When the Government Takes Your Children

Many people who have followed the Justina Pelletier case—largely ignored by the mainstream media, by the way—have thought that there has to be more to it, or that it’s an outrageous out-of-the-ordinary affair. This is the case where the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families forcibly took custody from her parents over a year ago of a teenager who had been treated for years for mitochondrial disease (a genetic disorder), when they brought her to Boston Children’s Hospital for consultation about a related gastrointestinal problem and resisted a quickly-made diagnosis by a medical resident and a psychologist there that she instead had a mental problem. Justina has been confined to Children’s Hospital for over a year and then DCF assigned her to a group home and then foster care and a juvenile judge awarded the agency custody of her until she turns eighteen. Justina has written that she feels like a prisoner and she has been denied both schooling and the opportunity to attend Mass or receive Holy Communion—all this, while the hospital and DCF claim they’re “helping” her. Her parents’ have engaged in a protracted legal battle with DCF and now their attorneys have filed a habeas corpus action.

Read more at Crisis Magazine

Lenten Meditation: Mantegna’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ

By Linus Meldrum

An anomaly both then and now, Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ, c. 1480, has often been called a tour-de-force of perspective.  This small tempera painting was found by Mantegna’s son in the artist’s personal collection at his death. The Early Renaissance masterpiece likely disturbed its viewers with its strangeness—the composition, the point of view, and the insistent description are unnerving.  Jesus had never been seen quite like this.  Christ, having been removed from the cross has been placed upon a marble slab.  Rather than the typical embrace of His Mother, we see Mary at the side, age-appropriate and weeping.  The other figures are likely St. John, with his mouth agape, and Mary Magdalene, given her relationship with the anointing of Jesus and the presence of an alabaster jar at the rear of the slab.  Christ, lightly covered by a damp cloth, rests His head upon a pillow.  We see His wounds. His hands are pulled up in near-gesture.  A barely discernable halo flickers around his head. The Lamentation is sometimes paired with Mantegna’s drawing in the British Museum titled Man Laying on a Stone Slab.  The drawing depicts a man in a reclining pose, eyes closed, yet lifting himself—like a sleepwalker about to rise.  My mind forms a question: did this drawing spark Mantegna’s imagination to conceive an image of Christ which helps us to anticipate the Resurrection?

Read more at Crisis Magazine

Buffalo’s New Bishop Confronts Politician’s Duplicity on Abortion

By Anne Hendershott

Faithful Catholics in Buffalo were discouraged to read in their local paper late last month that their allegedly pro-life Catholic senator Tim Kennedy (D-63rd District) intends to vote in favor of New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo’s expansion of abortion in the State.  Kennedy won his seat in 2010 by running as a pro-life candidate ousting then-Senator Bill Stachowski—a Democrat with a strong pro-life record.

Claiming that his position on abortion has “evolved” after much thought and prayer, Kennedy joins a long list of self-described Catholic politicians like Governor Cuomo himself who claim that they are “personally opposed to abortion,” yet would never stand in the way of those who choose abortion.

Read more at Crisis Magazine

When Life Imitates Art – A Cautionary Tale

The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman at age forty-six from a heroin overdose early last month (Feb. 2) has sent the usual shock waves through the highly publicized stage and screen worlds of Hollywood and New York.  And while it was hardly the first time a life was lost to heroin addiction among the glitterati, it happened this time around to someone singularly gifted in the performing arts.  Here was a star whose nimbus clearly outshone all the others.

“What have we been robbed of, by his death?” asked Anthony Lane in a glowing remembrance in The New Yorker (Feb. 17 & 24).  “Not so much a movie star, I think, as somebody who took our dramatic taxonomy … and threw it away.  Leading man, character actor, supporting player: really, who gives a damn?  Either you hold an audience, so tight that it feels lashed to the seats, or you don’t.”

Read more at Crisis Magazine

The Ukrainian Struggle: Freedom with Dignity Over Corruption and Power

By Dr. Alexander R. Sich

In 1998 my family returned to the U.S. from our first home leave overseas, for what eventually ended up being twelve years living and working in Ukraine—including experiencing first-hand Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. News reports in recent days have rekindled memories of our Ukrainian experiences. My own personal recollections lead me to believe that what Ukraine is experiencing now is not, as some outsiders might think, merely a new chapter in an old Cold War struggle between East and West. The protestors are fighting for more than freedom for freedom’s sake, but a freedom with dignity that has been out of reach for far too long.

Read more at Crisis magazine

The Supreme Court: Activism and Abdication

Serious Catholics and political conservatives since the 1950s have strongly criticized the Supreme Court for making public policy and acting as a kind of “super-legislature” to further a leftist socio-political agenda, instead of interpreting the law and judging. We have seen such judicial lawmaking on pornography, abortion, legislative reapportionment, sodomy laws, and the list could go on. While this has certainly been a valid and much-deserved ongoing criticism of the Court, cases in each of its last three terms indicate a new, contrary problem: over-deference to the political branches on both the federal and state levels.

In 2011, the Court decided the companion cases of Camreta v. Greene and Alford v. Greene, which concerned whether a child protective system (CPS) operative and a law enforcement official who backed him up could be sued under federal civil rights laws for an aggressive interrogation of a nine-year-old girl—which under international norms possibly constituted psychological torture—to get her to say that her father abused her. Along with many other organizations, the Society of Catholic Social Scientists filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the girl’s claim (I drafted the brief), mostly because we wanted to focus the Court’s attention—as we tried to do over a decade before in the important parental rights case of Troxel v. Granville—on the CPS’s systemic misconduct that in one article I called “a grave threat to the family.”

Read more at Crisis Magazine

Heinrich Pesch and Solidarism: Time to Be Rediscovered?

The passing of the eminent American Catholic economist, Dr. Rupert J. Ederer, at the age of ninety on Thanksgiving Day 2013 calls attention to the great, but equally unsung, economic thinker and system that he devoted most of his career to furthering: Heinrich Pesch, S.J. and solidarism. Pesch, who died in 1926, was thought to have inspired Pope Pius XI’s great social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno five years later. In spite of Pesch’s relative obscurity, Ederer called him an economic “system builder,” on par with Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes—although the system he constructed was based firmly on Catholic teaching and the natural law. The word “solidarism” rings of the principle of solidarity, which has been stressed more recently in Catholic social teaching. In fact, solidarism is also referred to as “the solidarity work system.” There is some indication that Pesch’s solidarism influenced the famed Solidarity trade union movement in Poland that rose to prominence a generation ago and led the way to the collapse of Eastern European communism.

Read more here

The Christmas Miracle

I picture him as a tall Texan, his outsize appearance easily eclipsing everything in sight, save only the immense shrine that he and a busload of tourists have come to Rome to see.  And then, throwing up his hand at the end of an exhausting exploration of the world’s most beautiful basilica, I hear him asking the expert guide the one thing he’s come all this way to know:

How much does it weigh?

I love that story.  In fact, I imagine him wandering endlessly about the Eternal City in witless search of answers to all sorts of endearingly absurd questions.  The Coliseum, for instance, about which he would surely want to know, “Why wasn’t it finished?”  Or the Pantheon, whose opening in the ceiling would have utterly mystified him.  “What’s the point of a dome unless you’re going to close the freaking thing?”

As a species of reductionism, however, revealing the mindset of a man for whom the merit of anything can best be measured by the ton, it is priceless.  One thinks of C.S. Lewis skewering that fellow in one of his books because, in surveying the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, he can only imagine it as raw material for cornering the salt market.  Reductionism, as someone once said, is the sin of seeing the pearl as the oyster’s mistake.

Read more at Crisis Magazine

John Paul II’s 1983 Visit to Poland: Anniversary Reflections

It was sixty years ago that the Hungarian émigré historian, John Lukacs, published his first book, The Great Powers and Eastern Europe, a masterful treatment of the subject, whose conclusion, including an elegy on the lost world he left behind, has haunted me for years.   Surveying the wreckage of that shattered and divided world, he declared that “only the magnetic force of a rejuvenated, remade, and truly united Western Europe, one that has recovered the erstwhile spiritual greatness of that Christian continent, can eventually develop enough attraction to penetrate the steely barriers separating the West from Eastern Europe’s modern police state.”

That was written in 1953, beneath the cloudless skies of the Eisenhower years, which means that thirty-five more years would need to elapse before the world could witness the final and conclusive collapse of the Soviet Empire in Europe.  It all started a quarter century ago, in other words, beginning with the so-called Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in November of 1989, which smashed the fist of the single-party Communist state, leaving the rest of us, especially those smugly ensconced amid the flesh pots of the capitalist West, in a state of stunned surprise.

How, we asked ourselves, could a people divided for more than forty years by such a massive and impregnable symbol of Soviet sanctioned oppression as the Iron Curtain, come suddenly together in spontaneous and joyous fashion to dance atop the ruins of the Berlin Wall?

Read more at Crisis Magazine

Let Us Not Forget the Wonder of Creation

In his fantastical account of “The Unthinkable Theory of Professor Green,” G.K. Chesterton invites us to imagine an astronomer regaling his audience in great and gorgeous detail about a strange new planet he’s just discovered.  Only gradually do we realize that this utterly amazing place is in fact our very own world, replete with wonders we’d scarcely been aware of before.

Isn’t this the whole point of travel?   Not to poke around places and people of such weirdness that you’d swear you’d wandered onto a sci-fi movie set.  Do we really want to run into a community of pod people while on holiday?   Wasn’t it bad enough watching “The Night of the Living Dead” on television?  Who needs a close encounter with the real thing on a vacation?

Again, Chesterton has the sense of it.  “It is not,” he tells us, “to set foot on foreign land; it is to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”  And isn’t this the challenge that awaits us all?   How to arrest the attention sufficiently to allow us to stand in silent awe before the real world?  When jadedness sets in, we need a sudden jolt to set the circuits going again.  We need to open up the hood and let the wind sweep out all that is sour and stale on the inside.   Indeed, without a sense of wonder, and at least some minimal capacity for surprise and delight, we will never awaken to that “dearest freshness deep down things” (Gerard Manley Hopkins).

Read more at Crisis Magazine.

Holder May Undermine Rule of Law with Challenge to Zimmerman Verdict

The aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial has brought an expected, but very disturbing, reaction. From all indications, the jury weighed the facts of the case carefully and applied the law (as it was presented to them) to the facts correctly. The prosecution had more than its fair share of opportunities to make its case, and one following the trial could not help but to think that they simply did not come anywhere close to providing proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, the lead-up to the case was troublesome. The police and the prosecuting attorney’s office did not think they even had probable cause to make an arrest, and Zimmerman was charged only after misleading media coverage, the bringing in of a special prosecutor (who later fired an employee after he testified that she had withheld evidence from the defense in the case), allegations by the lead detective in the case that he was being pressured to make an arrest despite the lack of evidence, and the firing of the police chief because he believed the same. The reaction of certain groups, elements of the public, and the Obama administration since the verdict has shown how the coveted American principle of the rule of law has fallen victim to the imperatives of identity politics.

Read more at Crisis Magazine.

When Politicians Allow the Murder of Infants

By Dr. Anne Hendershott, Professor of Sociology at Franciscan University of Steubenville

Now that the verdict is in on Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist convicted of delivering live babies—most of them African American—and killing them, perhaps President Obama might finally be willing to respond to the horrific crime.  Silent on the facts of the case, it is curious why neither the President nor the First Lady have been willing to comment on the house of horrors Gosnell presided over.

Prior to the Gosnell case, President Obama was quite willing to involve himself in violent cases—especially when the cases involved African American children.  In the days following the death of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was shot last year by a neighborhood watch captain in a gated community in Florida, President Obama told a gathering of reporters in the Rose Garden that “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” And, in a speech last month that addressed youth violence in Chicago, First Lady Michelle Obama compared herself to Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl murdered there: “Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her.”

Read more at Crisis Magazine.

A Cardinal Boycotts Boston College

By Dr. Anne Hendershott, Professor of Sociology at Franciscan University of Steubenville

At Boston College’s commencement ceremony on Monday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley won’t be in attendance. The leader of the Boston archdiocese announced on May 10 that he would not deliver his traditional graduation benediction at the Catholic school because the college had invited Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny—a supporter of abortion rights in Ireland—to deliver the graduation address and receive an honorary degree.

The cardinal said the invitation has caused “confusion, disappointment and harm” by ignoring the U.S. bishops “who have asked that Catholic institutions not honor government officials or politicians who promote abortion with their laws and policies.”

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Superhero films: a search for moral greatness

By Emily Stimpson

What movies such as “Iron Man” and “Spider-Man” say about our culture and about human nature

(An Interview with Dr. Jonathan Sanford, Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville)

With summer just around the corner, there’s already buzz about what this season’s blockbuster films will be. At the top of the list of sure-fire hits are the superhero movies: “Iron Man 3” hits theaters May 3; “Man of Steel” (Superman) will be released June 14; and “The Wolverine” comes to the big screen July 26. It’s clear Hollywood has found success in showcasing movie heroes who fly. Or scale tall buildings. Or wield mystical hammers. Basically, they fill the screen with super-powered heroes, then watch the money flow in.

Why is that? Why do films like these never fail to attract moviegoers of all ages, sexes and socioeconomic demographics? What explains our culture’s perennial love of superheroes, a love that only has seemed to grow in recent years with the popularity of the latest Batman trilogy, the Iron Man films and even television series such as “Smallville”?

Read more at Our Sunday Visitor.

 

Mass Evangelization

Sharing faith with the Eucharist

Within the first few weeks of his papacy, Pope Francis won widespread praise for his emphasis on “a poor church” that is “for the poor.” His warm and casual disposition, personal simplicity and tender outreach to “the poorest, the weakest, the least important,” as he expressed it in the homily at his inauguration Mass, may prove to be a defining feature of his papacy.

It is undoubtedly true that Pope Francis’ personal style is distinct from that of his immediate predecessors. How could it not be so? Inevitably each pope has his own personality, context and point of emphasis. But what is equally true is that the content and purpose of Francis’ outreach are in clear continuity with the legacy of the Second Vatican Council and especially Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI; the new pope’s outreach is an embodiment of the new evangelization.

Read more at America.

 

Memo to Lady Gaga: “Born This Way” Doesn’t Mean “Act This Way”

It remains unclear whether sexual orientation is genetically determined. Even if it is, that doesn’t justify advocacy for same-sex marriage.

A growing laissez-faire libertarian attitude toward social issues among Americans is arguably the most important weapon available to same-sex marriage advocates. Certainly there are LGBT militants with unwavering commitment to the issue, but the vast majority of those who “support” same-sex marriage can hardly be said to support anything. They just have a hard time saying no. They much prefer the sanitary hands off approach—let them live out their sexuality as long as I don’t have to get involved.

Read more at Public Discourse.

 

The Right to Redefine Marriage?

The main argument proposed by those seeking to redefine marriage so that same-sex couples can be legally declared married is that homosexual persons are being unjustly denied a fundamental right. Everyone has a fundamental right to marry — the argument goes — but homosexuals are denied this right.

But this argument simply begs the question; it presupposes a particular — and false — answer to the question: What is marriage? A right to marry does not give people the right to compel everyone else to treat an entirely different kind of relationship they might have as if it were marriage.

The Causes of Violence in America

The airwaves and the opinion columns continue to discuss the terrible December 14 school massacre in Connecticut and have brought us additional stories of senseless multiple murders in places like Oregon and western New York. Much of the discussion is now focusing on renewed calls for more gun control. As I go on to say, there are certainly some serious public policy issues that must be debated. There are, however, other deeper questions that are being raised by a few commentators, but are unlikely to receive much attention in the media generally—even though they represent the crux of the problem.

Within a couple days of the Connecticut massacre, the secular left raised their predictable demand for gun control. While most people would have thought that respect for the dead—even more so because most of them were children—and their families would have inhibited political commentary and clamoring for legislation so soon, the left was not deterred. It seemed to be another situation of not letting a crisis go to waste; it was a prime opportunity to promote an ideological and policy agenda. To its credit, the major organizational opponent of gun control, the National Rifle Association, held its tongue for a week before stepping up to call for armed security guards in all public schools. Even then, it seemed reluctant to get a full-scale debate going that soon after the tragedy by refusing to answer media questions at its press conference.

Read more at Crisis Magazine.

Say No to Physician Assisted Suicide

Howard Ball’s lead essay on this issue is clear and helpful. Yet I think the term “Physician Assisted Death” is evasive and euphemistic. Physicians have for centuries helped patients to die—that is, to endure the process that ends in their death. The question is whether physicians should help them kill themselves—and whether the law should allow physicians to do so. Thus I will use the term Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). This raises a moral question (Is PAS morally right?), and a legal question (Should PAS be against the law?).

Read more at Cato Unbound.

The Ethical Use of Supervision to Facilitate the Integration of Spirituality in Social Work Practice

By Dr. Jerry Jo Gilham, Associate Professor of Social Work at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

This article appears in Social Work and Christianity, vol. 39, no. 3 (Fall 2012).

Since the 1980s, the social work profession has experienced a renewed interest in spirituality and religion (Canda & Furman, 1999). The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics mandates that social workers obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of diversity and oppression with respect to religion (NASW, 2008). Current Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) standards require schools of social work to demonstrate their commitment to diversity throughout their curriculum. Furthermore, graduates must demonstrate competence in engaging diversity and difference in practice (CSWE, 2008).

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Priest treks across U.S. on pro-life pilgrimage

By Emily Stimpson.

Father Dan Pattee spent his summer spreading Gospel of Life and witnessing firsthand the devastation of abortion.

Rising at dawn and offering Mass is nothing out of the ordinary for any priest. Walking 30-plus miles after the Mass, across America’s highways and byways with a bunch of college students, however, is a little less ordinary — unless you’re Father Dan Pattee.

In the summer of 2012, Father Pattee, a professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, teamed up with Crossroads for the second time (the first was in 2007), and walked across America, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., on a pro-life pilgrimage.

Read more at Our Sunday Visitor.

The Year of Faith: The Bible, the Eucharist, and the New Evangelization

A biblical theologian and Franciscan University professor discusses the recently-begun Year of Faith.

The new evangelization was never meant to be a short-term project.  That much should have been clear to anyone paying attention to Pope John Paul II in 1983.

That year, while addressing the Latin American Bishops’ Conference in Haiti, the Pope called for the Church universal to embark on a new evangelization of the post-Christian West.  He didn’t, however, simply call for a new evangelization: He also laid out a timeline.

Read more at Franciscan Way.

The Mondale Act and Its Aftermath: An Overview of Forty Years of American Law, Public Policy, and Governmental Response to Child Abuse and Neglect

A chapter discussing U.S. laws regarding child abuse, from Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System: A Critical Analysis from Law, Ethics, and Catholic Social Teaching, edited by Dr. Krason.

Public policy in the United States on child abuse and neglect and the formation of what we now call the child protective system (CPS)—which this article argues has been deeply troublesome—was shaped by a landmark piece of legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1974 called the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), or the “Mondale Act” (after its prime sponsor, Senator and later Vice President Walter F. Mondale). The Act made federal funds available to the states for child abuse prevention and research programs on the condition that they passed laws which mandated the following: reporting by certain professionals (such as physicians) of even suspected cases of child abuse and neglect; the setting up of specialized child protective agencies, usually housed within state and corresponding county public social service or child welfare agencies, to deal with abuse and neglect; the granting of complete immunity from criminal prosecution or civil liability for the mandated reporters and CPS investigators regardless of their actions and even if the allegations are grossly erroneous; the insuring of confidentiality of records and proceedings in each case; and the providing for appointment of a guardian ad litem in judicial proceedings for children alleged to have been abused or neglected. Effectively, CAPTA transformed public policy with respect to child abuse and neglect by means of a new federal grant-in-aid program to the states, the way in which public policy in so many different areas from the early twentieth century onward has been reshaped. CAPTA’s mandates encompassed all kinds of known and suspected child maltreatment, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and psychological and emotional maltreatment. CAPTA never defined these terms, however, and there has not been and is not today any widely accepted definition of them even among professionals working in the field. (As we shall also see, the problem of definition has been a major reason for an ongoing explosion of false abuse/neglect reports.) CAPTA further required the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (later Health and Human Services) to establish a National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect to act as “a clearinghouse for the development of information and dissemination of information about child protective research and programs.” The center, initially headed by noted child abuse expert Douglas J. Besharov (later, as we shall see, he became a major critic of current child abuse/neglect policies), used most of its funding for research and training grants to individuals and for special grants to the states. Although the latter comprised only about 20% of the available funds, it emerged as the most important part of the statute for the future of child abuse/neglect enforcement in the U.S.

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America’s “Parchment Regime”: The Original Character of the American Democratic Republic and the Culture Supporting It

A chapter on the origins of America’s governmental system from Dr. Krason’s 2012 book, The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic.

We hear it said often that the practice of something does not measure up to the theory behind it. This is the case with political orders as with other types of entities, as well as with individual persons.

In Federalist 10, James Madison says that in “a pure democracy…there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention…and as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” With such an utterly unflattering assessment by the main author of the Constitution, one wonders how we might be able to refer to the United States as a democratic republic? Martin Diamond, Winston Mills Fisk, and Herbert Garfinkel, in their book entitled The Democratic Republic, say that the U.S. is “democratic”—in the representative, not pure, sense—because it features majority rule, and is “republican” because it was intended to demonstrate such characteristics as restraint, sobriety, competence, and liberty. There was intended to be majority rule, to be sure, but within the context of preserving minority rights; that is, the minority could not be suppressed or its liberty destroyed. As Diamond, et al. say, our Constitution is “faithful to the spirit and form of democracy…[but] guards against its dangerous propensities.” The latter are not just the tyranny referred to by Madison, but also folly, feebleness, and ineptitude. It seeks to “reconcile the advantages of democracy with the sobering qualities of republicanism,” and “to render a democratic regime compatible with the protection of liberty and the requisites of competent government.” The consent of the governed, then, is at the heart of the American political order, but its force is mitigated by the restraints of representative institutions, the rule of law, and social, cultural, and moral influences. This insures that the majority’s will not only is not abusive, but also that the common good of the political order will be promoted.

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Papal Teachings on the Family, the State, and the Social Question: A Summary

A chapter on Papal social teaching from Dr. Krason’s 2009 book, The Public Order and the Sacred Order: Contemporary Issues, Catholic Social Thought, and the Western and American Traditions.

This chapter summarizes the main elements of Catholic social teaching, as derived primarily from the papal social encyclicals. These elements provide one of the main criteria by which we go on to approach and evaluate the different public questions we take up later in this book. The elements fall basically into five categories: the family, the obligations owed to human life, the role of the state, the “social question” (involving the moral issues concerning economic activity and the relationship between capital and labor and the taking care of the welfare of the needy), and the “international question” (relations among nations, war and peace, and human rights). The limits of this chapter do not permit a detailed examination of all the social encyclicals. Instead, the major ones of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries⎯-from the time of the earliest social encyclicals in the latter half of the nineteenth century⎯-are focused on. The summarization of the social teachings, then, will come mostly from the following encyclicals: Rerum Novarum (The Condition of Labor) (1891), Quadragesimo Anno (Reconstructing the Social Order) (1931), Divini Redemptoris (Atheistic Communism) (1937), Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress) (1961), Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) (1963), Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) (1967), Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) (1981), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (The Social Concern of the Church) (1987), and Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) (1991). Other Church documents, encyclicals, and secondary source materials will also be referred to at different points in the summary.

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HHS Mandate: Unjust (as well as Illegal)

To recap two major problems with the HHS mandate: it restricts the natural right of religious freedom and imposes a false view of religion.

In addition to being illegal by violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (see Ed Whelan’s posts at National Review Online about this starting here), the Health and Human Services contraception mandate is unjust for at least two reasons: it infringes the natural right of all citizens to freedom of conscience and religion (see Melissa Moschella’s Public Discourse article); and it attempts to impose on society a false—overly restrictive—definition of what religion actually is (see Gerard Bradley’s Public Discourse article). Here I want to sum up and defend these two crucial points.

First, on the right to religious freedom. The rightful authority of the political community is limited: it does not extend to every aspect of human life. We form political community only to promote the public good, that is: to protect natural rights, and to promote ends that serve all within society, and can effectively and appropriately be pursued by the political community (as opposed to ends—such as the adoption of a particular religion—that can best be pursued only by individuals, families, and voluntary associations). The protection of natural rights—grounded in genuine human goods or aspects of human flourishing—is an essential component of the public good, and part of what citizens consent to when they consent to the political community.

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The Case Against Pro-Life Physicians

Franciscan University biology professor Dr. Daniel Kuebler says the bias against pro-life medical students begins with the first interview for medical school.

Imagine yourself, a senior in college, sitting in the middle of your dream medical-school interview. Because you have done your homework, the interview is going exceedingly well. You seem to have established a rapport with the interviewer, and your answers are crisp, clear and intelligent. It’s going so well that you are starting to feel confident regarding your chances of gaining admission.

That is, until the interviewer hits you with this question: “Suppose a young pregnant woman and her boyfriend come to you seeking an abortion. What would you do?”

What would you do? How would you answer? For pro-life medical-school candidates, there is only one answer: You counsel the couple not to have an abortion. The problem is that, in some cases, this answer could ruin the candidate’s chance of admission.

It is routine for medical-school admission interviews to include open-ended questions on ethical issues. Primarily, these questions are included in the process to see if students can articulate clearly and defend adequately their thoughts on complex issues. If this were the sole reason for their inclusion, questions about abortion and abortion access could play a legitimate role in the interview process. But that is often not the intent of such questions.

Read more at NCRegister.com.

Obamacare Overreaches on HHS Mandate

 A Catholic biologist weighs in on what is wrong about one aspect of the federal healthcare mandate.

It’s an understatement to say that the Obama administration’s announcement that it will require all health-care plans to include free coverage for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs (abortifacients) and sterilizations did not go over as smoothly as planned.

While the new rule is similar to provisions already in place in 28 states, the administration distinguished itself by failing to include an adequate religious exemption.

As a result, Catholic charities, colleges and hospitals will be required to provide services that violate their religious beliefs.

The lack of a real religious exemption triggered a wave of backlash that appeared to catch the administration by surprise.

Opposition from many religious circles was to be expected, but the fact that publications such as USA Today and The Washington Post came out in opposition to the lack of a religious exemption could not have been anticipated.

Caught in a firestorm of controversy, the Obama administration tried to wordsmith its way out of the mess.

Read more at NCRegister.com.

The Authority of Mystery: The Biblical Theology of Benedict XVI

Close study of the body of his writings suggest that, had Professor Ratzinger been left alone to pursue his scholarly interests and ambitions, his achievements would have rivaled or surpassed those of the greatest Catholic theologians of the last century.  

Never before in the history of the Catholic Church has a world-class biblical theologian been elevated to the papacy.  The election of Pope Benedict XVI, on April 19, 2005, brought to the Chair of St. Peter one of the world’s finest theological minds, a public intellectual long engaged in dialogue over the crucial issues of the modern period, especially the relationship between freedom and truth.

The former Joseph Ratzinger was a young academic theologian with a very bright future when, in 1977, he was chosen to be archbishop of the historic Bavarian diocese of Munich and Freising.  At the  time, he expressly identified a continuity between his scholarly work and his new service in the hierarchy of the Church, taking for his episcopal motto a biblical expression: “cooperators in the truth.”

Read more at SalvationHistory.com.

First Comes Love: The Family Spirit (appendix)

Those interested in what Dr. Hahn has written about the Holy Spirit may read an online version of the revised and expanded chapter from First Comes Love (pp.152-174), including Sources and References (pp. 201-213).

The Church is our mother, and for that we should rejoice. Moreover, Jesus Christ has given us His own mother, Mary, to be our mother, too. Praise God for that—because if He has given us His mother as our own, He will surely deny us nothing! It almost seems an understatement to say He has not left us orphans. His gifts surely surpass all of mankind’s expectations for salvation.

Yet there is something penultimate in these gifts of motherhood. Great as they are, they point to a still greater gift that our Lord wants to give us.  Like all the good things of creation and the people and events in the Bible, these instance of holy motherhood are real, and we experience them powerfully, but God intended them to direct us to something still greater, something more real, something heavenly, eternal, and divine.  God intends for us to contemplate the biblical types and other creaturely images until we arrive at their uncreated origons. That, after all, is what creation is for, and that’s what revelation is for. It’s also what motherhood is for.

Read more at SalvationHistory.com, reprinted with the kind permission of Doubleday Random House.

For the Sake of Our Salvation: The Truth and Humility of God’s Word

Though rarely stated in these terms, the Christian vision of the Bible must be determined by Christ’s vision of the Bible.

Christian tradition has always seen a close relationship between the pages of Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ. Both are designated the Word of God because both participate in the mystery of God revealing himself and his will in human form.  Scripture is the Word inspired; Christ is the Word incarnate. In the former, the divine Word is expressed in human language; in the latter, the divine Word is enfleshed in human nature. The two mysteries are interpenetrating and mutually illuminating.

The implications of this analogy may be drawn out in different ways. Most obviously, the doctrine of inspiration is akin to the doctrine of the incarnation because it entails a historical manifestation of the Word in a divine-and-human form. Further contemplation reveals that the inerrancy of Scripture is a parallel reflection of the sinlessness of Christ, for both are immune to the privations of truth and love which we call error. So too, on a hermeneutical level, the inspired Word must be read in a way that takes full account of its interconnectedness with the incarnate Word.  This is to say that biblical exegesis must investigate the historical meaning of Scripture as well as its theological meaning, the two being properties of its human and divine dimensions respectively.

Read more at SalvationHistory.com.

Temple Sign and Sacrament: Towards a New Perspective on the Gospel of John

In this article, Dr. Hahn explores how the Gospel of John envisions Christ fulfillment of the Jerusalem Temple and its festivals through the sacraments celebrated by the power of the Spirit, especially the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist.

The significance of the Jerusalem Temple in John’s Gospel has been the subject of a large number of monographs in the last decade.  As a result of this work, scholars now generally accept not only that the Temple is a central theme in the Fourth Gospel, but that John is advancing what might be characterized as a “Temple christology”—that is, John wishes to show how the Temple and its liturgy find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, especially in his death and resurrection.

However, if our interpretation of John stops with that scholarly consensus—that John portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of the Temple—we are left with an apparently disconcerting situation; for, since Christ is now ascended, our Temple must be gone. And if this is true, the Church’s situation would be not unlike that of Judaism after 70 A.D. and the destruction of the Temple.  But John’s Temple Christology is not conceived so narrowly as to limit it to Christ’s immediate person and earthly ministry. Rather, the evangelist insists that Jesus’ ministry continues in and through the intermediaries of the Spirit and the apostles.

Read more at SalvationHistory.com.

Cultic Kingdoms in Conflict: Liturgy and Empire in the Book of Daniel

The Book of Daniel sheds a surprisingly contemporary light on political theology and Church-state issues.

Interest in political theology and the relationship between Church and state, and between religious faith and secular society have grown in recent years—in part in response to the challenge posed by militant expressions of Islam, the ongoing suffering of believers under atheist communist regimes, and the increasingly aggressive secularism of nations of the West. The theological issues being raised are as significant: What is the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the regimes of this world?  How are believers to live in times and places when the expression of their faith is outlawed, discriminated against or discouraged?  How should believers respond when the state commands the unconscionable?

Read more at SalvationHistory.com.

The Letter Kills but the Spirit Gives Life: Romans 7 in the Early Works of Augustine and in Rufinus’s Translation of Origen’s Commentary

Origen’s role in the Pelagian controversy that followed the Pauline renaissance of the late fourth century is given a sharp evaluation in terms of Augustine.

 The late fourth century witnessed a kind of Pauline renaissance in which Augustine and Rufinus participated. Around 400, the commentaries on Paul of six notable men became available: Origen’s (through Rufinus), Jerome’s, Pelagius’s, the Ambrosiaster’s, Marius Victorinus’s, and Augustine’s. Origen enjoyed some of his greatest success after his death: he directly influenced both Jerome’s and Pelagius’s work on Paul. Thus Origen’s presence is felt in the writings of half of the men who found this new interest in Paul at the turn of the fifth century. Caroline Hammond Bammel convincingly argues that even Augustine had read Orien’s Commentary on Romans, but not before 407 when Melania the Elder, a friend of Rufinus, visited Augustine at Hippo.

Read more at SalvationHistory.com.

Oboedientia and Oboedire in the Rule of St. Benedict: A Study of Their Theological and Monastic Meanings

Since the study of particular words or phrases in the Rule of St. Benedict is common for scholars, a word or phrase is often examined instead of the entire Rule itself. The terms oboedientia and oboedire will be discussed in light of the whole Rule of St. Benedict.

 The study of particular words or phrases in the Rule of St. Benedict is a common enough exercise that scholars of the Rule have undertaken. For the most part, however, a word or phrase is examined in a particular sentence or paragraph of the Rule rather than in the Rule as a whole. This has been the case with the words oboedientia and oboedire. With good reason, scholars have focused on Benedict’s treatment of obedience in RB 5, De oboedientia, and RB 68, Si fratri impossibilia iniungantur. Of the thirty-four times in which oboedientia and oboedire appear in the Rule, however, only nine of these are in RB 5 and RB 68. What, then, of the remaining twenty-five instances? Does Benedict’s use of these words in the other instance differ from that in RB 5 and RB 68? Do these other instances add anything to the understanding of obedience drawn from RB 5 and RB 68?

Read more at SalvationHistory.com.

A Reconsideration of the Development of Basil’s Trinitarian Theology: The Dating of Ep. 9 and Contra Eunomium

Evidence indicates a date early in the 360′s for both ep. 9 and Contra Eunomium, the Trinitarian works of Basil of Caesarea.

It is commonly acknowledged that Basil of Caesarea’s thought about the Trinity changed at some point in the 360s. Naturally, the chronological ordering of Basil’s early theological works will reveal the nature of the change in his thought and account for the subsequent evaluation of it. Basil’s ep. 9 and Contra Eunomium are especially important here because they preserve a great deal of what Basil has to say about the Trinity. But according to the way in which most date these works, the change in his thought is not a gradual progression culminating in Nicene orthodoxy but Basil’s purposeful misrepresentation of his own position so as to hide his true thoughts in the interest of imperial and ecclesiastical politics.

Read more at SalvationHistory.com.

Seeking St. Francis in Italy: A Scholar’s Journey

A Franciscan University theologian reflects on his studies in the homeland of St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis of Assisi is a fascinating person to study, especially for those who aspire, as I do, to be “Franciscans”—followers of Jesus Christ who model themselves on St. Francis. But this past summer I learned that this 13th-century saint holds a curious attraction even for those who don’t see him primarily as a witness to faith and example of holiness.

In July, I joined a group of 15 college and university professors for a six-week seminar in Italy, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on “St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th Century.”

Read more at Franciscan Way.

Science and Faith: A Fresh Look

International scholars explore God and the universe at a recent conference held at Franciscan University.

Is the universe just a random assemblage of particles devoid of any ultimate meaning, or does it reveal a grander design and purpose? The answer to this profound question has implications for every aspect of human life, from politics to biology to moral theology. If we are accidental tourists adrift in an unwelcome cosmos, we are left to live however we see fit. If, on the other hand, we are designed and created for a purpose, there is a basic human desire not only to understand that purpose but to order our lives toward it.

What then does the scientific study of the universe reveal about purpose and design? Can what we learn about the structure of the universe inform our understanding of God? It was questions such as these that drew a group of international scholars to Franciscan University to participate in the University’s first Science and Faith Conference, December 2-3, 2012.

Read more at Franciscan Way.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Catholic Faith

In what ways are the Dead Sea Scrolls significant to the Catholic faith?

In the winter of 1946, three Arab shepherds were tending their flocks along the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. One was amusing himself by throwing rocks into the caves that dotted the limestone bluffs above the shoreline. He was startled, however, when a rock produced the sound of shattering pottery. Climbing the cliffs a few days later to investigate, the shepherd entered the cave to find broken pottery and intact clay jars. One jar contained three leather scrolls, including a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah in Hebrew from the second century BC—about a thousand years older than any other Hebrew copy of a biblical book. This was the beginning of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, perhaps the most important archeological find of the 20th century.

Read more at Franciscan Way.

Seeking God in the Silence

Thoughts inspired by a visit to a Cistercian Abbey.

One of the awful torments of modern life—indeed, it is one from whose aggressions no one is entirely safe—is noise. More and more, it fills the space that was once marked by that silence whose absence we seem increasingly not to notice.

Where does one go to escape the din? And if such places exist, how long can you stay? I found out last January when, invited by a Cistercian Abbey in Utah to give a retreat, I spent an entire week in the midst of silence. It was glorious.

Read more at Franciscan Way.

On First Going to Guadalupe

A visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe prompts this theologian to ask, “Where are all the gringos?”

Apart from the apparition itself, which is as supernatural a sight as anything to be seen on planet Earth, perhaps the most striking feature about the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the fact that there appear to be only Hispanics and Latinos who actually go there. Vast numbers, to be sure, who present the most edifying spectacle of faith, particularly in the poverty and simplicity of its expression, shorn of every material blessing save that of the certainty of the hope that they are embraced by the arms of the Mother of God.

But where are all the gringos?

My wife and I, who recently returned from Mexico following an intense five-day pilgrimage to Guadalupe, have been asking ourselves that very question.

Read more at Franciscan Way.

Courage Like Spider-Man’s

What Spider-Man can teach us about living like a hero.

I’m no movie buff, but it seems to me that movies of great value all too rarely make their way out of Hollywood. I want movies that reveal reality to me in a new light and teach me about the human condition. I want something closer to art than the trash that often passes for entertainment. I want stories connected to the one eternal story of sin and redemption. Have I set impossible standards? Movies such as Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 tell me otherwise.

What makes Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 such outstanding movies isn’t the amazing camera work, stunts, special effects, and acting. It’s the one thing all those elements depend on: telling a story that models how we ought to live our lives—courageously, like Spider-Man.

Read more at Franciscan Way.

 

Franciscan, Ave Maria, and Obamacare

Two Catholic universities’ decisions to drop student health-care plans show Obamacare’s long-term goal: Force Americans to choose government-subsidized plans over no insurance at all.

Two Catholic universities, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ave Maria University, recently announced that they will drop their student health-care plans for the coming year. The schools also announced that they will no longer require students to have health insurance.

Given the giant range of institutions and people affected by Obamacare and its mandates, the impact of this decision by two universities, each with less than 3,000 students, may seem small. But it is not the scope of impact that matters so much as the broader problem the decision highlights. Two federal regulations that pushed Franciscan and Ave Maria to drop student health-care plans indicate quite clearly what will happen if Obamacare is allowed to stand: More Americans will become uninsured unless they transition into government-subsidized healthcare plans.

Read more at The Public Discourse.

Marriage and Procreation: The Intrinsic Connection

There is an intrinsic link between marriage and procreation, but this does not mean that infertile couples cannot really be married.

By Dr. Patrick Lee, the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville;
Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University; and
Dr. Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Activists seeking to redefine marriage typically claim that it is unfair—even arbitrary—for law and public policy to continue to honor the historic understanding of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. Believing that marriage has a degree of malleability that our legal tradition has heretofore failed to recognize, they maintain that “excluding” same-sex partners from marriage violates a moral right possessed by every individual to marry a person of one’s choice (with that person’s consent). Defenders of conjugal marriage reply (in part) that marriage is not malleable in the ways that their opponents suppose.

Read article at The Public Discourse.