Monday, October 15, 2012, 4:50 PM
Br. Thomas More Garrett, writing at Dominicana, points out an irony in the new California statute proscribing the use of “reparative therapy” by anyone under the age of eighteen:
The legislation is sweeping in effect. What if an individual under the age of eighteen wants to be rid of homosexual urges? Too bad. What if a minor’s parents and a doctor or licensed therapist propose to the minor a plan of treatment designed to reverse same-sex attraction? The State of California says, “Stop right there.” There are no exceptions, not even for minors who suffer sexual abuse at an early age and then become conflicted with same-sex attraction in adolescence or puberty.
So much for consent as the criterion of a morally acceptable action?
Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 10:15 AM
As we near the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, George Weigel considers the legacy of Fr. Francis Murphy (alias Xavier Rynne), who covered the Council for The New Yorker, and who (it is argued) gave birth to the “good guys vs. bad guys” hermeneutic.
Weigel sees a journalistic impulse to simplify and excite as partly to blame:
Now to be sure, a writer like Murphy, trying to explain the 21st ecumenical council in history to the generally secularized readership of The New Yorker, had a problem on his hands. How could even a gifted and witty scribe (which Murphy/Rynne was) explain, let alone make exciting, arcane debates over doctrine, often conducted in a strange vocabulary, for people who regarded “doctrine” as a synonym for “mindlessness” and “intellectual immaturity,” and in a culture where pragmatism and “technique” had conquered all? Murphy/Rynne had excellent inside sources in Rome, where he had long worked; what he needed was what would now be called — cue fingernails scraping down blackboard — a “narrative.” So Murphy/Rynne hit on a brilliant strategy, perfectly adapted to the Sixties and the middle years of Kennedy Camelot: treat Vatican II as a political contest between the forces of light and the forces of reaction; run everything and everybody at the council through those filters; and then watch readers acclaim, with one voice, “I get it!”
Weigel goes on to identify the lamentable and distorting effects of such an interpretation, arguing that a fresh (and more honest and insightful) look at both history and contemporary affairs will be far more newsworthy:
So, as we approach the golden anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, perhaps it’s time to lay “Xavier Rynne” to rest once and for all. There are a virtual infinity of interesting Catholic stories available to inquiring journalists; virtually none of them makes sense if parsed in liberal-vs.-conservative terms. Rynne/Murphy had a good run. But the days when that optic on all things Catholic made even a modicum of sense are long past. Only the intellectually lazy or ideologically besotted will fail to recognize that — and to move beyond it, into that real engagement with history for which Blessed John XXIII rightly called.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 10:44 AM
Many are understandably disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA. But while the overall merits of the act and its implementation continue to be discussed and analyzed, a lot of people remain concerned and confused about how, precisely, the decision relates to the HHS contraceptive mandate.
A lawyer-turned-friar, explaining “the new context for the contraceptive mandate,” points out:
Most importantly, keep in mind that the Supreme Court has not ruled on the legality of the HHS contraceptive mandate. There are two mandates receiving much attention in the news nowadays. While there is a relationship between the two, each is distinct from the other.
The first is the individual mandate, which will compel those without health insurance to purchase insurance via government-sponsored exchanges. The second is a separate contraceptive mandate that will require employers not otherwise exempt from the law to purchase insurance that includes contraception and sterilization coverage. The distinction is necessary to appreciate what the Court did and did not say in last week’s decision. The Court’s ruling last week only addresses directly the individual mandate, which it upheld in a 5-4 vote on the basis of the federal government’s taxing power. The Court did not pass upon the ultimate legality of the contraceptive mandate.
What is the relationship then between Obamacare and the contraceptive mandate? The authority for the Department of Health and Human Services to issue the contraceptive mandate stems from the broader Obamacare legislation. Accordingly, the challenge to the individual mandate could have had implications for the survival of the contraceptive mandate, had the Court decided differently last week. A brief explanation follows.
Read the article here.
Monday, July 9, 2012, 3:20 PM
Ramesh Ponnuru believes that Justice Roberts has ignored the normative dimension of law:
The difference between a mandate and a tax is precisely the difference between, on one hand, a command that the citizen is morally obligated to obey and, on the other hand, a set of options open to the citizen that the government has merely structured through its announcement of its likely responses to his choice. With a mandate that incurs a penalty, the government is telling citizens that they must buy insurance. To fail to buy insurance is to break the law. In the case of a tax, conscientious citizens would have no such moral obligation. They would behave fully lawfully in not buying insurance, but they would have to pay extra to exercise that option. Similarly, they act perfectly lawfully in buying beer but have to pay sin taxes.
The key question in Chief Justice Roberts’s analysis was which of these things the government was trying to do in the Obamacare law. He chose to answer the question in precisely the wrong way: a way that guaranteed he would reach the wrong result.
Monday, July 2, 2012, 4:00 PM
Many people wonder what will happen with the Society of Saint Pius X. With the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite more available (and enjoying Papal support) will the SSPX be brought into full communion with the Catholic Church? It’s not clear. It’s more than a liturgical issue that divides the society from Rome.
The Pope recently appointed His Excellency, Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., as vice president of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which works chiefly to reconcile the SSPX and other separated traditionalists. The National Catholic Register has an informative and theologically rich interview with the Archbishop. He discusses interpretations (good and bad) of the Second Vatican Council, the contributions a reconciled SSPX would make, and what is nonnegotiable theologically. What it all boils down to, as the Archbishop makes clear, is real, living continuity with tradition. “The only thing I’m telling them is: Vatican II is not a departure from Tradition,” DiNoia said.
The Holy Spirit is the real preserver of tradition, he pointed out:
. . . if you cease to believe that the Holy Spirit is preserving the Church from error, you cut your moorings.
The councils cannot — whatever their interpretations may be by the left or right, or whatever the intentions of the authors were of the council documents — be led into error. All of the documents stand. Schism is not the answer. So I’m sympathetic to the society, but the solution is not breaking off from the Church.
In other words, there is only one society that has God’s own guarantee, the society of St. Peter and his successors. However much one might lament certain changes in practice, cutting oneself off from the Pope to preserve tradition is a contradiction in terms.
“Traditionalists have to be converted from seeing the Council as rupture and discontinuity.” Reconciliation will be “an act of grace,” His Excellency said.
Conversion. Grace. That’s the rub. And a good reminder that all of our efforts to do and be good begin and end with the Source of all good.
Friday, June 29, 2012, 11:03 AM
The USCCB has issued a very clear and reasonable response to yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act as a tax. The Bishops reminded us that, while they have for many years been advocates of health care reform, they opposed the ACA’s final passage because of its “fundamental flaws.” Specifically:
First, ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. [ . . . ]
Second, the Act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context. [ . . . ]
Third, ACA fails to treat immigrant workers and their families fairly.
The Conference went on to say that, since the ACA’s enactment, it “has not joined in the efforts to repeal the law in its entirety.” Rather, they concentrate their efforts on urging Congress and the Administration to fix the flaws and make the ACA truly life-affirming.
Thursday, June 28, 2012, 11:19 AM
George Weigel, commenting on Theodore Maynard’s The Story of American Catholicism, highlights the commitment that early American Catholics had to religious freedom:
Because of their own theological tradition, Maryland Catholics (and their brethren in Pennsylvania) could have embraced something resembling the First Amendment in the days when New England Puritans were teaching their children to sing, “Abhor that arrant Whore of Rome/and all her blasphemies/And drink not of her cursed cup/Obey not her decrees.”
Maynard wrote, 70 years ago:
“… [The] Church … has always maintained that, whatever may be the accidental inequality of gift and station between man and man, they are all essentially equal in the sight of God. It is only upon such a doctrine that democracy can repose. It is only democratic institutions that put that doctrine into visible practice. For despite the Declaration of Independence, with its ‘self-evident’ truth that all men are created equal, the thing is not self-evident at all. On the contrary, it seems to be at variance with self-evident facts. It is really a mystical dogma, and the one institution we can be perfectly certain will never renounce that dogma is the Catholic Church.”
And Weigel muses:
But perhaps “mystical” is not quite right. There is a chain of ideas here, and it can be traced. From Thomas Aquinas to Robert Bellarmine to the Anglican divine Richard Hooker; then from Hooker to John Locke to Thomas Jefferson: that’s one plausible intellectual roadmap to the Declaration and the First Amendment. The American Thomas Jefferson, owed the scholastic Thomas Aquinas, more than the Sage of Monticello likely ever knew.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 10:40 AM
The United States isn’t the only country seeking to restrict religious liberty. A German court has ruled that circumcision is illegal unless done out of medical necessity, calling it a “severe and irreversible interference into physical integrity.” I wonder if abortion is an interference into physical integrity.
A German legal scholar praised court’s boldness:
“As opposed to many politicians, the court was not deterred by fears of being criticized for anti-Semitism or hostility toward religion,” he said. “This decision could not only influence future jurisdiction, it could also lead the relevant religions to change their attitude with respect to the fundamental nature of children’s rights.”
Another commentator has this to say:
Ultimately, this is not about circumcision and bodily injury. It is about the question whether in contemporary society it is still possible to bring up children in the context of any particular cultural or religious tradition, be it Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, or whether any such education must be put off until the day when the child, at age 14 or 18, is old enough “to decide for itself.” But what can it decide itself for, if until that age it is not allowed to get acquainted with any such cultural heritage?
Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 12:21 PM
The Vatican has released a document providing guidelines and criteria for promoting and considering vocations to the priesthood. Carol Glatz, writing for CNS, says:
the Congregation for Catholic Education sought to address a widespread demand for pastoral guidelines for fostering vocations “based on clear and well-founded theology of vocation and of the identity of the ministerial priesthood”.
She goes on to point out:
During a Vatican news conference presenting the guidelines, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the education congregation, said that, paradoxically, “experience teaches us that the strongest candidates grow in hostile environments.”
In places where there is open hostility to the church, he said, vocations are “very healthy, very strong and (priests are) very aware that we have a mission.”
Msgr. Vincenzo Zani, undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, said the aftermath of the sex abuse crisis in the United States has had some positive results, specifically in Boston, where the seminary is now filled thanks to an aggressive effort, led by the archbishop, to search for serious vocations.
Thursday, June 14, 2012, 12:15 PM
What is the best way to communicate the truth about human dignity in the public square? Are secular terms to be preferred, since they are not easily and quickly dismissed by non-believers? Or are explicitly and purely secular arguments simply not up to snuff for demonstrating the sanctity of all human life? See the proceedings of the Human Life Review‘s recent symposium, “Truth-Telling in the Public Square.”
. . .while all of the nine contributors to “Truth-Telling in the Public Square” agree on the inviolability of human life, each comes at the question of how best to argue for it in the public square from their own unique, and engaging, angle. Some come down on the side of the secular, some the sacred, and some think each argument makes sense . . . to a point. Some question whether one can persuade through argument at all.
. . . the reader follows the twists and turns of a fascinating discussion which reflects the richness of our Western, Judeo-Christian culture. Contributors look to, for example, ancient Greece (Hippocrates, Euclid), the Talmud, the Gospel and papal encyclicals, to natural law, and to American history and the abolitionist movement. Remarkably, you may come away agreeing with both Blackburn and Smith.
Among the contributers were Timothy Cardinal Dolan, and our magazine’s very own David Mills and Rusty Reno. Their articles can be found by visiting the Human Life Review homepage and scrolling down.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 4:30 PM
Trolling through the news, an article caught my attention. It stated, “When your best intentions go south, new research suggests that it wasn’t the devil that made you do it. It was your brain. Will power, the study found, is a finite resource, one that can be easily depleted.”
The article goes on:
“Our results suggest self-control can be diminished by use,” Hedgcock tells us. “People have a hard time resisting temptation after prior acts of self-control. This can negatively affect people’s ability to maintain attention, resist tempting snacks and resist purchasing on impulse.”
What we’re dealing with, in philosophico-anthropological terms, are the sensible appetites. Generically, we all have simple inclination toward sensible good and away from sensible evil (the concupiscible appetite) and an impulse to contend with anything that gets in our way, either by inhibiting the pursuit of a good or by presenting a positive threat (the irascible appetite). The specific passions of the first are love and hatred, joy and sadness, desire and aversion. The latter’s hope and despair, courage and fear, and anger.
Many people see a sharp division between reason and passion, the head and the heart. And it is understandable enough, most of us experience, with some degree of frequency, what St. Paul described with such precision in Romans 7. (more…)
Friday, June 8, 2012, 11:30 AM
Peter Schjeldahl’s post on Klimt’s “Adele” got me thinking. The thirty-five million dollar painting, he says, “isn’t a peculiarly incoherent painting, as I had once thought. It’s not a painting at all, but a largish, flattish bauble: a thing. It is classic less of its time than of ours, by sole dint of the money sunk in it.”
In fairness to modern art, I think people are often too quick to dismiss it: “It doesn’t look like anything,” or, “I could have done that myself.” “True,” I’ve often responded, pointing out the obvious, “but you didn’t.” Rothko’s big block of orange might not be on the same level as Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation” (I am admittedly biased toward my confrère), but it’s a very pretty block of orange. And as disgusted as I was by half the pieces in Vienna’s Museum of Modern Art when I once made a visit (I really wish I had those nine euro back), an abstract or non-representational quality is not sufficient for rejecting a piece of art (or a genre) out of hand.
Jacques Maritain’s Art and Scholasticism provides, I believe, two principles to keep in mind when considering a work of art. First, whether art’s imitative quality is, to put it in my own words, the sine qua non of art (more…)
Thursday, June 7, 2012, 12:34 PM
Some say that Obama’s support of gay marriage will be the spanner in the works of his reelection campaign:
“I believe that this will lead to President Obama being a one-term president,” said NOM president Brian Brown, during a call with reporters. “If you look at key swing states—Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa—those are all states where you had overwhelming majorities vote to protect marriage, and I think that we are going to focus on making very clear that this is a key distinction…
Conrad Black, with his characteristic rhetorical flair, argues that it will be the economy’s abysmal performance:
The effort to distract the country from this indefensible record with claptrap about a Republican war on women, a papist plot against access to contraception, legal semantics about same-sex relationships, and other red herrings, has failed. The bag of tricks is empty, the well is dry, and the sands are running out. Unless Willard M. Romney drowns in platitudes, or proves a greater Gatling gun of self-inflicted wounds than Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, John Kerry, and John McCain combined, the chalice he has so ardently sought but the country is not enthused to give him will be his.
Read his article, “Germany and America Lead,” here.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 1:00 PM
A recent Gallup Poll revealed that nearly half of Americans believe in a fairly strict version of creationism, and that “theistic evolution” is apparently on the decline. Believers and nonbelievers alike often find it difficult to reconcile evolution with theism. Thus, there is a tendency to admit only one or the other.
Not being a scientist, I can only timorously comment on anything pertaining to science. Theology and philosophy are, however, somewhat more familiar, so I offer the following reflection.
A more sound notion of Providence holds that God guides all things suaviter et fortiter, suavely yet firmly, sweetly yet strongly. Christians needn’t fear that conceding some evolutionary process is the camel’s nose in the tent, leading inexorably to atheism. (Similarly, nonbelievers should realize that evolution is, rationally, not a “disproof” of God’s existence).
This principle (let’s call it “the suavity of God’s providence”) has a wider application than the generation of the material world. On reflection, it provides great relief to those anxious to discover God’s will in any sphere–an anxiety, when one scratches beneath the surface, that is usually due to the unfortunate view that God’s action or causality is in competition with human action or causality. Nothing, however insignificant or complex, falls outside of the scope of God’s loving plan. God, more interior to us than we are to ourselves (and by extension, to all of creation), moves even free agents to act without violating their freedom. Univocal agents (on the same plane of being) only act on one another exteriorly (or, so to speak, “violently”). God, from whom our being and our ability to act is derived, wills that his ordered plan for the good of the universe unfold through the contingent (free and dependent) activity of creation.
Fatalistic determinism and deistic “autonomism” are the ditches on either side of the road. God’s interaction with creation does not remove human responsibility or freedom. Neither did the Creator simply set the ball in motion and then recline to watch with amusement as history unfolds.
There’s much more that could be said, of course. But in a word, He’s got the whole world in His hands.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 10:36 AM
After being in the city for a week now, I’m astonished by how many times I’ve been accosted by representatives of Planned Parenthood. Often directly in front of a Catholic church, these young, cheery volunteers blithely ask, “Would you like to hear from Planned Parenthood today?” Is it invincible ignorance of Sanger’s views and Planned Parenthood’s history that prompts people of a racial minority to smile and promote it? And to someone wearing a religious habit as he approaches the steps of a church, no less?
Yesterday, Kathryn Jean Lopez highlighted another instance of this mind-boggling irony:
Directed by brave young Lila Rose, one of the latest investigative videos shows a woman in Planned Parenthood’s flagship clinic in Manhattan explaining that she has been married for seven years, has a daughter, and now wants a son. Just as Live Action has encountered before, a Planned Parenthood worker doesn’t flinch in the facilitation of a sex-selective abortion.
Lopez goes on to reveal that Obama, smart as he supposedly is, remains blind to his own inconsistencies.
Did someone say something about a war on women? Live Action just exposed one. Did someone say something about “equal rights”? President Obama has been heralded as a great defender of women’s rights, and his disingenuous Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has been applauded as a seminal victory for liberal feminist demands. However, Obama opposed the legislation to prohibit sex-selective abortion.
Monday, June 4, 2012, 10:26 AM
An interesting piece of journalism in yesterday’s LA Times marshals economic and sociological factors (is anyone shocked?) against the “single-mother revolution.”
. . . those who opt for single motherhood are hurting not just themselves but their offspring. The children of single mothers are twice as likely as children growing up with both parents to drop out of high school. Those who do graduate are less likely to go to college, even if you control for household income and the mother’s education. Decades of research show that kids growing up with single mothers (again, even after you allow for the obvious variables) have lower scholastic achievement from kindergarten through high school, as well as higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, behavior problems and teen pregnancy. All these factors are likely to reduce their eventual incomes at a time when what children need is more education, more training and more planning. The rise in single motherhood was ill-adapted for the economic shifts of the late 20th century.
Read more here.