Author: David Cloutier

Help Us See More Clearly

Possibly the most important work in Christian ethics in the last decade has been Oliver O’Donovan’s trilogy of books subtitled “ethics as theology.” In researching for an essay I am writing on the importance of the final judgment in ethical debates, I draw on O’Donovan’s work, and it seemed the recent events in the Church might be helpfully illuminated by his claims. O’Donovan makes a distinction between our “purposes” – the limited sense of what our actions will accomplish in “the future beneath our feet” – and the actual “end” of our action – which we can only know after the fact via reflection, and we can only know ultimately in the light of God’s reflection. O’Donovan insists that all our historical endeavors, whether for the self or the neighbor, however important they are, must recognize the limitations involved in judging according to standards of “utility” or (he amusingly notes) “impact.” “Impact” matters; but we are sorely deceived if we think the final court of judgment is measurable “results” or (worse) online likes. The grave danger is to think the measurable, immediate future IS the future, is “what matters” about our actions. This is what eschatology – and more precisely, the notion of a final judgment – does for ethics: not give it a final “metric” we can grasp and righteously measure ourselves by, but rather “discloses and confirms...

Read More

Rethinking the (Political) Apocalypse?

In the wake of the debacle of the confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the ensuing feverish jockeying for position in the upcoming midterm elections, it is easy to despair about the extreme polarization of American politics. To despair is to be unable to see any possibilities for an alternative or an escape from our condition. More than one person has mentioned the 1850’s to me as an apt analogy for our age. It can seem as if the differences are so great – and the built-up animus so large – that the country could become ungovernable. So...

Read More

Guess What This Week’s Readings are About? – 27th Sun of Ordinary Time

Readings: Gen 2:18-24; Ps 128:1-6; Heb 2:9-11; Mk 10:2-16 So it was Monday evening, I saw on our blog calendar that I was scheduled to do the post on this Sunday’s lectionary readings, so I thought, “Well, let’s check out what the readings are, and start thinking about them.” I went to the USCCB lectionary page, clicked on October 7… and thought to myself, “OH, brother” (or words to that effect…) Consider this: There is a helpful distinction between reformers and revolutionaries, between programs of reform and programs of revolution. One might think there is merely a different in...

Read More

Insights from the Pew Religious Typology

Sometimes in the midst of immediate, internet-generated daily drama in the Church, it is very helpful to step back and look at bigger-picture matters. The beginning of the school year – meeting new students – always makes me ponder, “Who are these new faces?” Mostly, they are not hanging on the latest report about this or that bishop! At the same time, The Pew Research Center has released another one of their excellent studies, this time constructing a “religious typology” of Americans. Rather than slice and dice Americans based on demographic data, denominational affiliation, or partisanship, the study refreshingly...

Read More

The Foolish God Who Chooses Us – 21st Sun Ordinary Time

Readings: Jos 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B; Eph 5:21-32; Jn 6:60-69 “Do you also want to leave?” Stanley Hauerwas has a well-known saying that “liberalism is the story that you have no story except the story you chose when you had no story.” (Yes, you might have to read that again slowly!) By “liberalism,” Hauerwas does not mean the left or the Democratic party – he means classical political liberalism, where “freedom” names an absolute value of choice for the individual about any and every relationship they have. It’s equally embodied by consumer capitalism and by sexual libertarianism. It means ultimately we are self-defining...

Read More

Recent Tweets