Month: May 2011

The Spirit in Ethical Reflection

Reflections on the readings for May 29, 2011 (Sixth Sunday of Easter) So what’s the big deal about the Holy Spirit? In this week’s first reading, we see Peter and John being sent to Samaria so that the people there, who have already been baptized, might receive also the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is all over the Bible but is really difficult to “nail down” in conversation. Of all three members of the Trinity, the Spirit is the one most neglected, and this makes a lot of sense. I teach a group of four and five year olds at church and I’m pretty sure they are good on God the Father (who is the star of the creation story they know so well) and Jesus the Son who we’ve been talking about all Lent and Easter. But as we approach Pentecost, I’ve been fretting about how to explain to them what the Spirit is. In the New Testament, the Spirit is connected with the growth of the Christian Church. The book of Acts, in many ways, can be read as a story of the Spirit progressing from Jerusalem (see the end of Luke and the prologue of Acts) to the four corners of the earth. The early Christians experienced the Spirit as power (Acts 1:8)—the power to speak in every language (Acts 2:5-12), the power to heal and...

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John Jay Report

The general conclusion of the recent John Jay College report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was No single “cause” of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is identified as a result of our research. Social and cultural changes in the 1960s and 1970s manifested in increased levels of deviant behavior in the general society and also among priests of the Catholic Church in the United States. Some claimed that the report was just what the bishops ordered: it was society’s fault and not the Church’s.  Others claim the report was covering for the gay priest agenda in blaming society, while others noted that the report dispelled many misconceptions, including the one that homosexual priests were to blame.  Still others noted the $1.8 million dollar price tag  while others marveled that the price came with such a paltry conclusion as “well, you know, it’s really, really complicated.” One aspect of the report that seems to be missing from these discussions, however, is that social isolation and a lack of relationships seemed to play a significant role in the abuse.  Priests seemed to abuse “at times of increased job stress, social isolation, and decreased contact with peers.”  The priests who did abused were those “who lacked close social bonds, and those whose family spoke negatively or not at all about sex” and...

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California Prisoners and the Common Good

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the state of California to reduce its prisoner population because of severe overcrowding. In a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that the state’s failure to meet constitutional requirements has caused “needless suffering and death.” The Brown v. Plata decision is published here by the Los Angeles Times. There has been a lot of fear-based reporting of this story, but Governor Brown is not immediately ordering the release of 40,000 violent offenders. How did we get here? A prison system built to hold 80,000 inmates now houses 143,335. Some say that we need to build more prisons. Others argue that the federal government should take over the detention of illegal immigrants so that the state prison system is not burdened with undocumented offenders. Some argue that we need to change the sentencing guidelines to prevent the incarceration of nonviolent offenders who could benefit from drug courts or rehabilitation programs on supervised release. Others say California should change the parole requirements as other states have done. Some argue that the county jail system could house state inmates to relieve overcrowding in prisons. And given the state’s severe budget crisis, the cost of each proposal is going to be heavily scrutinized. The LA Times reports that Governor Brown’s current proposal to transfer some inmates to county jails will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and...

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A Quick Report from ‘Christian Ethics Engages Peter Singer’ this Past Week at Oxford

There is much more to say about this past week’s amazing events at Oxford than I can fit into this blog post, and I will try to do so in a more systematic way once I’ve had some more time to think about everything.  For now, let me just share some thoughts along with a a few pictures. Here are two shots from where John Perry took me to ‘high table’ dinner at Christ Church College on Tuesday night.  For those of us who have never been there before, and only seen this room in the movies, it was an amazing experience…especially given that so interesting people were sitting around the table.  It certainly ‘set the scene’ for the special event that was about to unfold: The next day, John organized a manuscript colloquium for me, and I got a ton of helpful feedback from his graduate students and various faculty that attended.  Rob Vischer, of Mirror of Justice fame, happened to be at Oxford for the month, came to the colloquium, and (after asking me some good, hard questions) blogged about it soon after.  I have some serious revisions to do, but I’m so glad for the feedback from everyone there…and to John for setting it up. On Thursday the conference began.  John Perry did a great job planning and executing every aspect of it.   Here is he...

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The Ryan Budget: Scholars versus Magisterium Again?

A timeline of events: April 5, 2011 – Paul Ryan’s budget is submitted to the House Budget Committee. April 29, 2011 – Congressman Ryan writes a letter about his budget/fiscal ideas to Archbishop Dolan, partly responding to his January letter to members of Congress. May 11, 2011 – Catholic scholars publish an open letter to Speaker Boehner. May 18, 2011 – Archbishop Dolan responds to Congressman Ryan. The letter is published by the congressman. Googling “Ryan and Dolan” yields some interesting results relating to this timeline. Some have suggested that Archbishop Dolan is tacitly approving the Ryan Budget and, by the same token, speaking against those Catholic scholars who made their request to Speaker Boehner (though it should be noted: the audiences of the scholars’ letter and the archbishop’s letter are different, even if drafted both to Republican members of the House of Representatives). Others have insisted that we read Archbishop Dolan’s letter in its proper context: it is a response to Rep. Ryan’s letter, not an approval of his budget. Of course, Archbishop Dolan expresses “appreciation” of the fact that Ryan’s letter discusses the important issues that the bishop seeks to address, but on my own reading, it does not go quite so far as to approve outright Ryan’s letter, but rather that the congressman recognizes the principles of Catholic social teaching: It is clear that all of...

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