Author: Dana Dillon

Pope Benedict Calls for Detachment

Last Sunday, on his visit to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI met with Catholics who are engaged in social work and social advocacy, or, as he described them, persons who “do dedicated work for the present and the future from a faith perspective.” His whole address is well worth reading, but I’d like to focus primarily upon remarks which seem to me to call for a striking level of detachment from worldly power and goods. The pope’s remarks focus a good deal on the importance of the Church renewing her focus and dedication to her mission, in the midst of the constant tendency of the world to constrain and obscure that mission.  And so, the Church must, as much as she must enter into all the joys and hopes of the world (to steal a line from Gaudium et spes), Benedict points out that “she will need again and again to set herself apart from her surroundings, to become in a certain sense ‘unworldly’.”  He bases this claim in the mission of Christ: It has come down to humanity, to us, in a particular way through the incarnation and self-offering of God’s Son: by virtue of the fact that Christ, the Son of God, as it were stepped outside the framework of his divinity, took flesh and became man, not merely to confirm the world in its worldliness and to...

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Against Divisiveness in Theological Discourse

I’ve just returned from participating in the second gathering of the formerly-Fordham-now-Catholic Conversation Project.  This year’s gathering in Dover, Massachusetts, hosted about 15 pre-tenure Catholic scholars in various subfields of theology or closely related disciplines.  I returned filled with hope and energy that theologians of multiple generations, together with bishops, are really invested in moving theological discourse past the polarizing language that so deeply divides factions both within the theological academy and within the Church. Of course, I also returned to learn that Fr. Tom Weinandy has pronounced theologians—at least some of us—to be “a curse and affliction on the Church.” Apparently, the polarizing language remains alive and well, as do the divides, which are clearly very very deep.  As reported by John Allen, Weinandy suggests that theologians become a curse and affliction upon the church precisely when they fail to root their work in an active faith life and in the teaching of the Church.  This seems to me to be exactly right. The problem is that we (as a church and as a theological guild) are deeply divided about what qualifies one as reaching each of these two criteria. What constitutes an active faith life?  Does one have to go to Mass weekly? Daily?  Read scripture daily?  Weekly? Ever?  Prayer life?  Engagement in the corporal works of mercy?  All of these things?  To paint a picture that pushes toward the extremes:  what if I go to daily Mass...

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Harry Potter and a Love Stronger than Death?

In anticipation of this Friday’s opening of the final Harry Potter film, I’ve just re-watched the seventh film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.  It reminded me, yet again, why I love this series and why I think it is an incredibly important resource for those of us who are interested in forming people in the attitudes, actions, and virtues crucial to the Christian life. The “deathly hallows” which give this book its name are three objects associated with a story about three brothers who encounter Death while traveling.  They have just used their magical skills to make a bridge and cross safely, thus cheating Death.  Death appears, angry, but pretends to congratulate them and offers them any prize they choose.  The first brother asks for a wand so powerful he can defeat any enemy; Death grants it, and the brother goes off and kills his enemy, boasts of his wand, and has his throat slit in his sleep.  Death wins.  The second brother asks for the ability to raise the dead; Death grants it, and the brother raises the woman he once loved, but she was only partly there, and didn’t truly belong, and couldn’t really be with him.  He killed himself so as to be with her truly, and Death had him as well.  The third brother, called humble and wise in the story, asked...

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Too big to discriminate?

The Supreme Court has ruled this morning that the class-action suit brought by approximately 1.5 million female workers against Walmart cannot go forward.  According to CNN, the ruling is not a ruling on the merits of the case, but simply a decision that “sweeping class-action status that could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers was simply too large.”  Daniel Fisher here explains in a bit more detail that the court ruled that the case failed the test of commonality; that is, there was insufficient evidence that all members of the class were ill-treated specifically because of gender-bias. Now, I understand that this is a huge case, and I would not envy anyone the job of sorting through distributions of any settlement or remuneration.  However, it seems to me that precisely because of the huge number of people that the case impacts, its merits have to be heard.  Perhaps this particular class action suit is not the right mechanism for that, but it seems essential that some avenue to evaluate these claims be found.  I’m particularly concerned by the implication that when too many workers together demand consideration of alleged injustices against them, the claims are too large to be considered.  Doesn’t this imply that widespread discrimination is not discrimination?  If a company like Walmart ends up being untouchable simply because of its size, there...

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Is Saturday Judgment Day?

I’m betting not, but I’m a believer in “no one knows the day or the hour,” so I’ll acknowledge the possibility.  But, in case you’ve missed it, the Christian radio network Family Radio “guarantees” that May 21 is Judgment Day.  You can read their considered, extensive, and convoluted arguments (well, gatherings of “evidence”) at the site linked above.  Apparently, millions of people are expecting that this will occur.  I mean, it’s guaranteed, right? As you might imagine, this has launched all kinds of mockery.  If you are on Facebook, you can sign up for the Post-rapture looting party.  Their info line reads “When everyone is gone and god’s not looking, we need to pick up some sweet stereo equipment and maybe some new furniture for the mansion we’re going to squat in.”  Someone else came up with a pretty funny list of 50 reasons why the world is definitely ending on Saturday (my personal favorite is #2: Snooki is a NY Times bestselling author).  Of course, the Huffington Post has 21 reasons to believe the contrary. #Rapture is trending on Twitter, though, and I would encourage anyone so inclined to watch a few of the tweets going by.  You’ll probably notice that many of them are mocking the idea of rapture, some are mocking the people who believe it, some actually read like people making real plans for the...

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