Monday, March 26, 2012, 3:15 PM
Philip Kitcher at the New York Times Sunday Book Review has written an honest review of Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheists Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, in light of the New Republic’s christening it 2011’s worst book.
Rosenberg’s compendium to the atheist’s vision argues three principle points: that micro-physics determines everything, that natural selection explains human behavior, and that the budding and brilliant work of neuroscience yields the greatest explanatory value among competing frames of reference. Kitcher summarizes: “Morality, purpose, and the quaint conceit of an enduring self all have to go.”
Surely the supernatural commitments of theists are not as naive as these. Claiming that we’re determined by micro-physics is at the very least premature: “Many informed scholars doubt the possibility, even in principle, of understanding, say, economic transactions as complex interactions of subatomic particles.” No more convincing is Rosenberg’s explanation of morality, or “evolutionary psychology on stilts,” as Kitcher calls it, doing painfully little to explain the connection between natural selection and what seems to be congenital moral dispositions. And the burden of proof lies with Rosenberg to show how neural states explain the breadth of human experience.
Kitcher wants us to know, though, that book isn’t bad as work of imaginitive philosophy. Read another treatment by Edward Feser in our November 2011 issue, here.
Thursday, March 22, 2012, 2:30 PM
Over at Prosblogion, Helen De Cruz gives an engaging analysis of one of scripture’s most invoked grounds for conviction, testimony:
“Undefeated testimony: the kind that occurs in the absence of at least the following common and probably most characteristic defeaters: (1) internal inconsistency in what is affirmed, as where an attester gives conflicting dates for an event; (2) confused formulation, a kind that will puzzle the recipient and tend to produce doubt about whether the attester is rightly interpreted or even has a definite belief to communicate; (3) the appearance of prevarication, common where people appear to be lying, evading, or obfuscating; (4) conflict with apparent facts evident in the situation in which the testimony is given, as where a person shoveling earth over smoking coals says there has been no campfire; and (5) (discernible) conflict with what the recipient knows, justifiedly believes, or is justified in believing.” It is a bit ironical that new testament scholars and latter-day defenders of the argument from miracles take the historical perceived unreliability of witnesses as evidence for the reliability of the testimony.
Read the rest here
Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 11:05 AM
John O’Callaghan of Notre Dame writes this in response to John Breen’s claim about the Church’s proper response to the HHS mandate. A Thomist philosopher’s take on the matter:
But with the involvement of the state comes the coercive power of the state. And so there are at least two problems with the position that the very meaning of ‘health’ and ‘healthcare’ are subjective determinations of the autonomy of private individuals. The first is semantic and bears upon coherence. If the meaning of “health” and “healthcare” really are subjective determinations of the autonomy of private individuals, the state in mandating any sort of legislation concerning “healthcare” is quite literally legislating nothing. Any apparent law involving the terms “health” and “healthcare” are really schema with place markers or variables in them like “X” and “Y”, which of course means that they are not laws at all. Thus the incoherence–the law is not a law. And this brings me to the second problem with the position, the moral or political.
Read the rest here
Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 1:30 PM
Frank Bruni, noted New York Times theologian, is doing his best to remind the public of the lamentable fact that the Catholic Church still exists:
I’ve been monitoring and occasionally writing about the church’s child sex-abuse crisis since 1992, and most of church leaders’ apologies and instances of constructive outreach have come about reluctantly, belatedly or with a palpable sense from many bishops and cardinals that they were the aggrieved, victimized ones…The Catholic hierarchy, meanwhile, keeps giving American Catholics fresh reasons for rebellion. For the church ever to grouse that critics make too much of this, let alone to retaliate against victims and accusers, is galling. But it helps explain the breach between the hierarchy — invested in its own survival, resistant to serious discussions about the celibate culture’s role in child sexual abuse — and everyday Catholics. They’re left to wonder where they fit into their church and how it fits into the modern world.
The title of the piece is “Many Kinds of Catholic,” and Bruni makes sure we haven’t forgotten that the Church is against birth control, abortion, and other convenient remedies to avoiding financial burdens in the form of children. Meanwhile, it is tainted by a past filled with sexual perversion caused by the odd practice of celibacy, and the breach between the hierarchy and its members continues to grow.
For more on why the Catholic Church is doing nothing good for the world, read here.
Monday, March 19, 2012, 11:00 AM
It is time to come out of the closet, dispel stereotypes, and continue fighting oppressive legislative inequality. Same-sex marriage is important, but on March 24th, atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists throughout the country will gather on the mall in Washington D.C. to celebrate what we’re told will be “the largest secular event in world history.” The eagerly anticipated 2012 Reason Rally will commence near the Washington Monument with the intent to “unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society.” The focus is positive. The event will feature musicians, advocacy representatives, inspirational speakers, actors, poets, and even the high-schooler from Rhode Island who sued because of her school’s prayer poster.
This great camp meeting is a call for all those who are living a god-free lifestyle to join their comrades for support and appreciation: You are not alone. Indeed, reports the Reason Rally website (citing a 2008 American Religious Identification Survey), “the percentage of people with no religion affiliation grew in all fifty states.” How much? Who cares; it grew. And Richard Dawkins is coming.
To be fair, the website tries to say that this is not an anti-religious event, and reminds readers that theists are quite capable of political representation. But equally fair, it seems, is the question: What exactly is being celebrated if not freedom from the supposed oppression of religion and its vigorous opposition in the public square?
Thursday, March 15, 2012, 10:00 AM
Yehudah Mirsky, writing for Jewish Ideas Daily, explores why it took so long for Rabbi Heschel to take off in Israel
In 1957 Heschel visited Israel for the first time. The transformative experience impressed on him Israel’s centrality to Jewish existence. Yet the “rebirth of religion,” he said in a speech he delivered during his visit,
“will come only through the renewal of inner perplexity, through the travails of thought standing before the hidden and obscure in each and every thing, including in thought itself. . . . [F]aith is none other than the individual’s response and answer to God’s voice proceeding through the Garden and asking, ‘Where are you?’”
This powerful critique of 1950s American Jewish Babbittry could not be appreciated by the Zionist ideology of the time…Today, Heschel’s savage critiques of postwar American Jewish complacency and the religious establishment might fall on more fertile ground in Israel, where the moral obtuseness and spiritual vacuity of the religious establishment become clearer by the day, younger activists seek to link their passion for justice with Jewish spirituality, and the secular religion has largely exhausted itself.
Read the rest here.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 10:30 AM
Michael Stokes Paulsen, writing for Public Discourse, laments the sorry condition of Vanderbilt’s awfully ironic pronouncements of toleration. An ultimatum has be issued announcing that the university will dispense with student religious groups that “impose faith-based or belief-based requirements for membership or leadership”:
There is a further, bitter irony in all this. The reason why Vanderbilt may discriminate against religion is precisely the same principle of freedom that Vanderbilt denies to religious groups on its campus—the freedom to form its own expressive identity. Vanderbilt purports to be liberal and tolerant of different views. But its university officials do not appear to understand what this means. They think the university is being open-minded by requiring student groups, including religious groups, to conform to university officials’ view of orthodoxy. This is not so much hypocritical or cynical (though it may be that as well) as simply embarrassingly ignorant. Vanderbilt does not appear even to recognize that its actions are intolerant. It thinks it is protecting its community from improper influences, just as it once thought that segregation protected its community.
Read more here.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 10:00 AM
David and Amber Lapp, research associates at the Institute for American Values, have written a provoking piece for Public Discourse that dismantles popular myths about successful cohabitation and fragmented family life entitled “What Marriage Means in Today’s ‘New Normal’“:
How do working class young adults think about marriage today? Do they still revere it even while they choose to delay it, or are they jettisoning marriage altogether? . . . as much as young adults express hopes of permanence and commitment, those ideals crumble against the specter of unhappiness. What should the unhappily married person do? A common response went something like this: “It probably means that you married the wrong person and were never in love in the first place. You might have married for the wrong reasons—maybe because the person had money, or just because you got the girl pregnant.” As one roofer put it, “Maybe they was never in love at all!” What is this enduring love that promises perpetual happiness and for which young adults are searching? Brandon’s response was a common one: “Love is a feeling that you just get when you just know, man. I don’t think there’s a word for it. Like, if you like look into that person’s eyes and it’s, like, you just feel it.
Read the rest here. The article seems to be particular fruit gleaned from the Institute for American Values’ more probing study of today’s new, alternative family structures and their consequences, “One Parent or Five: A Global Look at Today’s New Intentional Families“, conducted by Elizabeth Marquardt.
Monday, March 12, 2012, 2:40 PM
The Freedom From Religion Foundation took out a full-page ad in the New York Times on Friday that seems to generally represent the position of certain advocates of the contraception mandate, advocates whose encyclopedic ignorance of Catholic Christianity startles. Written as an “open letter to ‘liberal and ‘nominal’ Catholics,” the letter begins:
In light of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ declaration of war against women’s right to contraception. . . . why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly engaged in a crusade to ban contraception, abortion and sterilization, to deny the right of all women everywhere, Catholic or not, to decide whether and when to become mothers? The Church that hasn’t persuaded you to shun contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny birth control to non-Catholics.
The group reduces the complexities of the mandate to the question, “Will it be reproductive rights, or back to the Dark Ages?” If this false dichotomy represents the sort of absurd reasoning that serious, thinking religious people must deal with today, I’ll take the Dark Ages.
Monday, March 12, 2012, 11:17 AM
Tony DiStefano has written a piece for Catholic Phoenix entitled “Why I Am Not A Conservative or Liberal Catholic, and Why You Shouldn’t Be One, Either,” that tries to get beyond the dividing line:
To repeat: It makes no real theological & ecclesial sense to speak of Catholics as either “conservative” or “liberal”, as these are terms dragged in from early modern political theory & fundamentally change the terms of our relationship with God, the Church, & the world if accepted without strong qualification. Rooted in a social contractarian view of social & political life, these terms imply certain anthropological doctrines that directly conflict with traditional Catholic teaching on the nature of human persons who bear the image of God & are called to live a life of self-giving love in the Church founded by Christ. For example, our political order assumes a certain view of liberty that we have come to honor without question. Free individuals freely accept the directives of the State as beneficial to their pursuit of happiness, or freely reject them in favor of others that are more respectful of freedom & its expected result, happiness. The burden is on the State to provide a system of arrangements the individual finds plausible & acceptable as honoring his status as a free man. The greatest threat to our freedom & happiness is other people, especially those who gather together under metaphysical banners & seek to deprive us of our freedom through the construction of some sort of theocracy. Happiness, we are told, requires choice & the power of self-determination, as we are first & foremost autonomous beings who need to get along with other autonomous beings, many of whom have conflicting ideas of what is needed to make us happy. Politics is thus about protection, civilization about defending ourselves against the claims of others.Freedom is, therefore, prior to all social arrangements, & the only legitimate vocation each of us has. The need to preserve individual freedom is not only my highest right & obligation, but also the chief task of the State, if genuine happiness is to be possible for the many.
Read more here.
Friday, March 9, 2012, 11:00 AM
Why aren’t we upset that athletes occupy the one percent? Half of all NBA players’ annual salaries exceed two-million, which is more than five times the threshold for the top one percent of household incomes in the United States. Kobe Bryant, for example, earns more than twenty-five million a year, and Jeremy Lin is receiving the NBA’s “minimum wage” of $800,000 per year:
Yet many of these same fans would almost surely argue that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, whose median compensation is around $10 million, are ridiculously overpaid. If a star basketball player reacts a split-second faster than his competitors, no one has a problem with his earning more for every game than five factory workers do in a year. But if, say, a financial trader or a corporate executive is paid a fortune for being a shade faster than competitors, the public suspects that he or she is undeserving or, worse, a thief.
Corruption and shady dealings notwithstanding, it’s hard to see why the public tolerates the disproportionate incomes of athletes but can’t stand the same for financial analysts (working sixty to seventy hours a week, making less). It can’t be that star athletes are role models; while many certainly are, there are also Michael Vick’s, Ron Artest’s, and Zinedine Zidane’s. And sports teams “lobby governments as aggressively as any big business.” Let us not forget that Jeremy Lin’s own story only emerged because of a the contentious labor dispute between NBA billionaire owners and its millionaire players over the league’s multi-billion dollar annual revenues.
Read more here
Thursday, March 8, 2012, 10:45 AM
In a piece of work that is generally representative of the popular voices seeking to expose the Church and others of traditional moral commitments in their supposed “partisanship, wonky indignation and misleading religious angst,” Soraya Chemaly writes “I’m No Longer Catholic. Why Are You?” for the Huffington Post. Ours is an easy choice, she says: “Either you are willing to support and participate in a culture in which men, refusing to accept women as fully human, use a perverted claim of divine right to control women and their bodies, or you don’t.”
The truth is exposed; Catholic bishops think women aren’t human. There is enough to chuckle or groan about in the article. But there is also a lesson to be gleaned from Chemaly: that the most often misunderstood feature of Church teaching is its clear orientation to human happiness, freedom, and fulfillment. What, exactly, do the leaders of the Church lose if its members practice contraception or have abortions? Be assured, it would not be to the bishops’ personal misfortune.
Thursday, March 8, 2012, 9:30 AM
Anthony Esolen, writing for Public Discourse, holds forth on the illegitimate claims that contraception advocates make about the “medical” or “health” reasons that favor contraceptive use, via America’s (and his) favorite pass-time:
But the use of estrogen as contraception is not medical at all. Quite the contrary. A couple who use estrogen to prevent the conception of a child do not ingest the drug to enhance the performance of their reproductive organs, or to heal any debility therein. Their worry is rather that those organs are functioning in a healthy and natural way, and they wish they weren’t. They want to obtain not ability but debility. They want not to repair but to thwart. Here it is usually argued that the drug is medical because it prevents a disease. But that is to invert the meaning of words. When the reproductive organs are used in a reproductive act, the conception of a child is the healthy and natural result. That is a plain biological fact. If John and Mary are using their organs in that way, and they cannot conceive a child, then this calls for a remedy; that is the province of medicine. It is also the province of medicine to shield us against casual exposure to communicable diseases—exposure that we cannot prevent, and that subjects us to debility or death. Childbearing and malaria are not the same sorts of thing.
Read the entire article here
Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 11:00 AM
For readers in and around the Louisville, Kentucky locale, the CiRCE institute is proudly announcing that the winner of the 2012 Russell Kirk Paideia Prize at the conference on July 20th, 2012, is Mr. Wendell Berry:
Mr. Berry, a native of Kentucky, will be honored at the Paideia Prize-giving banquet, a highlight of the CiRCE conference: A Contemplation of Creation, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on July 18-21. Come celebrate Mr. Berry’s life and work with us as we commemorate his dedication to the cultivation of wisdom and virtue. In his writings and in his teaching, both at the University level and at Highlands Latin School in Louisville, Mr. Berry’s work is nourished by his recognition that education done right is education done in community and that justice establishes a harmony that sustains community, soul, body, and earth.
To reserve a seat or to learn more about the CiRCE conference, see here.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012, 11:00 AM
Mark W. Leach at Public Discourse argues that, at least in the case of the selective abortion of Down Syndrome children, being pro-life is simply not enough to stop abortion:
Therefore, while pro-life organizations advocate for social change in recognizing that fetuses also have a right to life, a different social change is needed to address expectant mothers’ concerns who are considering aborting their unborn children with Down syndrome. As the national advocacy organizations, NDSS and NDSC should be at the forefront in challenging public policy to effect this change. Instead of investing $16,000 of scarce public healthcare dollars to pay for aborting children with Down syndrome, why not invest those funds in early intervention therapies to enable them to be more self-sufficient? Instead of California investing millions since the 1980s in prenatal testing for Down syndrome, why was that money not used to provide better support resources for individuals with Down syndrome? And, instead of the federal government investing over $15 million in the development of new prenatal tests for Down syndrome and now requiring prenatal testing at no cost through the recent HHS regulations on preventive care services, why is there not a corresponding investment to fully fund the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act to provide accurate information and support services to expectant parents?
Read the rest here
Monday, March 5, 2012, 2:30 PM
A friend of mine once remarked that, while the redefinition of marriage does have troubling consequences for the continuity of society, what John Paul II has rightly called the “culture of death” is far more sinister, another order of evil entirely. Abortion comes to mind first for most. Not marriage, but life itself is being redefined, and that arbitrarily. The recent article from the Journal of Medical Ethics, “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?”, brings this home.
Euthanasia takes a close second. Massachusetts is next in line to vote on doctor-prescribed suicide in November of this year. In many ways, this too is a matter where life itself is being redefined not as a welcome good to be sustained but instead as a financial burden, a source of anxiety and concern. And while the administration of life-ending drugs must be freely chosen by the person to be euthanized, it is obvious that the more euthanasia becomes normalized, the more coercive the cultural attitude will become for the young and old alike.
For the young, the the parlance of euthanasia has particular force. Framed in the language of “mercy,” euthanasia, we’re told, is a welcome relief for your loved one, a good deed done, a painless crossing of the threshold of death surrounded by loved ones. What son or daughter, faced with the prospect of seeing their parent through a prolonged and painful death, wouldn’t consider having “mercy” via euthanasia? The elderly are faced with even more twisted prospects. If euthanasia becomes a regular option for those aware that death is close anyway, knowledgeable that they are a financial and emotional burden to their family, what parent wouldn’t choose to die quickly and easily, relieving their children of the imposition?
The notion that euthanasia is always ‘freely chosen’ is simply dishonest. A coercive cultural attitude must be factored in, especially if we employ language like “mercy” and “relief.” The more normal the option becomes, the more life that requires financial and emotional resources will be thought only burdensome.
Friday, March 2, 2012, 1:45 PM
The Guardian reports that the new program entitled “Life Ends” will respond to the sick whose own doctors have refused to help them end their lives at home:
The launch of the so-called Levenseinde, or “Life End”, house-call units – whose services are being offered to Dutch citizens free of charge – coincides with the opening of a clinic of the same name in The Hague, which will take patients with incurable illnesses as well as others who do not want to die at home. But doctors cannot be forced to comply with the wishes of patients who request the right to die and many do refuse, which was what prompted NVVE to develop a system to fill the gap…According to De Jong, the team will make contact with the doctor who has refused to help the patient to die and ask what his or her reasons were. More often than not, he said, the motivations are religious or ethical, adding that sometimes doctors were simply not well enough informed about the law.
The macabre initiative does seem to provide a safe exit for conscientious objectors. But the fact that such a program exists brings home John Paul II’s characterization of the contemporary moral climate as a ‘culture of death.’ So does this.
Friday, March 2, 2012, 10:17 AM
For readers in the New York City area, there will be a free screening of the new award-winning documentary, Out of the Darkness, at Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria tomorrow, March 3rd, at 1pm. In this film, Anteroom Pictures presents what is not often discussed, even among those familiar with the dangers of pornography: the detailed history of its emergence and normalization. Personal testimony of those involved in the porn industry and analysis from Dr.’s Judith Reiseman and Richard Fitzgibbon make for a deeply revealing study that exposes the tragedy of the internet’s most searched form of entertainment.
Friday, March 2, 2012, 10:15 AM
George Weigel has written a piece for National Review, “What Would Father Richard Say?”, that places Fr. Neuhaus’ work in the broader brushstroke of Christopher Dawson’s words below, words that speak of the motivation behind the entire “Neuhausian” project:
If civilisation has nothing to do with morals and religion, if social justice and political liberty are matters of indifference to it, it can have but little contact with human life in its most universal aspects. It is an artificial growth, a hot-house plant which can only flourish in a world in which everyone is witty and well mannered and well dressed; where poverty and suffering are unknown. Such a society can never exist in its own right. It is the result of certain rare and transitory moments in the wider life of humanity. Its exquisite frivolity is powerless to withstand the hard facts of life.
Read Weigel here.
Thursday, March 1, 2012, 11:00 AM
Inside Higher Ed has obtained a copy of a letter signed by numerous John Carroll University faculty, pitting religious liberty and freedom of conscience against women’s health:
“We, the faculty of John Carroll University named below, are committed to freedom of conscience and religious liberty. We believe that the American Catholic bishops have the right to proclaim Catholic teaching vigorously and loudly. However, we also believe that access to contraception is central to the health and well being of women and children…we are all troubled that the bishops have chosen a path of continued confrontation. The fact that the bishops have rejected the accommodation offered by the administration leads us to wonder what motivates their continued resistance.”
The heated discourse surrounding the mandate generally centers around the competition between two concepts, religious liberty and women’s health. The rhetorical move to include free access to contraceptives and abortifacients in the term “women’s health” is, progressives hope, an effective way to silence those in opposition of the mandate: No one wants to be thought of as against women’s health. The appropriation of the term in favor of the mandate has obvious political value. But the burden of proof is on its advocates to show exactly how and when contraceptives and abortifacients became “central to the health and well being of women and children.”
Read more here
Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 11:00 AM
Marc Fischer writes a surprising piece for the Washington Post with the headline “Black Pastors Take Heat for Not Viewing Same-Sex Marriage as Civil Rights Matter.” With Maryland (it seems) about to become the eighth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, it’s novel for black pastors to hear that they’re “on the wrong side of history.” The comparison made by advocates of same-sex marriage between the urgency of their position and that of Martin Luther King’s is not new, but these pastors are convinced that the answer to the question of same-sex marriage is rather straightforward, and doesn’t have to do with rights:
Rather, they say, it is a question of Scripture, of whether a country based on Judeo-Christian principles will honor what’s written in Romans or decide to make secular decisions about what’s right. In Maryland, as in California and New York, opinion polls have shown that although a majority of white voters support recognition of same-sex marriage, a majority of blacks oppose it, often on religious grounds.
Read the story here
Monday, February 27, 2012, 1:15 PM
Spring is around the bend, and readers of First Things have probably noticed the advertisement on the website and in the issue announcing that we are now accepting applications for the Junior Fellowship program. Lots can be said about the benefits of being a junior fellow: working closely with the editorial staff in producing the magazine, publishing one’s work on the website and journal (under the sharp and edifying auspices of the seasoned editors), working on research projects, reading perpetually, and living in America’s epicenter of metropolitan cultural life. But a previous junior fellow’s (modified) quiz usually separates the wheat from the chaff quickly enough:
1) My bookshelves are (a) collapsing under the weight of their contents; (b) a great place for my heirloom shot-glass collection; (c) where I put my xbox controllers and old games like Halo 3 and the original Modern Warfare.
2) Writing college essays made me (a) energized, even if due in part to late-night coffee; (b) regret minoring in English; (c) realize that narrowing the margins extended length, and professors rarely noticed.
3) New York City: (a) Theater, concerts, galleries, new friends and experiences, sounds good; (b) Sirens and lights and subways…maybe not; (c) Green Acres is the place for me.
4) Reading, discussing, and arguing about important ideas 40+ hours a week: (a) I do this anyway…? (2) Second only to birdwatching; (c) I left that at college, thank God!
5) The nation’s leading journal of religion, culture, and public life: (a) First Things; (b) The New Yorker; (c) Weekly World News.
Majority A’s—Send in your application today!
B’s and C’s—Here and here, respectively.
In all seriousness, the junior fellowship is a remarkable opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the editorial process, hone one’s writing, and begin to understand the importance and context of religiously sincere and rigorous public discourse. Recent college graduates or those recently graduated are urged to apply; you will not get this experience elsewhere.
Monday, February 27, 2012, 11:00 AM
The Immanent Frame is weighing in on the HHS mandate: “We’ve invited a small handful of scholars to comment on how the debate highlights enduring and nascent issues involving claims to multiple rights made in the context of American public life.” The group includes professors and attorneys from Catholic University, Marquette, the University’s of Alabama, Tennessee, Hawaii at Manoa, Illinois at Chicago, and Columbus School of Law. From the first contributor, Finbarr Curtis:
The Catholic Church’s rhetoric in the recent contraception controversy pits public health policy against private constitutional rights. But what is unclear is exactly whose rights are violated. No Catholics would be forced to take contraception. Rather, the Church’s claim is that its liberty is violated if it has to affirm the religious liberty of its employees, who may be Catholics as well as people with no religious affiliation or with different religious affiliations. In other words, “religious liberty” does not protect individual freedom (whatever that may be) but allows organizations to police the religious convictions of their employees. What is remarkable, at least politically, is that employees could include many conservative Evangelicals for whom contraception within marriage is fine. This means that, say, a married Southern Baptist who takes a job at a Catholic university would have her healthcare choices influenced by Papal teachings with which she does not agree. For much of American history, this kind of ecclesiastical assertiveness would have ignited anti-Catholic fury. But drawing historical parallels is tricky here because the Church now insists that it has jurisdiction over the consciences of non-Catholics, which is a long way from earlier defenses of American Catholic freedom. Yet many conservative Protestant groups have come to the defense of the Church in a way that demonstrates a shared investment in expanding the power of private institutions. This vision of religious freedom confirms Winnifred Sullivan’s post on the Hosanna-Tabor decision, in which a “church” has first amendment rights. One could note an analogy between this language of religious freedom and the Citizens United ruling that grants corporate entities the rights of persons. In both cases, the rhetoric of freedom works to expand the power of private institutions acting beyond the scope of democratic deliberation and accountability.
Read the rest of Curtis and the other five here
Thursday, February 23, 2012, 11:30 AM
In a piece oddly titled “A Quiet Struggle Within the Gay Marriage Fight,”(for it has not been quiet) Matt Smith writes for the New York Times via the Bay Citizen juxtaposing the Proposition 8 question in California with the internal struggle of mainline Protestant churches over question of homosexual marriage and ordination:
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit earlier this month upheld a decision declaring Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, unconstitutional. The ruling represented a milestone in the secular struggle over gay rights. In the shadow of that struggle, however, a quieter battle is being waged within churches over whether gay people can be married and ordained. Long before the issue of same-sex marriage grabbed the spotlight, liberal Protestant pastors in Northern California were fighting against church rules prohibiting ordination and marriage of homosexuals.
The United Methodist Church seems to be “the last holdout among major mainline Protestant groups,” while nearly all the rest have gotten on board with gay marriage and ordination.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 11:42 AM
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Stephen S. Schneck on CNN’s Belief Blog writes that the idea of a Catholic voters bloc “is patently ridiculous.” American Catholics mirror most of American voters, and are divided between Democrats, Independents, and Republicans at about the same percentage as the electorate as a whole:
“And it’s hard to trace such political complexity to religious allegiance…One explanation for why is the sheer number of Catholic voters and their now multigenerational assimilation into American society. About 35 million Catholics voted in 2008. That’s about 27% of all voters…By finally achieving that assimilation, Catholics in the last 50 years have lost much of their sense of special self-identity. For white Catholics, who are about 60% of the Catholic vote, their distinctiveness in class, education, income and even ethnicity has grown increasingly ambiguous in America’s famous melting pot.”
The Latino vote, GetReligion points out, is one of “three discrete Catholic votes at play in modern American politics. It is a swing vote that often backs Democrats due to issues of economics and social justice.” The Latino vote counts for a whole third of the Catholic vote, which usually represents about 27% of the entire electorate.
The second major category, reports Schneck:
“Largely white, with impressive education levels, mostly suburban and with moderate to high income levels, such Catholics are in evidence in weekly Mass attendance and parish activities. Politically active, intentional Catholic voters lean toward the Republican Party (with some youthful swing voters) and are motivated by economic issues and increasingly by opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration”
And perhaps the most interesting category, the cultural Catholics:
“Many culturally Catholic voters are at odds with both conservatives and liberals on many issues. They are more socially conservative than the majority of Americans, but many are put off by the more intense social conservatism of intentional Catholics and evangelicals. They are more economically populist than most Americans but are uncomfortable with the libertarian zeal of the tea party. They are alienated from the lifestyle liberalism of many progressives but remain supportive of unions and governmental programs for the middle class.”
Read more here
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