Faithful Citizenship and Democratic Institutions: Reflections from the CTSA for Our Political Moment

Earlier this month, the Catholic Theological Society of America, the self-described “principal association of Catholic theologians in North America,” held its annual convention in Indianapolis, IN. I had the opportunity to attend and, as I usually do, found it intellectually stimulating and enriching. The Saturday morning plenary session, especially, stuck with me, in large part because I continue to see its practical relevance confirmed on an almost daily basis. David DeCosse of the University of Santa Clara gave that Saturday morning address, and he framed it as a theologian’s reflection on what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops might want to consider as it plans for the 2020 update of its Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. That document is (re)issued every four years in conjunction with the presidential election. It is designed to offer insights from the Catholic tradition that can guide Catholics as they discern how to vote in their local, state, and federal elections. The thrust of the document in any given election cycle is usually pretty similar to its predecessors, but there are always additions and adjustments that are meant to speak more directly to the matters of the day. DeCosse used his address to explain why the 2020 election might rightly prompt a more substantive review than normal. Overall, I found myself very sympathetic to DeCosse’s points, perhaps in part because I know that...

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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: Shady Stories

EZ 17:22-24 PS 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16 2 COR 5:6-10 MK 4:26-34 For us in the northern hemisphere, this Sunday’s scriptures match our experience of the weather and the growing season. We are nearly to the summer solstice, the trees have done their springtime work of creating leafy tops, and now we have spots of shade. So Ezekiel has a story for us about cedar trees – God will take the top off one of them, plant it on a mountain, and it will grow and eventually enough to house birds and other living things. It’s more than a little...

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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: God’s Way

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Reading 1:Genesis 3:9-15 Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 130:1-8 Reading 2: 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1 Gospel: Mark 3:20-35 In the first reading, God asks a peculiar question, “Where are you?”  Not only is God omniscient, but he is looking for the only two people that exist in one tiny garden.  Even though they were hiding, my guess is God could still have found them.  After Adam unintentionally admits that they have eaten of the tree of good and evil, God then asks why they would do such a thing. This questioning and perplexed God is not seeking...

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Holiness, Penance, and Moral Theology

Despite the constancy of the faith throughout two millennia, Christianity is always being adapted to the present age, usually with some difficulty, debate, and struggle. Catholic history presents us with so many examples of this that we can hardly claim that our particular time or setting deserves the crown of being the “most unique,” despite the rise of automobiles, smartphones, computers, nuclear weapons, and the nuclear family. And yet, it is our time! One of the tasks of moral theology is to identify the needs of the present situation and to aid in the moral discernment of contemporary Christians, while trying to avoid the arrogance of presuming that there is nothing to be learned from the virtuous lives of those who practiced the faith before our time, dealing with moral struggles that were every bit as genuine as those of our own days. When we look at the current era, we find something distinct in the present articulation of the role of the laity. The now famous  Chapter V of Lumen Gentium, entitled “The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church,” emphasizes that holiness is not solely for priests and professed religious, but for every believer: “Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that...

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Commemoration, Patriotism, and a Little CMT: Some Observations on Memorial Day 2018

I. Memories that Name Who We Are Yesterday, I attended Heritage Day here in Dayton, which is hosted at Carillon Historical Park. This pretty cool historical park dedicates itself to commemorating great inventiveness in Dayton. Key figures include, of course, the Wright Brothers, but also the inventors of the cash register, Huffy bicycles, the pop top can, and more. Our most well-known poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, is commemorated here. The park also includes a great deal of living history – an 1850s style brew pub that brews beer using 19th century methods, a still-operating 1930s printing press, a school...

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Trinity Sunday: God is THIS love

Readings: Dt 4:32-34, 39-40; Ps 33; Rm 8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20 Who is God? We think we know, but often enough we are stuck with images that fall short. The readings on Trinity Sunday help us understand the fundamental nature of Scripture itself – not simply wise words about how to live, but the self-disclosure of God seeking relationship with us. Who is this God? The first reading makes it clear that God is the God of Israel, the mighty Deliverer from bondage. It is this God Israel hears, and the psalmist then echoes this awe and wonder by shouting...

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Gesturing, Stammering, & Writing for a Blog

Where to begin? I’m not entirely sure I know how to do what I’ve agreed to do as a contributor to the CMT Blog. Regular reading and commenting on blog posts has had virtually no place in my life since graduate school. As for the writing of blog posts—about 12 years ago I experimented for about six months with theological blogging, under a variety of pseudonyms. I did not enjoy the experience. Ultimately, it felt as if I was pouring out time, emotional reserves, and my best ideas into an ocean of indifference. Beyond those costs, the project of managing and maintaining an online profile translated into narcissistic preoccupations that were bad for my soul. So, I stopped. I don’t know how to be good as I do what I’ve agreed to do as a contributor to the CMT Blog. Blogging as a moral act. In a way, my practical preoccupations, speculative worries, and professional hesitation about theological blogs are similar to what was artfully expressed years ago by Jana Bennett, David Cloutier, Emily Reimer-Berry, and Dana Dillon. And, more recently, Cloutier again. But there is something else—which I discuss below. I don’t have any principled objection to blogging as a medium for Christian theological discourse. I simply do not know how to do it well, under my own name, and in a way that is Christian. Nevertheless, I...

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Good News and the News Cycle: The Sermon that Shook the Internet

An African-American preached God’s word in the still-unshaken remnant of a colonial empire, to a congregation not notable for their marital fidelity or their evangelical warmth, and he spoke with tenderness and passion and hope. He didn’t flatter or pander. He didn’t cajole or castigate. He didn’t talk about them at all. He talked about the power of God’s love to renew a tired old world. He spoke of the wisdom of slaves who knew the healing balm of Gilead to a congregation whose suffering is more often related to excessive wealth and fame, not to oppression.

And it shook people, which was not what anyone expected of a sermon at a royal wedding.

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Does Just War Theory Have a Future in Catholic Social Thought?

The following is a guest post by Bernard G. Prusak about the latest special issue of Expositions, which contains essays on “The Future of Just War Theory in Catholic Social Thought” from several Catholic scholars.    Will there be an encyclical or a synod on war and peace? The way that the Trump administration is going, will action from the Vatican come too late, or make a difference anyway?   As readers of this blog will know, the Catholic church’s teachings with respect to war and peace have been subject to renewed scrutiny the last several years, in particular...

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