Month: September 2011

Saying No to the Death Penalty Does Not Equal Saying Yes to Abortion

Some of the comments I’ve been seeing around the web relating to the post made here on abolishing the death penalty, or other news stories relating to the death penalty, seem to insinuate that calling for an end to the death penalty ignores the fact that abortion is also present in our culture. And, these comments insinuate, abortion always kills the innocent. The argument appears to be a game of numbers: A few (questionable, in the minds of many) innocents, compared to a lot of innocents necessarily means a stronger focus on the greater number of innocents. Why, therefore, aren’t theologians also rising up in numbers to protest abortion in a similar way? I have listened to those who would jump immediately to suggesting a liberal/conservative divide. Theologians are “liberal” and therefore support “liberal” causes like being opposed to the death penalty, but not abortion. So the recent statement and its signatures seem merely to confirm that theologians are “liberal.” Bishops, on the other hand, are “conservative” – just look at Cardinal DiNardo’s recent statement on Respect for Life month. He doesn’t mention the death penalty anywhere in there. So – further proof of the dichotomy. Except that there are plenty of chinks in that story to suggest it doesn’t work that way. Cardinal DiNardo has, many times, opposed the death penalty. Bishops protested the death penalty in Davis’s...

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Christian & Facing Execution: Religious Freedom in Iran

During this week’s UN General Assembly Debate, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States (aka. the Vatican’s Foreign Minister)  focused attention on continued religious persecution of Christians around the world. Unfortunately, there were numerous situations in which religious freedom was limited or denied, he said. Christians suffered the most persecution worldwide because of their faith, and a joint commitment to promote the religious freedom of each individual of each religion was important, with measures for secure lives for minorities and those of all faiths and beliefs. There were countries that promoted great pluralism and tolerance but perceived religion as destabilizing and marginalized. Yet, the sincere search for God had brought larger respect for the dignity of man. One such example of religious persecution is Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, head of a group of Christian house churches in Iran. Pastor  Nadarkhani was convicted of the crime of apostasy and facing execution.  The Washington Post reports: If carried out, the execution would mark the first time since 1990 that an Iranian pastor was killed for his Christian faith. “Despite the finding that Mr. Nadarkhani did not convert to Christianity as an adult, the court continues to demand that he recant his faith or otherwise be executed,” said Leonard Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. “The most recent court proceedings are not only a sham, but are contrary...

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Young Theologians Meet the Commitee on Doctrine: a Small, Important Step Forward

Fellow contributor Emily Reimer-Barry has already given a helpful roundup of the of our meeting with the  Committee on Doctrine on the intellectual tasks of the New Evangelization.  Go here for her write-up including details on speakers, links to other write-ups, and links to the presentations themselves.  This past Tuesday, fellow attendee Ryan Topping relayed his experiences at First Things.  In what follows I will relate some of my own experiences, but let me begin by setting the context for the event. It is no secret that the American Catholic Church is deeply divided, and this division is present even with those who engage at highest levels of theological inquiry and exchange. The bishops who bear the responsibility of being the official teachers of the Church in American dioceses and in the various offices of the national conference, and many of those who research and teach theology in universities and colleges around the country, find themselves in a largely polarized and even distrustful relationship. The reasons are many, but much of the problem comes simply from the function of the roles of bishops and theologians. Academics are natural boundary-pushers who seek new insights and angles into difficult and complex questions. Indeed, we simply cannot succeed in our vocation if we do not think creatively. Bishops, though many are interested in creative thinking, are often primarily concerned with preserving...

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Wine, murder and salvation- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Isaiah 5:1–7 Psalm 80 Philippians 4:6–9 Matthew 21:33–43   Alasdair MacIntyre once remarked in a classroom lecture that (I’m roughly paraphrasing here): “the French believe they are the stewards of a culture that is the highest form of human life. And they are almost right about that.” A highly politically incorrect remark, to be sure, but amusing nonetheless. I take it as a simple fact, however, that with regard to the art of cultivating and consuming wine, the French have set the standard for us all. And in doing so, they have done a great service to the central Biblical image of the vine and its intoxicating fruit. Their oenological zeal helps maintain a place in our imagination for this image and its immensely important role in the narrative of our salvation. From the primordial mists of Genesis to the final Apocalypse of John, references to vineyards and wine appear everywhere in Scripture, and often with profound symbolic significance. What is the first thing Noah did when he stepped out of the ark into the new world of God’s covenant with mankind? “He proceeded to plant a vineyard” (Gen 9:20). In the final blessing before his death, Jacob has these moving words to say about his beloved son, now a prince of Egypt: “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring,...

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Are We All Michael Vick? (Part IV): What is to be Done?

John Berkman started this whole thing a few weeks ago by challenging us to rethink our relationship with the factory farming of non-human animals.  I responded by fundamentally agreeing with his view while also detailing other problems (including those related to ecology and economics) that make support of factory farming even more seriously problematic.  John responded with a convincing argument which attempts to show how eating meat produced in factory farms is, in fact, formal cooperation with evil. Now, one may not be working with a ‘cooperation with evil’ framework (like John, I think it is particularly useful in our multi-layered and interconnected world/economy) but nevertheless still have important misgivings about participation in the sinful social structures associated with intensive factory farms.  And if we have such misgivings, then shouldn’t we now be asking the practical question, “What is to be done?” In what follows I ask a series of more specific questions designed to provoke thought and discussion about practical decision-making with regard to factory farming: Should we purchase factory-farmed meat for ourselves?  What sort of reasons would justify participation in this kind of sinful social structure?  Could mere pleasure or convenience possibly be a viable reason?  What about price considerations for those who will have to sacrifice other goods?  What if someone is nutritionally deficient? Should we accept factory-farmed meat given to us by another in the...

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