaching. In fact, neither should be understood as an abortion at all. Kate implies that she was very lucky to have lived in a country that allows abortions, but the fact of the matter is that she could have received exactly the same medical care in Ireland—or in any Catholic hospital here in the U.S.
Most importantly, there is simply no clear evidence that Halappanavar’s terrible death, either, had anything at all to do with Ireland’s restriction of abortion. Halappanavar was suffering from a condition called septicaemia, a condition that would not have been ameliorated by an abortion. Just a few days after her initial reporting of the story, the lead reporter herself allowed that “the fact that Savita had been refused a termination was a factor in her death has yet to be established.” Dr. Hema Divakar, president-elect of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India has taken a stronger position: “Even if the law permitted it, it is not as if her life would have been saved because of termination.” Dr. James Clair, microbiologist has offered an alternate explanation, suggesting that “the problem was an unforeseen… infection rather than an issue of obstetric mishandling.”
Catholic teaching not only allows for, but demands, medical intervention to save the life of an expectant mother. It is true that acting on a commitment to both mother and baby can, in a few cases, be complicated and difficult. It appears that in Halappanavar’s case, though, doctor may simply have been unable successfully to intervene. In any case, it is worth it to learn more before using this case to get traction in the pro-life / pro-choice debates.
The experiences that Kate describes in her essay were painful, on more level than one. I wish now, as I wished then, that she might somehow have been spared them altogether. She survived, though—and thrived. My own conviction continue to be that protecting and caring for all human life is the surest route to the same outcome for other mothers, and for their children.
Having studied at Princeton, Duke, and Frankfurt, and having taught for several years at Wheaton College, I read Rusty Reno’s OTS piece today with great interest. I’d also want to second a comment calling for more attention to Wheaton and Trinity.
Wheaton’s young doctoral program, offering PhDs in both theology and Bible, punches above its weight, so to speak. The courses are rigorous, the professors personable and accessible, the community warm and charitable. I found the library to be top-notch for my own research. Funding is above adequate. With over two dozen full-time profs in the Biblical and Theological Studies Department (not all of whom teach in the PhD program, of course) and a world-class theology conference each spring, intellectual energy abounds. Of course, the downside is that one’s employment options may be limited for the obvious reasons: Wheaton hires Harvard grads, but Harvard may not hire a Wheaton grad. But the program markets itself as one “designed to train scholars who can serve the church worldwide as teachers, researchers, pastors, and leaders” while “fostering faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture with a view towards strengthening and equipping the church in its mission.” Some Wheaton PhDs have secured good teaching positions; others serve their churches in other capacities. Wheaton should be a live option for evangelicals looking for serious theological training.
Trinity too; Kevin Vanhoozer is indeed a great thinker doing substantive and creative work not only in hermeneutics but now also in theology proper, and he is a prince of a human being whose students speak highly of him. Never underestimate how crucial having a good adviser is.
If one is interested in archaeology and ANE studies, both institutions have top-notch faculty: Dan Master and Adam Miglio at Wheaton, and James Hoffmeier and my good friend John Monson at Trinity.
My thanks to J. Mark Bertrand for his article on the homepage today offering Bible-buying recommendations. I’d also mention for Catholics the Ignatius Bible: Second Catholic Edition. It’s a Catholic revision of the RSV first done in the 1960s and recently revised again in light of Liturgiam Authenticam. The leather version which I’ve linked is nice and affordable ($25 on Amazon), and the icons of Christ and the four evangelists on the cover are a nice touch.
I think the RSV — in whatever edition, including Ignatius’ 2nd Catholic Edition — is better than MBD gives it credit for. It stands in the grand tradition of English Bibles, beginning with Tyndale, it’s accurate and readable and dignified. The ESV is based on the RSV, but it has some idiosyncrasies driven by the translators’ evangelical concerns. (That of course afflicts most every translation.) The other problem with the ESV for study, ecumenical or Catholic use is that lacks the so-called Deuterocanonicals. But I do like it; when I was at Wheaton I favored it and recommended it to my students, especially over the awful NIV new and old.
Today, religious freedom is under threat throughout the United States—at all levels of government, federal, state, and local—and abroad.
For example, at the federal level, the Department of Health and Human Services recently decided that Catholic schools, charities, and hospitals are not “religious employers” that deserve religious freedom protection. As a result, these ministries will be forced to provide and pay for things that violate their moral and religious beliefs, as a part of the health insurance coverage they offer their employees.
At the state level, Alabama has passed legislation that would prevent Catholics from serving undocumented immigrants, even with basics like food, shelter, and medical services. And in Connecticut, legislators proposed a bill that would have forced the Catholic Church to change how it is structured and governed—allowing the State to remake the Church in its own image.
For all these serious threats and ominous trends here in the United States, the attacks on religious liberty around the world are far more severe—and also growing. Assassinations, the bombing of houses of worship, and the torching of orphanages out of hostility to religion are unfortunately still common in many countries. One recent study describes a “rising tide” of threats to religious liberty, with three quarters of the world’s population living in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion.
Note the concerns here are broader than the HHS Mandate and broader than the Catholic Church in America. Whoever wins the election Tuesday, and whatever the courts might do with the Mandate, religious liberty will continue to be a major cultural and political issue going forward, and indeed a perennial issue, as the religious freedom generally enjoyed in America is a historical anomaly, and even within America it has been rough sledding at various points for many groups — Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Quakers, Muslims — depending on time and place.
A brouhaha is brewing in the Great State of my beloved North Dakota at the moment. Bishop David Kagan, my ordinary here in Bismarck, and also apostolic administrator of the vacant Diocese of Fargo, has composed a letter concerning conscience and citizenship as Catholics in North Dakota prepare to participate in the election two weeks’ hence. The letter was delivered to parishes and is to be read this Sunday in Mass. Although under embargo until then, the letter has been leaked, and one of our state senators, Tim Mathern of Fargo, a practicing Catholic and a Democrat, has published Bishop Kagan’s letter on the web with his own scathing reply accusing the Bishop of engaging in partisan politics and threatening the non-profit status of the Catholic Church thereby. The long and the short of it, I think, is that Senator Mathern feels Bishop Kagan is implicitly telling Catholics to vote for GOP candidates, while the North Dakota Catholic Conference has called Mathern’s claims “irresponsible.”
The situation is sad. By all accounts, Senator Mathern is a sincere Catholic believer, truly dedicated to Christ and the Church, and informed Catholics faithful to the Church’s teaching regard his voting record as nearly flawless. Senator Mathern is not in my opinion a candidate for Canon 915, and one hopes that after the sound and fury of the election die down he will have occasion for more sustained reflection on Church, State, and conscience.
As Bishop Kagan’s letter is still under embargo, I won’t link to copies of it at this point; neither will I link to Senator Mathern’s reply, which presents Bishop Kagan’s letter in full. (I may address these matters in detail after the public reading of Bishop Kagan’s letter on Sunday.) But I will address the issue of conscience in general, as Bishop Kagan’s letter concerns the proper formation of the Catholic conscience and as Senator Mathern accuses Bishop Kagan of “damag[ing] the bounds of personal conscience.”
Dr. Denis McNamara of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois is an expert on ecclesiastical architecture and is a major figure in today’s liturgical renewal, consulting on many church renovation projects. He’s the author of Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy as well as How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture. He’s put together a series of ten videos of roughly seven minutes each explaining what ecclesiastical architecture is and should be. As Catholics begin the Year of Faith and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, it’s important to learn about good liturgy and architecture for the sake of the new evangelization. I’ve gathered them all here for you here at the Christian Leadership Center.
From the United States’ Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Last night, the following statement was made [by Vice President Joe Biden--the USCCB uses the passive here presumably to avoid charges of partisanship] during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:
“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.