Tuesday, January 21, 2014

extend the point

Need to explain Aquinas' Summa Theologica?  Easy--just consult Alive and Young's blog post.

Now, the professor in me wants to add:  This will work even better when you extend the point.  Superman or Batman versus other superheroes, etc.  But it's pretty good as it is!

Friday, January 17, 2014

it's been nice knowing you

Apparently the governor of my state loves diversity...but only the right kind of diversity.  And Dennis Poust asks a good question:  can I get a relocation grant?  It's this sort of simplistic conflation by Governor Cuomo that utterly misunderstands the Church's gospel of life.  The Church's opposition to abortion is reason enough to expel it from the state?  I guess those social ministries to the sick, homeless, and immigrants don't count for much, after all.

taking in the view

R. R. Reno, editor of First Things, lays out some considerations for the new year.  He closes with:

Most important of all, in 2014 we’ll need to redouble our efforts to defend the weak. The deconstruction of marriage, abortion on demand, legalization of marijuana, acceptance of pornography, expansion of gambling, provisions for doctor-assisted suicide—progressives either endorse or refuse to speak up against these and other policies and trends. Today’s progressives seem to have as their primary concern expanding freedoms that only the strong are capable of prudently enjoying.

A woman’s “right to choose” is an obvious example, coming as it does at the expense of the weakest of the weak, the unborn. But it’s also true for the wider range of moral and cultural issues. As progressives deconstruct the authority of traditional morality, they grant themselves moral indulgences. In many ways life-style liberation is to cultural politics what materialism is to metaphysics—the promise of wealth, power, and pleasure without fear of judgment. To achieve this goal the powerful now work very hard to deprive the weak and vulnerable of straightforward, reliable norms for navigating through life.

I regard the war on the weak as the great social injustice of our time. The battle cry is this war was notoriously formulated by Justice Kennedy in the Casey decision upholding the abortion license in America: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This is the perfect charter for endless dominance of the strong: It eliminates all moral and metaphysical principles that limit their freedom.

Yes, it’s a war, a war on the weak. And if first things mean anything, we have to mount a counter-offensive. That’s not a prediction. That’s a promise.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

mystical body

Susan Windley-Daoust, who blogs regularly at Ironic Catholic, has a new book and blog on the Theology of the Body.  Recently she reposted from Facebook a story from Father Vincent Daily, who has a sister with Down Syndrome.  During a hospital visit Father Daily's sister provided some simple palliative care for another patient undergoing chemotherapy.  She simply sat there, and in doing so brightened the other woman's face.  Susan then reflects on the spiritual capabilities of religious sisters with DS.  Turns out they embody a message for us all, but not merely one that illuminates different abilities.

But the habited nuns with DS stand as a stark visual reminder of the universal call to holiness. That indeed, regardless of any limitation, we are called to a spiritual infinite—we are called to union with God.

This, Susan reminds us, shouldn't surprise us.  "Indeed, too much surprise should convict us."  Great concluding line.

stumble into somersault

One of Mark Shea's readers told him some good news, and Shea does the rest.  Ten (almost eleven--the Globe first reported the scandals in January 2002) years ago things were bad.  Shea:

A decade ago the Church was on the mat, bloodied and beaten down by the horrors of the priest scandal, never to rise again. 

 Now, with almost a year to enjoy the papacy of Francis, Shea declares, a new day has arrived.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Read this now, we'll talk later

Rod Dreher draw attention to a literature professor's criticism of his own field.  Very worthwhile reads from both Dreher and the original post by Dr. D. G. Myers.  At the end Dreher concludes with his characteristic flourish:

If there is a collapse in the university humanities — and it seems as if that is coming very soon, if not already upon us — then one has to reflect on how the humanities departments have brought it on themselves.
I can easily see making the case for why one should study Dante, and Shakespeare, and Milton, and Austen, and all the others. I cannot see why anyone should study that trendy bullshit above until and unless they’ve mastered the Tradition.

Look up "hits nail on head" and there's Dreher's picture.   Trendy bullshit. Yes.  From within the Religious Studies world, part of what makes smaller religious movements like Sufism, Jonestown, the Mormons, or edgier material like  tattooed Lutheran pastors and the punk movement among young Muslims relevant and, yes Virginia, fun to study is the traditional framework--which, yes, isn't always as exciting as the edges--by which we analyze them.  When pressed, many of these groups seem to agree (OK, Peoples Temple skews things, I realize).  Part of their identities reside, however anxiously, in their respective traditions.

But that's now it's done these days, and we're all the worse for it.

now that's what I'm talking about

The Neo-Neocon tackles Obamacare's redefinition of "religious freedom" and finds it wanting.  The problems start with cases like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Groups such as the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor—who are “affiliated with religious organizations but not owned or controlled by them”—fall into an in-between gray area. 

Neo-Neocon then notes that individual persons (not corporations) aren't exempt from the contraception mandate;  they don't have to purchase it themselves but they must comply with the provision.  Except, Neo-neocon notes, the case of certain individuals.  Quoting the IRS:

There is a category of individuals (actual persons, that is, not corporations that some courts might consider to be “persons” under the law) that is exempted for religious reasons from Obamacare and its penalties, according to the IRS. Those persons are members of certain religious groups:
6. What are the statutory exemptions from the requirement to obtain minimum essential coverage?
Religious conscience. You are a member of a religious sect that is recognized as conscientiously opposed to accepting any insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration administers the process for recognizing these sects according to the criteria in the law.
 Well, she asks, "what's a sect?"  (a common undergraduate religious studies question, btw)  Here's where it gets interesting and, in light of yesterday's post, politically binding.

Which religious “sects” would qualify? They would seem to be the Anabaptists: Mennonites, Hutterites and the Amish. Members of those groups are already exempted from the Social Security and Medicare systems, and for them the same exemption would be true of Obamacare on the grounds that the health insurance system as whole is against their religion. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

bare knuckle

It's a new year, but it's the same ol' song-and-dance when it comes to the nation's last acceptable prejudice.  Jamie Stiehm borrows U.S. News & World Report for some good old-fashioned, but elitist, anti-Catholic bigotry

Stiehm writes in response to US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's decision for the Little Sisters of the Poor's appeal of the Affordable Care Act's birth control provisions.  The Sisters had appealed an earlier judicial decision that insisted they abide by the law, but Sotomayor reversed this.  Such sent Stiehm over the edge:

Et tu, Justice Sonia Sotomayor? Really, we can't trust you on women's health and human rights? The lady from the Bronx just dropped the ball on American women and girls as surely as she did the sparkling ball at midnight on New Year's Eve in Times Square. Or maybe she's just a good Catholic girl.

The Supreme Court is now best understood as the Extreme Court. One big reason why is that six out of nine Justices are Catholic. Let's be forthright about that. (The other three are Jewish.) Sotomayor, appointed by President Obama, is a Catholic who put her religion ahead of her jurisprudence. What a surprise, but that is no small thing.

There are so many, quite frankly baffling, misrepresentations throughout the article.  What are we to make of her note that "the other three are Jewish"?  After reading Maria Monk, does Stiehm plan to begin The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?  Furthermore, since when did Nancy Pelosi become, of all things, the standard for measuring authentic Catholic womanhood in this country? No nod for embattled HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius?  She's Catholic, too, y'know...