Author: David Cloutier

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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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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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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Evasive news

A few weeks ago, the New York Times had a cover feature in its Sunday magazine, headlines, “Can Dirt Save the Earth?” The article examined agricultural practices that are less carbon-intensive, suggesting that “agriculture could pull carbon out of the air and into the soil.” I am a huge and vocal fan of alternative agriculture in all its forms. But the headline is misleading. The content of the article answers the question pretty decisively: the answer is, no, dirt cannot save the earth! In response to a breathless initiative by France to “completely halt the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide” in this way, the essay says: Few experts I spoke to think the impact would be quite that grand; Pete Smith, for example, estimates that soil could, at the most, store just 13 percent of annual carbon-dioxide emissions at current levels. “I appreciate that everyone wants to save the planet,” he told me, “but we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this is all we need to do.” Thus, even if (as the article indicates) we imagined a total and complete change in our agricultural system, one which has some unknown costs as well, we do not make much progress. So the question is why the New York Times decided nevertheless to provide an extensive article discussing this issue as so revolutionary. What makes this approach attractive? The answer has to...

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