Why Catholics in Alabama Should Vote for Doug Jones

I can’t vote in the December 12th election in Alabama, but I know many voters who can. As someone who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, I know from personal experience that Alabama is a complex place and that it does a tremendous disservice to residents of that state to offer oversimplified caricatures of bigots, fundamentalists, racists, and stupid country folk. At the same time, the Roy Moore phenomenon is hard to explain and it is harder still to understand how some Catholics can rationalize a vote for him in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. For anyone on the fence,...

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1st Sunday of Advent: How Long Must We Wander?

Readings: Isaiah 63:16-19, 64:2-7; Psalm 80; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37 This week’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah recalled one of my best early memories of Church music. Father John Foley’s Redeemer Lord bases its haunting verses on this plaintive cry of the prophet, simultaneously lamenting God’s absence and yet trusting in God’s deliverance. Foley captures this dynamic unusually well by pairing the dramatic verses – I remember the phrase “sunder the heavens” stuck in me with enormous power – with a quite different refrain that with the relentless power of a mantra responds to the lament with the assurance of Psalm 23. As we enter the Advent season, this song of my youth points us to two things that might fittingly start our Advent journey. One is the moral importance of precisely things like this. I haven’t heard that song in many years, but I had no problem knowing every word, nor could I avoid the chills as I listened to the YouTube video. And so there is a way in which I really can’t imagine the formation of my whole Catholic identity without that song, and the community of my contemporary choir that “gave” it to me. I am certain some would listen to the song and roll their eyes at its obvious gestures toward ‘70’s folk music or musicals. Let me just say in reply:...

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The Death Penalty and the Development of Doctrine, Part II

In yesterday’s post I considered two arguments for how the Catholic Church could introduce an absolute prohibition on the death penalty into its teaching while remaining consistent with earlier teaching that the state is authorized to use the death penalty if necessary for the defense of the public: 1) although states have a hypothetical right to carry out the death penalty in defense of the public, the death penalty as it is currently practiced is intrinsically evil; and 2) the death penalty must be linguistically distinguished from the defense of the public by the state. These reflections were occasioned...

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The Death Penalty and the Development of Doctrine, Part I

In an October address to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of Catholic Church, Pope Francis raised the possibility that the Catechism be revised to provide a more absolute prohibition against the death penalty. Francis argues that the death penalty is “deeply injurious of human dignity.” He goes so far as to say that it “is per se contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true...

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The Solemnity of Christ the King: The Habitual Nature of Sheep

EZ 34:11-12, 15-17 PS 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6 1 COR 15:20-26, 28 MT 25:31-46 The image of Jesus as Good Shepherd (John 10) is an image that resonates down through the centuries. Jesus calls us by name, leads us forward, cares for us, just as the Good Shepherd does in the parable. Many of my friends are part of small focused Catholic communities that arose in the twentieth century. These communities – like Communio di Sant’Egidio, as well as Il Catechismo Del Buon Pastore (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) focus specifically on the image of the Good Shepherd. Psalm 23,...

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Holding Sexual Predators Accountable is a Pro-Life Issue

Roy Moore wants to be the next U.S. Senator from Alabama. Today a fifth woman, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward to tell Alabama voters that Moore had assaulted her when she was 16 years old. This disclosure follows the Washington Post story of November 9th in which four women accuse Moore of groping them and initiating sexual acts even though he was in his early thirties and they were teenagers. I looked in vain for a statement from the Archdiocese of Mobile or the Diocese of Birmingham . The website for Youth and Child Protection on the Diocese of Birmingham...

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Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Times

WIS 6:12-16 PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 1 THES 4:13-18 MT 25:1-13 It is hard to read the Gospel words, “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” without thinking of my own vigil as I prepare for Baby #4 to make his or her way into the world sometime this month. In fact, the midwife at my last appointment said as much. “It could be soon,” she said with a shrug, “or it could be weeks. Just be ready.” Our Gospel tells us to be ready for the second coming of Jesus through the parable...

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Of Tax Plans and Honesty

Just about everything is wrong with the outline for tax reform offered by the Republicans. And it is wrong not simply for debatable reasons. A lot of it is flat-out lying. The truth about this overall proposal is that: (1) it is based on a non-evidence-based connection between taxation and economic growth, especially suspicious at a time when the American economy is actually relatively strong (albeit not for everyone) and (2) it will deliver a substantial tax cut almost exclusively to the very wealthy, while socking plenty of Americans in the middle with what could amount to a severe...

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Toxic Shame and Sin-Talk: Church Militant Has It All Wrong

Church Militant continues to claim that Fr. James Martin is a heretic while misrepresenting his book, Building a Bridge. While it is certainly painful to see a good priest attacked in this public way for his attempts to create spaces for dialogue in the church, what is particularly troubling to me is the way that Church Militant employs sin-talk and shaming discourse. Among the list of their complaints: “Fr. Martin publicly suggests that God created homosexuals that way.” Despite the fact that medical and mental health professionals have long noted the dangers of so-called conversion therapies or reparative therapies,...

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