Saturday, June 19, 2021
Few words in contemporary discourse are as hokey and tedious as "weaponization"; it simply means "making an argument that makes me uncomfortable because it forces me to consider the possibility that I'm failing to act as I should." And so, the "statement of principles", issued by some politicians who support abortion rights, which objects to the alleged "weaponization" of the Eucharist (note that no such "weaponization" has really occured), is pretty thin stuff.
As it happens, my own view is that it would difficult to administer -- i.e., to expect parish priests to administer -- a live-action, case-by-case rule that officials who fail to support legal protections for unborn children should be denied the Eucharist (just as it would be difficult to administer such a rule that focused on officials' -- or my own -- many other failures). But, this letter -- like much of the astroturfed outrage being expressed on social media about a "weaponization" that, again, has not actually happened -- is making a different point: The letter's claim is that the letter writers are entitled (a) to support, fund, and indeed coerce people to provide a wrong action and (b) to declare themselves immune from the Church's determinations regarding the sacramental implications of such support (etc.)
The letter writers claim that they "agree with the Church about the value of human life." Not that "agreement" is really the issue but . . . they don't (agree). As for the invocation of the "primacy of conscience" in this context, John Henry Newman is rolling over in . . . I mean, he's enjoying the Beatific Vision and is utterly unmoved by the writers' mistake.
It seems unremarkable to me for Catholic bishops to remind Catholics that (i) legal regimes that do not protect unborn children are unjust; (b) it is wrong to support knowingly injustice; and (c) one should avoid receiving the Eucharist if one is aware that one is engaged in wrong actions. It seems urgently needed for our bishops to teach and lead better with respect to love and reverence for the Eucharist. Again: I'm inclined to think it's a mistake to focus on politicians with such reminders and I'm inclined to think that priests should not adjudicate questions about mental states, etc., at the front of the Communion line. Still, the letter is exquisitely individualistic, even Promethean; it does not seem particularly Catholic.
This piece, in America, tells a story about Catholicism in the United States, and about President Biden, that is very difficult to square with the facts. In its narrative, there was a hopeful, Council-inspired Catholicism in America, of which Mr. Biden's "authentic and beaut[iful]" faith was a part, but then abortion politics came along and caused people to (unfairly) question the "sincerity" of that faith. Nowhere in the piece is it mentioned that Mr. Biden previously opposed abortion, and its public funding, but then (like many other political figures) changed his stance in order to conform to perceived political-advancement necessities. The culture warriors to whom he (and others) surrendered were not pro-life Catholic bishops.
The piece goes on to suggest that the ongoing debates about politicians, abortion, and the Eucharist is about "ownership" of the "brand" of Catholicism. This seems a strange way to frame the question; the Church's pro-life and sacramental teachings are not about "branding" but about truths. Nor, contrary to the piece, do these teachings have anything to do with an asserted "hesitation about democracy" (except, I suppose, insofar as they reflect a view that truths about sacraments and human dignity are not determined by majority vote). It is asserted that the Church "cannot control public policy outcomes" (true enough) and that "[w]e must accompany democracy in order to build up the people who would choose the common good through democracy" (indeed) but it is never conceded that those who "choose" (and, indeed, would expand dramatically) the American abortion regime are opposing, not choosing, the "common good."
Saturday, May 29, 2021
I suppose we knew this was coming, but it's still striking to see:
U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed 2022 budget omits a ban on federal funding for most abortions that has been part of government spending bills for decades.
The budget, released Friday, makes no mention of the "Hyde Amendment," first passed in 1976, which has been included in federal spending bills since.
When X is publicly funded, a common result is more X.
Friday, May 28, 2021
A friend sent me a link to this speech, by President Roosevelt, to the National Conference of Catholic Charities in 1933. Here's a bit:
[T]he people of the United States still recognize, and, I believe, recognize with a firmer faith than ever before, that spiritual values count in the long run more than material values. Those people in other lands, and I say this advisedly, those in other lands who have sought by edict or by law to eliminate the right of mankind to believe in God and to practice that belief, have, in every known case, discovered sooner or later that they are tilting in vain against an inherent, essential, undying quality, indeed necessity, of the human race —a quality and a necessity which in every century have proved an essential to permanent progress—and I speak of religion.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
I've been enjoying a newish journal called Plough Quarterly. The latest edition has (among other things) a really nice essay by Leah Libresco Sargeant called "Let the Body Testify: Whose Body Counts?" Sargeant makes good use of the new book by my colleague, Carter Snead, What It Means to Be Human. Here is Sargeant:
The vulnerability of our bodies is part of what binds us together into a community. In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the story begins with the traveler’s suffering when he is beaten and robbed. His need is what calls neighborliness out of the Good Samaritan, who binds the traveler’s wounds, takes him to a refuge, and ensures his continued care.
This story is Christ’s answer to an expert in the law, who asks Jesus to clarify the limits of the Great Commandment. God calls me to love my neighbor as myself, but who, exactly, counts as my neighbor? And, left as the subtext, who doesn’t count? Whom am I allowed to not love?
Here, in the (indispensable) Church Life Journal, is an essay by (the indispensable) John Cavadini, called "Is the Secular University a Contradiction in Terms?". A bit:
Ex Corde does conceive of the university as having utility, but its main usefulness is precisely in its institutional witness to the pursuit of truth as good in itself, and to the vision of the human being whose dignity is reflected in his or her capacity for joy in the truth. It is only useful secondarily, in the practical utility of knowledge acquired or imparted along the way.
That this could be a viable, intellectually coherent enterprise, as noted, implies an institutional commitment to a view of reality where reality is characterized by an intelligibility that is not simply imposed and thus a mere construction and therefore not truth. This means a commitment not simply to truths in the plural, but to truth as transcending all individual truths, namely, to quote Ex Corde again, “the supreme Truth, who is God.” Although Ex Corde is here speaking specifically of Catholic universities, the claim is that this is how the Catholic university fulfills its identity not so much as Catholic, but as a university.
It is a claim about what is essential for a university to provide the cultural service which most makes it useful. It is the precisely institutional dedication to truth as transcendent of particular truths and of their utility, and its concomitant explicit commitment to the idea of God as the Supreme Truth, that permits a Catholic university—or any university—to fulfill and preserve the broadly based humanistic vision that is properly at the heart of a school dedicated to educating in the tradition of the liberal arts. It is this commitment that permits a Catholic university to resist a purely utilitarian view of education and its tag-along reductionist view of human being. In other words, the pursuit of truth for its own sake is in itself a witness to human dignity. One cannot “improve the world” and at the same time violate human dignity, or, as Notre Dame’s mission statement puts it, “a sense of human solidarity and . . . the common good,” explicitly employing language drawn from Catholic Social Teaching and Ex Corde both.
Friday, May 21, 2021
Here is a short piece I did for Our Sunday Visitor on the recently granted Dobbs case. A bit:
It is often asserted by abortion-rights advocates that regulations of abortion involve the inappropriate imposition of a sectarian (which usually means “Catholic”) morality. In fact, until Roe, Anglo-American law had always permitted governments to proscribe abortions, and there is nothing specifically “Catholic” about recognizing the fact that unborn children are human persons, entitled to the same legal protections enjoyed by other (bigger, perhaps) persons. . . .
Saturday, May 15, 2021
Longtime MOJ readers might remember that I am a fan of my colleague (and others') work connecting urbanism/architecture with Christian anthropological claims. Here is a new essay by Bess, in the (great) Church Life Journal, called "The Architecture of an Urbanist Natural Law Principle." Among other things, Bess engages Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si'. Bess notes:
The fundamental anthropological assumption of Laudato Si’ is that the human being is most truly understood as an intermediate being, both part of and transcending the natural order. This mediating status affords human beings both objective privileges and objective obligations of stewardship, but a strong and pervasive obstacle hampers our stewardship.
Bess then works from this assumption to some "thoughts about an integral human ecology at a scale less-than-global, less-than-national, but greater-than-a-building: viz., the scale of an integral local human ecology, the scale of cities and their adjacent landscapes." Check it out.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Regular MOJ readers probably recall that I think Prof. Massimo Faggioli (Villanova) tends to view matters through an overly ideological and/or partisan lens. This recent piece, in Commonweal, supports my view, I think. It's a dog's-breakfast, but the theme seems to be that the Catholic bishops in the United States should be saying more about election-related laws and, more important, saying things with which Prof. Faggioli agrees. (Their asserted failure to do so is seen as Trumpy, money-ish, etc.) The term "democracy" is used imprecisely, and tactically and, somehow, the concluding paragraph ends up with something about President Biden's pick for ambassador to the Holy See.
(Much) more interesting -- and Commonweal is the kind of venue that could do this -- would be informed discussion about what, exactly, "democracy" is, involves, and requires . . . and what Catholics committed to the Church's social teaching should think about it. For example: I am confident that Prof. Faggioli wants the (unelected) members of the Supreme Court of the United States to invalidate various legislative and executive decision. (So do I.) Is this "democratic"? I infer that he thinks some counter-majoritarian features of American constitutional democracy are icky (e.g., the Senate). Why? Various legislative measure that require, say, presenting legally valid identification before voting are analogized to "the anti-liberal turn in Hungary . . . " Really?
Then there's this, which is just silly:
The USCCB is an episcopate that is culturally and theologically a fruit of John Paul II’s pontificate, and, until the 1980s at least, it was receptive of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the Church and politics. Now we have to wonder what remains of Vatican II’s impact on Church-state relations, religious liberty, and political participation.
The USCCB's proposals and statements on these latter matters are, entirely, consistent with Dignitatis humanae. What is not consistent with Vatican II is the emerging view, which Prof. Faggioli seems to endorse, that the Church should, in order to avoid being tarred as a "culture warrior", submit to unlawful regulation of her internal affairs.
Monday, May 3, 2021
On this day, in 1606, Henry Garnet, S.J. was hanged by St. Paul's Cathedral in London. (The crowd reportedly pulled on his legs, during the hanging, so that he would die before the usual disemboweling.) He was a student of Robert Bellarmine and had been, for some time, the head of the Jesuit mission in England, and he was executed for (in addition, of course, the offense of being a Jesuit in England) failing to reveal his (alleged) knowledge of some details of the "Gunpowder Plot." (In Macbeth, Shakespeare mocks Garnet, by reference, as the "equivocator.") Ora pro nobis.