Three Takeaways on the Death Penalty

The announcement this morning that the Catechism’s teaching on the death penalty is changing (again – this section was also revised between the first and section edition of the Catechism, after St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae) is a welcome completion of the development of Catholic moral theology. It will be greeted with some celebration and some gnashing of teeth by political partisans, but the development should be understood as a key moment strengthening the consistency of the teaching authority of the Church. There are three key lessons to keep in mind in evaluating this: Church teaching...

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Diagnosing Polarization: Different Approaches

The Georgetown conference on overcoming polarization continues to bear fruit, the latest coming in an essay Robert George just published at First Things. The essay is a revision of the remarks he made at a particularly powerful panel at the conference. George leads with the memorable quote we all probably wrote down at his panel: Catholic social teaching is Catholic moral teaching; Catholic moral teaching includes Catholic social teaching. It is a mistake—a common one, yet a profound error—to speak and think of “social” and “moral” teaching as separate and distinct categories. We need to begin treating this way...

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Greater and Deeper Reality is God’s Love

Reading 1:Amos 7: 12-15 Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 85 Reading 2: Ephesians 1:3-14 Gospel: Mark 6: 7-13 Every morning, I wake up, pour myself some coffee, and read the news. Lately, this has proven to be a descent into despair.  The international community, the economy, our public discourse, everything seems to be breaking down.  It’s even bad locally.  This morning I read about how a man attempted to burn a gay pride flag.  What was shocking about it was that it did not seem to be any planned endeavor but rather just casual violence, something to do when one is bored...

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Revisiting Infant Baptism

Citizenship confers on a person certain rights and responsibilities. As recent news has reminded us, a person’s citizenship is not primarily a matter of personal choice, nor a rational decision made by the individual. Rather, citizenship is decided at birth, without the person’s consent. Those with U.S. citizenship are granted rights, such as voting in government elections, and obligated with duties, such as following the laws. Baptism within the Catholic Church likewise confers rights and responsibilities on the person, and these often begin when the person is an infant, again, without consent. Former Irish president Mary McAleese recently made some headlines when she was quoted in the Irish Times June 23 and June 22 asserting that baptized babies are “infant conscripts who are held to lifelong obligations of obedience.” McAleese regards this as a breach of fundamental human rights: “You can’t impose, really, obligations on people who are only two weeks old and you can’t say to them at seven or eight or 14 or 19 ‘here is what you contracted, here is what you signed up to’ because the truth is they didn’t.” No doubt, if we were to apply this perspective to citizenship, we would find many people objecting that they did not choose to be citizens of a country with high poverty levels, drug problems, inadequate infrastructure, gang violence, etc. And yet we must recognize that there are restrictions applied...

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14th Sunday OT: Faith and What Blocks It

Readings: Ez 2:2-5; Ps 123:1-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6 “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” So we are told about Jesus’ reception in his hometown. This week’s gospel is helpfully compared to last week’s reading, where Mark tells us about two miraculous healings. With the desperate woman who seeks Jesus’ help simply by touching his cloak, we see that she is praised for her great fullness of faith. Jesus’ ministry is an occasion of division precisely along these lines. Moralists in the Christian tradition have often argued over whether Jesus brought any “new moral teachings,” as...

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Persons, Principles, Policies

Wow, our country is a mess. I’ve read enough of my MacIntyre and Hauerwas to have no illusions about confusing American politics with the Kingdom of God. That said, it would be good if we could at least get a grip on things. A moral grip. Because our shared hysterics do have profound moral foundations, and unless we grant that, we’re going to pretend we can fight a “culture war” (literally) against fellow citizens, with the illusion that we will “vanquish” them (whatever that might mean – that you will post enough Twitter slams to make you feel like...

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