Author: David Cloutier

1st Sunday of Advent: Waiting for Renewal

Readings: Jer 33:14-16; Ps 25; 1 Thess 3:12-4:2; Lk 21: 25-28, 34-36 The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. If ever the Catholic Church was in need of a year to end, it was this past one. Advent, while pointing us toward the Incarnation of Jesus at Christmas, begins with a different anticipation, of the second coming of Christ – it begins exactly where ordinary time ends. The second coming is a reminder that the waiting and longing for the Messiah to come is not over for Christians. While that waiting is pervaded...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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