This Ain’t Your Mama’s Homeschool

This summer, a group of Catholic homeschooling moms in my mid-sized middle-America town are getting together to read Beauty in World: Rethinking the Foundations of Education, by Stratford Caldecott, a book that explores the history and ongoing relevance of a liberal education to not only educate, but humanize. I know many of these moms from my monthly Well-Read Mom book club, which is a national group that encourages re-encountering (or encountering for the first time) classic literature. This year, we read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Death of Ivan Illych, Screwtape Letters, and Wuthering Heights, among others. When...

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Sixth Sunday of Easter: “I will come to you.”

Reading 1: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 Reading 2: 1 Peter 3:15-18 Gospel: John 14:15-21   My daughter is finishing up eighth grade in the next few weeks.  I was driving her to swim practice when she started talking about the latest fashions in her school.  She told me how the new trend is to get two or three septum rings.  She had to explain to me that these were nose rings piercing the cartilage between the two nostrils. I’m always hesitant to make fun of these trends.  This is not just because...

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More on middle class moral theologizing

Beth Haile’s wonderful recent post reflecting on the moral perils of moving into a “solidly” middle-class setting is worth many reads. We are too often preoccupied with the headline issues – which, to be fair, often shape powerfully (though gradually) the possibilities of middle-class life – with the result that we neglect the ordinary situations of life. Put bluntly, we start to think that a vote is our most important moral action. As I learned above all from the work of my colleague David McCarthy – whose The Good Life: Genuine Christianity for the Middle Class would be a...

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Divisiveness and Understanding Justice

Our divisive political and ecclesial cultures are peculiarly divisive insofar as they seemingly involve totalizing calls to take sides – either you are for us or you are against us. In reviewing Jean Porter’s very important new book, Justice as a Virtue, I came to recognize a subtlety about justice that may be helpful for understanding and potentially defusing this divisiveness. Porter’s account follows Thomas Aquinas in claiming that justice is not primarily an attribute of structures, but rather a stable habit that perfects the unique human capacity of the will. This capacity is our ability to develop (through...

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Fifth Sunday of Easter: On the Way Home

ACTS 6:1-7 PS 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19 1 PT 2:4-9 JN 14:1-12 “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” These words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel this week are hard words that people wrestle with – including most of my students. Is Jesus the only way? What about people who don’t believe in Jesus? What about all those great people I know who aren’t Christian at all? For some, the solution to the problem is something like Karl Rahner’s “Anonymous Christian”: a controversial term for both Christians and non-Christians alike. Rahner suggested that perhaps a good Buddhist...

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Health Care: It’s about Commons Management

The question of what happens to Obamacare may be a purely political one. Yet there is no doubt that this is a debate about morality. At one level, this is an easy debate for Catholic moral theology, since it is clear that health care is a right. But at another level, there are two more complicated debates that I’d like to raise, rather than resolve. Because these play out in the background, not the foreground, we are frustratingly dishonest about what is going on here. This is an exercise in commons management in an age where we have no...

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Fourth Sunday of Easter: The Open Gate

ACTS 2:14A, 36-41 1 PT 2:20B-25 JN 10:1-10 The reason this lectionary post will be a bit short and hasty is because I am away visiting family on the occasion of my nephew’s (and godson’s) first communion. I had the great privilege of being an extraordinary minister for the occasion. The parish church invited all of the first communicants and their families to come up first for communion, and it was fascinating to see how few families received together. Almost every child I saw (and about half of them were in Catholic school) had a parent or grandparent who...

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The Catholic Church and the Struggle for the Rights of Workers and Immigrants

Today is May Day, and across the country people will be taking to the streets to protest against the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Although May Day has traditionally been considered a day of struggle for the rights of workers, in recent years in the United States it has come to be associated with the rights of immigrants, as well. In 2006, for example, over a million people nationwide joined protests against harsh immigration measures then being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. Although today’s protests are not expected to come close to those numbers, there will be events...

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Theology Majors and Catholic Universities

Catholic universities have sure raised a ruckus in recent years about the state of their theology courses and majors. The University of Notre Dame had its flap about curriculum review and the place of theology courses a couple years ago. While that university ended up keeping its theology requirements, other schools face similar questions or concerns. Providence College has had such conversations; so has Georgetown University. Most recently, St. Mary’s University is facing the loss of all three of its theology majors. This is a problem – but not necessarily for the reasons people might expect. Part of the debate has been conducted in the same kinds of ideological camps we’ve come to know and be annoyed by: the Cardinal Newman Society and more conservative Catholic campuses urge protection of theology courses. Not even “religious studies” courses will do, they say – since that smacks of secular liberalism. On the more progressive side (at least in terms of university administrations) might be the shrug of shoulders, the realistic admission that many students these days are “nones” and don’t want religion on their campuses – Catholic or no. Religion – so it seems – is a private affair, not really real like biology or engineering, dealing with the squidgier stuff of life. How could religion have a place on a campus – even a Catholic campus? The history of theology...

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