Author: John Berkman

Fake News in the NY Times?  On the Catholic Church?

I love the New York Times.  I really, honestly do.   I read it pretty well every day.  I even pay for a digital subscription (which is significant if you know how cheap I am).  The Times is great on a lot of things.  But its religion coverage?  Especially its Catholicism coverage?   Since Peter Steinfels left, the coverage of the Catholic Church has been pretty much hit and miss.  More often miss. When I read the Jason Horowitz’s piece entitled “Vatican Traditionalists See Hero in Trump Aide” on the front page of the Times this past Tuesday (Feb 7, 2017), I knew that the Times had hit a low.  My b.s. detecting spidey sense went into overdrive.   Because here was an article claiming that there was a cabal of Vatican-insiders looking to Steve Bannon (and by association Donald Trump) to lead the Church out from under the oppression of Pope Francis and back to Catholic Orthodoxy.  I mean you’d expect that from the National Enquirer, right?   But the Times? And because it is the New York Times, a wide swath of readers are going to assume what it is saying is true,  the Times playing on widespread anti-Catholicism among the elites reading it.  It is pretty clear that the author has mastered the science of innuendo and turning one or two claims from unnamed mysterious sources into a full-blown rebellion being hatched under...

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“The So-Called Judge:” Will Donald Trump like Neil Gorsuch’s Legal Philosophy?

When Donald Trump and his advisors were looking for a judge, Trump apparently was consumed with finding “the absolute best person.” (Liptak, NYT, 2/6/17) Now Donald Trump, with the judiciary halting his travel ban, is attacking the “so-called judge” who has put at least a temporary halt to this legislative initiative. Some will foolishly assume that Gorsuch as a “conservative” will be sympathetic to Trump.  However, even if one knows very little about Gorsuch’s legal philosophy (and I confess to knowing precious little), nothing could be further from the truth. While the press focuses on Gorsuch– following Scalia – being an “originalist,” this term is rarely explained. On one level, the claim is that a judge should interpret the US constitution of the United States as its founders understood it. Some interpret this to be the reductio ad absurdum of trying to live in the 18th century. But that is neither Gorsuch’s concern nor, following Scalia, his point. In a recent address following Scalia’s death, Gorsuch seeks to instruct us on the importance of Scalia for understanding the role of judges under the US Constitution.  For Gorsuch, what makes Scalia important is his defense of the separation of powers between legislators and the judiciary. Legislators must only ‘look forward,’ judges may only ‘look backward.’ Legislators create laws, judges interpret them, both in their own right and in relation to what is compatible...

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The Coming of Physician-Assisted Dying (aka Euthanasia) to Canada

It is telling that the Supreme Court of Canada avoided the language of assisted-suicide or euthanasia, and instead chose the euphemism ‘physician-assisted dying.’   But dying is not killing.   All of us will die.   God willing, none of us will be killed.   I would suggest that one is wise to be suspicious when very smart people start to refer to ‘killing’ as ‘dying’.   In light of the coming practice of euthanasia in Canada and since most Catholics only get reporting on the issue from the mainstream news media, my priest at my parish asked me to speak to the issue at each of the masses this past weekend (April 2-3, 2016).   Dying Faithfully When I teach a course on bioethics or end of life issues, I often begin one of the classes by asking the students a question: “How Do you Want to Die?” My students almost always say that they wish to die without knowing it, in their sleep or when they are unaware.  If they cannot die in that way,  then they want to die quickly and painlessly, ideally when they very old and are least expecting it.  My students – and most of us I suspect – here reflect our culture. We do not want to think about death … In a way, it seems obvious, doesn’t it? But in fact, this is the opposite...

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The HHS Controversy and the Principle of Cooperation at the US Bishops Meeting in San Diego

Last week the US Bishops met in San Diego for their annual spring assembly. On Monday June 10th, just prior to their formal meeting, the Committee on Doctrine organized an academic workshop on the principle of cooperation. In light of the imminently forthcoming final version of the HHS guidelines (which is likely to continue to mandate that Catholic institutions must pay for health care plans that include funding for contraceptive and abortifacient devices and drugs, and for direct sterilization of women), and in light of the many other complex situations the Bishops are confronted with whose moral analysis requires the application of principles governing cooperation, the Committee on Doctrine organized a workshop on the Church’s tradition of teaching on legitimate and illegitimate cooperation with others wrongdoing. There were three talks as part of the workshop. I was asked to give the keynote, providing a historical overview of the origins and development of the Catholic moral tradition about cooperation with wrongdoing and also provide an overview of contemporary schools of thought on the principle. Frs. Dan Mindling and Dan Sulmasy gave responses. Dan Mindling spoke on cooperation between Catholic institutions and government and other charitable institutions.  An important example in Mindling’s presentation was an examination of the ethicalguidelines used by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)’s for determining which organizations should (or should not) receive funding from the USCCB....

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