Author: Jana Bennett

What does “religious freedom” mean without also having freedom of speech, and freedom of the press?

Yesterday, bishops released a letter urging President Trump to “implement strong protections” for religious liberty. I share some of their concerns. I worry that in a country that has a tradition of valuing freedom of religion, that protection has been diminished by governmental definitions of “religion” that over-associate religion with houses of worship, and one-hour-on-Sunday kinds of moments. I don’t think religion can or should be constrained by what a secular government reflexively assumes religion is. (In a similar vein, I think that the practice of scientific research should not be overly constrained by what government officials reflexively but with...

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Carrying the Light

IS 58:7-10 PS 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 1 COR 2:1-5 MT 5:13-16 We know from John’s first letter that Jesus is light, and “in him there is no darkness at all.” God is light: this has always been hope for people living in darkness. Today’s readings remind us, though, that Jesus did not just come to be the light for us who walked in darkness – he comes to share the light. Every baptism is a reminder to us that Jesus shares light with us, as we light a candle from the Paschal candle and hand it over to the person being baptized. “Receive the light of Christ,” we proclaim. People sometimes complain that church teaching seems too academic, too concerned with dry philosophy – a complaint moral theologians hear often! Yet the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church notes this: In the light and under the impulse of the Gospel 104. The documents referred to here constitute the milestones of the path travelled by the Church’s social doctrine from the time of Pope Leo XIII to our own day. This brief summary would become much longer if we considered all the interventions motivated, other than by a specific theme, by “the pastoral concern to present to the entire Christian community.” [Emphasis mine.] That is, the aim of Catholic social teaching is “the pastoral concern” to live in...

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Moral Theology is all about the Name: January 1st, the Octave of Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

NM 6:22-27 PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 GAL 4:4-7 LK 2:16-21 One of the themes emerging from this week’s readings is names, and the task of naming. In the gospel, Jesus is officially given his name at his circumcision. The first reading commands us to invoke God’s own name and receive God’s many blessings. The epistle reading names us as children and heirs of God rather than “slaves.” And we celebrate a particular name that Christians give to Mary – Mother of God. Of course, we know names matter a great deal. Parents agonize over what to name their...

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Post-Election Subsidiarity (Or, Please Stop Lecturing at Me, I’m From Ohio)

Dang, I’m tired of being from Ohio – not least of which is because despite Ohio’s apparent importance when it comes to national elections, no one’s willing to pay as close attention once the voting is done. That’s a problem for nation and church both. And it’s not just voices in Ohio I’m concerned about, but all the local places that once again getting largely ignored now that a national election is done with. One of the difficulties with the American presidential political structure – which has filled airways for both Left and Right – is its electoral college system. We have a representative democracy rather than a democracy in which the popular vote decides a national election for president. Despite knowing that we have an electoral college process, it is a national election – so national politics get treated in a big picture kind of way. Lots of people – especially from large news organizations in large urban global cities, have provided a steady stream of commentary. The result is that post-election, I’ve felt quite a bit lectured at, and not at all heard – especially in my context here in Dayton, Ohio. The frenzy of “listening” to people from a few select states prior to the election has ended. I don’t think that’s a good practice – but I DO think we ought to keep listening… and...

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First Sunday of Advent: New Visions for Ordinary Times

Isaiah 2:1-5 Psalm 122:1-2, 3-,4-5,6-7,8-9 Romans 13:11-14 Matthew 24:37-44 A lot of the scholarly scripture commentary on today’s reading from Isaiah focuses on a question Christians have been debating for a long while: is the life to which God calls us realistic? Or is it an idealistic picture that is meant to give us small comfort, but clearly not meant for us in any real kind of way today? I’ve written this week’s lectionary post for The Ekklesia Project’s bLOGOS site as well. You can see the rest of the post over there… (The Ekklesia Project is a gathering...

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