Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Southern Catholics Today
Several events came together over the past week that seemed to have significance. The first was the announcement by Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Raliegh Diocese of a new cathedral campus. The new cathedral is to be named Holy Name of Jesus, will hold over In making the announcement, the Bishop noted that over the period from 2000 to 2010, the Catholic population grew by over 40%.
The second event was a conference held at Duke Law School on the thought of Stanley Hauerwas. (See earlier post). The conference was organized by John Inazu (now at Washinton University in St. Louis) and featured papers by outstanding scholars, including Michael Moreland (Villanova) and Elizabeth Schiltz (St. Thomas), who both blog on these pages. Moreland's presentation focused on the complexities ofcontemporary bio ethics and tort law. He argued that the philosophical framing "intention" is philosophcially muddled in aw way that Hauerwas's work anticipates. Schiltz paper was on Hauerwas' writing on people with disabilities, which she enlisted to make a critique of contemporary approaches to disability law. These were excellent papers, as were the others presented at the conferece.
Today, Phillip M. Thompson, director of The Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University, sent out an announcement for the up coming Harold Berman Lecture, to be given on Sept. 20 by Mary Ann Glendon. The title of her talk is "Religious Freedom - A Second Class Right."
These happy events occur against a background of political engagement. This week the North Carolina Legislature passed a bill that will put same-sex marriage on the ballot during the May 2012 primarys. The legislative effort will ask the voters to ratify an amendment to the state constitution to emphasize and strengthen the existing law proscribing same-sex marriage. The news attracted national attention.
And, later today President Obama will visit a factory in the town of Apex, just outside of Raleigh, where he will speak on his jobs bill.
What does all of this activity mean? Probably not much. There has always been a robust Catholic culture in the South. But surely these developments signal that the Raleigh and Durham area is a vibrant Southen community--increasingly engaged with national politics and with a rich intellectual environment. It also suggests that the Catholics of North Carolina will be significant in future national elections. In the last election, North Carolina was narrowly decided in favor of the president, early on Wednesday morning. Since then, the number of Catholics in the state has increased substantially. At this point it is hard to say what that means, since there is not a unified "Catholic vote," but it indicates a shift in the politics of North Carolina which will have national significance.
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