Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Trouble with Generosity and Fairness

IS 55:6-9 PS 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18 PHIL 1:20C-24, 27A MT 20:1-16A My children and students are fond of telling me how life just isn’t fair.  If I inadvertently seem to give a larger scoop of ice cream to one, the others will wail. If my students perceive that one of their peers won an award or a scholarship that “I should have received (after all, I worked just as hard)” they might be envious or angry that they lost out. The question of fairness is a real sticking point for all of us, especially in a society where we’ve built laws and professional codes of conduct around the concept of fairness.  When we say fair, we often mean “equal.” “Equal pay for equal work” is a fair treatment of our work – especially when considering disparities in pay among genders. In a hospital, a checklist of standards ensures that patients have been treated equally – that is, fairly – by all. And if someone fell short in treatment of others, then the code of conduct enables fair retribution. When disasters happen, when someone treats another person wrongly and unjustly (as they do), fairness enters in as the concept that helps toward a good resolution of the problem, especially by paying careful attention to the rules and codes at hand. For the record, I am in favor of a good...

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24th Sunday: Escaping the World of Anger

“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” – Sirach 27:30 “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. ” – Matthew 18:34 Forgiveness is the opposite of wrath and anger… or at least of “hugging them tight.” If we live in a time filled with anger, where people feel justified in visiting wrath upon each other, we should ask ourselves more deeply what the root problem is. The problem is often a sense of an utterly righteous cause. These other people owe a...

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Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Do Not Harden Your Hearts

Reading 1: Ezekiel 33:7-9 Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 Reading 2: Romans 13:8-10 Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20   DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was an immigration policy of President Obama not to deport people who were brought to the country as minors and have lived in the United States since 2007.   If these individuals applied for and were accepted into the program, they could participate in institutions like schools, the military, and the workforce, and do so without fear of deportation.  It was an act of trust on both sides and so established a mutual responsibility.  The...

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Labor Justice and the Catholic University: Labor Day Reflections on Contingent Faculty, Catholic Teachings, and Catholic Praxis

In chapter four of his book, University Ethics, Jesuit theologian James F. Keenan remarks that “there is within the university structure a cultural myopia that allows us not to think about the adjuncts.” He acknowledges his own previous blindness in this regard, and invites tenure-line faculty to consider how little they know about the real struggles of contingent faculty on their campuses. Perhaps Labor Day is a time to reflect on these faculty members’ realities in light of problematic contradictions between Catholic teachings on labor justice and the everyday practices of most Catholic institutions of higher learning, and then...

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Catholic and Single

Some of our readers know I’ve been working recently on the topic of singleness – yes, even as a married Catholic lay woman. My new book is Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of Single Life. Singleness, for me, doesn’t primarily mean religious vocations – though that’s usually what Catholic audiences hear when I tell them about my topic. Singleness is partly religious vocation (which I specifically discuss in terms of vowed religious life), but my book is mostly about all the other ways Catholics are single these days: divorced, widowed, cohabitating, engaged, single parent, and so forth....

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Impasse on the Left

Mark Lilla’s much-discussed new book, The Once and Future Liberal, while not a work in Christian social ethics, nevertheless is a crucial touchstone for deep ethical debates about our present society. Beverly Gage’s New York Times review of Lilla’s book is quite instructive in displaying these challenges. I don’t intend to take sides here, in part because we are dealing with a discussion where the authors involved have substantial agreement about overarching challenges. To a significant degree, they agree about ends; their differences are about means, but not merely instrumental means. There are implied arguments about social morality intrinsic...

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A Statement from Christian Ethicists on Preventive War and the North Korea Crisis

Responding to the growing nuclear threat from North Korea, President Donald Trump’s administration has consistently failed to rule out a US first strike option as a form of preventive war. Although this approach was threatened by President Bill Clinton’s administration as the so-called ‘Osirak option’ against North Korea in 1994, and again included as part of the ‘Bush Doctrine’ under President George W. Bush’s administration concerning the alleged threat posed by Iraq in 2003, preventive war was and continues to be a major departure from international legal norms as well as Christian ethics. According to the Compendium of the...

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Challenging a Culture of Thinness

Wow! You look so skinny! Let’s be clear. I do not look skinny. I am in the third trimester of my fourth pregnancy (in five years, nonetheless). My body, which is healthy and strong, has shown the marks of pregnancy a little more markedly with each subsequent baby. I look pregnant. My friend was trying to tell me, I think, that I looked beautiful. But I bristled at how she chose to do this, by emphasizing my skinniness. In doing so, she was inadvertently buying into cultural assumptions that equate beauty with thinness. These are dangerous assumptions for women,...

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