Thursday, April 13, 2017
My colleague Rachel Lu wrote this very perceptive essay for The Federalist on the Murphy Institute's Douthat/West conversation. She captures the extraordinary generosity and depth of the conversation very well. I was asked by a reporter why we were so confident that this conversation would be as rich as it turned out to be, and I told her that it was because of a couple of attributes we knew these two speakers shared: fierce intelligence, a strong faith commitment, and senses of humor. Rachel confirms this in her essay:
It would be difficult to script a more genial conversation between representatives of the political left and right. Charging headlong into the hard questions, West and Douthat discussed capitalism, white supremacy, traditional sexual morals and more. Neither man at any point lost his poise or sense of humor. In the end, the audience was left wondering: Is there a way to recreate this dynamic elsewhere in America? Why were these two able to venture where so many others have feared to tread?
There is an obvious answer: West and Douthat can understand each other because they are both Jesus freaks. That is to say, their perspectives are shaped in significant ways by a serious Christian commitment.
We're still working on the video link! It's turning out to be a bit complicated. Stay tuned!
Sunday, April 9, 2017
On Friday, the Murphy Institute hosted a truly memorable conversation between Cornel West and Ross Douthat on "Christianity and Politics in the U.S. Today." We had about 1,200 people coming from all over the university, as well as the greater Minneapolis and St. Paul communities -- a testament to the appetite in this country for civil dialogue between people of different viewpoints. And both them lived up to their well-deserved reputations for incisive, principled, generous, and inspiring commentary. I was privileged to moderate the conversation, and it was one of the most enjoyable 2 hours I've ever spent on a stage! We will post a link to the video as soon as we can arrange it. In the meantime, here are a couple of the highlights to look for: the fascinating debate about whether the term "white supremacy" is applicable to any situation other than the relationship between blacks and whites in the United States; Ross Douthat asking Cornel West: "What about sex?", and the ensuing discussion; and the very last audience question, from a 16 year old Latina woman, and both responses.
Here's a picture taken right after the program, showing (from left to right), Dr. Julie Sullivan (President of UST), Cornel West, Ross Douthat, Seanne Harris (the program manager of the Murphy Institute, without whom -- and I mean this very literally -- the program would not have been possible), and me.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
A few days ago, Christine Horner posted an appeal to Pope Francis on Huffington Post (a site that no doubt the Holy Father has bookmarked on his computer), calling for "an end to the religious ritual of the declaration of unworthiness" during Mass. She's talking about the Centurion's refrain of “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof...” She argues that "dialogue and constructs that perpetuate “I am not worthy” are the root of all evil behavior. It is divisiveness personified."
My colleague at St. Thomas, Deborah Savage from the Seminary/School of Divinity, has written a powerful response, published in Notre Dame's Church Life Journal. She argues, among other things:
The cause of violence in our culture is not the call to admit my weakness, my uncertainties, my mistakes. The cause of violence in our culture is the refusal to accept the reality of sin and to recognize that, in that regard, we are all the same: in need of forgiveness and compassion. The cause of violence in our culture is our inability to see the humanity of another and to love them—to will their good—even if we think they might be flawed.
Deborah's essay contains a lot to chew on for these troubled times.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Among the many delightful people associated with Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture that I got to spend time with in Rome over the past week is Ken Hallenius, Communications Specialist. Ken has created a very cool index linking to all of Pope Benedict XVI's general audience reflections. He has organized them by topic, such as "Prayer", "Faith", "Holy Women", "Doctors of the Church".
Ken also brought to my attention this excellent essay by Amy Wellborn, very critical of the Vatican's framing (but not the act) of the recent elevation of Mary Magdalenes’ July 22 memorial to a feast. Wellborn discusses the book she wrote about Mary Magdalene a few years ago (now out of print, but perhaps to be made available in digital form soon).
Saturday, June 11, 2016
I've discovered a new hero over the past few days: the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Arthur Roche. Below is a picture of him delivering a delightful catechesis on the Good Samaritan this morning in the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, as part of the Jubilee celebrations for persons with disabilities. And yesterday, his office announced the raising the celebration of the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to the dignity of a liturgical Feast, recognizing the importance of her role as the “apostle to the apostles.” In his announcement, Archbishop Roche wrote:
Saint Mary Magdalene is an example of true and authentic evangelization; she is an evangelist who announces the joyful central message of Easter.”
“The Holy Father Francis took this decision precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy to signify the importance of this woman who showed a great love for Christ and was much loved by Christ,” writes Archbishop Roche.
He also notes Saint Mary Magdalene was referred to as the “Apostle of the Apostles” (Apostolorum Apostola) by Thomas Aquinas, since she announced to them the Resurrection, and they, in turn, announced it to the whole world.
“Therefore it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same grade of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the General Roman Calendar, and shines a light on the special mission of this woman, who is an example and model for every woman in the Church.”
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Thanks to the generosity of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture and the Jacques Maritain Center, and their inimitable leaders, Carter Snead and John O'Callaghan, I am spending the week in Rome, talking, learning, and thinking about all manner of issues related to Disability and Misericordia. We just finished a two-day conference, really more of a study seminar, on "Disability and the Face of Mercy", co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, and physically hosted in the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
We heard from scholars from a host of perspectives on the topic: John O'Callaghan tracing problematic misconceptions of the Imago Dei back to St. Augustine's finding the image of God solely in the activities of the human mind; Carter Snead on how our public bioethics frustrates the application of law as an instrument of mercy; Mary O'Callaghan arguing for a return to mercy in the medical practices of prenatal diagnosis by reviving the original motivations of the people who developed the tools now being used solely for purposes of eugenic abortions; Thomas Williams on how radically Jesus overturned the notion of weakness and vulnerability; Elizabeth Lev graphically illustrating Thomas' arguments, exploring the differences in depictions of disability between classical and Christian art, and Fr. Terry Ehrman speculating beautifully about disabilities in the resurrected body. I spoke about sacramental access for persons with cognitive disabilities, reflecting on the great gift to the Church of witnessing how the truths of the sacraments can be understood and shared by people whose religious experiences are not expressed in conventional rational speech.
We also heard and saw first-hand how the many gifts of faith and truths of mercy are shared in communities fully embracing persons with disabilities, from a wide array of persons with disabilities and their partners in an extraordinary factory in Milan, L'Arche communities in both Portland, Oregon, and in Rome, and the community of Saint Egidio here in Rome. The conference officially ended with a fantastic dinner at the Trattoria degli Amici, the fantastic restaurant run by the community of Saint Egidio, staffed by people with disabilities.
That was the 'official' end of the conference, but much the delegation (including me) is sticking around to participate in this week's Jubilee for the Sick and Persons with Disabilities . I will post more about that experience, but in the meantime, I am just grateful to have been part of an extraordinary couple of days.
Monday, March 21, 2016
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Minnesota's assisted suicide proposal was withdrawn by its sponsor during its hearing today, which apparently drew impassioned testimony from both supporters and opponents, according to this report from our local paper. Apparently the sponsor (Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center) understood the opposition as resulting from "misunderstandings" about the legislation, rather than a very clear understanding and rejection of the proposal. She's planning on re-introducing it next year, because "it would be easier to pass if DFLers [Minnesota-speak for Democrats] regained control of the House in November."
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Since my last post on this issue, assisted suicide legalization proposals in both Nebraska and Maryland has been defeated in committees. Great news!
Let us hope for the same result in Minnesota, where the Senate’s Health, Human Services and Housing Committee is holding a hearing on the "Minnesota Compassionate Care Act" (SF 1880). Charles Camosy published a great essay in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, presenting the "liberal" case in opposition to legalizing assisted suicide. Among other great things, he writes:
Against the individualist approach, liberals focus on how policies impact vulnerable people who are pushed to the margins. In a youth-worshiping and capitalist culture, older people are understood as a drain or burden on their families and society. Hardly surprising, then, that older people would feel “tired of life” and seek a way out. But it is diabolical to make it easier for vulnerable people on the margins to kill themselves. Good liberals must absolutely affirm the goodness of their existence — especially when the surrounding culture can make them feel unwanted and burdensome.