Finding God in the Dishes: Gaudete et Exsultate

In Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis reaffirms the universal call to holiness and says that he explicitly wishes to propose it “in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities” (2).  My colleagues David Cloutier and Matthew Shadle have already reflected on key themes of the document here and here, so I will try to avoid repeating what they have articulated so well already. I will focus on the theme of spirituality in everyday life, and especially on how the pope describes ordinary work as a path of sanctification. As a lay woman...

Read More

Facebook, Privacy, and the Church

“What does the Church have to say about privacy?” I was asked this week, in the aftermath of Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings. That’s a good question – I haven’t seen a lot in church documents, nor much from theologians. (I’d love to hear from readers if they’ve seen some good theological discussion…) Privacy is (obviously) an important question in a digital age, and I think the Church ought to get a lot bolder about speaking to privacy. I can envision developing arguments along the lines of creation and identity as people being made in the image of God. From...

Read More

The Existential Journey of Holiness: Pope Francis’s Gaudete et Exsultate

While reading Pope Francis’s new apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, on the call to holiness in today’s world, I was reminded of a contrast drawn by the influential moral theologian Germain Grisez in the first volume of his magnum opus The Way of the Lord Jesus. Grisez outlines two views of moral goodness that have deeply influenced the Catholic tradition. First, Grisez describes what he calls the “scholastic natural-law theory,” which explains moral goodness in terms of conformity to the pattern of human nature. In this view, as Grisez explains, “actions are seen either to conform or not conform...

Read More

Gaudete et exultate: A first (pre-emptive) take

Pope Francis today issued an apostolic exhortation on the universal call to holiness. While it reiterates certain themes that have been seen in prior documents, it is a powerful call. If we don’t distort it. First, the facts. The document has five chapters. The first reiterates and humanizing Vatican II’s insistence that all Christians are called to “something higher”  – to holiness. The second identifies “two subtle errors” in some detail: a contemporary Gnosticism and a contemporary Pelagianism. These two errors were first pointed out in Evangelii Gaudium, and were also the subject of a recent CDF document. The...

Read More

A March for Peaceableness

I think, in my 13 years of primary and secondary education, I never once even imagined being threatened by a school shooter. It wasn’t that Chicago was some kind of nonviolent place during my childhood years of the 1980’s (quite the opposite), or even that my schools (or at least my K-8 school) were particularly sheltered. It just wasn’t something you imagined happening. Indeed, there WERE images of real violence in schools at the time – but these were associated with inner-city Chicago schools, and everyone acknowledged the same thing: what was happening there was not normal. A common...

Read More

In Response to “The Good Pope and His Critics” by Ross Douthat

I submitted the following response letter to the New York Times regarding “The Good Pope and His Critics” by Ross Douthat (Mar 18, 2018, p. SR1). Although I have had good success in getting letters published there over the years, this one apparently did not make the cut—so I’m posting it here for the record: Douthat worries about how the papacy of Francis is propelling “Catholicism’s transformation into a confederation of national churches.” However, Douthat himself already reflects such a nation-colored lens when he projects onto worldwide Catholicism “the culture war that everyone in Western society knows well.” The language of “culture war,” especially when it hinges primarily, as evident in Douthat’s piece, on sexual ethics is an obsession found mostly among neo-conservative U.S. Catholics. Even if concerns about sexual morality are expressed also with Catholics who are “conservative in sub-Saharan Africa,” the “geographical divisions” Douthat flags are not so simple or sealed. After all, Catholics in the global south and so-called “liberalizing” Catholics in Europe and the U.S. agree with Francis’s amplification of his papal predecessors’ teachings about the environment, peacemaking, criminal justice, and the economy. As evinced by his encyclical on ecology, Pope Francis’s influence on many of these questions is complemented by, but not reduced to, his public gestures that imitate Christ. In short, Douthat might find “in the [wider] mirror” there are many of us Catholics, in the U.S. and elsewhere, who find...

Read More

Happy 5th Anniversary, Pope Francis!

Including Pope Francis, there have been five popes during my lifetime. I was born some months prior to the closing of the Second Vatican Council in December 1965, and during my elementary school years at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in rural Blakeslee, Ohio (on the most western edge of the Toledo Diocese), I remember seeing a portrait of Pope Paul VI on the wall of the cafeteria. I also recall seeing as many photos, portraits, and busts of the late President John F. Kennedy at some of my relatives’ houses. So it’s perhaps not surprising that I imagined becoming...

Read More

Amoris Alert: Cardinal Wuerl Finds Common Ground!

As is stated in our mission, this blog started among theological friends who were disappointed with polarization in the Church, and especially in discussions of difficult moral questions on the Web. At the time, in 2011, that bridging appeared to be a gradual operation that could be built over time. It was easier to write then. When Francis became pope almost five years ago, it seemed that the times for such charitable discussion across disagreement would grow. And yet, here we are, not blogging… hmmm… One of the narrative threads of Ross Douthat’s forthcoming book chronicling the Francis papacy...

Read More

In Gratitude for the Life and Witness of Sister Anne Nasimiyu-Wasike, LSOSF

Sister Anne Nasimiyu-Wasike, Little Sisters of St. Francis, died suddenly this week. Her friends are understandably quite shocked and saddened by this news. I count myself among them, having been privileged to meet Sister Anne in Nairobi ten years ago when she was my teacher and mentor at the Maryknoll Institute for African Studies. Sister Anne served as General Superior of the Religious Institute of Little Sisters of St. Francis from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2010 to 2016 and was Professor of Systematic Theology and Moral Theology in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Kenyatta University...

Read More

Economic Inequality: Complicated (in a Good Way)

Economic inequality is a stubborn problem. In a recent interview, economist Angus Deaton offers some very insightful comments about the complexity of the problem. Deaton, who is pro-globalization, but whose work with Anne Case documented the rising mortality rates among working-class middle-aged people, presents a model for the kind of engagement we really need in order to address economic problems in their complexity. As the blog of the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago writes: …[Deaton] suggested in a recent piece for Project Syndicate, it’s possible that the term “inequality” itself might be ill-fitting. A better term might be...

Read More