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Showing posts from June, 2015

Some Thoughts as We Head Into the Summer (and Fall) of Love

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Now that we've gotten this climate change thing sorted out, it's time for all of us to refocus our attention back to where it belongs--sex!  Yes my friends, this summer, and into the fall, are going to bring us a number of events that are going to place the attention of many on who is doing what to whom and under what circumstances.  The first domino fell on Friday, in the form of the Supreme Court ruling on the gay marriage cases.  But it's not over yet, not by a long shot.  Observe:
Last week, we got the prepatory document for Synod on the Family Part II, Electric Boogaloo. [Ed. Note:  Official English translation here]. If you have been following this story, you will not be surprised to hear that it is a mixed bag!  For example, it calls out "a certain vision of feminism that considers maternity a pretext for the utilization of women and an obstacle to their full realization."  (Boo!).  But then it follows up with praise for "[a] style of communication ope…

Te Deum!

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The Supreme Court of the United States, a few minutes ago, said that same sex couples have the right to be married in all 50 states.

The Te Deum was traditionally sung in celebration of some event, an expression of thankfulness for a source of great joy.   Today is a day for celebration!  I know this will be really stick in the craw of lots of Catholics, but I don't care.

Special congratulations to my friends Neil and Mike.  I could not be any happier for you.

I would also like to say something to those out there who are in the process of putting on sackcloth as we speak.  In particular, I would like to direct your attention to what Richard Beck calls "Orthodox alexithymia."  Beck, from the perspective of a psychologist, makes a simple but profound claim--rationality without an emotional component is not a pure form of reason; it is sociopathy.

Some Observations from Ground Zero of Hagan Ilo

"Don't do it," I hear you telling me.  "You don't want to be That Guy," you wisely suggest.  "Everyone has praised the Pope's new encyclical.  The only people who have a problem with Laudato Si' are Republican Presidential candidates and Rorate-Caeli readers.  Do you want to be lumped in with that lot?"

You're right, you're right.  I shouldn't do it.

But. . . I have ambivalent feelings about Laudato Si'.  I'm not sure if this encyclical will, in the long run, be a good thing for the Catholic Church.  In fact, I think the encyclical is, in some dimensions, a step backward.  There, I said it.

Let's talk first about the substance of the encyclical, and then move to my bigger concern, which is the philosophical and ecclesiastical vision that informs the way the encyclical approaches and presents that substance.

On the substance, everyone is focusing on climate change part, where he says that human activity is leading t…

A Small (But Not Really) Thing

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Last week, Pope Francis has brought up something that seems completely irrelevant but actually kind of a big deal--finding a common date to celebrate Easter.

Let me try to summarize this issue in as simple a way as possible.  In 325, at the Council of Nicaea, the church fixed a date for the celebration of Easter--the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal (Spring) equinox (the so called "Roman practice," as distinct from the "Jewish practice"--i.e. using the Jewish calendar to calculate Passover and then placing Easter on the Sunday after that).  Except, not exactly--in practice, the date of Easter is determined using a mathematical algorithm that is designed to predict when the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox will fall.  This algorithm was actually developed after the Council, and is not directly referenced in the Council documents.  The important point for purposes of this story is that it spits out a date for East…

Sometimes You Have To Grab a Tray

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Happy Environmental Encyclical Day!  Or, as it is known in some circles, liberal Catholic Schadenfreude Day.  I recognize that I should probably take a measured tone and not rejoice in watching our conservative and traditionalist brothers and sisters squirm.  And I think with this post I have succeeded.  Sort of.

You will hear in the days to come the word "cafeteria Catholic" thrown around, and perhaps you are not familiar with that term.  Well, the ever-zealous folks at Catholic Answers say "[a] cafeteria Catholic is typically defined as one who picks and chooses what Catholic teaching he wants to believe. Catholics are not free to choose which teachings (on faith and morals) to obey."  Hmm, interesting. Sounds like some folks are bellying up to the cafeteria line, as can be seen hereand here and of course here.

As a frequent and long-term diner at the cafeteria, I would point out that there are two kinds of folks that are grouped into the category of "cafete…

Another Theology of the Body XXI--Postscript

I said I wasn't going to do anymore on this topic, and when I said it I had every intention of following through.  But a couple of days ago I stumbled onto something that is directly relevant to the themes and issues I was working on in the series, so I decided to break my self-imposed ban and direct your attention to a piece written by Thomas Bushnell.  It is relatively short, and utterly worth your time.

As a bit of context, Bushnell's piece is written in response to an essay by Father Craig Uffman of the the Diocese of Rochester (New York) in the Episcopal Church.  The overall topic is a proposal before the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to amend its canons (basically church law) in several ways to facilitate blessing of same-sex unions by clergy in the Episcopal Church.  As you might expect, these proposals are controversial--some are opposed to the Church recognizing same-sex marriage altogether, others frustrated by what they perceive as "half-a-loaf,&qu…

Who Are We Inviting to Our Table?, Part 3

Previous two posts:

Part 1

Part 2
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In Unclean, Richard Beck explores the psychological basis behind purity and exclusion, and looks at texts in the New Testament in which Jesus and Paul look to transcend these mechanisms.  What then does this mean for the Eucharist?

First off, Matthew 9 and 1 Corinthians 11 (and other, similar texts) should always prompt us to ask the question--who are the marginalized, the tax collectors and sinners, of our day?  Who are the people that our instincts tell us that we should be keeping out?  Because the psychological research Beck references alerts us to the fact that all of us have an in-born tendency to look to police boundaries and practice exclusion on that basis--what theologian Miroslav Volf calls the "will to purity."  We are all under the influence of this gravitational pull, and Jesus and Paul make it clear that we have to try to fight that pull and undertake a "will to embrace."  These two notions are in neces…

The Substance Behind the Style

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Dr. Natalia Imperatori-Lee [postscript: Dr. Imperatori-Lee was elected to the board of the Catholic Theological Society of America.  Congrats, Professor!] said something in her panel discussion with Andrew Sullivan and Fr. Jim Martin that has been stuck in my head and won't let go--in a Church that believes in the Incarnation and the Sacraments, there can be no distinction between style and substance, because style is a kind of substance.  It matters how things look and how they come across, because in how they look and how they come across, they communicate truths every bit as real as any explicit doctrinal formulation.

Consider an example.
These two photos were taken at the Sacra Liturgia conference last week in New York City.  The guy seated on the throne with the long red cape (a cappa magna, or "big cape") in the top photo is Cardinal Burke; the guy in the middle of the bottom photo in the red gloves is Archbishop Cordileone (indeed, the Sacra Liturgia conference was…

Catholic Fundamentalism versus the Land of Hope and Dreams

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1.  Many years ago, I read a book by Karen Armstrong entitled The Battle for God.  In the book, Armstrong tries to define and explore the concept of "fundamentalism."  Technically, fundamentalism refers to a specific movement in Protestant Christianity, stemming from the Niagara Bible Conference in the 1880s and 1890s that defined what it believed to be the "five fundamentals" of Christian faith.  However, the term "fundamentalism" has expanded to other religious contexts, so we talk about Islamic Fundamentalism, Jewish Fundamentalism, etc.  In fact, in her book, Armstrong discusses the history of Jewish, Islamic and (Protestant) Christian fundamentalisms in parallel.

But what is fundamentalism?  Armstrong argues that it has three basic components--a substantive component, a political or social component, and a rhetorical component.  The substantive component is a whole-cloth rejection of the values of the broader society in which it finds itself--in most…

Why I Remain a Catholic

Elizabeth Scalia called for submissions among the blogosphere on the question of why people stay Catholic.  I figured I would chime in, despite the fact that I am perhaps not the sort of person she had in mind to answer the question.

The single sentence answer to the question for me is that I remain a Catholic because of its visceral catholicity.  James Joyce once famously defined Catholicism as "here comes everybody," and that remains for me the most salient definition of Catholicism.  To be "catholic," to be universal, is to include the wide variety of people and places that make up the human family, with all of their attendant particularities, baggage, opinions, and nuances.

There is a danger of turning catholicity exclusively into an abstract, intellectual construct--a statement about the scope of the intellectual reach of the faith.  That's an important part of the definition of catholicity, but I don't think it is a substitute for actual, visceral cat…

Quick Hitter: Jesus Has Some Thoughts About Problematic Allies

Richard Beck had an excellent post from Monday about a self-cannibalizing tendency with the Left.  Beck points out that the exclusion tendencies stemming from purity psychology are not somehow limited to conservative people--liberal folks engage in the exact same purity psychology.  In particular, Beck points out that allies--people that agree with parts of a particular progressive agenda--tend to be a focus of attacks, sometimes even above and beyond those who oppose the agenda in total.

It strikes me that Jesus has a parable that is relevant here.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about th…

Who Are We Inviting To Our Table?, Part 2

The lynchpin of Unclean, in many ways, is Beck's analysis of Matthew 9:9-13.  Here it is:

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him "Follow me."  And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go learn what this means 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'  For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

In a podcast I was listening to, Beck and Rob Bell make the observation that Jesus spends a lot of time eating dinner in the Gospels.  There are a number incidents of the same type.  Peter's encounter with Cornelius the centurion is basically the same stor…