Month: January 2013

Are We Ready for A New Conversation on Marriage?

The Institute for American Values recently issued A Call for a New Conversation on Marriage. The current conversation, the 74 signers say, is going nowhere and children deserve better. It is not yet clear if Catholics will contribute, but I hope so. The IAV is a right-leaning, centrist think tank, or at least it used to be. Led by David Blankenhorn, the organization brings scholars together and publishes reports on topics such as, “Why Marriage Matters,” “For a New Thrift,” and “Hardwired to Connect.” It has been in the forefront of efforts to raise concerns about children raised in broken and cohabiting families, and its leaders have sometimes spoken against same sex marriage, though this has not been IAV’s emphasis. (Full disclosure: I was a part of the IAV’s recent “Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?” project.) But over the summer, Blankenhorn wrote a piece in the New York Times telling readers why he had changed his mind on gay marriage. The organization made a decision that they would welcome gay rights advocates to their pro-marriage work. As a result of this shift to the center, signers of this statement are a mix of liberals and conservatives interested in talking about marriage because of their concern for children and civil  society: Elizabeth Marquardt, Peter Steinfels, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jonathan Rauch, William Galston, Richard Mouw, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Stephen...

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Rejected Prophet

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 Ps 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17 1 Cor 12:31—13:13 or 13:4-13 Lk 4:21-30 In Lectionary C, we wind our way through the gospel of Luke. One of the major motifs in Luke is that Jesus is the innocent and rejected prophet. We see the beginning of his rejection in this week’s gospel. Jesus announces to the crowds that they are seeing the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy we heard in mass last week, that Jesus is the one anointed to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. Amazed, they commend and laud him. That is, until they realize that Jesus isn’t talking about them, or at least only about them. When they realize that Jesus intends to include the gentiles as beneficiaries to God’s promises, they reject him violently, trying to hum him headlong down a cliff. In understanding Jesus’ role as a prophet, we must recall how prophecy functioned in the Old Testament. Although we tend to think of prophecy in terms of oracles that predict the future, the most important role of the prophet was to convey the word of God to the people. The prophet was the authoritative interpreter of the Torah, the Law, and the mouthpiece for God. The prophet was the one who told God’s truth against all the...

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Renewing the Parish (Part 3): 10 Practices

We need to renew our parishes.  In two earlier posts, I argued that our politics and economics often defines us more than the gospel and that the widespread breakdown of community life in our culture makes it difficult for parishes to counter these frameworks.  These dynamics present challenges to the parish, but God gives the parish its mission.  It is to be a community that loves God with all of its heart, mind, soul, and strength and loves its neighbors as itself. I worry that we look for some “cheap grace” to solve this challenge, some extraordinary policy or radical practice that would make everything work correctly.  Yet, if the task is truly building up love, there seems to me no other solution than the demanding and daily task of “ordinary” love.  It is not lying, stealing, killing, and committing adultery.  As John the Baptist said, it is giving your extra clothes and food to the person who has none, stop overcharging for goods, “do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”  It is, as Jesus said, providing food and water, clothing and sheltering people, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and welcoming strangers.  Moreover, love must fundamentally be this way if salvation is for everyone.  Love must be able to be practiced by 8 year olds and 80 year olds, by middle...

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“Setting the Captives Free”: Is There Precedent for Embryo Adoption in Scripture and Medieval Christian Tradition?

This guest post by Kent Lasnoski, Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University, is particularly appropriate given that in yesterday’s Gospel reading we are told of Jesus proclaiming his mission to “set the captives free.” (Lk 4:14-21) Among the most troubling, recent challenges of moral discernment comes to us in the form of the approximately 600,000 human embryos held in cryogenic stasis at -196 degrees Fahrenheit. This stasis constitutes a grave situation of injustice, captivity, blindness, and oppression. The freezer withholds what is due the embryo, its natural maternal habitat and care. The embryo is held as captive either by her own parents or by the clinic itself, as they wait for the proper ransom or for the embryo’s usefulness to run stale. All parties become blinded to their own dignity and the dignity of the embryo frozen, which itself may never see the light of her mother’s eyes. This situation of being called “spare” and shelved is what the CDF calls the “absurd fate” of cryogenically preserved human embryos. The question immediately follows: what can we do? When thinking about frozen embryos, four general possibilities come to mind. First, we could maintain the cryogenic stasis indefinitely, either in labs or in our homes. A second alternative compares the cryogenic stasis to an extraordinary medical intervention, an intervention which can be withdrawn without desiring or seeking the death of the...

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Remembering Thomas Aquinas, Doctor and Saint

I discovered Thomas Aquinas as a teenager. I grew up in the south, in the heart of the Bible belt where faith was biblical or else it wasn’t faith. In middle and high school, debates raged not only among the parents but among the students as well about whether evolution should be taught in schools since it was a challenge to the faith of so many. These debates could get quite ugly among my peers, ending too often with “how can you call yourself a Christian and believe X?” In this atmosphere of religious conflict, I discovered Aquinas, though I don’t remember exactly how. I probably first read about him in one of my books on the saints as I tried to figure out a saint for confirmation (I do remember my mom forbidding me to choose the name Thomas Aquinas for confirmation as a name unsuitable for a young lady). I remember learning that Aquinas was committed to the inherent reasonableness of the faith and for this, he became my patron. I felt his intercession in a powerful way as I became a young apologist, studying the reasons for the faith that I was committing to and bringing those reasons to bear on my conversations with my peers. But Aquinas also helped me fall deeply in love not only...

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